Friday, January 30, 2015

WHY I Wrought THE RED PATH by Robert W. Walker

WHY I Wrought THE RED PATH – Indian Brigades in the Civil War

A frequently asked question:  “Mr. Walker, you now have 5 YA historical novels, 6 large adult historical novels, and 2 alternate historical novels published, but you are best known for your 13-book Instinct Series and your Edge Series of suspense novels. So why have you turned to writing historical novels late in your career?”

It has all to do with an author’s insides, I suppose, that and what size canvas and tools he/she wishes for the moment to lift and put to use. The writer must challenge himself/herself no matter the genre the author chooses to work in, and I see the choice of genre as important as any other choice a writer makes.

I see color or colorless setting as a tool, character-building like thin or thick lines, character as another brush in the toolbox. Dialogue as an instrument of voice, pacing, and revelation. I see all the choices an author makes as similar—if not identical—to the choices and tools that an artist lifts from his array of instruments to render a lifelike or hugely expressive painting. Art and writing have a strong kinship.

Why choose to write the historical novel if you’re known for the medical examiner as heroine vs. the serial killer psychological suspense novel?  This is a question posed to me often both at the conference bar and on social media.  As a result, I have given thought to an answer. The short, ready-made answer is the same as the one offered up by the proverbial mountain climber:  “Because it is there.”  In other words, I do it because it challenges me. It requires another set of tools, instruments of ‘torture’ so to speak, and a different, perhaps larger canvas. Not that writing a suspense thriller is without challenges of its own, only that the level of research and thus commitment of time, blood, sweat, and pain to my backside will go up and up incrementally.

Devoting everything to an historical moment is perhaps more challenging for this author, and in beating back a challenge, a certain personal reward is at the end of that chase for the answers to questions your characters face inside their world.

However, researching and writing historical novels is nothing new to me in the first place. I began my career in the firm belief that YA historical novels would provide my place in the world of writing. I wrote two YAs which were published early, but I found it economically unfeasible to make a living at pursuing this genre. Before I made that starting discovery, I had penned several more by which time my YA publisher had gone out of business. I was orphaned as they say in the business.

So I turned to genres that were doing far better commercially—horror and mystery of the adult variety, and I quickly learned I not only had a fascination for the macabre all along, but that I had a talent for it. Forty novels later with NYC publishers, I came to two conclusions thanks to what I call the Kindle Printing Press Age. One was to publish my next works as Kindle ebooks, and two was to revisit historical fiction.

I had been moaning to close friends and relatives that I was losing my passion for writing. Specifically writing the same genre with Instinct and Edge titles both ongoing, along with a horror series, and so when people I trust told me I should go back—decide why I began writing in the first place—and then determine what I wanted to do, I began to seriously ponder such questions.

Of course, staring me in the face—actually staring from my bottom desk file drawer—historical novel manuscripts that had never seen the light of publication. YA historical manuscripts that had not been completed, along with several adult historical novels. One was Children of Salem, another was ANNIE’S WAR, the other THE RED PATH. Frankly, all these manuscripts were works I had done in the 80s and they were always at the back of my mind begging for me to revisit them some day.

I had first tackled the City for Ransom trilogy for HarperCollins, and I had a wonderful time with the character of Alastair Ransom. Imagine the pageantry of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair as backdrop to a police procedural sans forensics. After doing this series for HarperCollins, I realized what was lacking in my Children of Salem, which was also in that bottom file drawer. I have never been more passionate to see a book come to fruition than Children of Salem (as we are all in a sense children of Salem). I published the novel as a kindle ebook and Createspace title a few years ago.

With the success –success as measured by the author’s sense of achievement—I then tackled the complex Annie’s War.  After the success of getting that YA done to the best of my ability, I moved to tackle the far greater challenge of seventeen-year-old Annie Brown’s story – a three volume adult historical novel featuring the daughter of John Brown with the backdrop of her romance being her father’s attack on a US Arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Gunfight at the OK Corral before there was an OK Corral and the stakes being the abolition of slavery or not.

The Canoneers – Ben Cross & The Guns of Ticonderoga, which is now a kindle ebook and a wonderful wrought audiobook followed, and with my sense of pleasure in reviving this great story based on fact, I returned to Animiki & The Keepers of the Fire, a YA American Indian novel, followed quickly by Ragnar & The Battlestormer, a Viking YA novel.

In between the YA titles above, I truly wanted to do something with The Red Path, an adult historical novel that I had long attempted to write as a nonfiction history title. I had had many stops and starts with this research, and my purpose was to create a story that would honor the Five Civilized Tribes—whose participation in the American Civil War has never truly been dramatized to any level matching the story of Black soldiers in the Civil War. I wanted to do a “Glory” styled story for the Native Americans who gave their lives to both North and South. The sub-title is Indian Brigades in the Civil War. As with Salem Witchcraft, I felt the real story has never been given its due, and I have been struggling to get it right for decades, and now it is a kindle ebook.

I hope now the answer is clear to the original question posed—a writer writes from passion. Just as an artist who lifts the canvass to work with ask as question one: Do I want to commit to a large or a small canvass? A horror novel needs doing, a mystery is crying out to be painted, a young adult historical begs for its time, no…the loudest blank slate screaming to be heard now is The Red Path.  In other words, no book before its time.

Here is a list of my historical titles:

Young Adult Historical Novels:

Daniel Webster Jackson & the Wrong Way Railroad
Gideon Tell & the Siege of Vicksburg
The Canoneers – Ben Cross & The Guns of Ticonderoga
Animiki & The Keepers of the Fire
Ragnar & The Battlestormer

Adult Historical  Novels:

THE RANSOM MYSTERIES featuring 19th century detective Alastair Ransom
City for Ransom
Shadows in the White City
City of the Absent

Children of Salem – Love Amid the Witch Trials
Annie’s War – Love Amid the Ruins
The Red Path – Indian Brigades in the Civil War

Alternate Historical Novels:

Titanic 2012 – Curse of RMS Titanic
Bismarck 2013 – Hitler’s Curse

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

DO SOMETHING--LIVE! by Alina Adams

True confessions time: I like plot. No, strike that. I LOVE plot.

Yes, yes, I know, character is king, and poetic language is queen. But I prefer stories where stuff… happens.

Call it pulp, call it melodrama, call it whatever the opposite of literary fiction is, but when you ask someone what a book is about, that usually means you want to know, what’s the story? And a story means something happens. Preferably something interesting and surprising.

I love plot twists, too.  The more the better. Preferably ones that I didn’t see coming, but, upon reflection, make perfect sense.

Common wisdom holds that character drives plot. But, conversely, doesn’t plot define character? After all, isn’t the best way to find out what a person – imaginary or real – is made of, by seeing their reaction to stressful situations? Do they rise to the occasion, or shirk? Do they handle setbacks with grace or present their worst selves? I don’t want to learn about a character by being told – no matter how poetic the language may be.  I don’t want to leaf through pages of internal monologue about their thoughts and dreams and hopes and plans. I want to see them DO something. And then I’ll make up my own mind about what kind of person they are.

For those wondering, why, no, I didn’t do particularly well in high-school English class. And I dropped out of my college Creative Writing program when I realized that the kinds of stories I wanted to write – and read – were not the kind considered acceptable by serious literary types.

Which is why I’ve started a program of my own. Kind of. And it fits in perfectly with my writing and life motto of DO SOMETHING.

Instead of telling aspiring authors how to write a book, I am going to show them.


By writing my next novel live online at, with readers being able to watch every key-stroke, every typo, every dead end and every deletion of entire paragraphs at a time.  They’ll be able to comment on the action, too. (After all, what’s the point of criticizing a book after it’s published? It’s too late for me to do anything about it, then.)

Am I out of my mind? Quite possibly. After all, writers are strictly told that they must never, ever, ever show anything but their best work to the public, lest a twenty year writing career (my first book was published in 1994) be swept down the drain by one, ill-chosen word.

But, remember what I said above? I love plot and plot twists. I like not knowing what’s coming up. (The other day, I wrote a scene live where I didn’t even know what the characters were going to say until they’d said it.  They didn’t just surprise themselves, they surprised me, too!)  I like being pushed to the edge of my seat, and that’s just what this latest project of mine is doing. I can’t wait to find out what happens next, and I hope that sense of excitement permeates my writing.

Meanwhile, I also hope that it might be truly instructional to people wondering how a book comes together, from first draft to publication. Already, I’ve explained my reasons for deleting two entire chapters (I figured if the character was boring me to write, he had to be even more boring to read).  I’ve confessed about how I froze up the first time I had to write a sex scene – with readers watching.  And I’ve spent hours polishing a single paragraph, going back and forth with my choice of words, only to dump the entire thing the next day and start all over again.

But that’s the writer’s life for you. I don’t want there to be any sense of mystery about it. I want to fling back the curtain and expose the unromantic reality, warts and all. Besides, you might feel better about your own first draft if you see what a mess mine is. Then you can chuckle as you watch me try to wrestle it into submission.

Could I be making a horrible, strategic career mistake? It’s possible. But, at least something is happening!

Got an opinion about plots, plot twists, or writing live for the world to see – and comment? I’d love to hear all about it!

Alina Adams is the “New York Times” best-selling author of soap-opera tie-ins, including “Oakdale Confidential,” “Jonathan’s Story” and “The Man From Oakdale,” Regency and contemporary romance novels, including “When a Man Loves a Woman,” “Thieves at Heart” and “Annie’s Wild Ride,” and Figure Skating Mysteries, “Murder on Ice,” “On Thin Ice,” “Axel of Evil,” “Death Drop,” and “Skate Crime.” She has worked as the Creative Content Producer for the P&G soap operas, “As the World Turns” and “Guiding Light,” for ABC Daytime, and as a writer and producer for televised figure skating broadcasts on ABC, NBC, ESPN and TNT. She lives in NYC with her husband and three children. Currently, she is writing her next book live on the web – and inviting readers to comment as she does. Visit her website at:

Monday, January 26, 2015

Partnering in Writing by Janet Lynn

When I started writing in 2000, I always wanted to attempt ‘50s Noir, but I couldn’t figure out how to get into a man’s head and make it sound real. My husband is a published author too. We edited each other’s work. He consistently changed the dialogue for my male characters stating, “A guy wouldn’t think that.”

One day I mentioned how I’d love to write a Noir Murder Mystery. He turned to me and said, “So let’s do it together.” I almost broke into tears.

People warned us it would tarnish our 43 year old marriage. They insisted it wouldn’t work. Concerned, we took a business approach and set rules of professionalism, respect and overall patience. 

We started with a deadline schedule and we met every two weeks to discuss character development, subplots and fight scenes. We discussed what was working and what wasn’t. It turned out a lot of fun, we took field trips to old L.A. and Hollywood, and night clubs, all to get the feel for the 1950s music, lives of period actors and actresses, clothes and news headlines. We interviewed retired police officers, about LAPD procedures and equipment of 1955.

The result-SLIVERS OF GLASS and a wonderful partnering experience for both of

Summer 1955: The body of a woman thought to be killed three years earlier is found behind a theater in Hollywood.  Movie stuntman Skylar Drake, a former LAPD detective, is dragged into the investigation. He can make no sense of the crime until he discovers a dirty underworld and unearths deep-seated… greed.  

The hunt takes Drake to places he’d never expect.  He’s anxious to close this case and get back to his business in L.A., but he’s constantly haunted by the memory of his wife and young daughter, killed in a mysterious house fire.

With more than enough dirty cops, politicians and crime bosses to go around, Drake can trust no one including Martin Card, the cop assigned to work with him. 
Buy link: website:
Janet Lynn

Saturday, January 24, 2015


Someone recently asked me why I wrote romantic thrillers. At the time, I explained that when I sent my first novel to an agent, she had told me I needed to add romance or it would never sell. Which was true as far as it went. But as I thought about it later, it occurred to me that romance itself is probably one of the most difficult things to get right, both in fiction and in real life. If you do it right, romance can be beautiful, thrilling, and unforgettable. Of course, if you’re like me, it’s more often a comedy of errors. Oh, my brushes with romance have definitely been unforgettable, but not for the reasons you might think.

I’ll never forget the time I went out with a foreign diplomat. He was from Germany and he took me to an embassy party. We had a very nice time at the party. I met a lot of interesting people and heard a lot of interesting stories. The food was delicious and the alcohol flowed like water. Now I have never been much of a drinker—that stuff is fattening, after all—but my date had no such inhibitions. He drank like a fish. When it was time to leave, he was in no condition to drive.

“But I have diplomatiisssh immuniteesse,” he proclaimed.
“That’s great,” I replied. “But diplomatic immunity won’t keep you from smashing into a tree.”

I finally convinced him to let me drive, but as I had never been to his apartment and had no clue where he lived, he had to give me directions. If you have ever gotten directions from someone who is extremely inebriated, you can sympathize. If you haven’t, don’t try it. Needless to say, it wasn’t long until I was pulled over by a cop, who thought I was driving erratically because I had been drinking. “No,” I assured him. “I’m just getting directions from someone who has been drinking.” All the while, my date is hollering from the passenger seat about his diplomatic immunity, which of course, didn’t apply to me at all, and since I was driving…

Luckily for me, the cop was understanding. Not only did he not give me a ticket, he gave me directions I could actually follow. But the time I got my date home, up to his apartment, and onto his couch, where he promptly passed out, I still had the problem of getting myself home. And now it was three a.m. As you can imagine, the next time this guy called and invited me to an embassy party, I conveniently had other plans.

Then there was the time a guy invited me to go for a boat ride with him. It was a beautiful night—a full moon, soft cool breezes. Romantic, right? Well, it could have been if the boat hadn’t been a rubber Zodiac with too much horsepower in the outboard motor, or if my date had known how to handle the boat without capsizing it. Trust me, when you are soaked from head to toe, your clothes are plastered to your skin, your hair is plastered to your head, and the cool breezes just make you shiver, it takes all the romance right out of moonlight boat rides.

So when I added romance to my latest novel, Black Ops Chronicles: Dead Men Don’t, I had to rely a lot on my imagination, as I didn’t think most of my own experiences would suffice. I got some help from my female friends, but never try asking a man about romance. All you’ll get are hmmms, ahs, and cleared throats. Do you think their experiences could have been similar to mine?

Pepper O'Neal Bio:

Award-winning author, Pepper O’Neal is a researcher, a writer, and an adrenalin junkie. She has a doctorate in education and spent several years in Mexico and the Caribbean working as researcher for an educational resource firm based out of Mexico City. During that time, she met and befriended many adventurers like herself, including former CIA officers and members of organized crime. Her fiction is heavily influenced by the stories they shared with her, as well her own experiences abroad. When she’s not at her computer, O’Neal spends her time taking long walks in the forests near her home or playing with her three cats. And of course, planning the next adventure.
Facebook URL:                          

ISBN-13: 9781626941533
Black Opal Books
Trade paper, 304 pgs.
June 2014, $11.99

A strange man has come to save her...but is he friend or foe? Anderson Merritt’s been kidnapped, but when a stranger comes to rescue her, she isn’t sure he is who he says he is. He claims to work her father’s boss. But someone close to Andi set her up, and now she doesn’t know who to trust. Every man she’s ever known has seen her only as a tool to get to her father or his money, so why should this one be any different?

As the sparks between them ignite, and the danger escalates, Andi has to choose—go off on her own, or trust that some men really are what they seem. He doesn’t want to hurt her…but he may have to if she doesn’t come willingly. Ex-CIA black ops specialist Levi Komakov doesn’t believe in hurting women, but when the place is set to blow and Andi won’t cooperate, he has no choice to but toss her over his shoulder and carry her out of danger, determined to keep her safe in spite of herself. But the beautiful little spitfire doesn’t make it easy for him. With her abductors seemingly always one step ahead of him, Levi suspects there’s a rat in the woodpile, but who? Could it be someone close to Andi’s father, someone in the FBI, or someone in the family Levi works for? When a new threat appears, and even the CIA can’t help him keep Andi safe, Levi puts everything on the line—but will it be enough?

Other Books by Pepper O'Neal

Love Potion No.; 2-14; 2/11/2011; ebook: 9781937329877; print: 9781937329884; large print: 9781626940376; $1.99; $7.99; $10.99

Blood Fest: Chasing Destiny; 5/3/2011; ebook: 9780983268154; print: 9780983268161; large print: 9781626941564; $2.99; $11.99; $15.99

Blood Fest: Cursing Fate; 12/1/2011; ebook: 9781937 329235; print: 9781937329242; large print: 9781626940390; audio: 9781626940208; $2.99; $11.99; $28.50; $15.99

Black Ops Chronicles: Dead Run; 8/25/2012; ebook: 9781937329600; print: 9781937329617; $2.99; $11.99

Blood Fest: Running Scared, coming out early in 2015, Black Opal Books (coming in 2015)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Over There: A Doughboy in France 1918

            My father’s notebook from World War One has long been a prized possession, together with his dogtags, and a photo of his billet on the front lines. Dad enlisted in the Signal Corps, U.S. Army, was on a July, 1918 convoy to Great Britain from Halifax, and spent several months being assigned ever farther east until reaching his front line position in the American Sector at Mousson Hill, Meurthe-et-Moselle (Lorraine). 

We all knew about his notebook entry for Armistice Day, November 11, 1918, as he described intercepting messages from both sides, and finally, the guns falling silent. But with the centennial approaching, it seemed the right time to look at the entire notebook, and see what it contained.

            It wasn’t an easy task. Some of the notebook was in pencil, and the handwriting wasn’t always clear. The references, too, were sometimes difficult. I just didn’t have the same frame of referfence that he had, in 1918. Whoever spoke of the past as a different place was quite right. One needs a guide, for 1918 was a different world, and certainly, a different series of battles, than I had understood it to be.
            The essential first step was the decision to transcribe the notebook. It was something like giving up smoking! The notebook and its entries fought me for weeks, for one thing. But from time to time there were small victories - when Dad’s writer’s slang or shorthand started to become familiar, for example. It also helped a great deal that I have lived in France, and understood many of his references. But the important thing at this early stage, having made the decision to transcribe the notebook, was – like ceasing to smoke – just keeping at it through the inevitable difficulties.
            I made discoveries as the work proceeded. An offhand reference to a fire at Halifax, Nova Scotia, for example, led me to google “Halifax fire,” and discover the cataclysmic explosion and fire that occurred in Halifax harbor in December, 1917 – said to be the largest man made explosion before the development of atomic weapons. Dad was transported across the North Atlantic in a 23 ship convoy, in the HMT Durham Castle, and I was able to find a period photograph of that very ship. Little by little, I had moved beyond transcribing, and was adding details that enriched the text for today’s reader – details that someone from 1918 would already have known.
            I did a lot of reading to get some context for the notebook. One recent author of a Doughboy history struck me as quite right, when he said that he had decided to write about officers, because enlisted men left out so many details, probably for security reasons, that officers included in their diaries or notebooks. That was quite true in my father’s case as well. However, some 55 years later, while recuperating from a heart attack, he reread his notebook and dictated several memoranda, adding details and depth. I then had this material as well, and included it with the notebook entries at the right dates. I also included information on Father’s whereabouts for each day, which became of particular interest when he and his Signal Corps company moved to the front.
            This movement to the east became understandable thanks to a very readable book about the American Sector and General Pershing, written by General John Eisenhower (“Ike’s” son, also a West Point graduate). It described the American Sector, the communications and railway lines that were built to sustain it during 1917, as the American military buildup took place. The overall picture finally made sense, and I had the feeling that 1918 was no longer foreign.
            There were photographs from the time to be included, and maps, and a moving elegy by my daughter to be included. She realized that he had gone to war at 22, exactly her age. She called him “my quiet hero,” a rather Victorian gentleman who saw more than anyone should have to at that age.
            It was wonderful to discover shared interests and experiences with my father. He wrote of their disembarkation at Wales and welcome in Cardiff by cheering crowds, with welcome by the Lord Mayor. I remembered a trip to Ireland some ten years ago, when to our surprise the airport passenger waiting room was suddenly filled with American troops, on their way to Iraq. Other passengers at the airport stood and cheered the American troops as they filed past. And his time in France, related over the years, surely was instrumental in my interest in learning French, and teaching in a French school not far from where he had been stationed.
            Was the transcription hard work? Absolutely. Was it worth doing? I’ll leave that to the readers. But I did get to understand his experiences more fully, and appreciate the sacrifices of those who fought, “Over There.” And 1918, while still distant, was not such a foreign country after all. I hope that with this centennial, others will find the notebooks and memorabilia of their relatives who served in the Great War and nearer conflicts, and share them. We will all be the richer for these shared experiences.

William S. Shepard’s Series of Diplomatic Mysteries

            Now residents of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the Shepards enjoy visits from their daughters and granddaughters, fine and moderate weather, ocean swims at Assateague, Chesapeake Bay crabs, and the company of Rajah and Rani, their two rescued cats.

            Prize winning mystery writer William S. Shepard is the creator of a new genre, the diplomatic mystery, whose plots are set in American Embassies overseas. That mirrors Shepard’s own career in the Foreign Service of the United States, during which he served in Singapore, Saigon, Budapest, Athens and Bordeaux, in addition to five Washington tours of duty.

            His diplomatic mystery books explore this rich, insider background into the world of high stakes diplomacy and government. His main character is a young career diplomat, Robbie Cutler. The first four books in the series are available as Ebooks. Shepard evokes his last Foreign Service post, Consul General in Bordeaux, in Vintage Murder, the first of the series of five “diplomatic mysteries.” The second, Murder On The Danube, mines his knowledge of Hungary and the 1956 Revolution. In Murder In Dordogne Robbie Cutler and his bride Sylvie are just married, but their honeymoon in the scenic southwest of France is interrupted by murders.

            The Saladin Affair, next in the series, has Robbie Cutler transferred to work for the Secretary of State. Like the author once did, Cutler arranges trips on Air Force Two – now enlivened by serial Al Qaeda attempts to assassinate the Secretary of State, as they travel to Dublin, London, Paris, Vienna, Riga and Moscow! And who killed the American Ambassador in Dublin?

            The Great Game Murders is the most recent of the series. There is another trip by the Secretary of State, this time to Southeast Asia, India, China and Afghanistan. The duel between Al Qaeda and the United States continues, this time with Al Qaeda seeking to expand its reach with the help of a regional great power nation. And Robbie Cutler’s temporary duty (TDY) assignment to Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, carries its own perils. Fortunately, Uncle Seth helps unravel his perilous Taliban captivity in time!

                 Over There: A Doughboy In France 1918 eBook: William S. Shepard: Kindle Store

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Charlie Manson and the Rocky Bluff P.D. series

Charles Manson is a convicted serial killer who has become an icon of evil. In the late 1960s, Manson founded a hippie cult group known as "the Family" whom he manipulated into brutally killing others on his behalf.

What on earth has he to do with my next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery, Violent Departures?

You'll  have to wait and read the book.

Of course I followed the news about the murders the Manson family committed.and read the book about them when it came out.

Some little tidbits, while the family lived on the Spahn Ranch (and we lived in Oxnard), the followers came down and scavenged for groceries in the bins behind our local supermarket.

One of the scarier aspects of the family's antics (before the murders) was when they'd go into people's houses and crawl around the floor where the owners slept. That gives me the creeps to this day.

F. M. aka Marilyn

Sunday, January 18, 2015

How Much Does the Weather Influence What You're Writing?

The question could be taken two ways--the actual weather going on outside while you're writing, or the weather that's happening in the book.

I'm going to go for the second one--how much does weather influence what's happening in the tale that you're writing.

I use weather a lot to enhance suspense.

In my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series, I've had a white-out snow situation, (Intervention), hot,dry weather that causes forest fires (Kindred Spirits), and too much rain causing a massive mud slide (Raging Water.)

(So you don't get confused, the e-book has a different cover.)

The big weather component in many of the Rocky Bluff P.D. series is fog. Rocky Bluff is a beach community in Southern California. Fog is nearly an everyday reality first thing in the morning and at night. Fog is a fun weather element to add varying degrees of suspense. 

Weather in a book will also predict what a characters is wearing: Is it appropriate for the weather, or is there some reason it's not?

In Murder in the Worst Degree, an act of nature is one of the big elements that affects the story. 

Tell me how weather influences your writing?

Or readers, tell me about a book where the description of the weather affected you?

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith