Author Archives: thedarkphantom

“Are You Being Manipulated?” The Story behind ‘Manipulated’ by John Ford Clayton

The Story Behind the Book

For several years the question was stubbornly clinging to my subconscious psyche. It was far enough below the surface that I didn’t obsess over it, but close enough that I couldn’t forget. “I wonder if I could write a novel?” For 20 years I worked on creative teams in churches helping to write full-length dramas as well as 5-minute sketches. But could I translate this to a full-length novel? I was anxious to give it a try. All I lacked was a story idea.

Manipulated - Cover artFor me to be committed to writing, the story had come from a place of passion. A subject I feel great passion about is our country, the United States of America. Unfortunately, I see our country in difficult times as our political culture has become so toxic that it is tearing us apart. A major source of that toxicity is the degree of manipulation we all…

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The Story behind ‘Secret Agent Angel’ by Ray Sutherland

The Story Behind the Book

I began to write stories when I was in grade school, just for my own entertainment. The earliest I remember was in the sixth grade. I wrote that one on a stenographer’s pad-one chapter per page. I remember being disappointed that when I typed it, it didn’t fill a whole page.

front cover finalI continued writing, off and on, until I began teaching. Nearly all of those stories are gone now. I have a couple left and while they aren’t embarrassing, they aren’t very good. But I had fun writing them.

I have always been a reader of fiction with wide ranging tastes: science fiction, mystery, thrillers, historical fiction, whatever caught my fancy. Once as I was reading a Matt Helm secret agent novel by Donald Hamilton, it occurred to me that if angels are God’s secret agents, as Billy Graham said, there must be some really good stories that could be…

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Spotlight and Filling in the Blanks with Linda Lo Scuro, Author of ‘The Sicilian Woman’s Daughter’

Beyond the Books

Sicilian Woman-US-revised.indd

Genre: Mystery/Women’s Fiction

Author: Linda Lo Scuro

Publisher:   Sparkling Books

https://www.sparklingbooks.com/

Purchase link:

https://www.sparklingbooks.com/the_sicilian_womans_daughter.html

Follow the author:

Twitter /  Facebook

About The Sicilian Woman’s Daughter

When the novel opens, Maria, the novel’s protagonist is living a charmed and comfortable life with her husband, banker Humphrey and children, in London.   The daughter of Sicilian immigrants, Maria turned her back on her origins during her teens to fully embrace the English way of life.

Despite her troubled and humble childhood, Maria, through her intelligence, beauty and sheer determination, triumphantly works her way up to join the upper middle-class of British society.  But when a minor incident awakens feelings of revenge in her, Maria is forced to confront–and examine—her past.

As she delves deeper into her mother’s family history, a murky past unravels—and Maria is swept up in a deadly and dangerous mire of vendetta.  Will Maria’s carefully-constructed, seemingly-idyllic life unravel?  Expect the unexpected in this outstanding…

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On the Spotlight: ‘Honolulu Heat’ by Rosemary and Larry Mild

The Dark Phantom Review

9780990547235-Cover FINAL.indd

Honolulu Heat, Between the Mountains and the Great Sea

By Rosemary and Larry Mild

(ISBN 978-0-9905472-3-5, Trade Paper and e-Book, 298 pages, $14.95)

Website: http://magicile.com/

Find out more on Amazon

Honolulu Heat, the latest mystery by Rosemary and Larry Mild, is a tantalizing tale brimming with action, suspense, and intrigue.

About Honolulu Heat:  After surviving Hurricane Iniki on the island of Kauai, Alex and Leilani Wong move to Oahu for safety and peace of mind. Fate, however, is unkind. Alex and Leilani anguish over their son, Noah, an idealistic teenager who teeters on both sides of the law. Noah’s life takes an unexpected turn when he meets his dream girl, Nina Portfia. But Nina has dangerous family ties—and the romance turns ugly when she and Noah unwittingly share horrific secrets.

Facing a murder charge, Noah flees and finds himself swept up in a bloody feud between a Chinatown…

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Excerpt reveal: ‘Claire’s Last Secret,’ by Marty Ambrose

Claire Last Secret CoverGenre: Historical Fiction

Author: Marty Ambrose

Website:  https://www.martyambrose.com/

Publisher: Severn House

Find out more on Amazon

About the Book:

1873, Florence. Claire Clairmont, the last survivor of the haunted summer of 1816 Lord Byron/Mary Shelley circle, is living out her final years in genteel poverty.  The appearance of British tourist, William Michael Rossetti, brings Claire hope that she may be able to sell some of her memorabilia to earn enough cash to support her and her niece, Paula.  But Rossetti’s presence in Florence heralds a cycle of events that links the summer of 1816—when Claire conceived an ill-fated child with Lord Byron, when Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, and when four tempestuous lives collided—to a tragic death. As Claire begins to unravel the truth, she must go back to that summer of passion to discover the identity of her old enemy.

EXCERPT

Florence, Italy, 1873

His letter came just at the point when I thought death was my only option.

Poverty had been creeping in like a shadow edging out the light, and it was only a matter of time before it engulfed what was left of my life and snuffed out any prospect that fate would offer another way. I could no longer envision a road that led to some lost, yet cherished land of dreams – especially when I was too old to pick up and start over on some adventure that would lead me into a new dawn.

It was too late for that.

Those were the youthful regions where fortune bestowed some great, golden happiness on anyone who had the courage to live with soulful purpose – hardly the reality of my present circumstances.

Yet, the letter brought a glimmer of hope . . . a wild fancy that I might, even at this late stage, turn things around. What I did not realize was that it would take me back to the early days and expose a labyrinth of deception and lies that had altered the course of my existence.

But I digress . . .

I must start at the beginning because the echoes of one’s origin never fade to silence, no matter how much it is desired. I did not know my own origin because I never knew my father – not that I needed to learn his identity, but it would have centered my world at the very least with a beginning point. A compass for my life. A moment when I first became aware that I drew breath.

Sadly, it never happened.

My last name is Clairmont. A melodic sobriquet to be sure, but my mother simply chose the name like someone would choose a ribbon for the bodice of a dress:  – it seemed appealing and created just the right effect of class and respectability – but it was for show, nonetheless, since she never married a man named Clairmont. Not that I particularly minded her choice. I love showiness. In my opinion, modesty in a woman is highly overrated, though no one in my family agreed with me. But I, Clara Mary Jane Clairmont, always went my own way – even without the compass – and I am more proud of that than anything else in my seventy-five years on this earth.

Just as I claimed my version of my name: Claire Clairmont.

Il mio nome.

‘Aunt Claire, don’t overtax yourself,’ my niece, Paula, said as she strolled into the warm, slightly stuffy room, a cup of my favorite oolong tea in her hand. It was late morning – not terribly hot yet, but by afternoon the midsummer Florentine temperature would soar and everyone would take refuge inside, resting and praying to St Clare of Assisi for a breath of air. My rented apartment faced the Boboli Gardens – a lush, open space on the outskirts of Florence, perched on a hill – that often provided a slight breeze, whispering through the centuries-old cypress trees and hidden grottos.

Paula set a delicate blue-and-white patterned china cup on my tea table, already cluttered with letters, books, and an inkwell. ‘You need to move around more, Aunt. Your ankle is starting to swell again, and, if you cannot walk, I will have to call in Raphael to carry you to bed.’ My niece’s voice took on that familiar combination of love and exasperation of the young who are tethered to the old; she cared for me deeply, but I tried her patience as well when I refused to heed her advice, which occurred quite often. I wasn’t ready to give up my independent ways yet.

Besides, she would not mind calling our domestico, Raphael; I’d seen the sweet longing in the glances that she cast at him when he was distracted by some task in the kitchen. Paula might be the daughter of my dearly-departed brother, Charles, but she was also my niece, after all. Spinning romantic fantasies around a handsome face was embedded in her nature. Certainly, I had done that a time or two in my life – sometimes finding regret in my impulsive feelings, sometimes not. But always true to my passions.

Quickly, I slipped the letter under the stack of books, shifting in my chair and smoothing down my faded blue cotton dress.  I was not ready to share it with her yet.

‘Is that the missive you received this morning?’ she asked absently, leaning down and plumping the delicately embroidered pillow under my sprained ankle, which was propped up on a footstool.

‘Nothing important.’ Assuming an air of nonchalance, I shrugged. ‘Just a letter from one of my many old friends, Edward Trelawny, inquiring as to our well-being.’

Paula straightened with a sigh. ‘Do we have any old friends left who have not abandoned us to our state of poverty, except Trelawny?’

‘Thank you, my dear, for pointing that out. I am well aware of our impoverished state of affairs since my last ill-conceived investment in that farm.’ Folding my wrinkled hands in my lap, I echoed her sigh. Investing in my nephew’s farm in Austria was a foolishness that I could ill- afford, but I never could resist helping my family, even though it had pushed me to the brink of bankruptcy.

‘I apologize – that was unkind, Aunt.’ She placed a hand on my forearm, glancing down at me with her dark eyes clouded in guilt.

‘You are forgiven, even though I must remind you that friendships can ebb and flow during the years regardless of one’s financial status – even those who are closest to us can disappoint us.’ Of course, I meant the members of the sacred Byron/Shelley circle of my youth: Byron, the great poet who broke my heart, and Shelley, the husband of my stepsister, Mary, whose brilliance lit my life and whose small annuity protected me in my advanced years. I had loved them all – especially my accomplished and beautiful stepsister, Mary. Even though Mary had created a hideous monster in her novel, Frankenstein, she herself possessed that kind of tranquil loveliness that made everyone gravitate to her.

Serenità, as the Italians would say.

Unlike me.

I could never sit still.

I talked incessantly.

And I never let my head rule my emotions, which caused me more heartache than I can say. But my life was never dull.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Marty Ambrose has been a writer most her life, consumed with the world of literature from the time she first read Agatha Christie mysteries and British Romantic poetry.  Marty pursued her undergraduate and graduate degrees in English, both in the U.S. and the U.K. so she could teach students at Florida Southwestern State College about the writers that she so admired.  Three decades later, she is still teaching and has enjoyed a writing career that has spanned almost fifteen years, with eight published novels for Avalon Books, Kensington Books, and Thomas & Mercer. Marty Ambrose lives in Florida with her husband, ex- news anchor Jim McLaughlin.  She plans to travel to Italy in the Fall to research A Shadowed Fate, the next book in the trilogy.

Links to your site and social media:

https://www.martyambrose.com

https://www.martyambrose.com/blog

https://www.facebook.com/MartyAmbroseMysteryWriterMemoirist1957

https://www.instagram.com/martyrose57/

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A Conversation with Margaret Mizushima, author of ‘Burning Ridge’

DSCF4389_pp copyMargaret Mizushima is the author of the critically acclaimed Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries. Her books have garnered a Reader’s Favorite gold medal and have been listed as finalists in the RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards, the Colorado Book Awards, and the International Book Awards. Margaret serves on the board for the Rocky Mountain chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and she lives in Colorado where she assists her husband with their veterinary practice and Angus cattle herd. She can be found on Facebook/AuthorMargaretMizushima, on Twitter @margmizu, on Instagram at margmizu, and on her website at www.margaretmizushima.com.

Mayra Calvani: Please tell us about Burning Ridge, and what compelled you to write it.

Margaret Mizushima: Burning Ridge is fourth in the Timber Creek K-9 mystery series which features Deputy Mattie Cobb, her K-9 partner Robo, and veterinarian Cole Walker. Since I’ve been married to a veterinarian for decades, I wanted to create a mystery with a male vet as a character. I planned to write a police procedural instead of an amateur sleuth mystery, and since I wanted a love interest for the vet, it made sense to create a crime-fighting duo of a female K-9 handler and her dog to round out the cast. The plot for Burning Ridge was inspired by Mattie’s past, and I imagined this twist in her character development while writing book three in the series, Hunting Hour.

M.C.: What is your book about?

Burning Ridge coverM.M.: Burning Ridge is the fourth book in the Timber Creek K-9 series, and it’s an action-packed adventure featuring Deputy Mattie Cobb, her dog Robo, and local veterinarian Cole Walker. When Cole and his two daughters find partial human remains up on Redstone Ridge, a beautiful place in the Colorado mountain wilderness, Mattie and Robo are called to investigate. After Robo finds a man’s burned body, Mattie soon realizes that she has close personal ties to the victim and she’s determined to learn the truth behind his death. But the perpetrator has other plans, and Mattie finds herself the target of a sadistic killer. Cole and Robo search for the missing Mattie while a forest fire blazes on the ridge and time runs out.

M.C.:  What themes do you explore in Burning Ridge?

M.M.: I explore themes about relationships, family, and what ties a family together. Family themes are woven throughout the entire series, and Burning Ridge forces Mattie to examine some special considerations about hers.

M.C.:  Why do you write?

M.M.: Above all, I want to be a storyteller. I want to create stories about good people going through tough times who learn something valuable in the process. At the same time, I strive to entertain folks and give them the type of story that offers a mini-vacation.

M.C.:  When do you feel the most creative?

M.M.: Definitely in the morning. I try to dedicate that time of day to my writing and save the afternoon for appointments and my day job.

M.C.:  How picky are you with language?

M.M.: This is a great question. My primary goal is to provide a smooth read that flows. I want plenty of action that propels the mystery investigation forward, and I want to make sure that my subplots interweave with my main plot. I like to use language that is easily accessible to a wide variety of readers, and even to people who don’t particularly like to read. I’m thrilled when I get an email from someone who says they don’t usually read, but they love my books. Makes my day!

M.C.:  When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?

M.M.: Good way to say it! I like to begin writing a scene with specific goals in mind, but about half the time, the characters take a turn I never expected!

M.C.:  What is your worst time as a writer?

M.M.: The hardest time is slogging through the first draft of a new book. I try to write every day for a four-month period. It can be a tough climb! As I’ve heard novelist Peter Heller say, “Writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint.” And after completing the first draft, there is that rugged road called revision.

M.C.:  Your best?

M.M.: I think my favorite time is when I receive a new cover from my publisher. Crooked Lane produces fabulous covers, and each time it’s like opening up a birthday present!

M.C.:  Is there anything that would stop you from writing?

M.M.: I suppose I’ll always be writing something.

M.C.: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?

M.M.: When I was offered a contract for my first two books. I had the flu and was driving home from a medical appointment when my agent called. She told me to find a place to park, and after I did, she gave me the news. Illness forgotten! Party on!

M.C.:  Is writing an obsession to you?

M.M.: If having a story play out in your mind almost any hour of the day or night and thinking of character development, plot, and the perfect way to word something is an indication of obsession, I would have to say yes.

M.C.:  Are the stories you create connected with you in some way?

M.M.: Even though Timber Creek is fictional, it reminds me of my hometown. The small town and rural lives the characters lead have many elements that are similar to mine, and Cole’s mixed animal veterinary practice is similar to my husband’s. But Deputy Mattie Cobb is a creation all to herself; except for the search and rescue work she does with Robo, her characteristics and work come strictly from my imagination and research.

M.C.:  Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Do you agree?

M.M.: I feel that the business of writing is not for the faint of heart. It’s best for me to stay focused on what’s important—my writing—and to try to keep all the other stuff in perspective.

M.C.:  Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?

M.M.: My website is at https://margaretmizushima.com/  Readers can connect with me there for my blog and to sign up for my newsletter. Thanks so much for hosting me here on your blog today, Mayra!

 

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Excerpt reveal: Blood and Wisdom, by Verlin Darrow

BloodandWisdom_w12516_750Title:  BLOOD & WISDOM

Genre:  Mystery/PI Novel

Author: Verlin Darrow

Websitewww.verlindarrow.com

Publisher: Wild Rose Press

Purchase on Amazon

About the Book: 

When Private Investigator Karl Gatlin takes on Aria Piper’s case, it was no more than a threat—phone calls warning Aria to either “stop doing Satan’s work” or meet an untimely demise.  But a few hours later, a headless John Doe bobs up in the wishing well at Aria’s New Age spiritual center near Santa Cruz.  Aria had ideas about who could be harassing her, but the appearance of a dismembered body makes for a real game changer.  And what Karl Gatlin initially thought was a fairly innocuous case turns out to be anything but.

Dispatching former rugby superstar and Maori friend John Ratu to protect Aria, Karl and his hacker assistant Matt are free to investigate a ruthless pastor, a money launderer on the run, some sketchy members of Aria’s flock, and warring drug gangs.  With his dog Larry as a wingman, Karl uncovers a broad swath of corruption, identity theft, blackmail, and more murders. But nothing is as it seems, and as the investigation heats up, Karl is framed, chased, and forced to dive into the freezing water of the Monterey Bay to escape a sniper.

Against the backdrop of a ticking clock, Karl races to find answers. But more murders only mean more questions—and Karl is forced to make an impossible choice when it turns out Aria’s secret may be the most harrowing of all… 

An intelligent, intense and engaging tale, Blood and Wisdom races from the opening scene to the final page.  Brimming with colorful, multi-dimensional characters, wit, humor, and a taut storyline, Blood and Wisdom is filled with twists, turns, and surprises.  Novelist Verlin Darrow, a practicing psychotherapist, infuses Blood and Wisdom with fascinating details about psychology and metaphysics, and seamlessly blends elements of hardboiled and softboiled detective fiction.   With its original premise, smart plotting, to-die-for redwood-studded coastal Santa Cruz and Big Sur setting, and protagonist like no other, Blood and Wisdom is a pitch-perfect PI novel.

Blood and Wisdom has garnered high advance praise.  According to Richard House, MD, author of Between Now and When, “Darrow has a sense of plot and style that carries the reader forward into that special place of anxious expectation, the place where putting the book down is unthinkable. Fascinating.”  C.I. Dennis, author of the Vince Tanzi series, including Tanzi’s Luck, praises Blood and Wisdom for its “great pace, fun characters who you care about, plenty of twists, and narrative personality.”

About the Author:

Verlin Darrow is a psychotherapist who was patted on the head by Einstein, nearly blown up by Mt. St. Helens, survived the 1985 8.0 Mexico City earthquake, and, so far, has successfully weathered numerous internal disasters. He lives with his psychotherapist wife in Northern California. They diagnose each other as necessary.

Connect with Verlin Darrow:

https://www.verlindarrow.com/blog

www.verlindarrow.com

 

EXCERPT

 

“Do you think we still need John?”

“I have no idea. Having a bodyguard was your idea, Karl. But if you’re asking me if I’m enjoying helping him, the answer is very much so.”

“Helping him?”

“Of course. That’s what I do.” Aria pulled her hands apart and then tilted them as though she were holding an invisible beach ball.

Something occurred to me. “Are you helping me, too? I mean, in some weird way besides answering my questions.”

“Did you sleep especially well the night we met? Right now, are you present and invigorated?”

I checked in with myself. I was feeling very alert, and the monkey chatter in my head was noticeably reduced. But the idea of somebody screwing with me without my permission was not okay with me.

“You know,” I said, “there’s something my first clinical supervisor told me. Well, first and last supervisor. Let’s face it, I got canned just a few months later, didn’t I? He told me that unsolicited help is interference.”

“I agree. What you’re experiencing is just the side effect of someone at your stage of spiritual development being exposed to my type of energy field.”

“Like what happened to Larry? Aria, let’s not get too weird. I’ve been tolerant of your beliefs, and I know you think all this is germane to the case, but…” I didn’t care to go further with this. I was likely to say something offensive.

She smiled another sweet, gentle smile. “I’m doing the best I can to minimize whatever would be difficult for you to handle, Karl.”

Larry barked. I glanced at him, and he barked again—more urgently this time. He was hearing something alarming that I couldn’t hear yet.

I stood. “Stay here,” I told Aria. “I mean it.” I didn’t wait to see her response.

Larry and I ran outside and hurtled down the front porch stairs. After a half-dozen steps toward the sound of a powerful motor, I saw it. A humongous silver SUV tore across the meadow, heading straight for us.

I dove to the side, behind a dangerously slim fruit tree. Larry remained on his feet, barking frantically as the truck bore down on him. I pulled my gun and called my dog, and thank God he obeyed. He was by my side in a flash.

Unfortunately, neither of us sensed the man behind us in time. He kicked the pistol out of my hand just before Larry took him down, but by then it was too late.

The SUV skidded to a halt, and three men piled out. One of them was the guy who’d stopped me on the road—the driver’s side guy. None of them held a weapon in his hand. They didn’t need them. There were four of them, and I was now unarmed. Presumably, someone was calling this in to the police, but we were out in the boondocks. It might be a while before a car could get to us.

“Larry!’ I called. “Heel!”

I didn’t want him getting hurt. He was astride the big guy on the ground next to me, but he backed off and sat by my side.

Larry’s guy kicked my gun away from me and moved behind us again in case we tried to run. With my knee, that wasn’t an option.

The other three stood directly in front of us now. “We meet again,” the guy with the acne said. “Where’s the woman? Is she in one of these buildings?”

I guess I didn’t answer fast enough. He stepped forward and pistoned a straight right to my gut. Jesus. This guy could punch. I’d tried some amateur boxing when I was young. Nobody had hit that hard—and this guy was a bantamweight at the most. I doubled over, trying not to retch.

“Hit him again,” one of the other men said in Spanish.

Then I heard a primeval bellow—a sound so deep and loud, all of us froze for a moment.

John Ratu sprinted around the corner of the building and tackled the boxer, driving him into the man next to him. Before the other one in front of me could react, John shot out his massive leg and swept the guy’s legs out from under him. In about two seconds, he’d knocked down all three of them.

I turned around. “Attack!” I called to Larry, and he launched himself at the guy behind us. I almost felt sorry for him. I headed for my pistol, which was about fifteen feet to the side of me.

The guy who’d punched me cut me off. He’d scrambled to his feet and eluded a roundhouse kick from John, who was now engaged with the other two attackers.

The man crouched on the balls of his feet, looking like a cross between a boxer and a martial artist. I had no doubt he could beat the crap out of me in a fair fight. It was lucky I didn’t fight fair.

He didn’t either. He pulled a double-edged knife on me and lunged forward, the weapon held low. He was going for my crotch.

I hit the ground and called Larry. We’d practiced this move at the training school we’d attended in New Mexico. With a running start, Larry leapt onto my back and launched himself. He was about head height when he reached our attacker, who was leaning forward. Larry’s open jaws clamped onto the guy’s cheek, and he screamed.

I heard sirens now. I got up, retrieved my gun, and held it on the four men on the ground. Once Larry had disabled his foe, he’d lost interest in the whole attack thing. And it had taken all of a minute for John to dispatch the other two, one of whom wasn’t moving at all.

We waited for the police. After taking all our statements, corroborated by multiple witnesses, they hauled off the thugs and towed away their SUV.

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