New, Hot, Scary

McBleak-ExtractorsMeet Malcolm Cavanaugh Bleekston, most often called McBleak. He appears to be a one percenter, hobnobbing with other millennials of his ilk; excursions on yachts while extolling the virtues of banksters, and enjoying the fruits of his non-labors while the rest of us hustle to put food on the table and keep the wolf from the door.

In the novella The Extractors by Gary Phillips, he lays plans to take a greedy man’s gain while wondering if his girlfriend, who comes from inherited wealth but is dedicated to using her resources to make a difference, is beginning to see through his façade – and if so, can he bring her to his side or will she turn on him?  But nothing ever goes as planned, and McBleak has to think fast on his feet or his life might be extracted from him.

Available for $2.99 on its own app bookxy across all platforms as well on Kindle, Kobo, etc.

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Also in Southern California, Taffy Cannon has been lurking at the library.

I was just on a Noir panel for the Oceanside Library’s Big Read program with Lisa Brackmann, Alan Russell, Ken Kuhlken, and Debra Ginsberg. On April 5, I’m moderating a mystery panel at the Carlsbad Library with Denise Hamilton, Vince Aiello, Isla Morley, C.E. Poverman, and Matt Coyle.

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It’s back to France this summer for the five Bennett Sisters, last seen in Lise McClendon‘s Blackbird Fly. The new book will be out in May (called The Girl in the Empty Dress) but in the meantime you can read installments of Blackbird Fly for free on Wattpad. Suspense, wine, & intrigue. There’s a snazzy new cover too, redesigned by the amazing Lisa Desimini.

Ready to read it straight through? That can be done!

Kindle Nook KOBO Paperback Audio

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JD Rhoades reports in with exciting news. Look for his new thriller, Devils and Dust, coming soon.

I’m pleased to announce that Polis Books the digital imprint started by bestselling author and former St. Martin’s Press editor Jason Pinter, will be publishing six of my books this spring: all three books in the Shamus award-nominated Jack Keller series (with spiffy new covers, naturally) , then the thrillers BREAKING COVER and BROKEN SHIELD, all leading up to the release of a brand new Jack Keller novel, DEVILS AND DUST. I’m totally psyched to be working with Jason and Polis.

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Kate Flora, 2013 Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction winner, has been busy. She reports in on three upcoming book releases.
My crime story, Girl’s Night Out, will be published as an e-book by Shebooks, an exciting new internet publishing venture featuring fiction, memoir and essay, by women and for women, in April, 2014.
My Canadian true crime, Death Dealer, which was five years in the making, will be published by New Horizon Press Books in September. Death Dealer fascinated me because while the killing took place in northeastern New Brunswick, it would involve search and rescue teams and game wardens with trained cadaver dogs from the neighboring state of Maine to locate the victim’s hidden body. Two full first degree murder trials, and many appeals later, the killer was sentenced to life is prison.
The fourth book in my Joe Burgess police procedural quartet, And Grant You Peace, will be published by Five Star in October.

Summer reading anyone?

So what are you reading this summer?

Got something new on your Kindle or Nook or iPad? Time to load up for vacation, trips, and lying around in the hammock. Here’s what the T-PAC crowd has written recently, plus some tantalizing new stuff coming out soon.

BP_FC_low_resBLACK PULP, co-edited and contributed to by Gary Phillips, is out now.  It’s an anthology of original stories featuring black characters in leading roles in retro stories running the genre gamut.  Black Pulp is rip-roaring fun offering exciting tales of derring-do from larger-than-life heroes and heroines; aviators in sky battles, lords of the jungle, criminal masterminds, pirates battling slavers and the walking dead, gadget-wielding soldiers-of-fortune saving the world to mysterious mystics.  Available in ebook and print-on-demand, and here’s a riveting review on Los Angeles Review of Books

“Literature for the masses kindled the imagination and used our reading skills so that we could regale ourselves in the cold chambers of alienation and poverty. We could become Doc Savage or The Shadow, Conan the Barbarian or the brooding King Kull and make a difference in a world definitely gone wrong.”–Walter Mosley from his introduction.


Redemption, by Kate Flora

Kate Flora’s Redemption takes us to Portland, Maine, but not to the postcard Maine, or to the action-packed world of police procedurals where handsome big city detectives eat, sleep (with sexy broads,) drink, get beat up (occasionally, and with little bruising), and solve complicated high powered crimes that save the world from catastrophe. No, Kate Flora’s detective, Joe Burgess, is a regular guy. He wishes he could take more showers and get more sleep. He argues with his girlfriend and she moves out. He’s not always happy with his fellow police. And the murder he’s trying to solve in REDEMPION is that of an alcoholic Vietnam vet who has PTSD and supports himself by collecting bottles in the streets of Portland. Flora takes us inside Joe’s world and shows us the underside of Vacationland. It’s not pretty. But it’s real, and Joe is real. Justice ain’t easy. Reading REDEMPTION, I wanted to believe that Joe Burgess wasn’t fictional. Because if I’m ever in trouble, he’s the guy I’d want on my side. In the meantime, I’ll take more books about him from Kate Flora. — Amazon reviewer

Louise’s Gamble, by Sarah R. Shaber

“Shaber brews a delightful mix of feminine wiles (long before women’s liberation) and real-life history that will keep readers turning the pages.”–Publishers Weekly
“Shaber plunges readers into the life of a widow, a working woman in the middle of the war-time shortages and secrets.The suspense and details of life in 1942 all add up to a fascinating story.”-Lesa’s Book Reviews
“This is the second in a series set in Washington, DC during WWII.  Shaber has created a wonderful cast of characters, and the descriptions of 1940s life, including shopping, dining at the Mayflower Hotel, working at the OSS, and living at a boarding house make for a wonderfully entertaining read.”–Historical Novel Society

Angel Among Us, by Katy Munger

Munger follows Angel of Darkness (2012) with another installment in the adventures of Kevin Fahey, the Dead Detective, who continues his postmortem roaming in a small Delaware town, seeking redemption for his past misdeeds. His latest effort involves the disappearance of Arcelia Gallagher. The beloved, pregnant preschool teacher’s distraught husband doesn’t know that his wife has a violent past. The illegal-immigrant community in the town may know why she is missing, but its members are too afraid to speak up. The police investigation keeps officers returning to the local Catholic church and to Delmonte House, a recently restored mansion. The search will keep readers in suspense as officers look for Arcelia, and Fahey stalks the mansion’s halls. Will the police locate Arcelia and will she be alive? Readers who enjoy Mary Stanton’s Beaufort & Company novels will like this series as well, but it will also appeal to procedural fans who can accept the paranormal angle. –Barbara Bibel, BOOKLIST

BROKEN-SHIELD-HI-RESBroken Shield, by J.D. Rhoades

Chief Deputy Tim Buckthorn and his beloved hometown of Pine Lake thought they’d seen the last of FBI agent Tony Wolf. But when evidence of a kidnapping literally falls from the sky, Wolf returns to assist in the search for an abducted young girl. Buckthorn, Wolf, and brilliant FBI prodigy Leila Dushane race against the clock to piece the clues together. When the evil they find follows them home, Pine Lake once again suffers terrible tragedy at the hands of violent and lawless men. Tim Buckthorn, who’s lived his life as a sworn officer of the law, will have to cross every line he ever knew on a quest to protect the people and the place he loves.

“A blistering follow-up to BREAKING COVER. The prose is fast and smart, the pace frantic and the characters driven, dangerous and yet full of heart. BROKEN SHIELD reaffirms JD Rhoades’ position as the king of redneck noir.” -Zoë Sharp, author of the Charlie Fox crime thriller series

Deus ex Machina, by Sparkle Hayter

Two short stories. In Deus ex Machina, a starving writer splurges on a cab ride after missing the last Metro, and ends up on an unexpected journey. In Diary of Sue Peaner, things get a little too real for a reality show contestant.

Open Season on Lawyers, by Taffy Cannon

“Somebody was killing the sleazy lawyers of Los Angeles. In the beginning, hardly anyone even noticed,” begins Taffy Cannon’s (Guns and Roses) sharply clever Open Season on Lawyers. LAPD homicide detective Joanna Davis pursues a murderer whose vengeance takes strange parallels to the lawyers’ perceived crimes (a lawyer who defended a caterer against charges of food poisoning later dies of it, for example); readers just might be torn between wanting her to catch him and wanting him to get away. — Publishers Weekly. This classic from Taffy Cannon is now available for Kindle.

        Coming soon!

plan x mockup 12Rory Tate (also known as Lise McClendon) has a new thriller coming out in early June. PLAN X tells the intriguing story of police officer Cody Byrne, charged with finding the next-of-kin for a professor of Shakespeare injured in a lab explosion. What should be a simple task leads to ancient manuscripts that may or may not be truly Shakespearean and secrets someone is trying very hard to keep.
PLAN X is both thrilling and sophisticated. In a serpentine story that races from small-town Montana to the vaulted halls of Windsor Castle, nothing is as it seems, including the works of the great Shakespeare himself. Former military and current police officer Cody Byrne is unforgettable–a heroine you want to root for. I love this book! –New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author J. Carson Black

A thrilling police procedural as (Iraqi war veteran turned) police officer Cody Byrne investigates the death of a Montana professor who may have been hiding one of the biggest secrets in academia—or perpetuating one of the biggest frauds—one that could scandalize the royal family of Great Britain. An entertaining read!     –Robin Burcell, award-winning author of THE BLACK LIST

Writing Books Writers Really Use

Screen Shot 2012-06-16 at 11.55.26 AMHi, Kate Flora here, writing about writing. Because it comes up so often in conversation with other writers, and in class with my students, this post is about the writing books that writers turn to. While some writers are “go it alone” types, most writers have some special books about writing that have guided them along the way. Some are books we read when we were just starting out, some books we read when we are stuck or need advice about rewrite or revision or we need help in understanding our characters or making them deeper. Some are books we return to time after time because of their inspiration or their wisdom.

Kate Flora: I have a whole shelf of books that I use, because I teach writing as well as “do” writing, and often I’m looking for the clearest way to explain some particular technique of the craft to my students. Among my favorites is John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction. When I first read it years ago, as a very new mystery writer, I decided that according to Gardner’s lights, I wasn’t a writer at all. Over the years, though, I’ve found so much in his book about the craft of writing, and it’s a different book each time I reread it. For nitty-gritty basics, I often turn to a book with a bit of a Hollywood sensibility, Saul Stein’s Stein on Writing because his advice is so clear and practical.

For solid, basic writing advice, writers Sandra Gardner and J.M. Cornwell both suggest Ray Bradbury’s Zen and the Art of Writing. Gardner adds Rita Mae Brown’s Starting from Scratch.

Screen Shot 2013-03-08 at 8.58.25 AMWilliam Martin: When I teach writing, I have my students read Stephen King’s On Writing, though

he doesn’t believe in outlining, which I think is essential especially for beginners who hope to write any kind of genre fiction. I also have them read Christopher Keane’s How to Write a Selling Screenplay. Why a screenplay book for novelists? Because the structural principles are the same, and he does a very good job of laying them out for you. The book has never been out of print in twelve years.

Daniel Moses Luft: I really like Writing the Popular Novel by Loren D. Estleman. There is absolutely no romance of writing in this book. It’s all very nuts and bolts kind of advice about how to tell stories

King’s book comes up repeatedly on writer’s lists as a guide. 

Adam Olenn also suggests Stephen King’s book, saying On Writing is probably the best all-around book on the craft of writing.  Olenn is also an advocate for another book about screenwriting, Story by Robert McKee and The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler.

Kate Flora: I recently bought the Vogler book for my shelf because so many writers have suggested it. The idea of returning to myths as the basis for storytelling comes up again and again when writers talk about their craft. It’s interesting, too, how many of us also turn to books about screenwriting. Maybe because it is such a highly structured version of storytelling. Among my favorites is Save the Cat by Blake Snyder, a book that really pushes us to know what our story is ‘about.’ Can you do an elevator pitch for your story? I still need a very tall building, but Snyder has helped.

Steve Liskowwhose crime story in the Blood Moon anthology is nominated for an Edgar this year, also suggests a  screenwriting book, John Truby’s Anatomy of Story, that helps blend character, plot, and setting. Liskow says Nancy Kress’s book, Characters Emotion & Viewpoint is terrific for character work, and Jack Bickham’s Scene & Structure is a must.

Tess Collins suggests The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri. And James N. Frey’s series of books on writing– my favorite being The Key–How to write a damn good novel using the power of myth.

Kaitlyn Dunnett: I think I’ve said before that I’m not a big fan of how to books. Frankly, they intimidate me, lead to self-doubt, and generally have a negative effect on my productivity. I don’t really know what I’m doing but somehow it comes out right if I trust my instincts. If I start worrying about whether I’ve done all the things I’m supposed to do to write a good novel, I don’t get any writing done. And no, I don’t keep a notebook, either. At best, I occasionally scribble an idea down on a scrap of paper and stick it in a file folder, but then I hardly ever look at what’s in the file folder.

That said, there is one writing book I will recommend, even though I’ve only used it once in writing my own books. It is The Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Linda N. Edelstein, Ph.D. When I was working on Face Down Before Rebel Hooves, the Lady Appleton mystery that uses the greatest number of real people in the plot, I was faced with the dilemma of distinguishing between two historical figures who, on the surface, were very similar. I won’t change anything that’s in the historical record, so it Edelstein’s chapter on Adult Styles was a life saver. Her lists of character traits helped me create two distinct individuals, characterizing one as what she calls a “bossy” and the other as an “adventurer.”

When we posted a query about favorite writing books on Facebook, some of our friends also weighed in on the question of books that help to understand/develop character traits:

Lise McClendon: My new favorite is Wired for Story, about the brain and human storytelling. Good stuff.

Maggie Toussaint: My go-to book is Are you My Type, am I yours? Relationships made easy through the Enneagram, by Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele. This helps me set up conflicted characters in a heartbeat and has lots of cool examples to cement the character type in my feeble brain.

For writers struggling to get started, or those whose creativity may need a writing prompt, John Clark says: I still like What if?: writing exercises for fiction writers, Anne Bernays, Pamela Painter. I came across the first edition when I was asked to teach a creative writing class for the local adult education program when I lived in Chelsea. It’s a great book to encourage beginning and struggling writers because it’s chock full of easy to jump into exercises. I also like Writing Life Stories by Bill Roorbach for anyone wanting to write about families or their own life. Every time I open it, I can see Bill in the small room at Chewonki 12 years ago with his easy going style, pulling a diverse group of would be authors into the realm of possible.

Kieran Shields: I wouldn’t say that I “rely” on any writing book.  I think that does more harm than good.  One book I did I use was Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.  It puts a focus on editing what you’ve written, which is where much of the focus should be. The authors do a good job of providing concrete examples of bad, good, and better pieces of writing so that you can more easily grasp the ideas or techniques they discuss.  But in my opinion, sooner rather than later, you have to put manuals and guides aside and just keep learning by doing.  Read a lot and see what works, keep writing and see what works.

Screen Shot 2013-03-06 at 3.24.39 PM

Kate: Another great go-to book for editing is Chris Roerden’s Don’t Murder Your Mystery. And the book that came up over and over again as one that every aspiring writer should read is Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird.  

As Rick Helms says: Not so much about writing, but about the writing life. I read it pretty much once every couple of years to recharge.

One last thought: Don’t, as one of Kate’s students once did, rush out to buy all of these books, but this can be a very helpful list when you’re stuck, looking for a fresh take, need a break from your book, or are snowed in. Some of the books may be out of print. That doesn’t mean the advice is no longer worthwhile.

And you can join the conversation: What writing books will always have a place on your shelves?

When Modesty is NOT a Virtue . . .

  There is a strong belief in New England   that you don’t “put yourself forward.” Especially, in a small town, the way I grew up, especially if you are a woman. Being proud is a sin. Being modest is a virtue. Talking about your accomplishments is simply not done.

This idea that praise goes to one’s head, that tooting your own horn is unseemly, makes it extremely difficult to perform those tasks that every writer these days must perform. Our publishers, our publicists, our colleagues, and everything in the blogosphere, the twittersphere, and the Facebook universe tells us that we must amass friends, followers, and fans, and constantly work those people so they’re primed to buy our books when those books appear.

Modestly, though. Subtly. While speaking softly. Join the conversation, we’re told. Comment on other people’s blogs. Twitter with the other birds gathered on an interesting branch, and many will flock to your branch as well. Because of my upbringing, because the strictures about not calling attention to myself are so deeply imbedded, I feel sometimes as though I am trying to make the leap into the current world of book promotion with a 500 pound weight attached. I try to jump and the weight snaps me back down.

I used to joke that I created my fan base one reader at a time, through conversations, through library talks and bookstore talks, through the students that I teach, the aspiring writers I try to encourage. Through good works and being a good citizen of the writing community. How old New England is that? The rest of the joke, of course, was that at this pace, I’d have to live for about 500 years to build a big enough base, and so would they.

Now, writers know, that isn’t enough. Those of us lucky enough to have traditional publishers, so that we can see our row of hardcover books growing on the shelf, so we can see people on the plane, subway or train actually holding our books, so that we know they are in libraries and will be available for years to come, no longer a short shelf-life commodity like a loaf of bread, also know that there are tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of talented writers snapping at our heels, wanting our places in the publisher’s “list” and willing to do anything to get that spot. It’s no longer enough to write a good book. Now I have to work very hard to get YOU to want to read it. No. To get you, or your library, to BUY it.

So I wrestle my qualms to the mat. I silence those critical voices in my head. And I keep trying new things. Last summer, believing that there is power in sharing the podium with other talented writers I respect, I founded a blog group,, to talk about living and writing in Maine. The conversation has been fascinating. I’m sending e-mails to libraries. I’m setting up book events. Because I also write true crime, I’m arranging to speak in schools. Yesterday, I announced the “on sale” day of my newest Joe Burgess mystery to all my Facebook friends. I will learn twitter.

Last fall, I joined this group and I find myself in awe of the quality of the posts that my fellow Thalians are writing. I’m also grateful for all the sharing of ideas, opportunities, new things to try, new ways to learn. It’s awfully nice to know that Lise McClendon and Katy Munger have got my back. After I posted on Facebook, Lise sent me a quick note: include a link so they can buy the book. Marketing 101. I don’t know if I got a D or an F. But we’re all students of this brave new world. And if I look at it as an adventure, and not a chore, I may still have two left feet, but my “Buy My Book” dance will get better.

Just so you won’t feel left out, here’s the cover of Redemption, and a lovely review from Booklist. Follow this link, or ask your Indie to order it. Ask for it at your local library. Become my Facebook friend.

Redemption.  Flora, Kate (Author)   Mar 2012. 366 p.  Five Star, hardcover, $25.95. (9781594153792).

When Detective Sergeant Joe Burgess of the Portland (Maine) Police Department finds his friend Reggie Libby drowned in the harbor, he is determined to bring the killer to justice. Reggie, a Vietnam vet who was mentally ill and had fallen on hard times, had apparently started a new job recently. Joe and his colleagues work to determine his place of employment and his movements before his death by interviewing Reggie’s fellow streetpeople and his relatives, including his vindictive former wife and indifferent son. On the home front, Joe’s live-in girlfriend wants to adopt two foster children, and Joe doesn’t feel ready to be a parent. As always, Joe immerses himself in his case, causing problems in his personal life. Framed by the challenges streetpeople face in large cities, this compelling, fast-paced police procedural offers a complex plot, rich with details of conducting a murder investigation and insight into the rigors of the cop’s life. — Sue O’Brien

Chilling Crime for Winter

The theme is winter, and the Thalia Press Authors Co-op rises to the occasion, digging deep into their devious imaginations with short stories of cold, ice, mystery, and of course unexplained homicide.

Eight established crime authors and eight chilling stories to send shivers down your spine: The anthology, Dead of Winter, edited by Katy Munger and Lise McClendon, will release next week as an e-book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Enjoy this collection of intriguing, surprise-filled stories full of buried secrets, back-stabbing and revenge —  all set against the wintry backdrop of the cruelest season. Continue reading “Chilling Crime for Winter”

The Importance of Boots on the Ground

First let it be said that I love research. Maybe too much. When I was writing my historical mysteries I had to finally set aside all the fascinating books and just *write.* Because you don’t want your research to be show-y and all “this is what I know.” It should flow naturally from the story. But a couple weeks ago I found out — in the nick of time — that sometimes all that book and internet research, even your memories of a place you’ve been, aren’t enough. You need boots on the ground.

My new thriller, Jump Cut, comes out next week — officially. I spent a couple days in Seattle shooting video and stills for a book trailer that I cobbled together last week. (Also just in the nick of time! Wouldn’t want to be planning ahead.) While my son (a great photographer, thanks, Nick!) and I drove around the city, getting shots of Seattle iconic sights like the monorail, the Space Needle, the ferries, etc., I noticed something. I had a couple details wrong. And they were, like, really important! In the big climactic scene. Continue reading “The Importance of Boots on the Ground”