Thursday, December 17, 2020

Author Showcase: Charles Dougherty

 The inspiration for the J.R. Finn Sailing  Series

I was alone, tying my dinghy to a marina dock in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia. Looking down at the cleat as I secured the bow line, I was surprised when two bare feet came into view.

"Coming or going?" a girl asked.

Glancing up at her, I saw that she was deeply tanned, with shoulder-length hair bleached by sun and saltwater. She wore cutoffs and a plain, white T-shirt. A worn backpack hung from one shoulder. Smiling, she looked me in the eye. She was an appealing young woman in her early twenties — about my daughter's age.

"Sorry," I said. "What's that?"

Holding my gaze, she grinned. "Are you just arriving, or are you about to leave St. Lucia?"

"I've been here a couple of days," I said.

"I'm looking for a ride. Are you by yourself?"


"Got a lady aboard?" she asked.

"My wife."

"That's cool," she said. "I'm flexible if you guys are."

I shook my head. "We aren't planning to leave any time soon. Sorry."

"No problem, but if you hear of anybody looking for crew, they can find me in the bar."

"Where are you headed?"

"Anywhere," she said. "I need to get out of St. Lucia. Thanks."

I nodded, and she turned away, heading for the bar in the marina.

That was twenty-plus years ago, but the memory is vivid. She was living dangerously. Did I look harmless to her, or was she so desperate to leave that she didn't care?

I've often wondered what became of her. Every time I hear about a woman going missing, she comes to mind.

Early in 2018, I decided to write a third series of sailing thrillers. My first two series, the Bluewater Thrillers and the Connie Barrera Thrillers, were well established. The Connie Barrera books are a spin-off from the Bluewater series, so I was looking for something different. I needed a new challenge. I settled on a male protagonist, as both of my established series featured women in the lead roles.

My protagonist is a retired government assassin named Finn. He lives on a beat-up old sailboat in the islands. Maybe Finn's not really retired. He does a little contract work for his old employer sometimes.

Needing an opening scene for Finn's first adventure, I drew on memories of my years sailing the Caribbean. That young woman I met in St. Lucia had promise. What if she wasn't as clean-cut as she appeared? She might have been looking for trouble. What if she approached Finn instead of me?

And that's how Assassins and Liars began. The young woman found Finn tying up his dinghy in Puerto Real, Puerto Rico. She introduced herself as Mary O'Brien and told him she was looking for a ride.

And so the J.R. Finn Sailing Mystery Series began. Eight books later, Finn's still trying to understand what Mary's game is, but he's enjoying her company. She seems to be fond of him, too, but there's still plenty of trouble ahead for both of them. I'm working on the ninth book in the series, and I'm enjoying their company more with every chapter.

For more information on the Finn books, go to

Sharks and Prey


Kidnapping, Sex-Trafficking and Betrayal in the Islands

Sharks and Prey is the eighth and latest book in the J.R. Finn sailing mystery series. The series begins in Puerto Rico with Assassins and Liars, when Finn meets Mary O'Brien.

"People just call me Finn," he says, by way of introduction.

Finn is retired after a 20-odd-year career as an assassin with an unnamed government agency, but he still handles a contract job for them once in a while.

He's about to leave on a mission when Mary appears out of nowhere and asks to hitch a ride on his sailboat. She doesn't care where he's going; she just wants to leave Puerto Rico in a hurry.

Finn agrees to take her along, thinking she'll provide cover for his clandestine mission. The trouble begins before they even leave port. Mary isn't at all what she appears to be, but somehow, she and Finn become a couple over the course of several books.

In Sharks and Prey, Finn’s daughter, Abby, disappears from a beach resort in Antigua while on a semester break. Finn and Mary have just arrived in Antigua aboard their boat, Island Girl, to relax between missions. They learn that Abby’s missing when they see a poster in the Customs and Immigration office.

Finn has never met Abby; her mother divorced him while he was on a clandestine mission over 20 years earlier. He hasn’t spoken to his ex-wife since he left on that mission, but he’s followed his daughter’s life from afar. Distressed, Finn calls his ex-wife and offers his help.

Join Finn and Mary in Antigua as they wreak havoc while looking for Abby and her roommate.

Another page-turner in the J. R. Finn series, Sharks and Prey is perfect for fans of mystery / thrillers set in the Caribbean.

Learn more at

Author Bio

Charles Dougherty has written over 35 mystery/thrillers in three series set in Caribbean sailing world, plus two non-fiction books about life as a full-time cruising sailor, and a few other stand-alone novels.

Dougherty is a lifelong sailor; he's lived what he writes. He and his wife spent over 30 years sailing together. For 15 years, they lived aboard their boat full-time, cruising the East Coast and the Caribbean islands. They spent most of that time exploring the Eastern Caribbean. Dougherty is well acquainted with the islands and their people. The characters and locations in his novels reflect his experience.

A storyteller before all else, Dougherty lets his characters speak for themselves. Pick up one of his sailing thrillers and listen to the sound of adventure as you smell the salt air. Enjoy the views of distant horizons and

meet some people you won't forget.

These days, Dougherty and his wife are living in Texas to be close to their two children and eight grandchildren. As he says, "The sea and the islands will always be there, but little ones grow up quickly."

Find out more about his books at

Friday, December 4, 2020

First Friday in December-Dougherty, Iyer, Vidler

 It’s First Friday, when three authors post their 150-word stories based on a single picture. Read them! You may find a new author to follow. Here’s the inspiration.

Nick Fewing, Unsplash


It Ain't So Bad, Really

Me and the dogs, we seen better days. Worse days, too, though. Just now, it ain't so bad. We got one another for company, and to keep warm. Out here's a pretty good place to be; it beats them shelters all to hell. That's for sure. Shut up in there with all them bums, that ain't so good. Ain't so healthy, either. Not with the virus goin' round. Better out here, where the air's fresh and clean.

Yep, I been in worse places. The dogs, too. People think it's dangerous out here, but they got no clue. It's like a damn park compared to some of the places I been.

The only problem now is the restaurants bein' closed. Dinin' from their dumpsters ain't what it once was, what with all that carry-out business. But don't worry about us. We're gettin' by, and Christmas is comin' soon.


As I approached the man and his dog, I looked straight ahead. If I didn’t see the homeless I could convince myself they didn’t exist. That wasn’t true, of course, and I was ashamed for thinking it. As I passed, the old dog left his master’s lap and inched toward me. He seemed to know me. I stooped to scratch his neck when I noticed the white spots on his ears. I knew that dog. I gave the lab to someone many years ago. I studied the man. He raised his gaze, and our eyes met.

“Richie?” I said.

The man lowered his head and covered his face with his arm. My heart sank and soared simultaneously. “Richie,” I repeated. “I’ve searched everywhere for you.”

“I couldn’t let you see me this way,” he said.

“Now that I’ve found you, little brother, I’ll never let you go again. Come home.”


The dog did it. No one noticed Wilder. People focused on Harpo, and Wilder kept his head down. Folks were generous at Christmas, especially with the dog on his lap. A little boy offered Harpo his hamburger. Iffy situation, that one—the dogs were trained to never accept food from strangers. Wilder whispered firmly and Harpo scarfed it down. The kid beamed.

They’d collected quite a bit in the cup. But it was cold, the concrete was hard, and they’d been here for three days. Was it worth it? Street gossip said Bully Bill met with his dealer here, and Wilder and Harpo were ready.

And there he was, the fat man with bulging pockets. Harpo’s hair rose, and Wilder felt the silent rumble in the dog’s chest. Harpo’s muscles bunched. Wilder lifted the Glock from under the blanket. “GO!”

Harpo sprang.

Surveillance was a bitch, but it paid off.

 About the Authors

CLR Dougherty

Charles Dougherty has written over 35 mystery/thrillers in three series set in Caribbean sailing world.

Dougherty is a lifelong sailor; he's lived what he writes. For 15 years, he and his wife lived aboard their boat full-time, cruising the East Coast and the Caribbean islands. They spent most of that time exploring the Eastern Caribbean. Dougherty is well acquainted with the islands and their people. The characters and locations in his novels reflect his experience.

A storyteller before all else, Dougherty lets his characters speak for themselves. Pick up one of his sailing thrillers and listen to the sound of adventure as you smell the salt air. Enjoy the views of distant horizons and meet some people you won't forget.

Find out more about Charles Dougherty and his books at

Sharks and Prey

Kidnapping, Sex-Trafficking and Betrayal in the Islands

Sharks and Prey is the eighth book in the J.R. Finn sailing mystery series.

Finn’s daughter, Abby, disappears in Antigua while on a semester break. Finn has never met Abby; her mother divorced him while he was on a clandestine mission over 20 years earlier. He hasn’t spoken with his ex-wife since he left on that mission, but he’s followed his daughter’s life from afar.

 Finn and his friend Mary visit Antigua aboard their boat, Island Girl, for a short holiday. They discover Abby’s missing when they see a poster in the Customs and Immigration office.

 Distressed, Finn calls his ex-wife and offers his help.

Join Finn and Mary in Antigua as they wreak havoc while looking for Abby.

Sharks and Prey is perfect for fans of mystery / thrillers set in the Caribbean.

Learn more at

Polly Iyer

Polly Iyer is the Amazon bestselling author of ten books of suspense. They include Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, we are but WARRIORS, Kindle Scout winner Indiscretion, and four books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series: Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, Backlash, and The Scent of Murder. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and monthly on the Blood Red Pencil Blog. Website

we are but WARRIORS


Her latest book, we are but WARRIORS, is about an Israeli publisher whose Middle East peace plan divides his country into supporters and enemies. Some even want him dead before he speaks at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. It’s up to General Benjamin Lowe’s Security Agency and his twin sons, one a disabled Afghanistan vet, the other a covert military operator, to thwart a wily assassin and the sinister cabal behind an operation that could change the face of the Middle East, with a shrinking timeframe to prevent it. 

Ellis Vidler

Ellis is filling in for someone who couldn’t make it this month. She’s the author of five suspense novels (one with Jim Christopher) and two short story collections.

Cold Comfort

After being dumped by her faithless fiancé, Claire Spencer abandons her dreams and settles for a quiet life as a Williamsburg Christmas shop owner. So how does she become a killer’s target?

Sometime security consultant Riley, burned out and haunted by a young girl he couldn’t save, vows never to work with women again. But when a thug tries to kill Claire, Riley's plans go all to hell. Knowing she’s in danger, he can’t walk away.

While dodging speeding cars, ducking bullets, and escaping through murky swamp waters, conventional Claire and freewheeling Riley struggle against their powerful chemistry—if she’s picket fences, he’s barbed wire.


Join us! Post your own version in the comments--150 words. 

Friday, November 6, 2020

First Friday! Woohoo--Alexander, George, Helms!

 It's First Friday again, and time for a welcome distraction from the news. Three 150-word stories based on a single picture by three very different authors. Read them and find some great authors to love.

Dreamstime by @Raggedstonedesign


"The Tree"

I come here every year on our anniversary. I come to remember the day I carved our initials on the trunk of this old tree. How her blue eyes sparkled and the wind tossed her long blonde hair across her face. Her excitement was contagious and I laughed at her sassy commentary on how together we’d change the world.

We built our house close enough so we could watch as the tree grew older and bent with age while we did the same.

I turn and walk back home. I stop on the bottom step, remove my boots, and enter the warmth of the kitchen.

“Come out of the cold, you old fart.”

My beautiful girl still puts a smile on my face. Her hair is silver now but the sparkle hasn’t left her eyes.

Did we change the world? She changed mine.



"Now what: A Retelling"

My start was great. Dr. Frank, as I call him, selected only the best parts. When he connected me and I sprang to life, I almost laughed at Igor’s startled reaction.

I was put to work immediately, tidying, scrubbing. I had a purpose in life. I was fulfilled.

You could have knocked me over with my feather duster when Dr. Frank presented me with my Bride. My solenoids overflowed with joy.

We awaited All Hallows Eve with almost unbearable anticipation. That would be our big night. I didn’t know it would be the end. I thought our happy life would go on. And on.

Dr. Frank drove us to the huge, crumbling mansion and gave us our instructions. I loved turning my head, raising my hand, and intoning, “Run.” My Bride would cackle.

This morning, though, we were dumped here. My power is failing.

Now what?


"The Tree"

Then came a day when the boy returned to the tree. The tree was overjoyed to see the boy, now grown into a man, but the boy seemed troubled.

The boy said. “May I use your limb?”

The tree said, “For what purpose?”

“I want to throw this rope around it,” the boy said, and he held up a thick hemp rope onto which he had fashioned a noose.

The tree felt sympathy for the boy and could not keep its silence. “Boy,” it said, “We can find another way…”

“What?” the boy said. “You think this is for me? It’s for Rocco, the guy stuffed in the trunk of my car.”

“Ah,” the tree said. “Of course. Rocco is a rat. He deserves whatever he gets. You are welcome to my limb.”

The boy tossed the rope over the limb and walked back toward his car.

And the tree was happy.



Jerrie's characters weave their way through death and danger to emerge stronger, because of, and on occasion, in spite of, their love for each other. If they’re tough enough, they live happily ever after.

The author of eleven romantic suspense books, she's added the contemporary erotic romance genre to her booklist.

Jerrie lives in Texas, thrives on sunshine, children’s laughter, sugar (human and granulated), and researching for her heroes and heroines. Find a complete list of her books at or contact her at

Come Hard

Permanent isn’t in my vocabulary…until she walks through my door.

My brokerage business built me billions, and my clubs wet my appetite. Not many women can handle the kind of kink I crave. When fate has Morgan knocking on my door, all I want to do is take her to Club Silken and make her scream.

Relationships are for the weak…so why do I want to give up control the moment we meet?

I’ve only experienced sex in shades of vanilla, but Zack…oh God, Zack…he turns me inside out with desires I’ve never known I had, but I sure as hell want to explore. 

Come Hard is available for preorder for $.99 until November 10 when it changes to $3.99.



Kaye George is a national-bestselling, multiple-award-winning author
of pre-history, traditional, and cozy mysteries (her latest is the
Vintage Sweets series from Lyrical Press). Her short stories have
appeared online, in anthologies, magazines, her own collection, her
own anthology, DAY OF THE DARK. She is a member of Sisters in Crime,
Smoking Guns chapter (Knoxville), Guppies chapter, Authors Guild of
TN, Knoxville Writers Group, and Austin Mystery Writers. She lives and
works in Knoxville, TN.

Deadly Sweet Tooth

Second in the series: Vintage sweets, a deadly surprise, and a
mischievous Maine Coon cat—Deadly Sweet Tooth is the delightful cozy
mystery you’ve been waiting for!

In a darling tourist town like Fredericksburg, Texas, a vintage sweet
shop offering delicious old-fashioned favorites is a perfect fit—until
someone decides to debut a recipe that’s lusciously lethal…

Kaye George, National Best-selling & Agatha-nominated mystery author~~
REVENGE IS SWEET, 1st in new series~~
DEADLY SWEET TOOTH, 2nd, out now~~
Sign up for my newsletter above (or on Facebook)


Derringer and Thriller Award Winner

Richard Helms

Former college professor and forensic psychologist Richard Helms is the author of 20 published novels, including Brittle Karma, coming in November from Black Arch Books. He has been nominated eight times for the SMFS Derringer Award, winning it twice; six times for the PWA Shamus Award; twice for the ITW Thriller Award, winning it in 2011; and once for the MRI Macavity Award. He is a winner of the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award for his novel Paid in Spades. His short story "See Humble and Die" (The Eyes of Texas, Edited by Michael Bracken, Down and Out Books, 2019) was selected for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's Best American Mystery Stories 2020. An avid woodworker, gourmet cook, and fan of the Carolina Tarheels and Panthers, Richard Helms lives with his wife Elaine in Charlotte, NC.

Brittle Karma

Eamon Gold is your basic meat-and-potatoes San Francisco private eye. He's a blue-collar sleuth just trying to keep his head above water in a tough, knuckles-and-know-how business.

Abner Carlisle spent a quarter century in a ten-by-six cell on twenty-three hour a day lockdown, serving a sentence for a botched armored car robbery. After he is released, he asks Eamon Gold to find the wheelman for the robbery, Eddie Rice, who disappeared years earlier with the take and Carlisle's daughter Lydia. Gold suspects that Carlisle intends to murder Rice, and refuses the case.  Carlisle is found murdered in his hotel room days later, piquing Gold's interest. Gold discovers that the insurance company that paid off the armored car claim will pay ten percent for any amount of the heist money that is recovered.

Gold, temporarily bucks-up but ready for a challenge, takes up the search for Eddie Rice on spec, trying to make a little quick bank on the coldest of cold cases he's ever investigated. As usual, things become complicated.

Brittle Karma, an Eamon Gold novel, coming in November from Black Arch Books!


Feel free to join in--150 words for your take. Post in the comments. 

Friday, October 2, 2020

October First Friday--Bell, Carenen, Manning

Edward Howell on Unsplash
 It's First Friday again, when three talented authors with different voices give their take on one photo in 150 words. Take a look at the authors--you'll want to see their books too.


Well, that didn’t work out so good. My name is Frank Pushman and I’m a confidential PI. The last thing I remember Vinnie the Snake Marconi hires me to investigate his wife. Seems Vinnie believes Lucille, the Las Vegas showgirl he married, is being unfaithful. I know Vinnie ain’t no rocket scientist, but he may be clairvoyant. Cuz, not even 24-hours into the case, I discover Lucille has a liaison on every corner. I deliver my report to Vinnie, and the next thing I know, Vinnie’s crying buckets. He calls in his goons, accuses me of disparaging the Missus. Now, with all those guns aimed my way, I admit I may need my eyes examined. I offer to write another report. I beg him to give me another chance. All I can say is, Vinnie and the Big Guy must have connections, cuz here I am in the body of a cat.


"The cat waited, knowing that all he had infected would eventually find their way to the cemetery he patrolled. During daylight, his smoky color allowed him the benefit of fitting unseen into shadows under porches, in bushes, near bird feeders. Then, at night, he would slip into unguarded homes and hunt for someone to infect with his blood-evaporating burden, the curse inflicted on him by The Evil. He liked having the weight lifted a little as he sank his teeth quickly into human flesh and rid himself of the terrible pressure. This night, several teenagers trying to scare each other among the tombstones would come by and he'd go up to one of the girls and purr and she would pick him up and rub his ears. And take him home."


The man in the tattered overcoat handed the thumb drive to the woman in the red dress. “Are you sure this is safe?”

She glanced around the graveyard. “There’s no one here but the dead and a cat. The cat won’t talk.” She passed him an envelope.

The cat, seated on a gravestone, stared with cool yellow eyes.

The man shrugged. “Can’t blame me for being nervous. If they catch me handing off the security protocols….Treason, you know.”

The cat’s tail twitched.

“It would ruin my plans, too. Why we’re meeting here. Schedule of production next week?”

He nodded. “I’ll be here, same time.”

They left separately.

The cat gracefully leapt off the stone and trotted two blocks where a blond man waited. The man offered her favorite treats on a plate and removed the collar with the camera and microphone. He rubbed behind her ears. “Good cat.”


Donnell Ann Bell

Donnell Ann Bell gave up her nonfiction career in newspapers and magazines obsessed with the idea she could write a full-length novel. Years later, she’s an award-winning author, including 2020 Colorado Book Award finalist for her latest release Black Pearl. Donnell’s other books include Buried Agendas, Betrayed, Deadly Recall and The Past Came Hunting, all of which have been Amazon bestsellers. Currently, she’s writing the follow up book to Black Pearl and her cold case suspense series.
How to Buy

John Carenen

John Carenen is a native Iowan and graduate of The Iowa Writers Workshop in Iowa City. His work has appeared in numerous periodicals. A novel, Son-Up, Son-Down was published by the National Institute of Mental Health. His three-part Thomas O'Shea Mystery/Thriller series has been called by William Kent Krueger, "the very best in midwestern noir." Carenen is a retired English professor living in a little cottage just a tad bit south of Travelers Rest, South Carolina. You can find his books at

How to Buy

  S. Lee Manning

S. Lee Manning (Sandy to her friends), a reformed attorney now living in Vermont, writes espionage thrillers and does the occasional stand-up routine, depending on whether she feels like torturing people or making them laugh. Her first thriller, Trojan Horse, debuts on October 16 from Encircle Publications, and introduces her protagonist, Kolya Petrov, a Russian Jewish immigrant to the United States working for American intelligence. (Kolya also makes an appearance in the above short story.) In Trojan Horse, Kolya is betrayed by his own agency in a devious plot to thwart possible terrorism by an anti-Semitic neo-Fascist Romanian.  Trojan Horse questions how far an American agency should go to fight terrorism, and also whether unspoken and unacknowledged bias can be as problematic as open and violent prejudice. Kirkus Reviews calls Trojan Horse "A remarkable tale that makes espionage rousing, demanding, and occasionally terrifying."  Diane Donavan, Senior Editor, Donovan's Bookshelf and Midwest Books, states: "Thriller readers looking for powerful plots replete with strong characterization and international intrigue are in for a treat.” The first chapter is available on S. Lee’s website, and Trojan Horse is available for preorder from Amazon, from Encircle Publications,, or from independent book stores.

How to Buy

Join in! Leave your idea in the comments--150 words. 

Friday, September 4, 2020

First Friday! West, Whitaker, Vidler

 Woohoo! It’s First Friday again—three little stories by three markedly different authors, all based on one photo. Take a look. You may find another author to love.

Photo by Edward Howell on Unsplash


Jogging through the park on her morning run, the young officer swiped at a trickle of sweat threatening her eye. The temperatures soared even as the big clock on the corner struck eight a.m. Splashing and giggles caught her attention, as she drew near a small pond, usually inhabited only by ducks. The sight slowed her steps and brought her to a complete stop. A smile teased up the corners of her mouth. An entire family danced in the water. They were fully clothed, but for their shoes which they’d left lining the edge of the pond. They must’ve been picking flowers, which was against the rules, because one of the shoes held gorgeous orange blossoms. Of course, playing in the pond was also against the rules. The family was having such fun, and it was so hot, she couldn’t blame them. She envied them their joy. Joy she had little of since the death of her partner.


No one knew where the shoes came from, but they showed up every year on the same day.

Everyone knew why, of course. The shoes belonged to the victims.  

Children filled the shoes with flowers, pennies, and pieces of candy meant to calm the spirits for another year.  And some years, it worked.  

But more often than not, on the fall harvest moon, the black water and the demon within demanded more.  Another soul to take down to the shadowy depths.  Always the shoes left as the reminder of the power that lay beneath.

This year, the newly-elected modern council had a novel plan.  Everyone would walk the seawall.  If they were all present, they reasoned, the demon could not take them. They would be saved.

Mothers and babies, elders and youth, fathers and sons. All came. They walked in silence, holding hands, from dusk until morning light revealed the new day. And a seawall lined with shoes.


Colonel Greely arrived near dawn at the battery beside the fast-flowing river. Jumpers always left their shoes for those in need. Five pairs lined the wall—Ari’s entire family. Greely checked his watch; he’d learned of their disappearance twelve hours too late. The ocean, only meters away, devoured those who departed with the tide, their bodies never found.

He’d planned to arrest Ari and eliminate the man’s family today. Flushed with anger, Greely cursed. Someone had warned them, allowing the dissident to escape a slow, unpleasant end.

The flowers puzzled Greely. Who was left to mourn the man? He dismissed the only one in sight, an old beggar rummaging through a trashcan. As Greely bent to retrieve the delicate blossoms, he felt a rush of air.

Strong hands slammed into his back. Helpless, he tumbled into icy water racing out to sea.


Ari signaled his family to retrieve their shoes.


Marsha Riegert West
At Amazon

The theme of Marsha’s seven books is always second chances. She even has a four-part series titled The Second Chances Series, because she believes in Happily Ever Afters. Her husband picked up a plaque for her on one of their several trips to Maine that states her philosophy exactly. Everything will be all right in the end. If it’s not all right, it’s not the end. The Heroines and Heroes in her books are in their 40s and 50s with their parents and children often playing supporting roles. Finding a new life while danger threatens is challenging but makes the win all the more worthwhile.

You can find out more about her and her books, her blog and her newsletter on her website

SECOND ACT, Book 1 The Second Chances Series.  When a member of the board of a non-profit arts agency in Fort Worth turns up dead, the homicide detective Mike Riley assigned to the case looks at everyone involved in the organization, including Addison Greer the Executive Director.

LM Whitaker

 At Amazon 

Linda M Whitaker is a retail data scientist, and a writer of science and technology thrillers.  By day she plays with numbers, by night, with words.

Linda started writing around 2011 when she took her first mystery class with Ellen Hart, a prolific Minneapolis mystery author. Though Linda lived in Minnesota only a few years, she quickly learned the benefits of writing fiction as a means to hide from the long, dark, cold winters.

Fast forward a decade, and the
many years of learning and perseverance have finally led to her debut novel.
The Crucible of Steele is a fast-paced techno-thriller filled with unexpected twists, ethical entanglements and provocative science.  Buy here, or visit her website,, for more details.

Today Linda resides with her husband in the mountains of Western North Carolina.  She loves running in the forest, gardening, cooking, and playing with her dog and cat.

Ellis Vidler

At Amazon

Ellis is filling in for the third author, who was unable to participate due to illness. Ellis writes the stories she likes to read—action, adventure, and heart. She falls in love with the characters, flawed but striving to do the right thing, and hates leaving them when the book is finished.

Her most recent novel is Prime Target: After witnessing her husband’s murder, Madeleine Schier flees, relying on her wits to survive in world where death waits at every turn. “Heartwarming and yet suspenseful. Lots of twists and turns. Couldn't put it down!”


Please join us! Write your own take in 150 words and post it in a comment. We'd love to see it. 

Friday, August 7, 2020

First Friday--Christmas, Handley, Lazar

It’s First Friday! Read three great little stories. Three very different authors share their takes on a single picture.

Dashed Dreams
The fetid odor drew Arlene closer. With ballerina grace she rose to her toes, lifted herself, and landed inside the dumpster. Restaurant discards squished under her boots, but off to a side she spotted a Styrofoam container. When she flipped it open, she found a few spare ribs with sparse meat, a small pile of slaw, and an entire baked potato. Elated, she breathed, “This’ll feed us for days.”
Container secured, Arlene vaulted over the side of the bin, landing back in the alley on her tired feet. She glanced down at her worn boots and emaciated body and longed for her life before. Before the foreclosure. Before her parents died of hunger. Before she had to take care of her younger brother. Before she abandoned her dreams of becoming a prima ballerina. She shook her head and said to herself, “At least Raymond and I are still alive. So far.”

One Thing Right
When she heard footsteps, Aggie quickly stuffed the letter inside her overalls pocket.
“What’s taking so damn long, you lazy cow?” her mother shouted as she entered the barn.
Aggie grabbed the basket of eggs and handed them to her mother. As the scowling woman took the basket, one of the eggs rolled on the floor and smashed.  “Now look what you’ve done. You never could do anything right,” she shouted.  “Now shake that fat ass of yours and clean out these stalls.“
Aggie followed her mother to the barn door and watched until she saw her slam the back door shut. She reached inside her pocket and pulled out the letter.  As she read, her mouth widened into a smile. They found her baby girl. Her adopted mother wrote that she wanted to be a ballerina. Aggie clutched the paper to her chest. She had done one thing right.

Mount Marcie
The trail winds higher under the crisp autumn breeze, luring me to Mount Marcie’s peak. Bright white clouds tease across the azure sky, yet my heart aches.
Today is the day. I decide at the summit.
Living in this prison has scarred my soul. Cowardice has doomed me.
Shall I jump? Or take flight?
I trudge upward, my heavy boots betraying the lie that is me.
Now I can see the top. Almost there.
The ghostly image of my real self helps me climb the last few feet. I morph into the delicate limbs of the ballerina, en pointe, trembling with feminine strength.
I made it. I’m here.
Turning on a boulder the size of a sailing ship, I inhale the majesty of the deep purple mountains stretching for miles. Strength fills me.
No, today’s not the day to die.
I can do this.
Marcie. I like that name.


Bobbie Christmas has been a professional editor and writer since the 1970s, working with radio stations, newspapers, magazines, and corporate communications. In 1992 she moved to metro Atlanta to form Zebra Communications and concentrate on writing books for writers and editing book-length manuscripts.  
“I was a teen when I declared I wanted to be a writer. My supportive father who gave me three books, all of which I still have almost sixty years later: The Elements of Style, On Writing Well, and Roget’s Thesaurus. Dad warned, however, that writers can’t make a living. I set out to prove him wrong. After majoring in journalism I told myself I’d write anything for money. My determination landed me fascinating jobs, one of which included travel to Europe and many states domestically.
“I love giving writers support, knowledge, and encouragement. Toward that end I write books about creative writing and offer a free monthly newsletter about creative writing.
“I’ve lived alone and been self-supporting as a writer and editor for most of my life, and I proudly can say I own a house that words built.” Check out her website for more information.

President of the Upstate Carolina Chapter of Sisters in Crime, Sally Handley is author of the Holly and Ivy cozy mystery series. She is currently working on Tuscan Blooms, the 4th book in the series. If you’d like to get acquainted with her gardening sister sleuths, you can find the first three books in paperback and on Kindle at Sally also writes a blog entitled “On Reading, Writing and Retirement” at You can friend her on Facebook and if you have a chance, check out her podcast interview about all things cozy on The Cozy Sleuth.

Aaron Paul Lazar is obsessed with writing. He's completed twenty-nine books to date, and has earned twenty literary book awards. He writes mysteries, suspense, love stories, and more. You'll usually find him writing his heart out in the early hours of the day - preferably in the dark, quiet hours when no one else is awake in his bustling household. Visit his website at to sign up for a free book and to learn about future book deals.
A USA TODAY Bestselling Author, Aaron’s newest novel is The Asylum, a Carmen Garcia novel (Bittersweet Hollow Book 4) Visit Aaron on Facebook or at Aaron’s website to explore all of his series and read excerpts from twenty-nine books.
“Addictive, award-winning fiction.”

Friday, July 3, 2020

FIRST FRIDAY! Iyer, Lewis, Sartor!

It’s First Friday, stories in about 150 words on one picture by three very different authors. This month it’s Polly Iyer, Howard Lewis, and L.A. Sartor.

Please join in and add your take on the photos (150 words) in the comments. 


A construction crew unearthed the forgotten kudzu-covered shack while clearing

land for a new development. Roots and rot destroyed everything inside except for six photos of little girls, lovingly framed and tacked to the plank wall.

Detective Janet Forman recognized only one of the faces. Eight-year-old Violet Hamm had gone missing over sixty years ago. Other girls had disappeared then, too, but Violet was a local girl, and her fate had become the warning of every mother in town: “Be careful, or you’ll get snatched like Violet Hamm, never to be seen again.” Janet had heard it from her mother.

“Is there a basement?” she asked one of the officers.

“Yeah, but it’s full of mud and critters, and the stairs are rickety.”

“Show me.”

Halfway down the flight, she detected the tiny mounds on the basement floor.

“Get a crew in here. Dig it up, and be careful.”


Pacing, his body remembered her shiny, blond hair, crystal blue eyes, and smooth, silky skin that glowed like only a thirteen-year old girl’s could. He couldn’t wait to touch her, to feel her, to taste her. His hands stroked down his chest to his belly.

He smiled thinking about his first, Abigail.  Her screams. That first month, she screamed a lot. He should have probably let her go after two. A mistake he wouldn’t make with Grace.

The bathroom door opened revealing her in silhouette. She looked shorter and wider. Stepping into the light made it worse. Her blonde hair had turned curly and dirty. Her nose was wide and broken the way porcelain breaks. She looked like a forgotten picture from the last century.

This couldn’t be the same girl. This girl made him want to scream. “Grace?”

“I think you met my great, great, great granddaughter, Abigail.”

That first month, he screamed a lot.


“Leave it alone,” Mom quietly reminded me every time we visited the cabin.

Now the run-down cabin was mine, and it was time to rid the place of that ugly picture.

I gripped the edges of the antique frame and pulled. Nothing, except a muscle quiver in my arms.

Grabbing my crowbar, I pried upward beneath the frame. An instant later a shimmery wave flowed through the cabin. The walls buckled, then held. Well, Quantico was nearby, perhaps they were testing something new.

Not to be defeated, I grabbed my cordless saw and cut the rough wood wall around the frame, cheering as it fell to the ground and the glass shattered. Obscuring those haunting eyes and broken nose.

The wave hit again, knocking me to the ground. Moments later, a child stood in front of me, her blue eyes glowing, her nose broken.

She smiled. “Your turn.” 

I watched through shattered glass as she walked out the door.


 Polly Iyer

Polly Iyer is the Amazon bestselling author of nine books of suspense and mystery, one novella, and four sexy romances she writes under the pseudonym Maryn Sinclair. She started out as a fashion illustrator and storyboard artist, importer, and store owner before embarking on her fourth, and last career as an author. Her novels include four books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, Backlash, and The Scent of Murder; five standalone novels, Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, Kindle Scout winner Indiscretion, and one novella, The Last Heist, from the anthology Lowcountry Crime. One reviewer described her stories as "...making heroes out of damaged people."

The Scent of Murder 

Two independent cases involving missing women vie for the attention of psychic Diana Racine and her life partner in crime, NOPD Lieutenant Ernie Lucier.

At Amazon

In the first case, Diana and Lucier search for the missing mother of a street boy they've taken under their wing. In the process of finding her, they expose the secret underbelly of crime and corruption among some of the city's most upstanding citizens, while putting Diana's and the boy's life in jeopardy at the same time.

An eccentric socialite pressures Diana to rid her mansion of her twin sister's ghost in the second case. With no clues to go on, Diana and Lucier must first prove the missing sister is dead.

Howard Lewis 

It's your reality. Own it or change it.

The longer I live the more important I find laughter, although you couldn’t tell it from this story.

I’ve written three books—a cozy, a romance, and a young adult. I prefer to think of myself as versatile instead of wishy-washy. Right now, these books only live on my hard drive. If you want to read one, let me know, but please, please don’t take my hard drive.

I ended up in the foothills with two horses, a mule, three dogs and some pretty fish.

In my spare time, I teach tai chi, write, ride and work wood.

It’s a good life!

For more pictures of my guys, blogs, and a few videos, check me out at 

L.A. Sartor

I started writing as a child, really. A few things happened on the way to becoming a published author … specifically, a junior high school teacher who told me I couldn’t write because I didn’t want to study … urk … grammar…

That English teacher stopped my writing for years.  But the muse couldn’t be denied, and eventually I wrote, a lot, some of it award winning. However, I wasn’t really making a career from any of this.

My husband told me repeatedly that independent publishing was becoming a valid way to publish a novel. I didn’t believe him even after he showed me several Wall Street Journal articles. I thought indie meant vanity press. 

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I started pursuing this direction seriously, hit the keyboard, learned a litany of new things and published my first novel. My second book became a bestseller, and I’m absolutely on the right course in my life.

Please come visit me at, see my books, find my social media links, and sign up for my mailing list. I have a gift I’ve specifically created for my new email subscribers. And remember, you can email me at 

Stone of Heaven 

At Amazon
A treasure hunter disappears in the Yucatan jungle. Her twin sister, a reclusive jeweler with none of the skills necessary to do so must rescue her. Then comes along her sister’s untrustworthy, but experienced ex-partner!