As she has been waiting the longest – sorry PJ! I’ll post my review of Freya’s Child by P J Roscoe, first.

Here’s my review: FREYA’S CHILD by P J Roscoe

Thoroughly Engaging

This is not one of my usual reads, but I enjoyed it, particularly the beautifully poetic language at the beginning.

A village massacre in Viking times. A present-day archaeological dig at the site of the massacre, the lead archaeologist of which, Kathryn, has been suffering terrible recurring nightmares. And a married couple – Robert and Helen — whose marriage is in a bad way after Robert’s neglect and obsession with his career and then his mental breakdown, cause simmering resentments in Helen. These are the separate elements of the story. All three strands come together when the warring couple move to the husband’s home town in the Wirral, the location of the dig site, in the hope of salvaging their shattered marriage.

But soon their marriage comes under other pressures. Charlotte (‘Cherry’) their small daughter, starts talking to imaginary friends; friends who turn out to be not so imaginary and not so friendly, after all. A visit by the married couple to the archaeological site with their little daughter renews Robert’s friendship with Tony, his boyhood friend.

Strange, spooky and frightening events happen at the site of the dig and at the home of Helen and Robert, our married pair. The lead archaeologist, Kathryn, has been suffering terrible nightmares since long before the dig; since childhood, in fact. She has a burning need to get in contact with the past – her past –and expunge it, or the nightmares will never end. But the dig has suffered fierce local opposition, led by a forceful character named Mr Merton. A string of criminal acts occur, including theft and murder. The continuation of the dig is in danger and with it Kathryn’s hope of ridding herself of her nightmares.

Charlotte’s inexplicable collapse after visiting the dig and touching a rune stone, brings the archaeologists’ support and help when the child is hospitalised suffering from the sudden onset of a coma-like illness. The doctors can’t understand what has caused this illness and, even after conducting various tests, seem unable to do anything about it. Helen, Charlotte’s mother, sure, in her heart, that her child needs to be rescued from the past and those who are determined to keep her to compensate for the loss of their own child during that long-ago massacre, is convinced the only hope for Charlotte is for them to go back to the dig site and conduct certain rituals.

The climax comes during a desperate attempt to drag the child out of her coma and near-death situation, when present and long-distant past come together in an exciting finale.

Apart from a few typos and the unusual line spacing in the paperback — neither of which detracted from the story — I found this an expertly told tale. The transition from times past to times present and back again were smoothly-handled. I found the characters believable and their actions thoroughly understandable — what wouldn’t a parent do to save their child?.

Recommended. Four stars (it would have been five but for the typos and the choice of line-spacing, both of which should be addressed in any follow-up edition).

A tale of good and evil convincingly told. FOUR STARS


REVIEW: TIME TELLS by Jan Woodhouse

Great Read!

This was an interesting psychological novel. It delved deeply into relationships, motivations and the lingering effect that our upbringing has on us. It was filled with undercurrents, subtle and not-so-subtle.

Even though this isn’t normally the kind of book I read, I found myself intrigued as I got deeper into the story and more involved in the lives of the characters and the power one person can have over another and how the power of suggestion, repeated often enough, can mean the suggestion is retained in the subconscious until, one day, we act on it.

It was a little sinister in places and the way the author delved into the character’s motivations and thought processes hinted at autobiographical themes.

I thought that the motivation for the character Lizzie to act as she did towards the end of the book didn’t quite ring true. I felt it needed more fore-shadowing and that Lizzie needed to be a weaker and less grounded personality for her to do what she did. But, that said, it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book.

Jan Woodhouse is clearly a very talented author with a mastery over the English language that meant the story really flowed for me. I read it in just over a day and when I finished it I knew that this novel revealed an author who is a real writer. A very talented lady and a book – but for that slightly jarring note about Lizzie towards the end and the unexpected, abrupt, ending itself – that would have fully earned five stars.

Well-written, engaging and intriguing in its treatment of relationships and the undercurrents that run through everyday life. Highly recommended. FOUR STARS


I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It gets off to a fast pace. The characters are engaging and believeable. It is cleverly-plotted and thoroughly recommended. Well done, Debbi Mack. A fine novel.

I understand the cover art is still undecided.


My guest today is American writer William S Shepard. William, a career diplomat, seems to have lived a fascinating life and experienced life in an assortment of gorgeous places. Lucky man! His work covers the areas of fiction and non-fiction. He’s a wine buff, too, as you are about to discover. His diplomat protagonist in his novels is Robbie Cutler and Murder on the Danube, his second in The Diplomatic Mysteries series, is due for publication by mid-October 2011. Stay on for the ride!   
Dipmacy and Sleuthing

William S. Shepard

            I was an American career diplomat, and always greatly enjoyed the mystery novel genre. From Edgar Allen Poe through the great Victorian writers, and then to the mannered interwar writers, Christie and Sayers, each had something new to add. So, for that matter, did Georges Simenon, with his Gallic twist of criminal motivation – not for him crime detection as a strictly cerebral exercise! And then, of course, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler added greatly to the development of the detective story, although I never did find out who murdered the chauffeur in “The Big Sleep!”
            It seemed to me that the amateur sleuth categories had broadened, greatly expanding what was possible. We have now seen sleuths from every imaginable profession, not to exclude the clergy, Indians (both the Wild West and the subcontinent), and retrospective Roman and medieval sleuths, predating the actual invention of the detective story by centuries! The only constant was that the sleuth’s actual profession had to be interesting. Why not, therefore, have a sleuth who was a diplomat? And then, set the crimes in a diplomatic setting, the Embassy world with its receptions, glitter, and betrayals?
            The thought occurred to me several times, and probably I was goaded to action one dull evening in the American Department of State, when I was Duty Officer for the Secretary of State. The Secretary was at a meeting outside the building, and so the hours passed, as I scanned various documents, deciding which would be worth his attention. Suddenly it came to me – a diplomat sees all sorts of material, from diplomatic and intelligence reports, to political documents and police reports.  He would surely have an advantage over those who did not have access to such material.

            Upon retiring from the State Department, I decided to try my hand at the new genre, which I have called the diplomatic mystery. The first novel in the series, “Vintage Murder,” now on Kindle, takes place in Bordeaux and Paris. Since I had served at the Consulate General in Bordeaux, I knew the territory and its politics – including the terrorist Basque ETA group – quite thoroughly.
            How could this form the basis for a novel? And if it could, just why would a national police force cooperate with a foreigner, and a diplomat at that?

            The first problem turned out to be no problem at all. My sleuth, a thirtyish career officer named Robbie Cutler, is assigned to Bordeaux, and is a wine fancier. The first murder occurs in Washington, at a Bordeaux Vintage Dinner, and Robbie is present. Returning to Bordeaux, he is interviewed by a French newspaperwoman Sylvie Marceau about the murder. Soon their mutual attraction and interest in solving the initial murder and those that follow lead them to join forces.

            The second problem was a bit harder.  I finally solved it by having the French wine estate owner who was being blackmailed contact Cutler, in the belief that it is an American who is the blackmailer.  A search of the official visa records yields important information towards solving the case, and the problem of police cooperation vanished.

            I became quite taken with Robbie and Sylvie and their love story. In the second novel in the series, “Murder On The Danube,” Robbie has been reassigned to the American Embassy in Budapest. To his sister Evalyn’s disapproval he flirts with the wife of a married colleague, but soon comes to his senses and is in contact with Sylvie. They meet in Prague, where she is covering the visit of President Sarkozy for her television chain, and at a famous spa, become engaged to be married.   She turns out to have a better understanding of people than does her cerebral husband, and from now on, the sleuthing will be a joint avocation.

            I wanted Robbie Cutler to have access to high-level information that a midcareer diplomat would simply not be able to access. Enter Great Uncle Seth Cutler, formerly an intelligence officer, and then a nationally respected school headmaster. Uncle Seth has many contacts still, and shares what he finds out with Robbie on occasion. (Somewhat to my surprise, several people who have read the series so far have told me that their favorite character is Uncle Seth!)  His past becomes stage front in the third novel, “Murder In Dordogne,” when the Cutlers, now on their honeymoon, have the past thrust on them – the remains of a young woman, an SOE agent who parachuted into the Dordogne in 1943, are found. Around her neck is the silver necklace that her fiancé, young Seth Cutler, had given to her just prior to the mission from which she did not return.

            Other characters round out the plots and the series. The British Consul General in Bordeaux is a colleague in the first and third novels, even lending Cutler some wine one weekend when the stores are closed (which the real British Consul General did for me many years ago). And after this thorough diplomatic grounding, at postings in Singapore (alluded to but not yet spelled out), Bordeaux and Budapest, Robbie becomes Special Assistant to the Secretary of State. In “The Saladin Affair,” Robbie helps plan the new Secretary’s initial trip to Dublin, London, Paris, Vienna, Moscow and Riga. Too bad about that murder of the American Ambassador to Dublin at her official Phoenix Park residence! But at least, Al Qaeda’s plans to assassinate the entire diplomatic party on British soil are foiled, rather at the last minute.

            And so here are several of my present Kindle books. “Vintage Murder,” first in the diplomatic mystery series, is at  (“Murder On The Danube” should be available in mid-October on Kindle, with the other two novels to follow.)

            My survey of the detective story, “The Great Detectives, from Vidocq to Sam Spade,” is at  My thoughts on where the name “Sherlock” came from stem from a course I took at St. Catherine’s College, Cambridge.

            While in Bordeaux, I developed a lifelong interest in wines and wine writing. I have now published a 2011 Kindle edition of my 2003 book, “Shepard’s Guide to Mastering French Wines,” which is at Take a look at the free sample chapters. I hope it will lead you to explore the world of French wines and develop your own preferences – all for less than the cost of a single glass of wine!
Here’s William’s website and facebook page:
Thank you William for a great and very interesting post. It’s not every day I host a diplomat! I like the sound of the Cutlers. I must get straight on to amazon and do some ordering.




BOOK REVIEW: The Enemy We Know by Donna White Glaser

I’ve just finished this book. It’s my first by this author and I really enjoyed it. Might I suggest you give it a try?

Counsellor Letty Whittaker thinks it’s just a normal day at the office, until Carrie’s abusive partner Wayne shows up. With a hunting knife.  After threatening Letty, he makes his escape when the police turn up.

Then the frightening messages start – Shakespearean sonnets about love and lust. Letty realises Wayne is rapidly turning into a stalker.

Then Wayne is murdered, but the strange happenings that Letty had been experiencing continue. Then she realises that the police regard her as a suspect in Wayne’s murder. The Shakespearean sonnets she has been receiving continue to appear, threatening in their lustful longing. And all the while she is battling with alcoholism.

Next, Robert, the boyfriend she just broke up with is murdered. Already keen on tracking the murderer to clear her name, her quest becomes even more important. She suspects everyone, even Marshall, her boss and the man who makes her knees go weak.Butr it is the third murderous attack that is the most surprising and revealing of all.

I chuckled so many times with this book. Donna White Glaser is a very witty writer. But she can also do serious. And poetical. A very talented lady. I can’t recommend her book highly enough. I’ll be looking for more books by this author.


Today I’m hosting prize-winning author Douglas Corleone and his novel Night on Fire. Douglas, an ex New York criminal defence attorney, will be posting about how he set up his Kevin Covlelli mystery series and has also sent an excerpt of his latest novel. Look forward to a treat! Take it away, Douglas.
The Kevin Corvelli mystery series was inspired by two of my greatest experiences – working for several years as a criminal defense attorney in New York City and beginning a new life in Hawaii at the age of 30.  When I first moved to Honolulu in the fall of 2005, I saw the island paradise through completely fresh eyes — I’d never even visited Hawaii before.  That served as a great jumping-off point for my protagonist Kevin Corvelli.  Like me, Kevin Corvelli had been a criminal defense attorney in New York.  Only Kevin’s reason for fleeing was a bit different from mine.  Kevin felt responsible for the death of an innocent client; I simply desired less stress in my life. 
So Kevin Corvelli and I moved to Waikiki at the same point in our lives.  But that’s when our two lives completely diverged.  Kevin continued to practice criminal law in Honolulu, and I set out to write about his adventures.  My debut novel ONE MAN’S PARADISE is both a fish-out-of-water story and a tale of redemption.  Kevin Corvelli must find a way to adapt to this entirely new world while handling a high-profile murder case and trying to relieve his conscience of the events that transpired in New York. 
The seeds of that first novel were planted by the around-the-clock coverage of the Natalee Holloway story.  ONE MAN’S PARADISE begins much the same way – a beautiful young woman last seen on a tropical beach with a local man.  Of course, that’s where the similarities cease, with the exception of the news media’s relentless speculation about what really occurred on that dark beach.  ONE MAN’S PARADISE went on to win the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award, and immediately, I began work on the sequel, NIGHT ON FIRE. 
NIGHT ON FIRE was also inspired by an event in my own life.  In NIGHT ON FIRE, Kevin Corvelli narrowly escapes a deadly arson fire at a popular Hawaiian beach resort, only to land the prime suspect as a client.  When I was a child, traveling with my family in Canada, I was awoken one night to the sound of a fire alarm.  I was terrified, and I remember that feeling of terror as though it occurred just recently, even though I don’t recall a single other moment of that trip.  The fire had started two floors down from ours, and all hotel guests were evacuated without any serious injuries.  Still, I don’t think I had a fitful night’s rest in a hotel in the ten years following that event.  And even as I re-read NIGHT ON FIRE now, I still feel a sense of dread as Kevin Corvelli attempts to escape the fire – and rescue a small child in the process. 
So that’s how the Kevin Corvelli mystery series came about – partly autobiographical, except for all the danger, of course.   

Kevin Corvelli—a hotshot New York defense attorney who packed up his bags and hung his shingle in Hawaii to dodge the spotlight—is deep in his mai tais at a resort when an argument erupts down at the other end of the bar. It’s a pair of newlyweds, married that very day on the beach. And since Corvelli doesn’t do divorces, he all but dismisses the argument.

That’s at least until the fire breaks out later that night, and he barely escapes his hotel room. Most weren’t so lucky, including the new husband. His wife, Erin, becomes not only the police’s prime suspect for arson and murder but also Corvelli’s newest client, and she has a lot working against her, like motive and opportunity, not to mention a history of starting fires.

The heat gets turned all the way up in Douglas Corleone’s scorching legal thriller Night on Fire, his second following the MB/MWA’s First Crime Novel Competition winner, One Man’s Paradise.Excerpt from NIGHT ON FIRE


DOUGLAS CORLEONE is a former New York City defense attorney and winner of the Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur Books First Crime Novel Competition. He now lives in the Hawaiian Islands with his wife and son. This is his second novel.
                As I rise to consciousness I realize the prison alarm is just an alarm clock, maybe the loudest alarm clock on earth.  Lying on my stomach I feel around for an extra pillow, place it atop my head and try to smother my ears.
                When the cougar begins clawing at my back I realize this is no alarm clock.  It’s a goddamn fire alarm, the kind of fire alarm even the dead could hear.  I reach for another flat, lifeless pillow and tug it down hard over the first.
                The cougar’s growling something at me.
                “…time is it?” I shout.
                I peek out from beneath my pillowed teepee and glance at the window.  It’s still night, no light spilling in at all.  My eyes flutter toward the digital alarm clock, which reads two-twenty something, the last digit blacked out by one of my socks.
                Quickly I take inventory of myself: pounding head, burning stomach, a mouth that tastes like rum and coconut suntan lotion.  So, nothing out of the ordinary. 
                The cougar meanwhile is on her feet, slipping back into her sundress, shouting at me to get out of bed.
                “No way,” I say, lowering the heavy lids of my eyes.
                Fire alarms, they go off all the time.  Like car alarms, only louder.  I’ve been putting up with this ever since my first semester at URI, some jacked-up resident advisor constantly chasing me naked out of the freshman dorm.  Drills they called them.  Drills held in the dead of night just to get the girls outside in their underwear, nipples instantly hardening under white cotton tank tops in the brisk New England air.  Gossips loitering with their binoculars ready to report the following morning on who is sleeping with whom.  Dorms, hotels, condos, apartment buildings, it’s always the same.  Always a prankster, some joker or toker higher than an elephant’s eye blowing bong smoke up at the ceiling.  Never is it a bona fide emergency.
                Well, almost never.
                The cougar smacks my bare back so hard that it stings. “There’s a fire,” she shouts.
                I groan.  “How do you know, baby?”
                “Because there are flames out in the hall and there’s smoke coming in under the door,” she yells.  “And stop calling me baby!”
                That gets me up.  Still in my boxers, I’m out of the bed and by the front door in a few rapid heartbeats, checking the handle for heat.
                My hand sizzles for several seconds before I yank it away and yelp in pain.  Yeah, it’s hot.  Hellishly hot.  And even from a few feet away I can see the flames licking the peephole I’m too frightened to approach with my face.    
                I turn and glance toward the sliding glass door to the lanai, but we’re sixteen floors up and cougars can’t fly.  As far as I know, neither can lawyers.
                There is one more exit in the room, a door that leads to a door that leads to the adjoining suite.  By the time I raise my singed hand to point to it, the cougar is already there, the first door open, checking the second for heat.
                “It’s cool,” she says, frantically trying the handle.  “But it’s locked.”
                I edge closer to the front door, squint my right eye and catch a glimpse out the peephole.  The hall is now filled with thick black smoke, and it’s nearly impossible to see anything.  But the smoke appears to be billowing from the left, and the suite adjoining ours is to our right.  If we can get through that door, we might just have an avenue of escape.
                In the distance I hear sirens.  But for us it’s too little too late.  If we’re going to survive, we’re going to do so on our own.
I don’t know about you, but I’m dying to know what happens next! Doug, thank you for a most interesting post. From chilly Norfolk in England  I envy you those Hawaiian Islands and the susnshine and blue ocean.
To learn more about Douglas Corleone and his novels here are links to amazon and to Doug’s website.



Thriller writer CJ West is my guest today. CJ says about his latest novel, The End of Marking time:

‘The End of Marking Time is a special book for me. I spent years reflecting on the ways family and society affect the development of criminals. When I sat down to write this book (I had no choice because I had torn my ACL and was ordered to sit still) the ideas came so fast my forearms hurt from the constant typing. I drafted the book in six weeks, a process that normally takes me four months.’
Just shows what wonders a minor incapacity can do for one’s writing speed!

Here are a couple of reviews for The end of Marking Time:

This book was the most original and inspired work of fiction I have read in years…
        C. Clift, Jersey City, NJ

“…mind blowing ending.”
        Anna Roudenbush

Now, back to CJ.

Are You Afraid of Big Brother?

When I was young I had a conversation with my father about morality and behavior. He told me that God and I see everything I do. I should act accordingly so that I don’t disappoint God or myself. This was an eye-opening conversation for me at the time. The idea that God’s watchful eye was inescapable was a little frightening. Imagine that every moment, no matter how private, is being observed. Not only that, but I also believe that God can read my innermost thoughts and some of those aren’t exactly pure. Combine this with the anxiety of knowing you are being judged by the Almighty and it is a powerful motivator to follow the straight and narrow.
The other element of this new awareness is that we form our opinion of ourselves based on a long history of deeds both good and evil. There is no escaping our self-knowledge save hypnosis, anesthesia, or amnesia. I wasn’t a troublesome kid. I did my share of stupid boy tricks, but I’m sure my behavior improved for a little while after this talk. Perspective it s tricky animal. Even if I was a rotten kid (which my parents assure me isn’t true) could I really picture myself that way? Would I have jumped off a bridge if I thought myself evil? Maybe. I think no matter who we are we have to see ourselves in a positive light to be able to get through our day even if our daily routine involves stealing candy from neighborhood children.
Self-knowledge and constant observation plague Michael O’Connor, the protagonist in The End of Marking Time. Michael has been a criminal since he was very young. He has stolen cars, jewelry, credit cards, cash, all manner of things. After a life financed by criminal pursuits and government handouts, Michael tries to see himself as a good guy. It makes me wonder if maybe we are a poor judge of our own character no matter who we are. If he looked at himself the way I see him, he couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. Then again, if he had my perspective, he wouldn’t be who he is.
During the novel, Michael realizes he is being watched and he slowly realizes that his circumstances are being manipulated to the extent that he cannot tell where his reeducation program ends and reality begins. When I talk to people about this they cringe. Why should it be so disturbing for someone to watch us? Is what we do that different from anyone else? What are we hiding? Are we thinking evil thoughts? Doing evil deeds? Or do we just not want anyone to see us naked?
Could you live with someone watching you 24/7?
Gifted housebreaker, Michael O’Connor, awakens inside an ultramodern criminal justice system where prison walls are replaced by surveillance equipment and a host of actors hired to determine if he is worthy of freedom. While he was sleeping, the Supreme Court declared long term incarceration to be cruel and unusual punishment and ordered two million felons released. The result was utter chaos and the backlash from law-abiding citizens and police departments reshaped the United States. Felons now enter reeducation programs where they live freely among the population. At least that’s what they think. In reality they are enslaved to an army of counselors and a black box that teaches them everything they failed to learn from kindergarten through adulthood. Michael believes he’s being tested by the black box, but what he slowly begins to realize is that everything he does is evaluated to determine whether he lives or dies.

C.J. West is the author of 5 thrillers set in New England. His latest, The End of Marking Time (a free e-book from, pits a gifted housebreaker against a futuristic prison system then asks you to decide his fate. Sin and Vengeance, the first book in C.J.’s Randy Black series, is currently in development for film with Beantown Productions, LLC (screenplay by Marla Cukor).

C.J. interviews thriller and suspense writers on his Blog Talk Radio Show and hosts creative events including high performance driving courses, firearms training, and live murder mystery shows. Find C.J. at
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Chapter One
I wasn’t surprised when the Plexiglas partitions shot up out of the floor and locked me in front of this window. I had seen the breaks in the tile floor and I knew what was underneath because Wendell has done this to me before. I know this time is different. I’m not going to pretend I’m not scared to face your decision. If you were on this side of the glass, you would be scared, too. You can tell yourself you’re too good to end up where I am. That you’re not like me. But how different are we really? I wish I could see you, to see the difference for myself, but I understand why Wendell is hiding you. You probably have a steady job, a house, and credits in the bank. You could never imagine doing the things I’ve done. All you want is to get this over and go back to your life. You might even be ready to push the red button and get on with it, but put yourself in my place. For the next few hours I’m going to tell you my story. I hope you’ll give me a chance.
It was my destiny to be trapped in this tiled hallway with you watching me through the one-way window. Maybe not from birth, but certainly from the time I opened the can of peaches I stole on Longmeadow Drive. I had been on my own five years by then and I was at the top of my game. I was cocky, but I had good reason. I chose my targets well and I moved like a ghost when I worked. I hadn’t been arrested in three years, not even a close call. Maybe that’s why I watched Leno from behind the couch while the middle-aged fat guy drifted in and out of consciousness right in front of me. He snored one minute and laughed at some politician’s latest gaffe the next. I watched the show, ate my peaches, and wondered how this buffoon afforded such a huge place all by himself. It wasn’t just him. The whole street was full of little kings and I couldn’t imagine there were so many kingdoms in America. Don’t get me wrong. I was glad to have them around because I worked my way through the royal suburbs week after week. I should have been paying attention instead of wondering why someone with so much money lived by himself. Unlikely he had a mother like mine. Or maybe he was just like my father.
Usually I cleaned up after myself so well that my marks weren’t even sure they’d been hit. Plenty of them blamed the shifty-eyed kid next door or raged against a child they suspected of buying drugs. Normally I would have cleaned the fork and put it back, then rinsed the can and left it with the recycling, but that night I left the can on the end table, the fork leaning down into two inches of syrup. I knew I could never come back. I had been through half the houses on this street, pinched a wad of cash here, a diamond necklace there. After I slipped out with the Mercedes that night, the neighbors would take a closer look around their houses and the emails would start flying. There would be meetings with the police, talk of a neighborhood watch, a few of them would even buy guns. Sometimes when I was done with a place like this, I’d tip off a real bungler, a smash-and-grab type hyped up on drugs, and send him stumbling into a hornet’s nest of nervous housewives and angry husbands. Sometimes the druggie barged in and out so fast he got away the first time, but eventually he would end up cuffed in the back of a cruiser. That satisfied the neighbors and covered my trail nicely. Everyone was happy except the guy forced to detox in a six-by-nine.
I should have sent one of them in my place, but I wanted the Mercedes. It took me five minutes to creep out of the living room and up the stairs to the master bedroom. The keys to the Mercedes were right on the bureau in plain sight, as was his wallet with five credit cards and six hundred forty in cash. Who carries that much cash anymore? I left him twenty for breakfast and took all the plastic. If he had more cash lying around, I couldn’t find it. I checked the sock drawer, then felt under the bureau and along the back edge with no luck. He might have had a safe behind one of the oil paintings, but I couldn’t risk taking them down with him in the house. I was sitting at the desk in the corner with his checkbook in my hand when he decided he’d had enough of Leno and lumbered upstairs. The room was massive, but there was only one way in and one way out. I gambled. I could have headed for the door and whacked him when he came in with his eyes half open, but that wasn’t my style. I slipped to the floor, crawled into the opening under the desktop, and pulled the chair in behind me. He topped the stairs, trudged past me, and flopped face first on the bed without even looking in my direction.
It took him ten minutes to start snoring regularly. I got back up onto the chair, reassured by the irregular nasal bursts. My gamble paid off. There in the top drawer I found a two-sided sheet of paper that listed every credit card, bank account, and Internet site logon the guy had, complete with passwords. I had his debit card and his PIN, but I wasn’t stupid enough to walk into an ATM and use it. I could find some kid I’d never seen before and split the max withdrawal with him, but that was risky. The magic was the plastic. Since I had his list of customer service numbers, it’d take him a day to contact the banks. All I needed was a few hours and he’d be asleep longer than that.
I stopped at the bedroom door to look back and wonder if I’d ever own a place like this. With an eighth-grade education, probably not, especially where I went to school. But for the next thirty minutes, I’d be driving a top-of-the-line Mercedes with a pocket full of cash and plastic.
The garage door opened smoothly. I drove out and hit the remote like I lived there. I was pretty full of myself when I made the corner out of the neighborhood without a soul to see me. I couldn’t stop thinking about what the fat guy would do when he woke up. He might not notice his wallet was lighter, but he’d definitely be pissed when he couldn’t find his keys. He’d have a fit when he went down to the garage looking for them and realized the Mercedes was gone.
The whole thing would sink in then. He’d call the cops and he’d stomp around the house looking to see what else I’d taken until they got there. It would really hit him when he found the empty peach can on the end table. Eventually he’d remember hearing the fork tap the bottom of the can. He’d turned around once but hadn’t really been looking. He felt safe in his home until that night. All people did. They had to. Otherwise they’d go nuts jumping at every noise and shadow. They knew there were criminals out there, but not in their houses, not while they were home. The poor guy wouldn’t sleep for weeks.
He’d turn the night over and over in his mind until he realized he’d picked up the clicker just a few feet from where I was hiding in the shadows against the wall. He’d be terrified then. He expected criminals to be violent and unpredictable. He never expected someone like me. I never panic. I know the cops take twenty minutes to get most places and that’s more than enough time to disappear if you’re not in a rush. I always plan two exits, a hot one and a cool one. I always keep my head and most of the time, like that night, I glide along the cool road home, careful not to get stopped.
Unfortunately, I had no idea who I’d just hit or the shit storm I was about to set off when I sold those credit cards.
Thank you, CJ. It’s true that none of us know how we might have turned out if circumstances had been different. Here are CJ’s other books.


 Today, I give my blog over to new author Stephen Brayton. As well as being a novelist, Stephen has a black belt in Taekwondo and also works as an instructor. He is epublished by Echelon Press. He describes how he decided on the kind of characters to appear in his book. Here’s Stephen.

Many things I’ve learned over the years are self taught. When I worked as a graphic designer at a local newspaper, I was unfamiliar about the software being used to create advertising. Slowly, through the months, I discovered new things to be done with the program others hadn’t.
So it was with writing. I didn’t know anything about outlining, or formatting, or even too much editing, but throughout the years, I developed a system that worked for me. When I started writing my first action mystery, I knew what type of character I wanted as my protagonist. Since, she has developed into a deeper character with more flaws and more personality. At the time, though, I sat with pen in hand and wrote a very basic character outline. Along with her general description, I listed her favorite color, flower, food/drink, car, clothing, music, books. Nobody told me to do this and I didn’t read any guidelines out of a how-to book. This just made sense to me to do this to better understand about who I was writing.
Years later, I read about a more in-depth character outline. This included background information, childhood memories, past employment, etc. Also included was a guideline to understand the character in that particular story. I liken it to actors preparing for a scene. What’s the motivation? What’s the goal? What are the obstacles? How are the obstacles overcome? These series of questions can be used for every character in every scene and for the story as a whole. However, the trap into which some writer may fall is taking this too far. I know a writer whose character description included almost soap opera like dimensions. While this may be fine to jot down, do those miscellaneous factoids have any bearing on the present day story? If not, I think time has been wasted when actual writing could have been done.
One of the difficulties I encountered was in the physical description of the characters. Brown eyes, dark brown hair, and medium build are so common, and I get bored reading about the same person in many books. For me, I had to develop a mental image of each character and I based the looks on various people I knew whether they be friends, classmates, or people in the public eye such as movie or television actresses.
Mallory Petersen, in Beta (release date July 15), was an easy character to develop. Basically, she is me as a female, with a little more flair, better looks, and better martial arts skills. I just took many of my traits, likes and dislikes, and improved them to create Mallory.
For Night Shadows, background plays a large role for each of the two protagonists. Harry Reznik is married to an attractive woman and feels lucky to have her for a wife. He attended almost three years at the university unable to decide upon a career choice…until he met his future wife. So she, in essence, helps to develop his character throughout their marriage. For Lori Campisi, her background is mystery, and her struggle against amnesia and the revelations are part of the story. I knew the personality I wanted to portray and had a mental image of her features.
For other characters, I use familiar people to describe them. The medical examiner has, “Tom Brokaw handsomeness.” The Lieutenant is drawn from a model in a magazine. Reznik compares Campisi to Spock because of her control over exhibiting emotions.
Good authors will bring their characters off the pages and put them into the reader’s mind’s eye. Of course, every person’s conception of a particular character may be different than another’s, but differing views are the beauty of imagination and what make the books enjoyable.
Des Moines Homicide detective Harry Reznik and F.B.I. agent, Lori Campisi, have their hands more than a little full when they team up to investigate a series of gruesome murders.

With life throwing them one obstacle after another, the unlikely pair has no choice but to put their personal issues aside as they battle malevolent creatures from another dimension. With everything to lose, they have no one but each other to count on in a wicked game of survival.

Stephen Brayton owns and operates Brayton’s Black Belt Academy in Oskaloosa, Iowa. He’s a Fifth Degree Black Belt and certified instructor in The American Taekwondo Association.
Stephen began writing as a child; his first short story concerned a true incident about his reactions to discipline. During high school, he wrote for the school newspaper and was a photographer for the yearbook. For a Mass Media class, he wrote and edited a video project.
In college, he began a personal journal for a writing class; said journal has been ongoing. He also was a reporter for the college newspaper.
During his early twenties, while working for a Kewanee, Illinois radio station, he wrote a fantasy based story and a trilogy for a comic book. He has written numerous short stories, both horror and mystery.
Des Moines, Iowa
Midnight, Saturday

It is a special time. The Night. A special place.

Where things are seen but not witnessed. Where promises are made and broken. Where dreams and wishes are fulfilled.

During the day, there is a rushing and frantic pace. When night falls, movement is quieter and mysterious. Breezes blow through tree branches and the soft slap of leaves are heard, but those leaves are not noticed as much as their silhouettes caused by streetlights.

The streetlight’s sodium vapor fizzes to life, palely illuminating its own small section of the world, at the same time creating shadows.

Moving shadows.

Elongated shadows such as the dog and its owner out for a walk along a quiet residential street. A familiar route for both, but a chance for the canine to track new scents and continue the age-old instinctual, if nowadays needless, practice of marking and re-marking its territory. Its owner is allowed a chance to breathe a bit of cool air after being cooped up in a stuffy cubicle by day and a stale apartment all evening.

He is cautious, however, for while he may favor the night, others less innocent also occupy the patches of darkness. So when his best friend, hardly a breed to cause hesitation to a potential attacker, stops to sniff a scraggly bush, the man swivels to look in all directions. Ears strain for the lightest footfall or rustle of clothing from someone hidden. Darting eyes pick up all movements. The back and forth flow of those tree leaves, the silent streak of a darting rabbit not noticed by the dog.

There! Did he notice a curtain edge dropping back into place in the darkened house he and his dog now face? Maybe. The house is single story, a small box really, with the requisite low pitched roof, dollhouse windows. No porch, just irregularly shaped flagstones leading to a gravel driveway. Nothing special, nothing unique. Nothing to be scared of.

Man and dog continue down the sidewalk, their shadows sometimes guiding, sometimes dissipating.

Inside the house, a figure steps back, letting the curtain fall from his hand when the dog walker turns toward the window.

Did he see me?

Eyes peek around the edge of the curtain and watch as the pair walk out of sight.

No, everything is fine. Nobody suspects.

A gasp and another step back as car headlights spear the darkness and disappear. Startled, the figure waits until his breathing is even, heartbeat normal. Well, maybe a little faster than normal considering what is about to happen.

Obsessive compulsive behavior urges another quick check outside. Nothing. Nobody. A blue flicker of a television from a house across the street, but no worries there.

They won’t know.

Without as much as the softest whisper of carpet fiber, the figure steps away from the window to a door. Beyond it lies a flight of descending stairs. Before advancing below, the wraith-like figure double locks the basement door.

Absolute darkness, but there is no concern. The number of stairs is known, as is the number of steps to reach the wall. A scratch, a brief scent of sulfur, and flame burns one end of a wooden matchstick. The fingers holding the other end are nail bitten yet clean. They spread the fire to the wicks of several candles resting on makeshift shelves around the room.

The basement is small as befits the structure above. Not many items are in evidence. The candles, of course, some new and fat, others thin with castle-like moldings of dripped wax. Others are stubby and ready for replacement.

All colored black or red.

A dais stands at the far end of the basement. Next to it is an old wooden chest with an ornate metal lock and hasp.

No windows, no vents. Only the candles, the dais, the chest…and him.

The merest glimpse of a figure behind a curtained window, now a solid man in candlelight, stands stooped. His face and body show the years of a hard life’s struggle, an ever striving to find that one elusive…something. The creases in his forehead, the scars on his limbs, the gray hairs on his chest and head, the involuntary twitches of leg, arm, and back muscles all belie the fact the man has only aged to his late fifties. The robe he wears is inlaid with intricate, complex, and alien designs on a background of rich deep purple.

He pauses after disposing of the spent match. His heart thuds in anticipation. He listens to the quiet and watches the shadows created by the candles’ flames.

The shadows, yes…

A loner by choice for many years, he sometimes wonders why he lives in the city. Rural life would suit him better, away from the people and the noise. Midnight in the metropolis is tolerable, however, and the traffic on his block is sparse, even during the day.

Unlike Mexico City with its twenty-four-hour-a-day traffic jams, thirty million plus population, and the smog turning his snot and lungs black. He barely survived the ordeal, but he obtained his prize. The old chest…and the treasure within.

Years of research and travel led him to the filthy, corrupt capital where he traced the old Guardian to a forgotten alley in the Zona Roja–the Red Zone–one of the ugliest, dirtiest, crime ridden, rat and human debris infested parts of the city. In a sub cellar of a neglected building negotiations went awry. A stubborn, worthless, withered old man lay dead, and the chest and its contents stolen away in the night.

Now, in another capital city in an American heartland state, his dreams can be fulfilled. Power will be the reward for all his tribulations. Power…

From the Book of Sarmangous.

After unlocking the chest, he withdraws the large tome, its cracked bindings, strange textured cover, and brittle pages all handled with infinite delicacy. The cover bears strange, timeworn designs, some vaguely human, others more monstrous in nature. Some of them spell out in an ancient language the book’s title.


He places the book on the wooden dais’ felt-lined holder. Inhaling one sharp breath and holding the air in his lungs so as not to so much as breathe an internal foulness upon the pages, he opens the cover. He turns to the correct page deep within the thickness of the ancient writings, selects the specific text. He squeezes his eyes shut for a moment, still holding his breath. His entire body aquiver with heightened nerves, then…then opening his eyes, the words, the phrases, the weird combination of sounds are uttered.

The candles burn a little brighter.

* * *

Another room elsewhere in the city

One second there is darkness, the next there is a flash of swirling purple.

A door has opened.

Whispers like water flowing over rocks fill the air.

In the middle of the churning purple maelstrom is a blackness, a malevolence, almost…prescient.

A shape, burnt gray, slithers from the black, into the room…into existence.

It is followed by another and another and…

Pinpricks of red pierce the darkness. The gray shapes start to expand, to grow.

As does their hunger.

* * *

The man in the purple robe stands in front of the dais, in front of the Book of Sarmangous. He smiles as he feels the energy within him. Eyes closed, he revels in the moment. He has unleashed an unstoppable power, one only he will control.

The candles flare once and settle back, their flickering erratic, and the created shadows dance.

Some of those shadows move against the dancing silhouettes…move on their own.

And it begins…

* * *

Ewing Park, four nights later

“Come on, Betty. It’ll be fun. Don’t you think this is romantic?” The youth coaxed the reluctant girl deeper into the grove of trees and large bushes, the sweet odor of lilacs heavy in the air.

“Joey, we’re gonna get caught. Somebody’s gonna see us.”

“No, they won’t. It’s the middle of the night.”

“The car, Joey.” Betty pulled back, causing her date to stumble. “A cop is going to find the car and catch us. I don’t want to go to jail.”

“We’re not going to jail,” Joey whispered, “unless you don’t lower your voice. Even if we do get caught, we’ll just be thrown out. We’re not going to get arrested.”

He sensed her hesitation wane.

“Come on, honey. You always complain about how I’m not spontaneous enough. Well, here we are.”

“Joey,” she said, hands on hips. “You’re carrying a blanket, a flashlight, and a condom. How spontaneous is that? You drove directly here after we left the club. Don’t tell me you didn’t plan this.”

“Well…” Joey shrugged. “Do I at least get points for originality? Maybe…a kiss?”

Betty pursed her lips in mock consideration. “I have to admit this is different.”

“Uh–huh. What about the kiss?”



“At least turn off the flashlight,” Betty said. “It won’t make any difference how loud our voices are if they see a light.”



“I just…well, I just wanted to see you…”


“I want to watch you…undress.” Joey leered.


“It’s sexy. The way you look at me and take off your clothes so slowly.”

He closed in and nuzzled her neck, whispering more seductive words in her ear. She giggled, then sighed as Joey’s insistent body warmed her, overwhelmed her senses, and eased her fears. He touched her skin, brushed her arms with soft fingers, and she reached for him.

“Wait.” Joey backed off.

Betty moaned at the broken moment. “Why?”

“Not here. I know a good place. Follow me.”

They ran nearly pell-mell, hand in hand, to a circular clearing within a copse of trees almost in full bloom. The heady lilac scent only served to push their pulsing hormones up another notch. He quickly spread the blanket on the grass and removed his shoes. Kneeling, he pointed the flashlight at her.

“All right. Show me,” he whispered.

“Don’t shine the light in my eyes,” she said.

“Sorry.” He aimed the light lower, but could still see her sultry expression. She licked her lips with the tip of her tongue while her hands slid across her stomach and up to her breasts. Her fingers played with the first button of her blouse.

“Oh, my!” Joey’s eyes widened, excitement building.

Betty moved her hips to some silent rhythm as she popped the first button out of the hole. Then the second button, the third.

A faint sound upon the breeze wafted through the branches.

Betty stopped moving.

“What?” Joey narrowed his eyes, upset by the interruption.

Betty cocked her head to one side. “I thought I heard something.”

“Ain’t nothing out here. Come on, keep going. I’m about to drill a hole in my pants.”

Betty giggled again and resumed her routine. Finally, she slipped off the blouse, crossed her arms in front of her breasts which all but spilled from her half bra.

“You like?” Her words were overly breathy.

Joey only nodded.

She reached for the zipper on her skirt and soon the garment joined the other.

“Black panties,” Joey said. “My favorite.”

“Yes, but it’s your turn.” Betty pointed. “Time for you to get out of those clothes.”

Joey stood, handed her the flashlight, and hastily removed his shirt.

“Not so fast, lover boy,” Betty chided. “I like it slow, too.”

He moved his hips in a poor imitation of a Chippendale dancer taking off his pants.

“Mmm, looks very interesting,” Betty said.

Joey stepped towards her, his hand reaching for her breast. He hesitated when he heard a slithering sound, like a snake on loose gravel.

“What was that?” Betty aimed the light around her.

“I don’t know. Probably a small animal.”

“Joey, m–maybe we oughta get out of here.” Betty reached for her clothes when the sound altered from a slither to a harsh shush as of two pieces of satin rubbing together. The volume increased and the noise became an incensed hiss.

“Joey!” Betty whirled around, flashing the light in every direction. “What it is? What’s happening?”

“I don’t–”

Another evolution of sound cut off his final words. The hiss became a mushy scrunch, like shuffling footsteps in sand or finely broken glass. Something shifted in the darkness. Too late, Joey realized it wasn’t something in the shadows, it was a shadow. No, a lot of shadows. Shifting, expanding, forming.

Coming closer.

“Betty!” Joey’s scream ripped through the night air, but Betty couldn’t respond. The shadows enveloped her and her screams ripped through the night air.

Although not for long.

Joey tried to run, but other dark shapes cut off his escape…cut short his life.

The flashlight clunked to the ground, its switch still set to the ‘on’ position. The bulb shone, providing fuel for the attack.

Because with no light, there are no shadows.

The purchase link is:
Stephen’s website is: and his blog is
Thank you, Stephen. Don’t forget to click on Stephen’s website to learn more about him and his book. Good luck with it, Stephen.


Today I’m very pleased to welcome JOHN DESJARLAIS, the author of VIPER, BLEEDER and other books. A former producer with Wisconsin Public Radio, John Desjarlais teaches journalism and English at Kishwaukee College in northern Illinois. His first novel, The Throne of Tara (Crossway 1990, re-released 2000), was a Christianity Today Readers Choice Award nominee, and his medieval thriller, Relics (Thomas Nelson 1993, re-released 2009) was a Doubleday Book Club Selection. Bleeder and Viper (Sophia Institute Press, 2009 and 2011 respectively) are the first two entries in a contemporary mystery series. His work has appeared in periodicals such as Student Leadership Journal, U Magazine, The Critic, On Being, Student Soul, Apocalypse, The Upper Room, The New Pantagruel, The Karitos Review, Dappled Things and The Rockford Review.  A member of The Catholic Writers Guild, The Academy of American Poets and Mystery Writers of America, he is listed in Contemporary Authors, Who’s Who in Entertainment, and  Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers.

On All Souls Day, Selena De La Cruz’s name is entered in her parish church’s “Book of the Deceased.”

The problem is, she’s not dead.
And someone thinks she should be.  

Is it “The Snake,” a notorious drug dealer Selena helped to put in prison when she was a Special Agent with the DEA years ago? Or someone far, far more dangerous?

VIPER  a mystery

by john desjarlais
coming March 2011
from Sophia Institute Press

the thrilling sequel to BLEEDERHaunted by the loss of her brother to drugs and a botched raid that ended her career with the DEA, insurance agent Selena De La Cruz hoped to start afresh in rural Illinois. But her gung-ho former boss needs her back to hunt “The Snake,” a dealer she helped arrest who is out of prison and systematically killing anyone who ever crossed him. His ‘hit list’, appended to a Catholic Church’s All Souls Day ‘Book of the Deceased,’ shows Selena’s name last. Working against time, small town prejudice and the suspicions of her own Latino community, Selena races to find The Snake before he reaches her name while a girl visionary claims a “Blue Lady” announces each killing in turn. Is it Our Lady of Guadalupe or, as others believe, the Aztec goddess of Death?

See the 30-second video trailer here:

That certainly sounds intriguing. Tell us a little more about your latest novel, Viper.
VIPER is the sequel to BLEEDER, a mystery published in 2009. It features a minor character from the first book as the protagonist, Latina insurance agent Selena De La Cruz. Since the first book touched upon immigration issues in rural Illinois and my main character Reed Stubblefield was disabled and dealing with insurance problems, Selena provided a way to present a positive and empowered Mexican-American character while at the same time addressing those insurance claims. As soon as she walked on the stage in those cherry high heels and with that attitude, I knew she had a story of her own. She played a larger role in BLEEDER than I’d originally envisioned. Then, in thinking about the next book and the “Book of the Dead” on All Souls’ Day, I learned that the Mexican holiday called “The Day of the Dead” runs nearly concurrently with that feast. It was clear to me then that the sequel would feature Selena and the story would be told against a rich tapestry of Aztec mythology and Mexican Catholicism.

What age were you when you decided to write a book and what prompted you to do it?

I was 35 and working as a scriptwriter in a small media company that produced videos for corporate training and public relations. I produced a documentary on the history of Western Christianity and became intrigued by the Irish monastic movement – scholarly men and women who valued art, literature and poetry, who were close to nature and champions of womens’ rights. Columba of Iona fascinated me in particular – a hot-tempered monk with “Second Sight” from a royal family who went to war over a disputed manuscript. 3,000 men were killed in the “Battle of the Book” in 560 AD, and in remorse, Columba exiled himself among the Picts of Scotland where he dueled the druids, miracles versus magic. He’s also the first man in recorded history to have encountered the Loch Ness sea-beast. This was material for a novel, I told myself, and I wrote “The Throne of Tara” in 1989 (it was published in 1990 and re-issued in 2000).

You have written historical novels – do you have any plans to write more?
No – I’m hooked on mysteries for the time being.
Did you find your background in teaching a great help when it came to
writing novels and if so, why?
Teaching literature and writing has provided me with a short cut in learning the elements of style, perhaps, although I’ve benefited more from writers’ conferences and books about genre novel-writing.  Being a teacher allows me time to write, especially since I have summers free – and my college granted me a sabbatical to finish a draft of BLEEDER.I imagine, as your books combine history, religion and mystery that you must
do a lot of research. How do you set about this? Does the research take
longer than writing the novels?
Research is time-consuming but opens up many character and plot possibilities. I love libraries, and the Internet has changed everything. I conduct interviews where needed. You might think that the historicals require more research than the mysteries, but it is a different kind of research and nearly as demanding. For historicals, one must re-create a world and pay assiduous attention to every detail of clothing, customs, architecture, weapons, food, the works. Everything contributes to atmosphere and authenticity but must never be overbearing. With contemporary mysteries, there are a whole new set of concerns. For BLEEDER, I needed to do research on blood diseases, cancer treatment, anxiety medications and other medical things. I needed to learn about the mystical phenomenon of the stigmata and the Catholic Church’s procedure for investigating such things (they are quite rigorous and skeptical about it), as well as know the process of canonization. I was not Catholic at the time of drafting and so I needed to learn about the Mass and the special services on Good Friday (I didn’t know there was no Mass on Good Friday). Then there’s all the police procedure, police interrogation techniques, police report writing, coroners’ inquests, etc. VIPER was even more of a challenge, since I had to create a credible Mexican-American female protagonist in the insurance business with a troubled background in the DEA and ongoing issues in her family.  So research about Aztec religion, snake handling, vintage car repair, firearms, DEA undercover operations and crime scene management were all easier than learning to “be” a 30-something Latina.

Tell us about your heroine, Selena De La Cruz, and why you decided on her
character. Is the choice of name of any significance?

Selena is a thirty-something Mexican-American woman in a family of three brothers; her Mami and Papa were well-off since he was a PEMEX executive before becoming an official in the Mexican consulate in Chicago. The family was raised in the Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago. Selena’s fraternal twin Antonio developed a drug problem in the Army and was killed in a car accident in Germany, leaving her with his chili-pepper red 1969 Dodge Charger called “The Beast.” Always a tomboy anyway, Selena was motivated by this incident to join the DEA where she applied her finance degree from Loyola in the Financial Tracing division before hitting the streets where she really wanted to be. She is handy with a P226 SIG Sauer pistol, does undercover work well, and knows how to maintain her awesome car. She’s fond of expensive shoes (seized drug money pays for them) and struggles with living in two worlds at once, being bi-cultural and being an independent woman in a man’s world. Her real name is Selena Perez; she changed it to De La Cruz when she left the DEA under a cloud and wished to start afresh as an insurance agent in rural Illinois. The name is from a medieval Spanish poet and mystic she admires, Juan De La Cruz (John of the Cross). 

Here are some reviews for VIPER

“I just couldn’t put it down! More compelling than BLEEDER!”
     Regina Doman, author of The Shadow of the Bear and The Midnight Dancers

“Non-stop action, nail-biting suspense –and enough genuine compassion to warm the coldest heart. A winner, start to finish.”Jeanne M. Dams, author of the Dorothy Martin and Hilda Johansson mysteries

“A compelling mystery that will keep readers in suspense.” spiritualwomanthoughts

“Desjarlais keeps you guessing as the action accelerates faster than De La Cruz’s souped-up vehicle. VIPER strikes fast and sinks its teeth in you. You won’t be able to put it down.”Tony Perona, author of Second Advent and Angels Whisper

“A don’t miss it page turner that blends ancient Aztec mysticism, Catholic Mariology, and a good old-fashioned whodunit.”Mike Manno, author of Murder Most Holy and End of the Line  

Wow! As we can see, above, you’ve had some tremendous reviews. So what next for John Desjarlais? It sounds as though your novels would make for exciting movies. Is there anything in the wind?

No movie options yet. I need an agent for that, and my previous agent left the business after a serious car accident. I managed to sell BLEEDER and VIPER on my own.

What are you currently writing?

I’m working on the third book in the mystery series and, at the moment, I think it will be the last in this arc. I’d like to try a stand-alone thriller and pitch it to an agent next year. Let’s see if Selena has other ideas.

Clearly religion has played a big part in your life. Tell us about your upbringing, where it happened and the importance that religion had in it.

I was raised Roman Catholic in north-central Massachusetts but it didn’t mean anything to me and I chucked it all in high school. However, I discovered Jesus in college and was utterly transformed. After bouncing among churches, I finally landed in the Presbyterian Church where I was a devout disciple for years along with my wife. Around age 50 I began reading the Church Fathers and Catholic poet and intellectual Thomas Merton, seeking a closer, more ‘sacramental’ union with God through contemplative prayer. I went to Catholic monasteries on retreats and came to see that the majesty, mercy, and mystery in the Catholic tradition was completely fulfilling. It was nothing like what I knew as a kid. There is a beauty, peace and wisdom here that has made me a new man. I appreciate the Catholic social teaching on justice for the poor and the weak, and the historic support of the fine arts is also a wonderful thing.

Is there anything else you’d like to add that your readers would like to know?
My wife and I are involved in retired racing Greyhound rescue. These gentle creatures make excellent family companions and I’d encourage everyone interested in adopting a dog to do a little research at a site like in Illinois (REGAP is “Retired Greyhounds As Pets”);  there are REGAP chapters in many states and rescue organizations in many other countries.
Thank you, John. A most interesting interview. I was intrigued to learn about your background and the widely divergent style of your novels.
An interview with John can be found in Novel Journey and Time with Tannia.Contact John at his website:

Visit John’s blog,
Johnny Dangerous

Meet John at

Follow John on Twitter

Viper is not yet on Amazon, but here are the links for Bleeder – USA paper, Kindle, and UK paper, Kindle:


  I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I found it impossible to put down and really wanted to know what happened next. The action moves from country to country in the build-up to the 1/1 New Year terrorist tragedies. With thousands dead at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists, the UK government has no answers. We watch as the Islamic fanatics plot more terror. It is time for a new party, a radical party, the Independents, led by Francis Raike, who promises Draconian laws to deal with those bringing terror to the land.

With its new laws, from the annulment of the Human Rights Act, the split from the EU, the reintroduction of the death penalty and the repatriation of disaffected immigrants, Francis Raike and his team are gradually getting to grips with a country in turmoil.
But then the terrorists pose a new and more terrible threat that will devastate a large part of the country. Can the government catch the perpetrators before it’s too late?
I found this a fast-moving, up-to-the-minute, thriller that posed questions asked by many of us. This is a novel that deals realistically – if frighteningly – with an all-too-modern problem. I enjoyed it very much and heartily recommend it.

Interview with David Wisehart, screenwriter, director, producer and now novelist

David Wisehart has had a varied career, as a screenwriter, actor, director and producer, in Hollywood and in the UK. Devil’s Lair is his first novel.

Devil’s Lair
is an epic fantasy set in Dante’s Inferno: a medieval knight leads a quest through hell to recover the Holy Grail from the Devil.

The story takes place in Italy, 1349, during the Black Death, when nearly half the population of Europe was wiped out in a few short years. It was an apocalyptic time, a time of enormous sorrow, and yet it birthed one of the world’s greatest comic masterpieces, Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron.

Giovanni is my main character. He’s a poet, a lover, and a scoundrel. He’s also an expert on Dante, and gets recruited against his will to join an expedition through Dante’s Inferno to steal the cup of Christ from the Devil. Nadja, an epileptic girl with the gift of prophecy, has visions of the Holy Grail and believes the plague was caused when the Devil stole the Grail. The two other main characters are: the historical William of Ockham, a philosopher-priest; and the fictional Marco da Roma, a Knight Templar with no memory of his past. Together they descend through hell, facing many dangers—including their own personal demons—to save the world from destruction.


Yes, Devil’s Lair has received some wonderful reviews. USA Today bestselling author Rebecca Forster wrote, “Devil’s Lair is by the best book I have read in years!” And Christa Polkinhorn, author of Love of a Stonemason, called the book, “Brilliant!” Both of these authors were writers I interviewed on my Kindle Author blog. After the interview, they bought my book and wrote their glowing reviews on Amazon. I’m quite pleased, of course.

I might release a print edition of Devil’s Lair through CreateSpace. No definite plans yet.


I went to film school at UCLA and ended up working in the multimedia business, producing educational CD-ROMs based on licensed characters like Snoopy and Charlie Brown. I worked for awhile with Charles Schulz before he passed away. Then I got into video games, landing a producer job at Fox Interactive, where I worked on a kid’s adventure game based on the animated movie Anastasia. I directed Meg Ryan and Hank Azaria for the game. I produced several Simpsons games, and got to direct the TV voice cast. I also produced a CD-ROM based on Titanic, and had a chance to work with James Cameron. It was fun for awhile, but the job left me with little time or energy to write my own stuff. I was pretty unhappy there at the end, and creatively unfulfilled. I eventually left Fox to write full-time. I wrote a lot of unproduced screenplays.

 I wrote Valentino: a play in verse and my first novel, Devil’s Lair. This year I directed, co-produced, and acted in Valentino at the first-ever Hollywood Fringe Festival. Lately I’ve been heavily involved in acting and directing theater. I wrote the libretto for an opera, The Other Wise Man. I’m also the stage director for that. It opens in Hollywood December 5. I’m currently casting another play, Friends Like These, which I’ll be directing in December for a January run.


I was getting tired of reading letters from agents who said they loved my writing but wouldn’t represent my book because they didn’t think it was commercial enough. I’d already self-published my uncommercial verse play through, and sold about 100 copies. I decided to publish Devil’s Lair myself on Kindle, even if it meant I’d only sell 100 copies. I exceeded that sales number in my second month.


I trained as a screenwriter, which is a very pure form of storytelling. Screenplays are structure. Plotting now comes very easily to me. Writing great characters took longer for me to learn, and for that my training as an actor helps. One thing that was difficult when making the transition from screenwriting to novel writing was point-of-view. This isn’t something a screenwriter worries much about. You are always in the camera’s point of view. In other words, the audience’s point of view. But for a novel written in limited third-person, or in first person, you are in the point of view of one character. You are in their heads. You know what they know, and only what they know. This is both liberating and limiting. It was a challenge, but I’ve grown to enjoy it. As an actor I learned to focus on my intention: what does my character want in this scene. That is also what a novelist needs to know when writing a scene from a character’s point of view. So acting definitely helps.


I’m an introvert by nature, and have written stories since I was a kid. Writing is a more substantial pleasure than stage acting, which is ephemeral. But stage acting, in front of a live theater audience, is much more fun. That’s why they call it a play.

I grew up with a love of epic fantasy. My father read Lord of the Rings to me and my brothers when we were kids, and I’ve read those books more than a dozen times since. One of my favorite passages is the mines of Moria sequence, which is what the ancient Greeks called a katabasis, a descent into the underworld. It’s a common theme in mythology, but for me it goes back to Moria. As an adult reading Dante’s Inferno, I kept thinking back to Moria. I was reading a lot of Italian literature at the time, researching my verse play, Valentino. It was on a plane ride back from Italy, reading the prologue to Boccaccio’s Decameron, that I came up with the idea of Devil’s Lair. In his prologue Boccaccio gives a vivid account of the Black Death, which he lived through. Boccaccio was also the first Dante scholar. Elsewhere in his writings he gives an account of some townspeople watching a man walk down the street with a singed beard, and the people exclaiming that it must be Dante returned from hell. Boccaccio’s comic idea was that these people really believed in the tale of Dante’s Inferno. But what if it were true? What if the Commedia was Dante’s actual memoir? And what if Giovanni Boccaccio, Dante’s literary heir, was forced by dire circumstances to literally walk in Dante’s footsteps? I combined this idea with an idea from the Grail legends, that the loss of the Grail led to terrible plagues and famines in Camelot. Then I knew I had a story. It would be a historical fantasy about a writer, Dante’s literary heir, traveling down through Dante’s Inferno to steal back the Holy Grail and save the world from history’s greatest plague. It would be told in the style of Tolkein’s Moria scenes, with an epic quest, fantasy creatures, a reluctant hero, great personal sacrifices, and a surprising-but-satisfying conclusion.

I’ll give you three.

The first was Stacey Cochran, because his was the first interview I did on the Kindle Author blog. It set the stage. At first I didn’t think Kindle Author would be an interview blog. I imagined it would be an advice site for beginning authors, with a bit about my own writing. But within in a week of starting the blog I read a comment that Stacey posted on Jon Konrath’s blog, asking for authors with websites to help him with the blog tour of his latest book. I interviewed Stacey, and he sent a lot his readers to my Kindle Author blog. I saw some good traffic from that interview, and realized that interviewing self-published writers was a win-win. I could give them a platform to publicize their books, and they would send more readers my way. This has worked out great so far. Also, I really love interviewing. I learn so much!

The second memorable interview was with Lee Goldberg. Lee is a very successful television producer and novelist. He’s traditionally published, but he also self-publishes his backlist books on Kindle. Among other things, Lee writes mysteries based on the TV series character Monk. He gave me a very gracious interview, with lots of wonderful insights, but at the end of the interview I asked him, as I ask everyone, what advice he’d offer to a new writer who wanted to self-publish on Kindle, and he basically said, “Don’t.” Of course, most of my readers are beginning writers who are self-publishing books on Kindle. Some were upset, and took the comments personally. A few of these writers began posting in forums about what a terrible thing Lee had said in the interview. The interview became controversial. People visited my blog to find out what Lee Goldberg had really said, and I got a lot of traffic from that kerfuffle. So I remember that incident quite well. For the first several months of my blog, Lee’s interview was the most-read post on the site. To this day I’m grateful to Lee Goldberg not only for granting the interview, but for kicking the hornet’s nest.

The third memorable interview is one I did recently with M.R. Mathias, also a controversial figure online. Mathias has a unique and compelling story. He wrote his fantasy novels while serving time in maximum security prison. Though he rubs some forum readers the wrong way—he has a very in-your-face promotional style—he does have a lot of interesting things to say, and his personal story is a great example of overcoming obstacles, and personal demons, to find success. I’m really glad I had a chance to interview him, and share his personal story with a wider audience.


I’m interested in many things, but have time for only a few. When people ask me how I can be so productive, I tell them to turn off the television. That’s my secret. I don’t own a TV, and haven’t for years. Of course, I do spend a lot of time on the Internet, but I’m also fairly productive there, as my Kindle Author blog will attest. I generally post at least once a day, and very often more than than.

I think that having various interests has allowed me to ask better questions on a wide variety of topics. The authors I interview seem to appreciate that.


I’m working on a couple of books. One is a contemporary horror novel called The Highwayman. It’s based on a screenplay of mine that recently had an Oscar-winning director attached. The director has an overall deal with one of the big studios, but they passed on the project. He tried to raise independent financing, but couldn’t get the funds he thought he needed. My contract with the director expired in October, and he didn’t renew, so now the only person attached to the project is me. I’m rewriting it as horror novel. I expect to have a first draft by December 1, and to release it on Kindle before the end of the year.

My opera, The Other Wise Man, opens in December. I wrote the libretto for composer Damjan Rakonjac. He’s the music director and I’m the stage director. It’s a contemporary retelling of a classic Christmas tale. The production is turning out quite well, and I hope one day it will become a standard holiday piece for churches and smaller opera companies, as an alternative to the widely-produced Christmas opera Amahl and the Night Visitors by Gian Carlo Menotti. I’m working on two more librettos for composer Damjan Rakonjac. One is a short, intimate opera we hope to stage for next year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival. The other is full-length opera, based on a well-known literary classic.

Next I’m directing a play, Friends Like These, which was written by LA-based playwright Gregory Crafts. My production will run for three weeks in January. I’m also writing another verse play, and a rather zany farce for the stage, plus I’ve written a low-budget horror script that I’ll direct when I have the money.

Thank you, David, for a very interesting interview. Devil’s Lair is available on amazon:

You can learn more about David’s work on his website:

David is also on Facebook:!/david.wisehartHe Tweets:

and has a blog:
where you can read all the interviews to which he refers above.