After listening to a particularly emotional audio book today, I’ve decided to list my top three sob-worthy Criminal Minds episodes to kick off my new monthly edition of ‘Top 3’ here at Novel Concepts. Now, in all honesty, I typically cry at some point during every episode. I’ll just list the ones that make me ugly cry.
#3Season 5 Episode 9- 100
If you’ve watched the show with any regularity, you knew this was coming. When George Foyet (a despicable human being) killed Haley Hotchner while she was on the phone with Aaron hit me straight in the grief bone. Then, Hotch’s panic when he wasn’t sure his son, Jack, had followed his code to hide? More tears. This is an emotionally jarring episode, and it proved the writers were not afraid to let our heroes hurt in the deepest ways imaginable.
#2 Season 8 Episode 12- Zugzwang
I don’t know about you, but when Reid lost Maeve, it tore my heart out. After all poor Spence had been through–torture, drug addiction, at least two bullet wounds, fearing schizophrenia would be genetically passed to him–he finally met the girl of his dreams. Well, he didn’t exactly meet her, but they’d been talking for a while and made plans to meet in person. Even though they hadn’t officially clapped eyes on one another, he loved her–really loved her. One of my favorite things he said about her when Blake asked if he was afraid to meet her in person because she may not look like he imagined was, “It doesn’t matter what she looks like. She’s already the most beautiful girl in the world to me.” *Sigh* Why aren’t more guys like Dr. Spencer Reid? But just as my heart began to hope something good would happen to him, a stalker kidnapped Maeve, and the first time Spencer met her in person, his soul mate wound up with a bullet in her head. As much as I hurt for him when the psychopath had him, my heart ached ten times as much when he lost Maeve.
#1 Season 5Episode 16- Mosely Lane
This little dilly makes me weep every time. Now, I don’t mean a one-tissue kind of emotional experience. I’m talking a full box of Kleenex (or roll of TP depending on what’s handy). While it’s completely awful that the UNSUBs in this episode kidnap children then dispose of them in the family’s crematorium, it’s the ending that gets me. When one little boy’s parents learned that their son had been killed after helping another child THE DAY BEFORE the BAU team located the missing kids, I lost it. They were one day late. And those poor parents had to watch all the happy reunions, knowing they’d never have one of their own. I’m tearing up now, just thinking about it.
I’d love all you fellow Criminal Minds fans to weigh in. Which episodes punch you in the feels?
I’m so excited for the opportunity to introduce you to James Hannibal. Not only is he at the top of my list of favorite authors, but he’s been a major blessing to me since I met him at the ACFW Conference in September. He’s got a heart to help put an end to the exploitation of children, and Compassion International plays a part in his newest release, Chasing the White Lion. Be sure to read to the end to learn more about this organization that brings hope to at-risk children around the world and how you can make a positive difference in the life of a child.
His stories are on-the-edge-of-your-seat suspenseful from start to finish, his characters will stick with you long after you read the last page, and the positive messages he includes are both challenging and uplifting. If you haven’t read his work yet, you’re missing out. In the words of Donald Trump, ‘Everyone knows it, and everyone agrees.’ He took the time to answer some of my most burning questions, and I’m looking forward to sharing them with each of you.
1. Your characters—among everything else—really make your books unforgettable. What is your process for creating such diverse and relatable characters?
My characters almost always start as people in my life, at least the good guys. Maybe that’s why I struggle with the bad guys. I don’t want to see people I know in that light. In one way or another, I have personal relationships with my cast of good guys, even when one character is an amalgam of several people, because I have personal relationships with the people who inspire them. The closest I’ve come to doing this with a bad guy was to use a horrible person I’d been studying in the intelligence world. I’d studied him so much that I felt like I knew him, and he inspired the villain in Shadow Catcher. Unfortunately, I wound up making the guy so close to the real villain that I got myself in trouble with the Chinese government.
2. If you had the opportunity to live anywhere in the world for a year while writing a book that took place in that same setting, where would you choose?
Tough question. I’ve done this with London (sort of). I was flying a regular route to London as an airline pilot while working on the Section 13 books. They’re about a secret society on Baker Street. I spent anywhere from five to ten days a month in the city during that time.
I’m about to kick off a fantasy series set in a well-established world. I’d love to spend a year as a guardian at the labyrinthine castle of Lightraider Academy, nestled high in the Celestial Peaks and warmed against the long months of snow by a thermal spring. To get close to this fantasy setting, I’d need to arrange a stay at Hochosterwitz Castle in southern Austria. Anyone who wishes to support this effort, please send donations.
3. What was your favorite childhood book?
Hands down, my favorite book as a child was the Horse and His Boy from The Chronicles of Narnia. I recently learned from author and C.S. Lewis expert Matt Mikalatos that this story is a stylistic departure from the rest of the series. The Horse and His Boy is a plot-driven, boyhood adventure story, while the others have more fable-like styles. This is likely why it appealed to me more than the others as kid.
4. Have you visited any of the locations in Chasing the White Lion?
Washington D.C. was a second home for a while, and I did some time in Eastern Europe. I’ve never been to the Greek Isles, Russia, or Thailand. I created the Greek Isles scenes from pure research. For the other two, I have former “business associates” who helped me out
5. Who was your favorite character to write and why?
I have a lot of fun with Finn. We share a daredevil spirit. Sometimes I use Finn to relive the glory days of my youth. At other times, thanks to Finn, I find myself begging my wife to let try something I’ve never done and definitely shouldn’t.
“Honey, this is necessary research,” I always say.
“No,” she always replies. “No it’s not.”
6. How long on average does it take you to write a book?
I like to have nine months. One month to plan, seven months to write, and one month to revise.
7. Do you hide secrets/inside jokes in your books that only a few people will find?
I can neither confirm nor deny. I will say The Fourth Ruby has a scene that has special meaning to U.S. Air Force Academy graduates. The Nick Baron series also includes decipherable codes for serious code aficionados. The acknowledgements include a hidden message that require old-school code-breaking knowledge, and the text of each book holds the clues.
8. What do you hope your readers will take away from Chasing the White Lion?
I hope readers see two things from Chasing the White Lion. First, through Valkyrie, I hope they see how we con ourselves. We sell ourselves lies that might hold us back in our relationship with Christ or hold us back from having a relationship with Him at all. Second, through Compassion International’s role in the story, I hope readers see the value of sponsoring a child in need. Compassion is a real organization, and the hope and sense of identity they bring to families and children around the globe helps slam the door on human trafficking.
9. Who is your favorite author?
C.S. Lewis is my favorite, with Clive Cussler’s later work coming in a close second. Clive is the undisputed master of adventure, and he realized later in his career that he didn’t need the foul language or other stuff to make his stories exciting. Taking that stuff out made them so much more readable.
10. Compassion International played a part in Chasing the White Lion, made me want to sponsor all the children. How did that partnership come about and how did it impact the development of the book?
I’ve been partnering with Compassion for a while. It’s a passion for my whole family. When I realized I wanted to make human trafficking a subject matter in the book, I went to the people who I trust most regarding child dignity. Compassion deals with hard topics in the real world, including child poverty and human trafficking. They manage to do this while respecting the dignity and likeness of Christ of these kids. I knew I needed their help to do the same. In talking it out with my contacts there, I realized I needed to write many scenes we’d normally see from the villain’s perspective from a kidnapped child’s perspective instead. I’m so glad it’s been effective. Since the start, a portion of every book sold has gone to Compassion’s work. Now, even better, if one of your readers chooses to sponsor a child through Compassion.com, they can send their initial receipt to me at jamesrhannibal.com, and I will send them a free signed copy of the book as a gift of thanks.
If you’d like to consider sponsoring a child through Compassion International, here is the link to their website: https://www.compassion.com/sponsor_a_child/?referer=603603 It’s a great cause, and not only will you have a positive impact in a child’s life, but you’ll get a signed copy of Chasing the White Lion. It’s a win-win!
I’m giving away a copy of The Gryphon Heist and Chasing the White Lion to one lucky winner on May 8th. Please comment below with your email address for an entry into the drawing. Feel free to share this post with anyone you know that loves free books and has a heart for children at risk of being sold into human trafficking.
Close your eyes. WAIT! Forget I said that. If your eyes are closed, you won’t be able to keep reading. So, imagine the Chicago World’s Fair with your eyes wide open. The year is 1893. You’re looking forward to all the brand new sights and sounds at what is being called the Columbian Exhibition. Patriotism swells in your chest as you hear the Pledge of Allegiance recited for the first time by a group of school children. Your taste buds nearly explode as you sample Juicy Fruit gum, Vienna sausages, and Aunt Jemima pancake mix. Okay, so if you’re anything like me, your digestive system will explode after eating a Vienna sausage, but despite the fact that those questionable cylinders are nothing more than mystery meat, they’re still a novelty. And you’re the first person in your neighborhood to get a serious bout of Montezuma’s Revenge from the sodium-laden weenies. Check you out!
Something about Chicago resonated with you the day you arrived, and you gave up your room at the Sauganash Hotel and opted for a long term rental at a new building owned by H.H. Holmes. You’ll search for a job eventually. After all, you’re a responsible adult, but for now, why not enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime experience of the World’s Fair?
After a long day of sensory overload, you want nothing more than to crawl between the cool sheets of your hotel room bed and catch a solid seven to nine hours like the doctor recommends. You take the steps to your room, but when you reach to top, you freeze. A dead end. Something is not right with this picture. Stairs are supposed to lead somewhere. Or maybe you’re already in bed. Already dreaming. You pinch the flesh on your arm. Hard. No you’re definitely awake. A purple welt is rising on your arm to prove it. Have you fallen through the looking glass?
Unease prickles your skin. No, something is incredibly wrong. You descend the steps two at a time and run down the hall on your left, stomach twisting. Those little sausages won’t stay down much longer. The muscles between your shoulder blades knot and snarl. This has to be a dream. You pinch yourself again, hoping to wake up. Nope. Still in the creepy hallway. By this time, your breathing is ragged. There has to be a way out of here. Where is everyone? If only you could someone for directions out of this waking nightmare. But it’s too quiet. Like a crypt.
Numbers on the doors farther down the hall grab your attention. You take a step closer. ‘205.’ Slowly, your muscles untangle, and you pull your room key from your pocket. Your room number, ‘213,’ is stamped on the smooth brass. A breath you didn’t realize you were holding gushes from your lungs. Exhaustion has always had the habit of playing tricks on your brain.
You find your room, unlock the door, and open your carpetbag. Time for jammy-jams and dreamland. Once you dress for bed, you slip between the sheets. Your feet have been trapped in shoes and stockings all day, and the linen feels cold against your tired, swollen toes. Ahhh. You chuckle to yourself. How could you get so worked up just trying to find your room. What a ninny.
A low, metallic click echoes from the pipes in the wall. Maybe between now and the next World’s Fair some inventor will find a way to keep pipes from knocking. Wouldn’t that be nice? You sink deeper into the mattress, and the springs squeak. Wait a minute. Your eyelids snap open. That smell. You sniff the air, and terror’s cold, wart-covered hand sinks it’s fingernails into your chest. Gas. You try holding your breath, but the unmistakable fumes curl up your nostrils. You yank on the door knob, but it doesn’t budge. This can NOT be happening.
You run to the far wall and pull up on the sash, but your finger catches on a jagged nail poking through the wood frame.
Trapped. You ignore the pulse in your finger and run to the door.
If you don’t get out of here soon– No. Can’t let your mind go there. You bang on the door, but the silence that answers you leaves a two ton weight on your chest. Or is that feeling a by-product of the gas? As many visitors have flooded the White City for the Exhibition, surely, the room next to yours is occupied. You pound your fist on the wall and scream for help, but your cries end in an oxygen deprived gasp.
Black specks crawl at the corners of your vision, and a strange sense of calm wraps you in a warm blanket. The shadows cast on the wall by streetlights and the lace curtains fade. Everything goes black.
When investigators searched what had become known at the ‘Murder Castle,’ what they discovered would chill the blood in their veins. A trap door in the bathroom floor of Holmes’ private apartment lead to a chute that was used for a little more than laundry, if you catch my drift. One room was lined with gas fixtures. (Who knows. Holmes could have inspired some of Adolf Hitler’s grisly methods.) The walls were lined with metal to kill any sounds originating from inside the deadly chambers.
It wasn’t until officers descended into the basement that the full impact of Holmes’ dirty deeds manifested.
An operating table, bloody clothes, various surgical tools, homemade torture devices, and a crematory.
H.H. Holmes had attended medical school and developed an unsettling fascination with dead bodies. While studying in Michigan, he stole cadavers from the laboratory and took out insurance policies on the people whose bodies he purloined. Then, Holmes would burn or mutilate the bodies and plant them for police to find. Talk about a morbid insurance fraud tactic, but it worked. Though he settled in Chicago as a pharmacist (several of his customers died after taking pills he dispensed, btw), his curiosity for more . . . involved ‘medical’ procedures never waned.
After incapacitating his victims in the gas chamber or with the more hands-on method of holding a chloroform soaked rag over their faces, he’d dump them down the chute and dissected them in his basement research lab. Curiosity sated, he sold his victims’ organs on the black market and their skeletons to medical institutions.
It is estimated that he killed 200 people in his horror hotel between 1892 and 1894, but that number can’t be substantiated. Only 9 of those victims had a solid link to Holmes and his Murder Castle. Among these 9 were women who disappeared while working as his stenographers. When his employees vanished, it led the police to Holmes’ doorstep.
Still, during the course of the Chicago World’s Fair, thousands of people went missing, so speculation abounds as to the actual number of men and women who died at the hand of H. H. Holmes in his Horror Hotel.
While researching for this post, I discovered a fictional story based on the true events surrounding H.H. Holmes and the Chicago World’s Fair. Honestly, I can’t believe I haven’t read this yet, since I absolutely loved Grace Hitchcock’s book ‘The Gray Chamber.’ This one’s going on top of my TBR pile, and I’d like the chance to add it to yours. Comment below, and one participant will win an eBook copy!
I’m beyond excited to introduce you to one of my all-time favorite authors, Nancy Mehl! Not only is her Kaely Quinn Profiler series one of the best I’ve read, but she’s been a personal blessing to me over the last few months. Without further ado, let’s dig into the interview.
Are any events/people in your books based on reality, or is it pure imagination?
A combination. I believe we put some of ourselves and our life experiences in our stories. It’s what we know and what we understand.
2. Have you visited any of the locations in your books?
Yes. When my stories were based in Kansas, I almost always visited the places I wrote about. Most of the towns weren’t real, but I wanted to make certain they could exist in areas where I put them. When working on a series set in Sugarcreek, Ohio, I actually traveled there and was able to visit local shops and places I’d written about. It was a lot of fun.
3. Who was your favorite character to write and why?
Kaely Quinn, the main character in my Kaely Quinn Profiler series. She is so unique I loved writing about her.
4. What is your favorite genre to read?
Mystery and suspense. I’ve always loved it since I was a little girl. Still do.
5. Do you hide secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Sometimes I put the names of friends in my books without telling them. I love it when they find themselves in my story.
6. What is your most unusual writing quirk?
I can’t think of anything that’s really unusual. I do listen to music when I write. My dog is always in the room with me. I have a bird feeder outside my window and like to watch the birds while I’m writing. Not sure those are very unusual. Sorry.
7. What do you most hope your readers take away from Dead End?
Of course, I want them to enjoy the book. I’ll be wrapping up Kaely’s story so I pray they will be satisfied with the way I did it. I think Dead End offers a lot of hope. My prayer is that they’ll take that away with them.
8. What is your favorite word and why?
My favorite word? That’s easy. Jesus.
9. If you had the opportunity to live anywhere in the world for a year while writing a book that took place in that same setting, where would you choose?
Alaska! I dream about taking a cruise there. I want to see the northern lights and watch a whale swim past the boat. Anyone who knows me knows I love snow. I think I could be happy there for a year!
10. Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Thank you for buying my books and for all your kind comments to me. They mean more than you will ever know. Their encouragement is almost as good as chocolate!
I’m so thankful Nancy took the time to give us a peek into her process and her life.
In honor of her newest release, Dead End, I’m hosting a giveaway. Comment below (with your email address) to be entered for a chance to win one of three e-book copies of this amazing story! Be sure to drop your comment before midnight Saturday, April 4th. I’ll draw names on Sunday! To be honest, I’m a low key jelly of whoever wins. I pre-ordered a paperback, and Amazon said I won’t get it until April 30th. That is way to long to wait, considering I’ve been rather impatiently biding my time since December to find out how the series ends . . . But, I’ll take the moral high ground and be over the moon happy for the three lucky winners!
Some people enjoy watching horror movies. The sensation of a tingling spine and racing pulse gives them a little thrill. But when the credits roll, and the TV flickers off, it’s only stories. They can curl beneath the cool sheets, close their eyes, and know none of that can happen. It’s all make-believe. Right?
Well, sometimes the truth is scarier than fiction. Such was the case for Annie Andrews and her family.
The year was 1986. Annie and Jessica’s mother had passed away, leaving them grieving and often alone while their father worked to pay the bills. Their mother had been the glue that held the family together, and Annie wished she could talk to her one more time.
One day, the phone rang, and Annie answered. A neighborhood boy, Danny LaPlante, had begged her number from mutual friends. Without being a total skeez, he told her she was pretty and how much he’d like to get to know her. All the things girls want to hear. After several phone calls, he asked her out for ice cream. It sounded innocent enough, and Annie hoped to somehow fill the void her mother left behind. Maybe a boyfriend was the answer. She agreed, and they made a visit to the ice cream parlor together.
Like teenage girls–or any girl, for that matter–Annie’s mind built Danny into a dream boat he could never hope to be. When she met him face to face, disappointment soured the ice cream. As kindly as possible, she ended things with the anti-Prince Charming.
Needing her mother more than ever, Annie, along with Jessica, grabbed an Ouija board and candles. It was time for a seance. She had to talk with her mother. Tell her good-bye. Let her know how much she was missed. Candle flames bobbed, casting light against the grimy basement walls. Nothing. The planchette didn’t move. It was all just a bunch of baloney
Later that night, when Annie lay in bed, a knocking sound tapped the walls. When she searched the house, everything seemed normal. But the thumps persisted. Was it her mother? Had the seance actually worked?
As months progressed, the tapping continued intermittently. Probably just a friendly greeting from their dear departed. But when the girls started finding personal items and furniture moved around the house, a creepy crawly feeling settled it. Whatever was happening was more sinister than their mother’s presence.
After their father left for work one day, strange sounds filtered from the basement. Together the girls trekked the creaking steps. When they reached the concrete floor, words written in what appeared to be blood dripped from the walls. ‘I’m in your room come find me.’ This wasn’t Mother. The girls ran screaming from the house, looking for a neighbor to call their father and alert him.
The girls’ father, Brian Andrews, hadn’t heard the noises. He believed his daughters’ hysterics were their way of acting out after losing their mother. When he checked the writing on the basement wall, he found the cryptic message had been written in ketchup. Yep, nothing more than a cry for attention.
For the next few days, things in the Andrews’ home returned to a semblance of normal. No more noises, ketchup messages, or misplaced furniture. Annie breathed a relieved sigh. Fear’s clutches loosened their hold. But all good things must come to an end, and one night another message appeared on the wall. Again, the girls ran from the house in an attempt to escape the unknown menace within.
Seeing the girls’ terror, Brian Andrews entered the house with his daughters, planning to find another staged work of art from Annie and Jessica. But when he stood still in the foyer, sounds from upstairs snagged his attention. Slowly, he moved to the second floor. The noises grew louder with each step. Light seeped under a bedroom door, and a shadow played from somewhere inside the room.
Brian pushed open the door. Panic rippled as Danny LaPlante, dressed in the clothing of the deceased Mrs. Andrews turned to face him. The teenager carried a hatchet, poised to strike.
LaPlante chased the family through the house. Once he’d captured Brian, Annie, and Jessica and tied them up, he told them to start praying, because they were going to die. Their prayers were answered when one of the girls broke free of her ligatures and helped her sister and father escape through a bedroom window. They called the police. It was over. Or it should have been, anyway.
Police arrived at the scene, and what they found left them scratching their heads. Messages written on the walls and coins glued to the ceiling. Weird. But they didn’t find Danny LaPlante. Still, the Andrews family was understandably uncomfortable with the idea of returning home and stayed away for nearly two weeks. When they gathered the courage to go back, Danny LaPlate was standing in the window–waiting for them.
Again, the police stormed the Andrews home. They searched the place top to bottom, and in the basement, an officer found something odd behind the washing machine. When they moved it away from the wall, shock prevailed. A hole in the plaster led to a space between the inside and outside walls. Danny LaPlante crouched inside his hiding place, and he didn’t come out quietly.
Eventually, they coaxed him out and arrested him. In the space behind the wall, lay a sleeping bag, beer, and food wrappers. He’d been living there a while. When the whole story came to light, it was discovered he broke into the Andrews’ home for the first time after Annie decided they weren’t a match. He’d watched the seance Annie and Jessica had performed nearly a year earlier. In that moment, he had seen the girls’ vulnerability and determined to terrify them. Annie would pay for spurning his advances. Turns out Annie Andrews’ radar was working. I’d like to say she dodged a bullet, but after the horror movie she and her family survived, that wouldn’t be a fair statement.
I’d also like to say that Danny LaPlate was sentenced to some serious hard time, and they all lived happily ever after, but the story doesn’t end here. Due to the fact Scary McCreeperson (a.k.a. Danny LaPlante) was a minor and no physical harm was done, Annie’s ex-boyfriend spent a few months in a youth detention facility. Then, before the trial, his mommy paid his bail.
Court was scheduled for December 1987, but before Danny could be tried for his crimes, the unthinkable happened. LaPlante disappeared.
Then one day, Andrew Gustofson returned home from work to find his pregnant wife had been shot in the head, and their two children drowned in separate bathtubs. The evidence pointed to Danny LaPlante. Police tracked down the seventeen-year-old triple murderer. It was still unclear whether the killings resulted from a robbery gone wrong or something more evil.
This time, justice was served and the judge sentenced LaPlante to three life sentences. Good call, Judge!
Despite the fact this seriously disturbed man will never breathe free air again, I can’t imagine Annie Andrews is able to crawl into bed at night, knowing the monsters on TV are little more than figments of a writer’s imagination. She knows monsters are real. And sometimes, they live in the walls of your home.
I’m so excited to introduce you to my friend Tom Threadgill! He’s authored the Jeremy Winter trilogy and, most recently, Collision of Lies. All four ebooks will be up for grabs, but I’ll get to that part later. Hope you enjoy reading Tom’s responses to my questions as much as I did.
1. Are any events/people in Collision of Lies or the Jeremy Winter series based on reality, or is it pure imagination?
When I look back on the Winter series, I can see a lot of myself in the main character, particularly as far as his opinions and sarcasm. I didn’t plan that, but I think it’s impossible to write without including part of yourself in there somewhere. A lot of the banter in the story is typical of conversations my wife and I have. Oh, and Maggie’s penchant for mangling idioms is based loosely on my wife. “Loosely.”
2. Have you visited any of the locations in your books?
I have, but not specifically for research purposes. West Tennessee, St. Louis, and San Antonio are all on that list.
3. Who was your favorite character to write and why?
I enjoyed writing Amara in Collision of Lies a lot, but I think my favorite was the Medical Examiner, Douglas Pritchard. I still haven’t figured out what the deal is with that guy. I love his quirks but not sure I could ever tolerate being around him for long. He’s kind of a combination of Monk, House, and Quincy (you youngsters will need to look that one up).
4. Did you have to edit any fun scenes from Collision of Lies before publication?
Not really. Collision is my fourth novel and I’ve pretty much learned when something isn’t going to work. If I can’t figure out a way for the scene to move the plot forward, it won’t be in there. Plus, my first drafts are almost always way shorter than the final manuscript, so there’s not a lot to cut. I prefer to flesh out the story in the edits rather than fret about what needs to go.
5. Do you hide secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Nah. I mean, there may be inside jokes that only certain friends or family will recognize, but nothing earth-shattering. I did have several readers comment about a cameo in Collision that they enjoyed, but that’s not really a secret.
6. One of your characters in Collision of Lies is a Downton Abbey buff. Did you watch the series for research, and if so, did you love it?
I do research a lot of things in my stories, but I have my limits. That said, I have been exposed to second-hand Downton Abbey (which I believe the Surgeon General has issued a warning about) because my wife loved it. But I had to Google the information on the show’s scenes that are mentioned in my novel.
7. How long on average does it take you to write a book?
About a year, although the sequel to Collision is taking a lot longer due to life getting in the way. My goal for 2020 was to finish the sequel as well as another novel before the year ended. Not sure I’m going to make it.
8. Do you personally eat Cheetos with chopstick or know someone who does?
I’m way too uncoordinated to use chopsticks and I’m not a fan of Cheetos. Cool concept though, right?
9. What are your five favorite movies and why?
That’s such a hard question because I tend to have favorite scenes rather than movies. Like Infinity War when Thor shows up in Wakanda or the final battle in Endgame (the unforced parts of it). I do like all the John Wick movies and most of the Jason Bourne ones too. The LOTR movies are good (skip the blasphemy that is The Hobbit), but can be quite slow in parts.
10. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Ah, the old “what did you want to be” question. I’ll give the same answer I always do. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an adult. Now I want to be a kid again. 😊
11. Which of your characters do you most relate to?
I think it’s still Jeremy Winter. There’s a lot of his character still to be explored if I ever decide to go back there.
12. How long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
None. I don’t plot at all. I work out the first chapter from whatever idea I’m using and go from there. All research is done during the writing phase.
13. Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Please leave reviews when you read books! It helps authors in lots of ways. And writing can be lonely, so don’t be afraid to fire off an email to your favorite writer and let them know you enjoy their work. Nothing brightens our day/week/month more!
Thank you all for joining me as I interviewed one of my favorite authors! Now to sweeten the pot. On March 1st, I will be drawing names, and one lucky winner will receive all three Jeremy Winter books and Collision of Lies in ebook format. I’m sure you’re dying to know how to enter, and it’s simple. Just comment below and tell me why you love reading suspense. Be sure to include your email address so I can contact you if your name is drawn.
Be sure to subscribe, since I’ll be conducting giveaways every month, and I’d hate you to miss anything!
A new year is upon us. For some that means making resolutions that will last until sometime next week. For others that means pulling out a Twinkie and a Coke and laughing at those who are trying once again to turn over a new leaf. Maybe you’re one to make resolutions and like Kelly from The Office, you plan to get more attention by any means necessary. Maybe you’re like Creed and want to perform the perfect cartwheel (and your idea of perfect is a little ambiguous.)
Statistically, losing weight is the most common resolution made this time of year. Couch potatoes flock to gyms and produce sections for their annual appearance–much like the one day in February that Punxsatawny Phil pokes his fuzzy head out of his burrow to tell us if we have a whole six weeks left of winter or if there are only six weeks left of winter. (Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that kind of the same thing? Seriously, there is no way for this groundhog to fail. How does one find a job like this?)
If you are the type to make resolutions, I’d like to caution you not to go overboard like British sisters, Claire and Dorthea Williamson did at the turn of the century.
Claire and Dorthea were orphaned by a wealthy father, and their inheritance left them more than comfortable. Still, money doesn’t buy happiness. But it can put you on the road to good health, and as far as the Williamson sisters were concerned, that was almost the same as happiness. While summering at the Empress Hotel in British Columbia, they stumbled across an advertisement for Linda Hazzard’s book, Fasting for the Cure of Disease. While neither sister was sick, per se, they did suffer from rheumatism and swollen glands at times. #thestruggle
In a quest for health, the sisters had already given up their corsets and eating meat. (I understand the corset burning, but nobody better come between me and my steak.) When the Williamsons realized Linda Hazzard ran a clinic for natural health in Olalla, Washington, they packed their bags and checked themselves in, determined to undergo what Linda Hazzard referred to as ‘the most beautiful treatment.’
Set in the lush Washington countryside, Hazzard’s Institute of Natural Theraputics’ scenery was almost as inviting as the promises of improved health. They dreamed of breathing in fresh air, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, and sampling the homemade broth Linda Hazzard promised contained healing properties. But when they arrived, Linda informed them that the sanitarium was undergoing renovations and wasn’t ready for their extended stay. Instead, they were put up in a Seattle hotel where she began feeding them broth made from canned tomatoes. One cup twice a day was all the food they were allowed. In addition to the meager portions, they were also given daily enemas in the bathtub that lasted hours on end. (If you don’t know what an enema is, ask your mom. But whatever you do don’t watch the YouTube videos unless you’ve got a strong stomach than I do.) When the girls grew weak and fainted, canvas supports were brought in to hold them up for their ‘treatment.’
By the time the facilities were ready for patients two months later, Claire and Dorthea Williamson weighed just 70 pounds according to a concerned neighbor. Unfortunately, the Williamson family was unaware of the sisters’ stay at the Hazzard Institute. More than once they’d discouraged the girls from extreme health fads, and since they’d manage to rain on this parade too, Claire and Dorthea kept their newest health resolution to themselves. Their childhood nurse, Margaret Conway, who was visiting family in Australia received a mysterious telegram. The message contained nothing but gibberish and only a few words. Concerned, she hopped on a boat to the Pacific Northwest to check on Claire and Dorthea.
While on her way to the Hazzard Institute, Margaret ended up on the bus with Sam Hazzard, Linda’s husband. (As an aside, Sammy Boy served jail time for bigamy after marrying Dr. Linda. Yeah. He was a real peach.) While on the ride to Olalla, Sam dropped a truth bomb. Claire was dead. Dr. Linda Hazzard later explained her passing as the result of a course of drugs administered to Claire while she was still a child. Hazzard believed the drugs had shrunk Clair’s intestines and caused cirrhosis of the liver. According to the good doctor, Claire was too far gone by the time she arrived at the Institute for the ‘beautiful treatment’ to do her any good.
Now, Margaret wasn’t a doctor, but the whole think made no sense. Claire had been healthy and vibrant before her stay at Hazzard’s Health Institute. How could she be dead? When she stopped at the Butterworth’s Mortuary to view Claire’s body, it didn’t even look like the woman Margaret used to know. The hands, face, and hair color looked like they belonged to a different person. After her trip to the funeral home, she hurried to the sanatorium to check on Dorthea. Shock set in when her gaze fell on her former charge. Weighing in at 50 pounds and with bones jutting out at every joint, Dorthea was little more than a shell of her former self. Strangely enough, Dorthea Williamson didn’t want to leave, even though she was obviously starving to death.
When Margaret tried taking matters into her own hands, she was distressed to find that Linda Hazzard had been appointed executor of Claire’s fortune and sole guardian of Dorthea. In addition to Linda raking in the Williamson inheritance, Dorthea had declared Sam Hazzard her legal power of attorney. The Hazzards had helped themselves to Claire’s clothes and around $6,000 in the family jewels. As cringey as it sounds, Linda Hazzard gave her report on Dorthea’s mental state while dressed in Claire’s clothing. Talk about sick.
Nothing Margaret said could convince Linda Hazzard to let Dorthea go. Linda flashed her dark eyes and shook her head, perhaps conjuring a curse in keeping with her rumored dabbling in the occult. Was she hypnotizing her patients. Were they so helpless under her control that they were willing to sign their lives away then starve themselves to appease her?
Finally, Dorthea’s uncle, John Herbert, came to the rescue. He payed Linda Hazzard $1,000 to free his niece. With Miss Dorthea Williamson safely away, Herbert started investigating Dr. Hazzard’s deadly sanitarium. He found his nieces weren’t an isolated case. In fact, Hazzard was connected to several deaths of wealthy people. People who had signed their fortunes over to her before dying of starvation. In total, the death count at Linda Hazzard’s health spa is guessed to be around twelve, though some believe the number is significantly higher.
In 1911, Linda Hazzard was tried for the death of Claire Williamson. Nurses and servant from the facility testified against her, claiming the Williamson sister cried out in pain during treatments, suffered through never ending enemas, and were forced to take scalding hot baths. Not only was she accused of physical starvation, but financial starvation as well. There were also unproven allegations that Hazzard had a little side deal with Butterworth’s Mortuary and had swapped Claire’s body for a healthier one to hide just how shriveled the poor woman had become.
Linda Hazzard never took responsibility in any of the deaths on her watch. She believed that dying during a fast was the result of organic imperfections. Not starving. So basically, anyone who died, must have an underlying condition that would have killed them anyway. She believed the trial was a battle between traditional medicine and her more natural methods. However, the jury didn’t think Claire had an underlying condition. They found Ms. Hazzard guilty, sentence her to hard labor, and revoked her medical license. While on the chain gain for two years, Linda fasted to show the validity of her methods.Then, for some strange reason, the governor of Washington pardoned her.
In 1920, Linda Hazzard returned to Olalla to build her dream sanitarium which she referred to as a ‘school for health.’
In 1935, the health institute caught fire and burned down. Three years later in her early 70s, Linda fell ill and started a fast to get herself back to health. It didn’t have the effect she’d hope, and she died soon after. Today, ivy scaled ruins of the Health Institute are all that remain of Linda Hazzard’s dreams of better health for the masses and a chubby pocketbook for herself.
So, friend, if you want to kick off the new year with fresh health goals, I’m proud of you. But please, don’t go to extremes. Don’t strive for perfection at any price, because history has taught us that the price could be too high.
Happy Friday, Friends and Neighbors! Hope you all are doing fantastic. I’d like to introduce you to a great author and an even better friend, Sharee Stover. She also lives in my town, and I’ve been to lunch with her, so . . . yeah. I know a real-life celebrity. Her newest release, Silent Night Suspect, will his the shelves on December 1st. Can you believe that’s only nine days away?!? I can’t.
If you’re like me, you prefer your romantic suspense with a realistic amount of romance. Not the ooey-gooey, fall-in-love-with-a-stranger-you-know-literally-nothing-about in two days stuff that I can’t seem to escape. That was a major run-on sentence. My apologies. Anyhow. I absolutely loved the realism in Silent Night Suspect. Everything about this story was on point, and I highly recommend. Also, I have a little surprise at the end for you, my faithful readers.
I won’t waste anymore of your valuable time with my drivel. Let’s get on to the main event, shall we. Here was my interview with Sharee for your reading pleasure.
1. What is your favorite under-appreciated novel? My all-time favorite novel is Safely Home by Randy Alcorn. It’s the kind of book that stays with you. I own it in multiple formats. Ebook, Paperback, Audio…yep, it’s that good. Definitely one I’d recommend to anyone.
2. Are any of your characters based on real people? All names have been changed to protect the innocent. Giggle. Just kidding. Actually, all of my characters have certain features or characteristics of people I know. I think it helps to write a better character when I can picture or hear him/her in my mind. I might pick a friend or foe and take features from them to develop the dialogue.
3. Which of your characters do you most relate with? Asia Stratton from Silent Night Suspect is the most relatable for me. She’s raw and honest with her scars. I love that she’s still healing and though she’s come a long way, she’s willing to work on that healing. Asia is far more courageous than I would be too. There’s a line (NO SPOILERS) where she believes it’s the end and prays for courage to face it.
4. What kind of researching do you do, and how much time to you spend researching before beginning a book? Research is often done throughout the book especially as I come upon situations where I need more information, or like in Silent Night Suspect, needing to know drug actions/reactions. I’m always plotting several books at a time so if I see things that apply to a particular story I’m working on, I’ll tuck those away in my Scrivener folder or print them out and keep a file to reference later.
5. Stephen King advises authors to ‘Kill their darlings.’ Have you edited any scenes out of your books thatyou particularly loved? If so, would you give an example? Editing and deleting things isn’t much an issue for me. I know I have a lot to learn and I want to maintain a teachable spirit, so I trust if I’m told something’s gotta go, it’s the best decision for the book. I can’t think of any particular scenes, but I do have a couple of books (yes, entire books) that are my darlings and I hope they’ll someday get their limelight.
6. How do you select your character’s names? I absolutely LOVE naming characters and I keep a spreadsheet of all my books to try and ensure that I don’t use the same name twice. One huge factor is checking that the name isn’t a famous person. Especially an infamous person. I use lots of different references, websites, and sometimes football players or credits from movies. I like unique names so I’m always on the lookout. I even keep a list for future reference. I’m a total name nerd.
7. Do you read your book reviews?
Book reviews are tricky things. I write
many reviews myself for books I read so I appreciate the time and effort that
goes into them. I’ve heard repeatedly at writing conferences that authors shouldn’t
read our reviews. Especially the mean ones. I’m amazed sometimes at how cruel
people can be. They forget there is a person behind that book.
However, it is a lot of fun to see how a
book affected a reader and what things they especially liked. In the words of
Mark Twain, I could live two months on one good compliment. Unfortunately, the
reverse means those bad reviews also stick and can be discouraging. My husband
runs interference for me by reading them first.
8. How long does it take you to write a book? Because I start plotting books way in advance, I usually write an entire book within a couple of months but then I need another two months to edit, re-edit, and re-re-edit my edits. I have trouble letting go.
9. Do you believe in writer’s block? Yes, but not for ideas. I always have too many of those bouncing around in my brain. I do have times when I just can’t seem to get my brain and fingers cooperating to put words on the page. When that happens, I take a break, Netflix binge and then try again.
10. What was your favorite childhood book?Rainbow Garden by Patricia M. St John. It’s the first book I specially ordered. I think I was
11. What is your favorite genre to read and why? I read almost all genres but my favorites are women’s fiction and suspense/mystery. Women’s fiction has deep characters that stick with me and I appreciate the changes they must endure. But I also need suspense/mystery because I get antsy for the plot action and nail-biting, page flipping that must happen.
12. How many drafts of you book do you generally write before publication? Depends on how many revisions I have to do. Giggle. There’s always a least two, but sometimes it’s a major overhaul.
13. If you had the opportunity to live anywhere in the world for a year while writing a book that took place in that same setting, where would you choose? I would love to go to South Korea and travel the country.
14. Do you have an unusual writing quirk? Not really. I always keep a glass of ice water beside me and generally speaking I’m chewing cinnamon gum. It helps me think.
15. What is your favorite word and why? I do love the word juxtaposition and try to put it in at least once in every book. It’s such a fun word to spell and I love the definition. For quick reference, dictionary.com says: an act or instance of placing close together or side by side, especially for comparison or contrast. I don’t know why it’s my favorite, it’s just groovy.
Sharee, thank you so much for answering my burning questions! I can’t wait to read your next book, Untraceable Evidence!
Would you like to win a free copy of Silent Night Suspect? That’s the only stupid question I’ll ask today, I promise. Receive an entry into the drawing for every comment on this post. Winner will be drawn on November 30th, so comment, comment, comment. You’ll thank me later!
Happy Friday, friends! As I pondered which story to share next, I remembered this little gem from not so very long ago. 2012 to be exact. Maybe there’s something wrong with me. Well, I think we all know there’s something a little wrong with me. Why else would I have such an unsettling fascination with this kind of stuff? But I’m talking about a different issue entirely. I’m taking a deep breath as I share my secret with you. Please, don’t judge me too harshly, but . . . I’ve never had what some call ‘Baby Fever.’ Apparently, this is not normal. I work in my church nursery fairly regularly, and hear women ooohing and aaahing over wriggling, crying bundles of joy. They talk about how they can’t wait to have a baby, or another baby depending on their circumstances. I get weird looks when I don’t share in their wishing upon stars. For one, I’m not married, so having children isn’t on the to-do list. For two, I know my limitations. Now, don’t get me wrong. I like kids, especially after they’re verbal enough to tell you what they need. I’m no Miss Trunchbull, snapping my whip and making disobedient little boys eat entire chocolate layer cakes. But I haven’t experienced baby fever like most women my age and younger. And I certainly never suffered a severe case like ice cream parlor owner Estibaliz Carrazna. When this tale is told, I think even the maternal ladies in my church will find their case of the fever to be mild.
Owning or working at an ice cream shop would be a dream come true. How could you be stressed or annoyed while surrounded by something as wonderful as ice cream? When have you ever been treated like a second-class citizen by someone scooping your mint chip or cookies n’ cream? Never, right? Well, apparently, Estibaliz Carranza, owner of an ice cream parlor in Vienna, Austria never got the memo regarding the love affair between ice cream and happiness. Not only did she fail to appreciate the blessings of ice cream, she failed to make the necessary repairs to her slice of paradise, and the parlor fell into a state of disarray. Business slacked, but the business school graduate didn’t see a problem. I’d say the education system failed her, but hey, that’s just my opinion. Looking back, I’m sure she wishes she’d kept the place up though.
Married to Holger Holz, Estibaliz appeared to have it all. I mean, she owned an ice cream parlor for crying out loud. Still, there was something missing. A baby. More than anything, Estibaliz yearned to be a mother. To hold a baby in her arms and shower it with love. But after years of marriage and no children, she started an affair with ice cream machinery salesman, Manfred Hinterberger. Estibaliz divorced her husband Holger, but due to financial constraints the pair continued living together. After Manfred dumped Estibaliz for another woman in 2008, her ex-husband found joy in taunting her. Telling her she would never be a mother and would die alone. This played on the business owner’s deepest fears and insecurities. Before long, Holger was no longer in the picture. Financial problems or not, she couldn’t bear living with him.
Before long, Manfred returned, begging Estibaliz to take him back. Though her trust in him was a thing of memory, her desire to hear the patter of little feet over-rode the fact he was a scoundrel. Despite her career, she believed being a mother was her main purpose on earth, and Manfred was her ticket to fulfillment. Time passed, and no children came, no positive pregnancy tests, nothing. Tick tock, tick tock. Her biological clock trudged on and her anxiety soared. If she didn’t have a child, how on earth was she supposed to live her best life? The life she was destined to live? Soon she ended her relationship with Manfred. What use was he anyway? She wasn’t getting any younger, and there was no time to waste. Like seriously, no time to waste. She was 32 years old for pity’s sake.
With a new man in her life and hope for a happy ending, a pipe burst in her Vienna ice cream shop and dumped cold water on her dream. Estibaliz called the repairmen, and they hurried down the basement to address the issue. They noticed patches of uneven concrete on the floor, but they needed to dig the floor up anyway to get to the pipes. No doubt they’d leave the basement floor in better shape than they found it.
The workers didn’t think much of the janky floor until their tools hit metal. Something wasn’t right. What they found beneath the basement floor was the very thing no human being wishes to find in his lifetime. A freezer filled with the disembodied remains of two men. The decomposing bodies were later identified as belonging to Holger Holz and Manfred Hinterberger.
In an ironic twist of fate, Estibaliz learned she was pregnant the day her two victims were found and police hauled her off to the pokey. She would finally have the child she longed for, but would be unable to care for it.
After the discovery of the bodies, many creepy details came to light. And if you know me at all, you know I love creepy details.
When Estibaliz finished shooting each of her former significant others in the back of the head, she brought their bodies to the basement where she used her trusty chainsaw to make fitting them in the freezer easier. To drown out the mechanical drone of the saw, she made sure the ice cream maker was churning out fresh treats. When neighbors asked about the racket, she blamed it on the antiquated ice cream equipment.
Here’s another detail that made my skin crawl. After dismembering Manfred, Estibaliz made a beeline to the nail salon. She got a manicure, because her nails were ‘wrecked’ after her night of hacking up the man who burst her dream of motherhood. I guess when you’re out looking for victim number three it doesn’t do to have jagged fingernails.
The body parts of her victims were not only found in small freezers in the basement, but in garden containers. She had filled the pots with concrete to cover the smell of decomposition.
The father of her child actually married her in 2011 while she was in prison. Yikes! That takes guts . . . or something.
Carranza was so violent that women’s prisons in Austria weren’t equipped for her brand of crazy. She is serving time in a men’s prison staffed by nurses, therapists, doctors, and prison guards.
Well, now you know the story of the Ice Cream Killer and perhaps have a better handle on just how mild most cases of ‘Baby Fever’ are. Of course, this begs the question: If Estibaliz Carranza would kill a man who didn’t give her what she wanted, what would she do for a Klondike Bar?
Hi, friends! Welcome to the party! Today, I’m introducing one of my favorite series while conducting an interview with the author. I’m not gonna lie, ya’ll, I’ve gotten a little picky when it comes to suspense in the recent past. I don’t know if it’s the sheer abundance of mystery books I’ve read or that my mind takes a very investigative turn, but I can usually pick out the villain in any mystery as soon as they’re introduced. I’ll be reading with a cat in my lap and say, “There he is. I’ve got my eye on you, ya little scamp.” After getting a super judgmental look from my furry friend, I hope against hope that I’m wrong. I want to be surprised, I do, but that seldom happens. Then, I feel the bitter sting of disappointment. In the words of Adrian Monk, ‘It’s a gift . . . and a curse.’ Let me tell you, the the only disappointment I felt while reading C.C. Warren’s Holly series was due to the fact that I am gainfully employed and couldn’t read the whole lot in one sitting. #adulting
Without further ado, here is my interview with the lovely C.C. Warrens. At the end, I’ll share how you can get a free copy of ‘Criss Cross!’ Huzzah!!!
Are any of your characters based on real people?
husband would tell you yes, and on an unconscious level I suppose some of them
are. It wasn’t my intention, but reflecting back, I can certainly see it.
and my dad have a similar temperament. My dad (Mark) is technically my stepdad,
but like Marx is for Holly, he’s my father in every way that matters.
is in a wheelchair like my husband, and like him, she’s insanely competitive in
(the man and the cat) is based off a gray, blue-eyed cat I had when I was a
teenager. From there, Jordan did pick up some of my husband’s better
qualities—his patience and understanding, and the gentlemanly way he comports
Holly, appearance aside, has quite a few of my quirks and characteristics (including her love of coconut shampoo and marshmallow hot chocolate), but as a whole, she’s designed to represent a lot of abused and neglected children that I’ve worked with.
2. Which of your characters do you relate most with?
relate the most with Holly. Her social awkwardness and mischievous attitude are
similar to mine. As a kid, I used to cut the centers out of the cakes and
brownies mom baked just to drive my dad bonkers.
I’m also a disaster in the kitchen, and I occasionally catch things on fire. I could set off the smoke alarms by boiling water, and frequently did in our old apartment.
3. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I do things a little backwards by researching as I’m writing. I’ve never calculated the time it takes, but I’m sure it takes a while. An example of this is Criss Cross, which is set in New York City, a place I had never been at the time. After I finished writing some of the scenes, I did some research to figure out where things might have taken place.
4. Stephen King advises authors to ‘Kill their darlings.’ Have you edited any scenes out of your books that you particularly loved? If so, would you give an example?
Oh yes. Every book is a struggle because I write scenes that I love, only to realize that they just don’t fit with the overall manuscript. In my current WIP, I had written a scene where Shannon takes Holly shopping for court attire, and Holly gets frustrated because she’s so petite that all of the suits make her look like a kid playing dress-up. Unfortunately, while it was a cute scene, I had to take it out.
5. How do you select your character’s names?
There is no method to my madness there. Jordan and Holly have existed in my head since I was a teenager, and I knew I would want to write a book with them in it someday. The others… your guess is as good as mine!
6. Do you read your book reviews?
I do. Some authors say you shouldn’t, but I find the positive feedback from readers motivating.
7. How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Before my current WIP, I would say about six months. This one though, it’s a tangled web of complication, and it’s taking a lot longer.
8. Do you believe in writer’s block?
Absolutely. Though for me, writer’s block isn’t so much a lack of ideas. It’s when my brain gets stuck on one particular idea that I just can’t seem to maneuver around.
9. What is your favorite childhood book?
10. What is your favorite genre to read? Why?
I love suspense. I’m drawn to cop shows like Blue Bloods and NCIS, and having them in book form is even better!
11. How many drafts of your book do you generally write before publication?
Haha… I couldn’t even tell you. Truly. I lose count. I think I had about eighteen versions of Criss Cross before I settled on the final copy, but that’s just a guess.
12. If you had the opportunity to live anywhere in the world for a year while writing a book that took place in that same setting, where would you choose?
I’ve never thought about it, but I loved forests and rolling hills. So someplace like that.
I don’t know about you, but I enjoyed learning some of the aspects of C.C. Warren’s creative process! If you haven’t read her series yet, you are missing out in a big way. I’m attaching a link to her website below. Sign up for her newsletter and she’ll give you a free copy of Criss Cross in e-book format. The characters are unforgettable, and the plot will leave you on the edge of your seat, breathless, and reaching for book two. You won’t regret it!