Murder at 30,000 Feet- Introduction

The fasten seat belt light flicks off with a hollow ding. You scrub a hand over your face then check the time on your iWatch. Only thirty-one hours until touch down in Sydney. Only thirty-one. The recycled air scratches your throat. Lovely. Good thing you brought Halls Fruit Breezers to take the edge off. You pop one in your mouth, and the creamy strawberry lozenge coats the aggravation.

Beside you, an old cowboy who had introduced himself as Percival Pettigrew when you first embarked slides his Stetson over his face and slumps into his seat, hands folded over his stomach. His fingertips are stained yellow, and cigarette smoke clings to him like a bad rash. Percival Pettigrew? Really? You chew the inside of your cheek. The name failed to fit the crusty cowboy persona. Why not give him a nickname? Duke? Nah, John Wayne will always be the Duke. Hmmm. Have to think about that one.

Percival Pettigrew…

“What can I get you to drink?” The stewardess, Jessica, stops her cart beside you. Her dark hair swept up in a French twist.

“Just water.” You’ll save it until after the fruity throat disc works its magic, but if you don’t get something to drink now, who knows when she’ll make it back around to row G.

She opens a miniature water bottle and pours about an ounce into a plastic cup. Stingy much? You take the swallow of water and smile. It’s not her fault the airline insists on behaving as if we’re in the midst of a shortage.

Jessica

Your seat lurches, sending water sloshing over the edges of your cup. After fitting it into the circular groove on your tray table, you peek around. A little boy rams his feet into your back again, his mother pats his leg, smiling. “Now, Devon, let’s find a new activity,” she says in a coddling voice. Precious Devon continues his assault against the seat and your final nerve. Too bad his mom doesn’t know that the word ‘parent’ it both a noun and a verb.

Portrait of a kid | free image by rawpixel.com
Devon
I took this photo of Nadia, one year ago, on the streets of Chisinau, Moldova.  She told me that in her early 20s she was thinking that those are the best years of somebody’s life. But her early 30s...
Devon’s Mom

The plane jerks, and Jessica grips the back of your seat. Your heart climbs into your throat as you grip the arm rests until your knuckles turn white. Probably wasn’t your brightest idea to binge watch Lost before flying across the Pacific. But hey, if you crash on an island occupied by homicidal smoke, polar bears, and a group of toughs who want to use you for their crazy experiments, you’ll arrive prepared.

Old Percival snores on. His fingers twitch as the turbulence passes. You still can’t think of a nickname that suits. Probably the high altitude. Devon’s feet pummel your back again. That little shyster isn’t helping creative matters either.

A baby cries from somewhere behind you but quickly settles. You pull your iPad from its sleeve. Might as well get a little work done. The last installment of the Banter app expose won’t write itself. How many people will delete their Banter accounts when they read the truth about their privacy being compromised? You hit the power button, and your tablet screen glows to life. You shrug. Most people wouldn’t care enough to worry about the spying software attached to their profiles. Or the government entities that keep tabs on their online activity. No, they were too excited to show their friends pictures of their sandwiches and post vague woe-is-me sentences in a desperate attempt to fish for sympathy. Whatever gets them through the day. You can’t be faulted for withholding information that laid bare the sinister side of social media.

Once you reach Sydney, there will be no time to finish this article before starting coverage of the Cordova trial. You take a sip of water. How could one man be capable of so much evil. You love your job, but the nightmarish cases it forces you to dive into leave you wishing for the chance to write a feel-good piece. Something about the Make-a-Wish foundation or Chick-fil-A. Anything but corruption and murder.

You straighten your shoulders and set to work. That’s not what you’re known for.

Devon’s tap dance on your back continues. If you don’t get out of this chair in the next minute, you’ll find a way to punish the little delinquent yourself. Didn’t someone say it takes a village to raise a child? Well, you’ll be glad to join this kid’s village. Or give that Super Nanny a call. Where’s a naughty mat when you need one?

You slip out of your seat, tablet in hand. A quick trip to the restroom is in order. Maybe you can finish your article without being kicked like a soccer ball.

As you pass row H, you narrow your eyes at Devon, hoping he’ll get the hint and knock it off when you get back. Devon sticks his tongue out, and your hint sails directly over his curly head. His mom sits beside him, beep, bop, booping on her smartphone. Judging by the sound of the music, she’s playing Kwazy Cupcakes. At least her taste in games is solid even if her parenting style is what the French call ‘checked-out.’

You continue down the aisle, scanning the faces of your fellow passengers. There are the honeymooners you avoided eye contact with in the terminal. That got PG-13 a little too quick.

Couples Of The Year - Interracial Couples - YouTube

A man wearing a badge sits near the bathroom door. Beside him, sits a woman in handcuffs. Okay. Did you accidentally step into a Lost remake? No. This criminal looks nothing like Evangeline Lilly.

William Fichtner - IMDb
U.S. Marshal
Female Prisoner

The green strip above the door handle reads ‘vacant.’ You pull open the door and a cold chill skims your arms. A man wearing a blood stained Red Cross t-shirt lays sprawled beside the sink. The gash across his throat turns your stomach.

You motion for the stewardess. But what can she do? Nothing can save this man. You fight the urge to scream. Somebody murdered him. You scan the backs of passengers heads.

Who?

***

Thank you so much for joining me on this whodunit adventure!!! Comment below to let me know what you think we should nickname our cowboy. Be sure to include your email address, because whoever picks the winning name will receive a $10 Amazon gift card.

Follow me for weekly clues that will point you to the killer one lucky ducky who follows the story to the end will receive a $50 Amazon gift card!

See you next week!

Author Spotlight- James R. Hannibal

Image result for james r. hannibal

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.

The Gryphon Heist by [James R. Hannibal]
One of my top 10 reads of 2019

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.”

Chasing the White Lion by [James R. Hannibal]
So far, my top read for 2020

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.

Shadow Maker (Nick Baron Series Book 2) by [James R. Hannibal]
At the top of my TBR pile

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.

Shadow Catcher (Nick Baron Series Book 1) by [James R. Hannibal]

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.

Author Interview and Giveaway- Tom Threadgill

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!

Author Spotlight- Sharee Stover

Meet my good friend, Sharee.

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.

This is Sharee’s debut novel. You’ll want to check this one out too 🙂

5. 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? 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!