Monday, December 30, 2013

Dog Tags Ebook Giveaway

I'm giving away an ebook copy of Dog Tags

Tonja Saylor is the winner of the giveaway. I will contact her shortly. Thanks to everyone else for participating

novel, Dog Tags

Blurb: When disabled ex-Marine Mark Graham reconnects with his best friend’s sister, he finds himself falling in love. But Beth Martindale’s presence is a constant reminder of events he’d rather forget. Mark wants to move forward, but the secrets surrounding her brother’s death as well as his own confinement to a wheelchair threaten to tear them apart. When a psychopath who calls himself The Knight fixates on Beth, Mark is determined to give her the protection he failed to give her brother on the battlefield, yet he discovers that a wheelchair isn’t the only impediment he has to keeping Beth safe. Will terror win or can Mark find the strength of mind and body to rescue Beth and find his own redemption?

To be entered in the giveaway, please do the following:

(1) In a brief comment, tell me about your favorite animal (could be real or fictional). 
(2) Leave your email address. You may spell it out to avoid spam. So, for example, yourname(at)gmail(dot)com.

The winner will be chosen at random and announced on January 13th, 2014. The winner will be contacted and will have one week to respond before a new winner is chosen.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Interview and Giveaway with Gail Pallotta


Welcome Gail. We are so pleased to have you with us on Sleuths and Suspects. Gail and I belong to the same writer's group and I'm happy to share about her new book on our blog. Be a follower and leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Gail's book. Be sure and leave your email so we can contact you if you win. Without further ado let's learn more about Gail.

Tell us a little about yourself.  I’m a wife, Mom, swimmer and bargain shopper who loves God, beach sunsets and getting together with friends and family. I’ve been a Sunday school teacher, a swim-team coordinator and an after-school literary instructor. My husband says I write because I have pretend people running around in my head, and they have to get out.

Tell us about your most recent book/or the book we are focusing on. Stopped Cold is a teen mystery with a touch of romance and spiritual talk. The Christian message is: we don’t have to be number one of God to love us. The book’s set in a small town in the North Carolina Mountains, but things aren’t what they seem in peaceful Mistville.


The heroine, Margaret McWhorter, enjoys a laid-back Freshman year in high school flirting with Jimmy Willmore, swimming and hanging out with friends—until that day. Her brother, Sean, suffers a stroke from taking a steroid. Now he’s lying unconscious in a hospital. Margaret’s angry at her dad for pushing Sean to be a great quarterback, but a fire of hatred burns inside her to make the criminals pay.

Looking for justice, she takes Jimmy and her best friend, Emily, through a twisted, drug-filled sub-culture. A clue sends them deep into the woods behind the school where they overhear drug dealers discuss Sean.

Time and time again they walk a treacherous path and come face to face with danger. Even the cop on the case can’t stop them from investigating. All the while Margaret really wants to cure Sean, heal the hate inside, and open her heart to love.

Why did you choose this particular genre? First of all, I wanted to write a fun book. As a youngster I loved mysteries, especially when the kids, like Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, solved the case. My book’s reminiscent of those amateur sleuths.

The message rattled around in my head for a long time. Over the years I’ve seen instances when not being number one created great pain for a child or young adult. Whether the pressure came from within, peers, siblings or parents, the need to be “better than everyone else” rather than “the best one could be” often hurt and sometimes led to destruction. We don’t have to be number one for God to love us. He’s given each of us a gift or gifts to use for Him.

What are a couple of your favorite books and what are you reading now? I’m not a genre person.There’s only one book I’ve ever read that I didn’t like. That was because if offered no hope. Other than that, I just like books. I recently finished Blind Justice by James Scott Bell. A couple classics I like are An American Tragedy and Of Human Bondage. As for romance, Pride and Prejudice. Other books that come to mind are The Kite Runner and I Heard the Owl Call My Name. I could go on…


What are you working on now? I have several projects, all adult, all Christian. One’s a romance about a woman who has a mysterious illness, and another, a dystopian book.


What advice would you give authors who are on their own journey to publication? Keep writing, learning about the craft and follow where God leads.


Do you have any books or websites that have helped you with your writing that you could share with us? I recommend Revision and Self-Editing by James Scott Bell. I’ve received lots of advice and help from The American Christian Fiction Writers.


Is there anything you’d like to tell us we haven’t covered? Thank you for having me on your fun blog!

Please let us know where we can find you on the web. 

My Web Site,   

My facebook page, Authors and More,  


Deborah Malone’s first novel Death in Dahlonega, finaled in the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Category Five writing contest! Deborah was also nominated for 2012 Georgia Author of the Year in First Novel category. She has worked as a freelance writer and photographer, for the historic magazine “Georgia Backroads.” She has had many articles and photographs published, and her writing is featured in “Tales of the Rails,” edited by Olin Jackson. She is a member of the Georgia Writer’s Association as well as Advanced Writer’s and Speakers Association. As a current member of the American Christian Fiction Writer she has established a blog where she reviews Christian Fiction.  


Friday, December 20, 2013

Recommended Novels I've Read In 2013!

by Jeff Reynolds

I know. It's not Christmas, but I want to beat the rush on the top ten lists. And of course, mine may not be as authoritative as others -- some of my partners in crime on this blog may have read more than I have!

Also, this is a list of thirtten novels that I've read this year. Some of these have been out from previous years. In fact, one of the books I've read which I didn't put on the list was written the year I was born.

This year I've had the pleasure of reading nineteen novels, as well as several non-fiction books. Fourteen of those fall are either mystery (six) or suspense (eight). Only two may not qualify as Christian books (both mysteries), but neither of those would be objectionable -- the author of one of those books was interviewed this year on this blog (not byme), and the other was the one I referred to above -- if I told you the author, you wouldn't worry about reading it.

I was going to make it ten and give five mysteries and five suspense. Problem. I have a tie for fifth place on the suspense list. So I decided to pass along the thirteen novels I enjoyed the most. I'll give a brief blurb about each.

I thought of putting them in order, but opted to instead put them in alphabetic order by author. Ready?

  1. Cat Among The Pigeons by Agatha Christie (Mystery). Yes, this was the one as old (or maybe older) than me. Interesting blend of espionage with typical Christie mystery. I did see the David Suchet movie version, so I knew a lot of the twists, and that might have kept it from being my favorite. Still, I enjoyed it.
  2. Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales by Randy Singer (Suspense). His latest book. I'm still reading this one, by the way -- will probably finish it this week. If you remember, I interviewed Singer earlier this year.
  3. Death of a Highland Heavyweight by Jayne Self (Mystery). I had the pleasure of interviewing the author around this time last year. One of the most enjoyable books I've read this year -- you may be laughing too hard to figure out who did it!
  4. Dog Tags by Heidi Glick (Suspense). If you haven't read this one yet, shame on you! Go straight to Amazon or some other site and get a copy of this, or I'll sick a Schipperke on you! I had the privilege of interviewing the author on this blog.
  5. The Final Crumpet by Ron and Janet Benrey (Mystery). Second in their Royal Tunbridge Mystery series.
  6. Friend Me by John Faubion (Suspense). This one won't make many (if any) 2013 book lists, because it won't be available to the public till February. I had the privilege of reading an advance copy, and I'd be surprised if this doesn't make several 2014 lists. Written by a fellow member of the Indiana ACFW chapter.
  7. Fusion Fire by Kathy Tyers (Speculative). Many would call this science fiction, but I believe it's more science fantasy. Still, I loved reading this book and the first story of the series, Firebird. Great Christian symbolism in the story.
  8. The Last Plea Bargain by Randy Singer (Suspense). This is one of Singer's two best stories. It's got so many twists your jaw will drop at the end. Mine did. Very well crafted story.
  9. Murder A Capella by James Callan and Diane Bailey (Mystery). I've enjoyed several mysteries, but when it comes to being one that surprises you yet leaves enough clues you're kicking yourself over missed ones, this is the best I've read in years. Even though I've seen a couple of Christian reviews (including an interview with Mr. Callan on this blog), I wouldn't call it a Christian book, but it's not one that would make a Christian uncomfortable.
  10. The Next Target by Nikki Arana (Suspense). I like suspense, but I don't always enjoy suspense -- it gets me too worked up, too worried about the characters. This is an example of that. Good themes in the book. The author was interviewed late last year on this blog (not by me).
  11. Nowhere To Run by Amy Wallace (Suspense). Second of her Place of Refuge series. I discovered Wallace when I read her Defenders of Hope trilogy. Hidden in Plain Sight, the first of this series, didn't impress me as much as the other stories, but this one (which I'm still reading) is closer to the other set in style. I interviewed Amy on this blog earlier this year.
  12. Rules For Murder by Julianna Deering (Mystery). I had the privilege of being an influencer for this story, and also for interviewing her on this blog this year.
  13. An Unholy Communion by Donna Fletcher Crow (Mystery). Crow's Monastery Murders is my favorite mystery series, and Father Anthony is one of my favorite characters. This was my favorite of the series -- it involves a youth pigrimage in Wales.
 Hope you enjoyed this list. How many of these have you read? Any of these going on your reading list? What would be on your list?

And I hope you won't be disappointed to find out this will be my last blog until next year.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Interview and Book Giveaway With Debbie Malone

by Jeff Reynolds

My victim ... er, interviewee this month is a familiar name to this blog. I have the honor of interviewing my fellow contributor Debbie Malone.  The latest installment of her Trixie Montgomery Cozy Mysteries is hot off the presses, and we're giving away a copy -- see rules below.

Jeff Reynolds:  Welcome to Sleuths and Suspects, Debbie. As if you need a welcome. Could you tell us about how you came to faith in Christ, and how that tied in with your writing journey?
Debbie Malone:  Thank you for having me as a guest Jeff. I love your interviewing style. Now on to the question. I actually grew up in the church. My parents made sure we were there every time the doors were open so this gave me a good grounding. I have a little story about writing Christian fiction. I had always wanted to write it, but didn’t even know it existed until I came upon a Margaret Daley book. When I read it I knew that was what I was looking for. I’d already completed my first manuscript so I rewrote it as Christian fiction. I joined American Christian Fiction Writers and now I have three published books.

JR:  I'm in complete suspense in how you'd answer this question: Would you be interested in telling us about the mystery series you've written and especially the newest installment?

DM:  Does a duck like june bugs? Trixie Montgomery is the main character and her sidekick and best friend is Dee Dee Lamont. Trixie is a writer for a magazine and is sent on assignments to different towns. It seems everywhere they go a dead body turns up and Trixie and Dee Dee must find the person who committed the dastardly deed. Trixie’s eccentric great-aunt, Nana, joins in on the fun. With Nana around there’s never a dull moment. For instance she gets a tattoo in Terror on Tybee Island.

Terror on Tybee Island takes place on the beautiful Tybee Island off of Savannah. Trixie, Dee Dee, Nana and Trixie’s mother Betty Jo go for a relaxing vacation on the island. Betty Jo’s friend puts them up in her bed and breakfast. It turns out to be anything but relaxing when Trixie finds a body in the sand behind the house. Betty Jo’s friend, Laura, is accused of the murder. So of course Trixie and Dee Dee must come to the rescue when Betty Jo begs them to help Laura. They run into quite a few suspects as they attend a taping of Paula Deen’s cooking, a trip to the Mercer-Williams house, and a pirate festival.

During the festival Nana is kidnapped and you’ll have to read the book to see if Trixie and Dee Dee arrive in time to save her.

JR:  You've always been a mystery lover. If you could have lunch with three fictional detectives (at the same time), who would you select and why?

Oh, I love this question. Of course, the first one would be Jessica Fletcher. Hummm, I need to think a moment. Matlock is a lawyer, but he solves crimes so I think I’d like to meet him. Okay I’ve got the third one, well actually there are two of them, but I’d like to meet the guys from Psych. I guess this shows I like to watch TV mysteries.

JR:  Writing is the fun and easy part of writing. Finding a publisher and marketing: Not as much, are they? How have you handled these challenges? Any tips? Any mistakes to avoid?

Marketing is essential to have a successful book. You have to learn to put yourself out there and that’s hard for most people. Some of the places I’ve gone to are books clubs, libraries, writer’s groups, spoken at writer’s conferences, etc. The thing with marketing is you have to find a balance, because you’ve got to save time to write. A great book on marketing is Stress Free Marketing by Renea Winchester. It’s simple to read and chock full of good advice.

JR:  Besides your fiction series, you've written and photographed for the historical magazine "Georgia  Backroads." If someone asked you to pick one of your articles from this magazine to read, which would you select? Also, do your articles come out of your research for your novels? Or does your research for your articles give you ideas for your novel?

  Another great question Jeff. I guess my favorite article was “Chasing the General” and was my very first article to be published. The General was a train the Yankees came down and stoleright under our noses. But we did get it back and most of the villains were hung. Not that I’m happy they were hung.

My research from my articles over the years has been a tremendous help with my novels in giving me ideals and also history to include in my novels.

JR:  You're a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the Georgia Writer's Association. What are the strengths of these groups, and how have each contributed to your writing?

  I can’t say enough about ACFW. I stumbled upon it and I’m so glad I did. I don’t believe I’d be published today if it weren't for the support I got from fellow members. This is an on-line group and they give courses, have a critique group and have loops where you can ask any question about writing. I’ve met so many wonderful Christian writers. I could go on and on - but I won’t. :)

GWA has a lot going on too. They have a class every month on some form of writing. They also have a great conference every year called “Red Clay.” The only downfall to GWA is that you have to travel to the classes and I have to drive about an hour to get to them. But I’ve found them to be very informative.

JR:  You mentioned in one of your previous interviews that you returned to college in your '40's and graduated at the age of 45. When you returned, was it to the same major? What was it like, and were there any lessons from that which applied to your writing?

  Well, I earned a degree in Human Services which is a mix of psychology and sociology. It was very different returning as an adult. I think I appreciated the opportunity to learn much more than as a young adult. I took a creative writing course and that sparked a flame in me to write. I’d always wanted to, but never took the time to sit down and do it. So I’m thankful that my writing came from that class I took.

JR:  Thank you for your time. Before I let you go, where can we find you online (besides here, of course)? And could you give us a little description of each site?

  Thank you for having me as a guest Jeff it’s been fun talking with you.

You can find me at This is where several of us cozy writer’s get together and take turns posting on the blog every day. There are a variety of topics.

Also, This is my personal blog where I post interviews, giveaways and articles about writing.

My website is

Last, but not least I’m on and

Jeff Reynolds to the reader:  Time for the giveaway of Terror On Tybee Island. Three steps to win the book:
  1. Leave a Comment
  2. Leave your e-mail (too many forget this step).
  3. I'll ask you a variation of a question I asked Debbie. If you had a choice of fictitious detectives to sit down and have a meal with (more than one would make the discussion more interesting, but one is fine), who would you select?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Interview with H.L. Wegley and Information about the Giveaway on His Blog

I recently had the privilege of interviewing author H.L. Wegley. 

photo of H. L. Wegley

Can you tell me a little bit more about On the Pineapple Express and the giveaway you are hosting on your blog?

Shortly before writing On the Pineapple Express, my wife and I attended a local event that raised awareness of child sex trafficking in our area. It painted an ugly picture of an evil that’s epidemic in our society and pandemic in our world. I wanted to do something to alert people, so I took my hero and heroine from book 1 of my 4-book, Pure Genius Series, Hide and Seek, and placed them in a situation where they had to choose between safely coasting toward their impending wedding or risking it all to try to rescue a group of girls held to be sold by human traffickers. That provided the plot for On the Pineapple Express. Human trafficking can be a dark subject, but I’ve tried to tell an uplifting story without being too graphic. I think we succeeded in doing that, because my editor at Pelican Book Group doesn’t let anything crude or overly graphic slip into the published version. There is also a redemption story embedded in the plot, but I can’t tell you more without creating a spoiler.

The giveaway is being held on my blog, The Weather Scribe, ending on Sunday evening, December 15. I’m giving away 5 Kindle copies to winners chosen from those who leave a comment and their email address.

On the Pineapple Express. A man and woman are shown on the cover. Waves are crashing on rocks at the bottom of the cover.

You served as a Weather Officer in the U.S. Air Force. Have you used weather to create conflict in your stories or to enhance settings?

As a weather forecaster I could only try to predict the weather, but as an author I can control it. What a sense of power! Yes, I did use weather to enhance the setting in On the Pineapple Express. In fact, the weather serves as an additional antagonist, infusing everything my hero and heroine try to do with danger. For the story I recreated part of the conditions for the Columbus Day Storm of 1962, the most intense and deadly wind storm ever to strike the West Coast, and I prefaced the winds with a Pineapple Express event, a heavy rainstorm that often causes severe flooding. The weather is a major player in the story beginning on page 1 and continuing for nearly three-fourths of the book.

I love a quote from your blog. The quote is in response to one of your first writing critiques: “You mean writing fiction is a craft, and I have to learn it?” I, too, felt this way at the beginning of my writing journey. What advice do you have for aspiring fiction writers who want to learn the craft?

For me, the first step in learning the craft was to gain awareness of my ignorance. That came from taking Readers Digest’s Advanced Novel Writing Workshop. The instructor’s critique of my work quickly revealed how ignorant I was at that point. But attending a writing conference and reading a good craft book are much less expensive and, I believe, a preferable way to go. Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell is a good place to start, but there are several great craft books available. Ready to learn at that point, I joined the ACFW—what a resource—and participated in its large critique group for about a year. Since then I have joined a local critique group of faith-based authors and signed up for Susan May Warren’s My Book Therapy. For less than the cost of a conference, My Book Therapy provides a rich set of tools and information on all aspects of crafting stories and getting them published.

What are some of the unusual creatures you have encountered while snorkeling in Maui? Do any of your characters snorkel?

Two years ago my wife and I were snorkeling Kaanapali Beach on Maui one beautiful, sunny morning. We swam out about 75 yards, where the water was 20-feet deep. I was watching some brightly colored angelfish on the coral below me when my wife grabbed my head and pulled it out of the water. She pointed at what looked like two dorsal fins moving in a tight circle about 60 feet away and asked, “What’s that?”

“I don’t know, but let’s head for shore,” I said, hoping the two fins didn’t turn toward us. By the time we reached shore a large group of people had gathered, watching the show. A resident of the Islands told everyone that it was a very large manta ray doing its mating dance. With just the “wingtips” above water it looked exactly like two sharks.

About snorkeling and my characters—Moon over Maalaea Bay, book 3 of the Pure Genius Series and the sequel to On the Pineapple Express, is set completely in Maui. Two of my characters do snorkel, but it’s not a leisurely activity in their case, and it gets them into a lot of trouble.

Where can readers find more information about you?

Here are my book and social media links.
Web site:
 Blog: The Weather Scribe - A climate of suspense and a forecast of stormy weather
Amazon author page:
Book 1: Hide and Seek -- espionage thriller with romance:
Book 2: On the Pineapple Express -- human trafficking thriller with romance

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Interview with Steven Wilson

author Steven Wilson

You’ve been a multimedia designer in advertising for over 25 years. How did you end up writing novels?

I have always been a big reader. I think that’s what inspired me to try my hand at writing.

Writing is cathartic to me. Returning from Afghanistan in 2011, I wanted to work on something fulfilling. A few years earlier, I had written a draft of my first novel, ‘Red Sky at Morning’. It was intended to be youth fiction, but no one would read it. Coming home, I dusted it off and re-purposed it with an eye toward the post-Cold War, post-9/11 world.

Finally, I got the attention of a publicist, who told me the book didn’t have a ‘teen voice’. I expanded the story, doubled its length, and revised it for an older audience. With a lot of diligence, I eventually found a publisher.

I try to keep the books character-driven. My goal is to tell a compelling story without throwing around a lot of acronyms or technical jargon. There’s some of that, but only to ground the action in a realistic frame of reference.

The novels have been compared to the works of Tom Clancy or Vince Flynn. That’s very flattering, but you won’t find any profanity or compromising situations in my novels. In other words, the books are family-friendly, with a subtle but firm moral message. They’re suitable for teens, but written for adults.

The series also explores the dynamics of faith in uniform, which are often absent from books of the same kind. They have a broad appeal; there’s action, military hardware, strong core values, and even a little romance. A lot of my best reviews have come from readers with no military background at all, so anyone can enjoy them. Neill’s adventures will hold the interest of young and old, and will encourage readers to value patriotism and embrace honor and integrity.

A Michael Neill Adventure

How many books have you written?

Two. ‘Red Sky at Morning’ was published in 2012, and ‘Tempest of Fire’ in 2013. Both are faith-based military/espionage thrillers, and each has been nominated for the Lime Award for Excellence in Fiction. I’m currently working on the third book in the series.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Arthur C. Clarke, David McCullough, J.R.R. Tolkien, Tom Clancy, & Walter Lord.

You write about a character named Michael Neill. Can you tell readers a little bit more about the character?

Michael Neill was born and raised in Ukraine, the son of American missionaries. As a Marine Corps officer, Neill works counter-intelligence. He is fluent in Russian and Ukrainian, and brings his linguistic skills to bear on national security issues facing the U.S. The fact that he grew up in that part of the world also gives him an edge.

Neill’s faith guides his actions. He’s an individual who’s suffered his share of personal loss, and the different layers of his background are slowly revealed as the series progresses.

You write military fiction and have served in the U.S. military. Do you find it easy to write your novels, based on your experiences, or do you still need to conduct some research for your stories?

That question comes up a lot. About 50% of my time is spent in research. Even with topics I’m familiar with, I often re-check my sources to avoid making simple mistakes. It’s an on-going process.
In some instances, I rely on existing technology, but there are times when I intentionally obscure details to protect operational security. The same goes for the locales mentioned in the books. I’ve been to many of the places I write about, but I prefer not to disclose which ones.

How can readers connect with you and learn more about you and your writing?

I have a website, From there, readers can download samples of each book, connect to my blog, find my Facebook page, or link to to purchase the series. To connect with me personally, find my books on and send me a message through that site. I try to respond to everyone who contacts me.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Giveaway and Interview With Bryan Powell

Let me introduce my friend and fellow author Bryan Powell. This is Bryan's fist time being on Sleuths and Suspects. Welcome Bryan! Without further ado let's get started with Bryan's interview. Oh, I forgot to say that Bryan is offering a free e-book to a follower who leaves a comment and email address.

Bryan Powell
              Tell us a little about yourself.
Hi, my name is Bryan Powell, I’m a 63-year-old white guy who sometimes writes from a black guy’s POV, that’s point of view, for the writers among us. But before I tell you why and how I do that, let me finish introducing myself. I’m a full-time writer. To me, that means, I write all the time, and as a means of paying my bills. This is not a hobby or an avocation. It’s what I do. Before that, I was a full-time choir director. As a part of that position, I wrote music. I’ve written over 80 choral pieces ranging from children’s songs to youth, choral and adult choir numbers. Many of those, I’ve orchestrated and some have actually been published. My wife is my biggest fan and first reader. She and I read (out loud) everything I write, and we edit it together. We’ve done it that way since my first book in 2011. Three of my seven grandchildren are my second biggest fans. I tell folks, these are G-Rated books, meaning. The G stands for my grandchildren. If my 16, 14,and 11 year old grandchildren can’t read it, I won’t write it. But enough about me.
             Tell us about your most recent book.
My most recent book was one that I tried not to write. I write Adult Fiction/Suspense, and to say I’ve read a Biography or Auto-biography would be a stretch. So when my pastor approached me about writing his father’s story, I resisted. I didn’t think there would be enough; conflict, drama or intrigue. I was wrong. Reluctantly, I accepted the challenge along with 126 pages of handwritten notes to read over the Christmas break. I found myself drawn into Mr. Gillis’s life, and yes, there was plenty of conflict, and drama. Plus, there was a paycheck at the end of the tunnel and that was exactly what I thought I needed at the time. Little did I know, the lessons I would learn from this dear man. So I wrote Faith, Family, and a Lot of Hard Work…the Grady Gillis Story.
Why did you choose this genre?
Faith, Family, and a Lot of Hard Work…the Grady Gillis Story is way outside of my usual genre. It’s a creative memoir, and my genre is Mystery/Suspense/Action/Thrillers. I’ve written 16 of them. But this book took on a life of its own as I began to see life from Mr. Gillis’s POV. For those precious moments as I wrote his story, I actually became Grady Gillis. I began to speak and express my thoughts as I might have. It’s called a Creative Memoir because I wrote it like a novel rather than a straight Biography. It is chock-full of Mr. Gillis’ wit and humor with enough wisdom for us all to learn.
             What was your journey to publication like?
My journey to publication began as I, as a raw-boned newbie, began to look for a publisher. Sorry to say, at that time, I knew nothing of agents and traditional presses. I looked up publishers and found a plethora of “For Fee” publishers. After reading their various programs and statements of faith, etc. I settled with Tate Publications, located in Mustang, OK. In 2011, submitted my manuscript, Stranger in the Pulpit, and to my amazement, it was accepted. Of course, it took a little under $4,000 to lubricate the presses, but what’s that among friends. They did a great job of designing a cover and layout, not so good on the marketing. So I learned really early, if was going to get done, I had to do it myself. Thus, I became a marketing guru over-night. My second mystery novel, Stranger in the White House, was submitted in 2012 and after negotiating a better “Author contribution,” it was accepted and published in late 2012. When it came time to submit book three in the Stranger Series, I felt like I’d made Tate enough money for them to publish it with no “Contribution.” That didn’t work out and so I sought another publisher. I was at a big signing event down in Carrolton, GA, and met John Bell with Vabella Publishing. I found out that we had much in common. That Vabella was a small, independent, traditional press. I submitted The Stranger Among Us, and again, to my amazement, it was accepted. It was released this past October.
       What is a couple of your favorite books and what are you reading now?
               My wife and I have read all of the Joel Rosenburg novels, along with the Left-Behind Series, and I’ve got to say, Joel is my favorite author. That said, I just finished reading Don Brown’s Black Sea Affair and totally enjoyed it. Patty and I are reading (when I say reading, I mean, she is reading and I am driving the car…listening). Currently, she is reading Joanie Bruce’s thriller, Marked for Murder. It’s a nail-biter.
             Can you give us a little peek inside what you are working on now?
Currently, I am working on the second book in the Jared Russell Series. Book one, Sisters of the Vail, is a Kindle Direct Publishing book. It has been widely distributed in an E-book, but is awaiting its physical, soft-cover debut. Book two, Blood Brothers, picks up where Sisters left off. Jared Russell (a black, former Marine, turned architect) and his wife Fatemah go to Lebanon. Xavier and Wright Architectural Group has contracted with Lebanon International University to do their expansion and Jared is the liaison. He is provided with a lavished salary and expense account. Fatemah sees this as an opportunity to open the Harbor House, a “safe place” for new converts. However, when a “Fatwa” is declared, they and soon find themselves caught in a web of intrigue and deceit. The more they learn about Anita, their housekeeper, the more they are drawn into an international conflict. When it is discovered that Anita is Fatemah’s cousin and the daughter of the prime minister, things begin to spin out of control. You will fall in love with Anita, my feisty, out-spoken and endearing character, just as Habib did. Oh, did I tell you there is, as in all my novels, a romance percolating. Yes, big time. Guess who’s falling in love. To complicate matters, Anita has two brothers, thus the name. You will have to wait to discover their plot, but suffice it to say, America, watch your back, because the Blood Brothers are coming.
            What advice would you give to those who are on their own journey to publication.
       My advice to aspiring writers is this. Buy Velcro. You may question the wisdom or sanity of my absurd statement, but let me explain. Buy some Velcro, open the package, and follow the instructions. Sew one side to your chair and the other to the seat of your britches and sit. Don’t get up until you’ve written something. So my advice is simple. Writers write. And after they’ve written, they re-write, and re-write. Don’t get discouraged. Writing is a lonely business, so join a writers group. They will be your biggest supporters.
Can you share any books or websites that have helped you with your writing? 
      Let me recommend Renea Winchester’s book Stress-Free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. For a fun read, check out her book In the Garden with Billy, as well.
              Please give us some links where you can be found.
You can find me by going to My website is with the header Author Bryan Powell’s Books. I can be reached by e-mail by pasting in

Author Bio: Deborah Malone’s first novel Death
in Dahlonega, finaled in the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Category Five writing contest! Deborah was also nominated for 2012 Georgia Author of the Year in First Novel category. She has worked as a freelance writer and photographer, for the historic magazine “Georgia Backroads.” She has had many articles and photographs published, and her writing is featured in “Tales of the Rails,” edited by Olin Jackson. She is a member of the Georgia Writer’s Association as well as Advanced Writer’s and Speakers Association. As a current member of the American Christian Fiction Writer she has established a blog where she reviews Christian Fiction.  


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Interview and E-Book Giveaway With Janet Sketchley

by Jeff Reynolds


Ladies and gentlemen, today's interview is with Janet Sketchley. She'll be giving away an e-book copy of her debut novel (and also her latest release) Heaven's Prey. More about that later.

Jeff Reynolds:  Welcome to Sleuths and Suspects, Janet. I'd like to ask first about your testimony and your family.

Janet Sketchley: Thanks, Jeff, I'm glad to be here. I've read some fun interviews at Sleuths and Suspects. Hmm...

Faith: I'm thankful to have been raised in a Christian home and that God gave me a believing heart at a young age. It doesn't mean I haven't struggled, but Jesus has kept me out of a heap of trouble that I'd otherwise have created. The tenacity of God is one of my themes in writing, because it's something I've experienced in my own life.

Family: My husband and three sons are wonderful men who add warmth, encouragement and laughter to my life. Everyone's still at home, but our sons may all leave the nest within the next year. Major adjustment!  

JR:  Your debut novel has just come out. Would you like to tell us about Heaven's Prey? (I'm in complete suspense on how you'll answer that question -- any chances of you saying "no" to that one? LOL)

JS:  (Smiling) Why, this question is a complete shock, Jeff. What can I say? Despite her husband’s objections, 40-something Ruth Warner finds healing through prayer for Harry Silver, the serial killer who brutally raped and murdered her niece. When a kidnapping-gone-wrong pegs her as his next victim, Harry claims that by destroying the one person who’d pray for him, he proves God can’t—or won’t—look after His own. Can Ruth’s faith sustain her to the end—whatever the cost?
JR:  One thing that made an impression about your book, released Nov. 1, 2013, is that the Amazon page mentioned it received a third place finish in Risen Book's 2011 contest and was on the short list for the 2008 best new Canadian author award. Considering these awards were accomplished years before its release, it sounds like getting this published has been a journey. What was the process like?

JS:  Long! These and a few other "so close" moments began to feel like all I'd ever find. Heaven's Prey needed the right timing and the right publisher, and I needed to learn a lot about crafting a novel. Truth told, I got so used to "no" that I wasn't sure what to do with a "yes" when it came.

JR:  The accolades I mentioned in the previous question weren't the first for a book you've been involved with. You also have a true story published in A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider, which won the 2012 Christian Small Publishers Gift Book Award Winner and also received six 2012 The Word Awards and seven Awards of Merit. Would you like to tell us about your contribution there?

JS:  I loved being part of A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider. The 37 authors worked as a team, and we learned from one another. My story, "The Road Trip that Wasn't," shares how God showed Himself faithful when my car died on a remote stretch of highway—when I had three young kids and no cell phone.

JR:  Another outlet of your writing is reviews, including some by authors I've interviewed on this blog (Kerry Nietz, Sandra Orchard, Jayne Self, and Lynette Eason, for example.) What advice would you give to writing a review? And how has your review writing (both fiction and non-fiction) helped with your fiction writing?

JS:  Main piece of advice: never give spoilers. Introduce readers to the book, give your impressions of what worked and what didn't, and let readers know where they can find the book/author. If the book is outside of what you usually review, make sure readers are aware of the difference in case their tastes aren't as broad. (eg. I mention any language issues if reviewing a mainstream book, since my readers are used to me reviewing Christian books)

The biggest thing review-writing has done for my own fiction is to help me pick out the key details for a plot summary. It also gives me practice looking at the overall book structure instead of getting bogged down in the details.   

JR:  You've written an excellent guest blog on praying for others ( I don't know if you keep up with what's going on down here in the United States, but what trends in Canada prompt the greatest prayer? Any other comments on intercession?

JS:  Cyber-bullying and teen suicide. Abuse and violent crime. The need for integrity and wisdom in leadership. Right now, typhoon devastation in the Philippines. I could go on. In interceding for such high-level needs, we need to be careful to bring them to God and leave them in His hands. If we start carrying them ourselves, we'll break. We don't have the power, and often we don't even have the words, but we know our God does. And we know He cares. A key part of my prayers for such big needs is that in some way He will reveal Himself to the ones in pain, that they'll see His love and the difference He's making.

JR:  Back to your reviews -- I noticed two of the contemporary fiction works you reviewed have "Dog" in the title. Is that a hint that I'm interviewing an animal lover?

JS:  It's actually a coincidence, but I'm very fond of animals. We have a pet-free house due to allergies, so I have to visit friends for my animal fix. I'd love to have a cat, but I'd rather keep my husband. :)

JR:  Thank you for your time. Could you pass along your website and any other information you'd like us to know that I haven't mentioned?

JS:  Jeff, thank you for putting so much thought and research into preparing these questions. I hope your readers realize the effort that goes into making an interview like this. My website is I guess I should say, Heaven's Prey is book 1 in the Redemption's Edge series, and book 2 will release in 2014. Thank you again for having me here at Sleuths and Suspects.

Jeff to the reader: Now it's time to give away an e-book copy of Heaven's Prey. Here are the simple rules:

  1. Leave a comment, as usual.
  2. Include your e-mail address -- again, as usual. 
  3. Janet mentioned using the news as a prompt to intercede for others. What news stories have led you to prayer?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Welcome Christy Barritt

Last year I met Christy Barritt in Dallas at the annual ACFW conference. She's very sweet, and I'm excited to have her join us today.

Thanks so much for having me here on Sleuths and Suspects! I’m Christy Barritt, I’m the author of more than twenty books, and my latest book is called High-Stakes Holiday Reunion. This romantic suspense novel released this month through Love Inspired Suspense.

Today, I wanted to talk a little about how to keep writing during the holiday season. In the writing life, keeping the pages cranked out during the holidays can be difficult. There are added events on our calendars, shopping to do, family to visit, and meals to cook! But it is possible to keep writing and meet deadlines, even when Christmas lights are strung outside.

I’ve actually written ten books this year. People always think they’ve heard me incorrectly when I say that, but it’s true. Their next question is how? I have two young kids, I homeschool one of them, lead the children’s choir at my church, and I freelance for a couple of other publications.

I’d like to say there’s some magic secret to how I get so much accomplished, but the truth is that I make myself work hard. Every week, I write between 10,000-15,000 words. I usually continue this over the holidays, although I do try to take some time off. This year, I have a book deadline on December 31, so I’m not sure I can cut myself any slack.

Writing that many words a week, I can finish the first draft of a book in roughly four to six weeks. I usually start another book then, set the other book aside for a few weeks, and then write the first draft of another book. I got back to the first book, edit it, and I continue to work on new projects. It’s quite a bit to juggle, but I’ve gotten into a good routine with it.

Another secret is the fact that I really enjoy what I’m doing. I love creating new stories and characters and dilemmas. I give myself deadlines, and I have people to hold me accountable. Doing something you love makes it feel less like work. I’m definitely blessed to get paid for something that is so much fun!

So, keep writing at the holidays. Jot down notes about your senses during the season. Remember the smells, the tastes, the emotions, the strange events, or quirky neighbors who celebrate in ways different than you. Enjoy life, but tuck away memories for your stories.

One final thing I thought would be fun to share a recipe. This is a super simple one for Caramel Apple Cider, but I love it. At Christmastime, I buy a gallon of apple cider, some caramel topping (one of those bottles that can be squeezed on top of ice cream), and a can of whipped cream. I put the apple cider into a crock-pot and add about half a bottle of the caramel topping. I heat it up most of the day (makes the house smell wonderful!). I then serve it in mugs and top it with whipped cream. I drizzle a little more caramel across the top. It’s yummy and sweet and requested every year!

Thanks for letting me share.

God bless, and I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!

USA Today has called Christy Barritt’s books “scary, funny, passionate, and quirky.” Three of Christy’s books have been Amazon bestsellers and others have won the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Suspense and Mystery, been nominated for the Romantic Times’ Reviewers Choice Award, and finaled for a Carol. She writes two genres: quirky first person mysteries and romantic suspense. For more information on her books, visit her website at

Please be sure to leave a comment and your email address for a chance to win a book from Christy. Paperback or ebook, your choice.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Review of Eyes Wide Open by Ted Dekker

I just finished Eyes Wide Open by Dekker. 

Eyes Wide Open by Ted Dekker. A pair of cracked spectacles are on the front cover.

This story is written in an episodic nature, though I read it like a novel, from front to cover. Dekker is offering the first episode of this novel for free on Amazon Kindle. The first episode is also available for free on Amazon in audiobook format.

Eyes Wide Open is the story of Christy Snow and Austin Hartt, two young people in love; the story is relayed using third person POV. Christy sets out to find a lost locket but becomes trapped. When Christy goes missing, Austin goes to look for her. In an eerie twist, the two become victims of mistaken identity and encounter a mysterious figure named Outlaw.

The phrase, ‘things are not what they seem’ might be the best way to sum up this novel. Vision is a common theme throughout the story, and Dekker uses symbols like lamps to demonstrate this theme. This story made me think of the Scripture, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18a KJV). The Christian symbolism used in this story is very evident. I’m curious to see where Dekker goes with the rest of the series. My only criticism is that perhaps the symbolism was a little overemphasized so that I felt pulled out of the story ever so slightly, but that could just be because as a believer, I immediately recognized the symbols. Perhaps the symbolism wouldn’t be so obvious to a mainstream secular audience. I don’t fault Dekker for making sure his message is clear. 

The story starts out more with a Boneman’s Daughters/The Bride Collector feel and ends with more of a Paradise series vibe. The beginning definitely hooks readers right away and, in a typical, Dekkeresque, spine tingling, nail biting fashion. Few books can do that. 

Dekker fans and other readers who enjoy suspense should appreciate this novel. I look forward to the other books in this series.

*Please note that I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my review. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The opinion expressed here is my own.

Check out this gripping back cover copy from Eyes Wide Open

Who am I? 

My name is Christy Snow. I'm seventeen and I'm about to die. 

I'm buried in a coffin under tons of concrete. No one knows where I am. My heart sounds like a monster with clobber feet, running straight toward me. I'm lying on my back, soaked with sweat from the hair on my head to the soles of my feet. My hands and feet won't stop shaking.

Some will say that I m not really here. Some will say I'm delusional. Some will say that I don t even exist. But who are they? I'm the one buried in a grave. 

My name is Christy Snow. I'm seventeen. I'm about to die. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Interview with C.S. Lakin

Recently, I interviewed author C.S. Lakin, who is published in several genres, including mystery/suspense.

female author C.S. Lakin

How many books have you written?

I’m completing my fourteenth novel this week, and have already gotten a bit into book fifteen, which is my last book of my fantasy series (#7). I’ve also written two nonfiction writing craft books that my agent is shopping around. I’ll be doing another one of those this winter, to run on my blog all year as my writing course, which I do each year. I love “blogging my books.”

a red rose is shown on the cover

Which authors have influenced your writing the most?

Patricia A. McKillip is my favorite author. She is an amazing fantasy writer and is a master at wordsmithing. I try to write as well and as beautifully as she does but I’m sure I fail miserably. When you read her fairy tales, you feel shifted into a different dimension of time and space. I like a lot of writers, but not any as much as her.

I also love Elizabeth George, the mystery writer, known for her Inspector Lynley series. She delves deep into all her characters and creates unique voices for them, with a great stream of consciousness style. I would put Orson Scott Card in this group as well. I’m enamored with his character development and deep POV.

a man, a wolf, and a mountain are shown on the cover

Who is your favorite character (out of all the novels you’ve written) and why?

Adin, from The Map across Time. He embodies all my hopes, fears, insecurities. He is a flawed character but with a heart for truth and loyalty. I absolutely love him. But I fall in love with many of my characters. And I’m especially close to Ruyah, my wolf in The Wolf of Tebron, because he represents Jesus and how he loves, protects, and sacrifices for us. Funny, I’m not so attached to the characters in my contemporary psychological suspense novels. Most of them are pretty pathetic, but I do feel drawn to Matt and Irene and Casey in Someone to Blame.

Not only are you an author, but you do coaching, freelancing, blogging, teaching, etc. on the side. What does your writing schedule look like?

I get up early, run two miles on my treadmill, check e-mail, post tweets, throw the ball for the dog, then get to work (in between throwing the ball and Frisbee for the dog). I edit manuscripts for writers—all kinds of books: fiction (poetry, novels, short stories) and nonfiction. Usually work for about 6-7 hours, then cook dinner, do laundry, clean up, watch Star Trek with my husband when he comes home (or something compatible). When I’m writing a novel, I work in the evenings after doing my “real” job.

a filmstrip is shown on the cover.

You write in a variety of genres. Do you find it easy to switch between different genres? What is your favorite genre?

I love writing in different genres. People have told me forever that you can’t do that, it’s bad and against the rules. Come again? Writing is a joy and exploration. The more a writer can stretch her abilities and tell different stories, the better. I think fantasy/sci-fi is my favorite because I can create worlds, and I’ve been reading those genres my whole life and love the imaginativeness of it all. But I love many genres. I’m writing a historical romance right now, a western, since I love horses and raised them for many years.

On your website, you mention that “My prayer is to keep focused on God.” What advice can you give to aspiring Christian authors to help them keep things in perspective and continue to focus on God?

Such an important question. I could write volumes on that. But one thing I’ve learned on this long, hard journey as a writer is you write what’s in your heart, do the very best you can to learn to be the best writer you can be, then let go of the outcome. It’s way easier said than done. What if God’s will is to spend your entire life writing books and you never sell even one or no one buys them. Are you going to be okay with that? You have to be, for the only thing that matters is being faithful to your calling. What God does with all that is up to him. Enjoy the writing, give it as a sacrifice of praise to God, and don’t fret about the outcome. God has the right to do what he wants with your sacrifice, and if you are not a success by worldly standards, you (we) should know that’s not the measure of God’s love for you. He always does things different from what we want and expect. Not always comfortable or helpful, but it’s all about trusting him and being faithful.