Book Review: How to Dine on Killer Wine

How to Dine on Killer WineHow to Dine on Killer Wine
A Party Planning Mystery #5
Penny Warner
Obsidian, July 2012
ISBN 978-0-451-23786-6
Mass Market Paperback

If you are a wine connoisseur, of even if you like to tipple, you will enjoy the setting, plot line, and ambiance of this delightful and fun filled mystery, How to Dine on Killer Wine.

Presley Parker is a new Party-Event-Planner, struggling to get her business off the ground. When asked to coordinate, cater and present an unusual launch party for a new wine at a famous Napa, California winery and California Culinary College, she believes it will provide an open door to the rich and famous in the wine world. And indeed, she meets an ex-Governor and other celebrities who plan to engage her future services. But, when a dead body appears under one of the serving tables, she sets about to prove the innocence of winery owner, Rob Christopher, accused of murder.

Delightful sub-characters include her eccentric Bingo-addicted mother, her part-time actress assistant and her boyfriend, Brad, who cleans up the blood at crime scenes. His connection with the Vallejo police department comes in handy when clues are normally withheld from the public.

It seems that the murder victim, JoAnne Douglas, has made so many enemies in the Napa Valley, that Presley is hard pressed to single out one from another. She has reason to suspect multiple friends and family near and dear to Rob Christopher, including his attorney, his wife’s sister and the guy at the rival winery next door.

Throughout the book, each chapter begins with a delightful tip of how to throw your own wine tasting event. Tip 7 –Chapter Seven: Don’t smoke, eat hard candy or mints or wear perfume. Keep your palate and nostrils free from taste-altering substances. Chocolate, however, is perfectly acceptable.

As the suspects multiply and Presley closes in on her prime suspect, she faces a desperate killer and barely escapes with her life…a true cozy mystery template ending, but all in all, a delightful read. Reading How to Dine on Killer Wine is a fun way to spend an afternoon with a good book, a chocolate bar and if you are so inclined, a glass of wine.

Reviewed by Elaine Faber, September 2014.
Author of Black Cat’s Legacy.

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My Favorite Books of 2014

I had a pretty good reading year in 2014,
good enough that I had trouble narrowing
the list down to just 20 selections. That’s a
problem I don’t mind having 😉

These are the books that grabbed my
attention the most, the ones that
had that certain something..
.

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Poisoned Ground#1.   Poisoned Ground by Sandra Parshall from Poisoned Pen Press, March 2014

When a powerful development company sets its sights on Mason Country, Virginia, as the location for a sprawling resort for the rich, the locals begin taking sides. Many residents see the resort as economic salvation for the small Blue Ridge Mountains community, while others fear the county will become financially dependent on a predatory company.

Few oppose the development more vocally than veterinarian Rachel Goddard. She sides with locals reluctant to sell their land and, in the process, complicates the life of her new husband, Sheriff Tom Bridger.

When a beloved couple is gunned down on the very farm they refused to sell, it seems supporters will stop at nothing to ensure the success of the resort. Now disagreement in the community has exploded into civil war with both sides lashing out. As the violence escalates, Rachel discovers the attacks are more sinister than they appear.

Can she bring the truth to light before her community tears itself apart?

My review of Poisoned Ground

The Book of Ivy#2.   The Book of Ivy by Amy Engel from Entangled Teen, November 2014

What would you kill for?

After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more conflict over which family would govern the new nation. The Westfalls lost. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual.

This year, it is my turn.

My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and return the Westfall family to power.

But Bishop Lattimer is either a very skilled actor or he’s not the cruel, heartless boy my family warned me to expect. He might even be the one person in this world who truly understands me. But there is no escape from my fate. I am the only one who can restore the Westfall legacy.

Because Bishop must die. And I must be the one to kill him…

My review of The Book of Ivy

Sweet As Cane, Salty As Tears#3.   Sweet As Cane, Salty As Tears by Ken Wheaton from Open Road Integrated, July 2014

There is nothing more dangerous than a spooked rhinoceros. It is just before lunchtime when Huey, the prized black rhino of Broussard, Louisiana, erupts from his enclosure, trampling a zoo employee on his way to a rampage in the Cajun countryside. The incident makes the rounds online as News of the Weird, and Katherine Fontenot is laughing along with the rest of her New York office when she notices the name of the hurt zookeeper: Karen-Anne Castille—her sister.

Fifty years old, lonely, and in danger of being laid off, Katherine has spent decades trying to ignore her Louisiana roots. Forced home by Karen-Anne’s accident, she remembers everything about the bayou that she wanted to escape: the heat, the mosquitoes, and the constant, crushing embrace of family. But when forced to confront the ghosts of her past, she discovers that escape might never have been necessary.

My review of Sweet As Cane, Salty As Tears

We Were Liars#4.   We Were Liars by E. Lockhart from Delacorte Press, May 2014

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

Review coming soon.

Ruin Falls#5.   Ruin Falls by Jenny Milchman from Ballantine Books, April 2014

Liz Daniels has every reason to be happy about setting off on a rare family vacation, leaving behind her remote home in the Adirondack Mountains for a while. Instead, she feels uneasy. Her children, eight-year-old Reid and six-year-old Ally, have met their paternal grandparents only a handful of times. But Liz’s husband, Paul, has decided that, despite a strained relationship with his mother and father, they should visit the farm in western New York where he spent his childhood.

On their way to the farm, the family stops at a hotel for the night. In the morning, when Liz goes to check on her sleeping children, all her anxiety comes roaring back: Ally and Reed are nowhere to be found. Blind panic slides into ice-cold terror as the hours tick by without anyone finding a trace of the kids. Soon, Paul and Liz are being interviewed by police, an Amber Alert is issued, and detectives are called in.

Frantic worry and helplessness threaten to overtake Liz’s mind—but in a sudden, gut-wrenching instant she realizes that it was no stranger who slipped into the hotel room that night. Someone she trusted completely has betrayed her. Though she knows that Ally and Reid are safe, Liz will stop at nothing to find them and get them back. From her guarded in-laws’ unwelcoming farmhouse to the deep woods of her own hometown, Liz follows the threads of a terrible secret to uncover a hidden world created from dreams and haunted by nightmares.

My review of Ruin Falls

The Doomsday Kids Liam's Promise#6.   Liam’s Promise by Karyn Langhorne Folan from K Squared Books

“Get to the Mountain Place!”

With those words, eight kids embark on a terrifying journey to survive a massive nuclear blast that destroys the world they once knew.

In the wreckage of their community, without food or transportation, their only hope of safety is to walk to a mountain cabin almost two hundred miles away. But the journeying under gray, radioactive skies brings the kids face to face with death and danger, deprivation and disease and worst of all: the realization that life will never be the same again.

My review of Liam’s Promise

Time of Ruin#7.   Time of Ruin by Shauna Granger from Shauna Granger, June 2014

The world has ended, and hope is the most dangerous thing left.

Battered and bruised after barely escaping San Francisco with their lives, Kat, Dylan, and Blue press north – desperate to reach the possibility of a new home.

But strange, monstrous ravens are tracking the remaining survivors, food is becoming scarce, gasoline is running short, and people are becoming suicidal, making survival almost impossible.

And the Pestas are growing bolder. Somehow, their numbers are growing.

The further north they go, the harder it becomes to ignore the signs that they’ve made a fatal mistake. Kat must face the impossible truth that there is no escape, there is no safe haven, and their worst nightmares don’t come close to their new reality.

My review of Time of Ruin

Blade of the Samurai#8.   Blade of the Samurai by Susan Spann from Minotaur Books, July 2014

June, 1565: Master ninja Hiro Hattori receives a pre-dawn visit from Kazu, a fellow shinobi working undercover at the shogunate. Hours before, the Shogun’s cousin, Saburo, was stabbed to death in the Shogun’s palace. The murder weapon: Kazu’s personal dagger. Kazu says he’s innocent, and begs for Hiro’s help, but his story gives Hiro reason to doubt the young shinobi’s claims.

When the Shogun summons Hiro and Father Mateo, the Jesuit priest under Hiro’s protection, to find the killer, Hiro finds himself forced to choose between friendship and personal honor.

The investigation reveals a plot to assassinate the Shogun and overthrow the ruling Ashikaga clan. With Lord Oda’s enemy forces approaching Kyoto, and the murderer poised to strike again, Hiro must use his assassin’s skills to reveal the killer’s identity and protect the Shogun at any cost. Kazu, now trapped in the city, still refuses to explain his whereabouts at the time of the murder. But a suspicious shogunate maid, Saburo’s wife, and the Shogun’s stable master also had reasons to want Saburo dead. With the Shogun demanding the murderer’s head before Lord Oda reaches the city, Hiro and Father Mateo must produce the killer in time … or die in his place.

My review of Blade of the Samurai

Gone Too Far#9.   Gone Too Far by Natalie D. Richards from Sourcebooks Fire, January 2015

Send me a name. Make someone pay.

Piper Woods can’t wait to graduate. To leave high school-and all the annoying cliques-behind. But when she finds a mysterious notebook filled with the sins of her fellow students, Piper’s suddenly drowning in their secrets.

And she’s not the only one watching…

An anonymous text invites Piper to choose: the cheater, the bully, the shoplifter. The popular kids with their dirty little secrets. And with one text, Piper can make them pay.

But the truth can be dangerous…

My review of Gone Too Far

Welcome to the Darkness#10. Welcome to the Darkness by L.M. Justus from Taurpio Publishing, August 2013

A typical teenager, seventeen-year-old Reed Hennessy doesn’t realize how lucky he is to lead a normal life until he loses everything, including his humanity. The attacker who slaughters his family and destroys their home turns out to be a vampire, a creature Reed had considered a myth.

Now a vampire himself, but with the unique ability to walk in sunlight, Reed struggles in the dark underworld he didn’t even know existed. His only two allies in his fight to stay alive are his reluctant mentor, Nathaniel, a vampire with over two hundred years’ worth of emotional baggage, and Sarah, a rookie cop with a secret ability of her own.

Together, Reed and his companions face a harrowing, cross-country journey before stumbling into a plot which could mean the end of everything for humans and vampires alike.

My review of Welcome to the Darkness

Runner#11. Runner by Patrick Lee from Minotaur Books, February 2014

Sam Dryden, retired special forces, lives a quiet life in a small town on the coast of Southern California. While out on a run in the middle of the night, a young girl runs into him on the seaside boardwalk. Barefoot and terrified, she’s running from a group of heavily armed men with one clear goal—to kill the fleeing child. After Dryden helps her evade her pursuers, he learns that the eleven year old, for as long as she can remember, has been kept in a secret prison by forces within the government. But she doesn’t know much beyond her own name, Rachel. She only remembers the past two months of her life—and that she has a skill that makes her very dangerous to these men and the hidden men in charge.

Dryden, who lost his wife and young daughter in an accident five years ago, agrees to help her try to unravel her own past and make sense of it, to protect her from the people who are moving heaven and earth to find them both. Although Dryden is only one man, he’s a man with the extraordinary skills and experience—as a Ranger, a Delta, and five years doing off-the-book black ops with an elite team. But, as he slowly begins to discover, the highly trained paramilitary forces on their heels is the only part of the danger they must face. Will Rachel’s own unremembered past be the most deadly of them all?

Review coming soon

A Man of His Own#12. A Man of His Own by Susan Wilson from St. Martin’s Press, September 2013

Rick Stanton was a promising professional baseball player with dreams of playing in the major leagues and starting a family with his young wife, Francesca, when World War II changed everything.  Rick returns from the war with his body broken and his dreams shattered.  But it was not just body and spirit he sacrificed for the war. He and Francesca volunteered their beloved dog, Pax, for the Army’s K-9 Corp, not knowing if they’d ever see him again.

Keller Nicholson is the soldier who fought the war with Pax by his side, and the two have the kind of profound bond that can only be forged in war.  Pax is the closest Keller has to a sense of family, and he can’t bear the thought of returning him to the Stantons.  But Rick and Francesca refuse to give him up.  Instead, an arrangement is made: Keller will work as Rick’s live-in aide. And thus an unlikely family is formed, with steadfast Pax at the center.   As they try to build a new life out of the ashes, Keller and Francesca struggle to ignore their growing attraction to each other, and Rick, believing that he can no longer give Francesca what she needs and wants, quietly plans a way out.

All three of them need healing. All three of them are lost. And in Susan Wilson’s A Man of His Own, Pax, with his unconditional love and unwavering loyalty, may be the only one who can guide them home.

My review of A Man of His Own

RecruitZ#13. RecruitZ by Karice Bolton from Buldog Press, December 2013

Scientists are the new rock stars. The infection has been contained for nearly three months, and the world is celebrating. But humans are still dying. Rebekah Taylor has seen it firsthand. Her husband was killed right in front of her by the very creatures that humans were told they no longer had to fear.

Rebekah is determined to find out who is responsible for the death of her husband and the obvious cover-up. Fueled with revenge, she begins to find answers that lead to one frightening conclusion. The apocalypse might be over, but the battles are just beginning.

My review of RecruitZ

Vision#14. Vision by Lisa Amowitz from Spencer Hill Press, September 2014

The light is darker than you think…

High school student Bobby Pendell already has his hands full–he works almost every night to support his disabled-vet father and gifted little brother. Then he meets the beautiful new girl in town, who just happens to be his boss’s daughter. Bobby has rules about that kind of thing. Nothing matters more than keeping his job.

When Bobby starts to get blinding migraines that come with scary, violent hallucinations, his livelihood is on the line. Soon, he must face the stunning possibility that the visions of murder are actually real. With his world going dark, Bobby is set on the trail of the serial killer terrorizing his small town. With everyone else convinced he’s the prime suspect, Bobby realizes that he, or the girl he loves, might be killer’s next victim.

My review of Vision

Bad Blood#15. Bad Blood by Nikki Jefford from Nikki Jefford, June 2014

Aurora returns from boot camp to a new assignment, an unwelcome roommate, and the increasingly amorous attentions of a certain vampire hunter.

College is starting, and so is Aurora’s undercover work at a network of swanky parties known as “Tastings” for high rolling vampires who like their blood laced with fine wine. But Aurora’s not the only one on the prowl. An underground investigation is under way to find out who killed one of Anchorage’s most prominent vampires… and Aurora is a prime suspect.

My review of Bad Blood

The Polaris Uprising#16. The Polaris Uprising by Jennifer Ibarra from Tiwala Books, October 2013

In less than seven years, eighteen-year-old Ryla Jensen will succeed her father as the president of Neress, a nation where all citizens are cared for from the moment they’re born. Fed, sheltered, even educated—every need of theirs is met.

The only price they pay is their free will.

Groomed since childhood to take on a role she’s not even sure she wants, Ryla’s only escape from the pressures of duty is her sister, Alanna. But when her eyes are opened to the oppressive regime her father built, she begins to question everything she’s set to inherit—and finds herself at odds with her sister’s blind allegiance to their father.

Torn between loyalty to her family and the fight for freedom, Ryla must decide just how far she’s willing to go to make a stand and risk losing the person she loves most in the world: Alanna.

My review of The Polaris Uprising

Jupiter Winds#17. Jupiter Winds by C. J. Darlington from Mountainview Books, May 2014

In 2160, a teenager becomes the bait to capture her missing revolutionary parents she thinks are long dead.

Grey Alexander has one goal—to keep herself and her younger sister Orinda alive. Not an easy feat living unconnected in the North American Wildlife Preserve, where they survive by smuggling contraband into the Mazdaar government’s city zones. If the invisible electric border fence doesn’t kill them, a human-like patrol drone could.

When her worst fear comes true, Grey questions everything she thought she knew about life, her missing parents, and God. Could another planet, whose sky swirls with orange vapors and where extinct-on-Earth creatures roam free, hold the key to reuniting her family?

My review of Jupiter Winds

Known Devil#18. Known Devil by Justin Gustainis from Angry Robot, January 2014

My name’s Markowski. I carry a badge. Also, a crucifix, some wooden stakes, a big vial of holy water, and a 9mm Beretta loaded with silver bullets.

A new supernatural gang is intent on invading Scranton – as if I didn’t have enough to contend with!

Supernatural gang warfare? Not on my watch!

My review of Known Devil

Dog Gone, Back Soon#19.Dog Gone, Back Soon by Nick Trout from Hyperion, April 2014

When Dr. Cyrus Mills returned home after inheriting his estranged father’s veterinary practice, The Bedside Manor for Sick Animals, the last thing he wanted was to stay in Eden Falls, Vermont, a moment longer than absolutely necessary. However, the previously reclusive veterinarian pathologist quickly found that he actually enjoyed treating animals and getting to know the eccentric residents of the tiny provincial town-especially an alluring waitress named Amy.

So Cyrus is now determined to make Bedside Manor thrive. Not an easy goal, given that Healthy Paws, the national veterinary chain across town, will stop at nothing to crush its mom-and-pop competitor. And the rival vet practice isn’t Cyrus’s only competition; a handsome stranger shows up out of nowhere who clearly has a mysterious past with Amy. To top it off, Cyrus finds himself both the guardian of a very unique orphaned dog and smack in the middle of serious small town drama.

My review of Dog Gone, Back Soon

Made for You#20. Made for You by Melissa Marr from Harper, September 2014

When Eva Tilling wakes up in the hospital, she’s confused—who in her sleepy little North Carolina town could have hit her with their car? And why?

It seems impossible that anyone would have it out for the town darling. Thanks to her family’s distinguished history and her own unassailable reputation in old-money Jessup, Eva is universally liked. But she has little time to consider the question when she finds that she’s awoken with a strange new skill: the ability to foresee people’s deaths when they touch her.

Eva is struggling to understand just what these visions mean when a slew of murders takes place back home. The victims, all classmates, are discovered alongside eerie messages that tie the incidents to her. There is a killer on the loose, and he is after Eva.

While she is recovering from the hit-and-run, Nate, an old friend, reappears. The two traverse their rocky past as they figure out how to use Eva’s power to keep her friends—and themselves—alive. But while Eva and Nate grow closer, the determined killer grows increasingly frantic in his attempt to get to Eva.

My review of Made for You

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What were some of your favorites in 2014?

Book Review: The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron—and a Giveaway!

The Dark UnwindingThe Dark Unwinding
Sharon Cameron
Scholastic Press, September 2012
ISBN 978-0-545-32786-2
Hardcover

The Dark Unwinding begins like this: “Warm sun and robin’s egg skies were inappropriate conditions for sending one’s uncle to a lunatic asylum.”

Katherine Tulman is a seventeen-year-old orphan living in 1852 London with her Aunt Alice and cousin Robert, the heir of Uncle Tully’s entailed estate. Katherine clearly understands why her widowed Aunt Alice is sending her to Stanwyne, an isolated estate in the countryside. She is to assess her uncle’s mental stability and then recommend his commitment to an asylum so that the inheritance can pass to Robert.

What Katherine finds at Stanwyne is unexpected and full of surprises. One of the most charming aspects of this novel is the estate itself. Although I would enjoy describing it here, I’m sure you will have much more fun reading about it along with Katherine as she discovers Stranwyne’s many quirks and peculiarities. Uncle Tully is another of the novel’s charms. He is a character I will not quickly forget. This is a very visual novel and would make a delightful movie.

I had a lot of fun trying to guess along with Katherine, attempting to piece together seemingly unrelated elements as they occur and figuring out the central question here – what is going on? I could make little sense out of it and when I thought I was beginning to understand, I was usually wrong. Lots of pleasing surprises in this one.

The only caveat here that I will offer is to encourage the reader to read The Dark Unwinding quickly, over a brief period of time, in just a few days. Then, I think you will find the pace of the novel and its conclusion quite enjoyable. And if you enjoy it as much as I did, you will be happy to know that there is a published sequel, A Spark Unseen.

Reviewed by Constance Reader, April 2014.

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To enter the drawing for a hardcover copy of
The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron, leave a
comment below. The winning name will be drawn
Sunday evening, February 1st. This drawing
is open to residents of the US and Canada.

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Come back on Monday, February 2nd, for
the review of the sequel, A Spark Unseen,
and a giveaway of a pre-publication copy.

Book Review: In the Woods by Merry Jones

In the Woods Merry JonesIn the Woods
A Harper Jennings Mystery #5
Merry Jones
Severn House, February 2015
ISBN 978-0-7278-8444-2
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Harper Jennings – mother, Iraqi war vet and archaeology graduate – knows she should be counting her blessings that she’s able to enjoy a child-free camping trip with husband Hank. Hank’s recovery from a brain injury after falling from their roof is nothing short of miraculous. But . . . Harper misses baby Chloe. And she worries that, in being so wrapped up in her toddler, she’s lost her own identity.

But her worries pale into insignificance when she stumbles across a body in the woods. Accident? Harper doesn’t think so, and nor does Ranger Daniels, who seems to blame local militia known as the Hunt Club – who will do anything, it seems, to protect the land they see as their birthright.

Harper wonders what exactly she’s doing, in some dark state forest, tripping over corpses, when she could be at home with her little girl – but when a fellow camper’s husband goes missing, she finds herself reluctantly sucked into the hunt, and into a waking nightmare . . .

What should be a nail-biting tale full of suspense misses the mark a bit although there are qualities about this book that I liked.

To me, it makes no sense that Harper and Hank would go on a camping trip in an area where hunting is a local and tourist pastime. Harper’s PTSD is severe enough that she frequently slides into an episode , triggered by predictable events. Is it any surprise that gunshots and explosions would set her off? Why on earth would she subject herself to the sound of gunshots? Perhaps someday when she’s farther along on her path to healing that might be part of her treatment but now?

The other thing that concerned me is the behavior of one of the possible killers, behavior that can only be termed silly . Yes, a killer of this type is deranged and his…or her…behavior is going to be beyond what the normal human being can fully understand but we don’t generally think of them as silly, do we?

On the positive side, Ms. Jones has created enough scenarios to confuse the reader as well as the good guys. In fact, identifying the good guys is not always an easy thing to do and coming up with motivations that adequately explain things is a little dicey, too, especially regarding a pair of guys named Pete and Bob. Figuring out how the disparate motives and deaths and potential killer(s) all fit together is what kept me reading (although I wondered why the author wanted to hide the identity of the Sector Chief when I spotted him almost immediately).

I have to make a couple of comments about the construction of this book. First, the author knows how to string a sentence together and grammatical/typo errors were infrequent. What I didn’t like was the lack of chapter divisions; a simple paragraph break is just not enough, particularly when the scene is changing. Many times while I was reading, I’d have to stop for a few seconds to get my bearings, so to speak, and that always lessens the tension, not a good thing in a crime novel.

On the whole, while I have some issues with In the Woods, it’s a decent mystery and I certainly don’t regret the time spent.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2015.

From a Doctor’s Point of View

Glenn ParrisAs a board certified rheumatologist, Glenn Parris has practiced medicine in the northeast Atlanta suburbs for over 20 years. He has been writing for nearly as long.

Originally from New York City, Parris migrated south to escape the cold and snow, but fell in love with the southern charms of Georgia and Carla, his wife of nearly 23 years. He now writes cross-genre in medical mystery, science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction. The Renaissance of Aspirin is his debut novel.

Website URL: http://www.GlennParris.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GlennParris.FictionWriter
The Renaissance of Aspirin book trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCS6N_lzG6A

For my 50th birthday my wife treated me to a weekend getaway in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. I found myself at the SEAK Workshop for physicians who’ve shown an interest in expressing themselves in writing. I’ve yearned to write my own story for the past 20 years. I have a deep love of science fiction, which is my favorite genre. Like most guys, I love things that go “boom”!

To expand my repertoire of literary voices, I decided to at least dabble in each genre that I like to read. My areas of interest are of course: science-fiction, medical thrillers/mysteries, historical fiction, urban and pre-civilization fantasies. Granted, it’s a wide spectrum of interest. That said, I like to bring a level of gritty realism to my writing. I’m not crazy about zombie or post-apocalypse fiction, so I usually avoid those areas. I delve into dialogue, in-depth descriptions of the surroundings as well as create four dimensional character profiles.

If you’re wondering what four dimensional character profiles are, just think about an individual in terms of his or her physical features, environment and the external forces coming to bear, dominant personality traits and motives as well as the individual’s background. This last component furnishes the fourth dimension of time.

As a physician, I spend hours each day serially interviewing patients as well as analyzing their habitus, molecular and anatomical make up vis-à-vis physical examination, biochemical profiles, and diagnostic images. Most definitive and meaningful information is afforded by the patient’s history. That has been repeated to me and every other physician since medical school. Seventy percent of the diagnosis and basis for treatment is formulated upon completion of the medical, social and family history. The physical examination adds approximately 20% towards the final 100%, the final 10% gleaned from investigative tests such as tissue, bodily fluids, x-rays, and various scans.

My approach in writing is to start with back story built from those components then placing my characters in what I call “situation normal”. From that point, I set up two or three “what if” queries and then I turn my main character’s world topsy-turvy. Well that’s it, in a nutshell. The rest is just details. Think that’s the end of the story? Hah! What is it they say? “The devil’s in the details.”

Once I flesh out the character, and some tribulations to plague him and his costars, I dive into the nitty-gritty details. This is where the fun begins. After 30 years of assessing people, factoring in family and social history, and economic, domestic and international challenges, I’ve uncovered unique, often quirky elements that defy belief, but are absolutely true. There’s nothing more intriguing to wrap a lie in than the truth. The challenge that every physician faces each day is translating his conclusions from “medical-ese” into English. When we don’t have the time constraints and press of our schedules, we can really have a lot of fun with this. My approach? Come home, slap on a pair of earbuds, crank up some music and listen to whatever crosses my tympanic membranes. (Those are my eardrums by the way.)

Every song has a story and even if the story’s the same, they’re told in a completely different light by every artist. I think of each character in my story as a separate artist expressing his interpretation of the life that he shares with other characters. My contribution to the flavor of this literary soup is stirring in interesting psychosocial, medical, genetic and pharmaceutical twists and turns that most people really don’t expect.

The Renaissance of AspirinI think every physician, scientist, engineer or lawyer writes with the trepidation that one of his peers, who knows as much as he does, will call him out on an outlandish premise or an inaccurate fact. I’m sure that nothing chafes an engineer more than a literary setting that defies the physical laws of the universe. In my experience, doctors are much the same. When we read medical fiction, we are looking for those missteps. There is no greater glee for some readers who have knowledge of the field than to point out a mistake made in the basic presentation of some technical aspect of your story. That’s when I remember the words of the late science fiction author, Octavia Butler. “Never let the truth get in the way of telling a good story.”

So, how do I balance an entertaining tale with a plausible basis in a reality in which I’m supposed to hold some expertise? My answer, build the story around the holes in our current knowledge. When I construct a medical device, ordeal or goal for my characters, I start with where our knowledge ends and conjecture begins. No one can fault you for solving a scientific problem that currently has no answer. You just have to be careful not to break known rules while you do it. The greatest onus on the writer is in writing current day or near-future fiction. By the time your story comes out, sometimes science has already solved that problem and you’re just dead wrong. When that happens, you stare at the page you discover it in, just say “poo”, move onto the next project, and eat crow from colleagues for a while. Hopefully, enough of them find the mistake and aspire to humiliate you by pointing it out to everyone they know which results in more book sales. Then guess who gets the last laugh?

Book Blitz: A Cold Legacy by Megan Shepherd

A Cold Legacy Blitz Banner

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Title: A Cold Legacy
Series: Madman’s Daughter Trilogy #3
Author: Megan Shepherd
Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Publication date: January 27, 2015
Genres: Dark Fantasy, Mystery, Romance, Young Adult

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Synopsis

After killing the men who tried to steal her father’s research, Juliet—
along with Montgomery, Lucy, Balthazar, and a deathly ill Edward—
has escaped to a remote estate on the Scottish moors. Owned by the
enigmatic Elizabeth von Stein, the mansion is full of mysteries and
unexplained oddities: dead bodies in the basement, secret passages,
and fortune-tellers who seem to know Juliet’s secrets. Though it
appears to be a safe haven, Juliet fears new dangers
may be present within the manor’s own walls.

Then Juliet uncovers the truth about the manor’s long history
of scientific experimentation—and her own intended role in it—forcing
her to determine where the line falls between right and wrong, life and
death, magic and science, and promises and secrets. And she must
decide if she’ll follow her father’s dark footsteps or her mother’s
tragic ones, or whether she’ll make her own.

With inspiration from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this breathless
conclusion to the Madman’s Daughter trilogy is about the things we’ll
sacrifice to save those we love—even our own humanity.

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An Excerpt from A Cold Legacy

Montgomery stopped the horses outside a tavern. He came to the carriage door, opening it just a crack to keep the rain from drenching us. “I’m going to ask directions. We can’t be far now.”

We watched him saunter over the muddy street as though he didn’t even feel the bite of freezing rain. A face appeared in the tavern window. The door opened and he spoke to a woman in a wool dress for a few moments, then stomped back through the mud. “This village is called Quick,” he told us. “The manor’s only five miles from here.”

A Cold Legacy“Did you hear that?” Lucy murmured to Edward, still stroking his hair. “We’re almost there. Just hold on. Everything will be all right once we arrive.”

Montgomery’s eyes shifted to me. Neither of us wanted to remind Lucy that the prospect of Edward’s fever breaking—and the Beast’s reappearance—was almost more frightening than the fever itself. Delirious, he was less of a threat.

“Let’s go then,” I whispered to Montgomery. “And quickly.”

He closed the door and in another moment we were moving again, passing through the rest of Quick. Then all too soon the village was nothing but fading lights. The storm grew and the road became rougher, and all the while Edward’s eyes rolled back and forth beneath shuttered lids.

Thunder struck close by, and Lucy shrieked. Montgomery whipped the horses harder, pulling us along the uneven road impossibly fast, trying to outrun the storm. I twisted in the seat to look out the back window at the pelting rain. A stone fence ran alongside us.

“We must be getting close,” I said.

“Not soon enough,” Lucy breathed. “We’re going to crash if he keeps driving like this!”

The road widened, straightening, letting us travel even faster. Lightning struck close by, blinding me. The horses bolted. Lucy screamed and covered her eyes, but I couldn’t tear mine away. The lightning had struck an enormous oak tree, twisted from centuries of wind. The oak took flame, blazing despite the rain. A smoking gash ran down the trunk—the lightning’s death mark. I watched until the rain put out most of the flames, but it still smoldered, billowing hot ash into the night.

The horses pawed the earth, and I grabbed the window to steady myself. At this wild speed, just hitting a single rock at the wrong angle would send the carriage shattering to the ground. It was madness to go so fast. Couldn’t Montgomery calm the horses?

Just when I feared the carriage would careen out of control, it stopped short, throwing me against the opposite wall. I tangled in Lucy’s limbs as the chains around Edward’s body clinked. Balthazar grunted, jerking awake at last. We scrambled in the bottom of the carriage until the door flew open.

Montgomery stood in the pelting rain. I feared he’d say we’d broken another strut or the horses had gone lame or we’d have to spend the night in the harsh storm.

But then I saw the lights behind him, and the night took shape into a turreted stone manor with bright lamps blazing and gargoyles on the roof vomiting rain into a stone courtyard.

Montgomery’s eyes met mine beneath the low brim of his hat.

“We’ve arrived,” he said.

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About the Author

Megan ShepherdHello!
I’ve been many things, like a professional exchange student, park ranger in Montana, and LOST enthusiast, but what I am now is a writer.

I think it’s fair to say I was born into it. I grew up in the mountains of North Carolina, raised behind the counter of my parents’ independent bookstore, Highland Books in Brevard. Ah, so many free books. But I never thought being a writer could be a real career. After college I thought I’d end up as a foreign service officer somewhere dashing and exotic, like Canada. I studied French, Spanish, German, and Russian and still speak a few of those. Then I joined the Peace Corps and spent two years in Senegal, where I learned a few more languages I’ll never speak again and lived in a mud hut with no electricity or running water. You can probably imagine how that experience went, but if you’re curious, here are the dirty details.

It wasn’t until a chance acquaintance read something I wrote and said, “have you ever considered being a writer?” that something clicked and I realized it was possible. My husband encouraged me, and I quickly fell head-over-heels in love with writing and children’s literature in particular. I started out writing articles, which have appeared in Faces, Appleseeds, and Calliope magazines, and stories for younger children. I soon realized I wasn’t sweet enough to write fiction for that age and found myself writing young adult literature instead, which doesn’t require nearly as many tender moments and includes a lot more cursing.

When I’m not writing, I can usually be found horseback riding, day dreaming at coffee shops, or hiking in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina. I love to hear from readers, so please drop me a line!

I am represented by Josh Adams of Adams Literary.

Author Photo by Kristi Hedberg Photography

Website / Twitter / Facebook / Tumblr / Goodreads

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Giveaway Details:
1 winner will receive a signed copy of
A COLD LEGACY and swag! US Only.
Ends on February 6th at Midnight EST!
Enter the Rafflecopter drawing here.

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A Pair of Teenies

The Three SistersThe Three Sisters
A Whispers Story
Lisa Unger
Pocket Star, January 2015
ISBN 978-1-4767-9780-9
Ebook

From the publisher—

When Eloise’s granddaughter, twenty-year-old Finley, comes to live with her, Eloise’s abilities start to change—things seem to be getting easier. Her load is lighter, and rather than chasing down people she needs, they are coming to her. She teams up with detective Jones Cooper to help a desperate father bring his daughter’s killer to justice. Meanwhile, Finley, who is developing gifts of her own, has bigger problems than she’s willing to admit. Will Eloise help Finley and others see the difference between justice and revenge, or will things spiral out of control first?

This third and final short story in the Whispers trilogy is a winding down and a passing on of sorts. It’s been thirty years since the accident that killed Eloise’s husband and older daughter and, for the most part, she has come to terms with the psychic abilities she gained afterwards. Her daughter, Amanda, never reconciled with it and has chosen to maintain a physical and emotional distance but her own daughter, Finley, has much in common with her grandmother.

Finley is on the cusp of understanding her own psychic abilities and this is the impetus for Eloise to learn more about the Three Sisters, ghosts from the 1600’s who have been hanging about. Looking into town records, Eloise is reminded that the sisters—Abigail, Sarah and Patience Good—were ancestors of hers on her mother’s side but who is the older woman in similar dress that she’s been seeing lately and what does she want?

In the midst of her personal search for answers, Eloise is helping a private investigator named Jones Cooper discover what happened to a modern girl named Michelle Asher, recently found dead and currently “visiting” Eloise. At the same time, she’s trying to help Finley find her way in this strange world. The Three Sisters have meddled in Finley’s life many times before and they may be about to do so again.

Each of the three short stories have been less dramatic in turn but The Three Sisters has been no less engaging because of that. While very different from Lisa Unger‘s usual work, this is still a good example of her authorial talents.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2015.

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Dead Man WalkerDead Man Walker
A Consignment Shop Novella
Duffy Brown
Berkley Prime Crime, February 2015
ISBN 978-0-698-17802-1
Ebook

From the publisher—

It’s springtime in Savannah, the azaleas and magnolias are in bloom, and Reagan Summerside’s consignment shop, the Prissy Fox, is bustling with customers out to enjoy the beautiful weather. On a day like today, what could go wrong?

As a mortician beautician and housekeeper, Mercedes is no stranger to corpses or messy bathrooms. But the last thing she expects to find in a client’s bathtub is a dead body! Now she’s a murder suspect and it seems like her life is going down the drain. She turns to local lawyer Walker Boone to get her out of hot water.

But Walker has his own surprising connections to the dead man in the tub, and now he needs Reagan’s help to clear his own name—and keep him alive…

The Consignment Shop Mysteries feature the shop owner, Reagan Summerside, as the main character and sleuth but Dead Man Walker is a departure, told from the point of view of Reagan’s kinda sorta occasional boyfriend, Walker Boone. When cleaning lady Mercedes is in danger of being accused of murdering a client, Walker steps in and, before long, he’s identified quite a few people who had varying reasons to want Conway Adkins dead. Unfortunately, he’s also made himself a target for a few attempts on his own life and found out a startling piece of news. Next thing he knows, Detective Aldeen Ross is on her way to arrest him for killing Conway.

This novella is a nice introduction to some of the characters in the series and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Readers should be aware that this particular crime is not resolved as this is a lead-in to the next full-length novel, Demise in Denim, coming out in April. I’m looking forward to continuing the sleuthing then.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2015.