Book launch: The Search for Starlight by Elyse Salpeter



My author friend Elyse Salpeter has just released the fifth volume in her Kelsey Porter mystery series that combines Buddhist spirituality with vigilante justice.

With The Search for Starlight, Elyse Salpeter culminates the journey of a young woman who has come full circle in her quest to find the murderers of her parents.

She just needed to complete a simple errand… how hard could that be?

As soon as Kelsey embarks on the Emperor and Empress’s request to locate a mysterious object and return it to them, her entire world is plunged into chaos.

Someone is following her, someone else has broken into her home, and now she believes the people she trusted most have all been lying to her.

As Kelsey unravels the truth, she learns that her journey to this moment has never been entirely her own. Until now.

Readers will love this novel, which holds the answers to all your questions that have arisen throughout the series.

Find it on Amazon.

About the series

When Kelsey was just ten years old, she witnessed her parents’ murders. Since then, she’s dedicated her life to finding the killers and bringing them to justice. Her journey took her on a spiritual quest around the globe that thrust her deep into Buddhist spiritual mysteries. She discovered things about herself, her parents and her very place in the universe.”

Elyse Salpeter is keeping Book #1, The Hunt for Xanadu, at 99 cents for the rest of October. 

From the reviewers

“The Hunt for Xanadu by Elyse Salpeter is a remarkable novel, a fascinating and fantastical journey in time and space, and one of the most gripping novels I’ve read in a long time. It flies along at the pace of a thriller, with plenty of murder and mayhem along the way. But behind the thrill-ride is a spiritual story, an archetypal tale of mystery and darkness,riddled with fascinating and esoteric concepts in Tibetan Buddhism. Vivid characters, a truly appealing protagonist, unexpected twists, and crisp writing complete this unforgettable book. I can’t wait to read the next one in the series!”

—Douglas Preston, #1 bestselling author and co-creator, with Lincoln Child, of the Pendergast series

Elyse Salpeter

is an author who loves mixing “the real with the fantastic” in her books. She likes nothing better than taking different scenarios and creating worlds where things just aren’t what they appear to be.

Her five-book thriller series, The Hunt for Xanadu, The Quest of the Empty Tomb, The Call of Mount Sumeru, The Haunting of Cragg Hill House and The Search for Starlight are about a brilliant and fearless young woman named Kelsey Porter, whose life is steeped in Buddhist spiritual mysteries and who is constantly discovering the world around her is not what she believed it to be.

Elyse’s Dark Fantasy Series, The World of Karov and The Ruby Amulet takes us to other realms filled with magic and evil as a dark presence is seeping through the dimensions.

Her Young Adult novels, Flying to the Light and Flying to the Fire, are about a young deaf boy who is pursued by people for answers because he knows what happens to you when you die.

Elyse also dabbles in horror. Her horror novel, The Mannequins, is about a film crew that enters an abandoned mansion and disappears. Her horror collection, Ricket Row, is filled with creepy tales, guaranteed to keep you up at night.

When she’s not writing, Elyse is cooking, gardening, running around with her twins and eating shock food in her Gastronaut Club.

Visit her:

And follow Elyse on Instagram and Twitter @ElyseSalpeter.

Indonesia family bombings: Books never reach this level of evil



Real evil reaches depths that most writers who want to appear credible would never dream of—not if they wanted to be taken seriously.

Evil finds a new low: parents send children as suicide bombers to a church

Firefighters fight the blaze at the Surabaya Centre Pentacostal Church, Indonesia.
Photo: Reuters

Last weekend, families carried out two terrorist bombings in Indonesia. Parents and children. On Saturday, May 12, a family of six suicide-bombed three churches in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city. Dad drove a car loaded with explosive and detonated it in front of a church. Two sons, aged 18 and 16, rode a motorcycle into the yard of another church and detonated the bombs they carried.

Their mother took her two daughters, aged 12 and 8, to a third church, forced her way inside, embraced a congregant and detonated.

The next day, a family of five attacked the police headquarters in the same city, blowing themselves up. A seven-year-old girl survived, but was injured.

On Sunday afternoon, more bombs went off in an apartment building in a city south of Surabaya, killing three more.

In addition to themselves, the bombers killed 18 people and injured 50.

Investigators said the father of the family in the first bombing was associated with an Indonesian extremist group tied to Daesh, the “Islamic State.”

Good or evil?

The parents, were apparently radicalized. Presumably, they thought they were advancing some cause.

Then they brought their children into the suicidal scheme.

The idea of killing your children for a cause makes most people recoil. Protecting your children from harm is a basic instinct in the human animal. Most other animals, too. So to not only put them in harm’s way, but to kill them yourself strikes me as the most evil act imaginable.

What do you think? Can you describe a more evil act? Leave a comment.

We don’t let children under 18 (or older in some places) vote, consume alcohol or use other substances, partly because we reason that they’re not yet able to do the kind of analysis and make the informed decisions those acts require.

Evil thinks it’s good

Photo of girls kidnapped by the evil Boko Haram

Schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram years ago in Nigeria: the terrorist group claimed it was not doing evil—the girls would be converted to Islam and married to faithful men.

But as I wrote in my Written Words blog, evil doesn’t think it’s evil. Suicide bombers think they’re going to change the world, to bring about a greater good.

We’ve read that Daesh suicide bombers believe they’ll go to Paradise for killing the enemies of their religion.

The weekend’s events in Indonesia have reached a new depth. And officials there are warning that this may be the first signs of a new trend of family suicide bombings.

Murdering your children is something that I just can’t get over:.

I once thought that airport security doesn’t have to worry about a mother with a child, because what mother would bring a bomb onto a plane with her child on board? So much for that idea.

I know, parents have killed their children before. Sons have accompanied fathers to war. Fathers have murdered their whole families, or abused children until they died. A few years ago, a mother drowned her two boys, causing an international reaction.

But those are usually acts of rage, linked to mental illness. The deliberate nature of planning an attack like those in Indonesia, enlisting your children in it, strapping bombs to their bodies and sending them to murder and die, is chilling.

Literature: a weak mirror

The adage “truth is stranger than fiction” comes to mind. That’s not quite the case, however. I have never read any fiction with events like this. (Although it could be out there. I haven’t read everything.)

Do you know of a novel or story about a parent who murders their children as part of a political or religious plot?

Writers, especially those of thriller fiction, try to craft believable stories. Who would believe a story about a woman who blows up herself and her young children in defence of a religion or any other idea?

Welcome to a new era of terror.

Should I delete my Facebook account?



“When the service is free, you are the product”

Image: PixBay/Creative Commons

Whether they were successful or not, Cambridge Analytica has made a lot of people uncomfortable to the point that many have deleted their Facebook accounts, and more are considering it.

The scandal alleges that Cambridge Analytica unethically used 50 million people’s Facebook data to try to influence the 2016 U.S. election. This raises a question for BestSelling Reads members, and indeed all authors in this new age of independent writers and a market dominated by e-books: should we continue to have a presence on Facebook? If so, how do we protect ourselves, and our readers, fans and friends?

The need for social media

All the book marketing gurus tell authors that we need to have a social media presence, among other things, if we want to sell books. We’re also supposed to have a website, a blog, an email list with thousands of addresses—and we have to keep writing more books.

Every author I know has a Facebook profile, and so does the group itself. It has a lot of utility. It’s one of the main ways my readers connect with me. Last week, I held a live Facebook event to launch my new book on Amazon, and used Facebook Live to do reading from my new book. I had tons of comments, questions and entries to little giveaway contests that I had.

It’s hard to give up Facebook, an application that connects millions, if not a billion people.

But it has its dangers, in the form of people who misuse it for their own gain at others’ expense.

What Facebook is doing with your information

Facebook works by selling advertising. There are more than a billion users in the world, which makes it an enticing medium to any advertiser.

But Facebook goes beyond just broadcasting like television or radio. It uses the information about you to determine what you might be interested in. This allows advertisers to develop ads that will be more appealing to you. Facebook and advertisers use demographic information, like your age and where you live, to target advertising to you.

In addition to the personal data in your profile, Facebook gets more valuable information from things like how long you spend watching a video, or which apps and games you play, and which posts you respond to.

That’s why your advertising feed, the column on the right side of the screen, and the sponsored ads in your news feed are about products and services that echo what you’ve been responding to on Facebook.

Cambridge Analytica created an app on Facebook that asked people to take a quiz. It then exploited a loophole that allowed it to collect data about both the quiz takers and their Facebook friends, as well—in defiance of privacy laws that say data about a person can only be collected with their consent, and for the purpose for which it was collected in the first place.

Now it’s a huge scandal.

What’s the solution?

There are steps you can take to protect your data from misuse. Some are just so obvious, they shouldn’t need stating. But here they are, anyway.

  • Keep your password confidential. Don’t even tell family and friends. You may trust them not to abuse your profile, but they may not be as careful about protecting your identity as you are.
  • Don’t put your home phone number, home address, date of birth or email address in your Facebook profile.
  • Be careful about what you post, especially if it’s something that you know may offend or upset a potential employer. In general, I try not to be offensive and avoid offensive language. That doesn’t prevent people taking offense I what I say, however.
  • Don’t post about being away from home or on a long vacation—you are asking bad people to break into your house.

Privacy settings

Facebook has over 50 different privacy settings, with in total more than 170 options. The New York Times has published a simple guide to help you find them.

Start with the little downward-pointing triangle on the top right of the Facebook screen. Select Settings, then from the left menu, Privacy. Set who can see your profile information. Usually, the choices are Public, Friends, Friends except acquaintances, Only me and Custom.

But that’s not all. Every App has its own settings. So do Timeline, Ads, Public Posts, and every App. This is what makes games like Farmville so dangerous as well as annoying. Set to Public, it lets others see that you use the app. Make sure you’re comfortable with each setting here.

And even if you set everything to Private, advertisers can still use the data to build a profile of you. And you know that prompt you get to add your phone number to “enhance” your security? Don’t do it. It’s another data point that can be used to identify and target you.

Don’t share everything

The more you post on Facebook, the more information you give advertisers to target ads to you. You don’t have to share every restaurant meal, unless you want to get more ads from restaurant chains.

I have learned not to answer quizzes that will tell me which fictional character I am, or what my level of education is. That just helps advertisers target ads to me better.

I am also struggling with arguing politics and philosophy on Facebook. By the time someone gets around to uploading something egregiously false, they’ve worked themselves into a mindset that will not be changed by logic and facts, anyway.

Finally, here’s something I just learned from NBCnews.com: download a copy of all your Facebook data to see just how much information you’re actually sharing. You may be surprised.

We’re not as good as we think we are in Canada



RCMP watchdog to examine handling of Colten Boushie shooting

 

Indigenous leaders call for resignation of Thunder Bay police chief over non-investigation of death of Indigenous man

My home town seems to have become the epicentre of institutional racism in Canada.

I grew up in Thunder Bay, Ontario, a city sometimes called the Lakehead. Years, decades can go by without it getting noticed in the national news.

But it’s certainly been in the news a lot over the past year, and not in a good way.

Here’s one from the Globe and Mail of March 5, 2018:

“Indigenous leaders call on Thunder Bay police chief to resign after report alleges neglect of duty”

Then there’s this one from last summer:

First Nations woman dies after being hit by trailer hitch thrown from passing car in Thunder Bay, Ont.”

Barbara Kentner, left, was struck by a trailer hitch thrown from a moving car in Thunder Bay, Ont. Photo: CBC

Let’s look into these things a little closer.

Indigenous leaders like Robin McGinnis, Chief of the Rainy River First Nation, and Grand Chiefs Francis Kavanaugh and Alvin Fiddler, called for the chief of the Thunder Bay police force to resign or be fired over the investigation of the death of Stacy DeBungee, an Indigenous man in 2015.

DeBungee’s body was found in the McIntyre River in Thunder Bay. An independent report on the police investigation into the death found there were “serious deficiencies.” The victim’s brother said that the police immediately dismissed the death as not suspicious, and did little to no investigation. According to Brad DeBungee, the officers neglected to canvass witnesses, and ignored a woman who confessed to pushing Stacy DeBungee into the river. That woman has since died.

This case happened during an inquiry into the deaths of seven more First Nations people in rivers in Thunder Bay between 2000 and 2011. They were all initially deemed accidental, with alcohol involved. A coroner’s inquest changed that determination to “undetermined” in three of those cases. Which means there could have been foul play involved.

Then there’s the case of Barbara Kentner, a First Nations woman who was hit by a trailer hitch thrown from a passing car in January 2017 in Thunder Bay. The passenger in the car yelled “Oh, I got one,” after throwing the hitch. Ms. Kentner died of her injuries in July. Brayden Bushby, who was 18 at the time, has been arrested and charged. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for September 10.

First Nations people, including relatives of the victim, say it’s not uncommon for them to have things thrown at them from passing cars in Thunder Bay.

Do you see a pattern here? Blatant racially motivated violence and lack of concern over it by police.

But Thunder Bay is not the only place where this goes on.

Last month, Gerald Stanley of Saskatchewan was acquitted of killing Colton Boushie, a First Nations man.

The fact that Stanley shot Boushie is not in dispute. He claimed he was not responsible, that the rifle in his hands went off accidentally, and the jury believed him.

Or rather, the Crown prosecutors did not convince the jury that he was guilty beyond doubt. That’s the way our criminal courts work—which is good.

What is not good is that the investigators and prosecutors did not even try. The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission of the RCMP has begun investigation into the original investigation of the event, to determine whether it was done “reasonably” and whether race was a factor.

You think?

The RCMP did not take photos of the evidence at the scene for hours, until after dark. They then left the vehicle where Boushie died uncovered, in the rain, for two days. They did not test it for blood or gunpowder residue.

The RCMP took Gerald Stanley to their detachment to take photos, then let him go, allowing him to return the following day to make a statement. Which means he had opportunity to confer with other witnesses. The RCMP did not even take his shirt, losing potential evidence of blood spatter and gunpowder residue.

According to Boushie’s family, the RCMP were much more assiduous in investigating them. They rushed to his mother’s home in two cars and came in with weapons drawn. After announcing to Debbie Baptiste, Boushie’s mother, that her son was dead, they asked whether she’d been drinking and searched the home.

Communication: it’s what police do

A criminal case, particularly when it gets to court, is a particular exercise in communication. Investigators find facts, then link them to build an argument, or case. A Crown prosecutor (that’s what we call them in Canada) then presents that story to a jury or a judge, who decides whether to believe the story or find it less than convincing.

In our system, it’s up to the prosecutor to convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt. If they fail to do that, the jury is obliged to find the defendant not guilty.

In Saskatchewan, the Crown failed to make its case convincingly. It’s as if the RCMP were trying not to collect a convincing weight of evidence.

The same story plays out across the country wherever Indigenous people are involved. Over and over, white people get away with murder when it comes to Indigenous people.

We’re not what we say we are

Canadians like to think of ourselves as open, inclusive and fair. And we like to project that image to the world. But the image fails under the lightest scrutiny.

Canada has consistently failed to treat Indigenous people fairly. We’ve known it for a very long time. We have accepted this contradiction between what we say to visitors and immigrants, and the way we treat Indigenous Canadians.

The Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls only got started  last year, after years of being opposed by the previous Prime Minister.

Governments budget less than half as much money per student in an Indigenous community. More than 100 First Nations communities in this country don’t have clean drinking water. Some have been boiling their water for decades. And it’s only in the past two years that any effort has been taken to correct this.

When did our civilization decide that ensuring its people had safe water to drink was a priority for government? Oh, yah, about 5,000 years ago.

It’s time we non-Indigenous Canadians—okay, I’ll say it: white—acknowledged how badly we’ve been treating Indigenous people.

It’s time to change. And if the police at any level, across the country, can’t, it’s time to change the police.

Leave a comment.

Army of Worn Soles is on promotion today



Book 1 of the Eastern Front trilogy is on promotion through BookDoggy. If you haven’t read it yet, now is your chance to get it at a reduced price. Because after this promotion, the price will go back up to its regular setting.

Get it at BookDoggy http://bookdoggy.com/?p=2671&preview=true

What’s it about?

A Canadian is drafted into the Soviet Red Army during World War 2, just in time to be thrown against Nazi Germany’s invasion in Operation Barbarossa. Caught in the vise of the Nazi and Communist forces, Maurice Bury concentrates on keeping his men alive as they retreat across Ukraine from the German juggernaut. Now the question is: will they escape from the hell of the POW camp before they starve to death?

Get Army of Worn Soles for just 99 cents.

See a free sample.

RIP: Canada’s everyday poet



Gord Downie passed away last week.

Okay, that’s not news anymore. Every Canadian and many others around the world know that. But I need to acknowledge the passing and honour the man whose words have meant so much to me over the years.

Gord Downie was the front man and lyricist for The Tragically Hip, which has become known as “Canada’s Band.” Which makes Downie Canada’s principal poet and conscience over the past 30 years or so.

So I thought I’d share with everyone the words of the first Tragically Hip song I remember. Please, pay attention to the words. They are powerful, and like all great poetry, they have many deep layers of meaning.

“New Orleans Is Sinking”

All right

Bourbon blues on the street, loose and complete
Under skies all smoky blue green
I can’t forsake a dixie dead shake
So we danced the sidewalk clean

My memory is muddy, what’s this river that I’m in?
New Orleans is sinking, man, and I don’t want to swim

Colonel Tom, what’s wrong? What’s going on?
You can’t tie yourself up for a deal
He said, Hey, north, you’re south, shut your big mouth
You gotta do what you feel is real

Ain’t got no picture postcards, ain’t got no souvenirs
My baby she don’t know me when I’m thinking bout those years

Pale as a light bulb hanging on a wire
Sucking up to someone just to stoke the fire
Picking out the highlights of the scenery
Saw a little cloud that looked a little like me

I had my hands in the river, my feet back up on the banks
Looked up to the lord above and said, Hey, man, thanks

Sometimes I feel so good I got to scream
She said, Gordie, baby, I know exactly what you mean
She said, she said, I swear to god she said

My memory is muddy, what’s this river that I’m in?
New Orleans is sinking, man, and I don’t want to swim

Swim

What’s your favourite Tragically Hip song? What’s your favourite poem? Leave a comment below.

What I’m working on now: A new book



After publishing 10 books in the past two years (wow—I just blew my own mind), I am not slowing down, but I am changing direction.

I had a writing and publishing plan.e72b9-bonescoverfinalforweb

Two years ago in July, I published two books in two different Kindle Worlds: Torn Roots in the Lei Crime Kindle World, based on Toby Neal’s Lei Crime series; and Jet: Stealth in the Jet Kindle World, based on the bestselling series by Russell Blake.

Up to that point, I had published only three book-length titles:

  • The Bones of the Earth, book one of a planned Dark Age trilogy, a historical fantasy
  • One Shade of Red, a spoof of Fifty Shades of Gray
  • Army of Worn Soles, the first book in my Eastern Front trilogy, based on the real experiences of my father-in-law in the Red Army during the Second World War.

My plans at that point were to complete the Eastern Front trilogy (done!), then move to the second and third books of the Dark Age series. I also thought I might intersperse those projects by writing and publishing
stories that would tie together into a paranormal-occult-romance novel, Dark Clouds. I had written four chapters, publishing them on various platforms. A lot of people liked the first chapter, which stands alone as a story called The Mandrake Ruse. You can download it for free.

At that point, I had never even heard of Kindle Worlds, and never considered writing fan fiction.

Then Toby Neal diverted me.

Near the end of 2014, Toby Neal, bestselling author of the Lei Crime series and other books, and a prominent member of the BestSelling Reads authors group, selected a few authors to write for her brand new Lei Crime Kindle World. The idea was to publish a novella, something between 10,000 and 40,000 words, based on the characters and situations of her mystery novels.

I was excited and, to be honest, flattered to be one of the first invited to this project. And it also solved another problem for me. I had an idea for a light-hearted thriller with characters based on my family, but I could not make the plot work. When I got Toby’s invitation to write a Hawaii mystery, the plot, setting and characters fell into place.

However, there was one big problem: my main character was a geologist, and I knew nothing about the geology of Hawaii. I wasn’t getting the details I wanted from books or the Web. So I booked my next vacation to Maui, and what I experienced added a lot of realism to the book. And while I missed the first launch in April 2015,
I did manage to write a book, re-write it, get a cover, get it edited and proofread—and share a beta draft with Toby Neal herself—in time for the “second surge” in July.

While I was working on my first Lei Crime book, Russell Blake invited me (and several others) to write for his new Jet Kindle World, too. Its first deadline was the same as the second one for Lei Crime: July 31, 2015.

So, while Torn Roots was with beta readers, editors and proofreaders, I wrote a short, fast-paced thriller called Stealth, introducing two more characters based on people I know: Van Freeman and Earl LeBrun. And I met the deadline without cutting any corners.

My writing went fast in a new direction.

Since then, I wrote and published two more Lei Crime novellas and one novel. I was invited to another Kindle World, based on Emily Kimelman’s Sydney Rye series about a kick-ass woman detective and her giant dog, Blue. I’ve written two books for this series, both featuring Van and LeBrun.

Now, it’s time to get back to the original plan.

Don’t get me wrong—writing the Kindle World books has been a blast. I really enjoyed the characters and situations I created, and to judge by the reviews, my readers have, too. And I think I will find it irresistible to return to them, putting them in more impossible situations.

But I want to get back to the next book in the Dark Age trilogy. Last year, when I was waiting for medical attention after breaking my knee, I worked out the plot outline for book 2, The Triumph of the Sky. (Guess which song inspired that and I’ll send you a personalized, signed e-copy of The Bones of the Earth.)

The Dark Age trilogy is what I call “historical magic realism.” It’s epic fantasy, but set in a real time and place: the sixth-century CE Eastern Roman Empire, often known now as the Byzantine Empire. But the people there at the time called themselves “Roman,” even though most of them spoke Greek.

The Bones of the Earth, book 1 in the trilogy, was about Javor, a poor Sklavenic boy from beyond the Empire’s borders, who travels to Constantinople, the capital of the Empire, searching for answers about his parents’ death and his great-grandfather’s magical dagger. The second volume will tell the story of Javor as a young man, living in Constantinople with a wife and family, going on several adventures and contending with deep, supernatural forces. It’s based on a number, just as the first volume was. I’ve made some progress: two chapters written. In a future post, I’ll post some advance samples when I’m happy with them.

But don’t get too excited. Triumph is going to be a big book, like Bones was. But I’ll keep you up to date on progress, and I’ll have lots of contests and giveaways along the way. One of the first will be a giveaway to anyone who can deduce or guess which number figures prominently in the plot of The Bones of the Earth, and later another one for the number that’s the basis of The Triumph of the Sky.

See you soon!