Saturday, June 30, 2012

Touched by Death: New Romantic Suspense by Dale Mayer

Romantic Suspense
Death had touched anthropologist Jade Hansen in Haiti once before, costing her an unborn child and perhaps her very sanity. A year later, determined to face her own issues, she returns to Haiti with a mortuary team to recover the bodies of an American family from a mass grave.

Visiting his brother after the quake, independent contractor Dane Carter puts his life on hold to help the sleepy town of Jacmel rebuild. But he finds it hard to like his brother’s pregnant wife or her family. He wants to go home, until he meets Jade – and realizes what’s missing in his own life.

When the mortuary team begins work, it’s as if malevolence has been released from the earth. Instead of laying her ghosts to rest, Jade finds herself confronting death and terror again. And the man who unexpectedly awakens her heart – is right in the middle of it all. 

The women headed to the Iron Market and the few shops open along the way. The elegant mansions and townhomes spoke of days gone by. Once glorious in their regal bearing and bright colors, these buildings had taken a major knock from Mother Nature. Still, even with the damage from the earthquake, Jacmel was a tourist destination like no other. At least here, there were obvious revitalization attempts happening to get the city back on its feet.

The afternoon zipped by at a rapid pace – full of shopping, laughter and fun as the women ran from shop to shop and stall to stall buying a few items to make their job a little brighter and more comfortable. Jade was delighted to find several brightly colored t-shirts and cotton pants in a beige-khaki color. They would withstand a lot of wear and tear. At one brightly festooned stall, she found several hair clips big enough to hold her heavy blond hair off her neck.

If she'd had a little longer to prepare and pack, she'd have gotten a haircut. As it was, the clips would do for now. She could always get it cut here if she couldn't stand the heat. Meg's short curls looked perfect. And Susan's fine black bob that stopped at her chin also looked comfortable.

"Now that has to feel better." Meg patted Jade's hair clip. "Nice. Now I almost wish I had long hair myself. Almost." She grinned and picked up several clips. "I bet my sister would love a couple."

"Later, when it's time to go home. Too much to pack this early."

"You're right." Meg put it back with a sigh. "Too bad though."

As they headed back to the SUV Susan stopped at another brightly colored stall, one festooned with odd-looking handmade dolls. An old short and squat women – wearing so many necklaces, they almost obliterated the sight of her red blouse underneath – worked at the booth. The woman's black gaze latched onto Jade and never let go.

Jade moved to the other side of Susan in an effort to get away from that piercing stare. And came too close to the weird-looking straw and cloth dolls. She noticed the papier-mâché looking ones painted in black with weird markings…and many other items she couldn't begin to recognize. "What are these things?"

"Vodou paraphernalia."

Jade shuddered and took several steps back. "Not for me, thanks."

Susan shook her head vigorously. "No. You don't get it. This stuff is for good luck. Used to ward off bad spirits."

With a second shudder, Jade moved several steps back, shaking her hands in front of her. "I still don't want one."

Susan grinned and reached to pluck her choice off the top of the stall. "Well I do. Just what we need for the grave work."

The transaction was done in silence. The old woman accepting the money never took her eyes off Jade. Unsettled, Jade did everything to avoid her. She wished Susan would hurry.

Finally they were done. Jade turned to leave when the old women moved off her stool so quickly, Jade never would have believed it possible if she hadn't seen it herself. Before Jade could back away the old woman grabbed her by the arm.

"Danger stalks you. You see it but you don't understand it. Careful. Or you will join those that have gone before." She dropped Jade's arm and returned to her stool beside her cart.

Jade froze. So shocked and horrified by the crone's touch, she hardly understood what the old woman said.

Meg grabbed her arm. "Come on," she hissed. "Forget about her. Let's get back to the SUV."

Susan snagged her other arm so the three walked back linked together.

"That was too weird," Meg said. "I'm glad you got a doll, Susan. Good luck is just what we need."

Freelance writer Dale Mayer lives in the beautiful Okanagan valley in British Columbia, Canada. She’s multi-pubbed in nonfiction but her true love is the stories that weave through her mind. For the past nine years, she’s written around the daily responsibilities of being a single mother of four and still squeezes in time to produce new fiction manuscripts each year.

In fiction, she writes taut psychological suspense with romance and paranormal elements. She has recently branched out into both mystery and urban fantasy books for young adult with the occasional vampire book thrown in just for fun.

She’s prolific with her nonfiction work as well. Check out her nonfiction page for more information.
Then there’s her poetry…
My Path
As I walk forward on my path to the future,
I choose laughter, love, and light as my sutures,
stitching together my lifetime of choices,
as the essential fabric of my being rejoices
in the love, friendships, and faith that follow
the steps I take as I flow into my tomorrow.

Enter to win a Kindle formatted copy of Touched by Death.  Ends July 21, 2012

Friday, June 29, 2012

Hope's Betrayal by Grace Elliot: Character Interview, Excerpt

Historical Romance

Hope's Betrayal (#2 The Huntley Trilogy.)

One wild, winter's night two worlds collide.

Known for his ruthless efficiency, Captain George Huntley is sent to stamp out smuggling on the south coast of England. On a night raid, the Captain captures a smuggler, but finds his troubles are just beginning when the lad turns out to be a lass, Hope Tyler.

With Hope as bait, the Captain sets a trap to catch the rest of the gang. But in a battle of wills, with his reputation at stake, George Huntley starts to respect feisty, independent Hope. Challenged by her sea-green eyes and stubborn loyalty Huntley now faces a new threat - his growing attraction to a sworn enemy. But a love where either Hope betrays her own kind, or Captain Huntley is court-marshaled, is not an easy destiny to follow.

Amazon US  |  Amazon UK  |  Smashwords  |  Kobo  |  Goodreads  |   Nook

Lass Not a Lad.

Alone with his prisoner the Captain set to work, his face all harsh angles in the lamplight. First to stem the bleeding. Working with deft hands, he pulled the bloodstained scarf from the felon's head. Surprise registered, as he noted the delicate ears and elegant neck. The boy’s hair gleamed like polished-coal in the lamplight; tied back in a pony tail, black-as-the-devil’s  heart.
Huntley reached for a rag to wipe blood from the boy's eyes and cheek. Soft skin emerged from beneath the clotted mess. The boy was young…a round face with pointed chin, a tipped nose …and lips, softly parted and provocatively plump….just ripe for kissing. A flush of heat warmed Huntley's cheeks. What was he thinking?
Wiping his sleeve across his eyes he forced himself to continue. He bathed the laceration, cleaning away sand and blood. Something about this lad had stirred deep emotions and the captain didn’t like it one little bit. He glanced toward the door, not wanting to be alone with the smuggler and these strange feelings he stirred.
“What the devil's taking that wench so long?”
The fire was crackling nicely now, steam rising from the lad's clothes. But it wasn’t warm enough; cold could kill every bit as much as blood loss.
”Hell's teeth, do I have to do everything myself?”
With rising irritation, Huntley set to stripping the lad of his wet clothes.
He peeled back the patched jacket, twice its weight with water, and dropped it to the floor. A patched and frayed shirt, sticky with blood, clung to the lad’s lean frame. Huntley tugged the shirt-tail free of the lad’s sodden breeches and off over his head, with the result that the Captain's pulse raced alarmingly.
“Get a grip, man.” Huntley muttered.
The lad had unexpectedly slim shoulders, a silver stiletto strapped to his thin upper arm.
Unsheathing the knife he held the elegant blade toward the firelight; a finely crafted weapon of silver filigree over an ivory handle— a lady’s weapon, and obviously expensive.
“Who did you steal this from, then?”
Placing the stiletto safely out of reach, he turned back to the table. Stripped of his shirt, it seemed the lad had broken ribs, for his chest was strapped. The bindings were soaked and must come off. Shifting the unconscious lad into a sitting position, balancing him against his shoulder, Huntley unwound the bandages.
As he lay the lad back down on the table, Huntley was suddenly struck by the peculiar shadows playing across the boy’s chest. A flush of blood heated his cheeks. That explained a lot!  Huntley’s mouth dropped open; he threw back his head and laughed aloud with relief.
“Tis not a lad….but a lass!"
Alone in the scullery with a half-naked girl…no, not a girl, for she had the soft curves of a woman. Huntley took a step back. The sense of relief was overwhelming, that it was a woman who had excited his body so. He looked around for someone to share his astonishment, but the maid had not yet returned.
In his experience women were tiresome, wearisome creatures that sapped the spirit and drained the mind, but he studied this one with interest. Dark lashes lay brushed against her cheek, an almost catlike tilt to her closed eyes. Her skin was clear, fresh, and unblemished. Her face was wide, round even, but with a pointed chin and a nose turned up at the end. In all he decided, she was beautiful with the stubbornness of a mule and fragility of a china doll. She had been a worthy advisory on the dunes; agile, brave and resourceful and it thrilled him to the core. Lost in thought ,Huntley shrugged off his outer coat and covered her over, then removed himself to a respectable distance.
Nothing had changed, he told himself. She was a felon and would pay the penalty demanded by law. And if Huntley felt uneasy at the prospect he suppressed the emotion, it was just that he had to get used to the notion of interrogating a woman.


Hope Tyler is the 'Hope' mentioned in the title of my latest historical romance. Hope is the illegitimate daughter of noble woman who ran away to the Isle of Wight rather than be separated from her child. We meet Hope as a young woman who helps the man she calls father, a fisherman, eek out a frugal living by smuggling.

Thank you for joining us Hope. I understand you are a very private person, but can you tell us a little about your family?

Good day, my name is Hope. In truth, my family history is a tale of light and shade, of great love and cruel rejection. You see my mother, Emma Castelle, was a noble woman who was seduced by a rogue and unfortunately fell pregnant. Her family insisted she gave the baby- me - up. But mother loved her child from the start and rather than give in to her parents, she stole away with me to the Isle of Wight.

It was a fisherman, William Tyler, who put a roof over our heads when mother was alone and penniless, and it is William I am honoured to call my father. He is the kindest, sweetest man and he loves me like his own, but sadly, he is now in failing health. I also have a step-brother, Thomas Tyler, who is loyal without fault, but with a bad habit of getting himself into scrapes.

What is your favourite meal?

Of late, with poor fishing and failed harvests, times have been so hard that I am grateful for any food I can get. However, I can safely answer that my least favourite meal is cockles and winkles! I have spent too many long hours, knee deep in sea-water at low tide, harvesting them for sale in the market, that if I never saw one again it would be too soon. I can taste the crunchy salt in my mouth and feel queasy just thinking about them!

You've had an unusual life to say the least! What would you say was the scariest moment?

That would be the first smuggling run I ever went on - and it was nearly my last! Father was ill and really wasn’t fit to go out on an open boat at the dead of night, so I dressed as a lad and took his place. There was not a star in the sky, the night blacker than pitch and our little boat got half-way across the Solent when a storm blew up. We were tossed like a cork in a wash-tub, and we feared greatly for our lives. I was soaked to the skin and didn’t know which to fear most: drowning, or dying of cold. Any how, by some miracle we made it ashore and apparently my lack of complaint impressed the crew - who welcomed me as one of their crew, despite being a lass, and so it was the first of many runs.

What makes you happy?

A full belly, good companions and a clear blue sky.

What would we find under your bed?

You'd find fishing line, and Tom's outgrown breeches that I wear on smuggling trips.

Do your acquaintances think you are an introvert or an extravert? 

That's a question best answered by my friends, but if forced to answer I'd say a mix of both. Very little frightens me, apart from poverty, hence taking part in smuggling, however I dislike being the centre of attention. I would hope that friends would use words like loyal, brave, truthful, kind and surprising to describe me.

What one word best describes you?

Resourceful. I like to consider myself a resourceful person - that quality has certainly helped me survive to date!

Wow!  Thank you for being so forthcoming! I've enjoyed finding out a little more about you and I'm sure our readers have, as well.  :)

Grace Elliot leads a double life as a veterinarian by day and author of historical romance by night. Grace believes intelligent people need to read romance as an antidote to the modern world. As an avid reader of historicals she turned to writing as a release from the emotionally draining side of veterinary work.

            Grace lives near London and is addicted to cats. The Elliot household consists of five cats, two teenage sons, one husband, a guinea pig - and the latest addition - a bearded dragon!

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One eBook copy of any of my books
(Choose from: A Dead Man's Debt, Eulogy's Secret or Hope's Betrayal)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Maui Widow Waltz by JoAnn Bassett: Interview & Excerpt

Maui Widow Waltz, An Islands of Aloha Mystery

Even "death us do part" couldn't spoil her wedding day plans...
Wedding planner Pali Moon is thrilled when a would-be bride shows up at "Let's Get Maui'd" inquiring about a lavish beach wedding. That is, until she learns it must be on Valentine's Day--just nine days away. Oh yeah, and one other little hitch--the groom disappeared at sea a week earlier. But the bride's convinced he'll be found safe and sound, so she's got a plan--and a man--to do a proxy ceremony if necessary. The day before the big nuptials a man's body washes ashore on a South Maui beach. Has the groom finally shown up? If so, what's it going to be--a wedding...or a funeral?

This is the first book in the series.

People marry for two reasons: love or money. So it was pretty clear what was at stake when she showed up wanting to marry a dead man. I normally run a pretty straight shop—no mai tai infused “quickies” or Elvis-on-the-beach impersonators—but my standards had slipped. In late December a line of squalls had parked over Maui dumping thirteen inches of rain in two weeks. The daily downpours continued through January, sending visitors fleeing back to the mainland like snorkelers spotting a dorsal fin. By early February business all over the island had ground to a halt. My mortgage was in arrears, my day planner was blank, and the credit card people had revoked my Visa. In other words, desperation was the new black.  
On Tuesday morning I laid out my bills, solitaire-style, on my battered Balinese desk. There were supposed to be three piles—those I could pay right away; those I’d pay by the end of February; and those that would never get paid unless I won the lottery. Too bad Hawaii doesn’t have a lottery. Pile number three stood an inch high. The other piles were bare, with only a Post-it note—a freebie from the real estate office across the street—marking the spot.
The door to my shop creaked open and a pale female face peeked around the jamb. In the space above her head I saw the shimmer of wind-whipped rain.
 “Can I help you?” I said looking up not expecting much.
“Are you the wedding planner?” she said in a whisper I associate with people inquiring about illicit drugs.
“I am.” I sprang from behind the desk and gestured for her to come in. She stepped inside and I pushed the door closed against the stiff breeze.
I figured her for early-twenties. She was a pale imitation of me at that age. Shoulder length blunt-cut blond hair, pale topaz blue eyes, and skin the color of haupia—coconut pudding. I had about ten years on her, and since I live in Hawaii my skin’s perpetually tanned. My hair’s a few shades darker, and my eyes more hazel than blue. But in silhouette we shared the same five foot six height, same small build.
“Wow. What a gorgeous ring,” I said zeroing in on her left hand. “I’m Pali Moon, the owner here.”
“Polly? Like the parrot?”
“Well, it’s pronounced the same, but the Hawaiian spelling is P-A-L-I.”
If I’d been more truthful, I’d have explained that Pali isn’t my legal name, but it’s the one I use in everyday commerce to avoid dealing with snorts and chuckles.
Her swift glance around the small room tipped me off this probably wasn’t what she’d imagined when she saw my yellow pages ad. I had no mannequins dressed in wedding gowns costing as much as a small car, no displays of Swarovski crystal-encrusted headpieces, no glossy posters of demure brides and cocky grooms. Just a fifteen by thirty room, split by a plywood wall with a doorframe hung with a bead curtain. Behind the bead curtain I had a small dressing room with a carpeted step-up backed by a three-sided mirror.
“This is ‘Let’s Get Maui’d,’ right?”
“Sure is. And please don’t be put off by the simple digs. We keep overhead low so your costs aren’t high. We focus on making each bride’s special day totally unique—completely original. You bring the dream, we bring the team.” I’d spent the past few weeks brainstorming business slogans and took the opportunity to try a few out on her.
She lifted a nostril as if detecting an obnoxious odor, but managed to twist her lips into a thin smile.
I offered her a seat in the rattan chair across from my desk and she moved toward it, the scent of tuberoses trailing in her wake. I slipped behind the desk, dumping my bills into the pencil drawer as I took my seat.
Something about the tug at the sides of her eyes and her pinched facial expression seemed out of place for a blushing bride, but I chalked it up to the lousy weather.
“Can you put together a fabulous wedding by Valentine’s Day?” she said in the same low murmur as before.
“Of course,” I said, my voice too loud in contrast. “Are you thinking inside or out?”
“Outside. On the beach.”
“No problem. We’ll rent a rain canopy if we need to. How many guests are you inviting?”
“Only a few friends and family.”
“Good. The smaller the better in such a short timeframe.”
“It has to be perfect.”
“We specialize in perfect.” I smiled, but it wasn’t returned.
“No, I mean it. Everything has to be fabulous because my fiancé might not be there. He may have to watch it later on the video.”
“Oh. And he won’t be there because...” I let it trail off—hoping she’d fill in the blank. It’s a common speech pattern with wedding coordinators.
“Because he’s been missing since last Thursday.”
Starting a blog


Today I'm so happy to welcome JoAnn Bassett as my guest.  Thanks for dropping by, JoAnn, and taking time out to talk with me so we can find out a little more about you and your new book.  So, to begin why don't you tell us about your current series.

I’m working on the “Islands of Aloha Mystery Series.” The main character, Pali Moon, is a Maui wedding planner with a resumé that includes a black belt in martial arts and working as an air marshal for Homeland Security. As she says, “It all comes in handy. A wedding planner is just one tea rose away from a drill sergeant.” She’s not a visitor or a transplant to the islands, she’s what they call kama’aina, born and raised in Hawaii. She lives in upcountry Maui and, like most local people, she spends a lot of her time just trying to make ends meet. Each of the stories in the series takes place on one of the major Hawaiian Islands. The first two books—“Maui Widow Waltz” and “Livin’ Lahaina Loca” take place on Maui, where I lived for a number of years. And then starting with the third book the stories will take readers to the other islands—Lana’i, Kauai, O’ahu and finally the Big Island of Hawaii. I don’t have plans for a Moloka’i book yet, but who knows?

Tell us about your next release.

The book I’m currently working on is titled, “Lana’i of the Tiger” and (as you probably guessed) it takes place on the tiny island of Lana’i. Lots of people (both locals and visitors alike) have never been to Lana’i so I thought it’d be fun to feature it as a setting. After all, with the entire world to pick from, Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates chose to get married on Lana’i. My job is to figure out why.

Where do you do research for your books?

Ha! you got me there. I live on the mainland now, so I do a lot of my secondary research on the Internet. But before any book makes it into readers’ hands I actually go to all of the places mentioned in the story. Sometimes my memory is wrong, sometimes things change. I can’t guarantee that everything is exactly as I write it (after all, I make some stuff up) but I’m a big fan of exotic settings and “armchair travel” so I like to make the reader see, feel, smell, hear, and taste the beauty of our fiftieth state while getting engrossed in what I hope is a satisfying mystery.

How do you describe your writing style?

I’d call it “breezy.” I write in first-person, and the main character is a local gal so she’s got a laid-back Hawaiian style of talking and thinking. I try to throw in as much humor as I can get away with while telling a story of murder. As you will see from the excerpt above, Pali’s pretty serious about her work, but the bridal business is rife with opportunities for humor and craziness, so I go with that as much as possible.

 Do you listen to music while writing? If so, what?

Well, I’d be crazy not to. Hawaiian music is fantastic. The wide range—from slack-key guitar, to chant, to island rap—means there’s always something appropriate to whatever mood I’m in. My favorites are the old stand-bys:  Israel Kamakawiwo’ole or “Iz” (the big guy—gone too soon—who did that wonderful rendition of “Over the Rainbow” with ukulele), Jack Johnson, the Brothers Cazimero, and—my all-time favorite—Keali’i Reichel. But sometimes when I’m writing I’ll turn on a local Hawaiian radio station on my computer (KPOA-FM, Maui is a good one) and listen to the radio while I’m writing. It’s great to listen to not only the music but also the sing-song cadence of the DJ’s voices.

What book are you reading now?

I’m one of three authors in ‘misterio press’—a co-op of independently published mystery writers. The other two writers are Kassandra Lamb and Shannon Esposito. Right now I’m reading Kassandra’s newly released romantic suspense, “Family Fallacies” about a therapist/counselor who finds herself in the crosshairs of a group of “false memory” fanatics who claim the therapist has deceitfully convinced her client she was a victim of childhood sexual abuse.  It’s a psychological mystery along with a tender love story—great stuff!

What are your favorite TV shows?

Well, of course Hawaii Five-O is right up there. I love the great camera work, the fast banter between the characters and the music. Sometimes the plot lines are a bit over-the-top but that’s okay because as long as Alex O’Loughlin’s on camera—I’m loving it. I also like The Mentalist and Modern Family. I think the humor in Modern Family is some of the best TV writing (and acting) ever done (short of Seinfeld).

Tell us about the absolute BEST fan letter you’ve received.

That’s hard. Can I have two? My first was a review on Amazon where the reviewer said she’s lived on Maui for a long time and she got my book so she could pick it apart. She said almost everyone who writes books that take place in Hawaii get it all wrong. She titled her review, “Pleasantly Surprised” and went on to say she enjoyed the book a lot. My second was from a fan who went to my website and asked when the next book in the series would be out. I told her it would be mid-September and she wrote back and said, “I can’t wait until September!” Nothing like having readers chomping at the bit to get me to sit down and get ‘er done. 
Thanks (Mahalo) Laurie, for this opportunity to talk with your blog readers. It’s been fun. And remember, there are three free paperback (or Kindle, if you prefer) copies of the first book in the “Islands of Aloha” mystery series up for grabs so just enter using the rafflecopter form below and be sure to leave a comment on the blog post for a bonus entry.

JoAnn grew up in Seattle, but always preferred palm trees to pine trees. She wrote training programs for firefighters for almost twenty years, but always hoped to make a day at the beach an everyday event. In 1996, she bought an oceanfront home on Maui--best day ever. She loved every day she spent there, but now lives mostly in Southern Arizona (her husband wasn't the island rat she was...). She travels to the islands throughout the year, and enjoys writing about life on "the most idyllic islands in the Pacific."

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Desperate Measures by Cindy Huefner Cromer: My Review

DESPERATE MEASURESThe secret is out AGAIN…! This time lives are in jeopardy.
What should have been the perfect vacation soon became a nightmare. Caitlin Martel made a stop before meeting her family at Miami International Airport. A cryptic message waited for her. She dismissed the threat and assumed it was directed toward the brilliant scientist that she recently hired. Caitlin has no idea that a forgotten secret was about to explode and put her life in jeopardy.

When Caitlin and her family arrive on the Caribbean Island of St. Kitts, they find their dream home vandalized. In the kitchen, another message has been left. In blood, leaving no doubt that Caitlin personally is the target.

In a flashback Caitlin recalls the secret that her father, Jack Spencer, revealed to her sixteen years ago. He didn’t tell her everything. Will Jack be able to confront the truth and reconstruct the past in time to save his daughter?

Caitlin’s husband Scott, FBI Assistant Director, also believes the threats are related to Caitlin’s professional life. Once Caitlin points out the significance of what was left in their home, Scott unofficially brings his top FBI agent, Tomas Medina, to St. Kitts.

When Tomas arrives, his status is quickly upgraded and the investigation becomes official. The third threat creates a direct link to multi-billionaire Lukas Bucklin.

The suspense escalates through twists, turns, and family secrets yet to be revealed. A

powerful climax unveils an unlikely alliance between two deadly and dangerous enemies.

My Rating 2.5 stars

Just before leaving for the much anticipated annual family vacation, Caitlin receives a cryptic, threatening message. Determined to enjoy her holiday, she tries to shrug it off as a prank, or someone disgruntled over her recent decision to hire a scientist with a tarnished reputation. However, when the family arrives on the small Caribbean island they find out their home has been burgled. Trouble has followed Caitlin. As the threats escalate, Caitlin is forced to confront some issues in her past that she thought were behind her.

I wanted to love this book. Just the thought of reading a mystery set on a beautiful, secluded island appealed to me, and I began reading it with high expectations. Unfortunately, the setting faded into the background as painfully contrived conversations took center stage. A least two separate characters had extended conversations with themselves; a transparent attempt to convey information to the reader. For me, there were entirely too many characters. I never did figure out who all of them were, and, after a bit, I gave up really caring who they were. We are asked to believe that Caitlin is this strong, self-assured person, but she often acts impetuously and without any consideration for others. Frankly, I did not ever warm up to her. The awkwardly contrived conversations, Caitlin’s obtuse stubbornness and occasional outright stupidity, and the myriad of aunts, uncles, cousins and siblings made reading this book more frustrating than enjoyable.

Reviewed for Night Owl Reviews

View all my reviews

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I've Already Met the Devil - An American Life, Two American Wars by RK Price : Interview & Excerpt

Historical Fiction

A horde of battle hardened Nazi panzers charge over the frozen landscape of Bastogne in a last, desperate act to fulfill Hitler’s maniacal dream. Calmly waiting in his machine gun nest is the teenager from Colorado. His eyes are focused on the tree line, and his frostbitten fingers touch the trigger. Archangelo, known as Johnny, is about to meet the devil, and he’s about to spit in his eye.

Johnny, the last of Nick and Angelina’s seven children, stands his ground that Christmas night as he has throughout his service in the elite corps of the 101st Airborne Division. He returns home a humble, reluctant hero searching not for acclaim, but for peace, to shed his nightmares of death, to find comfort with his family, and make his way with Carlo, the brother he adores. But the devil returns, defiant and dangerous as ever.

Johnny’s own kind, people of his Sicilian heritage, present the ultimatum: Join us in our corrupt, diabolical world, or you will be destroyed and everything you fought for in your first war will be lost. In this second war against his neighbors, does he spit, once again, in the devil’s eye?

“I’ve Already Met the Devil”

We were going to war.  We didn’t want to.  We had been shoved, pulled, jerked - screaming and thrashing - into the conflict. But now that the fight was forced upon us we would answer with a fury. We knew the enemy.  It is cloaked in its pin-striped uniform.  It is well-equipped and supported with regiment-sized forces. It has abundant weapons; refined tactics and a relentless pursuit of its cause. There was no doubt who or what it was, and there was no mistake that evil oozed from every pore in its body. 
I had known that kind of enemy once, had already met him; had already met the devil on the battlefield when he tried to annihilate the world. My disgust for him is all-consuming, and my revulsion for the new devils in my life still haunts me now. 
When I look back on those days and weeks prior to our counterstrike, I find the details difficult to reconstruct.  We covered our tracks so well, and our well-crafted alibis became so impenetrable that sometimes separating fact from fiction is not an easy exercise.  I do know that it took meticulous planning and preparation. I was responsible for that. The technical part was easy for Maggie.  She had had plenty of training and plenty of practice at her special craft, and she was riveted on the task at hand. 
We would have liked to put the events into motion sooner than we did, but we had to give time for Maggie’s belly to flatten and for her strength to return.  We now had a baby girl, eight pounds, thirteen ounces; born one month after they released Julie from the hospital.  We named her Rose. She would blossom. 
After that, some six weeks of relative quiet and calm passed with the exception of the occasional dirty diaper or nighttime hungry yelp here and there.  Tranquility prevailed in the early weeks of our second child’s life. But soon we knew our mission would begin in earnest. 
The shock back to reality interrupting our brief retreat to a normal life came with the fourth raid on the restaurant carried out by Borgstadt’s patrolmen. 
Again, they failed to find anything, and failed to scatter our customers.  Their leader didn’t bother showing up that night to review the good works of his gofers. 
We had waited for Borgstadt with hot coffee brewing. We would have enjoyed the confrontation with him.  We could see the detective for what he really was – a cheap, ugly, ramshackle stand-in for Strawberry.
Tying Borgstadt to Strawberry had been easy.  Stupid cops, playing mobsters out in plain sight, with their capo hiding behind a gold shield pinned to his chest. Their belligerent, harassing raids had become almost comical, but we weren’t laughing.
The next morning after Borgstadt’s no-show we returned to duty with renewed vigor.
 The complicated part of our plan was deployment.
Surveillance of our targets came first.  We were challenged with finding, tracking and predicting the routines of our enemies. We turned the tables on them from being the stalkers to those being stalked. That part was relatively easy in spite of the fact that since the Apalachin raids Jimmy and his boys had gone further underground, hiding and scheming; pushing and peddling, extorting and robbing from bunkers in blanketed obscurity.
My Army days helped us considerably in plucking the rats from their holes. Tactics and maneuvering skills came back to me rather quickly once I put my mind to it.  When we had the intelligence, and when we decided where to act, the rest was the not-so-simple stage of execution. Our timing had to be perfect to carry out our deed successfully, and what we desperately needed on our chosen night were a few extra minutes for added safety. And so a time-consuming decoy was in order. 
 On that night we watched from afar as the big cars gathered beneath the giant tree.  We knew which one he drove.  We had been told he would come that night to share his demented wisdom with the others.  Time to move out.
I felt horrible about having to wrap that big male raccoon in the trip wire that surrounded Jimmy’s compound. I’m still not sure what the slightly-built thug did with the angry, snarling animal after he unearthed himself from Jimmy’s cave to investigate the noise.
Whatever happened between Jimmy’s tiny trooper and  the squealing varmint, we’ll never know for sure, but I do know that Jimmy’s guy bellowed louder than our hissing decoy, cussing and moaning all the way back to the trap door entrance to his boss’ cavern.
What we also know is that it took him thirty minutes to find the location of the disturbance.  And that’s all the extra time we needed.
That additional half-hour allowed Maggie, dressed all in black and moving through the darkness with stealth precision, to install the device to the undercarriage of the big Lincoln, make the proper connections, and set the timing trigger.
She returned to our chosen spot, adrenaline pumping and panting hard, with a thumbs-up. And then we waited in the shadow of a dim moonlight.  It was now well past midnight and into the early hours of the morning.  Maggie, hard to see draped in her dark clothing, dozed off.  I had trouble staying awake myself.  Our vantage point was about a half-mile away. We kept watch through the highest powered set of binoculars on the market - Army-Navy surplus.
And then, as the sun peeked just above the horizon yet the sky was still a hazy grey, I caught sight of some movement below. A number of shadowy figures emerged. I laid there waiting, tense. Finally, I saw him. The fat man appearing in the dim light. My heart pounding in my chest.  There he was at last, carrying his right hand with his left in a strange way as if it hurt him. He walked slowly, a deliberate, plodding gait, with his head down and shoulders stooped.  He looked tired, forlorn, and I almost felt a twinge of sympathy. Almost. He arrived, opened the car door and edged his way in.  The dome light came on.  I could see his face clearly. I hated the sight.  A moment later a blinding light.
Maggie didn’t care to see.  I was glad the guard dog, a German Shepherd, was some distance away when the blast occurred.  The animal was not hurt. The flash came first and then the sound an instant later. Maggie turned to go, but I grabbed her arm, taking a moment to gaze at the spectacle, the devastation. 
We dashed to our awaiting truck, the bright orange ball erupting behind us, racing skyward, consuming the Lincoln and its occupant.
We sped away in the opposite direction of the scene, and could not hear the German Shepherd barking hysterically at the flames.

How did you start your writing career?

Everyone is a writer or at least they should be. In this world if you can’t write, at least bring an understandable sentence together, trouble is ahead. What we have had and will continue to love and hate are story tellers.  If you can tell a compelling story, then you might be an author.  Writing is mechanical; it should function like a machine; turn it on and turn it off.  Basic stuff.  However, good story telling should be magical and mystical like a blooming flower.  Great story telling is like a flower that blooms in the night.  Boris Pasternak and Larry McMurtry are great authors. They let you see that flower blooming at night even when its pitch black.

Tell us about your current release.

I’ve had a love affair with “I’ve Already Met the Devil” for more than twenty years.  It’s one of those stories that blossoms in your heart one day like when you captured the attention of the pretty girl who sat behind you in sixth grade and after being apart for many years finding her and falling in love all over again.  Most of the main characters and certainly the main story line are based on true events. I knew many of these people.  I was part of their lives. Names have been changed and time sequences are different but cold hard facts are retold throughout. The book is historical fiction yet if you were to research the history of Pueblo, Colorado and its many fascinating citizens who lived through the first seventy odd years of the twentieth century you would find distinct parallels in each chapter. You embark on a journey with Brothers, Johnny and Carlo.  You learn about Sicilian American immigrants. Their culture. Their struggles.  Their achievements and their tragedies. You discover the Steel City of the West.  You meet another forgotten hero of World War II and you join him in his fight against tyranny.  You meet and defeat the Devil in Europe yet you return home to face another Devil as evil and as deadly as your enemy overseas. The Mafia in Southern Colorado? Who knew?  You  learn about this dark spot in America’s past and much more from reading Devil. Keep an American history book on your nightstand while reading. I hope you fall in love like I did.  

Tell us about a favorite character from a book.

By far it is Johnny.  In real life he was the father I never had. He was a man short on stature but a pillar of strength and integrity.  He was that true American hero who lied about his age, joined the Army after Pearl Harbor and at 19 young years, parachuted behind German lines on D-Day along with those other great men made famous by Stephen Ambrose in his “Band of Brothers” epic.  Johnny fought in that war with great honor and he brought that honor home to oppose a growing cancer on his community.  His new enemies were his own people, those Italians and Sicilians who were friends and neighbors, now corrupted by power and greed festered by a seething criminal element few people knew even existed in that part of the country.  New York, Chicago, yes, that’s where the Mafia thrived.  Colorado, no, it couldn’t happen there.  But yes it did, and Johnny and his brother were on the front lines of the battle against it.  That’s why he’s my hero and why I told his story.   

Tell us about your next release.

My next book is called the “Thunderbird Conspiracy, Oswald’s Friend Robert Kaye.”  The book is due out in mid July.  You might recognize the name Oswald.  Yes, it’s the same Oswald as in Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of President John F. Kennedy.  Thunderbird is also a book based on true events.  Robert Kaye, the central character, was an employee of my uncle until the fall of 1963.  He was a true enigma; a mysterious little man with a fiery temper and a radical view of the world at that time.  He professed a love of America but a hatred for its leaders including our President.  He claimed to have met and befriended Oswald during the months leading up to the assassination, and in the minds of many helped Oswald carry out the killing. The book presents a new, dramatically different entry to a long list of conspiracy theories. Thunderbird is historical fiction.  It is a true tale about my beloved uncle and many members of my family.  That story is interwoven with Kaye’s as we came to know and despise him. Kaye’s name and his many aliases were made public in 2008 when additional Kennedy assassination documents were declassified by the National Archives.  Take a look.  You will be as intrigued as I was.  Thunderbird will grab you by the throat and won’t let go for 400 pages. Visit my website and tell me what you think. 

Who is your favorite author? 

E.L. Doctrow is the master at historical fiction.  No one comes close in this generation to his wonderful treatment of historical figures and events while integrating fictional characters into scenes that bring to life the times in which he chronicles.  I admire that skill immensely. May his work continue with even greater intensity.   

What are you passionate about these days?

The rampant downward slide of our country’s appreciation for language arts.  We are bastardizing the English language and its masterful application.  There are so many fabulous wordsmiths among us who go unnoticed in favor of exploitive trash like the recent erotic trilogy making millions while forsaking event simple sentence structure. Come on, how many times can one use the word scurrilous and get away with it?

Beatles or Monkees? Why?
Of course, the Beatles.  They were outliers who worked their ten thousand hours in dive German bars before perfecting a talent which people will still celebrate five hundred years from now.  Sorry, Davy Jones, may he rest in peace.

R.K. Price is a Colorado native. He lived in Pueblo for a number of years, earning his way through college as a radio/television and newspaper reporter. He moved north to Denver in the mid 70s, joining a major advertising/public relations firm as a writer, producer and press agent. Later, he formed his own media relations and political consulting firm. He spent the early 1980s in Washington D.C. actively involved in national politics, and returned to Denver in the mid 80s to become an investment and mortgage banker — a profession he remains in today. He now lives in Alexandria, VA with his wife Janet and daughter Sara.

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Print copies of I've Already Met the Devil and The Thunderbird Conspiracy
Two winners! Ends July 28th