Monday, December 15, 2014

Meet Bradford Wheler - Author of Inca's Death Cave


A 500-year-old puzzle catapults an archaeology professor and his brilliant grad student into the adventure of a lifetime in INCA’S DEATH CAVE, a new mystery thriller from author Bradford G. Wheler.

What happened to a band of Inca rebels who journeyed north in Peru to seek the fabled cave of the true gods – and escape the disease and destruction brought by Spanish conquistadors? They were never heard from again. Did they just melt back into their villages or was something more sinister involved? What trace or treasure did they leave behind?

The ingenious plot of this thriller is full of twists and turns, excitement and adventure, archaeology and technology. Readers will meet fascinating characters they’ll never forget: a high-tech billionaire, a quick-witted professor, his beautiful young student, and her still-tough grandfather, a retired Marine gunny sergeant.

Cornell University professor Robert Johnson and his star PhD student are hired by a billionaire entrepreneur to solve a 500-year-old archaeology mystery in northern Peru. But first, they will have to survive corporate skullduggery and drug-lord thuggery. And why, 6,700 miles away in Vatican City, is the old guard so upset? What dark secrets could centuries-old manuscripts hold?


1) What originally inspired you to get into writing?

In my business career all my writing was business related, proposal, contracts, and other business documents. When I sold my business and wanted to do something different, I took my collection of a couple thousand quotations that I’d written on 3” by 5” cards and created the book “SNAPPY SAYINGS wit & wisdom from the world’s greatest minds.”

Next I decided to invite artists to submit images from their artwork for the next books. From this came my art themed quotation books “DOG SAYINGS wit & wisdom from man’s best friend”, “HORSE SAYINGS wit & wisdom straight from the horse’s mouth”, CAT SAYINGS wit and wisdom from the whiskered ones” and, “GOLF SAYINGS wit & wisdom of a good walk spoiled.” Each book features the artwork of over 50 artists from around the world.

I’d been thinking about writing a novel and with my wife’s encouragement, I decided to write INCA’S DEATH CAVE An Archaeological Mystery Thriller.

2) Where did the idea for Inca's Death Cave come from?

I had a general idea of the plot line. I knew I wanted the setting to be in Central or South America. However, I didn’t know exactly where or if it would involve ancient Aztec, Mayan, or Incan culture. As I researched, Peru and the Incas seemed to best fit the story I had in mind.

3) Was there any particular character that you liked or felt able to relate to?

I liked aspects of most of the characters. There are several of the characters that, if they existed in real life, I believe I would enjoy meeting.

4) Was there any particular character that you dislike?

I would find it hard to like Dr. Lois Stone.

5) Were there any scenes in particular that were hard or easy to write?

I found if I could visualize the scenes in my mind it was easy to write. When I was having a hard time with a scene I would take a walk or even a nap and let the scene develop in my mind.

On one walk my wife said. “You look lost in your thoughts.”

I answered. “I’m not lost, I’m in a cave in Peru.”

6) Did you draw on any personal knowledge or experience for this book?

I guess I drew on all the knowledge and experience of my life. I would watch how different people would behave in different situations and how they would talk and interact with the others. I also did lots of reading and research to try and properly represent the history and technology.

7) Have any of your characters been inspired by real people?

Yes, parts of each character have traits that I’ve seen in real people. However there is no one character that is identical to a real person I know.

8) Are there any particular authors or books that have inspired you?

There are so many, I’m not sure I can make a full list. I’ve read many of the classics. I enjoy the writing of Wilbur Smith for the way he is able to paint the scenery of Africa. I like George MacDonald Fraser books because they have such great characters. Robert Crais and Robert B. Parker have snappy dialog that make their books fun to read. I love Mark Twain’s wit. I like Walter Mosley. His books that are set in Watts in the 1950s and 1960s are a great insight into a part of American culture many of us are not exposed to. I also read David Baldacci, Kingsley Amis, Carl Hiaasen, Janet Evanovich, Ken Follett, Clive Cussler and many more.

9) Do you have any future books planned?

Oh yes. I’m working on the next of my art themed quotation books. This one will be “LOVE SAYINGS wit & wisdom from romance, courtship and marriage.” It will feature artwork form about 50 artists paired with quotations. It will be the sixth book in the popular wit & wisdom series. I hope to publish in January 2015.

Then Professor Rob Johnson and Abbey Summers will be off to a new part of the world for a new adventure. Hopefully it will publish in the fall of 2015.

About the Author:

BRADFORD G. WHELER is the former CEO, President and Co-owner of Allan Electric Company. He sold Allan Electric to a New York Stock Exchange listed company.
Brad’s lifelong love of history, art, books, and the inherent humor in man’s nature led to the founding of and the publishing of Inca’s Death Cave as well as GOLF SAYINGS: wit & wisdom of a good walk spoiled, CAT SAYINGS: wit & wisdom from the whiskered ones, and four other books.
His community involvements include being a Trustee of Community General Hospital in Hamilton, NY, and chairing their Finance Committee. He is the former Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Cazenovia College.
Brad played polo on Cornell University’s men’s polo team for four years and was a member of the Cazenovia Polo Club. In 2012 he was inducted into the Manlius Pebble Hill Athletic Hall of Fame.
He holds a BS and ME in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Cornell University as well as an MBA degree from Fordham University.
Brad, his wife, Julie, and their golden retriever Quincy live in Cazenovia, NY and Fort Pierce, FL.

Review by Nancy Famolari:

High Tech and Archeology

Professor Johnson and his graduate student, Abby, are asked by Walter Falcone to come to Peru to investigate legends of an Inca Death Cave. It sounds like a wonderful opportunity and the adventure of a lifetime. They agree and setup their base for a year at the Falcone ranch in Peru. 

Walter promised them a team and while the team calls themselves “The Rejects,” the young people are bright, technologically competent, and able to put high tech to good use to find and explore the Death Cave. 

I have mixed feeling about this book. The plot is great, the information, first class, and the characters interesting. The problem is that this is a fiction book. The dialog is poor. In the opening chapters, Abby and the Professor call each other by their names in almost every piece of dialog. People just don't talk this way. In addition, the dialog, particularly in the opening chapters is almost all data dump. Luckily this data is interesting or I would have put the book down immediately. 

The other problem is that the project team is too good to be true. All the team members are bright. They help each other, and Professor Johnson is everyone's favorite boss. While this isn't totally unrealistic, it sounds a lot like Shangrila to those of us who have managed projects. 

I would have given this novel five stars, but the writing so amateurish that I have to go with four. If you are interested in archeology, you'll enjoy this book. If you want a well written novel, this isn't it. 

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

Books Available From: 

Autographed copies of INCA’S DEATH CAVE and past works from may be purchased at a discount through visiting the website The book is also available in ebook and audio book form.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Tree of Water -- A YA Fantasy Adventure


To Go, or Not to Go
The human boys had an expression back in the faraway city of Vaarn where I was born. It went
like this:
Curiosity killed the cat
Satisfaction brought him back
I am a curious person. I was just as curious back in my early days in Vaarn as I am now,
perhaps even more so, because my curiosity had not yet been given a chance to be satisfied.
The first time I heard this expression, I was very excited. I thought it meant that my curiosity
could make me feel like I was dying, but it would let up if I discovered the answer to whatever
was making me curious.
I told my mother about the rhyme. She was not impressed. In fact, she looked at me as if I had
just set my own hair on fire on purpose. She patted my chin, which was woefully free of any sign
of the beard that should have been growing there.
“That’s very nice,” she said, returning to her chores. “But just in case nobody told you, you are
not a cat, Ven. Unlike you, cats have whiskers.”
My pride stung for days afterward.
But it didn’t stop my curiosity from growing as fast as my beard should have been.
My name is Charles Magnus Ven Polypheme, Ven for short. Unlike the human boys in Vaarn, I
am of the race of the Nain. Nain are somewhat shorter than humans, and grumpier. They live
almost four times as long as humans, and tend to be much less curious, and much less
adventurous. They hate to travel, don’t swim, and generally do not like other people. Especially
those who are not Nain.
I clearly am not a good example of my race.
First, I am very tall for a Nain, sixty-eight Knuckles high when I was last measured on the
morning of my fiftieth birthday. I’ve already mentioned my uncontrollable curiosity, which
brings along with it a desire for adventure. I have been blessed, or cursed, with quite a lot of that
But as for the curiosity, while I’ve had a lot of satisfaction for the questions it has asked me, it
doesn’t seem to matter. As soon as one burning question is answered, another one springs to
mind immediately. As a result, I am frequently in trouble.
So now I am about to lay my head on a chopping block, on purpose, and a man with a very sharp
knife is standing over me, ready to make slashes in my neck.
I’m wondering if in fact instead of being a live Nain, I am about to end up as a dead, formerly
curious cat.Because now I have three whiskers of my own.
Ven Polypheme had two sets of eyes staring at him.
One set was black as coal. The other was green as the sea.
Neither of them looked happy.
The green eyes were floating, along with a nose, forehead, and hair on which a red cap
embroidered with pearls sat, just above the surface of the water beneath the old abandoned dock.
The brows above the eyes were drawn together. They looked annoyed.
The black ones were in the middle of the face of his best friend, Char, who stood beside him on
the dock. They looked anxious.
In the distance a bell began to toll. Ven looked to his left at the docks of the fishing village to the
south of them, where work had begun hours ago. Then he looked behind him. The sleepy town of
Kingston in the distance was just beginning to wake up.
Ven looked back down into the water.
“Come on, Amariel,” he said to the floating eyes. “I can’t really go off into the sea without him.”
A glorious tail of colorful scales emerged from below the surface, splashing both boys with cold
salt water.
“Why not?” a girl’s voice demanded from the waves. “He’s a pest. And he isn’t nice to me.”
Char’s black eyes widened.
“I—I’m sorry ’bout that,” he stammered. “When I first met you, Ven didn’t tell me you were a
mermaid—” He shivered as another splash drenched him again. “Er, I mean merrow. I’m sorry if
I made you mad.”
“Please let him come,” Ven said. “Captain Snodgrass gave him orders to keep an eye on me. So
if I’m going to explore the sea with you, he kinda has to come along.”
Char nodded. “Cap’n’s orders.”
“He’s not my captain,” said the merrow. “I don’t take orders from humans. You know better,
Ven. My mother will fillet me if she finds out I’m traveling with a human male. Especially if we
are going to go exploring. There are very clear rules about not showing humans around the
wonders of the Deep. And besides, it’s dangerous. You have no idea how many sea creatures
think humans are tasty. I don’t want to get chomped on by mistake.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Ven watched Char’s face go white.
“We’ll be careful,” he promised. “Char will be on his best behavior.”
“I’ve seen his best behavior. I’m not impressed.”
“Look,” Char said. “If you get sick of me, you can always cover me with fish guts and toss me
out as shark bait.”
The merrow stared coldly at him. “Oh, all right,” she said finally. “But remember, there’s a reason they call bait for sharks chum.
‘Chum’ is another word for ‘friend.’” Her eyes stayed locked on Char. “And if you make a
bunch of sharks angry, Chum—”
“I’ll be chum,” Char said. “Got it.”
“So if you’re coming, we have to find a fisherman named Asa with a red-bottomed boat.”
Amariel pointed south to one of the far docks. “He’ll cut your gills, and we can get going.”
Both boys grabbed their necks.
The merrow rolled her eyes. “Oh, come on. Do you want to be able to breathe underwater or not?
Gills are the only way I know of to do that. I’m tired of waiting. Decide whether you’re coming
or whether I’m leaving.”
“We’re coming,” Ven said as he let go of his neck. “Sorry—it’s just instinct. Let’s go.”
Char nodded, but did not remove his hands.
The merrow disappeared below the surface of the water.
The two boys hurried south over the packed sand along the shore.
“Ya know, it’s not too late to change your mind, Ven,” Char muttered. “We could get a boat or
somethin’, and follow her out to sea, like we did when we were chasing the Floatin’ Island, and
then dive down to see whatever she wants to show us—”
“You can stay on shore if you want to, Char,” Ven said, trying to see the merrow in between the
waves. “But I promised her a long time ago that I would explore her world with her. It’s now or
“Have it your way,” Char said gloomily. “You always do anyway.”
They followed the pebbly path in the sand south until the fishing village came into sight. Several
long piers led out into the harbor, with docks along each of them. Small boats lined the docks. At
each boat fishermen were hauling nets filled with flapping fish and cages with crabs and lobsters
onto the piers. Seagulls flew in great wide circles above, screeching and crying, then diving for
“So how did she happen to find this Asa, and how does she know he won’t just cut our throats?”
Char asked as they picked their way among barrels and pieces of rope on the slats of the pier.
Ven shrugged. “No idea. But sailors and merrows have a pretty good connection.” He pointed
about halfway down the pier, where a small green fishing boat with a red bottom bobbed lazily in
the morning tide. A wrinkled man in a wrinkled hat sat on a barrel at the edge of the dock,
cleaning his morning catch of fish. “Could that be him?”
Char squinted. “I guess so.”
“Come on. We may as well ask. If it’s not Asa, he probably knows where to find him. Fishermen
all know each other.”
The two boys walked along the pier, stepping out of the way of men dragging lobster traps and
heavy netting, until they got to the red-bottomed boat. They stopped behind the elderly
fisherman, who did not seem to notice they were there.
Ven coughed politely.
“Excuse me, sir—are you Asa?” The fisherman looked up from his work, his sky-blue eyes twinkling in the sun.
“Who’s askin’?”
“Er, my name is Ven, sir. I was told I might find a fisherman at this dock who could, uh, cut
The wrinkly man nodded. “Well, Ven, you’ve found ’im. But I can’t say as I’ve heard of any
recent wrecks.”
Ven blinked. “Pardon?”
“Shipwrecks,” said the fisherman. “That’s the only reason I know of for a man to risk a slice in
his neck—to salvage the treasure from the bones of a shipwreck.”
“Oh.” Ven and Char exchanged a glance, then looked off the edge of the dock.
In the water behind the boat, the beautiful tail of multicolored scales was waving at them from
beneath the surface.
“Uh, we weren’t really planning to dive for treasure,” Ven continued, trying to block the sight of
the merrow’s tail. “We just want to do some exploring.”
The fisherman’s eyebrows arched.
“The sea’s no place to explore without a good reason, lads,” he said seriously. “Lots of bad stuff
down there—believe you me. The only reason a man takes his life into his hands on a daily basis
by going out there is to make a living for his family. Otherwise, we’d farm the land.” The blue
eyes twinkled. “If we knew how.”
“Well, we’d really like to have gills, nonetheless,” Ven said. “We’ve been told you know how to,
er, cut them without too much pain—and safely. Is that true?”
Asa exhaled, then nodded.
“I suppose that depends on how much is too much where pain is concerned,” he said. “That’s
really up to you. It’s not my business what you’re doing. We mind our own business on the sea.
If you want gills, and you’re willing to take the risk, I can cut ’em for you right quick.” He held
up a thin silver filleting knife. “Then I have to get back to cleaning my catch. So, what’ll it be?
Make haste, now.”
Char and Ven looked at each other once more, then nodded at the same time.
“We’re in,” said Char.
“All right then,” said Asa. He reached into the boat and took hold of the top of a small sea chest
that held his tackle. He slammed it closed and put it on the dock in front of them. “Kneel down
and put your heads on this chest, your left ears down.”
The boys obeyed.
“Well, ’s been good to know you,” Char whispered as they positioned their heads on the chest.
“Shhh,” Ven whispered back. “We’re not being executed, for pity’s sake.”
“You hope we’re not. You never know.”
Asa wiped the filleting knife on his trousers, then came and stood over Ven.
“Hold very still, now.” Char winced and put his hand over his eyes.
Ven started to close his eyes as well.
Suddenly, from the end of the dock near town, a bright flash of rainbow-colored light blinded
And the world seemed to stop around him.
Copyright © 2014 by Elizabeth Haydon

Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Brandon Dorman

Interview with Elizabeth Haydon, 
documentarian, archanologist and translator of Ven’s 
journals, including The Tree of Water

Little is known for sure about reclusive documentarian and archanologist Elizabeth
She is an expert in dead languages and holds advanced degrees in Nain Studies from
Arcana College and Lirin History from the University of Rigamarole. Her fluency in those
languages [Nain and Lirin] has led some to speculate that she may be descended of one
of those races herself. It should be noted that no one knows this for sure.
Being an archanologist, she is also an expert in ancient magic because, well, that’s what
an archanologist is.
Being a documentarian means she works with old maps, books and manuscripts, and so
it is believed that her house is very dusty and smells like ink, but there is no actual proof
of this suspicion. On the rare occasions of sightings of Ms. Haydon, it has been reported
that she herself has smelled like lemonade, soap, vinegar, freshly-washed babies and
pine cones.
She is currently translating and compiling the fifth of the recently-discovered Lost
Journals when she is not napping, or attempting to break the world’s record for the
longest braid of dental floss.
We had the chance to ask her some questions about the latest of Ven’s journals, The
Tree of Water. Here is what she shared.

1. Dr. Haydon, can you give us a brief summary of The Tree of Water?
Certainly. Ven Polypheme, who wrote the, er, Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme,
lived long ago in the Second Age of history, when magic was much more alive
and visible in the world than it is now. His journals are very important finds,
because they tell the story of ancient magic and where it still may be found in the
world today.
In the first three journals we saw how Ven came to the mystical island of
Serendair and was given the job of Royal Reporter by the king of the island, a
young man named Vandemere. The Royal Reporter was supposed to find magic
that was hiding in plain sight in the world and report back about it to the king. As
you can imagine, this could be a fun but dangerous job, and at the beginning of The Tree of Water, we see that Ven and his friends are hiding from the evil Thief
Queen, who is looking to find and kill him.
Amariel, a merrow [humans call these ‘mermaids,’ but we know that’s the wrong
word] who saved Ven when the first ship he sailed on sank, has been asking Ven
to come and explore the wonders of the Deep, her world in the sea. Deciding that
this could be a great way to find hidden magic as well as hide from the evil Thief
Queen, Ven and his best friend, Char, follow her into the Deep. The sea, as you
know, is one of the most magical places in the world—but sometimes that magic,
and that place, can be deadly.
The book tells of mysterious places, and interesting creatures, and wondrous
things that have never been seen in the dry world, and tales from the very bottom
of the sea.

2. The main character in The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme series is
Charles Magnus "Ven" Polypheme. Tell us about him.
Ven was an interesting person, but he really didn’t think so. He and his family
were of a different race than the humans who made up most of the population
where he lived, the race of the Nain. Nain are an old race, a little shorter and
stockier than most humans, with a tendency to be on the grumpy side. They live
about four times as long as humans, are very proud of their beards, which they
believe tell their life stories, don’t like to swim or travel, and prefer to live deep in
the mountains.
Ven was nothing like the majority of Nain. He was very curious, loved to travel,
could swim, and longed to see the world. He was actually a pretty nice kid most
of the time. He had the equivalent of a baby face because only three whiskers of
his beard had grown in by the time The Tree of Water took place, when he was
fifty years old [around twelve in Nain years]. He had a great group of friends,
including the merrow and Char, who were mentioned earlier. It is believed that
his journals were the original research documents for two of the most important
books of all time, The Book of All Human Knowledge and All the World’s Magic.
The only copies of these two volumes were lost at sea centuries ago, so finding
the Lost Journals is the only way to recover this important information.

3. What kind of research do you do for the series?
I go to places where Ven went and try to find relics he left behind. Usually this is
with an expedition of archaeologists and historians. I am an expert in ancient
magic [an archanologist] so I don’t usually lead the expeditions, I’m just a
consultant. It gives me the chance to learn a lot about magic and lets me work on
my suntan at the same time, so it’s good.

4. What is/are the most difficult part or parts of writing/restoring the Lost
Journals? Here’s the list, mostly from the archaeological digs where the journals have been
1] Cannibals
2] Crocodiles
3] Sunburn
4] Sand flies
5] Dry, easily cracking parchment pages
6] The horrible smell of long-dead seaweed
7] Grumpy members of the archaeological expedition [I could name names, but I
8] Expedition food [when finding and retrieving the journal for The Tree of Water,
we ate nothing but peanut butter and raisin sandwiches, olives and yellow tea for
six months straight]
9] When salt water gets into your favorite fountain pen and clogs it up. This is
very sad.
10] Unintentionally misspelling a word in the Nain language that turns out to be
embarrassing [the word for “jelly” is one letter different from the word for
“diarrhea,” which caused a number of my Nain friends to ask me what on earth I
thought Ven was spreading on his toast.]

5. What do you enjoy about this series that cannot be found in any of your
other books?
Getting to write about a lot of cool magic stuff that used to exist in our world, but
doesn’t anymore. And getting to travel to interesting places in the world to see if
maybe some of it still does exist. Also getting to show the difference between
merrows, which are real, interesting creatures, and mermaids, which are just

6. What do you hope readers take away from this book?
I hope, in general, that it will open their eyes to the wonder of the sea, which
takes up the majority of our planet, but we really don’t know that much about it
down deep. There is a great deal of magic in the sea, and I hope that if and when
people become aware of it, they will help take care of it and not throw garbage
and other bad stuff into it. I have a serious dislike for garbage-throwing.
Probably the most useful secret I learned that I hope will be of use to readers is
about thrum. Thrum is the way the creatures and plants that live in the ocean
communicate with each other through vibration and thought. As Ven and his
friends learn, this can be a problem if you think about something you don’t want
anyone to know about when you are standing in a sunshadow, because
everyone gets to see a picture of what’s on your mind. Imagine how
embarrassing that could be.

 7. Are there more books coming in this series?
Well, at least one. In the archaeological dig site where The Tree of Water was
found was another journal, a notebook that Ven called The Star of the Sea. We
are still working on restoring it, but it looks like there are many new adventures
and different kinds of magic in it. The problem is that it might have been buried in
the sand with an ancient bottle of magical sun tan lotion, which seems to have
leaked onto some of the journal’s pages. This is a very sad event in archaeology,
but we are working hard to restore it.
As for other books, it’s not like we just write them out of nowhere. If we haven’t
found one of Ven’s journals, there can’t be another book, now, can there? We
are always looking, however. We’ve learned so much about ancient magic from
the journals we have found so far.

8. You are a best-selling author with other books and series for adults. What
made you want to write books for young readers?
I like young readers better than adults. Everyone who is reading a book like mine
has at one time or another been a young reader, but not everyone has been an
adult yet. Young readers have more imagination and their brains are more
flexible—they can understand magical concepts a lot better than a lot of adults,
who have to deal with car payments and work and budget balancing and all sorts
of non-magical things in the course of their days.
Besides, many adults scare me. But that’s not their fault. I’m just weird like that.
I think if more adults read like young readers, the world would be a happier place.

9. Tell us where we can find your book and more information about where you
are these days.
You can find The Tree of Water anywhere books are sold, online and in
bookstores. There are several copies in my steamer trunk and I believe the
palace in Serendair also has one. I also sent one to Bruno Mars because I like
his name.
At the moment, I am on the beautiful island of J’ha-ha, searching for a very
unique and magical flower. Thank you for asking these interview questions—it
has improved my mood, since I have only found weeds so far today. I am hoping
for better luck after lunch, which, sadly, is peanut butter and raisin sandwiches,
olives, and yellow tea again.

All the best,
Dr. Elizabeth Haydon, PhD, D’Arc

Review by Nancy Famolari 

A Magical Adventure Reminiscent of The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings

Ven Polypheme and his friend Char are off on another adventure with their mermaid friend, Amariel. Ven is adventurous for a Nain. Most Nains prefer to remain at home, but Ven is hungry for adventure. In this fourth book, he and Char travel to the bottom of the sea, a place usually shunned by Nair. He is searching for the Tree of Water that is supposed to exist somewhere in the sea.

Their first obstacle is to be able to breath under water. They are about to let an old fisherman cut gills in their necks when Madame Sharra shows up. She gives them stones to allow them to breathe under water and another dragon's scale. These devices will prove important on their journey.

The book is a magical fantasy that will delight young readers, and perhaps some not-so-young readers who are reading it with their children. The book is filled with hair-breath escapes from fantastical creatures and beautiful descriptions of undersea life.

The series is based on Ven's journals. He is traveling the world recording the natural wonders, human knowledge, and all things magical. Since this is the fourth book, readers may want to go back and read the first three. However, it's not imperative. The author presents information that allows the reader to catch up with the story and the adventure is basically standalone.

I recommend this book for young adults and for anyone who enjoys a good fantasy with lots of action and magical scenes.

I reviewed this book for PR by the Book. #TheTreeofWaterTour

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ghosts in the House: Research For My Latest Novel, Quarry

Blurb for Quarry

Reeling from the loss of her job in New York, Sari comes home to Gramps mountain-top farm near Montbleu only to find that he has been ill and has high medical bills. Jake, the man who worked their quarry, is using Gramps debts to try to buy the farm for a pittance. Sari vows to help Gamps save the farm.

At the jail, Police Chief, Chess Devon, is waiting for her Deputy, Lance Andrews, to take over prisoner duty. Flinty Mathews, the town drunk, is in for drunk and disorderly. Chess thinks he’ll sleep it off until she hears screams from the cell block. She thinks Flinty is having DTs, but when Lance comes into the area and nearly passes out, she isn’t so sure.

Right on schedule, Bartlett Thomas, Chief of Detectives from Scranton, shows up. He has even more bad news. The governor has gotten word that a group of environmentalists plan to blow up a gas well. It could be one near Montbleu.

Available from

Research for the Novel

When I decided to have a ghost as one of the characters in my novel, Quarry, I asked my friends, Beth and Anna, to give me a taste of ghost hunting. We live in a town founded in the 1800s that has it's share of ghost stories. The best places in town to find ghosts are the cemetery and fire house. Anna and Beth have done ghost hunting in both locations, but we opted for a different local, my house.

The main part of my house was built in 1825. The ownership is fairly well documented in local histories so we know there have been several deaths there over the years. I wasn't completely sure I wanted to find out whether I was living with ghosts, besides I really didn't believe we'd find anything.

Anna and Beth arrived at my house in the evening with the usual paraphernalia for ghost hunting: a digital recorder to capture electronic voice phenomena, EVPs. a digital camera, and a small device to measure electromagnetic radiation.

When I showed them around the house, Anna, who is the most sensitive, felt that the parlor was the place to start. She sensed that a person had been laid out there, and the people around the coffin were sad. So we set up in the parlor.

Beth carried the digital recorder. We had compiled a list of questions. Her job was to ask the questions to see if the ghosts responded. Nothing happened until she said, “If you're here please give us a sign.” I heard a crack from the second floor. It sounded like ice breaking or wood splitting. This was getting serious. If we really did have ghosts, rousing them might not be a good idea. I was ready to get call the whole thing off, but Beth and Anna were perfectly calm, so I sat still.

While Beth was asking questions, Anna was taking pictures. When she reviewed the pictures she'd captured, she said, “Wow, look at this,” and passed me the camera. I was stunned. The picture showed me sitting on the sofa. Two orbs were just above my head in a darkened spot. Orbs are supposed to be a manifestation of spirits. Not all the other pictures showed orbs, but there were several in the photo of Beth asking questions. We also took photos in the attic, and those showed orbs.

Beth couldn't analyze the voice recording that night. It takes a special voice enhancing program to hear the EVPs. In a few days she brought me the results. There were seven EVPs. I have to admit I had trouble figuring out what was being said. The crack from the second floor was clear, and there was a surprise at the end. When we finished in the parlor, I said, “I'm glad you came. I had fun.” A fairly distinct voice on the recording, and it wasn't one of us, said, “I had fun, too.”

It was a productive evening of research. I guess there is some sort of paranormal activity in the house. Thankfully, they are friendly ghosts. They don't bother us, so I don't mind sharing the house with them.

Excerpt Showing the Use of the Research

  Chess had barely unlocked the door to the old jail when she heard voices coming up the path. Bartlett opened the door and five people filed in. Tory and Andy led the way followed by a short pale couple. Sari, looking frightened, was last. Chess thought the ghostbusters looked as much like ghosts as the phenomena they tracked. 
  Andy drew the couple forward. “Chess, Bartlett, I want you to meet Martha and Howie Collins.”
  Chess extended her hand; Bartlett followed suite. “Thank you for coming,” she said. “I don't know if we have ghosts, but some rather strange things have happened.”
  Howie and Martha shook hands. They stayed close together as though drawing support from each other. Chess wondered if they were brother and sister rather than husband and wife.
  “We often don't find evidence of actual paranormal phenomena . . . er ghosts. Many times there are perfectly logical explanations for what's happening, but sometimes . . .” Howie grinned broadly. “We do find evidence of spirits.”
 “We've had some unusual cases,” Martha said.
 “We're eager to hear what you do.” Chess gestured toward the long table against the windows.            “Why don't we sit here and you can tell us what to expect.”
  With a scraping of chairs on the old wooden floor, they seated themselves around the table. Chess looked around. “Lash isn't here yet.”
  “Who are we waiting for?” Howie asked.
  “My deputy, Lash Andrews.” Chess glanced at her watch. “Let's get started anyway. We're working a case, and he may have gotten held up.” She looked at Howie. “So how do you go about tracking ghosts?”
  “As I said, we try to take a scientific approach to looking for spirits. Many times there are logical explanations.” He paused to look at each of the people seated around the table. “Sometime people hear what they think are chains rattling at night. We've found more than once that the sound was caused by pipes in the house, particularly those houses that use hot water heat. Under the right conditions they can expand and contract at night causing strange noises. Lights that go on and off can be caused by faulty electricity. Windows and doors that open and close by themselves can be caused by the breeze from an open window.”
  Martha broke in. “Once we found a door that opened itself because the floor was slanted. Most of these phenomena appear, as you would expect, in older houses.”
  “And that's why people immediately think of ghosts.” said Howie.
  “That all makes sense.” Chess said. “So how do you figure out what's happening?”
  “We make a careful evaluation of the physical aspects; looking for loose wires, faulty plumbing, that sort of thing.” Howie gestured at the walls and ceiling. “If nothing appears to be wrong then we start looking for paranormal explanations.”
  “And how do you do that?” Bartlett, who had been sitting with his chair tilted back, leaned forward. The front legs snapped against the floor.
  Tory jumped. She gave a slight laugh and covered her mouth. “I guess I'm nervous expecting ghosts.”
  “That's all right.” Martha patted her hand.”I still get nervous on some of our cases.”
  “We have several techniques.” Howie said. “Probably the easiest is to use an audio recording device. Ghosts will often respond to questions or say things you can't hear with your ears, but come out quite clearly on the device.”
  “That seems simple.” Chess said.
  “We call these Electronic Voice Phenomena or EVP for short.” Howie laid a digital recorder on the table. “I'll take this recorder in with us when we examine the cell block where these manifestations are occurring. It's easy to do and we may get a hit.”
  “Interesting.” Bartlett picked it up. “This looks like the kind of recorder we use for dictation or to make notes during an investigation.”
  “I'm sure it's the same. These little voice activated recorders work extremely well.”
  Bartlett laid the device down. “If we have a criminal, he should be right a home having his statement recorded.”
  “If the ghost is from the 1800's, I don't think so.” Chess frowned at him.
  Bartlett shrugged. “You never know who or what's in there.”
  Howie laid a small digital camera on the table. “We also use digital cameras to try to get a picture of the phenomena.”
  “Did you ever get a picture of a ghost?” Chess asked.
  “Not a picture of a person. Usually our pictures look like smoke, a bright spot, or a series of bright spots.”
  “Then how do you know they're ghosts?”
  “We don't, but if we have EVP and electromagnetic radiation we can be fairly confident it's some sort of paranormal phenomena.”
  “How do you measure electromagnetic radiation?” Bartlett asked.
  Howie laid another device on the table. “This is a fairly simple device to measure electromagnetic radiation. It was designed to detect the presence of computers and other electronic signatures, but we can use it to detect paranormal activity.”
  Bartlett leaned forward to study the device. “This all sounds pretty sophisticated.”
  “We try to use as many modalities as we can to detect paranormal disturbances.” Howie said.            “Usually, if there are some, we can find them.”
  “Great,” Andy scribbled in his notebook. “This is really interesting stuff. Hope you don't mind if I do an article on it for the Tribune.”
  “Not at all. It's good publicity for us. This is an old town. There may be lots of paranormal phenomena.”
  “Wow, more ghosts. Do you really think so?”
  “It's possible.” Howie held up a cautionary hand. “I'm not even sure we have an entity here.”
  “What are we waiting for?” Andy looked longingly at the devices spread on the table. “I want to see what we get.”
  “Not quite so fast. Tonight we wanted to meet with you, tell you about our investigation, but we also want to hear about what you're experiencing, and whether there are any historical reasons for it.”
  Chess said, “It's easy to explain what happened, but I don't know if we have anything but an old drunk and my deputy, who'd been working too hard.”
  “So tell us about it,” Martha said.
  “We had Flinty Matthews locked up in back. He was in for drunk and disorderly. I was going to let him sleep it off and then take him home.” Chess rubbed her index finger along the wood grain of the table. “I was sitting out here waiting for Lash to check in when Flinty started screaming that he was being attacked. I thought he was probably having DTs. I went back to see what was going on. When Lash came, he walked into the cells area. Before he'd gone very far, he doubled over and practically fell on the floor.” She looked toward the door. “I wish he was here. He could tell you what he felt. I thought it might be a lack of food. He hadn't eaten that day, but I suppose the ghost or whatever's in there could have been the culprit.”
  “That's a fairly complex phenomena.” Howie massaged his cheek. “Did any of you see anything?”
  “Flinty said he saw a ball of light in the corner of his cell. I thought it was just the DTs, but . . .” She spread her hands. “I suppose it could have been something else.”
  “It sounds like you may have a demonic entity.” Howie looked from one to the other. “Good entities don't attack people. Did anything happen here in the jail that could have resulted in a demonic entity coming to reside here? Any murders? Things like that?”

Monday, September 15, 2014

Meet Scott Coren Author of Mathew 13:44

Scott has written a fast paced novel about finding God in the face of adversity. It's a book that many people will find helpful because it encourages us to not lose hope and to keep going. Scott provided some insights about how and why he wrote this book.

  1. Tell us about your book Matthew 13:44
Matthew 13:44 is a novel which is influenced by true events. It is about strength in the face of adversity and how good can sometimes come from the bleakest of circumstances, though you wouldn’t know it until the darkness has lifted. Like many of us making our way through life, Lucy Sinclair will stumble, fall, get up and walk, all because there is no other alternative but to carry on; in her case for the sake of her critically ill daughter. And all the while, like the last days of Christ, she will be betrayed, tried and publicly humiliated by those who would do her harm for no other reason than their own personal gain. Although written as a thriller, Matthew 13:44 is primarily a journey from ‘no faith’ to ‘belief’ and from a world view as seen through the prism of chance to a heavenly view of divine intervention and love.

  1. What inspired you to write your novel?
My firstborn came into this world needing life saving cardiac surgery. She then suffered a complication. On day ten of life she was given tracheotomy—an artificial airway cut straight into her neck—something which even a full grown adult would struggle with. And so our journey began, though little did I know, a second journey would be running in tandem.
The first, was the pediatric experience which is a vicarious one. Vicarious, in that as parents, we are not patients and so are lucid. We have our full faculties to suffer every step of the way as our children, our small bundles of pure love, suffer in front of us, while we are powerless to help them. Instead, we put our trust in strangers, doctors who—like all people—can be brilliant, appalling and anything else in between. In our case, we had the full spectrum, as we soon saw that medicine is part science, part art and part guesswork. We are now two years in to this experience and as a result, all night, every night, I sit by her bedside, like a ‘break glass in case of emergency’ dad, as her tracheotomy tube can and does block, leaving us with thirty seconds to intervene and change the tube less irreversible brain damage occurs.
I wrote this book by her bedside as she slept, in the dark, except for one dimmed light in the corner. It is in part a catharsis; to rationalize my experience…the uncertainty, the pain, the ups and the downs of her condition, the reality of her going from well to seriously ill at the drop of a hat. But also to touch others who are living the same solitary, sterile life as me, regardless of their children’s condition.
The second journey was less expected. I found faith. Not in an instance. Not as a sudden realization, and certainly by no revelation or voice. But by a slow burning, gradual and very personal meeting with Christ. Matthew 13:44 is thus a testimony. A statement of faith, made most surprising of all to me, given that until two years ago I’d have happily described myself as a militant atheist.

  1. You describe yourself as ‘once an atheist,’ why?
Faith for me wasn’t sudden. And it wasn’t imposed or taught. Like the male lead character in the story, religion just wasn’t on our radar. I was brought up an atheist in the United Kingdom. My grandfather was a medic during the second world war. He spent his time policing up the wounded and dead in North Africa as Nazi Germany and Great Britain engaged in an attrition in the sand. In fact, my grandfather served at the famous battle of El Alamein. If it was ever possible back then to have had a ‘bad war,’ given the whole affair was so turgid, then he certainly had one. God for him, as he would say, died on that battlefield too; a notion which continues to run strong in my family to this day. In other words, how can there be a God in the midst of such carnage? Why would He let it happen? Or indeed, how could any good possibly come from such a tragedy? These are well charted dichotomies which I wanted to explore, but through my own life experiences, which is as the father of a medicalized child. An innocent who is born to suffer.

  1. What influenced the setting?
The latter part of the story—and the setting which the various plot strands work towards—is a children’s hospice. And for me, a children’s hospice is surely the very apex of all human suffering, outside of a concentration camp or a disaster zone. It is a place where bad things happen to the most innocent of people. And more so, it is a place where the incomprehensible must be explained to those who can comprehend the least. If angels do walk our earth then they exist in places such as these. They are the staff. They are the people who live their lives in that moment between being alive and not; between the trauma of a young death and the devastation of its aftermath. Yet every day they do it with an incredible mix of decorum and joy. And they do so for no other reason than making those days, hours and minutes just that little bit more tolerable.
  1. What do you hope readers will take away from this?
That no matter how isolated we feel, we’re never alone. I hope readers will take strength, courage even, to get up and walk regardless of whatever the setback, obstacle, or hurdle. I hope that readers will see something of themselves in my lead character Lucy. That she never knew when she was beaten, even at the bleakest of times.

  1. Where can we get the book?
It’s available on as a paperback or Kindle eBook. It’s also available through Barnes and Noble.

Ashley Lauretta,, (512) 501-4399 ext. 712

Friday, August 15, 2014

Dialogue: Asset or Liability?

I recently reviewed a book, Inca's Death Cave by Bradford G. Wheler. I loved the plot. The author had done a lot of research on technology and how it could be used in archaeology. The setting in Peru was beautifully described, and the plot was interesting. These were pluses. However, the dialogue almost made me put the book down.

The mistakes in the dialogue were the ones everyone warns beginning writers about. Every time the main characters had a conversation they used their first names. People don't talk this way. They may use a first name in greeting someone, or in adding emphasis to a statement. They do not constantly refer to each other by name. It isn't necessary and it becomes tedious to read. It also makes the dialogue sound stilted.

The second mistake the author made was using conversation as a data dump. In the early chapters of the book, the female character gives long dissertations on the technology. The author does it in the guise of explaining technical areas to a novice, but it quickly becomes wearing. There is no give and take. If the explanations were necessary, and in this case they were, description could be used effectively at least part of the time.

Dialogue is not the easiest thing for most people to write. Even experienced authors have some character come off sounding stilted. The best advice I've heard about how to correct this problem is to listen to people. If eavesdropping on conversations seems too intrusive watch good movies, or there are places like the library of congress where native speakers have been recorded. If you listen to them enough you will get the speech patterns, and your dialog will sound natural.

One of the best ways to draw a reader into your world is a conversation. Readers get caught up in the exchange between characters if it's well done. Another plus is that dialogue sentences are typically short, at least they should be. This means lots of white space on the page. Readers like to see white space. It doesn't look so daunting.

Writing dialog may not come naturally to you, but if you work at it, it will pay dividends with your readers and reviewers.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Do ebook Readers Want Simple, Unchallenging Novels?

I recently reviewed a book, Locked In by Kevin Wilkirson, that raised this issue. The book has been a best seller in the UK, and Amazon picked it up in the US. It's a publishing phenomenon that I think deserves a passing look.

It's not a bad book, but as crime novels go it isn't a great one. So what's the appeal? My take on the book is that the plot is simple to the point of allowing the reader to move at least a few steps ahead of the police. The characters are two dimensional. The twists are predictable as is the ending. It wasn't a memorable book. So what's the attraction.

Another reviewer had an observation that made me think. Do readers want unchallenging novels. I suspect that may be the case. In this novel, the main character is a female detective who has a rather abrasive and aggressive personality, but no lusting after the boss, no steamy sex. The prose is simple, but that makes the book a quick read. Because the plot is predictable, you don't have to pay close attention to the clues, you can pick the book up at intervals and still be quickly up to speed with what's happening.

It's been suggested before that the reading public likes Dan Brown novels because, while the writing is less than stellar, the plot moves quickly, and the chapters are short. That's another way of suggesting that the novel is unchallenging. Romance writers understand that the public wants plots that are similar, with romantic settings, attractive protagonists, and not too many complications.

I love the idea that people are reading more. An observation on Digital Book World, reported that ebook sales were down during World Cup Soccer. This suggests that reading has become a relaxation pastime equivalent to watching sports, but I may be reading too much into it. However, if what the public wants is simple, unchallenging novels, that's something writers have to take to heart and decide whether they want literary fame, or best sellers.  

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What About Unlikeable Heroes?

Heroes don't have to be paragons. They can even be villains, but can they be arrogant, egotistical and thoroughly unlikable? My belief is: “No.” I recently reviewed a books with a hero most reviewers disliked. I gave it a low rating, and I wasn't alone.

The Other Story by Tatiana de Rosnay sounded like a book I'd love to read. A young writer Nicholas Duhamel has written a best seller on his first foray into publishing. If you're a writer, this book beckons. It promises a glimpse of the creative process and how fame can affect a writer's ability to create. It also has a mystery about how the book he's written connects to his own life. However, Nicholas turns out to be a thoroughly unlikable character: egotistical, self-centered and demanding. I believe the author created him this way to show that at the end of the book he realizes that he has been driving his friends and lovers away and that is responsible for why he can't write.

The problem is that you have to get to the end of the book to see this, and many reviewers gave up in disgust before they got there. You have to be very committed to a book to keep reading about a jerk.

So to answer the question: Can you get away with an unlikable hero to show character development? I would suggest that you be wary. There are always people who like a book that others can't stand, but it you want a large following, it's better to have a character that is attractive in some way so that people can feel emotionally connected to the character. This isn't new advice, but it's illuminating to see it in action.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Meet Angela Smith Author of Fatal Snag


Meet Angela:

During her senior year in high school, Angela Smith was dubbed most likely to write a novel, and that has been her dream ever since her mother read Brer Rabbit to her and her sister so often that they were able to recite it back to each other before actually learning to read. She’s always enjoyed stories about the adventure of love, and getting involved in the legal field developed her love of suspense. A certified paralegal, work gives her perfect fodder for her romantic suspense stories. When not caring for her small farm or spending time with her husband of two decades, she enjoys creating, reading, and dreaming of the places she’ll visit one day.

I asked Angela some questions about herself and her writing.

What made you decide to write romantic suspense?

I’ve always loved reading romantic suspense, and I’ve always known I had to write to shut up the voices in my head. I had already been writing romance (unpublished) when I started working at a prosecutor’s office and once there, I knew suspense was what had been missing. (Too bad it took me another ten years or so to pursue publication!) 

Did you do research for your books? If so, what kind?

Absolutely! I do all kinds of research for my books throughout the entire writing process. I read a lot of books on topic that relate to my book as well as search the internet for anything that might help in my research. I’ll ask questions and read blogs on topics. And when I can’t go where I want to write about, Google Earth is my friend! I recently contacted a police department in another state for information I needed and they were very helpful. Learning new things through my research is one of my favorite parts of writing.

Who is your favorite character and why?

A favorite character I wrote about would be like picking a favorite child. I can’t do it. I have certain characters that won’t leave me alone, but those are usually characters I haven’t completed stories on. I could pick a favorite one for a particular subject, but not overall.

How long does it take you to write a book? How much revision do you do? Any tips for other authors working on romantic suspense?

I typically plan to write one book a year, and my revision process is grueling because my first draft is like a puzzle. The three books I have now (one still in the works, but all part of my Slopeside series) took five years from start to finish, but they were finished long before I did anything with them and that’s when I was letting other things get too much in the way. Although I’d love to write and publish three to four a year, I have to be realistic with my schedule and other demands. And I always remind myself that Sandra Brown, my favorite author, only writes one a year. And she doesn’t have another job full time! So that always makes me feel better. My biggest tip for authors of any genre is to write what you enjoy reading, and don’t be afraid to write bad on the first draft. Keep writing and don’t give up, and learn everything you can. 

How did you find your publisher? What made you decide to publish this way?

A lot of research. I decided to go with a smaller press because they don’t require an agent and I love the fact my book won’t take years to get published once I sign with them. I also love that Crimson Romance is a part of Adam’s Media, a well-established publisher that has been around a long time. Going with a smaller press has a lot of huge advantages, and I’ve been very happy with them. 

What sort of writing schedule do you have?

I have a full time job, so my writing schedule revolves around my work. I usually try to get up early enough to write in the morning and I write most evenings. I usually try to write a few weekends a month, but not every weekend. I do miss weekdays, though, but have learned not to beat myself up. 

Anything you'd like to add about your books?

Fatal Snag is the second in a stand-alone series set on the ski slopes of Montana, featuring the brother of the hero in my first story, Burn on the Western Slope. Along with the romantic suspense, there’s a lot of adventure, even some history and learning tidbits (i.e. Chayton discovers his mother is Native American living on a reservation). Although I’ve always called my stories mindless entertainment that won’t change the world (to my non-romance reader friends), I always try to add some depth in the form of setting, character development, and many unusual ways, including topics that interest me. For instance, Winona, who you’ll meet in Fatal Snag and who has her own story coming out, volunteers at an animal shelter. And I’m a huge animal lover. And I’ve always been infatuated with Native American history. So I tend to add tidbits in my stories about things that interest me. 

Blurb for Fatal Snag


Hollywood fashion consultant Naomi Fisher is happy to use her obsessive-compulsive planning to assist with her cousin's wedding, but her history with the sexy and sullen Chayton Chambers, the groom’s brother, terrifies her. When the groom is kidnapped at his own wedding, Chayton and Naomi rush to find an important relic to satisfy the ransom before her cousin becomes a widow before a bride. Naomi trades garters for guns as survival, and love becomes a deadly game impossible to resist.
Information about the book:
Title: Fatal Snag
Author: Angela Smith
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: 17 March 2014

Buy Links:
Crimson Romance:

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Do Readers Finish Your Book?

Grammar mistakes are one reason readers become frustrated and stop reading your book somewhere before the middle. I review a lot of books and read other people's reviews. Poor grammar is so annoying to many readers that they actually start marking up the book before giving up in disgust. Running a thorough grammar check on your book can pay big dividends in reader satisfaction.

Grammar isn't the only reason readers stop reading. You have to play fair with your readers. I recently read a book in which the author set up the first three chapters as a murder mystery. I love murder mysteries, so I was ready to keep reading, but in the fourth chapter the author included about fifty pages of backstory. Too much backstory is frustrating because is slows the action, but worse it can change the character of the book. This book turned into a character study rather than a mystery.

Readers will also put your book down if you are inconsistent in your presentation. A romantic novel can have elements of fantasy, but if your sizzler slides too far into fantasy your readers may give up. They bought the book for the sizzle. Conversely, a fantasy should stay a fantasy and not become a modern romance.

I recently read an article in the New York Times, December 25, 2013, about new services like Scribd that track how readers are treating your book. This can be valuable information for authors, but you don't have to wait to subscribe to a service. Read reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, not only for your books, but for books you've read. You'll find plenty of reviewers willing to tell you exactly why the stopped reading and where.