Wednesday, December 30, 2009

**** 1/2 Star review of Gunshot Echoes by Jim Woods

A must have for any Murder/Mystery fanatic.


What follows a gunshot after the noise dies away? The echoes are not all audible. The bullet cannot be recalled. Someone's life is changed, seldom, but sometimes, for the better. GUNSHOT ECHOES is a collection of fictional accounts dealing with guns and the aftermath of shootings. It is not a social commentary on the right, or not, to bear arms.

The Outlander, a novella of South Africa

When David Stone, an American who has adopted South Africa as his home, answers the telephone he is sure it is his boss and owner of Private Computers International, Alex Becker, calling from the United States, nine time zones away. David does not realize at the time just how far his upscale lifestyle is about to tumble when the caller identifies herself.

The beautiful Marjie van der Luen is an engineer for the South African electric power company. Her technical alliance has been important to PCI's success, but she wields an even more intimate influence on David's personal life. David has lost track of her for two years, and now she is just a scratchy telephone line away, and David remembers. Marjie remembers too. She remembers David's reckless promise that he will kill for her, and she’s calling in the favor.

The intended victim Diana Craighall, while unknown to David, turns out not quite a stranger. After gaining entry to her home through subterfuge, David discovers that Diana is the fiancée of his employer, Alex Becker!

Following the murder, David discovers that Marjie has set up a strategy to blackmail him, or perhaps to expose him as the killer. To protect himself David sacrifices Marjie to the authorities, and in the process murders twice more.

Through it all, David manages to conceal his involvement. However, Alex isn't convinced of David's innocence, and relieves him of his position with the company. While David is sorting out his crumbling circumstances, Marjie's friends kidnap and punish him for his treatment of Marjie.

The Short Stories

The "Mexican Holiday" is anything but as it unravels into an international kidnapping and drug smuggling terror. The protagonist is a travel magazine freelance writer who, with the aid of some friends and fellow travelers, saves the day for, and most of the lives of, a tour bus full of panicked vacationers from north of the border.

"Hambone Calls the Tune." Bonaparte Hammond is the new cop on the detective force, faced with investigation of a shooting that becomes the first in a sequence of murders. He masquerades as "Hambone," a newspaper music critic, in his attempt to unmask the killer, as the investigation leads the detective through the halls of country music.

"The Clay Pigeon" is a police procedural investigation and resolution of the shooting death of an international sportsman. Set in the Niagara Falls region, the story takes place in a skeet-shooting venue in which hundreds of participants from around the world bring hundreds of shotguns to the competition, and one of those guns is the murder weapon.

"Hobby House" is a publishing company in trouble that has nothing to do with the price of paper or print. The old owner-publisher steps down, his son steps up and steps on some toes, causing a writer and an editor to step forth with murder on their minds. A cop captain who can't remember names writes finis to the whole unwholesome chapter.

"A Murder for the Book" is a blueprint for, and completion of, the perfect murder, carried out by a world renowned murder mystery author who is well acquainted with leaving clues, or not leaving them at all. The story revises a historic adage that could be translated thusly: "Beware of friends bearing gifts."

Get a copy of Gunshot Echoes : Amazon

Also available on Kindle.

Learn more about this Author : Jim Woods

Review of Gunshot Echoes : Jim Woods did a superb job with his title Gunshot Echoes.  This exceptional Novella and compilation of several short stories is going to enthrall any murder mystery fan.

Woods knows how to keep the suspense and mystery alive,  while leaving you eager to turn the page to see how the plots are going to unfold.

In the novella The Outlander - David Stone is a successful businessman in South Africa.

When the woman he loves shows up after years of absence,  David is torn between his morals and regaining Marjie's love at her request for murder.  In high hopes of having her again,  he gives in to her demands and pursues his target. 

Covering his tracks with every move he makes,  David ends up implicating Marjie.  Who is it that will be the one to get away with murder? 

~Find out in this thrilling tale full of mystery and murder.  Excellent read.

The Mexican Holiday - Raymond Yancey is a magazine reporter on assignment in Mexico. 

When three Mexicans board the tour bus and hijack it,  Ray must do some quick planning to help save them all.

~This story is one of those that has you punching the air saying, "That's right! Get him!" 

Hambone Calls The Tune - Detective Hammond is at a stand still in his investigation.  Three murders have occurred and the only connection is a country music bar.

Going under as a columnist for the local newspaper,  Detective Hammond finally gets the lead he seeks to break the case.

~I enjoyed this read taking a special liking to Detective Hammond.  He knows how to get things done.

The Clay Pigeon - When the biggest Shooters Tournament is held in the city of Buffalo,  the shock of a murder was a little unnerving. 

Law Enforcement Officials from all surrounding counties join this investigation when it is noted to have over five hundred guns as possible murder weapons.

~All the guns made this story a thriller.  Keeps you guessing as to what will happen in the end.

Hobby House - New publisher Jack Connelly is brutally murdered in the lobby of his office building. 

The murder weapon leads investigators on a wild goose chase in Mexico in pursuit of an Antique Arms and Swords Collector.

With a missing sword and gun and a previous argument with his publisher,  the collector becomes the main suspect in Jack's murder. 

As the investigation develops,  it leads detectives to within the company.

~I enjoyed this story as Woods added humor to a good plot of murder.

A Murder For The Book - A writer gone dry has come up with a plan to make his next novel the most perfect murder/mystery novel of all time.
~This one had a great ending,  with great clues. Fantastic!

Overall,  Gunshot Echoes is an excellent read and will definitely appeal to the fans of this genre.  It had me anxious to read to the end and I give it ****½ (4.5)Stars~BK Walker-Author/Reviewer of BK Walker Books,

Copyright BK Walker Books - 2009

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

When readers cross the transom by Angelica Hart & Zi

When readers cross the transom...


According to Stephen King, "If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write." For some of us, meaning writers, reading has been an obsession since a young age. We'd devour every book, pamphlet, flyer, newspaper, comic book, magazine, and yes, lacking anything at hand at breakfast, would read the back of the cereal box. However, not all readers end up being a writer, what is that epiphany moment that has one crossing the transom? For every writer it is different, for both of us it has been something we simply could not avoid. It has been part of our earliest memories.

My favorite words as a child were, Once upon a time, obviously the opening of many fairy tales. Zi’s similar memory was Sunday night’s opening music to the Wonderful World of Disney. I knew when I heard those words an adventure, a fantasy, or simply magical moments would soon flash upon the reel of my imagination.

We have had the honor and privilege to read to children and I saw delineated on those young folks’ faces a reflection that reminded me of my youthful jubilance when I read those words, Once upon a time.

For Angelica, as a child, her run on of, tellmeastory said over and over until someone read her story turned into, wannahearastory until someone listened. Before she could write she'd draw pictures, and read from those pictures. As soon as she could write little stories appeared on napkins, fancy stationary, scraps of paper, anything and everything that could hold pencil, crayon or ink, including the wall, which her mother was not so happy about. Zi had a similar hunger to string words together in a coherent and logical thought pattern, writing constantly and in volume, and then those thoughts turned into stories that he couldn't put down fast enough. Every word, every image, every twist and turn within a plot became vital.

I used to carry several books around with me, imploring any reading-able body to read me a story. It didn't matter if they were young or old. It didn't matter if they had an accent or not. It didn't matter if they altered their voice for each character, although, that was indeed the preferred option. I used to say read me a story so often that it turned into a run-on chant. There was nothing grander than being read to, a story where I could travel to a different land, where taste and textures were defined with whorls of words. One moment I was a baby rabbit, another a mouse with a hole-in-the-wall house, sometimes an audacious child. I especially liked rhythms, the playful beat and measure that tapped out a story, sometimes silly, sometimes funny, and sometimes very strange. Mattered not. It was the journey, that sweet, wonderful roller coaster of sounds that created dream bubbles that I could actually see in my mind’s eye.

I’ll share one of Zi’s first memories of reading aloud. I wrote this without first asking him. It is personal but as I later explained, apt.

Zi was a child with undiagnosed dyslexia and struggled early with reading and writing. Recalling that period, he has expressed the humiliation he felt not learning the same way others were, though he never felt sorry for that boy.

At an early age he knew he wanted to read and write and valued those tools. As an adult you can easily discern that his books are respected treasures and opening the world of storytelling is a passion. It was the Woodlawn Public Library located in Union Park Gardens just off the Bancroft Parkway that provided him what I call a breakthrough.

Reading and writing was an endless series of embarrassment and humiliation where the stumbling over words, the constant juxtapostioning of words and letters, and the inability to sound out words were painful. Peers at a young age have not developed empathy or compassion and would tease.

The third floor of that library was his safe place and by some unexpected gift of divine foresight, close to his home. His mother worked and that circumstance made it the perfect after-school sanctuary.

He once recounted to me the old radiators were far too hot, occasionally whistled, and tinted the air with that odd metallic smell of water boiled in an iron pot. While there, he would grab any read-aloud style children’s book, books far beneath his age, and hide in a corner on that third floor and quietly read aloud to himself. Never minding if he stumbled over words or struggled with inflection, he just read; hour after hour. Over time the books chosen became more complex and he slowly fought to compensate for his handicap. It was in those secluded corners hidden amidst the radiator smells I believe Zi birthed a deep love for writing and reading. It was children’s books that opened a new world, free of ridicule and filled with possibilities borne from the imagination of authors. He fights and works so hard with our work to make it his gift back.

When asked why, we respond, we want to make people laugh, cry, smile, wince, fear, enjoy. We want to entertain. So, where is that line that pushes a reader into the realm of writing. That we cannot say, probably for every writer it is different, we only know it is an experience that keeps us alive. Sound dramatic? Of course it does, we're writers.

We'd love to hear from anyone interested in what we do. Anyone who writes us and leaves an s-mail address, we will send you a gift and add you to any future mailings.

Angelica Hart and Zi
KILLER DOLLS ~ September 2009
SNAKE DANCE ~ February 2010


KILLER DOLLS can be purchased at
Champagne Books

Monday, December 28, 2009

Excerpt - Veil of Deception by Michael Davis and Candace Morehouse


There’s something suspicious going on at Spenser Lake. People are disappearing and their bodies are never found. The fear and uncertainty of who will be next is affecting every resident of the tranquil community, but especially Kurt Hawkins. Two years after his wife goes missing, there are no clues, only the nightmares of what happened in her last moments. The constant guilt that somehow he was responsible precludes any thought of a normal life until he meets Danielle Gillette, a reclusive author with a rather large skeleton in her own closet. When the secret is finally revealed, they both discover that sometimes the truth cuts deeper than a lie.


He walked past the lat machine to the open doorway and scanned the empty hallway beyond. Muffled sounds, like distorted voices, emanated from the end of the corridor. He inched along the wall, pausing at each step, until he recognized the noise as a television blaring in the distant room. His shoulder brushed a framed poem on the wall. It jarred loose and leapt for the solid oak floor, but his skillful fingers darted out and intercepted the unintended alarm before it could signal his approach. He examined the cross-stitched writing, To my Beloved Wife, Crystal, and grinned. He placed the frame on the floor against the wall and continued his journey quietly, deliberately, toward his objective ten feet away. Finally, he peered cautiously through the crack provided by the partially opened door, but quickly pulled back when he saw a shapely female tying the reflective laces on a pair of pink tennis shoes. He watched her pull long, silky, blonde hair back into a ponytail, then start a series of stretching exercises while she paid partial attention to the local news report on the wide screen television.
The mysterious disappearance of twenty-one-year-old Amber Campbell from the Brandon College campus four months ago still baffles the Piedmont County Sheriff’s Department. Yesterday, I interviewed Sheriff Lundgren regarding leads as to the whereabouts of Ms. Campbell.
“Sheriff, is there anything you can share about this case with our viewers?”
“Nothing substantive. We’ve investigated dozens of phone calls and potential sightings, but they all resulted in dead ends.”
“Can you speculate on the cause of her disappearance or give us some idea as to what might have happened?”
“Nothing solid. It’s possible Ms. Campbell was suffering from some emotional stress, perhaps the tension of her heavy course load, a fight with her boyfriend – who knows. We’ve seen it before where a young girl runs offs and reappears months later in some other state.”
“Is that what you think happened: that she ran away?”
“We just don’t know at this time.”
“What about her boyfriend, is he a suspect?”
“We’re not ruling anything out at the moment.”
“No leads, only dead ends; just more sad words for the waiting parents of a beautiful young girl with a promising future. This is Jamie Davis, local reporter for WSDY, channel 12.”
His eyes locked on the swaying motion of her rear taunting him to reach out and stroke those feminine curves. Then something penetrated his nose. Even from this distance, he sensed a sweet fragrance; a faint blend of tangerine and lime: her shampoo.
The lure of her tiny waist and firm buttocks contorting with each bending motion worked their magic. He could no longer deny his thoughts, or his fantasies. She would resist at first, wrestle against his superior strength. Finally she would accept his offering and they would merge as one. The vision of her smooth, shaved legs entangled around his waist flooded his brain along with the sensation of her muscles tightening while she squeezed and surged in rhythm with each thrust, further, deeper. The thought of it was too much.
He wanted her. No, he needed her. Beneath him. He needed to take her completely and resolve the urge racing through his loins. The buzzing in his ears and the blood throbbing in his temples drummed out all reason.
Without a sound, he edged forward. As she started to turn, he reached out and locked her tightly around the waist from behind, his massive arms gripping like a vise. She gasped and tried to escape, but it was useless. His warm hand slid down inside the elastic band of her jogging shorts, and the sensation of her cool, smooth flesh drove more blood straight into his groin.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Excerpt: All I Want for Christmas by Cindy K. Green

Book Blurb:

Best Friends or True Love? Only Santa Knows.
Kathryn Graham hates Christmas. She hates the snow, the decorations, the whole nine yards. Nick Pringle on the other hand can’t get enough of the season. He may be her best friend and fellow writer at Redburn Weekly Magazine, but sometimes his exuberance gets on her very last nerve. Now they’ve been assigned to cover the orphan toy drive story. It’s just a puff piece not the serious journalism Kathryn hopes for, but maybe—as Nick says—there are no old stories just new angles.
Nick Pringle has been in love with Kathryn practically since the day they met. When he realizes that she’s lost her Christmas spirit, he figures he’s just the guy to help her find it again. He enacts a plan to send her anonymous gifts from Secret Santa, but will any of this really make a difference in her? Will she ever see him as anything more than her smart-aleck partner even after their passionate kisses? Then again maybe he’ll get what he wants for Christmas after all.


Kathryn rubbed her tired eyes while walking into the office the next morning. Coffee! Where is the coffee? her exhausted body called out. Thoughts about her Christmas assignment kept waking her up all night. Her introspections were merciless. She couldn’t let it go. It was as if it was taunting her—you’ll never be any better than to write those puff pieces—never—you’ll never be a serious journalist. And when she finally fell asleep at two a.m., she was so tired she’d slept right through the alarm this morning.
After falling into her desk chair, she opened her left hand bottom drawer. She paused before placing her purse inside and instead pulled out a petite package. Her fingers trembled as she touched the shimmering red paper. With her fingertips, she slowly traced over the glossy, green ribbon which was curled up beautifully. She darted a glance over her cubical wall and around the newsroom. No one was looking her way.
Who sent this? Someone is playing me, I know it.
The package looked perfect sitting on her desktop, but her curiosity—which was more than piqued—wouldn’t allow her to wait any longer. She pulled open the paper gently. No need to bring attention to herself. Inside, she found a luscious piece of chocolate sitting in its paper cradle. Included was a printed note:
Dear Kathryn,
The Twelve Days of Christmas begin on Christmas Day and continue through the New Year, but how much more fun would it be for you to get a gift everyday until Christmas! That’s sure to get you into the holiday spirit.
On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…one raspberry-filled chocolate truffle. Enjoy.
Until tomorrow.
Your Secret Santa
Kathryn took another guarded look around the room. She stood to gain an unimpeded view over the cubical wall while placing her gift and its wrapping onto her desk. No one seemed to be watching her so she sat back down and thought about popping the chocolate into her mouth.
“So, you do believe in Christmas,” said a voice out of nowhere.
Kathryn shot out of her seat once more with her package and contents spreading across the surface of her desk. Her heart pounded as she whipped her body around to face the speaker.
“Nick Pringle…you scared the living life out of me.” Her overworked heart caused her throat to pulse painfully. Quickly she grabbed the present—wrapping and all—and threw it back into the drawer.
“So, what was that?”
“Nothing? It looked like a present to me.”
“So, what if it was? I said I didn’t plan on buying any presents. That doesn’t mean that someone else might not want to give one to me.”
“Who was it from?” A curious smile appeared on his impeccable face with the bright florescent lights bringing out the highlights in his sandy-brown tinted hair.
“Does it really matter? It was just a trifle.”
“A trifle? It looked like a truffle to me.”
She glared at him. “Do you have a lead for the orphan story yet?”
“Not yet. I thought we should head down there today and check it out ourselves. You might even get that new angle.”
He handed her a paper cup from her favorite coffee shop. The creamy, chocolate-caramel flavor smelled delicious. Before taking her first sip, she breathed deeply of the enticing fragrance. Then she let the beverage slip down her throat and warm her body and soul. Giving Nick a look of gratitude, she thought about saying something nice. Instead she said, “Well come on, Pringle. We haven’t got all day.”
Kathryn’s mind took off again while she walked with Nick to the elevator. Who could have possibly left the present? It had to be someone who knew she wasn’t interested in Christmas, but everyone in the office knew that. Whoever it was had to know she loved chocolate, but just about everyone did. She glanced at Nick and his nicely combed, light brown hair. She couldn’t remember a time when he’d had a hair out of place or a wrinkle in his suit.
Could it be Nick? He knows me better than anyone. He met her blue eyes with his hazel ones and then smiled. No, Nick wouldn’t. He couldn’t pull it off if he tried. He’s just too transparent.

Cindy K. Green
Humor & Heart Wrapped Up Together

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Romancing the Bottle by Angelica Hart & Zi

"Did you ever hear of Captain Wattle? He was all for love, and a little for the bottle." was written by Charles Dibdin. The quote's funny. Over our lives we have discovered that what makes things amusing is that they are steeped in truth. So Charles Dibdin made us think and we've ran with his character and his love and drink.

Still, love and 'the bottle' together? Good or bad or indifferent? Depends on how you perceive romance and the affect of drinking while in the midst of romancing. In many ways, the use of drink dilutes (pun intended) the power of love. Therefore, should it be used as a plot device or avoided? We answer the afore question this way, we wish to write sober-based love-ships believing drink is a distraction but as a plot device it has possibilities.

Captain Wattle turned and heard, "Kiss me dear!" Saw Belinda with her lazy eye and one-tooth smile and felt fear.

How often has 'the bottle' influenced love. What's the old joke? Everyone looks better after three drinks. We all know about coyote ugly. We've all heard the way to get the ditzy babe on the roof is to tell her that the drinks were on the house. The concept of all that is so unattractive.

With the hook on his one hand, he de-corked the rum, turned to Belinda and smiled a gritty grin stating, "One minute, mum."

We sat down and made a conscious choice that we would not use 'the bottle' within our work when it comes to the relationship between our hero and heroine. Our characters are not teatotallers. We will not aggrandize drink nor preach sobriety. Will it be banned completely? No.

A chug... a chug-a-lug... a chug-a-lot was followed by an unintended burp and a change in this story's plot.

In KILLER DOLLS our heroine, Letti, had an employee who speaks of drinking and how it has touched her life, no not negatively, and Letti has contracted with a service company and 'the bottle' very seriously effects judgment and dramatically the plot outcome. We will not take the path of all the Jason movies and execute all drinkers... or will we... we could... we have taken control of our keyboard... tink... tink... drink... drink... bomb... dead!... oops... back space... erase... erase.... undo... no redo... what... is the truth... read our work and you will see threads that are common in each.

His head spun to the left and then to the right Belinda turned beautiful and was his for the night.

So with a sober smile I state, quoting Al Bundy, using his sneer-face, "Pretty women make us buy beer, ugly women make us drink beer!!!" There is a funny smell caught in that quote and a stench of poor relating. Romancing the bottle and romancing maybe innately a contradiction and it goes against our base philosophy about love. To quote ourselves, " can be found anywhere, anytime, by anyone as long as you recognize it."


Letti gasped at the unexpected behavior but she wasn't adverse to it. After all, he did something similar when he had kissed her so suddenly in her apartment. It felt like one of those fantasy moments, something right out of an old-fashioned bodice ripper. Yet, the moment wasn't quite right. There were those guys. Shouldn't they be a bit prudent, or did the possibility of danger turn Taut…well…taut.

She struggled but he refused to release her. He couldn't let her do anything that might spread the ricin. Gallagher had provided photos of ricin victims. He would not allow this to harm Letti. No one was to be hurt. Not again. Not on his watch. That imperative directed his next decisions.

His hold was an aphrodisiac, animalistic, driven, homogeneous with her want, placated only by submission to it, and her body began to respond. Shallow short breaths followed the intense heat smoldering in her groin, incinerating any resistance, and guaranteeing conflagration of raging flames of lust. The tight, pucker of her nipples signaled her growing arousal, and heaviness attached itself to her breasts, having that need to be touched. She surrendered to his authority, submitted, and urged him with her acquiesces to take more.

Once she stopped thrashing about, in the dark veil of silence still at her back, he grabbed her blouse, hand over one breast; she reacted to his touch as he balled the cloth in a huge hand, recalled the words, cut over-the-head garments away, and with one violent motion foreshadowing tremendous strength, tore it from her. In silence, he held it at arm’s length and disposed of it in an adjacent plastic-lined trash basket.

KILLER DOLLS IS AVAILABLE: Unaware that bio-terrorists are using her handcrafted dolls to attack the innocent, Letti Noel finds herself falling for Taut Johnson, an undercover FBI agent. Even as deceit is a growing barrier to their love, it's the stalking terrorists that are a threat to their lives.

We'd love to hear from anyone interested in what we do. Anyone who writes us and leaves an s-mail address, we will send you a gift and add you to any future mailings.

Angelica Hart and Zi
KILLER DOLLS ~ September 2009
SNAKE DANCE ~ February 2010

KILLER DOLLS can be purchased at
Champagne Books

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Friends - by Michael Davis

Strange thing happened the other day. I picked up one of my novels that I hadn’t touched since it came out in paperback. For some reason, I had a yearning to visit the words and lines again. It was like there was something missing and for some weird reason, I just wanted to re-read the story. I know, after proofing and editing the thing three dozen times, you’d think I’d never go near it again, but as I got about a quarter way through, that empty feeling started to diminish. Then it hit me. I actually missed the characters. It was if I had been away from best friends and missed the comfort they brought me whenever they were around.

Yeah, I know, very particular, but in my head the characters exist; they’re not just fictional images I conjured up in my head, they are flesh and blood, and I miss them.

I wonder if other authors ever sense that absence of the friends that came to life in their stories and go back to revisit the words and lines again. Nah, probably just the weirdo big guy (g).

Michael Davis (
Author of the year, 2008

Monday, December 21, 2009

Viral Variation

Viral Variation

By Julie Eberhart Painter

'Twas the night before deadline and all through the house
No software was stirring, not even my mouse.
The research was sitting all snug in a file
For references handy to notes I'd compiled.

The children were grownups >Twas time to create
For artistic achievement, it's never too late.
I wore no kerchief, my husband no cap,
That's totally unnecessary when you're taking a nap.

I'd just nodded off when a noise loud and clear
Interrupted my slumber, my nap disappeared.
And out on the rooftop there came a loud racket
I sat up in my chair. "We're expecting a packet?"

But what to my horrified eyes should appear
But a feline intruder, who grinned ear to ear.
His eyes were all bugged, his lips, red and scary
I jumped from my lounger; no time did I tarry.

He ran toward my office, my work to attack.
I heard a loud clatter and then a big crack.
He streaked to the keyboard and leaped with a clatter.
I flew to my Windows XP, "What's the matter?"

Catbert stood perched with paws fairly flying.
"My book is deleting!" I heard myself crying.
And there in the email that I thought was protected
A McAfee note proclaimed, "Virus Detected."

The book was erasing, one byte at a time,
"Champagne will fire me. I'll get not a dime."

Quicken's tax program dissolved before me,
While The Evil HR Director ignored me.

The voltage protector was screaming in pain
The heart of my hard drive was losing its brain.

Floppies and CDS, in rank disarray,
Lay littered before me to my great dismay.
The printer kept spewing the book from before this.
"Not that one, the new one!" I barely could hiss.

He sprang on hind legs, then arching his back,
Said, "Just take the Kill Fee, you incredible hack.
Go back to your day job; stop screwing around,
And if you want a nice kitty, try accessing The Pound.

On Road Runner, on Dot coms, on AOL, too,
Get on with the havoc. We've got work to do."

And I heard him exclaim >ere he drove out of sight,
"Let's crash Mystery Writers; they deserve a good blight.
So to all you Romantics, these words of advice:
Don't write sex scenes at Christmas, that's really not nice!"

Julie Eberhart Painter, author of Mortal Coil, contributed this for the Season. Her next Champagne book will be released in May 2010. Check out Julie’s website

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Kate’s Christmas Miracle by Allison Knight

Kate’s Christmas Miracle

            Kate hated Christmas time.
            Three long years ago, a week before Christmas, she’d wished her finance God speed and sent him off to join the war. Last year, a few days before the holiday, her father had taken ill and soon joined her mother who had died before Kate had reached her second birthday.
            Nor had she heard from Philip. The war between the states raged on and the news
filtered so slowly to the community. For almost two years there had been no word, no letter from Philip. When her limited fund were depleted, she had no choice but to move into Aunt Sophia’s house.
            Now, the war was over and people in the north seemed so much happier.
            Except for her! She was little more than a servant in her aunt's home. Not that it
mattered for without Philip...
            She sobered and remembered the tasks she had to accomplish this day. There was
still much to do. Aunt Sophia made that clear only this morning when she announced the
house had to be immaculate for her soiree. Kate wondered if Aunt Sophia even knew what a soiree was, because no one in Albany held soirees.
            She gazed at the pile of split logs nestled in the snow. They had to be stacked
beside the fireplaces or the women would freeze to death in their ball gowns. She grabbed
the hem of her long skirt and huddled into her woolen cloak. The sooner she got the wood
inside the faster she’d get warm.
            As she toted wood into the house she grimaced. Aunt Sophia had declared she could attend this evening’s entertainment, but Kate had nothing to wear.
            Sophia’s youngest daughter had offered one of her own gowns, but the two women were too different in size for the gown to fit properly. No, Kate wouldn’t be attending this party.
            After lunch, she grabbed her scrub brush and pail of water. The foyer floor needed
a good cleaning before she retreated to the kitchen to help cook.
            As she scrubbed she planned her own evening. Long before the guests began to
arrive, she’d prepare some warm soup, escape to her room and read one of her penny novels. With part of the floor cleaned, she leaned back to rest. She threw the brush into
the pail and rubbed the perspiration from her forehead. Much to her disgust, some hair from her bun had loosened. She twisted the strand back into the knot at the back of her head.  It reminded her of the times Philip had run his hands through her long curls. Now
there was no time to fix her hair into curls. Nor was there any need, for she had no place
to go.
            She sighed and her heart felt heavy. This war had robbed so many women of their
men. Of course, she and Philip never had the chance to marry and perhaps if they had, her
life would be different now.
            With no effort at all, she could still imagine his smiling face, hear his deep
laugh, picture his twinkling eyes as he described the escapades of the young soldiers under his command. She wondered if he’d known of her father’s death or because of it that she was alone and had to move to Aunt Sophia’s house.
            “Oh, Philip, I miss you so,” she whispered and whisked the moisture from her eyes with her apron.
            This won’t do, she told herself and grabbed for the scrub brush. Mooning over what might have been accomplished nothing.
             She had almost finished when the front door knocker sounded. With nothing but a
dirt path to the porch, whoever sought entrance would track mud and slush across the floor she’d just cleaned. Some unladylike words came to mind.
            She looked a sight, certainly in no condition to admit her aunt’s caller. With
escape her only option, she wiped at her damp hands, grabbed her pail and ran for the
kitchen. Polly was close at hand and could answer the door.           
            “I’ve nearly finished but there’s a visitor at the door,” she said, when Cook
glanced up from a pot of cinnamon apples with a questioning look. “I’ll have to finished
later. Now, what can I do to help you?” Kate asked retrieving the brush and pail she’d
emptied off the back porch.
            “You don’t have time to help anyone.” Polly’s voice announced from the door to the kitchen. “The visitor wants to see you.”
            A swell of fear clogged Kate’s throat. She knew it had to be someone coming to tell her where and how Philip had died. She’d rather the message go to another in the family. Of course, she was being cowardly, but with her afternoon memories still so fresh in her mind, hearing about Philip now would hurt all the more.
            “Can you ask the visitor to leave a message?” Kate asked.
            “No I can’t. He is demanding to speak to you. I told him to wait in the parlor. But
you’d best tidy up a bit.” Polly giggled. “You look like a scullery maid.” She trotted away before Kate could object.
            “Go on, child,” Cook nodded toward the back stairs.
            Kate took an inordinate amount of time to repair her appearance. She didn’t want to do this but when her aunt’s voice echoed through the stairwell, Kate knew she could delay no longer.
            When she reached the main floor her aunt was waiting.
            “In the parlor.” Aunt Sophia looked unhappy. She was a compassionate woman, so the news would be bad.
            With her heart in her mouth, her steps dragging, she made her way to the parlor,
now adorned in all it’s Christmas finery.
            A tall man stood at the window, his face hidden in the afternoon shadows. His
stance looked so familiar, Kate was certain her afternoon memories had conjured up the
image. Then he turned and her breath caught.
            No, it couldn't be. She was losing her mind.  Then he spoke.
            “I couldn’t find you. Why are you here?” he asked, his husky voice impatient.           
            “Oh, Philip, is it really you?” Kate took a step forward then hesitated  “I thought
you had died. I didn’t hear from you forever and then Father passed on. I had no other
place to go.”
            “I thought you had married someone else.”
            She moved closer until she was in arm's reach.
            “Only you,” she whispered and reached up to touch his face.
            “Then how does a Christmas wedding sound?” he asked, pulling her into his arms.
            “Like a miracle,” Kate said and laid her head against his shoulder. “A Christmas

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Me...A Flea by Angelica Hart & Zi

On a daily basis our characters’ unique personalities pull our thoughts toward the concept of perception. “Fleas know not whether they are upon the body of a giant or upon one of ordinary stature,” wrote the poet Landor. As a flea in the world of writing, I know that Angelica is giantesque.

Zi was immediately interrupted by Angelica asking, “Where are you going with this? Is this about my weight?”

Zi replies, “Weight? You’ve weight?” And he smiles.

We understand that perception is reality and our job as writers is to take that word clay and prepare it for the kiln so when fired it creates images. Some are thought provoking, others ugly, some funny. But there are those days when we utterly fail to understand. Thus, bringing to our humble attention one very simple fact, we like many of our manuscripts are works in progress.

Below is an excerpt from KILLER DOLLS, a soon to be Champagne Books release, we hope you enjoy it.


They got a room, asked to use the phone, storm had the lines down, asked about a cell phone and the clerk, a man of advanced age, looked at Taut as if he were an alien, paid in cash, parked out of view, and entered a nice but tacky cabin room.

“I see that shabby-chic is nouveau. The guest towels say… well used. Look, a bottle of shampoo. I used this stuff when I was a kid. It bubbles." Letti was rambling and gently ranting to cover her fear. She now understood the gravity of the situation; it was real, though she did not know why two very evil men were chasing them. Nor why they had her dolls. Why? The dual whys came out in unattractive rumbling, its blasphemy a cruel sacrilege.

“I am sleeping where?” asked Taut. The room had one bed.

“Between me and the door… and that window.”


We'd love to hear from anyone interested in what we do. Anyone who writes us and leaves an s-mail address, we will send you a gift and add you to any future mailings.

Angelica Hart and Zi
KILLER DOLLS ~ September 2009
SNAKE DANCE ~ February 2010


KILLER DOLLS can be purchased at
Champagne Books

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Perils of Promoting with Nancy Henderson

There are so many promotional opportunities for writers nowadays.  How do you know which are the most effective?

I try to write two books a year.  In addition, I hold a full time job and have family responsibilities.  I’m on Myspace, Twitter, I maintain a blog on my website, and I belong to a group blog, The Writers Vineyard.  Plus I write the occasional article at various guest blogs and promo sites.  I don’t always have time to fit everything in.  In fact, oftentimes I feel like I’m running around doing ten different things at once.

Do the majority of these things work as effective promotion tools?  My friends twelve year old claims Myspace is “Soooo yesterday.”  Twitter, or Tweeting, she says, is “like totally rockin’.”  Ok, so maybe I should focus on my Tweets.

But I like to guest blog.  I love meeting new readers, visiting others’ sites, and hopefully gain a few new followers who might not have found me on my own site.

So what works?  I’m not altogether sure, but I press on.  I might not be the most organized person in the world, but I’m getting my name out there.  And hey, when I pen the next bestseller, people will sure know where to find me!

Thanks for reading,

Monday, December 14, 2009

Excerpt - Only One of Its Kind by Jane Toombs


Champagne Books

A Christmas short story


Last of all, I had to tell Annalee about the trip with Hal. "Hope you don't have any dates for us the week before Christmas," I began.

She widened her golden eyes at me, then shut them and winced. "Not again, Arno. Please don't tell me you're flying off somewhere at Christmas time."

What could I say to her, my beautiful Annalee? In a way it'd be easier not to be here at Christmas, not to look at each other, knowing all our attempts to produce our own little Christmas angel had failed. But I couldn't say that. She'd begun to talk adoption, but I want my own kid, not someone else's. Wrong-headed, maybe, but I often am, much as I love Annalee.

"I've never been gone at Christmas before," I pointed out.

"Maybe not. But how about my sister's wedding? And the Gilbert's anniversary party? I'm getting fed up with having to break commitments because you suddenly get an urge for the wild blue yonder."

"This time it's strictly business. Hal Peterson is stuck with a demand trip to Central America, and he needs a pilot." Which was more or less true.

She told me where I could go, what Hal could do with the trip and where the plane could be put, permanently. Annalee has quite a vocabulary.

Then I got the silent treatment, with Rufus our cat glaring at me balefully. He hates it when we have a disagreement. The day before I left, visualizing her putting up the damn hokey tree and decorating it all by herself, I promised to be home in time to help her if it killed me. So then we had a tearful parting scene after all.

What worries my wife is that I'm going to crash. I've shown her statistics, even acted insulted because she doubted my flying ability, but nothing can convince her that small planes are safe. Though most private plane crashes are pilot error, try to convince Annalee. She sees them as instances of some huge hand plucking the plane out of the sky on a whim. Try to argue with that.

Friday, December 11, 2009


by Jim Woods

            Every writer needs an editor.  A qualification to that assertion: Every writer who expects or wants to be published, requires an editor in his corner.  And in using the “in your corner” metaphor, I don’t necessarily imply a supporter, although he/she certainly could be.  It’s more like the pugilist’s “cut man”– someone to stave the flow of blood, tape over the wounds, and shove you back into the ring when the bell sounds.
            The professional writers who may be reading this know what I will expound here, and are excused.  It’s you aspiring authors to whom this is addressed.
There are three stages of editing before publication, with the initial stage, self-editing, being perhaps the most important.  There was a golden time, I’m told, when the gift of story telling, in handwritten script, or composed on old-fashioned typewriter keys, was all that was necessary to sell a story or a book.  Someone from the publisher’s editorial staff who worked closely with the artist-writer coaxed the promising tale into publishable form.  Those good old days have joined the rest of ancient history.
Nowadays if the writer isn’t also the first-line editor, there may not be another reader except himself.  Well, of course the work will be read and no doubt appreciated by family and friends, but that’s not editing. I’ll return to that blasphemy later; we’re in the midst of self-editing.
            Editing your own is tough; I won’t kid you on that. It’s akin to looking critically at your own child and admitting to what the neighbors are whispering, “There’s something wrong with that kid!”  You have to take an objective look, and accept that his ears are too big.  Since all newborns are beautiful though, you have to make the critical appraisal a few days following the birth. 
With your manuscript, put it away for a week or two while you are off to other projects.  Then read it objectively.  Start by eliminating words. You can do it! Line through the words with a colored pen; hit the delete key.  Take it out!  Examine the copy word by word and take out all the words that really don’t have to be there.  Sure, this is going to slim down the manuscript; that’s part of what we’re after. Following that, look critically at each adjective.  Experiment with changes to them.  Make sure that each of them imparts exactly your intended characteristic to the noun it modifies.  Look at all the short, choppy sentences. Combine them.  Vary the sentence lengths and patterns.  Search out those favorite words that you have used twice in the same sentence and four times on every page.  Find a different word for ninety percent of them.  Rewrite! There is nothing sacred about a first, or second or third draft.  None of it is final until it goes to press, and mistakes found after the presses roll might as well be etched in stone; they are around forever.
            Going to press is pushing the schedule a bit for now though.  It’s time to turn the manuscript over to your editor.  Not your mother who’s an English teacher; not your daughter who’s a psychology major; not your fishing buddy who swears along with you about the giant bass that jumped off your hook.  Of course you are going to impose of friends and family to read your Great American Novel.  Of course they will shower you with accolades.  That’s what friends and family are for.  The frontispieces of first novels are filled with expressions of appreciation for all the readers who encouraged the authors.  The friends would be hurt if their names are not noted and the author would feel guilty for leaving someone out.
Technical and academic books are different.  The name listed as author usually is not the sole creator.  That author grants proper credit to those professional associates and research staff who gave aid in assembling the book.  Those acknowledgements may become résumé entries for those otherwise anonymous toilers behind the scene.  In your short story or novel it’s hardly necessary to name every friend who offered encouragement to your creative efforts, and your professional editor does not expect recognition there. 
            That editor may be a friend, or at least friendly, but more than likely you’ll see him/her as an adversary.  It’s not his job to stroke and soothe.  If fact he may be totally devoid of bedside manner.  You need someone who can get down to the business of editing, unencumbered by personal feeling for the author; however, it’s not his job to destruct simply because he has that power.  Let’s assume you have made your arrangement with him based on the recommendation of other professionals.  You probably will have had a personal consultation with him.  Once you have come to a professional and financial understanding, accept and act on his advice and criticism.  
            It is quite within the realm of possibility that your professional editor will return your manuscript with little criticism and only a few changes redlined in the margins.  Congratulations.  You do good work.   You obviously have paid attention in creative-writing classes and have studied the self-help writing/editing books.  However, just because your manuscript was not mutilated does not indicate that your editor didn’t read and analyze it.  Personally, when I find a manuscript page that doesn’t call for my red pen somewhere, I initial the page just to assure my client that indeed I have read it. I must say though, that few page get only my initials in the corner.
            Okay.  Review your editor’s corrections, make the ones you agree to or that the editor has convinced you should be made, and once again, re-write.  Now, does this mean automatically that the publisher of your choice will accept your story or novel without further change?  An emphatic No!  However, it does mean that the publisher may take the time to read the story through simply because it was professionally presented to him in the first place.  Let’s assume that it is accepted.  Now the staff editor gets his crack at it. 
            Your independent editor would not have known which publication or publisher would wind up with your creation. That eventual publisher may specify a different style guide than that used by your independent editor.  These style guides are decidedly similar, but different publishers and organizations hold differing opinions on word usage and punctuation.  As a writer myself, I once was exposed to a company editor whose first rule was that the word “albeit” was never to be used‒period! I probably would not have used it, albeit a proper word.  To satisfy the editor who authorizes the payment to you, you’ll just have to take out the “albeits.”
            That final editor and his staff also will do some fact checking if warranted, and the publisher’s legal expert will “edit” for libel, plagiarism, privacy invasion and copyright infringement opportunities.  Finally, the copy editor will check the spelling of every word, even though the author originally employed his computer spell-checker and the interim independent editor found those words spelled correctly but misused in the story’s structure.  The author may get the opportunity to incorporate the publisher’s corrections, but more than likely will be surprised at them once the story sees print. 
One time I “sold” (read “donated”) a short story to a Canadian anthology publisher.  I had been thorough with the pre-editing and the story had been passed-on by a second editor.  The setting was the southern region of the United States; the language proper for the time and locale.  In the publisher’s final editing, two or three of my carefully selected words and phrasings had been Anglicized, an alteration necessary for that publisher’s primarily north-of-the-border market.  If may not have destroyed my creation, but certainly sullied my story’s authentic Southern flavor.  The editor had the last word, as usual. 

~ * ~

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Tight Rope - by Michael Davis

 Like most readers, I want to be taken away from my everyday world when I dive between the pages. The words and images must grab me and not let go. Few authors can do that for me anymore with the thousands of books I’ve read. That’s one of two reasons I don’t read as much fiction as I did twenty years ago (the other is a lack of time given I’ve become consumed by my own demanding muse). So what is it that envelops my mind and encourages me to escape from my life until I reach the last word of a story? Three things:

1. The Voice – The cadence and rhythm of the words must sing in resonance with my inner self so that I am comforted by reading vs. seeing.

2. Realism – Whether its SF, thriller, romantic suspense, doesn’t matter; the descriptions, the characters, the scenes must appear realistic and complete enough that I can form vivid flowing visions in my head.

3. Struggle – The characters most be flawed, if not they’re unreal and incapable of creating empathy with their plight

All three are important to me as a reader, and I would assume the same could be said of many readers. Now, voice is very important, but I don’t find that to be the most difficult in creating my stories. That just seems to come natural, maybe because the voice that goes on paper is actually the voice running in head (I know, I’m a weird dude). However, as a writer item 2 and 3 above require the author to walk two tight ropes, and accordingly are the most difficult to achieve without going to far.

The first tightrope requires balance between too much or too little realism. If we go to far in realism or in the character’s struggles the reader can be insulted, revolted, or overwhelmed with the imaginary. Go to little and the reader becomes uninterested, bored, or remains outside the story. The second tightrope deals with balancing the story with our own belief system or morality, which may not be in tune with the latest fad or the PC police. Need an example? I’ll give you two:

1. My first novel, TAINTED HERO, was about an officer in the special forces conflicted between the modern dilemma imposed by social norms of right and wrong. The story was very real, given the hero and heroine were based on actual people I know, and the struggle was close to what often runs through my spirit. The novel did quite well in that it received six 5 star reviews and the realism of the story and characters was cited very positively by all reviewers, except one. She was horrified. Her contention was that it reflected too positively on our military especially given that they were fighting a war and killing people in Iraq (I kid you not). Now, in creating this story, I recognized the tightrope dealing with the parts of the novel going against some of the more extreme elements of our society that do not respect the military the way I do. You see, for 25 years of my career I worked side by side with men and women that gave everything of themselves, including their lives, for the country they love. I knew that reflecting the truth, the way they really are, their lives, their sacrifice, might anger some but one has to be true to their own belief structure or how can you look in the mirror. In all my stories I do walk the PC tightrope, but sometimes I fall into the pit of telling it like it is, and I do hear about it, but I can live with that.

2. In my novel FORGOTTEN CHILDREN, one powerful scene near the end of the story focused on two characters dealing with their imperfect nature. The female had stayed with a player male even thought she knew his nature was not to commit, and the male exhibited a roaming personality (no, this one was not derived from me, I’ve been hook to the same woman all my life). Now, both these characters are real. I have a sweetheart of a female friend that “Sandra” was modeled after, and ‘Jim’ was a real life womanizer that I once knew. Just before this scene, Jim was offered a bitter taste of what his behavior was doing in terms of the women he used by none other than his best friend (wonder who that was). The reader learns there is a reason for his callus behavior; not an excuse but demons of his own that have blinded him to the pain he’s caused in others and himself. Jim has an epiphany about his live, what he’s become, and what he’s done to so many caring hearts. The scene is very powerful because his eyes are opened and he realizes Sandra is what he wants and, well you’ll have to read the story. Point is, although the book was received well by reviewers (gave me 5 stars) and readers, a couple readers did not relate to that particular scene. Their reasoning was they didn’t like a woman allowing herself to be used like that. Truth is, I struggled with that very issue when I wrote the book, but Sandra’s flaws and Jim’s blindness are real life and made the final surprise outcome extremely moving. I did walk the tightrope, but felt the realism was important to that scene and left it in the story.

Why would anyone selectively leap off the tightrope? Like I said, those elements are difficult to a writer in trying to achieve an acceptable balance for the reader. But sometimes you have to take a risk for your own sanity, say the hell with it, and jump one way or the other, and accept you may hear about it later. After all, you can’t please everyone all the time (g).

Michael Davis (
Author of the year, 2008

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

It Can't be Defined by Angelica Hart & Zi

To write as partners, the collusion and collision of ideals and ideas must be for the most part non-violent. What does that mean? If the work is expected to be harmonious, the two authors at some level must philosophically agree, bickering for ego's sake can't succeed. To know us is to understand that we are not quite disagreeable with each other since we have agreed to agree, holding the work more important than our own point of views, which can often differ greatly, but... but... but... on the following topic we empathically concur.

One of the most paramount issues in the genre in which we write is that of defining love.

We have both agreed it is one of those exceedingly interesting things where it's a case of, you can't define it, though when you see it, you know it. It is as intangible as air but you need it to breathe life into your heart and soul. Even the most angry, most apathetic, most egregious need love in their world, no matter how much they might deny it. People respond to love, grow and blossom, yes, just like flowers as corny as that may sound. Angelica empathically insists that love is different for every person. Zi has taken a position that he is not certain that to be the truth but floating within the metaphysical properties of love are common denominators that can be defined.

Just today we have worked on the following paragraph which is a part of a short we have been developing. We'd like to share it with you.

"The last of her tea slipped past her lips, cooling the parch that settled in her throat, a parch that lingered in her heart as she searched the faces that passed, searched for him, and when the day drew on, she also watched the roll of each wave chasing the next unfolding in white puffs of foam then dissolving, and then again… it unfolding and dissolving… it unfolding and dissolving… it unfolding and dissolving…that sequence never ending… never changing… it was like love, she thought, a lover chasing a lover... minute after minute… hour after hour… day after day… year after year… they dissolving as if lost in one time, their time. She knew this was the way of love, with its wash and roll, soft and subtle, relenting toward an abstract objective though for each it was sharp and precise. But for those who have known love it was abstractly keen. This universally oxymoronic ideal of love first called Adam to Eve and every man since, never waning over all time."

One of the first manuscripts we did together resulted in the following piece of poetry. The reason we are sharing it is it shows the harmony necessary to at minimum respectfully deal with the concept of love. We both admit openly we don't have the answers, but we feel the questions.

(Excessive zeal for freedom vs. fear of being one)

I’ve cried a million tears for you
And I don’t know why.
You don’t care; you don’t share one
Feeling for me.

I’ve cried a million tears for you.
I love you
And, I could never give a single
Reason why.

As my heart beats as one
Walking life’s paths, hand in none.
I wince, that hurt of silent loneliness
I cry help, I cry… for lovingness.

I’ve cried a million tears for you.
I felt a millions fears.
Chances are you have not thought of
My name, why?

Burning deep inside is a need to be two.
So passionately that time’s blindness would ensue.
Yet, my heart beats as one
Walking life’s paths, hand in none.

I’ve cried a million tears for you.
Wet my pillow case
Night after bitterly lonely night
For you, why?

I’ve cried a million tears for you.
And you have not let one dampen your cheek
I pity your world… your compassion.
I cry… millions... why?

Please free me… from my next tear.
Release your grip upon my heart.
I want the glory of smiles unbridled.
Please free me… from my next fear.

On a daily basis we honor and respect the give and take, pull and draw of that one universally fundamental emotion. Love. It would be the most grievous disservice to any connoisseur of our genre. This we have pledged to each other. Now, outside of the issues of love we have few boundaries. So, grandmothers might piece their navels and uncles might step in dog do-do and the occasional rat might find its way into one's cereal box, but we hope you can trust that our point of view about love is that we believe it is grand and glorious. And, yes, according to Angelica different for every individual


We'd love to hear from anyone interested in what we do. Anyone who writes us and leaves an s-mail address, we will send you a gift and add you to any future mailings.

Angelica Hart and Zi
KILLER DOLLS ~ September 2009
SNAKE DANCE ~ February 2010

KILLER DOLLS can be purchased at
Champagne Books