Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Allison Coil mystery series by Mark Stevens: A Review of Trapline

Instead of just talking about Colorado author Mark Stevens and his new release, Trapline, I want to give you a heads-up about the whole Allison Coil series. The first two books, Antler Dust and Buried by the Roan, have recently been re-released in anticipation of Trapline's publication by Midnight Ink. So that's the first good thing: You can purchase and read all of them in paperback or ebook.

The second good thing: This is a gripping mystery series set in beautiful Colorado. It's where Mark Stevens lives, and you can tell from the descriptions and plots that it's country he loves.

The third good thing:  The novels are well written, thought-provoking, and relevant to the issues of the day. In Antler Dust it's hunting regulations and animal rights. Buried by the Roan deals with drilling rights and fracking on the Roan Plateau. Trapline explores for-profit prisons, small companies that hire immigrant workers, and the evil bunch that hunts humans for sport.

Throughout the series, hunting guide Allison Coil zeroes in on a murder and is pulled into the environmental, political, and social issues as she investigates.

To focus a little more on Trapline, note that I read the novel as an advance review e-copy through Net Galley. The issues are big and the solutions complicated, so this is not a novel you'd want for a superficial fast read. We need to think about these issues as we read about them.

The presence of newspaper reporter Duncan Bloom, Allison's friend Trudy and love interest Colin, round out a cast of good guys trying to figure out the answers to a whole slew of problems. You can't help but like all of these characters and identify with their concerns.

Trapline opens with the discovery of a body in the woods. Part of the corpse is missing, but what remains appears to be chewed up. Was the man killed by a mountain lion? Allison is not sure that conclusion is supported by the evidence. When an outspoken political candidate is killed by a sniper at a campaign stop near by, the investigation becomes much more complicated.

I'm not about to spoil the rest of the story for you, so that's all you get here. I highly recommend Trapline as well as the whole Allison Coil series.

You can read more of the plot descriptions for all three books at Stevens' website. You might also enjoy reading his blog, Don't Need a Diagram, where he focuses on book reviews and occasional author interviews. Follow Mark on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

by Mark Stevens
Midnight Ink, November 8, 2014
ISBN-13:  978-0738741642
Purchase on
or Barnes & Noble

"Allison’s third adventure ... combines a loving portrait of a beautiful area with an ugly, all-too-believable conspiracy that could have been ripped from today’s headlines."  ---  Kirkus Reviews

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Bringing Historical Fiction to Life ... by Sheri Cobb South

“Oh, I could never write a historical novel—all that research!”

I sometimes get that response from people after they ask what I write. And it’s true that sometimes I end up spending a long time chasing down historical ephemera. But any novel requires research, regardless of the time period in which it’s set. Come with me, and I’ll walk you through some of the research I did for Family Plot, the third of the John Pickett mysteries set in Regency England, in order to bring this story to life.

I’ve read and written in the Regency period so long that I know a lot of it already. Clothing, title usage, etc.—these things I don’t have to look up, except in unusual cases. The setting for this book, however, did require a little research. Because of a twist I had planned for the ending, I needed a place with particular marriage laws. Scotland was the best known, but I’d learned while researching a long-ago (unpublished) novel that the island of Jersey had similar laws regarding marriage. So I decided the book would be set in one of those two places. I know there are readers who are obsessed with all things Scottish; they would be sure to spot any errors. Jersey had the appeal of being less well-known, so maybe—

Oops. Jersey is only twelve miles off the coast of France, and since Napoleon Bonaparte was running amok there at the time (something else I knew from my long acquaintance with the period), no one in their right mind would go there for a holiday in 1808. Scotland it would have to be. And then there was John Pickett’s boss, the real-life magistrate Patrick Colquhoun, who was Scottish. Maybe I could tie him into the story in a bigger role, especially since reader feedback indicated that readers enjoyed the father-son relationship between Mr. Colquhoun and the young Pickett.

Okay, now that the location was settled, it was on to the baby name books and internet sites of common Scottish names, both Christian and surnames. With the characters roughed out, it was time to start thinking about this murder. I’d already decided it would be a case of poisoning, so I turned to my attention to my research books and the internet to find a poison that would have been available to my characters. I discovered that the heart medicine digitalis had been in use since the mid-1700s; digitalis was (and still is) derived from the foxglove plant, which was known to be poisonous in sufficient quantities. Furthermore, it was indigenous to Scotland, where it was known as “dead man’s bells.” Yes! (I confess to one embarrassing moment where foxglove is concerned: while shopping for flowers at Lowe’s I came across a table of flowering purple foxgloves. Without even thinking about it, I exclaimed to my husband, “Look, Mike! Foxglove! I killed somebody with that!” They have my picture hanging in Lowe’s now.)

Since I planned to have a body wash up on the beach, I had to do some geographic research, as well. Was the southwestern coast of Scotland sandy? Rocky? I had to know, so I could set my stage accordingly. What about the tides? Growing up vacationing along the Alabama Gulf Coast, I’d thought a single high and low tide each day, spaced roughly twelve hours apart, was the norm everywhere. I was surprised to learn this is actually the exception to the rule, as most places (including the coast of Scotland) have two high and two low tides per day. I let an old fisherman explain the tides to Pickett, having him note that “it’s different in some parts of the world” lest other Gulf Coast dwellers think I’d gotten it wrong!

The book’s climax sent me back to botanical research. If I threw my heroine off a cliff, would there be a plant she could hang onto? I seemed to remember mentions of gorse, so that was a good starting place. Sure enough, gorse might be found growing there, but it has prickles. I could use it, but I would have to be sure to make some mention of scratches on her arms for it to be at all realistic.

Granted, it’s easy to obsess about research. I know Regency authors who feel they have to know what the weather was like on a certain date, what phase the moon was in, etc. before they can write. I think that sort of attention to detail can be crippling; let’s face it, most readers won’t know, or care, if it rained on October 19, 1808. If I can lace my story with enough facts to convince my readers that it “might” have happened this way, that’s good enough for me.


Thanks for being my guest today, Sheri. It's always a pleasure to host another Five Star/Cengage author...and it's a special bonus to discover we're neighbors.

At the age of sixteen, Sheri Cobb South discovered Georgette Heyer, and came to the startling realization that she had been born into the wrong century. Although she doubtless would have been a chambermaid had she actually lived in Regency England, that didn’t stop her from fantasizing about waltzing the night away in the arms of a handsome, wealthy, and titled gentleman.

Since Georgette Heyer was dead and could not write any more Regencies, Ms. South came to the conclusion she would simply have to do it herself. In addition to her popular series of Regency mysteries featuring idealistic young Bow Street Runner John Pickett (described by All About Romance as “a little young, but wholly delectable”), she is the award-winning author of several Regency romances, including the critically acclaimed The Weaver Takes a Wife.

A native and long-time resident of Alabama, Ms. South recently moved to Loveland, Colorado, where she has a stunning view of Long’s Peak from her office window.

Learn more about Sheri and her books at her website. She can also be found on Facebook and Goodreads.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Official Release Day for Dead Wrong

Seemed a little quiet around here until I spotted the review of Dead Wrong at Rabbit Hole Reviews.

Many thanks to Brian Kaufman who writes (Dead Beyond the Fence), publishes (Dark Silo Press), reads (I don't know where he finds the time), and reviews (Rabbit Hole Reviews).

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Life Lesson Relearned

Warning: This life lesson applies only to leisure and retirement hours, not to real work in the real world.

 A dear friend once told me I never seemed to finish a project. I was a stay-at-home mom at the time, so unfinished projects consisted of everything from college to crocheted granny squares never assembled into a final product.

My friend was right. A couple of years later, I went back to school and finished work toward my bachelor’s degree, then began a career in business. At work and at home, I finished everything I started, and I only took on tasks I knew I could complete on time.

If I began reading a book, I stuck with it until the end. If I took a class in advanced accounting theory toward a master’s degree, even if I hated the class, I stayed the course and earned an A.

I no longer wanted to be that person who never finished a project.

But I grew older, as we humans do, and wiser. I retired from that real world job. And I rediscovered a long forgotten talent—the ability to abandon a task before completion.

I no longer finish reading every book I buy or check out of the library. The first ten pages have to grab my attention and the next ten pages must keep me reading. And if the story loses me fifty or a hundred pages later, I set it aside. Life is too short to waste time on a book I don’t enjoy.

The bananas I buy for banana blueberry muffins might get mashed with lemon juice and stored in the freezer…..until I have to throw them out because of freezer burn. I love the idea of baking, and certainly enjoy the finished goodies, but I am a champion of procrastination when it comes to gathering ingredients, preparing the muffin tins, and turning on the oven.

The box of colorful granny squares may still be a box of granny squares when the kids come to clean out the house and move me to a nursing home. Truth is, I love crocheting granny squares, but assembling them into a shawl or pillow cover is not fun for me.

I may take another painting class one of these days. I still have a couple of blank canvases and a few good paintbrushes. I’ll need all new paints, of course, because the old tubes have dried out. Watercolors were especially rewarding. I still have the one decent painting I completed before abandoning, perhaps temporarily, that hobby.

The camera needs to have its battery charged….again….before I go out to practice what I learned at an all-day beginning photography class at the local community college. I bought the camera and took the class almost two years ago. Maybe that’s what I’ll do next instead of writing or foodie blogging.

I don’t need to finish every project I start. I can dabble, return books to the library unread, try something new for five minutes or a day, sign up for a class and drop out if it doesn’t meet my needs, flit from idea to obsession and back again. If I write five pages of a new story and decide it’s a stupid idea, I can hit the delete key and write something better.

The feeling is liberating and challenging. Hopefully I have enough years ahead of me to dabble and flit to my heart’s content.


Dead Wrong's official release date is Wednesday, November 19th. My one big booksigning and party is scheduled for Saturday, December 13th, but I need to spread the word far and wide well before holiday shoppers hit the bookstores.

If you're willing, please send the or Barnes and Noble link for Dead Wrong to one good friend who enjoys reading suspense novels and thrillers. Two friends would be even better.

And please put in a request for your local library to purchase a copy of Dead Wrong by Patricia Stoltey ISBN-13: 9781432829865

I'll be extraordinarily grateful.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

It's Saturday, But I'm Sure Not Hanging Out in the Park

Okay, for some of you younger folks, you might need translation: "Saturday in the Park" recorded by Chicago in the early know, "it might have been the 4th of July?"

Never mind.

By the time you read this post, I'll be in all-day writing mode to increase my NaNoWriMo word count and get closer to finishing my new suspense novel.

But NaNoWriMo and word count are overdone topics these days, so I'll tell you what I did yesterday intead.

First I went to physical therapy which is pre-hab for my knee.

Then my husband and I went shopping for a recumbent exercise bike because I know I'll keep slacking off if I have to go out to the gym in the winter time. The one we bought will be delivered next Thursday, and then I will be all out of excuses. I hate it when I run out of excuses.

I also got caught up on emails.

I looked up a recipe for grog.

I sent information for my December 13th booksigning to the bookstore.

I went downstairs where it's warmer and had a bit of wine and cheese.

I  fixed supper.

I read a book.

Did you catch that last one?


I'd almost forgotten what it felt like to cozy up with a warm afghan, a cup of hot chocolate, and a good book. It felt so good I might have to do it again this evening.

Then you'll have to put up with a batch of book reviews, but maybe you won't mind getting a couple of bookish ideas for holiday gifts.

Feel free to recommend some of your recent favorite reads in the comments.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

It’s Never Just One Book, Is It?! ... by Nancy L. Reed

I just published my first book! Words Left Behind – tales from a life gladly lived (Wooden Pants Publishing).

[Pause] . . . [Pause a bit longer]. No loud “Hurrahs!” resound across the universe, though a few of my friends mumble “It’s about time!” I’m proud to have it out there, but I don’t feel the sense of completion I thought I would, because a wee issue has arisen.

I may be a lady of a certain age and been writing for seven decades, but I’m as innocent of understanding the process of book publishing as a scribbling toddler. The learning curve regarding the responsibilities of a published author has been high and the need to develop a platform overwhelming. Until four months ago, I didn’t have a web site, but now I do, complete with Musings – my nod to blogging. I’d never blogged on another site until this past October when I posted on the Wooden Pants Publishing site, and I now have the opportunity to utter some words on Pat’s blog Thanks, Pat, for encouraging this neophyte. If not for the teaching, mentoring, and camaraderie of fellow writers, I’d have missed the opportunity to see my words in print.

Working diligently to develop my author skills and publish for the first time, I pulled up short when it dawned on me I’d stepped onto a treadmill with no off button. It isn’t enough to get my first book out there. It’s a matter of continuing to publish in a timely manner so any potential readers who enjoy my work might have something to read next – and so on and so on. I could step off the treadmill, take a hiatus for months or years, but I’d lose my momentum. Unless I intend my first book to be my only one, I need to get ahead of the game and begin stockpiling manuscripts to be released one after the other. Egads! Will it stop before toes-up time rolls around?

One large cabinet in my study – approximately fifteen cubic feet, the size of a freezer – is filled front to back, side to side, and top to bottom with hundreds of manuscripts in the beginning, middle, and completed stages. It was fortuitous I kept everything I ever wrote, readable or not, because at least I now have raw material to develop additional manuscripts, to have the next one lined up. I never dedicated myself to working on one project at a time, and now I’m grateful for my flitting ways – and a bit less panicked.

Currently, I’m finalizing a collection of short stories, A Short Story Olio, to be published by Wooden Pants Publishing in March 2015 and am also working on the ninth and final (I swear it!) rewrite of my novel, Reflections and Whispers. I plan to have a completed rough draft by the turn of the year.

Prompted by publisher, anchored by author site, baptized by blog, and fortified by family and friends, I’m learning to control my treadmill’s speed and build my author pace.


Nancy L. (Nan) Reed began her writing career at the age of four when she created the menus for her fictitious café complete with descriptions of each menu item. She wrote short stories and compiled two books of poetry before her creative writing was interrupted by years of academic composition and completion of a doctoral degree in Education. Since that time, she has written a collection of short stories, a compilation of poems and songs about dogs, and a book of memory snippets. Her current projects include two novels, a readers’ theater script, and a collection of vignettes.

Visit Nan at her website for Musings, Fun With Words, Write a Caption, and announcements of her current and upcoming publications. Her blog post, "A Magical Place," can be found on the Wooden Pants Publishing site.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Frozen Toes and Fingers

I guess it's time to pull my space heater out of the closet. It's 5 degrees F. outside and feels about 30 in this little room at the NE corner of our house. I don't think the furnace blast is getting this far.

Northern Colorado is not the only place that's feeling the arctic freeze at the moment. I think we have only three inches of snow at our house so far, and I know some of you have lots more than that.

I convinced my writers' group to skip the meeting last night and deliver our critiques by email.

With errands to run and a meeting to attend today, I was wishing for the snow to stop and the temps to go up at least a few degrees. So far, that's not happening.

For now, I'm chiseling away at my To Do List for Dead Wrong promotions. The official book release date is November 19th, so I'll have stuff for you on my blog Nov. 17-19. Brian Kaufman's review of Dead Wrong is scheduled for his Rabbit Hole Reviews blog on November 19th.  I'll have a blog post called "My Love Affair with Fat Ass Sammy Grick" up soon at Mark Bacon's site. A guest post is coming later at Buried Under Books blog and an interview with Author Expressions blog. And my one big pre-Christmas book signing and party is scheduled for December 13th.

Am I doing enough? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, I have a special guest post tomorrow from a Northern Colorado friend, Nancy L. Reed. She's been writing for a really long time and has an enormous number of manuscripts from "in process" to "completed." With the help of Rich Keller and his business venture, Wooden Pants Publishing, she has a new release to tell us about. Her story is an inspiration to all those writers who produce good work but have not yet been published.