Interview: Shelton L. Williams, author of COVEY JENCKS

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Shelton L. Williams

Genre: Mystery / Social Thriller

Publisher: Southern Owl Publications, LLC

Publication Date: February 10, 2018

Number of Pages: 229 pages


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Covey Jencks is a murder mystery with a social conscience. Set in West Texas with a cast of colorful and humorous characters, it follows a young lawyer from Washington, DC back to his hometown of Odessa, Texas. He wants and needs to solve a murder case from 1979 in 1993. The problem is that the Odessa Police Department has already found its man, and no one wants to re-visit the case of a black prostitute whose life was seemingly of no consequence to anyone. But Freddie Mae Johnson’s death matters to Covey and eventually he discovers an old flame, JayJay Qualls, who also knew and loved Freddie. Together they undertake an investigation that uncovers not only the truth about Freddie but also the secrets of Odessa’s south side, Mexican gangs, a Boston mobster, and the fallacy of unexamined assumptions. Finding out who killed Freddie is one thing, but preventing their own demise is quite another! 






I just love Covey Jencks and JayJay Qualls! They are a modern couple who remind me of Nick and Nora in West Texas. Characters, crimes, and social commentary leap off the page. Shelly can tell a story! Deborah Crombie, author of the award-winning mysteries of Gemma James/Duncan Kincaid

I loved the story, the writing, and the prospects for future Covey Jencks adventures, but what I love the most, as an African- American author and documenter of human experience, is the proof that this work presents of the inextricability of Black and White lives in America. Sharon T. Freeman, CEO of Gems of Wisdom Consulting, author of 24 books, and global development expert

A dead body and a miscarriage of justice? What is a West Texas boy to do? Well, Covey Jencks, an Odessa native who knows some secrets, spurns his job with a Washington, DC law firm, and heads back to his hometown to solve the crime. Prudence Mackintosh, Contributing Editor, Texas Monthly, author of Thundering Sneakers and more

“I have unfinished business in Odessa, by God, Texas.” And with that, we are off on a wild ride with Covey Jencks as he tries to find out who killed Freddie Mae Johnson, a black prostitute, when Covey was a junior in high school. If you like your detectives to be misfits who chafe at the social rules, idealists who try to find the order behind apparent chaos, attractors of a cast of characters as contradictory as the detective is, you will grab hold of Covey and hang on until the end of the ride. When you get there, you’ll know for sure that you’ve been somewhere. Carol Daeley, Professor Emerita of English, Austin College.





Where did the name “Covey Jencks” come from?

The name Covey Jencks has been with me for over 30 years. The original unpublished version of the book that became Washed in the Blood had Covey as a minor character. That book but not that name went away. Covey’s personal history is an amalgam of my family history, some aspects of some of my favorite students’ careers, and pure fiction. The focus on Freddie Mae’s death, that is the death of an older, black, sometime prostitute, came to me during the troubles of 2016. The Black Lives Matter movement vs. Blue Lives Matter set group against group and politicized death. Curiously, none other than Joseph Stalin said that “a million deaths is a statistic, but one death is a tragedy.” I wanted to show how one life, no matter the person’s color, could affect many people and also reveal social assumptions and maybe biases. Who better to solve the crime than a black and white duo who defied stereotypes? JayJay is a unique woman, but her sassy personality is familiar to me. I have lived with her for over fifty years. Yeah, I am an old dude. 
You teach in a grad school and run a busy non-profit? How do you have time to write a book? 

I write between 5:00 and 8:00 AM when the writing monster takes hold of me. Fortunately, the monster stays in the closet for years.
Really? It seems like you are setting up a series of mystery books based on Covey and JayJay?

Yes, that is correct. the monster is still roaming loose.
You have not lived in Texas for almost 15 years and not in Odessa for 55 years? Why write about Odessa, Texas?

Have you ever been to Odessa? It is unique, and it has real-life characters almost too big to be believable in mere fiction. In addition, when I wrote Washed in the Blood, and a guy from Simon and Schuster told me that it was well written but of no interest to anyone outside Texas. That frosted my mug! Every book has to have a sense of place and neither Brooklyn, nor Moscow, nor London, nor any other place has a monopoly on good stories. Of course, Friday Night Lights proved that, too. I re-visited Odessa countless times in researching and promoting Washed in the Blood; I still have family and friends there; and you can take the boy out of Texas, but…
You teach political science but your books aren’t overly political. Why not?

I think the politics are there, but not in-your-face. Buckminister Fuller, creator of the Geodesic Dome, once told me that politics is like physics. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. It is better, he said, to make forces tangential rather than collide head on. I have never forgotten that.
Is that why there is so much humor in this book?

Perhaps, but then Covey and JayJay are inherently funny people. Covey had to learn how to navigate through bullies in middle school and high school and JayJay just tells it like it is; sometimes that comes out funny.
Are you trying to be trendy with so many gay and lesbian characters in your book?

Hardly, more like pay a penance. Growing up in the 50s, we were totally aware of LGBTQ folks. I was not particularly mean to them, but not until one of the most talented guys from my high school come out in the 70s (and later died of AIDS) did I stop to reflect on the systematic discrimination they faced. One of the characters in my book is still in the closet, and I hope I have conveyed how hard a life that is. It was a situation in which some folks chose death or imprisonment rather than public shame. 
So, you are crusader?

Nope, I simply like to tell stories. And I think I have a few more to tell.


Author Pic Shelley Williams

Shelton L. Williams (Shelly) is founder and president of the Osgood Center for International Studies in Washington, DC. He holds a PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and he taught for nearly 40 years at Austin College in Sherman, Texas.

He has served in the US Government on 4 occasions and he has written books and articles on nuclear proliferation. In 2004 he began a new career of writing books on crime and society. Those books are Washed in the Blood, Summer of 66, and now Covey Jencks. All firmly prove that he is still a Texan at heart.


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Guest Post: Anna Lores, author of steamy erotic romance

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Writers Need to have A Short Memory: Dealing with Rejection.

Stand around a group of writers and, at some point, a conversation about dealing with rejection will pop up. It doesn’t matter how “thick” your skin is, rejection hurts. And some hurt worse than others. Whether it’s a review, critique, answers to query letter, or in the editing process, someone along the journey isn’t going to like something, and they’re sure to tell you all about it.

One of my more notable experiences with rejection came straight from a writing contest I had entered. I was over the moon when I found out my story had made it into the top three, and had been sent to an acquiring editor. The sweet news soon soured when I opened the final critique I had looked forward to reading. As part of that critique, the editor chose to express her opinion that I should “never put pen to paper ever again.” That comment, and the rest of the comments that particular professional editor sent, wasn’t helpful in my pursuit to become a better writer. They weren’t constructive. They were meant to hurt, and at that moment, that editor definitely succeeded in crushing my spirit.

I’ll be brutally honest. I cried. I considered starting a bonfire in my backyard and burning every note, article, drawing I’d ever put on paper, even the love poems I’d written to my husband. I almost deleted every document on my computer that I’d ever written. If I’d taken that person’s advice, my writing life, something that had been an escape, a love, a sacred place, would have ended that day.

Instead of letting those scathing words defeat me, I took a sports analogy to heart and left the past in the past. It is often said that defensive backs in football have to have a short memory and be able to focus on the future. They get burned for a touchdown on one play, but have to be able to shut down the next pass that comes their way.  Authors have to be the same way. Take criticism one day. Begin a best seller the next.

My writing juices got ignited. I didn’t care how long it took, or how many heart-stopping rejections I got along the way, I was determined to make the next play.

I worked on the craft of writing, enlisted some trusted professionals who wanted to see me succeed, and didn’t let any rejections that came my way break me.

Defensive backs work hard, learn from every play, and have a short memory. I choose that approach in my writing career and in life. Join me and forget about those rejections, work hard every day, and never, never, never give up.


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Title: Ella’s Triple Pleasure

Author: Anna Lores

Genre: Contemporary Erotic Romance

This work contains mature content, including graphic sexual descriptions and scenes, and is provided for adults only. 

It takes three men to satisfy one woman’s needs…

Single mom and massage therapist Ella Winthrop isn’t looking for a relationship. She has enough problems without risking a business that barely meets her needs. Then her world is turned upside down by three men, each offering something she isn’t prepared for—love so deep it hurts, sex so hot she’s afraid she’ll melt from the pleasure, and a future beyond her wildest dreams.

Steamy businessman Cade Jackson has it all—money, looks, a giving heart, and a dominant nature—but Ella refuses to date a client even if she’s lusted after him for a year. After his brother’s death, Garrett Winthrop moves back to town opening old wounds and even darker fantasies. Dr. Derek McGregor gives her balance and understanding that speaks to her soul. All three men force Ella to question the limits of a traditional relationship.

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anna lores

Anna Lores started writing romance as a by-product of insomnia. After a year of late-night reading, she borrowed her son’s laptop after he went to bed and set about breathing life to her very own characters. After a month, she was surprised with a new laptop to pursue her dreams.

With a B.A. in English Literature and a desire to fill her world with wonderful stories she and her close friends could not just talk about but gush over, Anna shed the job as mom of three in the late night hours and assumed her alter ego of Dirty Girl.

Now, Anna is a multi-published author of contemporary and paranormal erotic romance.

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Excerpt: WICKWYTHE HALL by Judithe Little {giveaway}

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Judithe Little

Genre: Historical Fiction / WWII

Publisher: Black Opal Books

Date of Publication: September 30, 2017

Number of Pages: 324


*Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards Finalist*

*2018 Reader Views Readers’ Choice Award for Historical Fiction*

*Winner of the Tyler R. Tichelaar Award for Best Historical Fiction*

*Official selection of the Pulpwood Queens Book Club*



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May 1940. The Germans invade France and the course of three lives is upended. Annelle LeMaire is a French refugee desperate to contact her Legionnaire brothers. Mabry Springs, American wife of a wealthy Brit, is struggling to come to terms with a troubled marriage and imminent German invasion. And Reid Carr, American representative of French champagne house Pol Roger, brings more than champagne to Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Their paths entwine when Churchill and his entourage take refuge at Wickwythe Hall, the Springs’ country estate hidden from the full moon and German bombers beneath a shroud of trees. There, as secrets and unexpected liaisons unfold, Annelle, Mabry, and Reid are forever bound by the tragedy they share.

Part Downton Abbey, part Darkest Hour, Wickwythe Hall was inspired by an actual confrontation between the British and French navies in July 1940 and is a story of love, loyalty, and heartrending choices.



“…a riveting and enlightening mix of history and fiction that puts a human face on the costs of war…engaging…”  — Foreword Reviews

“Little’s characterization of Churchill is so well done. She makes his personality and presence so real. Mabry was a character to be admired for her decisions and actions. A good read with a satisfying ending.”   — Historical Novels Review

“Judithe Little tackles war and masterfully boils it down to personal moral dilemmas. Beautifully written and rich with atmosphere…Wickwythe Hall is a stellar achievement.”  — Ann Weisgarber, author of The Personal History of Rachel DuPree and The Promise

“…an emotional and touching story about the lives of three people during World War II, at the time of Hitler’s invasion of France in 1940. Inspired by real people, places and events in history, this whirlwind novel will no doubt leave an imprint on your heart long after you finish reading.”  — Reader Views

“If you love history, beautifully rendered characters, and stories that will tug at your heart, add Wickwythe Hall to your list.”  — Book Perfume




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Wickwythe Hall

By Judithe Little


France: May 1940:

Outside the convent kitchen, a truck rumbled past. “Sister,” Annelle said. “That’s the fifth to go by.”

“Yes,” Sister Marie Michel said, not bothering to look up. “Now try to be still.”

Arms out at her sides, Annelle balanced on a rickety wooden stool, worn and curved at the center from so many feet before hers. Sister Marie Michel’s skirt rustled as she crouched low on the rough stone floor stitching the hem of the gown Annelle was to wear down the aisle. It was a simple white sheath with sleeves to her wrists and a high collar. It made her skin itch and her face flush. She wanted to loosen the seams, stretch the tight weave of the cloth. Instead, she swallowed hard. “These trucks,” she said. “They sound like army trucks.”

“The vows bring such marvelous enrichment,” the nun said, as if she hadn’t heard. “The ultimate act of giving oneself, to give your whole being in sacrifice to another…”

Annelle shifted her weight. The stool wobbled. She felt a sharp, quick pain at her ankle.

“Mother Mary, I stuck you,” Sister Marie Michel said. “Are you all right?” She looked up at Annelle with kind blue eyes that had soothed skinned knees and night terrors. Twenty years had passed since the accident when Annelle, two years old, and her brothers, seven and eight, were orphaned and brought to the convent to live. Sister Marie Michel, like all of the sisters, had cherished and loved them as if they were the nuns’ own flesh, maybe more so because the nuns didn’t have that option. And now the day was coming, the day the sisters had kept tucked in their hearts since Annelle had arrived, the day they’d give her away.

“It’s fine,” Annelle said. The stinging at her ankle felt strangely good, something to think about besides army trucks and wedding dresses.

Sister Marie Michel continued stitching. “…a love that is gentle and kind…the most holy union…a ceremony sanctified and sacred…”

Annelle closed her eyes. In one week, she would be the bride of Christ. One last week, before she gave herself over to vows of enclosure, chastity, poverty, obedience. But her brothers, gone ten months, would not be there to give her away.

“…truly bound to Christ in the most marvelous way… this most holy Groom will never fail or leave you…”

Outside, another truck passed. Annelle opened her eyes. “Something’s happened,” she said. “Something with the war.”

author pic Judithe Little

Judithe Little grew up in Virginia and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia.  After studying at the Institute of European Studies and the Institut Catholique in Paris, France, and interning at the U.S. Department of State, she earned a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law where she was on the Editorial Board of the Journal of International Law and a Dillard Fellow. She lives with her husband, three teenagers, and three dogs in Houston, Texas, where she’s at work on her next historical novel set in France.


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1ST: Signed Copy of Wickwythe Hall + $50 Amazon Gift Card

2ND: Signed Copy of Wickwythe Hall + $25 Amazon Gift Card

3RD: Signed Copy of Wickwythe Hall  + $15 Amazon Gift Card

MARCH 27-APRIL 5, 2018




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Excerpt: DAM NATION: Bonnie and Clyde Series, Book 2 by Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall

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Bonnie and Clyde #2




Genre: Historical / Alternative History / Romance 

Publisher: Pumpjack Press

Date of Publication: March 24, 2018

Number of Pages: 266




Bonnie and Clyde: Defending the working class from a river of greed.

The year is 1935 and the Great Depression has America in a death grip of poverty, unemployment and starvation. But the New Deal is rekindling hope, with federally funded infrastructure projects, like Hoover Dam, putting folks back to work. So, why is someone trying to blow it up? That’s what Bonnie and Clyde set out to uncover in the novel Dam Nation by Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall, the second book in a provocative speculative fiction series that re-imagines the outlaws’ lives.



“A rollicking good read!” — Midwest Book Review


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The Texas Ranger looked up at Sal, a mixture of fear, respect and revulsion in his eyes. “Let’s pretend for a minute it wasn’t Bonnie and Clyde in that ambush,” he said. “Why? Why would it be different people in that car?”

“How would I know?” Sal asked. “I work for the government. I trust that the government has my best interests at heart. I follow orders. You didn’t.”

“I won’t be quiet about this unless you can tell me why anyone would try to save them outlaws.”

“If they were still alive, I would tell you that everyone has a purpose in life, and perhaps they are fulfilling theirs. And if they were still alive, I would tell you that you don’t use good dogs to guard the junkyard, you use the meanest goddamn dogs you can get a collar around.”





Clark and Kathleen wrote their first book together in 1999 as a test for marriage. They passed. Dam Nation is their sixth co-authored book. 


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Interview: Prescott Lane, author of TO THE FALL

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Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?

I write romance because I love a good happily ever after, and there arent enough in real life.

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

My dad is a big reader, so probably from him.

How long have you been writing?

I started writing fiction as soon as I could hold a pencil. Ive always had characters living in my head. I sold my first story about a talking turtle to my dad for a quarter.

What kind(s) of writing do you do?

I write Contemporary Romance.

What cultural value do you see in writing/reading/storytelling/etc.?

Unity. Love, heartbreak, triumph are parts of all our lives. These are the things that tie us together.

Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured if your book? If so, discuss them.

To the Fall does have some underrepresented ideas in it, but I cant give them away. Spoiler-free!

What did you find most useful in learning to write? What was least useful or most destructive?

The most useful thing Ive found is to listen to your characters. They drive the book. It doesnt matter what my plan is for a story. It always seems to change in the writing process. Embrace it dont fight it.

What do you like to read in your free time?

It changes, but mysteries are my favorite right now.

Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)?

My laptop, my dogs, and a quiet place are my usual mode of operation, but ideas can strike me anytime. Ive been known to frantically scribble on napkins or scraps of paper if an idea hits me. And yes, Ive been known to rush out of the shower to jot something down!

What book do you wish you could have written?

A cookbook! Im a so-so cook. I have to have a recipe to make anything beyond the basics. So I really wish I had the ability to come up with new recipes.

If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?

I would have to cast Henry Cavill just so I could stare at him on set all day. That man is too handsome.

How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?

Names are very important. Their meaning, the mood they invoke, is all very important. In my book, The Reason for Me, the heroines name is eight letters long. A couple chapters in, I was sick of typing it, so I clicked find alland changed her name to a three letter one. I couldnt sleep all night long. I had to get up at 3 in the morning and change it back.

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Hmm, Im not sure if this is a superpower, but Id like to be able to heal the sick.

Where is one place you want to visit that you haven’t been before?

Its hard to narrow it to one. Probably Scotland or France.

If you were an animal in a zoo, what would you be?

My daughter loves polar bears, so I have to pick that.

If you could have any accents from anywhere in the world, what would you choose?

I love a British accent!


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TO THE FALL_Amazon_KOBO_iBooks
You know the story.
Boy meets girl, they fall in love, two kids, white picket fence.
This isn’t that story.
This is more like . . .
Man meets woman.  Man sleeps with woman.
Man meets another woman, sleeps with her.
And so on.  You get the idea.
I own a small boutique hotel in New Orleans, the Kingston.  I’ve seen men do some stupid stuff in the name of the woman they love, or at least the woman they love for the night.
That’s not me.  I’m always in control.  You’d be surprised how much you can get away with on just good manners and a smile. It’s the only way to keep my secrets safely locked away.
And my smile hides a lot.  Until her.
She turns me down flat.  Playing hard to get is my favorite game.  It’s the thrill of the chase.
Only problem is, I think it’s me that’s getting caught.

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Prescott Lane is the author of First Position, Perfectly Broken, Quiet Angel, and Wrapped in Lace. She is originally from Little Rock, Arkansas, and holds a degree in sociology and a MSW from Tulane University. She married her college sweetheart, and they currently live in New Orleans with their two children and two crazy dogs. Prescott started writing at the age of five, and sold her first story about a talking turtle to her father for a quarter. She later turned to writing romance novels because there aren’t enough happily ever afters in real life.

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Guest Post: Mia Hopkins, author of THIRSTY

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Writing from the Hero’s Point of View

One day passes, then two, then three. I work myself hard at both my jobs. I exercise until my body has no energy left to feed my anxiety. In the mirror at the gym, the man staring back at me with the furious eyes is bigger and leaner than anyone who’s ever mad-dogged me before. Sweat drips off my skin. My lungs burn. I let the pain wash over me. “Pain is weakness leaving the body,” as the saying goes. My physical body is strong.

But my heart? My mind?

How do I strengthen those two things?

I don’t know.

—Salvador Rosas, Thirsty


Sal is the narrator of my newest sexy contemporary romance Thirsty. He’s a former gangster who’s spent the last five years in prison for car jacking and grand theft auto. Even though Sal’s physical appearance is intimidating, his time in prison has left him introverted and prone to anxiety attacks in crowds.

Thirsty is the first book I’ve written entirely from the hero’s point of view (using first-person POV, in which the narrator is I and me). Spending so much time with Sal was both a challenge and a delight. Here are some of the things I observed during the process of writing Thirsty.


  1. Sharper voice. Writing from the hero’s point of view forced me to drop all the “writerly” tricks I’ve come to rely upon as a romance author. While I delight in lots of metaphors and descriptive words, Sal tells stories with very little embellishment. Sal has an education, but he doesn’t spend all day obsessing over words the way I do. The result? A sharper, more muscular voice better suited to telling this particular story.
  2. Surprises. Writing from Sal’s point of view revealed surprises about his personality that I hadn’t anticipated, as if listening more carefully to his voice created new opportunities for character development. For example, in trying to come up with ways for Sal to deal with his anxiety, I realized early on that he cleans whenever he is nervous or wants to show control over his environment. Subsequent research about formerly incarcerated individuals revealed that many inmates pass the time by obsessively cleaning their cells. This extreme cleanliness eventually became a feature of Sal’s character.
  3. Free traits. In my studies of character development, I happened upon the work of personality psychologist Brian Little. Little explores familiar traits like extroversion and introversion, but he also delves deeper into “free traits,” the temporary traits we adopt when we step out of character to face particular challenges. For example, an introverted person might behave like an extrovert in order to get better service for their loved one in a hospital emergency room. In Thirsty, Sal often has to adopt “free traits.” I explored Sal’s fears as he put aside his quiet nature and stood up in a spectacular way to defend his loved ones. I had the pleasure of capturing his turmoil when he put aside his desire for privacy to display affection in public towards his crush.


Romance authors regularly fall in love with their heroes. I am no exception. Sal is vulnerable and strong at the same time, a scarred survivor of his circumstances who finds a way out. I learned a lot from living inside his head, and I’m excited to share his voice with you.


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About Thirsty

A gangster hiding from his past. A single mom fighting for her future. Can she show this bad boy the man he’s meant to be?
“Mia Hopkins is an imaginative author who doesn’t take the easy road to a formulaic book.”—USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog

My name is Salvador Rosas. Back in the barrio, my past is written on the walls: ESHB. Short for East Side Hollenbeck, my father’s gang—my gang. Hell, it’s a family tradition, one that sent both my brothers away. They used to call me “Ghost” because I haunted people’s dreams. Now I’ve got nothing going for me except a hipster gringo mentoring me in a new career. An ex-con making craft beer? No mames.

Still, people in this neighborhood look out for one another. That’s how I became Vanessa Velasco’s unwelcome tenant. Chiquita pero picosa. She’s little, but with curves so sweet they’re dangerous. I remember Vanessa from the old days, the straight-A student with big plans. Plans that were derailed by another kid stupid enough to think he was bulletproof. Now Vanessa knows better than to believe in empty promises. There’s fire in her . . . and if I touch her, I might get burned.

I’m trying everything I can to go straight. But when East Side Hollenbeck comes calling, I might have to risk it all to find out if there’s a future for Vanessa and me. Because she’s the only one who can quench my thirst for something real.

Praise for Thirsty
Thirsty is a sizzling, emotionally intense story that is both gritty and heartwarming, an addictive page-turner that will stay with me for a long time to come.”New York Times bestselling author Cathryn Fox

Thirsty is sexy and soul-wrenching, with Sal’s irresistible voice luring you through a living, breathing Los Angeles. Vanessa and Sal’s chemistry sizzles right off the page. Five smoldering, tattooed stars!”USA Today bestselling author Sierra Simone

Thirsty is an amazing read! I stayed up way too late to finish and haven’t stopped thinking about the characters. Highly recommended!”USA Today bestselling author Molly O’Keefe




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Award-winning author Mia Hopkins writes lush romances starring fun, sexy characters who love to get down and dirty. She’s a sucker for working class heroes, brainy heroines and wisecracking best friends. She lives in the heart of Los Angeles with her roguish husband and waggish dog.

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Interview: Diana Rodriguez Wallach, Author, LIES THAT BIND

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Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?

I’ll warn you, this story is kind of strange. I started writing my first novel because I had a dream one night that I was a young adult author, and I dreamt the concept for an entire series of books. Seriously. When I woke up and told my husband, he reminded me of a vacation we took five years earlier through New England.

We had stopped in Salem, MA to see the witches’ houses. While there, I decided to visit a psychic (when in Rome, right?). So I sat down and the psychic immediately said, “You’re a writer.” And I was; at the time, I was a reporter. I told her this, and she asked what I wrote about. Intentionally trying to be cryptic (I mean, she is a psychic, shouldn’t she already know?), I told her that I wrote about “business.” She swiftly said, “No. I see you writing books, little books, like children’s books.”

I had never considered writing a book before. But after the dream, and my recollection of the psychic, I figured it was “a sign.” So I sat down and started my first novel.


What kind(s) of writing do you do?

I write young adult novels. My current book, Lies that Bind, is the sequel to Proof of Lies. They are the first two installments of a trilogy YA spy thrillers. They’re about a girl named Anastasia Phoenix, who is my personal blend of Nancy Drew meets Buffy Summers in the world of Spy Kids. Essentially Anastasia’s a combination of the kick-butt heroines I love from the mysteries and thrillers that have impacted me. The series also indulges my love of travel. Proof of Lies is set in Boston (where I went to college) and Italy. I take readers through the streets Rome, the vineyards of Tuscany, and the canals of Venice. Lies that Bind continues with more scenes in Boston, then whisks the reader to Bonfire Night in Lewes, England; a covert meeting on the London Ferris wheel; and finally death threats and confrontations in Rio de Janeiro. I went to a wedding recently in Rio, and the location features prominently in the book. Honestly, I don’t know how the novel would end if it weren’t for that trip! I feel like with a spy novel, you need a touch of the exotic—how interesting would James Bond be if every movie were set in Des Moines?

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I love to travel. So you can trust that all of the scenes in both Proof of Lies and Lies that Bind—from Boston, to Italy, to England, to Rio de Janeiro—are based on places I’ve visited. Every hotel I describe is based on the exact room I stayed in with my husband. When Anastasia stops for fish and chips in London, you can bet I ate there. When she goes to a lavish wedding in Brazil, I can describe the exotic floral arrangements and gorgeous bartenders, because I attended a wedding there myself. My settings are real, vivid, and authentic, down to the salty humid air in Rio and the smoky fire festivals in Lewes, England. One of my favorite compliments is when a reader says my settings feel like a character in their own right. Big smiles for that one.

Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured if your book?  If so, discuss them.

I intentionally make the characters in my books very diverse, because I’m setting my stories in major US cities where I have lived. So when I think back to those times in my life, I think of the people I knew there and I purposely add characters that give a subtle nod to some of them. For example, large chunks of both Proof of Lies and Lies that Bind are set in Boston where I went to college. One of my college roommates was Filipina, so Anastasia’s closest school friend in the series is Filipina. Anastasia’s love interest in the books, Marcus, is from Mardid; I studied abroad in Madrid, Spain when I was a junior in college. One of Anastasia’s other close friends is half black, and one of my other roommates was half Chinese and half Jamaican. I’m also half Polish and half Puerto Rican, so I try to include a little Spanish in all of my novels. To me, this diversity is natural because it’s simply a representation of my own life experience.


Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work?  What impact have they had on your writing?

I grew up loving the YA thriller genre, so honestly, the Anastasia Phoenix series is a return to the books that inspired me. As a child of the 90s, I was obsessed with Christopher Pike. I vividly remember waiting for the release of each of his books—from Chain Letter, to Remember Me, to Fall Into Darkness. He’s one of the reasons I write for YA now, and I would completely geek out if I ever met him in person. I think that’s why I wanted to attempt a YA thriller of my own.

Are you a full-time or part-time writer?  How does that affect your writing?

I published my first novel when I was 30, back when I still had a full time job working in communications for a nonprofit specializing in improving inner-city public schools. When my first novel sold, Amor and Summer Secrets, I decided to start writing full time. This was before kids, so I had plenty of time to write all day, every day. Ahh, memories. I had no idea how good I had it. Now, I’m a mom of two small kids. So writing is something I need to schedule into to my day and multitask. But it never feels like work. I love plotting new stories, doing research, creating outlines, and imagining my characters. Also, I love editing! Strange, I know. And I teach Creative Writing online for Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth.

What projects are you working on at the present?

I’m planning to return to YA contemporary romance. I’m currently working on a stand-alone title featuring an extremely gifted Latina student, under immense academic pressure and dealing with unresolved issues surrounding the death of her brother. It takes place during that space at the end of her senior year, when the college acceptances have rolled in and students start to check-out. But for this character, she’s not simply taking a mental vacation from stress, she’s considering a major life change that will mean standing up to her overprotective parents for the first time. I’ve been deep in research mode lately, conducting lots of interviews to really nail down the character. I’m so excited to start something new!


What do your plans for future projects include?

Book three of the Anastasia Phoenix series comes out next year, End of  the Lie! I’m in edit-mode for this one. It’ll be so sad to see Anastasia’s journey end, but at the same time I can’t wait to hear reader’s reactions to her story.

How do you get your ideas for writing?

Ideas come at random times—while watching TV, brushing my teeth, driving my car, etc. But usually the ones I act upon, the ones I start writing, are based on something true that happened to me at one point in my life. The first novel I ever wrote, still unpublished, was based on my bullying experience in middle school. The first novel I ever published, Amor and Summer Secrets, is based on my ethnic background and what it was like visiting family in Puerto Rico. And the first spark of inspiration that ultimately led to the creation of Anastasia Phoenix came when I was in high school. I was attending a college fair in Philadelphia, and I was listening to students talk about Boston University. One kid was glowing about the professors—Pulitzer-prize winners from the Boston Globe, The Washington Post and The NY Times. Then he spoke about a very unusual professor, one who was a former communist spy for Czechoslovakia during the Cold War and who now taught budding journalists how to tell if they were being fed false information or “fake news.” The tale of that rouge spy stuck with me.

But by the time I ultimately got to BU, Lawrence Martin Bittman, the spy-turned-journalism professor, had retired. I never got to take his course. However, years later when I decided to attempt an international thriller packed with super spies, that story came back to me as if it had always been waiting. I wanted my world of espionage to be focused on a unique specialty that offered me some creative freedom, and disinformation fit the bill.

I eventually meet the spy who inspired me, and we had a fascinating conversation in his home that led to many of the espionage elements in Proof of Lies and Lies that Bind, as well as the name of the CIA agent that appears in the novel, Martin Bittman.


Aboutthebook (1)

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About Lies That Bind:

What if saving yourself meant destroying everyone you love?

Still reeling from everything she learned while searching for her sister in Italy, Anastasia Phoenix is ready to call it quits with spies. Then she and her friends learn that Marcus’s—her kinda boyfriend—brother, Antonio, has also gone missing. Luckily, they track down Antonio in a fiery festival in England, only to learn he has been working for the enemy, Department D, the whole time. But Antonio wants out. And so does Anastasia.

But before any of them can leave espionage and their parents’ crimes behind them, a close friend turns up dead. No one is safe, not while Department D still exists. So Anastasia and her friends embark on a dangerous plan to bring down an entire criminal empire, using every Dresden Kid they can find.

As their world becomes surrounded by spies, and the children of spies, Anastasia starts to question who she can really trust. Including her best friends…



abouttheauthor (1)


About Diana Rodriguez Wallach:

Diana Rodriguez Wallach is the author of the Anastasia Phoenix series, three YA spy thrillers set to debut beginning in March 2017 (Entangled Publishing). She is also the author of three award-winning young adult novels: Amor and Summer Secrets, Amigas and School Scandals, and Adios to All The Drama (Kensington Books); as well as a YA short-story collection based on the Narcissus myth, entitled Mirror, Mirror (Buzz Books, 2013). In 2011, she published a highly regarded essay in Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories (HarperCollins). It was the only essay chosen from the anthology by Scholastic to be used in its classroom materials. Diana is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses (Twilight Times Books, 2015), and she is currently on staff as a featured blogger for Quirk Books. In 2010 Diana was named one of the Top Ten New Latino Authors to Watch by, and she placed second in the International Latino Book Awards. She is an advisory board member for the Philly Spells Writing Center, and is a Creative Writing instructor for Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth. She holds a B.S. in Journalism from Boston University, and currently lives in Philadelphia.


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Special Feature: Notable Quotable: KILLING IN C SHARP by Alexia Gordon {giveaway}

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A Gethsemane Brown Mystery, Volume 3 


Alexia Gordon


Genre: Paranormal Mystery; Publisher: Henery Press

Date of Publication: March 6, 2018

Number of Pages: 288


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She saved Carraigfaire—but can she save her friends? Gethsemane Brown fought off an attack by a sleazy hotel developer who wanted to turn her Irish cottage into a tourist trap. Now she must face a vengeful ghost determined to exact revenge for her murder centuries ago. This ghost’s wrath spares no one—not

Gethsemane’s students, Inspector Niall O’Reilly, fellow teacher Frankie Grennan, or a group of ghost hunters descended on Dunmullach to capture proof ghosts exist. Proof Gethsemane has to quash to keep Eamon, her resident ghost and friend, from becoming an internet sensation. As if a spiteful specter wasn’t bad enough, a crooked music reviewer turns up dead in the opera house orchestra pit, a famous composer is arrested for the crime, and Gethsemane must team up with a notorious true-crime author to clear his name. If she doesn’t, friends will die, a ghost she cares about will never know peace, and she’ll star in a final act gruesome enough for any opera.




Book 1, Murder in G Major

Winner of the 2017 Lefty Award for Best Debut Novel

2016 Agatha Award nominee for Best First Novel

Suspense magazine “Best of 2016” selection in Debut Novel category

Book 2, Death in D Minor

Runner-Up, 2017 Lone Star Bloggers’ Choice Awards, Best Mystery/Suspense

Short List, 2017 Lone Star Bloggers’ Choice Awards, Best Series

Book 3, Killing in C Sharp

Starred review, Publisher’s Weekly, January 29, 2018




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Notable Quotable 3 Killing in C Sharp


A writer since childhood, I put literary endeavors on hold to finish medical school and Family Medicine residency training. Medical career established, I returned to writing fiction. I completed SMU’s Writer’s Path program in Dallas, Texas. Henery Press published my first novel, Murder in G Major, book one of the Gethsemane Brown mysteries, in September 2016. Book two, Death in D Minor, released July 11, 2017. Book three, Killing in C Sharp, comes out March 6, 2018. Murder in G Major won the Lefty Award for Best Debut Novel, was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best New Novel and was selected one of Suspense Magazine’s Best Debuts.

I listen to classical music, drink whiskey, and blog at Miss Demeanors, voted one of Writers’ Digest magazine’s 101 best websites for writers, and Femmes Fatales

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MARCH 13-22, 2018




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Review: STOLEN OBSESSION by Marlene M. Bell {giveaway}


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Annalisse Series, Book 1


Marlene M Bell

Genre: Spicy Romantic Mystery; Publisher: Ewephoric Publishing

Date of Publication: March 20, 2018; Number of Pages: 284


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Manhattan antiquities appraiser Annalisse Drury dreams of a quiet life on the family farm among the sheep she loves, when her best friend is murdered. The police assume robbery is the motive because her friend’s expensive bracelet is missing. But the 500-year-old artifact is rumored to carry an ancient curse, one that unleashes evil upon any who dare wear the jewelry created for the Persian royal family—and Annalisse believes her friend is the latest victim.

Weeks later, Annalisse sees a necklace matching the stolen bracelet at a gallery opening. Convinced the necklace is part of the deadly collection, Annalisse begs the gallery’s owner to destroy the piece, but her pleas are ignored— despite the unnatural death that occurs during the opening. With two victims linked to the jewelry, Annalisse is certain she must act.

Desperate to keep the gallery owner safe, Annalisse reluctantly enlists the owner’s son to help—even though she’s afraid he’ll break her heart. Wealthy and devastatingly handsome, with a string of bereft women in his wake, Greek playboy Alec Zavos dismisses Annalisse’s concerns—until his parents are ripped from the Zavos family yacht during their ocean voyage near Crete.

Annalisse and Alec race across two oceans to save his mother, feared dead or kidnapped. As time lapses, the killer switches mode and closes in on the man who’s meant for Annalisse with the lifestyle she wants most.


But when it’s her turn as the hunted, will she choose to save Alec and his mother, or sacrifice everything to save herself?

Hold on for a heart-thumping adventure through exotic lands in this fast moving, romantic suspense mystery by Marlene M Bell.









Stolen Artifacts. Ancient Curse. Murder and Suspense…and Romance.


Annalisse Drury is a sheep-loving antiquities appraiser in New York.  Her best friend is murdered and she believes that the five century old bracelet that she was wearing might be the source of an ancient curse.

When she discovers an identical bracelet at a gallery opening, it thrusts her into a world of danger and intrigue with the gallery owner’s Greek playboy son, Alec Zavos.  As the two of them work together to save his parents and stop the killer, they become closer.

What starts off a little slow and cloudy turns into a wild high-speed ride of danger and mystery.  I found the blend of history, intrigue of ancient artifacts/curses – like an Indiana Jones adventure, and romance, quite satisfying.  Annalisse is a smart, likable heroine.  The plot twists and turns kept me turning pages and always guessing at who the murderer could be. A quite satisfying ending.

If you like a page-turner or a wild ride, I recommend STOLEN OBSESSION.


Marlene M Bell is an acclaimed artist and photographer as well as a writer. Her sheep landscapes grace the covers of publications such as, Sheep!, The Shepherd, Ranch & Rural Living and Sheep Industry News. Ewephoric, her mail order venture, began in 1985 out of a desire for realistic sheep stationery. A color catalog of non-fiction books and sheep-related gifts may be requested at or

Marlene and her husband, Gregg reside on a wooded ranch in East Texas with their 50 head of Horned Dorset sheep, a lovable Maremma guard dog named, Tia, and 3 spoiled cats who rule the household.



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MARCH 1-10, 2018

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Guest Post: Dirk Weisiger, author of LEAVE TOMORROW {giveaway}

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My Ride to the 
Bottom of the World
Dirk Weisiger
Genre: Memoir / Travel / Inspiration
Date of Publication: October 27, 2017
Number of Pages: 232

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After building a successful business, Dirk Weisiger was ready for something new. But he wasn’t sure what. Maybe a motorcycle adventure, I’ve never done that! 
What followed was a fourteen-month, solo motorcycle journey from Austin, Texas to Ushuaia, Argentina, filled with unexpected adventures, surprises, and lessons about life and travel.  

In this book, you’ll not only enjoy Dirk’s adventure and insights, but find inspiration for your own journey.
(A portion of proceeds from this book help sponsor children at the Colegio Bautista El Calvario private school in Managua, Nicaragua.) 

I may not ride a motorcycle to the bottom of the world, but my soul comes alive when I hear about people smashing fear and following their dreams. This book will truly inspire you.
–Abigail Irene Fisher, traveler and speaker

Leave Tomorrow is a fun, engaging, and thought-provoking read. If you are looking for a blend of humanity, culture, scary moments with a medicine man, military police, attempts at extortion, and unexpected challenges–along with insightful observations and humor, this book will definitely spark your imagination to “live your own movie.”  
–Steve Scott, business coach and author of Wings to Fly

This inspiring and entertaining book is just the tonic needed to get you up out of your chair and ready to “Leave Tomorrow.”
–Julie Mundy, Guidebook Author and Travel Blogger, Australia

For everyone thinking of a new adventure, a new life, or even a new venture: DO IT.
–Jim Rogers, bestselling author of Investment Biker and Street Smarts 
This is not the first book I’ve read on riding to Ushuaia, but it is probably the most enjoyable. Dirk writes about his experiences in an upbeat manner, taking each experience and each day in perspective.
–Muriel Farrington, Ambassador, BMW Motorcycles of America

A portion of proceeds from this book help sponsor children at the Colegio Bautista El Calvario private school in Managua, Nicaragua.) 

Into Bolivia as a Citizen of Texas, Colombia

Guest Post by Dirk Weisiger

I’d heard horror stories of US citizens having a hard time traveling through Bolivia.

My new British friend, Ian and I decided to ride through Bolivia together. He was riding a Yamaha, but he knew more about my BMW than I did since he’d owned one before.

As we reached the border of Peru and queued up in the line, a man stepped out from the crowd and asked us to pay five dollars to cross the bridge to the immigration station. We paid, but it seemed odd.

Odd was about to get even odder.

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As we waited in line to have our passports stamped, Ian received his as they waved him through. I, on the other hand, was ushered to another room because I didn’t have a visa.

They wanted to deport me back to Peru to get a visa. An Argentine rider persuaded the policeman to let me apply for the visa there at the border. Twenty dollars to help “the children” persuaded the official to let me stay.

After seven—yes, seven—hours obtaining bank documents and proving I’d be staying in La Paz, and then verifying I was gainfully employed, the officials gave me a visa. “Gave” might not be the right word since it cost three hundred dollars.

On the positive side, I’m now the proud owner of a ten-year visa to the country of Bolivia.

Fair enough, it’s their country. It seems the officials of Bolivia simply make Americans do what we make foreign visitors to our country do. As I headed for the Iron Horse, I noticed my backpack had been stolen. My laptop was inside… with all my travel writings.

I was totally deflated. This was the low point of my trip, and I was ready to head back to Texas.

“Cheer up, mate,” Ian chirped, snapping me out of my gloom. We had a three-hour ride before nightfall. Never underestimate the power of a good riding buddy. So, onward to La Paz.

All through Bolivia, I followed Ian through the gas stations. If you’re a foreigner, you pay double for fuel, as it’s subsidized for citizens by the government. If your home country wasn’t on the computer list, you couldn’t buy gasoline.

GP 3 Image 2 for BoliviaEngland was on the list. I never saw the USA. They never scrolled down that far.

As we were about to leave the country, the gas station attendant asked for my passport. I quickly showed her my Texas driver’s license—well, we were a Republic once. She didn’t see Texas on her list.

“Where is that?” she asked.

I pointed to the first country I saw, Colombia. “Texas is a little province in the north, near the Amazon. Delighted, she wrote down Texas, Colombia.

I don’t know if US citizens can buy gas in Bolivia, but a Texan can!


Dirk Weisiger is a travel trekker, trick roper, and storyteller. He’s the author of the new book, Leave Tomorrow: My Ride to the Bottom of the World. Dirk has always enjoyed speaking to groups, spinning tales, ropes, and offering lessons he’s learned in adventures of life and business. He’s traveled to five continents and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. Most of all Dirk loves people and believes that making new friends is the best part of travel.
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