Friday, December 21, 2018

Character Interview – Mackenzie Hart @hopewatersbooks

December 21, 2018 0 Comments

Hi! Today, in our virtual studio, we have the creator of the Hartbreakers vocal group, Mackenzie Hart. Let’s all give him a round of applause.
(claps from our virtual studio audience)
Mack: Thank you! I’m happy to stop by…your…virtual studio. Wait, how did I get here?
Me: That’s not important. Let’s get started with the interview. How did you get all the guys of Hartbreakers together?
Mack: Uh, well, I’ve been singing since I could speak and when my high school vocal group went our separate ways after we graduated, I decided to get another one going. I met Gabe at an audition and it just took off from there.
Me: That’s so cool. Oh my God, I love Gabe.
Mack: Yeah, all the girls like him. Hell, I like him too.
Me: (mouth drops open) you’re my hero.
Mack: Thanks, I think. Next question?
Me: Oh (shuffles note cards) how do you come up with your songs?
Mack: We have had the privilege of working with some of the best songwriters and producers in the business. We’ve had some great ideas that have been shaped and molded into the songs you hear on the album.
Me: Do you have any tidbits about new music from Hartbreakers?
Mack: Our next stop after the Twelve Days tour is a small break for the holidays — and this is the first year we’ll be home for Christmas — then we’re headed for Europe. After all that, we’re headed into the studio to record our next album.
Me: That’s so awesome. Change of direction. Favorite place you would like to take a date?
Mack: I’d love to take a girl out to dinner and then…I love walking on the beach so I’d take her there and hold her hand…
Me: (swoons) I’d love that.
Mack: (nods) did you have another question?
Me: Yes…um… (shuffles note cards again) do you get along with the other guys?
Mack: Oh yeah, we’re like brothers, or at least what I imagine having a brother is like because I’m an only child. We fight sometimes, which is understandable because we’re around each other practically 24/7, especially Brad and Gabe. Their fights can be legendary.
Me: Gotcha. Last, but definitely not the least, what do you think about the contest where a group of girls is going to come on tour with you for twelve days…and twelve nights and have the ultimate fan experience?
Mack: We’re pretty excited about it. The concerts are going to be amazing. We love our fans and are looking forward to giving the winners a great ride.
Me: (raises eyebrows) a great ride?
Mack: Uh… yeah, you know, like on the tour bus… like their tour bus. The winners get their own tour bus and we’ll be on our tour bus. (nods) yeah.
Me: (nods with wide eyes) yeah, that sounds really awesome.
Mack: so… are we good?
Me: Yes.
Mack: You’re not going to ask about whether I’m wearing boxers or briefs?
Me: why would I ask about that?
Mack: We always get that question. I don’t know. I don’t make the rules.
Me: No, I don’t want to know about your underwear.
Mack: Great. Now, how do I leave?
Me: We’re in a virtual realm. We can’t leave.
Mack: Oh. Well I guess we’re stuck here then.
Me: Yup. Good times.
About the Author

Hope Waters has been writing romance for over thirty years, traveling the globe but finally finding true love and now lives in Florida with her family.


Website Address:

About the Book:

Author: Hope Waters
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 212
Genre: Romance

Zoey Blake is having a perfect holiday season. Finals are over and it's time to head home for Christmas, but when she wins the Hartbreakers True Love contest to join them on their tour, she has a chance to follow her favorite band for twelve days -- and twelve steamy nights.

Mackenzie has been a player since and joining Hartbreakers has only edged up his game, that is until he meets Zoey. She's turned his world upside down and only she can make it right. Now all he has to do is convince her to stay with him forever. For a guy like Mack, that shouldn't be too hard but it's gonna take all he has and twelve days to win her true love.



Tuesday, December 18, 2018

A Conversation with #Historical #Fiction Author Alison Littman @alimcshpiel #blogtour

December 18, 2018 0 Comments

“I tiptoed past the Ministry of Interior, where red geraniums lined the building’s windows. In the secret prisons below, police tortured people with whips, limb crushers, nail presses, and scalding and freezing baths. Or else they just executed them. But the geraniums were always fresh.”

--From Radio Underground by Alison Littman

Alison Littman lives in San Francisco where she’s a writer by day and standup comedian by night. A former journalist in New Mexico, she covered politics and education while also contributing articles on John F. Kennedy and The Beatles to various specialty magazines. Her feature stories focus on listening to rock 'n' roll behind the Iron Curtain and Cold War politics. Radio Underground is her first novel.

Book Description:

After years of suffering under the communist regime in Cold War Hungary, Eszter Turján—fanatical underground journalist—would sacrifice anything, and anyone, to see the government fall. When she manipulates news broadcasts on Radio Free Europe, she ignites a vicious revolution, commits a calamitous murder, and is dragged away screaming to a secret underground prison.

Her daughter Dora, then a teenager, cowers in her bedroom as the secret police arrest her mother. Haunted and hurt, Dora vows to work against everything Eszter believes in. But, it’s not that simple.

After nine years, Dora meets a strapping young fan of Radio Free Europe and is unwittingly drawn back into Eszter’s circle. She finds her mother, driven mad by years of torture, is headed for death.

On the brink of losing Eszter again, Dora must decide if she should risk her life to save the mother who discarded her—or leave it to fate.


Welcome Alison! Can we begin by having you tell us how you got started writing historical fiction? Did the movies influence you? Books?

Alison: I have always read historical fiction - Everything is Illuminated, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, The Invisible Bridge and others - and I think what I loved most was that I could learn about the world and be enthralled in the story of it all at the same time. I majored in History in college because I had professors that lectured as if history were a page-turning novel. When I graduated college, I wanted to try combining the flare of those Berkeley history classes with the literature I loved --and started to turn my senior thesis into a novel. That is how Radio Underground started. It was based off these letters I found written by Hungarian teenagers during the Cold War to a rock 'n' roll DJ in Munich. At the time, rock music was banned on the state radio, so people would listen to it in secret and write these music requests and letters to the DJ that ran the station in Germany.

Do you find writing historical fiction comes natural to you or did you struggle sometimes?

Alison: It's definitely a hard thing to do. Often when I wanted to describe a scene in detail, I'd have to stop, take to the internet or order a book on a specific topic in order to finish the scene. For example, I had to do a lot of research about how radio broadcasts were transmitted in the '50s and '60s, and the devices and methods used to jam radio waves. It was really technical and most of that information didn't get into the book, but I needed to know it in order to be confident in describing the characters interacting with those things.

Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?

Alison: If I am feeling like I'm in the right mood, it is. Writing can help me work through and understand myself and the world. 

How hard is it to establish and maintain a career in fiction writing?

Alison: It's challenging to get started in fiction because it requires a lot of networking to find the right agents, publishers, editors, etc. However, once that foundation is formed, there is quite a bit of momentum that can carry you through the publishing process and onto your next book.

Can you tell us a little about the main characters of your book?

Alison: Eszter Turján is an underground journalist in Budapest during the Cold War who is so determined to take down the Soviet regime, she manipulates news broadcasts on Radio Free Europe, commits a murder and ultimately puts her family in grave danger. She is the type of person that can convince herself anything is just or right if it's for a cause she believes in. She will take huge risks to accomplish her goals, no matter how unrealistic they are, and this leads to some very serious recklessness.

They say all books of fiction have at least one pivotal point when the reader just can’t put the book down. Can you give us one of those pivotal points in your book?

Alison: Eszter is tasked with taking the leader of the Hungarian revolution to a meeting point where Americans are waiting to hand over arms to help bolster the fight against the Soviets. Violence is raging outside and they have to sneak across the city to a rickety house in the hills. They enter the house and something doesn't seem quite right...

Will there be a follow up book to Radio Underground or other books in the near future?

Alison: There will most certainly be another book in the future. I'm already working on it--a novel that takes place in modern-day San Francisco. While it's not historical, it is I'll be imagining certain elements of the world.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

New Release! Bargaining with the Billionaire Bodyguard by Lisa Weaver @dreamweavings #romance #suspense

December 13, 2018 0 Comments

BARGAINING WITH THE BILLIONAIRE BODYGUARD by Lisa Weaver, Romantic Suspense, 288 pp., $2.99 (kindle)

Author: Lisa Weaver
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 244
Genre: Romantic Suspense

Having miraculously survived the bombing that blasted his private jet out of the sky, billionaire Donovan White has dedicated his life to the pursuit of justice. Now a covert operative for the Sentinels Agency, he is closing in on the man responsible for the crash. When his mission is nearly botched by a spunky reporter with a score of her own to settle, he reluctantly strikes a bargain with the one woman who just might be capable of decimating his love proof armor.

Reporter Madison Tremaine will do anything to nab the exclusive she must write to secure the promotion she desperately needs—even if it means bargaining with a devilish billionaire. Once burned, twice shy, she has serious reservations about partnering with Donovan, but there’s more than a career upgrade at stake. Her ability to unearth the truth surrounding a newly discovered family secret hinges on the sexy billionaire.

When their quests collide, will their dangerous deal lead to love or will it cost them more than either of them bargained for?



Chapter One

She was going to self-combust. She was sure of it.
Downing a gulp of strawberry spritzer from the chilled glass in her hand, Madison Tremaine resisted the urge to fan her face to cool the heat rising there. It was bad enough she was the only woman at the bar in this glitzy nightclub without a date, the last thing she needed to do was draw more attention to herself.
Against her volition, her gaze drifted back to the stranger who was responsible for setting her aflame. Those piercing blue eyes, though! And the man’s perfection didn’t end at those show-stealing, mesmerizing windows into his soul. From the top of his head of stylishly-tamed curls to the tips of his Ferragamo shod toes and every millimeter of chiseled muscle in between, the dark-haired guy standing alone at the far end of the bar was the epitome of scrumptious.
Too bad she was on a strict yumminess-free diet, courtesy of her ex-fiancé’s betrayal. She’d adored Eric, but he’d thrown her love for him back in her face and turned her heart into a crime scene.
She was over him, now. Her days of treading the serious relationship path were over, too. But if there was ever a man worth breaking her love embargo over it was this one. Thankfully, common sense roadblocked her driving inclination to get to know the sexy stranger. She couldn’t afford that indulgence. She was here for business tonight, not pleasure, and Mr. Dreamy Eyes would only splinter her focus.
Actually, ‘splinter’ was putting it mildly. She was quite certain the handsome stranger was capable of blowing said focus to smithereens.
As though he knew exactly what she was thinking, the owner of those deliciously sexy peepers raised his glass in salute, shooting her a grin that had her hormones whimpering in eager surrender.
Reluctantly tearing her gaze away from the intriguing planes and angles that made up his sculpture-worthy face, Madison shoved aside the driving compulsion to explore where the blatant interest his body language was telegraphing might lead. There was no way she could go there. Both professionally and personally, there was too much riding on the assignment she was here to carry out.
A reporter for the Daily Commentator, she was here tonight to secure an interview that could very well be career defining. Her shot at landing the promotion she so desperately needed hinged on convincing one of the state of New York’s most speculated about billionaires to share the story of his rise from abject poverty to rolling-in-it riches. She was here to track that billionaire down, but Mr. Dreamy Eyes made her want to back-burner the task at hand and skip directly to playtime.
She promptly stamped down the urge to take him up on the invitation simmering in his gaze. No one on her paper’s payroll—or any other paper’s for that matter—had managed to garner a sit-down with media-shy business mogul Alan Sonetti. She had every intention of succeeding where they hadn’t.
For her brother’s sake, she had to.
Alan Sonetti had ignored her fellow reporters’ attempts to connect with him via phone calls and e-mails, so she was employing a different tactic to try and secure an interview with the elusive playboy billionaire. If the mountain wouldn’t come to her, then she would go to the mountain.
The only downside to her plan was that this particular mountain happened to reside in a mansion that was more secure than most fortresses, and his corporate headquarters was a stronghold, as well. With zero chance of getting face-time with him at either location, she decided to seek him out at the flagship of his chain of clubs where it was rumored he surfaced on rare occasion.
After getting a tip that tonight might be one of those rare occasions, Madison had shared her plan with her editor, Felicia, who had given her stratagem her wholehearted backing.
More than just her boss, Felicia was also a good friend. Earlier today, Felicia had called her into her office and handed her a shopping bag emblazoned with the logo of a high-end retailer.
“A little something for you to wear tonight when you visit the club,” she’d announced, looking immensely pleased with herself.
A peek in the bag had revealed a slip of black silk nestled in a bed of tissue paper. “A scarf?”
“Very funny. It’s a dress.”
“There’s not enough yardage here to qualify as a dress.”
“You can dispense with the eye rolling. Trust me on this. Senetti’s caters to the silver spoon set, and designer micro-minis are de rigueur there. Besides, if you want a face-to-face with the man himself you need to get his attention. I guarantee he won’t be able to take his eyes off you in that outfit.”
“There is no but. Just wear the dress. That is unless you don’t want the promotion?”
Oh, she wanted it. She’d never wanted something so badly in her entire life. The new position would super-size her paycheck, which meant she’d be able to help Matt. Since she was the reason her brother was in a bind in the first place, failure wasn’t an option.
It was that drive to succeed that had her shimmying into the wispy garment that was the polar opposite of her usual office armor of tailored slacks and blouses, and joining the crowd queued up to gain entry into the nightlife hotspot that carried Senetti’s surname as well as his personal stamp of posh.
It wasn’t until the doorman ushered her inside that it struck her just how far out of her element she truly was. Felicia’s gift served as terrific camouflage, but it didn’t prevent her from suffering from one mega case of fish-out-of-water-itis. Sonetti’s catered to the rich and famous, a demographic she was light years away from meshing with.
It was some consolation that she wasn’t the only square peg trying to fit into this round hole of a nightclub. Even though this realm of the mega-rich might as well be the planet Mars in her book, she’d bet her last dollar the real-life Artemision bronze at the bar was as much of an outsider here as she was.
It wasn’t that Mr. Dreamy Eyes didn’t fit in with the clientele here when it came to net wealth. His clothing and demeanor were the epitome of refined and urbane, and he carried himself with an easy grace and sophistication that spoke of a bank balance that matched or exceeded those of the affluent partiers in this exclusive hot spot. His smoldering gaze, however, telegraphed something altogether different. Something primal, dangerous, and untamed—something that made it clear he wasn’t cut from the same cloth as the others.
She found that something irresistibly compelling.
Shaking her head, she reminded herself that she wasn’t here to get this sexy stranger’s story. It was Alan Sonetti she was after. Unfortunately, she wasn’t making any progress towards that end. If Alan was here tonight, she’d yet to spot him.
Curling a strand of her hair around her pinkie, she tried to ignore the bitter disappointment burning a hole in the pit of her stomach. Her deadline was looming. If she didn’t land this story soon, she could kiss any chance she might have of earning that promotion goodbye.
Resuming her search with renewed determination, she scanned the club for her quarry. Moments later, her gaze inadvertently tangled with the sexy stranger’s again.
The accidental eye contact sent a bolt of impossible-to-ignore chemistry zipping between them, and a wave of heat rushed to her cheeks. As the sensual pull of attraction wove through her, it struck her that tonight wasn’t the first time she’d seen this man. 
Drinking in the details of his perfect features, she only grew more certain she’d seen those high cheekbones and that classically aquiline nose before. But where?
She’d discounted half a dozen possible reasons why he seemed so familiar when her cell phone chimed, announcing an incoming text from Felicia.
“Find him?” the text read.
“Not yet, but I will.” she texted back in reply.
“That’s the spirit. R U behaving?”
Madison’s mouth curved in a cat-caught-the-canary smile as she keyed her response. “Sort of. Might be guilty of indulging in an eye candy fest.” Discretely using her cell phone to snap a photo of the visual treat in question, she sent the picture off to her friend.
“OMG,” Felicia texted back.
“I know, right?” she typed in reply.
Felicia’s response pinged back immediately. “Do you know who that is?”
“He looks familiar, but…?”
“He’s a billionaire, just not the one you’re chasing down. He made headlines two years ago. Plane crash.”
Felicia’s prompt was all it took for the ‘ah ha’ moment to dawn. Small plane crashes rarely became the focus of national news, but when the disaster involved a private jet piloted by one of the inamoratos of the rich and famous the story definitely merited prime billing. The newsworthy-factor doubled when word leaked that the only other person on board the plane was a popular young Hollywood actress, Vanessa Ashcroft.
Madison’s fingers quivered with excitement as she keyed her reply. “Donovan White!”
Her editor’s enthusiastic confirmation flashed across the phone’s screen. “Yes!”
Madison couldn’t believe her luck.  She’d come here in pursuit of one story and another one had quite possibly just fallen into her lap. Donovan White hadn’t been spotted in New York since shortly after his accident two years ago. When his aircraft had gone down over the ocean near a remote Brazilian jungle, rescue crews hadn’t been able to locate the wreckage. It had been assumed there were no survivors, but a last-ditch search effort had led to the billionaire’s discovery on an uninhabited island miles from the presumed crash site.
Donovan White had miraculously beaten the odds. Vanessa Ashcroft hadn’t been so fortunate.
After attending Vanessa’s funeral, Donovan had retreated from the social scene he’d held court over and left New York. From that point on, the billionaire playboy who’d once featured regularly on almost every society page had pulled a vanishing act. Rumor had it he’d joined in the operation of his family’s California vineyard.
Then why, after withdrawing into utter seclusion, had he suddenly surfaced here at the apex of the social spotlight he’d abandoned? Madison had a feeling if she could answer that question, she would have the makings of a scintillating headline.
Donovan White rubbed at eyes that were gritty from too much caffeine and too little sleep. Two years ago, clubbing had been one of his go-to pastimes. He’d reveled in the throbbing beat of the music and fed off the energy of the crowd.
He wasn’t that man any longer.
Now the strobing lights, ear-drum-busting din of the band, and the obnoxious clashing of a myriad of warring designer perfumes only grated on his nerves—nerves that were already stretched thin by the dire nature of the mission he was here to carry out.
A covert operative for the Sentinels Agency, he’d invested countless hours over the past few months knitting together a tenuous bridge to Alan Sonetti. It was believed that Sonetti was doing business with master mobster Lawrence Mendacci, and the bridge he’d cobbled together just might bring the agency one step closer to putting an end to Mendacci’s reign of terror.
Gaining Sonetti’s trust hadn’t been easy, but he’d managed to convince the man he was every bit his match when it came to treading in the gray. He was here to rendezvous with the club owner after being granted his first face-to-face meeting with him.
So far he’d been left cooling his heels.
He despised waiting. It gave him too much time to think about things he wanted to keep tucked away in the ‘do not disturb’ section of his mind—too much time to dwell on the way lives had been irrevocably changed in the aftermath of the crash he’d been unable to prevent.
He was determined to do everything in his power to prevent future tragedies. Tonight’s meeting would open the door to doing just that. Liz Meyers, the dynamo at the helm of Sentinels who’d recruited and trained him, had tasked him with entrenching himself within Sonetti’s organization. He wasn’t about to let her down.
And so he would wait. He could be patient if this temporary inconvenience brought the Sentinels Agency one step closer to quashing Lawrence Mendacci’s blood trail and bringing an end to the mobster’s reign of terror.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that his wait came with an unexpected reward—an enticing distraction from the tedium of being on Sonetti’s stand-by list in the form of a blue-eyed, ebony haired angel at the bar. The pulse-stutteringly beautiful woman practically vibrated with barely suppressed energy. She’d captured his attention the instant she’d swept into the club.
He wasn’t the only one who’d taken notice of her. Despite the fact that he and the bartender were the only men in the establishment without a woman hanging on their arm, that didn’t stop the other male patrons from checking the sexy siren out. 
And who could blame them? The beauty wore a flashy designer mini dress that highlighted her curves, paired with sky-high stilettos that accentuated her long, shapely legs. Her stunning face was framed by a cascade of dark hair that glinted with burgundy highlights.
The urge to thread his fingers through those seductive strands of ebony silk flared hot and insistent, surprising in its intensity. He chalked the craving up to not having had a woman in his life since Vanessa, but he knew it was more than that. There was something about this woman that called to him. She looked like she was here on a mission, and he couldn’t help but wonder what her quest might be.
Noticing his interested perusal of the beauty, the bartender quirked an eyebrow in masculine solidarity. “Not hard on the eyes, is she?”
“That she’s not.”
“Why don’t you do yourself a favor and buy her a drink?”
It was a shame he didn’t have time for such a pleasant distraction at the moment. If he did, he wouldn’t need the bartender’s urgings to connect with the woman. 
“I would if I wasn’t here on business,” he replied. “I’m waiting to meet with Alan Sonetti.”
“Business, huh? Too bad.” Rubbing the teak countertop with his polishing cloth, the bartender paused mid-swipe and regarded him intently.
Donovan saw the exact moment recognition dawned.
“Say, you’re Donovan White, aren’t you?”
Nodding, Donovan took a swallow of his drink in preparation for the volley of questions he knew would inevitably follow.
“It was a miracle you made it off that jungle island alive. I imagine it couldn’t have been easy being stranded in the middle of nowhere, not knowing if or when you’d be rescued.”
“It wasn’t. It’s an experience I don’t like to rehash.” A half-hearted smile took the bite out of his response.
Not at all dissuaded, the bartender ploughed on. “A shame about that actress you were dating. Tragic that she didn’t survive the plane crash.”
“Yes,” he agreed, taking another drink in hopes of anesthetizing the sharp sting of guilt. But the bite of the brandy couldn’t dispel the painful memories, and the world’s supply of alcohol wouldn’t ease his crushing despair over what had happened in the aftermath of the accident. Nothing could.
Leaving the bartender’s curiosity unquenched, he steered the conversation back to the topic at hand. “The woman…is she a regular?”
“First time I’ve seen her. A lot of purebred peacocks gather here, but this one is a ray of sunshine. I just wish she wasn’t here poking around looking for trouble.”
“She was asking about Mr. Sonetti, earlier. Not to disrespect the boss, but nothing good ever comes of that. Beautiful women are in here all the time, hoping to catch a glimpse of him. He’s got that RHS factor, you know? Rich. Handsome. Single. On the rare occasions one of them is lucky enough to find him, they inevitably throw themselves at him hoping he’ll fall for them. He doesn’t throw them back—just uses them until he tires of them. The relationships all end the same, and it’s not with him putting a ring on their finger.”
Donovan raised an eyebrow at the man’s candor. “I see. Well, I’ll be keeping your boss tied up with business for a bit. Maybe she’ll get tired of waiting.”
For her sake, he hoped she did. Alan Sonetti was into shady up to his neck, and he’d hate to see her get mixed up with the man. If the bartender was right, and the dark-haired beauty was on a hunting expedition to bag Sonetti, odds were good she had no idea she was tracking dangerous game.

Lisa Weaver’s love affair with all things literary was sparked the moment she opened the cover of her first book and The Pokey Little Puppy captured her heart. Her tastes have matured since then, but whenever she delves into the pages of a new novel she experiences the same thrill of discovery. Every book is a glorious safari into a world of endless possibilities and inexhaustible inspiration. Since romance is Lisa’s favorite genre to read it was inevitable that, when she was bit by the writing bug, she would choose to pen stories of strong, sexy heroes and bold, beautiful women finding their happily ever afters. She thinks of her stories as fun and flirty romantic romps—like decadently rich cupcakes, heavy on the frosting. She hopes her readers will find her novels every bit as satisfying as dessert.

When she isn’t reading, writing, or plotting more romantic treats, she can be found behind the lens of her camera, in front of a canvas with a paintbrush in hand, or spending time in her garden. She also loves exploring her beautiful home state of Maine. Lisa loves to hear from readers! Please drop by and visit her anytime at her website, You can also keep in touch with the latest Weaver Romance happenings via her Facebook and Twitter pages.

Lisa’s latest book is the romantic suspense, Bargaining with the Billionaire Bodyguard.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A Conversation with #Mystery Author T.C. Wescott @mousetrapbooks

December 12, 2018 0 Comments

“Something moves among the birds, along the snowy lanes, skirting the light in favor of shadow. In Christmas Village, this night, a creature is stirring.”

–From Slay Bells by T.C. Wescott

T.C. Wescott was born in Missouri but has lived in Oklahoma most of his life. Like pretty much every author who has ever breathed, he is an avid reader. His favorites are classic mysteries from the Golden Age, as well as just before or just after that period (which is widely considered the period between the two World Wars). His first mystery novel, Running from Scissors, was published in July 2018 and will be the first of at least three books in the Running Store Mystery series.

The Christmas Village Mystery series launched in November of the same year with the debut title Slay Bells. The formula for his books is simple – mixing the classic, traditional detective fiction standards with all the trappings of the modern cozy mystery.

Wescott is also (under another name) the author of two award-winning non-fiction books as well as many essays and articles.

His latest book is the cozy mystery, Slay Bells (A Christmas Village Mystery).

Book Description:

‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the village, the night settled in over swirling-smoke chimneys; the air was alive with pine and holly, with sugar and cinnamon and cider, by golly!

Along snowy lanes and through shadows it crept, past windows behind which each villager slept, where sleeping dogs lie and cats rest a’purring-

Tonight, in Christmas Village, a killer is stirring.

Welcome to Christmas Village, a magical hamlet where even in December the roses hold their luster and bees buzz among the bluebells. Nestled betwixt an opulent garden with meandering footpaths and an ancient grove of plum trees, Rose Willoughby’s boarding house is plum-full with lodgers. There are no vacancies, but just wait. Soon there will be one…and another…and another.

When the Inn’s guests begin dying in inexplicable ways, some villagers believe a beast from old village lore is the culprit. The sheriff knows better, but he’s just as helpless to catch the invisible killer as are the town folk with their eyes to the sky in search of a flying creature. But our mysterious murderer hasn’t counted on yet another lodger coming to the cottage: Maribel Claus.

Short as a stump, round as a wheel, sweet as a candy cane, and a sharp as a whip, Maribel loves a good puzzle. But can she unmask the phantom killer in time and save Christmas?


Welcome, T.C.!  Your new Christmas Village Mystery series sounds thrilling! Can you tell us how you came up with the idea?
T.C.: Years ago I conceived of a mystery happening in the actual Santa village at the North Pole. Only Santa would be the victim! What appealed to me about the idea was the cozy village full of cottages and quirky businesses. Time marched on and I increasingly became attracted to the idea of writing a cozy mystery series. The two ideas melded together and I came up with Christmas Village Mysteries. It was the coziest possible world I could imagine. There are SO many cozy series out there now that I figured if I was going to ask readers to spend their time and money on me then the least I could do was attempt to write the coziest, most mysterious cozy mysteries I could. Slay Bells is my first stab (pardon the pun) at that. With more to come!
Can you tell us a little about the main characters in your latest book, Slay Bells?
T.C.: The primary character is Maribel Claus who is very active about the business of the village. And some might say she’s active about the business of the villagers! She’s helping out an injured friend, Rose Willoughby, who runs a bed and breakfast called Plum Cottage. It’s the week of the grand Christmas Festival and the Inn is full with a troupe of traveling performers. When one by one they begin to die in the most mysterious fashion imaginable, the village is split between thinking a mythological creature of village lore or a flesh-and-blood human is behind it. Maribel knows an old-fashioned murder when she sees one. But to discover who committed the murders she must first figure out how they were committed. A Howdunit!
They say all books of fiction have at least one pivotal point where the reader just can’t put the book down. What is one of the pivotal points in your book?
T.C.: I hope the first page. But failing that I would say by the end of chapter 3. That’s when you have an idea of what kind of book you’re in for and you will want to stay until the end to discover how such an impossible murder could be committed.
Do you proofread and edit your work on your own or pay someone to do it for you?
T.C.: Every author NEEDS a professional proofreader/copy editor. I don’t care who you are. Stephen King has one. My process is this: I’ll write several chapters and then when the mood hits me, I’ll read back through them, making corrections and changes. I continue this until the book is fully written. Then I do another read-through, catch more things. Then I put my book into an online system called AutoCrit which undoubtedly improves each manuscript it touches. After I’ve ran it through the AutoCrit gauntlet, I send the manuscript to my editor. When she is done, I enter in her corrections and do a final read-through. In spite of all this, the odd error will survive. But just because an author is publishing independently it’s not an excuse to be sloppy. If you want to compete with the big houses, you have to do what you can to bring your product up to their level, which is what the reader expects and deserves.
Do you believe a book cover plays an important role in the selling process?
T.C.: Think of how many bad books you’ve read that had a great cover. You probably can’t count that high. Now, think of how many great books you’ve purchased that had a terrible cover. Having trouble thinking of one? That’s because you don’t look at books with terrible covers. Invest in a competent cover artist.
What did you want to become when you were a kid?
T.C.: An author, a rock star, an actor, an author. In that order.
Do your novels carry a message?
T.C.: I suppose little messages slip through, but cozy mysteries are escapism, and they’re about the puzzle. Or they should be. ‘Cozy’ should only come before ‘Mystery’ in the book department description.
Is there anything you’d like to tell your readers and fans?
T.C.: Yes, thank you for choosing my book. If you left a review somewhere, then bless you. More on the way. And I DO pay attention to feedback.

A Conversation with Preston Howard, Author of The Sheltering Palms

December 12, 2018 0 Comments

“I USED TO BE SOMEBODY—when Preston Howard walked down the street, kings and queens would move off to the curb. Okay, so that bit of paraphrased hyperbole, courtesy of George Thorogood, might qualify as excessive, but for sure, when I rode into town, mayors, city managers, and police chiefs became more than a little queasy over what kind of wrath I might bring down on their community.”

--From The Sheltering Palms by John Burpo

Preston Howard spent his entire career working on behalf of police officers, representing them under adverse circumstances, negotiating contracts to improve officers’ benefits and working conditions, and training police union officials in the art of leadership. He has written numerous books and lectured not only in this country but abroad as well.

Book Description:
Renowned police labor lawyer, Preston Howard, reached a watershed in his life—a forced retirement from the firm he built from the ground up and a cancer diagnosis. These two events made him take a step back and reflect over a life that had at times been hilarious, irreverent, self-mocking, eerie and even a bit, make that, quite lewd.
A family of unique characters guided the lawyer’s formative years: a bourbon-swilling, brilliant yet flawed grandfather who mentored the young lad in matters of religion, politics and the quest for knowledge; a psychic mother; an oversexed nanny; an aunt and uncle who fought on the front lines of integration; and a fire-balling uncle who got his fifteen minutes of fame in The Show.
Preston Howard first made his mark as a crime-fighting attorney representing the Tucson Police Department. Then he spent over forty illustrious years as a labor lawyer working with police officers and union leaders and handling the gamut of fascinating, high-profile cases across the country and even in other countries.
His many tall yarns might be viewed by some with the greatest suspicion, but his story-telling is undeniably first-class, witty, and absorbing.
Welcome, Preston!  So excited about your new book, The Sheltering Palms. Critics are calling your book “The best book I’ve ever read about lawyers, cops, and unions.”  Can you tell us a little about the main characters in your book?

Preston: The protagonist, Preston Howard, is a labor attorney who has just faced prostate cancer and a forced retirement. He begins reflecting over his tumultuous, fascinating life, wondering whether it has any value outside of his narrow world representing police officers and unions. His bourbon-swilling, piano-playing, brilliant grandfather Buster weaves in and out of this autobiographical fiction novel, first mentoring the younger Preston in matters of politics, religion, and the quest for knowledge, and later saving Preston’s life…maybe.

They say all books of fiction have at least one pivotal point where the reader just can’t put the book down. What is one of the pivotal points in your book?
Preston: There are two pivotal moments in the book. The first one takes place early in Preston’s legal career, when he is uncertain about whether union work is the right choice for his career. He represents a female activist police officer in Oak Lawn, Illinois, who is terminated for union activity. Preston dramatically saves her job and goes on to become a renowned attorney across the country. The second pivotal moment takes place when Preston becomes so despondent over this career that he takes off for the hinterlands. He winds up in a church in Bend, Oregon, where Buster suddenly appears playing the organ----more than ten years after his death, and admonishes Preston for his behavior and attitude.

Do you proofread and edit your work on your own or pay someone to do it for you?

Preston: There was no way I would edit my work. I hired super editor Jeff LaFerney, who put me through English 101 boot camp. What a great partner!

Do you believe a book cover plays an important role in the selling process?

Preston: I certainly hope so. The photo on the cover captures the essence of Buster: smoking, bourbon, a lighter (that turns out to have an Army artillery insignia), and most important, his Panama hat with the red and blue hatband. The Panama hat appears throughout the book. Also, the notation about the Texas labor lawyer best describes Preston Howard in one short sentence.

What did you want to become when you were a kid?

Preston: What else then play first base for the New York Giants, before that bastard Horace Stoneham shipped the team off to San Francisco? There were of course obstacles to that goal. First, Whitey Lockman played first base, and I’m certain that Whitey would have fought me tooth and nail to hold on to his spot. Second, while my ability to play baseball allowed me to make it to the college level, I had an anemic arm, a lack of power and as I said in the book, ran like Buster’s grand piano sat on my back.

Do your novels carry a message?

Preston: This novel is my first stab at fiction, and yes, there is definitely a message. People often stumble in their lives; in Preston’s case, alcohol and womanizing cause his temporary downfall. The important point in the book: when someone gets down and almost out, they can get back up off the floor, lead a productive life, and redeem themselves. This ultimate point capsulizes the story about Preston Howard.

Is there anything you’d like to tell your readers and fans?

Preston: Yes. During my career, I have written three professional books about police unions. But I found that writing a novel was so exhilarating that I am already working on another book, a sequel to this one about the continued exploits of now retired Preston Howard!

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