In case you hadn’t figured it out yet, I’m a huge Criminal Minds fan. The show is amazing on so many levels. One thing I love about it is the way they delve into what makes the murderers tick. Some of the UNSUBs have left a permanent imprint on my mind for one reason or another. Here are my top three.
3. The Inbred- Blood Relations
As far as I know, the inbred is the only UNSUB on Criminal Minds that never had a name. That in itself sets him apart. But at the end of the episode, he escapes and kills a couple in a cabin. They never return to this storyline, so we can only assume he’s still at large in TV Land. Yikes!
2. Billy Flynn- Our Darkest Hour
First off, those teeth make my want to floss immediately. Also, I don’t look at people who own campers the way I used to. They really are homicide vans on wheels.
Floyd Feylinn Ferell- Lucky
The cannibal on this episode gave me the creepy crawlies for days. And that smile when the truth came out was chilling. Would not want to run into a guy like him … ever.
It was beyond difficult narrowing this down to three (four if you count the honorable mention.) Which UNSUBs stand out to you?
Also, now that Criminal Minds is over, do you have any recommendations for comparable shows to take its place?
You and Marshal Durland step away from the woman in the sun hat. Why didn’t she consider taking the silly thing off when there wasn’t a sunbeam in sight and the brim kept whacking people in the face? It doesn’t make sense, but the way this trip is going, it’s par for the course.
“That got us nothing.” The marshal massages the back of his neck.
“Let’s talk to Trey and Melani.” You shrug. “Maybe they can shine a little light on the situation.”
You start toward the pair of lovebirds. Melani boops Trey on the nose, and he grabs her finger and kisses it.
Your stomach threatens to toss the hoagie you had in the airport terminal. This should be a real treat.
Marshal Durland rolls his shoulders until they pop. “Got a minute to answer some questions?”
“Sure.” Trey nods. “Anything we can do to help.”
“I don’t know how much help we can be.” Melani tilts her chin. “We were here in our seats the whole time.”
“Did you notice anyone head toward the back of the plane after the murdered man?” the marshal asks.
“We didn’t see anyone get up.” Trey glances at Melani. “Did we babe?”
If that were true, how did Jeff Archer get to the restroom unnoticed? You glance at the rows behind the couple. Both Jeff and the killer must have been sitting behind Trey and Melani.
The marshal presses on in his questioning, but your mind wanders.
What if Jessica had something to do with the killing? Something in your gut tells you that the flight attendant and Angie Garret are connected. Both women have ties to Claire Wilson from the photograph the victim carried. Both had a history with domestic violence of some form or other.
Jessica had access to the entire airplane. Had she been accounted for the whole trip up to the point of discovering Jeff Archer?
There were three rows of passengers left to question, then Mara and the cowboy. But Griz had been sitting next to you, sound asleep. And in those handcuffs, Mara couldn’t be stealthy if she tried. Not to mention the fact, she was under the marshal’s thumb until he dropped her off with the authorities in Sydney.
Was it possible Archer had been killed before boarding? Marshal Durland said the body was still warm when he investigated. How long did bodies stay warm?
You pull out your phone and enter the question in your Safari app. Hopefully, Homeland Security doesn’t flag you or put you on a list for such a suspicious question.
The answer appears on your screen. Twelve hours for a body to turn completely cool to the touch. And you’d been in the air two hours before finding him. Technically, he could have died hours before take-off. Your shoulders droop. But if that’s true, the killer could be long gone.
You mind replays the image of Jeff Archer’s body and the gash across his throat. It wouldn’t have taken long to cut and run. You cringe probably not the best terminology. Had Griz been in your row before you boarded? You think back. Yes. He was already seated when you stuffed your carry-on in the overhead bin.
Had he seen something?
Had he done something?
“Anything else?” Trey rubs his hands on his cargo shorts.
The marshals brows raise as he shakes his head. “That should be it.”
The couple ease into their seats, unbothered by the close quarters.
“You sure spaced out there for a minute.” The marshal slides his notebook back into his pocket.
“Did I miss anything important?”
“Not a blessed thing.” The marshal puffs out a sigh. “Get any bright ideas while you were out in la-la land?”
“You know, dead bodies don’t go cold for twelve hours. The murder may have happened before boarding. We should check the restroom again. See if the lock on the door was tampered with. Something. There has to be a clue we’re missing.”
“Worth a shot.” Marshal Durland unfastens the top button of his shirt. And you head for the back of the plane and the compartment housing Jeff Archer’s body.
Clue #3 If the murderer is on the airplane, he or she would be sitting behind Trey andMelani, but the time frame just got wider.
Thanks for sticking with me! Stay tuned for another installment next Friday!
Since romantic suspense is one of my favorite genres, I thought I’d share some of my favorite authors with you. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. Along with each author, I’ll include a link to my favorite book they wrote.
3. Patricia Bradley
I love the perfect balance between romance and suspense that Ms. Bradley brings to the table. She’s got so much skill and her stories suck me from the first sentence.
2. Terri Blackstock
Not only are Terri Blackstock’s stories intriguing in the extreme, they deal with difficult topics and make me reevaluate life and my relationship with God and others. I can’t recommend the Restoration Series enough. It’s wonderful on so many levels.
How Ms. Coble can come up with so many unique story ideas baffles me, but each one has such exciting twists that I can honestly say I’ve never been disappointed by one of her books. Check her out! You’ll thank me later.
Who are your favorites? What good books have you read lately?
In case you can’t tell from my posts, Suspense/Thriller is my favorite genre. I’ve had the hardest time narrowing this post to three authors, so I’m sticking ones I would classify as writing straight-up suspense and not romantic suspense. Since it was literally impossible to choose only three without squeezing out one of my favorites, I’m going to list four for your reading pleasure. And I’ll add links to Amazon or the author’s website to make it even easier for you to check out these amazing works of creepy genius. You’re welcome!
4. Nancy Mehl
Nancy Mehl’s Kaely Quinn series is a treasure! Her plots are unique and intricate. If you haven’t read her books yet, you’ll want to get on that.
The only thing I don’t like about C.C. Warrens’ Holly series and it’s spin-off is the fact that I literally get nothing done around my house when I’m reading one. They are beyond un-put-down-able. Check them out!
James Hannibal’s characters are unforgettable and wonderful on so many levels. You’ll want to start with the Gryphon Heist then move on the Chasing the White Lion. In the words of Adrian Monk, “You’ll thank me later.”
Okay, so if you’ve known me for any length of time, you saw this coming a thousand miles away. The Patrick Bowers series by Steven James . . . well . . . I’m scrambling for the right words to describe it, but the English language is a little lacking. Suffice it to say, the final book in the series, Checkmate, has the most satisfying ending of any work of fiction I’ve ever read. It was so perfect I laid awake in bed until 4 a.m. the night I finished it, thinking about how epic and perfect the whole series ended. If it sounds like I’m over-hyping the series, I guess you’ll have to check it out for yourself.
I’m so excited to introduce and amazing author and my personal friend, Connie Queen! Her debut novel, Justice Undercover released on June 1st, and it was amazing! Read to the end, because there is a free copy up for grabs!
Here’s the blurb to whet your appetite for the amazingness that is Justice Undercover:
Going undercover as a nanny brings presumed-dead ex-US Marshal Kylie Stone closer to catching the man who murdered the witness in her protection—and also killed Texas Ranger Luke Dryden’s sister. When someone tries to kidnap the twins in her care, Kylie must tell their uncle the truth…and convince Luke to help her. But will revealing her identity put all their lives at stake?
Now that you’re dying to read the book for yourself, lets dig into the interview, then I’ll let you know how to get your hands on a copy of your own.
First of all, I want to thank Connie for taking the time to answer these interview questions. I’ve been looking forward to this since last month. Now, what unfinished writing projects do you have gathering dust in a drawer? Do you think you’ll ever try to publish them, or were they just part of the learning process?
I have multiple writing projects hidden away. I have three completed western historical romances and a few more that are not finished. I grew up on westerns, notably John Wayne, and enjoyed reading Louis L’Amour. I absolutely loved writing my cowboy stories but after many rejections, I realized my style of western historicals didn’t really fit the publishers I was targeting. Unless I want to totally change the stories (and I don’t) they will remain part of the learning process.
I watched John Wayne growing up too. He’s the epitome of a cowboy as far as I’m concerned. And I totally understand not wanting to change the stories you worked so hard on. We all have projects that are a real bear! Which book of yours was the toughest to write? Why?
I just turned in a synopsis and the first 3 chapters to a romantic suspense. The idea of A 911 dispatcher receives a call from her sister who’s presumed dead, should’ve been simple. But alas, it just wouldn’t come together. I continued to write myself into a box. Finally, I just kept writing scenes whether they made sense or not, and only then was able to write the synopsis.
That sounds like an intriguing premise for a book. I’m already looking forward to reading it! Do you have any quirky writing habits?
Yes! See the answer to question 2? This is not uncommon for me. I want to plot, but I’m more of a panster. If I can’t figure out what comes next, I jump ahead to a scene that I know is needed. I do realize this is not the most time-efficient way to write a novel.
If it makes you feel any better, I’m the same way. I want to plot, but it just doesn’t work for me. Skipping ahead can really get the creativity flowing again. Where did you grow up, and do you use this setting in your novels?
I grew up on a farm/ranch in Texas. Even though I use fictional towns in my novels, I base it on north Texas and the county I grew up in. Justice Undercover, my debut, has a quarry scene. About 20 miles from my home, there is a private quarry where the teenagers go swimming even though the landowner has No Trespassing signs posted. Also, as a child, my dad rented a pasture for cattle that had a small lake. I remember Daddy complaining about the kids taking his gate off the hinges after he had put a lock on it. Kind of hard to keep the cows up with no gate.
Knowing the scenes from your book are based on real life places is really neat! Makes me want to read Justice Undercover again. If you could choose, which book of yours would you want adapted for the silver screen? Who would play the main characters?
I have a time-slip story called Jackson’s Fury that is about an 80-something year-old preacher who is giving his last sermon. As the congregation settles back in the pews for a boring speech, they are knocked off their feet when the little old man begins to tell about “the great sinner of our time” –the personal drinking/mob/murdering prodigal son story of the preacher during his younger days.
This is an older story of mine and I had pictured Clint Walker who stood at 6’6” tall to play the part of the old preacher, but sadly Clint passed away a couple of years ago at age 90.
Well, I would have definitely wanted to see that movie! Thank you again for giving my readers a chance to get to know you!
I’m attaching Connie’s social media links below, so you can keep in touch with her and get information on her upcoming novels. Drop a comment below, and I’ll enter you in a drawing for a paperback copy of Justice Undercover. I’ll be holding the drawing on Friday, July 10, 2020.
Connie Queen spent her life in Texas where she met and married her high-school sweetheart. Married for 34 years, they’ve raised eight children and are enjoying their grandchildren. As a child, Connie remembers her mom and sisters reading, but she preferred to be outside. It wasn’t until later, she found the joy of being whisked away into another world.
Today she resides in Nebraska with her husband, and Nash, her Great Dane, where she’s working on her next suspense.
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.
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!