Review of, Adina Donati, Accidental Sleuth (5 book series), by Cassidy Salem

Happy Sunday morning! We’re covered in the white stuff again after a major snow fall that kept the kiddos home on Friday. Oh, by the way, if you’re planning on sending any Christmas cards this way, you might want to hold off until I replace our mailbox.

Looks like we forgot to tip the snowplow driver. 😊 He got three of our neighbor’s mailboxes as well.

Thank goodness for the internet, because I can still post reviews, like this one today.

I know that some of you have taken some time off for the Holidays, so for you and everyone here, I wish you all the best for the Holiday Season!

Here’s the story:

Discovering the body of a friend and colleague was not what Adina Donati had in mind when she moved to Washington D.C. in search of excitement. An administrative assistant at a prestigious think tank, Adina is drawn into the middle of the murder investigation. The police don’t seem to be making much progress until Adina stumbles onto important clues and discovers just how dangerous life in the nation’s capitol can be.

I’m Thinking:

This is the first of a series of five murder/mystery books that feature Adina Donati as the main protagonist. It wasn’t fast paced, more of a gentle story flow with the occasional burst of action. I’d categorize it as a semi-cozy fiction. Not really a thing, I know.

But I’m not always about the action and I really enjoyed the plot and the whodunnit style. There was a fun quality about it; the enticement of two possible romance partners and some office drama. Perhaps many who’ve worked in this type of environment might relate. There’s a good chance I’ll read more of this series.

I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a good mystery, spearheaded by a workaday protagonist.  

Meet Cassidy and grab a copy:

Cassidy Salem has always been an avid reader. She is especially fond of mysteries (both cozy and traditional) and police procedurals. Over the years, her favorite mystery authors have included Agatha Christie, Kathy Reichs, Mary Higgins Clark, and John Grisham. When she’s not reading, she enjoys music and spending time with family and friends, and travels with her husband and son whenever possible. Her travels have taken her to destinations throughout the United States, Europe, and Scandinavia.

A member of Sisters-in-Crime, Cassidy is the author of the Adina Donati Mystery Series, which includes Think Murder, Dying for Data, and Killer Reputation. Cassidy co-authors, together with Christa Nardi, a YA mystery series, which includes The Mysterious Package, Mrs. Tedesco’s Missing Cookbook, The Misplaced Dog, and Malicious Mischief.

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Reviews of Vanished

Happy Friday! I hope everyone’s week has gone well, but if it’s been a long one, may your weekend be longer, and way more fun!

Today I just wanted to post a couple of reviews for, Vanished. For those of you who have already read and reviewed it, my most heartfelt, “Thank you!”

I hope some of you will consider grabbing your copy . . . purchase links are posted below (available in paperback and ebook). Fifty percent of the proceeds from the sales of my book are donated to help victims of human trafficking.

So what’s it about, Bierman?

How about a quick teaser?

Tragedy… heartache… how much more can Tyler Montgomery and John Webster take? This missions trip, the “healing” one, has only added fresh layers of pain. Construction of an orphanage in Haiti’s northwest… yes. But a doomed rescue operation, human traffickers, human anomalies, extreme personal danger… risk of death? They hadn’t signed up for those. Turning their backs on the crisis, however, is unthinkable, it’s just not who they are.

Thank you so much, LaShane Arnett  , Lauren Scott , and Itssandrini for these great reviews!

5.0 out of 5 stars What Kind of Hero Would You Be? – LaShane Arnett

It would seem that on the most basic level of humanity children should be protected, nurtured and loved. It’s a concept most find little to no argument with. But this isn’t always the case. Vanished a debut novel by Mark Bierman is the story of John and Tyler (father and son-in-law) who travel to Haiti to help build an orphanage, and in turn find solace after the recent loss of their wife/daughter.

Things take a turn when the daughter of a friend is kidnapped. The two missionaries from America find themselves quickly learning a harsh reality, children in this poverty stricken part of the world are not safe. Child trafficking is a huge issue. One in which, sadly, the local authorities seem indifferent to. Despite the obvious disadvantages of being in a foreign country and a language barrier, John and Tyler take it upon themselves to find her. They embark on a very exasperating journey with great opposition.

Mark Bierman is very good at creating multiple storylines which read as separate but come together to tell a very well crafted story. One which delves into the scourge of humanity from all angles. I was instantly drawn in (especially with the plight of Janjak). Vanished is fast paced, and heart-wrenching. A very well written journey into the lengths mankind will take to preserve what is right and good in the world, against those who fight just as hard to maintain the evil.

I really love this book, it is an eye opener. It makes one contemplate what they would be willing to do in order to keep their loved ones and society safe. I highly recommend it.

An edge-of-your-seat read! – Lauren Scott

Mark Bierman’s Vanished is a work of fiction, but the story propels us to the scene of the violent 2010 earthquake in Haiti. John, and his son-in-law, Tyler, volunteer to assist with an orphanage months later following the devastation. Their relationship is strongly convincing as they cope with the passing of Tyler’s wife, Joy (John’s daughter). They hope to channel their grief by aiding others, which will help them through the various stages.

Little do they know what lies ahead on their journey. When a little girl disappears out of the blue, John and Tyler are transported into the horrific world of human trafficking and child slavery. Her mother spirals into a frenzy of fear, imagining her daughter’s possible impending plight. These appalling crimes are so common, though, that no effort is enforced to finding this little girl, but morally, John and Tyler can’t just look the other way. They embark on a quest riddled with danger lurking around each corner.

In addition to John and Tyler, supporting characters seize the spotlight, and their stories and struggles are just as intense and page-turning. I was really impressed with the manner in which Mark’s clever writing intertwines all roles. Sympathizing with the abused while loathing the abusers comes effortlessly. Most importantly, holding onto hope with a strong grip is significant as the rescue mission continues. At first, I was reluctant to read this book because of the unthinkable topics. Mark’s novel may be a work of fiction, but the subject matter is not only horrifying and heartbreaking, it’s very real. There are moments in the book where I held my breath, and one scene especially had me feeling a little claustrophobic. Regardless, I couldn’t put this book down because of Mark’s excellent writing and delivery. The story is fast-paced and gripping, an edge-of-your-seat read. I give this book 5 stars. Highly recommended!


5.0 out of 5 stars
 Tense heart rending thought provoking thriller! – Itssandrini

Wow!! Edge of your seat dramatically exciting dark read.
While the book is completely fiction the subject matter of human trafficking is a very real occurrence.
He really brings the plight of these unfortunate people of which most are children to light.
Quite a challenging read as he tells the story of children being snatched up from the streets never to be seen again.
The author takes us to the underbelly of Haiti in The Dominican Republic.
This complex plot takes us on a roller coaster of a ride as the story progresses.
Tyler & John have gone on a mission trip, to Haiti, to help with construction work, on a children’s orphanage.
They put themselves in extreme danger as they get embroiled in a rescue operation for one of the children.
They have no idea what they have got themselves into as they face violence & danger on a whole new other level.
They are principled men & cannot walk away no matter how hard it gets.
This fast paced thrilling read although upsetting & heart rending is a real page turner.
A thought provoking read. 📖
The author also donates 50% of his sales from the book to help agencies that help the victims of human trafficking.

Have I caught your interest?

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Please Welcome Author Lanie Mores @LanieMores

Today I have the privilege of hosting Science Fiction/Fantasy author, Lanie Mores. Lanie also penned the paranormal romance series, Father Of Contention.

Her book, Sea of Forgetfulness, won the Bronze Award in the Fantasy genre category, and Gold for Canada East Region, in the Reader Views Literary Awards!

Today she’s going to give some pointers on how to create monsters for darker tales.

Alright, I’ve prattled long enough, I’ll let Lanie take it from here.

Creating Monsters for Darker Tales

I’d like to thank Mark for inviting me to write a guest post for his blog. Today I’ll be sharing ideas on one of my favorite writing topics…creating monsters for darker tales.

Part of my job as a science fiction and fantasy author is to create blood-curdling, believable monsters to terrorize the characters in my darker tales. Like Dr. Frankenstein stitching together body parts in a lab, I have to piece together the right combination of details to create the perfect monster.

If you’re an author new to the horror, paranormal, thriller, science fiction, or fantasy genres, chances are you’ll be called upon to create creepy characters of your own. Whether it’s a warty witch casting ancient spells, the undead stalking its next meal, aliens abducting humans for research, or artificial intelligence robots taking over the world, your job is to evoke sheer terror in your readers, without regurgitating what’s already out there. So, how do you create monsters so believable that it has your readers checking beneath the bed before going to sleep at night?  

Dig into your darker side.

We all have one. It’s there, lurking beneath the veneer of rainbows and unicorns. For some of us, we don’t even have to dig too deep. Raised on sci-fi and horror films, my dark side is quite shallow. I’ve always been drawn to darker tales. Stephen King is my favourite author, after all…and no one does “dark” better than him. Over the years, repeated exposure to many masters of terror has turned me into a monster aficionado. So, I’ve put together a few tips to help you channel YOUR darker side when creating chilling characters for your stories.

  1. Read

Learn what works and what doesn’t work by reading stories that feature monsters. Which storybook characters terrify you the most? What causes your scalp to tighten and goosebumps to sprout on your arms? What physical characteristics repulse you? Slimy, hairy, or scaly skin? Razor sharp teeth, and claws? Analyze what makes these fictional beasts frightening and then incorporate the characteristics into your own antagonists. Gather ideas and then make them your ownScary TV Shows and Movies

2. Scary TV Shows and Movies

Have you ever watched a show that left you feeling creeped out long after it was over? For me, two movies stand out: Triangle and Sinister. The writers succeeded in creating a new brand of terror to sour your stomach…abstract monsters that are uniquely disturbing.

Whereas creating an original monster is ideal, borrowing from the classics is also a valid monster-building technique as long as you give it a new twist. I just watched the Train to Busan, a South Korean zombie film that took the well-known trope and gave it a new look, body mechanics, and venue that succeeds in horrifying its audience. Make good use of your Netflix subscription and binge watch monster flicks. There’s some great inspiration out there, let me tell you. Watch, learn, write.

3. Resource Books

There’s a plethora of resources to hone your writing skills, including books on how to create the perfect monster. One I use often is by Philip Athans, titled Writing Monsters. This comprehensive book tackles every type of scary monster you can think of, analyzes what makes them truly terrifying, and provides tips on making them as believable as possible. An important aspect it highlights is how to give your monster layers. Where do they come from? What drives them to be evil or destructive? What type of feelings do they evoke…fear, repulsion, pity? Is your monster being used as a metaphor for a grander theme? Answering these questions will give your monsters depth and authenticity.  

Photo by FX Quaro on Shutterstock

4. Your Greatest Fears

What scares you the most? Is it spiders, ghosts, closed spaces, or the dark? Now isolate that fear, build on it, and apply it to your antagonist. If you fear the dark, maybe your monster only comes out at night, like a vampire or werewolf. If you’re claustrophobic, your monster could torment its victims by locking them in a small dungeon, or by tying them up so they can’t move. If you fear drowning, perhaps your monster lives in a lake, dragging its victims below water.

The list of potential fears is long, but I’m sure you get the picture. When you channel your genuine fears, your monsters will become more realistic and petrifying.

5. Creepy Music

Get into the monster making mood by putting on a creepy playlist. Hit up Spotify or another music streaming app and pick through the many disturbing playlists people have compiled. I have my own playing in the background while writing my creepiest stories. You’ll be surprised how it inspires your mind to dig into your dark side. Just listen to the music from the movie Sinister, for example. You’ll be surprised by the dark thoughts it dredges up, and then once they surface, channel them into your monsters for added layers of terror.

You can read all about the monsters I’ve created in my science fiction and fantasy book series, Father of Contention. There is no shortage of beasts to make your hair stand on end. In the first book, Father of Contention, you’re exposed to the dramatic rantings of Lucifer himself. Once he discovers a young soul to possess, a new monster is formed. In the second book, Guardian of Angel, I add in mutants with supernatural abilities. As if that weren’t enough, they are also possessed. Book three, Sea of Forgetfulness, has all of the above plus brain-hungry zombies, bloodthirsty pirates, and the cherry on top…a dragon. Later this summer, I’ll be releasing the fourth book, Gatekeepers of Eden. What kind of monsters have I concocted for this tale? Well, you’ll just have to wait and see.

I hope these tips help you create your own creepy characters. When the time comes to stitch your beast together in the lab, don’t hold back. In my opinion, the creepier, the better!

Meet Lanie Mores

Lanie Mores is the award-winning author of the science fiction and fantasy book series, Father of Contention. An active member of the Canadian Authors Association, she also enjoys writing poetry, and magazine editorials featuring health and wellness. Her passions include fitness, baking, gaming, and binge-reading and watching anything to do with monsters. She lives in Ontario with her family and forever barking fur babies, Batman and Petri.

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Father of Contention Guardian of Angel Sea of Forgetfulness




Welcome to the BLOOD/CRIMSON Blog Tour! @OverbeckRandy @4WillsPub @4WP11 @RRBC_Org

Meet Randy:

Dr. Randy Overbeck is a veteran educator who has served children as a teacher and school leader. For more than three decades, his educational experiences have included responsibilities ranging from coach and yearbook advisor to principal and superintendent and he’s lived the roles of many of the characters in his stories. An accomplished writer, he has been published in trade journals, professional texts and newspapers as well as in fiction, with his third published novel. As a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Dr. Overbeck is an active member of the literary community, contributing to a writers’ critique group, serving as a mentor to emerging writers and participating in writing conferences such as Sleuthfest, Killer Nashville and the Midwest Writers Workshop. When he’s not writing or researching his next exciting novel or sharing his presentation “Things That Go Bump in the Night,” he’s spending time with his incredible family of wife, three children (and their spouses) and seven wonderful grandchildren.

Connect with him:

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Purchase your copy:

Crimson At Cape May-Amazon.com

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Your chance to Win!

(1) e-book copy of BLOOD ON THE CHESAPEAKE or CRIMSON AT CAPE MAY (Winner’s choice)

(1) $10 Amazon gift card

For your chance at winning one of the awesome giveaways above, simply leave a comment below!

Nonfiction is about reality; fiction is about truth.”

Bestselling mystery author, S. J. Rozan, shared these words at a writing conference a few years ago, and this insight struck me. As an author, I argue that one important purpose of memorable fiction is to share the truths about life, love and sometimes even death.

I’m not naïve. I realize readers don’t choose a mystery or a thriller or even a romance because they are searching for insight or revelation. James Patterson is not a bestselling author because of his philosophical outlook on life.

Fiction lovers are not browsing bookshelves in bookstores—okay, checking out Amazon or BookBub listings during the pandemic—because they are searching for the meaning of life. They want to be entertained, to be scared to death, to be drawn in and forget their world, or maybe to fall in love inside the pages of their newest discovery.

But I also believe authors have an important responsibility. First, we need to assemble the essential ingredients to capture readers’ attention—a plausible story line (mostly), credible characters, a setting readers can enjoy, and most important, a compelling narrative. But I also believe if we, as authors, are fortunate enough to command our readers’ attention for hours of their precious time, they should come away with more than just solving the mystery, seeing the bad guy captured or even making their heart race. Fiction should convey a truth, sometimes even a truth that can’t be conveyed via nonfiction—at least not as well.

That’s why, when I wrote each of the ghost stories/mysteries in my Haunted Shores Mysteries series, I attended to the truth part of my novel as diligently as the ghost or mystery part.

For my new release, CRIMSON AT CAPE MAY, the second in the series, I placed my fictional murder at the center of an even greater, very real-world problem. As readers navigate through the mystery and try to solve the whodunit, they also come face to face with the disturbing reality of human trafficking, as the murder and the trafficking become intertwined in the narrative.

On this issue, a few details may illustrate why I felt compelled to center my tale in the ugly world of sex slavery, prostitution, and human trafficking.

  • Officials estimate somewhere near 4.5 million people are caught in the web of human trafficking worldwide.  While most of those sex trafficked in the U. S. come from other countries—principally Eastern Europe, Central America, and the Far East—a great many girls, teens and even younger, from the U.S.  go missing and end up in the sex trade.
  • Based on the best estimates, one out of five female runaways in the U.S. ends up being trafficked, upward from 3000 to 5000 a year or a new teen trapped every 100 minutes!
  • As recent news reports have revealed, manipulation and abuse of trafficked girls is not limited to low level pimps. Notables such as Jeffrey Epstein, Harvey Weinstein, Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, and even Prince Phillip of England have been implicated in human trafficking scandals. 
  • Experts believe an astounding one million children are victims of sex trafficking worldwide.
  • Taken together, there are more people trapped in human trafficking today than at any time in history.

Her is a link to a brief article with some astonishing—and depressing statistics:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/investigations/2019/07/29/12-trafficking-statistics-enormity-global-sex-trade/1755192001/

My hope is that when readers finish CRIMSON AT CAPE MAY,  besides encountering a new, engaging mystery, exploring an interesting and unusual resort location, indulging their romantic impulses, and perhaps even straying a bit into the spirit world, they have a better grasp of the “truth” I’m trying to capture…and maybe a better understanding of the world around them and themselves.

To follow along with the rest of the tour, please visit the authors’ tour page on the 4WillsPublishing site.  If you’d like to book your own blog tour and have your book promoted in similar grand fashion, please click HEREThanks for supporting this author and his work!

‘Fiction in A Flash Challenge 2021.’ Week #32 Entry Part 8) by Mark Bierman @mbiermanauthor #IARTG #WritingCommunity #FlashFiction

Hello everyone and welcome to Author SuzannE Burke’s “Fiction in A Flash Challenge!” Each week She features an image and invites Everyone to write a Flash Fiction, or Non-Fiction, piece inspired by that image in any format and genre of their choosing.  Maximum word count: 750 words. In Addition to running a wonderful Blog, Suzanne has written many exciting books. Please a have a look at her site: Wecome to the world of Suzanne Burke

Here is my contribution to this week’s prompt. Enjoy!

Here is the image prompt 

Sophie hated these woods at night. During the day, they were cheerful. Cicadas played their endless rattle songs in the trees, while black-capped chickadees fed from your hand.

This trail was usually lit by sunlight, its rays marked the path ahead with the promise of a refreshing dip in Potters Lake, or, if you went the other way, the back door of Nanny and Pappy’s cottage. On most afternoons, the smell of fresh baked cookies would reach your nose before the brown walls of the cottage could be seen.

Yes, the daytime was safe time, but not now, out here, in the dark, and with only an old lantern that Pappy had used as a kid . . . now that was old.  

Her teacher, Mr. Palmer, had said darkness was just the absence of light, that everything was the same. She’d love to have that man here, now. If only he could here the thumps, the rustle of branches as they were parted by the claws of who knows what. Sophie tried to ignore them, to keep the lantern pointed only at the path ahead. She was weirdly mad at the lantern for lighting up the edges of path. It showed a pair of glowing eyes that stared at her very soul, before disappearing back into the woods.

Every ounce of her wanted to run back to the cottage. Her desire was increased when she heard the crazy call of something on the lake to her right, just beyond the bushes. Sophie had jumped then . . . had almost dropped the lantern, and then what? Complete darkness!

She felt the gross things squirm at her side; disgusting, slimy, and terrifying. She tried to imagine they were not there. But they were, and the sooner she got to the lake, the sooner she’d be rid of them. Sophie shuddered at the thought of what was to come.

Something grabbed her right sneaker, and she was pulled towards the bush.  A scream was caught in her throat, it wouldn’t do her terror justice, anyways, and who knows what blood thirsty monsters it would attract.

Claws tore at her jacket and snatched her hair. In her panic, she dropped the lantern and it smashed as she fought for her life.

Trees are good for the environment. Not these ones, Palmer, not all trees were good! Some were evil and would grab you . . . these trees kill you! Find that in your stupid Life Science book, Palmer.

Then she was free of them. She raced towards the lake. Scared to death, running like a crazy person down a trail that was almost as dark as her closet. But there was a weird satisfaction that she’d at least ripped off some of their spiny fingers They were still freakishly stuck in her hair, though.

Their angry brothers and sisters tried to stop her, by grabbing at her feet, but she was ready for them, this time. She was an expert dodgeball player. Nimble as a mountain goat, her gym teacher had said. Well, all those games had certainly paid off.

She didn’t have the nerve to get the broken lantern, but the slimy things were still with her. She hated her luck.

A monster screeched in the trees and her feet seemed to float over the path. Up ahead, was the last corner before the lake. Another screech, this time directly overhead, was answered by a bone chilling yodel!

There was nothing for it, no turning back for Sophie. She had a job to do and no self-respecting girl would let it go undone.  

Sophie put her head down, to avoid it being torn off by the screechy thing and raced to the lake. The slimy creatures bounced off her right side, and it felt like every monster from all the horror films she’d ever heard about were after her.

The lake appeared. The job was finished!

“Sophie! What on earth happened to your hair? Are you alright?” Pappy’s worried face looked at her from his boat, that was still tied to the dock.

Sophie ran onto the dock, nearly of breath. It was difficult to speak, but she managed, “I-I’m okay, now.”

She reached into her coat pocket and cringed. Her hand grabbed the carton of those slimy devils. “Here’s the worms we forgot.”  

 “Thanks, Sweetie, that was brave of you to go back in the dark. Especially with all of those roots on the trail. Now, let’s get those twigs out of your hair.”