Monday, July 25, 2016

Author Interview: Lisa Gordon, Author of A Sealed Fate

Lisa is the winner of the 9th American Gem Novel Writing Contest 2012/2013.
Lisa also scooped 4th prize with another novel.
Lisa received an honourable mention for her play Holly Leaves in the Writers Digest Annual Awards.

Lisa Jacqueline Gordon was born and brought up in in Johannesburg. She studied BCom Law at Witwatersrand University before going to the UK to complete a BSc. Industrial Economics Hons. She now lives in the UK countryside. Lisa studied with the Faculty of Astrological Studies in London and later became a regular guest on BBC WM and BBC Shropshire doing to monthly stars and forecasts for the Birmingham footie teams. Lisa has guested on BBC Coventry and Warks, BBC Cambridge, BBC Northants, TalkSport and Fox FM. Lisa also campaigns against injustice and unfair trials abroad.

A Sealed Fate

A chain of tragic deaths across Dubai spanning two decades, only Valda knows they were not accidents, but murders. Her name is next on that list. Spunky singer Valda ditches her old life in Cape Town for a new start in glittering Dubai. Armed with just her cigarettes and some attitude she sets about reigniting her career and putting to bed the heartache over her former boyfriend Richard.
Valda does indeed find success and to her astonishment love, but all is threatened when she is introduced to a billionaire Sheikh. Her clandestine liaison with the Sheikh, propels her into a murky web of deceit and when newspaper clippings of seemingly accidental deaths across Dubai are posted anonymously to her it is clear she is rushing headlong into the same fate. No one dare cross the Sheikh and she can hardly hardly turn to the law, so with few options open she confides in Larissa. As an astrologer, Larissa predicts that Valda and the Sheikh's destinies were sealed from the moment of their first meeting; however she keeps the dire fate that she reads in the charts a secret. Lara resolves to help Valda flee Dubai and the ever tightening grip of the Sheikh; but should Valda be putting all her faith in her new friend and guru of the grimoires.
Together, Valda and Larissa take a gamble in a game of cosmic Russian Roulette where the stakes are their lives and their adversary, Fate itself.A thoroughly modern cocktail of intrigue, passion and suspense set against the exotic locales of Cape Town and Dubai with an eclectic mix of characters, a perfect beverage if you like a tangy lemon peel in your drink as this one has a twist at the end too, but you'll have to read it to discover it. 

Who are your influences?
I always enjoyed Sidney Sheldon and I loved the way every one of his books was slightly different; there was no formula and like me, he did not rely on a cop or detective as a main character and books were story more than body count/evidence lead.
Sheldon had strong female characters who were never whiter than white - I steer clear of books which take a good versus evil stance.  We can all be good and evil according to what we are faced with.
I love Robert Ludlum as I think his plots are complex and exiting and I love the conspiracy angles.

When did you begin writing?
 It was right after I had a tarot reading and the psychic said, "Do you know you are a very good writer." I had never thought of writing before, in fact I was studying accounting and yearning to be an actress.
Writing was actually my saviour as it came at a time when I needed a direction and a goal I cared about. I started writing A Sealed Fate right away and was amazed when I found myself nine chapters in - it came so naturally and suddenly I realised that this was way better than acting as it was my own words, I was not just speaking someone else's.
My grandfather passed away, leaving a huge gap in my life as he had been like my father and I stopped writing for a few months, but I soon began again as he had said how happy he was for me to follow a career as an author as he knew I would do well at it.

How do you come up with your stories, characters, character names, POV, etc?
I tend to write from inspiration I get an idea and go with it; it was only after I had some publishing experts read over A Sealed Fate that I saw where I had gone wrong in terms of mixing genres and not getting the pace right.  A Sealed Fate is more a story than a thriller per se as it is not packed with bodies, detectives and forensic detail. 
I find I need to love my main character.  Valda is a lot like me, expect where I tend to be a people pleaser she is the more wild side of me and so writing about her allowed me to access another part of my personality.  So if the main character is a little like you or someone you care about that is a big help.
I chose Dubai as a locale as I had been there on a short trip and I felt it made a good backdrop for the story - it does help if you know your location well and feel it contributes to the story.
It helps to have a premise you want to explore: In A Sealed Fate it was fate versus freewill; which is more powerful; in Next of Sin it was Blood is NOT thicker than water and in Not Guilty Not Innocent it was Not Guilty does not mean innocent. 
I always stay with things I know and are interested in - for me it is psychology/philosophy (human nature) and also law..but there are many other subtle literary elements that I seem to throw in.
I like original characters that are non PC or a little eccentric.
Valda was a character in a girl's comic called Mandy, that I read when I was 8-10.  It means spirited warrior.
 I choose names I like and sometimes names of kids I knew at school and liked.
I try to go for less cliched names.  Names are often age and era specific ie who under 30 is called Sheila, Pam or Carol, those names are my Mom's era.  Names like Chantelle, Sophie, Chloe are very popular in the UK for under 30's.  In my era it was Lisa, Jackie, Nicki, Debbie, Michelle - names go in cycles and so I think you should think of which names were trendy in which decade and match the characters age.  In the UK: Catherine, Fiona, Phillipa and Caroline are seen as POSH names - so I think as well about which names come over as posh or more down to earth.
Clinton was my first boyfriend.  Brett and Richard were names that I thought sounded cool.

Do you work from an outline?
I have a basic plot and outline of main events mapped out, but I find that sub plots, twists and new characters emerge as if by magic as I write. I don't plan things in too much detail, I just get stuck right it.  I worked on the plot in my head at night and I wrote when I should have been studying for my audit exam.  I guess when the alternative is audit, you'll do anything including scrub an oven.  I am not even a big reader, I am however very imaginative and making up stories in my head was always the way I dealt with worry, hurt, disappointment and stress all throughout my life from the age of 4.  So the plotting was great fun and the main character was one I felt very attached to and so I relished the writing process.

Tell me about your favorite scene in your novel.
In A Sealed Fate my favourite scene was right at the end...but can I say what it is without revealing the plot. 

Can you tell us a little about your writing philosophy?
Write for love!!

Have you ever tried writing in any other genres?
I have written chicklit and I write astrology books and also alternate health books.  I am passionate about a number of issues and enjoy writing about these subjects too.
I want to write loads more in the thriller genre, as that is where my heart is.

Do you have any interesting writing-related anecdotes to share?
When I wrote my first book I was so excited when it arrived at the book store that I told all my friends at my tennis club about it.  Of course I was hoping they would rush along and buy copies.  Next week when I saw them again they all said the same thing, "We went to the bookstore in town and we looked at your book."

And I was thinking, "What?  It's a book you buy it, you don't visit it like a sick patient in hospital?"


Lisa's website is, and her books, A Sealed Fate and Next of Sin are available on Amazon.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Author Interview: A.M. Rycroft, Author of The Taming

A.M. Rycroft is a dark fantasy and horror writer, and blogger. She lives in Pittsburgh, PA, and holds a B.A. in English from the University of Pittsburgh.
She has been writing since a young age, and though she attended art school for a time, she found her way back to writing again after art school. Her first dark fantasy/horror novel Into the Darkness was written while she attended the University of Pittsburgh. Her writing has been compared to the works of David Eddings and Stephen King.

When she is not writing, Rycroft is a writing coach and a periodic cartoonist. She enjoys keeping fit with weight training and walks through her local parks. During the summer, A.M. is frequently seen riding the roller coasters at the Kennywood amusement park.

The Taming

Imps, ale, and intrigue… This dark fantasy tale follows the brash Thystle Moran, sword for hire. Only one job has ever bothered her, one that promised to be easy money, but ended in the death of her friend. Now, an imp with questionable motives says her friend's death was no accident. Thystle seeks retribution as her world spirals out of control. She faces off against her dark past, a betrayal, feelings for a young woman, and the interests of a shadowy group known only as the Immortals. Can she ever catch a break?

Who are your influences?
Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and Joe Hill are my biggest influences, and to a smaller degree George R.R. Martin.

When did you begin writing?
I've been writing since I was very young. I didn't really decide on writing as a career path until after high school and a brief stint at art school. When I went back to school at Pitt, that's when I really started to focus on my writing.

How do you come up with your stories, characters, character names, POV, etc?
I get my story ideas from a variety of places - dreams, a piece of a song, something I overhear in passing - but it usually starts with a character with a story to tell, rather than just a plot.

My characters speak to me in a variety of ways, usually in the form of a dialog snippet or a series of scenes. If a new character doesn't tell me their name, I either just make up a name, or I might go through a baby name book to get an idea.

As for POV, I rarely stray outside of the close 3rd person, simply because I like to maintain that observer status. I do have a couple of very short pieces (unpublished) from the 1st person POV, though.

Do you work from an outline?
I never outline. I might make notes about an upcoming scene if I don't have the time to write the scene when it comes to me, but I am 100% a let-it-flow writer. I know outlining works well for some, but I just find it restraining.

Tell me about your favorite scene in your novel.
That's a hard thing to choose! I would have to say that my favorite scene in The Taming has to be the final fight scene, because it's a little off the wall, has some humor, and is 100% Thystle from beginning to end. She's such a fun character to write.

Can you tell us a little about your writing philosophy?
Listen to the characters. They, like people in real life, have a story they want to tell. I stay true to that story, without adding my own influences, even when I don't necessarily like how they react to something or the path I take. When I do that, my characters take me to fantastic places that really resonate with my readers, so I always hold onto the philosophy that the character is king.

Have you ever tried writing in any other genres?
I have written fantasy, horror, sci-fi, weird fiction, and some thriller-type stories. Fantasy and horror are my main focus, but no genre is really closed off to me in my mind, except perhaps for romance. Even though I might add romantic elements to my stories, writing a straight-up romance just isn't my thing.

Do you have any interesting writing-related anecdotes to share? 
Sure. I met Joe Hill in Massachusetts at a horror book fest kind of a thing last year. It was at a point where I was feeling a little low about my writing, because my first book hadn't seen much traction with readers. I took the plunge and asked for his advice. He thought about it and then said, "Look, it took me 10 years to get where I am now. Success in writing is a long term thing." He told me that given enough time, one of my books will catch fire and that in the meantime, I should just keep writing for the love of writing. I was really touched with the way he told me to hang on, you'll get there. Now, I don't worry as much about whether what I'm writing is the next "hit" or not. I'm writing, because that's what I love to do.

The wind felt colder now. She glanced around the dirty, refuse-littered alley. A bad feeling wormed its way into her gut and warned Thystle that she had missed the signs that she was walking into a trap.
“Perhaps you should tell me exactly what I’m doing here, imp, before I spread your insides across this dank alley,” she replied in a careful tone.
Jalus shook his head at her. “Consider that a bad idea, my dear. My employers know where I am, and there is a dwarf with a short temper inside the shop behind me who might take my death personally.”
Thystle opened her mouth to respond to this, but Jalus held up a hand to forestall further threats. “I will not waste your time. I brought you here because there is a man recently returned to Haven who presents a threat to the nonhumans in this town. He means to do away with the likes of you first, and there is little doubt in my employers’ minds that this reckoning will not stop with vampyres. He also happens to be responsible for the death of your friend Jonathan Revner, the younger Revner.”
His note misled her indeed. The information Jalus possessed was nothing like the information she thought he would bring her, or even about whom she thought. Thystle shook her head, trying to understand what he told her, and thought back to a morning a year ago that still haunted her dreams. She wondered how someone could be responsible for what had happened.
“What are you saying to me?” Thystle questioned Jalus, her voice low.
The imp laughed at her. “Surely, you did not think your friend got that way on his own, did you? You thought how you found him was an accident?”

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Author Interview: John Murray: Author of Code Name: Papa - My Extraordinary Life While Hiding in Plain Sight

(For the sake of their own safety and that of their loved ones, the writers have chosen to move forward in revealing this story under aliases.)

John Murray: A Vietnam vet, John Murray, later known as ”Papa,” has spent the majority of his adult life working as an undercover agent for the U.S., Canadian and various European governments. During this time, he rose from agent to the head of US Operations.

  John was raised in the South by his grandfather who taught him at an early age how to survive by hunting and fishing, which all served him well for his future. He firmly believes that if he had not had the guidance of his grandfather and others who influenced his life that he never would have survived the ordeals that he did.

  John, who enjoyed a very average American childhood, always wanted to be a ‘normal’ husband and father, but you’ll eventually understand why that was impossible. 

  Papa and his crews bore the responsibility of taking care of much of the world’s evil – evil that could never have come to the public’s attention.

Now retired, he and his wife are living in a small rural Western town. As ‘normal’ as he tries to live, he will always be haunted by the visions of what he saw and what he tried to prevent or rectify. ​ 

Sharon Murray: Sharon is a retired business executive who has lived in many parts of the US and in Asia.  Happily married to John for over five years, she had no idea about his work until she experienced his nightmares about the past. After discussions about how she might help John, he asked Sharon to help him write his memoirs just as something to leave behind, unpublished. After several years of working on them, Sharon convinced John it was a story worth telling to the world. 
  Working on this project has helped John start to face some of the things he experienced while trying to be a good guy in a world gone awry. 

Abby Jones: This is Jones’ fifth book.  She also writes for numerous magazines.  The original manuscript was handed off to Abby, a friend of Sharon, who has a reputation for her easy, conversational writing style.   
  Abby worked with John and Sharon for approximately eighteen months to make sure John’s voice was never lost in the rewrites.  She notes that both John and Sharon were wonderful to collaborate with via phone, computer and text.  By the way, she has never met John!   Abby currently lives on the West Coast. She has traveled extensively and lived in many other parts of the US as well as in Europe.

Who’d have thought a bright, but fairly ordinary young man from middle class America who got just above average grades, dated the same girl throughout high school and went to church most Sundays, would grow up to eventually head a very secretive band of brave individuals-- both men and women-- who regularly put their lives on the line because they wanted to protect the rest of you. Yet that;s what we did, often sacrificing our personal lives (four marriages for me, all in the book) and our health (countless broken bones, major surgeries, even death) to do it.
Meanwhile you’re just going to have to call me “Papa” like everyone else around the globe has through most of those wildly unpredictable and dangerous years.

  After a lifetime of working for a secret international group, John Murray finally reveals his journey with the help of his wife, Sharon, and co-writer Abby. His memoir, Code Name: Papa – My Extraordinary Life While Hiding in Plain Sight, details his time within an organization that, while not connected to the US government, operated with the full blessing of top people in our government. 
  “With this book, I hope to educate the public and open up the conversation about what our country and others have really done on dangerous secret missions to help the world,” says John Murray (Papa), who deftly tells his fascinating and memorable life story, laying out facts but leaving it to readers to determine how they feel about each mission. 
  The highlighted missions include the deaths of eight counter covert operators in a major Las Vegas hotel conference room during a mission that has “stayed in Vegas” until now; a European mission to save sex slaves from major drug dealers; a successful all-out effort to save a small European country from takeover, and much more. 
  These are real stories, gritty and true—not the fantasy world of James Bond, Scandal, and others.

How long have you been considering turning your adventures into a memoir?
Quite honestly, I never considered doing this.  But, years after these missions were over, I continued to have nightmares and night sweats that scared Sharon, my wife of seven years.  She convinced me to tell her the stories and she’d write them down – then we could put them away.  So, I decided to do that.  She was shocked about my past life, but wanted me to share my life’s work with the world.  She ran the first chapter or two by a writer friend, Abby Jones.  It was apparent from the start that we’d make a great team to write and edit together.  After eighteen long months, we had a manuscript.  Now we’re finally starting to work on book # 2 of this planned trilogy.

Did you have to vet any part of your story through any government agencies?
Well yes, depending on the 'job' that I had to do. Regarding what country we had to work in, out of courtesy the United States government was always in the loop and gave us abilities to land at military bases and much more.  However, I had great leeway in what was done and the final say on choosing not to take on a mission.

I know that sometimes – for the sake of expediency – several real individuals in a memoir might be bundled into one character or time might be dilated. Is there any of this in your story?
No, never.  One of the most important things in writing this book was to honor the hard work and many sacrifices of my team members – many of whom I worked with for decades.  Our readers really become attached to these wonderful, crazy, self-sacrificing people!  The other important thing was to tell our readers what really happens out there.  I enjoy James Bond and other spy stories, but they are so far from the tough reality of the lives we lived!  No tuxedos, no champagne, just plain old-fashioned hard work!

Is any portion of the story fictionalized and if so how much would you estimate that is?
The times and places were sometime changed to a different area to protect not only ourselves but also to protect people/countries that were involved.  Yet, some of our mission locations were impossible to change, including the UK where many local citizens suspected seeing a UFO.  Also Las Vegas.  As we now say, years after that amazing mission, what happened in Las Vegas is no longer staying there! 

Which locations in your missions did you enjoy the most and which the least and why?
The only thing that I truly enjoyed was when I got my crew and myself home safely. Though so many of our missions were difficult to handle psychologically, the one that disturbs me the most was the Russian women who were sex slaves and were murdered by the time we got to them.  Towing all those empty boats back to our ship was incredibly difficult.  But, many of our other missions were hard to shake off as well.  It definitely took its toll on all of us, on our marriages, and on our children – none of whom could know what we really did for a living.

Now that the writing bug has bitten, will you be writing any straight fiction?
Absolutely not!!!  (laughing)  I have complete admiration for people who write great fiction, so I’m going to leave that job to the experts.

If they ever make your book into a movie, who should play the character of Papa?
I think Matthew McConaughy would be perfect.  If not him, it would have to be someone who would come across as strong and  steady, who talked things out clearly – not a James Bond type. Gary Sinese also comes to mind, as does Woody Harrelson.   It could be a great and varied roll for someone to take on.  Surprisingly, my story regularly gets compared to both the TV show “Scandal” and to Navy S.E.A.L.’s Chris Kyle’s story, “American Sniper”.  I appreciate the compliments, but my story is very different.  

Code Name: Papa—My Extraordinary Life while Hiding in Plain Sight is the first in a planned trilogy. John, Sharon, and Abby are currently working on the second book, about Papa’s mentor, Amy.

To learn more, go to: | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Blog Tour: Let There be Linda by Rich Leder

Rich Leder has been a working writer for more than two decades. His screen credits include 18 produced television films for CBS, Lifetime, and Hallmark and feature films for Paramount Pictures, Tri-Star Pictures, and Left Bank Films.

He has written four funny novels: McCall & Company: Workman’s Complication; McCall & Company: Swollen Identity; Juggler, Porn Star, Monkey Wrench; and Let There Be Linda.

He founded Laugh Riot Press as an imprint for his funny books and the funny books of other indie authors.

He has been the lead singer in a Detroit rock band, a restaurateur, a Little League coach, an indie film director, a literacy tutor, a magazine editor, a screenwriting coach, a PTA board member, a commercial real estate agent, and a visiting artist for the University of North Carolina Wilmington Film Studies Department, among other things, all of which, it turns out, was grist for the mill.  He resides on the North Carolina coast with his awesome wife, Lulu, and is sustained by the visits home of their three children.

Leder's black comic thriller tells the tall tale of estranged brothers Mike and Dan Miller—accountant and con-man talent agent respectively—up to their necks in the virtual quicksand of LA's San Fernando Valley during the hottest summer in Southern California history.

The root cause of their problems could be the missing seventy-five thousand dollars, or the sadistic, loan shark dwarf and his vicious giant, or the psycho comedian cop on the case, or the coke-snorting dentist, or the deranged zombie real estate developer. Or perhaps it’s the poodle—the poodle is suspect, no doubt. Or maybe it's the grocery store checker who breathes life into death.
 Oh yes, it could be her too. And so to repair the head-on collision the Millers have made of their personal and professional lives, the brothers summon their mother back from the dead to clean up the wreckage. But what the Miller men discover is that screwing with the laws of nature is a violent, bloody, hysterical, and hilarious idea.

Book Excerpt:  Meet Jenny Stone
  “I’m Danny Miller,” he said, taking the chair next to her,   “President of Miller Talent Agency.” There was a bamboo reception desk, a wicker loveseat, the two chairs, the big mirror, and a fan that made a dying animal noise. There was no receptionist.
  She was sitting, but Danny thought she might be five foot five or so. She had straight-as-string brown hair that was pulled back in a tight ponytail. Her skin was smooth and clear and white, as if she never went out into the Southern California sunshine. She wore zero makeup. No gloss, no eye shadow, no blush. She wore thick black glasses. She was thin, he thought, but he couldn’t really tell what was happening under her blousy blue shirt and gray Catholic-school skirt. She wore knee socks and sensible shoes. She had brown eyes that made him think of coffee. She was younger than him, late twenties. She wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. She was unadorned in every regard. It was as if she were trying not to be here—or anywhere—trying to be unnoticed by any and all. There was no guessing what kind of talent she thought she had.
  “I’m Jenny Stone,” she said in soft voice void of confidence, a voice that in and of itself was trying to be unnoticed. “What do you do, Jenny Stone?” Danny said, putting his hand out.

  She shook his hand and said, “I bring dead people back to life.”

Ask a Question, Win a Signed Book! Email Rich ( any questions you want answered on the Laugh Riot Podcast ( for the chance to win a free signed book! 

You can find Laugh Riot Press on Facebook, or Twitter, or at their website. Rich and his books can be found at his Amazon author page, or on Goodreads