Wildfire is now available for pre-order



Book 1 in the new Tara Rezeck Mystery Series is now available for pre-order on Amazon at a special low price.

If you order the book before its launch day on March 22, you’ll be able to get it for just 99 cents.

Pre-order here.

What it’s about

Wildfires swept across California wine country in 2017, destroying thousands of homes and businesses, and killing dozens of people. Law school grad and single mother Tara Rezeck finds herself in the middle of the catastrophe. When she returns to her job after evacuating she finds her employer’s, body in the ashes.

The question that challenges her brains and her legal training is: was it an accident? Or was his body burned to hide evidence of murder?

Wildfire is an Independent Authors International title. 

What the beta readers are saying

A select group of readers have seen the pre-release version. What were their reactions?

“Even though we were gone when the fires were happening, I sure felt like was there.”—D.G.

“I like Tara Rezeck and where the author plans to go with her.”—M.H.

“I really like the novel.”—K.L.

Don’t wait

Remember, the price goes up on launch day. So don’t hesitate. Be the first of your social network to read this new book.

Cover reveal: Wildfire



The first book in a brand-new mystery series

Launching March 22, 2018

That’s right, a brand new mystery series, about a young legal investigator named Tara Rezeck, will launch in less than a month. And here’s your first look at it—a striking cover by the one and only David C. Cassidy.

The book is now with my outstanding editor, Gary Henry, and after that it will go to the eagle-eyed Joy Lorton for proofreading.

In the meantime, I will soon set up pre-orders on Amazon and other e-tailers, and I’ll let you know when it’s available.

What’s it about?

Wildfires swept across California wine country in 2017, destroying thousands of homes and businesses, and killing dozens of people. Law school grad and single mother Tara Rezeck finds herself in the middle of the catastrophe. When she returns to her job after evacuating she finds her employer’s, body in the ashes.

The question that challenges her brains and her legal training is: was it an accident? Or was his body burned to hide evidence of murder?

Subscribe to this blog so you don’t miss your chance to pre-order it!

 

Independent novel review: The Jossing Affair



By J.L. Oakley

This is an amazingly good book.

The Jossing Affair reminds me of Dr. Zhivago: it’s a story that helps us understand a world-changing, vicious conflict through a close focus on a few people caught in it. At its heart, it’s actually a realistic love story.

Janet Oakley is an author I admire. She has a clear, simple style that puts the reader right into the story and brings the Norwegian landscape and seas to life.

Like me, she writes historical fiction set in places and eras that most people would consider obscure. When most of us think of the Second World War, I don’t think the Norwegian occupation and resistance comes top-of-mind. We know something about it, like the word “quisling,” meaning a treacherous person who cooperates with the enemy, from the name of Norway’s collaborator Minister President Vikrun Quisling. But I think few in the U.S. or Canada are really familiar with the history, the resistance inside the country or the acts of the Norwegians who escaped the country to continue the fight from the U.K. and elsewhere.

Here’s the situation: in 1944, Norway has been suffering Nazi Germany’s brutal occupation for four years. Tore Haugland is a teacher who escaped to Scotland, then along with other Norwegians, trained in espionage under the British before coming back to Norway’s west coast. There, he assumes an identity as Jens Hansen, a deaf-mute fisherman. His false disability leads most people in the village of Fjellstad to assume he’s also slow-witted.

But Haugland/Jensen has another role: he sets up a secret radio transmitter to communicate with the Allies, and helps coordinate the “Shetland Bus”—secret transportation across the North Sea, smuggling out escapers and bringing in resistance fighters, weapons and supplies.

It’s the most dangerous kind of work, because jossing, or “patriot” Haugland is up against smart quislings, including Norway’s second-worst war criminal, Henry Oliver Rinnan, head of a Norwegian Gestapo unit.

As Haugland goes about spying, he meets Anna Fromme, known as “the German woman” or simply “the Woman” in the village. People assume she’s a quisling, because she is German, and shun her.

But Anna is the widow of another jossing, Einar Fromme, who was arrested, tortured and executed by Rinnan. Of course, Anna did not know anything about her husband’s resistance activities. Even though she moves to the tiny village of Fjellstad after his death, suspicion that she had something to do with it follows her.

Haugland knows who she is, and feels a deep attraction. But he feels he cannot act on this attraction because that would expose both of them to great danger.

A highly skilled author

The tension in this book starts high, and steadily gets higher. That’s something that requires skill on the part of an author. Oakley keeps raising the stakes as the resistance’s missions become more dangerous, the Gestapo gets closer, the Germans retreat in Russia, Poland and France, and Haugland and Anna fall deeper in love.

By the second half of the book, it’s clear the Germans are losing the war. But there’s not a lot of Allied action in Norway in 1944—in fact, Norway was the last country to be liberated from the Germans, days after V-E Day. And despite the fact they know there is no way they can win—or maybe because of it—the Germans and the quislings get more and more brutal.

I love the way that Oakley wove real historical elements into this story. Rinnan was a real person, and Oakley describes his physical appearance perfectly. Other historical characters appearing in the book include Rinnan’s right-hand man, Karl Dolmen, and Conrad Bonnevie-Svendsen, a priest, minister for the deaf and resistance leader.

Doing this is not easy—I know. I marvel at the historical research that must have gone into this book. When I met the author last year, she told me about her trip to Norway specifically to do research for this book.

Congratulations, Janet Oakley, on the accomplishment of The Jossing Affair. It’s historically accurate (as far as I can tell), interesting and exciting; a rich story with strong, fascinating and utterly believable characters.

5 *****

Find it on J.L. Oakley’s website, or buy it today from Amazon.

Simultaneously proud and ashamed of my country



Gold medal winner Mikaël Kingsbury: CBC.ca

Colten Boushie (left), killed by Gerald Stanley.

Patriotism is a strange thing. It has always seemed to me to be a little artificial to claim some personal credit for things that other people do in the name of the group or country you come from.

But at the same time, the shame on behalf of your country feels very real.

This weekend, Canada’s Olympic team in Pyeongchang did incredibly well, taking in 7 medals, including two gold. The figure skating team won a “team gold”—something else I’m a little unclear on—and Mikael Kingsbury won gold in Men’s Moguls. Justine Dufour Lapointe won silver in Ladies’ Moguls, and Canadians medaled in slopestyle snowboarding and speed skating, as well. And we expect more medals in figure skating, downhill skiing and, of course, hockey.

For whatever reason, that feels good.

What doesn’t feel good

is the not guilty verdict for Gerard Stanley for shooting and killing Colten Boushie in Saskatchewan in 2016.

This is something else that I cannot understand. Colten Boushie was part of a group of young men who drove onto Stanley’s property two years ago. Maybe he should not have been there, but that’s not the issue.

The issue is this: Stanley fired two “warning” shots from his rifle, then pointed it at Boushie. Then the rifle discharged, killing Boushie.

Stanley said it was “accidental.” But he fired twice, then his gun killed Boushie.

The RCMP then did all sorts of things wrong in the investigation.

Here’s the wrinkle: Boushie was Indigenous, from the Red Pheasant First Nation. Stanley is white.

In short, a white man killed an Indigenous man, and got away with it.

If the victim had not been Indigenous, would Stanley have gotten away with it? If the racial situation had been reversed, does anyone have any doubt but that the justice system would have dealt with the shooter differently?

Gerald Stanley admits he brought a loaded rifle to a confrontation. He admits to firing it. But he denies responsibility for taking a life, and the Canadian justice system agreed with him.

A problem in Canada

I understand his desire to protect his family and his property. But I reject the murder.

We have a problem in Canada, one we don’t want to admit. It’s racism.

We Canadians like to portray ourselves as the ideal society in the world, the best place to live. Like if the U.S. or U.K. got things right. And we have a lot to be proud of.

But we still have this problem with race. Too many people in authority treat Indigenous and other identifiably different people badly. Wrongly. Like they’re not human.

And too many of the rest of us choose not to notice it. To dismiss it.

Too many of us think of discrimination as something that happens somewhere else. In the U.S. Deep South, in South Africa, in Russia or Saudi Arabia.

Well, it happens here. It is happening here.

We Canadians must acknowledge this. For our own sake, we need to admit to this massive failing, to own up to it, and to take steps to redress it. Now.

Why do I like writing?



Why do I like writing?

Some people I know say “I don’t like writing; I like having written.

 

Me (left) and Super Nicolas whitewater canoeing on the Mad River (Madawaska), Ontario

To an extent, I can understand that. I love the feeling of accomplishment that comes when I complete a piece of writing, whether it’s an article for a magazine, a book, a story or even a blog post.

There, that’s done. Finished. I can see it on a screen, and if it’s a book or a magazine, I can hold it in my hands. See my name on the page. It’s a very satisfying thing.

But I also love the process of writing. When the words flow, it’s a fantastic feeling.

Which is why one of the feelings I hate the most is that frustration when I cannot think of something to write about, or cannot figure out how to begin something.

Fortunately, that’s not something that happens to me very often. I usually have so many ideas for new stories and books, the hard part is deciding which one to work on first.

Damming the stream

Writing a stream of words that comes as fast as my fingers can push the keys is a wonderful feeling of power. It’s very much like the feeling when I’m skiing, or when I’m successfully paddling a canoe down a whitewater rapids. But like skiing and whitewater canoeing, there are dangers under that white water (snow is white water).

Most of my books are set either in places far from me (like Hawaii or Hungary) or long, long ago (like World War II or the Dark Age). At the same time, I like to infuse my tales with a lot of realistic detail, so that the readers can immerse themselves into the story.

And that means, research, research, research.

Thank you, Google and Wikipedia.

And thanks to countless authors of books and articles on history, travel, geography and science (well, I guess I could count them, but that would only reinforce the next point I’m about to make, and I just don’t have the time or inclination right now) for your help in finding those obscure facts.

The downside is, research takes me away from writing the story. Often, it leads me down a long path (or side stream? Okay, I’ll rest the simile), when I get interested in something, which leads to something else—you know what it’s like.

Often, I can write hundreds of words in a few minutes. Then, I’ll come to a point where I need to check on something factual, and then I’ll spend hours looking up some tiny point.

Here’s an example: yesterday, I was working on Part 3 of The Triumph of the Sky, the follow-up to my 2012 historical fantasy, The Bones of the Earth. I was describing the hero traveling beyond the ancient borders of the Eastern Roman Empire (often called the Byzantine Empire), and I wondered: did the Romans of the early 7th century use stirrups?

That one wasn’t too hard to work out (they did), but it was a diversion. And there have been facts that literally took weeks or more of research to nail down—like the varieties of anti-tank guns used by the Soviets during the Second World War. It turns out, there was quite a range, and some of them looked positively fragile.

Finishing one run, re-starting another

Yes, I’m invoking the downhill skiing analogy again. At the beginning of the year, I finished the draft of book 1 of my new mystery, Wildfire. As I write this, the manuscript is in the digital hands of about 30 beta readers. Some have sent their responses, and I thank them all very much.

And as I promised, I’m using this interstitial time to work on Triumph. Well, not all of my time. I have other responsibilities, too. And there’s another writing project I’m working on, as well, that’s pretty exciting. I’ll tell you all about it when it gets closer to completion.

In the meantime, if you’re a writer, why not share how you fell about the writing-having written question.

A new writing year beckons



It’s January. A new year spreads before us like a blank page, waiting for anything we want to do . Ready for us to write our own story.
And I plan on writing that story—in fact, several stories.

For you, my wonderful readers, I am going to publish a whole whack o’ stuff for your reading pleasure.

What to look forward to

I promised, and I will deliver. The first book in the brand-new mystery series, Wildfire, will be out in March. This features a new lead character: Tara Rezeck (it means “risk”), law school grad and single mom, trying to make her life in California when wildfires break out. Her new boss is killed. Was it the fire, or was it something or someone else?

The third draft Wildfire is now with beta-readers. Then I will respond to their reactions, incorporate suggestions (or not), and send it to the editor. Then there’s more re-writing, and then I will send it to the proofreader.

In the meantime, I have a great designer dreaming up the cover. Hold onto your socks—David C. Cassidy is going to knock them off again.

A boxed set

While that project is in the very capable hands of beta-readers, editors and publishers, I’m going to do two things to the Eastern Front trilogy (Army of Worn Soles, Under the Nazi Heel and Walking Out of War).

First, I’ll be publishing all three volumes on all major e-tailers: Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes/iBooks and Barnes & Noble. So far, they’re only available on Amazon, but with this move, they’ll be available more broadly, and in different formats.

The second thing is that I will release the whole trilogy as a boxed set, so readers can buy the whole story as one bundle. Continue to follow this blog for updates on both projects.

Click on the cover image for a sample of the book.

Writing more fantasy

As I promised before, I am returning to the sequel to The Bones of the Earth, The Triumph of the Sky. After finishing parts 1 and 2, I took a break from it to write Wildfire. Now that that’s done, I can focus for a while, at least, on completing the next five parts.

Sales and promotions

Somehow, in between writing and publishing three titles last year, I developed a marketing and promotions plan. Now it’s the time to see how well it will work.

What that means to you, dear readers, is that you’ll have even more opportunities to get books from me, and other authors I know and whose writing I like, on sale or sometimes even free. There will be other prizes, too, that readers will love.

But to get them, you’ll have to do something, too.

Promotions will be emailed to you. To make sure you’re eligible, subscribe either to get Forewords, my advance information email newsletter (click the book cover under “Get your free book.” the first item in the right-hand sidebar, and you’ll be taken to another webpage) or to receive this blog in your email (scroll down a bit to the item in the sidebar, “Get your FREE bonus e-book,” and enter your name and email below the cover image).

I hate spam as much as you do, and I promise again never to release your information to anyone else.

Let’s stay in touch

Subscribe to Written Words and Forewords. Both will give you a free e-book, and you’ll also be eligible for future promotions, sales, giveaways, surveys and contests.

Yes, I said surveys. I want to hear from you—what you like, what you don’t like, what you wish writers would write and what you wish we’d stop doing.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

What more do you want for Christmas than lots of great books to read



There’s just something about the season, the cold weather, the snow, the romance—it just makes you want to curl up with a great book. So don’t miss this book giveaway!

You could win more than 70 romantic reads for Christmas, including my holiday-themed, Hawaii Crime mystery, Palm Trees & Snowflakes in BookSweeps holiday romance sweepstakes.

It’s free, it’s fun and it’ll load up your e-book reader with tons of reading—enough to get you to Valentine’s Day, at least.