Khalid Muhammed – Author Of The Day

km - online useGood morning Khalid, thank you for taking the time to answer a few of my questions.

Hello, Lucy. It’s a pleasure to sit down with you.

You were born in Pakistan, but raised in the US and had your education there too. Do you think that allowed for you to be more or less informed about the situation in Pakistan?

Honestly, I think that makes me better informed for a number of reasons.

First, I didn’t study in Pakistan, so I didn’t read the history of the country from politically or religiously biased textbooks. Pakistan’s educational system regularly has its textbooks re-written so that history is portrayed more “favorably” towards the government that is in power. Other than the massive expense of reprinting textbooks, can you imagine learning multiple histories for a country without ever knowing the truth?

Since I grew up outside the country, I had access to a wide range of books about Pakistan, written by Western authors who had no connection to the country, that gave me a better understanding of history. For example, I don’t hold the political view that democracy is good for Pakistan for the simple reason that every democrat has abused Pakistan and then taken exile outside the country to avoid being prosecuted for their crimes. The 1990s, where Agency Rules is set, doesn’t even get into the failed governments that were dismissed for massive corruption and abuse of power, who sought (and got) sanctuary in the US and UK.

Second, I actually know what democracy is supposed to be. In Pakistan, democracy starts and ends with the ballot box. There is no public accountability of the elected members because they don’t meet their constituents. When a person is elected to public office in Pakistan, they build a wall around themselves with police and aides that keep the people away from them. It is not unheard of for a newly elected member of government to have a police entourage of 15 vehicles, not to mention the round-the-clock police security around their homes. Rather than having offices in their constituencies to hear the grievances of the voters, they are forced to travel to provincial capitals, get hotel rooms and pay bribes to aides, just to get five minutes of the “honorable” member’s time. More often than not, the “honorable member” makes some excuse about why they can’t help them and the voter goes home, poorer financially and morally beaten.

Third, I don’t suffer from the problem that every Pakistani has – letting emotion cloud my judgment. In Pakistan, there is no such thing as a civil discussion. There will be yelling, name calling and sometimes fights over how to resolve basic issues because people are loyal to a political party rather than the country itself. I don’t think that way. There are easy ways and difficult ways to solving every problem that Pakistan suffers from, but they require people to give up their political loyalties and stand for the national interest. No one wants to do that. And Pakistan continues to suffer with the basic problems of electricity, health care, education and policing for the past 67 years.

Extending on my first question. Do you think the war on drugs/terrorism has helped Pakistan?

Depends on what you mean by help. For those of us who are pro-Pakistan, the war on terrorism, while difficult and bloody, will save Pakistan in the end. There are parts of our country that believe that the war on terrorism is America’s war, which is just a joke. That is done more to gain sympathies from the conservative, religious voters. In a war where we have lost 70,000 Pakistanis, it’s just as much our war as it is anyone else’s.

Terrorism, as you will read in Agency Rules, started in the 1990s after the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan. The terrorism then was limited in scale meaning that the objectives were different. Post-Soviet withdrawal, many of the mujahideen that fought in Afghanistan returned to Pakistan and the madrassahs where they had been trained. With no formal enemy, they turned their attention to continuing the “Islamization” of Pakistan that was started by General Zia-ul-Haq. This Islamization was widespread and very detrimental to Pakistan because it created new laws that victimized women who were abused, raped or killed, not to mention the whole crop of madrassahs that had popped up all over the country to train mujahids for Afghanistan.

These madrassahs began to support a teaching of Islam known as Wahabism, which is practiced is Saudi Arabia. Wahabism is an extremely strict teaching of Islam that is not practiced anywhere other than Saudi Arabia, but is now being taught in numerous countries because of Saudi “investment” into spreading it around the Muslim world. These madrassahs are now the training ground for terrorism and al-Qaeda.

During the military government of General Musharraf, we saw great in-roads made into the fight against the terrorists, but since Pakistan has returned to democracy, we went from fighting the terrorists to negotiating with them. Actually, negotiating is the wrong word. Since the Nawaz Sharif government has come into power, we have basically given in to their demands, including stopping the military that was weeks away from wiping them off the planet. Nawaz Sharif has long held a special place in his heart for the religious fundamentalists, since his political career was launched by General Zia-ul-Haq, so it is no surprise to those of us who know history that he is “negotiating” with them.

So, to answer your question, it was good for Pakistan until 2011, when this government came into power and decided that it was better to get in bed with the terrorists than fight them for Pakistan.

Can you tell us a bit about the whole situation there, and how it affects you?

I find it quite interesting at times. On one side, we have the Western powers that demand Pakistan be democratically ruled, but have no interest in whether democrats they force on Pakistan are actually doing anything for the people. They are more than happy to provide loans and aid to the country’s most corrupt, knowing full well that the money will end up in Swiss or Cayman Island accounts, thus increasing the burden on Pakistan to repay loans that never helped the people or the country.

On the other side, we have the terrorists supported by Afghanistan, according to a story in the New York Times last year, and Saudi Arabia that are wreaking havoc inside the nation. There are also rumors coming out of the US media that some of the terrorism may be CIA sponsored via a training facility known as Penny Lane near Guantanamo Bay ( Pakistan really is the center of any great spy story, which is why I think Agency Rules will shake some people when they read it. I don’t hide the facts that led to the build-up of where we are today and I don’t think people around the world have any idea what is really going on in Pakistan, other than the 30 second sound bytes they get on their evening news.

Living in Pakistan is hell at times, but I would never leave because it’s home. Just because the house is on fire, doesn’t mean that I leave it to burn. As a Pakistani, I have a responsibility to help put the fire out, whether it be through my writing, speaking engagements or becoming a candidate in the political system. Pakistanis can’t continue to run from the country thinking that someone else will sort it out for them, which has been the case for decades. We need to stay here and fight for what is ours, otherwise it won’t be ours anymore.


Moving on to a lighter subject, is there any food or beverage that is a constant factor in either your books or life?

In life, it’s pizza, burgers and Pepsi. These were the basic staples of life for me when I was in the US and I have kept them since my return about 17 years ago. Granted, I can’t get a deep-dish Chicago style pizza in Karachi, but I make a mean burger at home.

In my book, food is secondary. Since it is Pakistan, I have kept the local cuisine wrapped in the story. The bulk of the story is set in Peshawar, which is famous for its meat dishes from Chicken Karahi to chapli kebab. The Pukhtoons, Pathans as some might know them, love to eat meat.

What is your favourite dish and can you give me the recipe?

My favorite dishes are mutton chops and chapli kebab. Both are quite easy to make, but mutton chops take some patience.

peshawari-chapli-kababTo make chapli kebab, you need a kilo of ground beef, 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped tomato, some dried pomegranate seeds, a pinch of parsley, dill and paprika. You can add red and green chili to your own taste. Mix it all together in a large mixing bowl and make a patty about the size of your hand. Now, here’s the hard part.

You can’t flat fry a chapli kebab in a fry pan. It has to sit flat on a layer of ghee (lard). Where we get chapli kebab in the market, they are fried in a large round pan that is tilted at a 35˚ angle, to give you that layer. Take a very good helping of ghee (available at your favorite Indian store) and drop it into the pan. Make sure you let it melt completely and get very hot. Take the chapli kebab that you made, place it onto the pan where there is no oil and slide it gently into the oil. You don’t flip it over, just take a large spatula and flip the oil like you would for a sunny side up egg. When it’s nicely browned, it’s done. Serve with naan and a mint chutney.

What is the title of the book you would like to talk about, and can you give us a small taster of it?



Agency Rules takes the reader through the timeline from the 1990s to today and the war on terror in Pakistan. Agency Rules – Never an Easy Day at the Office, is the first installment of the series and starts the story in the 1990s, with a young Kamal Khan. Kamal is a sniper by training and gets admission to the ISI Academy to become an intelligence officer in the feared Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). His first mission is to infiltrate a madrassa that intelligence says is connected with jihadi activities. And that’s where the story begins.

It’s a wild ride and a brutally honest look at Pakistan before the war on terror, from the citizens to the politicians and everyone in between. This is the first in the series of four, so it sets the foundation for where the story will take the reader in the second book, due out in December.

Did you have difficulty coming up with the title?

Actually, I didn’t. I have been thinking about this book for a while now. I wrote a novella with the same name, but never published it, even though I had a publisher interested. I wasn’t happy with the overall feel of the novella so I re-wrote the whole thing as a novel and then planned out the series.

Is there anything you don’t like about being an author? And what do you think is the advantage of being one?

I quite enjoy being an author. It allows me to let my imagination go crazy and let the group of voices in my head come out on paper. There were times when they drove me crazy, now they just drive me to write.

The advantage is being able to tell a story that no one else can. People will write about Pakistan until their arms fall off, but they will never get it all, nor will they get it right. There are hundreds of dynamics, thousands of players and millions of threads to this country’s story, you can’t just pull one and think, “this is the right one.” You have be one of us to write about us. Otherwise, it’s second hand information, headlines from the newspaper and personal observations. That’s not Pakistan’s story … it’s yours.

What do you do marketing wise and what do you think generates the most attention to your books?

I spent a lot of time on digital media from twitter and Facebook to my author website. Granted, since I am a marketer by profession, I have a good grasp on how to use the channels to deliver results, but I can’t get people to buy a book unless they understand the premise. I think that is why I write so much and do interviews about the book, people need to understand that this isn’t an India-Pakistan or Pakistan-US story. This is Pakistan from cover to cover. We don’t leave the country once and we never get a pat on the back. It’s the beginning of a war.

The most successful part of my marketing has been the reviews that readers have written. I can tell you how great the book is, why you should read it and the understanding that you will gain from it, but that doesn’t come anywhere near the impact of a reader saying – “must read.” The book has gotten great reviews from almost everyone that has read it, and continues to shock people that are reading it for the first time.

Can you tell me something none has ever heard before from you? Hehehe, I just love those little dirty secrets, real or make believe. 🙂

Murder is easy, so is the guilt. The hard part is hiding the body.

Eeeps! Khalid, that sounds ominous. 🙂 Thank you for being here and taking the time to explain all of this about your home country.

Thanks for having me for this interview. It was a pleasure to speak to your readers about Agency Rules and Pakistan. Hopefully, I have been able to generate some interest for you all to pick it up.

It certainly got me interested. Who of you readers have an idea about this region and has found themselves wrong after reading a book, or article?


Karen Brueggeman – Author Of The Day

karenHi Karen, thanks for taking the time to answer a few of my questions.

Where did your love of writing came from?

Good question….from a young age, I always found that I loved how writing allowed me to escape into many different and exciting worlds. I could create anything and I enjoyed taking these trips into fantasy land. I would create these stories and then act them out with my friends.  It was so much fun and our stuff animals usually played the fantasy type characters. 🙂   As I grew older, and playtime was eliminated, I realized that I could help others enjoy the wonderful world of fantasy land. One of my teachers further encouraged this when she wrote on my paper, “Good job. You have a future in writing.”

Do you think children should be stimulated not only to read, but to write as well?

I believe that reading does help to stimulate kids, but it’s the act of writing that allows them to create their own fantasies.  I think every child should be encouraged to not only read, but to write their own story as well.  I had my daughter, who was 10 at the time, co author our first book, “Fruzzle’s Mystery Talent.”  I noticed when children write they are limitless and that this fosters creativity. I highly recommend every child to read for pleasure but to also write their own adventure.

What do you think can be done about illiteracy on a global scale?

That’s a hard question, as unfortunately in many areas the resources aren’t available.  I think it’s great though that as a country, we support giving books and resources to kids as well as adults. I, for one, am more than happy to donate as well and have given many schools copies of my book,to encourage reading. I think another thing that will help is to get more books in children’s hands in their native language.

What is your idea of an ideal holiday?

For me, my ideal holiday is one that I can spend with my family and of course it needs to involve eating.  🙂  I think we should have a day where everyone gets together with their families and share different books they have read.  I love learning about new authors and am always looking for something new and exciting to read.

Is there any food or beverage that is a constant factor in either your books or life?

Not in my book, but yes in my life.  I love Italian food, especially pasta. I also love steak, as long as its hardly cooked. Yummy, now this is making me hungry.
eat heart

What is your favourite dish and can you give me the recipe?

My favorite dish is Lasagna and I am more than happy to give you the recipe, although you probably already have it. I make it similar to the way most people make it, minus the ricotta cheese.  I’m not a big fan of that.  I make up for it though with extra mozzarella cheese and sauce.

Well, I shall await that recipe then, because there’s as many variations to this dish as there are cooks. 🙂

But what is the title of the book you would like to talk about, and can you give us a small taster of it?

Gladly, it’s “Fruzzle’s Mystery TalentFruzzle's cover 7x10 (400),” and it’s a story about this little brown critter (Brown Fruzzle) who is struggling to discover his special talent. Aided by Wizard Fruzzle, Brown goes on a journey of self-discovery to uncover what he is best at in life. Poor little Brown tries everything and isn’t very successful until….well, I don’t want to spoil the ending. 🙂 Just know it has a happy ending and it teaches kids to never give up and other important life lessons.
 Here’s an excerpt of it:
 “Most of us are not as fast as Zippy, but we all have our special talent.”
 Brown looks discouraged.
“Don’t give up. We’ll just try something else,” said Wizard.

Did you have difficulty coming up with the title?

Sometimes yes, I am working on the next few Fruzzle books and am tossing around many title ideas.  I try to stay consistent with the word Fruzzle first, but it does cause some really deep thinking as I like my titles to be perfect.  With “Fruzzle’s Mystery Talent,” my daughter said, “I like that his talent is a mystery,” and the title was born from her words of inspiration.

What do you do marketing wise and what do you think generates the most attention to your books?

I do the standard social media stuff and have had some success with that. I also give away bookmarks and books to schools and have found that to be very successful as well.  I will be doing some fairs soon and look forward to seeing how that goes.

Would you be able to come up with a credible excuse why you haven’t written a whole day? Remember, I have to believe it!

This one is going to be hard because I love to write and hate to lie, but for me my best excuse would be I couldn’t write because my kids needed my attention, which does happen a lot.  However, it is a great distraction. 😉

And finally, can you tell me something none has ever heard before from you? I love those little dirty secrets, real or make believe. 🙂

Dirty Secret, um…so sorry none here.  Oh wait, you send I could make one up.  Okay, don’t tell anyone, but I’m a superhero. I write during the day and fight crime at night.  😉  Oh and I usually get asked about how I came up with the idea for my book. I wish I could take credit on this one too, but the book was born after my daughter (Briana) was helping one of her friends who felt like she wasn’t good at anything.  I watched her help her and thought how many other kids deal with this same problem.  I am a big advocate of helping kids and knew I could help. That same day, I started writing, “Fruzzle’s Mystery Talent.”  I am happy to report that many children have told me that my book have helped them with this same issue.

Thank you Karen, for giving us the Fruzzles. If the readers want to follow, find or befriend you online, where can they find you?

Sara Brooke – Author of the Day

Sara Serious Author colorToday Sara Brooke is here to introduce herself and her newest release. There is no time for a full on feature today, so let’s not waste any time.

Hi Sara, what can you tell us about yourself?

I am a lifelong avid reader of all things scary. My childhood dream was to write books that force readers to sleep with their lights on.

My first novel, Still Lake, was released Spring 2012.

The biggest influences and favorite authors for me include Bentley Little and John Saul.

I am presently working on my next novel and upcoming documentary film.

What is the book you would like to tell us about today?

Sunken Park, my latest release. Let me tell you in short what it’s about. Sit back and enjoy. 🙂


Some places are bad to the core. 

Behind the locked gates of Sunken Park, there is a terrible secret that spreads darkness over the once-natural beauty of the trees and lakes. 

There is an evil that is powerful and hungry, seeking to extract its revenge on anyone who dares to tread on its land. 

Looking for some rest and relaxation, several college students decide to spend the weekend at the park. But they’re about to walk into a nightmare that will affect each of them differently. As they struggle to survive, the mystery begins to unravel. 

There’s no place to hide from the horrors of Sunken Park. 


Featured Author – Diane Adams Taylor

Adams_Diane-2Today Diane Adams Taylor is my guest. She’s here to talk about teaching, writing, and love.

Hi Diane, thanks for taking the time to answer a few of my questions.

Being a lecturer what is the most un-writerly thing you had to teach your students?

The weird phrase heard round the world after timed testing “Students, put down your pencils please and hand in your work whether you have double checked it or not.” This is a very stupid thing for someone trying to teach any subject but especially writing to say. The student may well be in the middle of the greatest words ever written.

Everyone knows I don’t do religion, but I do believe there’s more than this daily life, how do you feel about that?

I do not believe in religion (especially organized religion) but I do believe in spirituality – that is that we have come from a Source greater than ourselves. This Source does not judge us, we judge ourselves as to whether or not we have more lessons to learn in our lifetimes. We choose to come back to this earth (or other equal plains of existence) in many reincarnations in order to become the best we can be. We must learn to totally love ourselves so that we can ascend to a higher existence. Karma exists but it is the balancing of negatives and positives – the person has to decide before they return to another lifetime what needs to be balanced as balance is needed to fully ascend to a higher level as well. Lots of my spiritual thoughts are included in both my two published works, Circles in Time and The Healer of Wounded Souls.

Both sound like titles I would want to read, especially knowing your view on reincarnations. After such a heavy subject it’s time for something light.

Is there any food or beverage that is a constant factor in either your books or life?

Coffee, chocolate and wine are constant factors in both my books and my life. Hard to say which is my favorite but chocolate would probably win out.

What is your favourite dish and can you give me the recipe?

My favorite dish is one I borrowed from a restaurant in Ohio and figured out how to make. It is called Chicken en croute as I recall.



Take a chicken breast (boneless & skinless) and butterfly it without cutting through so as to make a pocket

Grill or brown chicken in olive oil in skillet

When chicken loses it pink color, let it cool

Mix softened cream cheese with scallions, parsley & basil (or just use herbed cream cheese)

Fill center of chicken breast with herbed cream cheese

Separate phyllo dough and wrap two-three pieces around stuffed chicken breast

Fold over dough and brush some melted butter over the top

Bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes or until the phyllo dough is a golden brown

Melt red raspberry preserves in a saucepan with a little orange juice until warm (consistency should be thin)

Place baked chicken in phyllo dough on plate and drizzle with raspberry preserves

Looks great, heart healthy and tastes fabulous

What is the title of the book you would like to talk about, and can you give us a small taster of it?

My newest book is called The Healer of Wounded Souls and here is a small taste of it. You can also read the first chapter free on my website at

cover WoundedSouls


Hope Evans is a dedicated nurse with a passion for healing others and she uses these talents while working in a large metropolitan hospital. She believes she has a near perfect existence until a drunken driver, speeding through a stop light, changes life as she knows it forever.

Standing next to her now broken body, Hope watches as emergency medical personnel try valiantly to revive her. She feels someone tap her shoulder and turns to meet a beautiful angel waiting to escort her to her new home on the Other Side. As preparations are made to begin her life review, Hope is introduced to various spiritual advisors who present her with an unexpected dilemma. She must choose to end her life or return to earth to become a healer of those who suffer from various wounds – physical, mental, emotional as well as spiritual.

She elects to return to earth to determine how best to serve others. During her journey of discovery, support arrives in the form of a former Army military intelligence pilot as well as a rescued German shepherd dog. Together they team up to help wounded warriors – those young people who sacrificed much in the service of their country.

Not everyone is happy that Hope has been granted the ability to heal wounded warriors and she finds that her efforts are often thwarted. Many obstacles present themselves in the form of bombings, kidnappings, and attempts on her life as well as the lives of those who assist her. Who is to blame for all this trouble? Could it be fanatic terrorist groups who have pledged to destroy the United States? Or is it a government agency jealous of her proven abilities? Or will she discover it is the military with orders coming from the highest level of the Department of Defense attempting to stop her?

In this suspense-filled novel, Hope must confront and overcome her enemies or forever forego her commitment to be The Healer of Wounded Souls.

Did you have difficulty coming up with the title?

No, actually I have to come up with the title before I can write any of my books – I know, kind of weird, right? I also like to focus on social issues while adding a spiritual twist. In my first book, the social issue was domestic violence, in this book, wounded warriors. I am working on a third book, A Handful of Sand and the social issue will deal with sexual trafficking.

What do you do marketing wise and what do you think generates the most attention to your books?

I think that I do quite a bit of marketing – blog interviews, like this one, writing my own blog, social media in Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and so on. I write for an on-line newspaper on topics for parents for children with disabilities. I write for an on-line magazine and do short stories for it. I keep my website up to date and do book signings as well as presentations. I think that my website with chapters of my books available for free is probably my best marketing strategy. The other one I would say is word of mouth. I just received a message on Facebook from someone in San Francisco who got a recommendation to read my books and she wrote to tell me how much she enjoyed both of them.

Would you be able to come up with a credible excuse why you haven’t written a

whole day? Remember, I have to believe it!

Okay, how about this? Aliens invaded my house, took over my computer, tied my hands behind my back and duck-taped my mouth so I could not speak. They also stuck me to a chair with gorilla glue and I was forced to watch the Kardashians all day as punishment for writing the world’s greatest novel.

Hahaha, yeah I can imagine that would stop you from writing. Now shoot your mouth off. Tell me whatever you want the blab about. Make me laugh, or cry, or even envious. Tell me something none has ever heard before from you. Hehehe, I just love those little dirty secrets, real or make believe. 🙂

I am going to Hawaii in June with the love of my life. We met over forty-five years ago, fell in love and were going to marry but I screwed things up and we parted (my fault, not his). About a year ago we reconnected. He has been divorced once after a 25 year marriage with three daughters and soon to be seven grandchildren. I have been divorced once (after a 9 year marriage) with one daughter from that marriage and one grandson. I was also widowed once (after a 20 year marriage) and no children. The love of my life and I both still had feelings for each other even after 40 years. We decided to see if we could re-kindle our relationship. Good news is we have fallen in love all over again and we plan to move in together once we return from our long overdue honeymoon. How is that for a love story that spans nearly five decades?

That is amazing! It’s worth a novel, what a great story. 🙂 Thanks for sharing this with us. Now let me tell the readers they can find you online.

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Featured Author – Amelie Jahn

111 - Retouch

Hi Amalie, thanks for taking the time to answer a few of my questions.

First of all, are you a planner, or a go-with-the-flow kind of person and how does that translate to your daily life?

I’m a planner. I have to-do lists for my to-do lists. I drive my family crazy because we have to have a “plan” for the day. Where are we going? What are we doing? I plan out our meals weeks in advance. Some days I schedule so many things that it’s planned to the minute. One thing gets backed up, the whole day is shot. It’s stressful but to NOT plan is even more stressful for me. I like my routines. I like to know what’s coming and what I’m up against so I can be prepared.

Would you be able to write a successful short story?

Perhaps. I’m a beginning, middle, end kind of girl. I like things wrapped up tidy with a bow. All three of my manuscripts are full length novels and I love the challenge of having enough content to carry a substantial plot. I don’t know if I could ever fit everything I want to say into a short story! Maybe I should try!

On any given day would you daydream or do?

DO. I’m a doer. No daydreaming here. I don’t have time for that. I have too much living to do and frankly, you just never know when your time might run out.

Is there any food or beverage that is a constant factor in either your books or life?

In my life, there is chocolate. No question. I treat myself with two chocolate squares every single night as long as I’ve successfully kept everyone I’m in charge of alive for the day. Haven’t missed a night yet!

What is your favourite dish and can you give me the recipe?

I am not a cook. I am not a baker. So I guess it’s a good thing I’m a writer. I do make dinner for my family every night, but I won’t say that it’s something they enjoy!! To this end, I am partnering with a friend of mine who happens to be a chef and we are collaborating on a cookbook together this summer. She will be doing the cooking. I will be doing the writing. When it’s published, I am happy to share her recipes!

Great! Don’t forget this promise, you hear?

What is the title of the book you would like to talk about, and can you give us a small taster of it?

Shrouded Cover My Light Bulb 4 - Just Front No WhiteSure, it’s Among the Shrouded and it’s my first attempt at new adult fiction After writing The Clay Lion, which was YA, I had the idea for a paranormal suspense novel to spread awareness about human trafficking. I love for my readers to learn something about themselves or the world when they pick up my work and I felt that this was a story that needed to be told.

Did you have difficulty coming up with the title?

Only sort of. I wanted a title that reflected Mia’s ability to see people’s auras, which she describes as being “shrouded” in light or dark. I also wanted to speak to the fact that human trafficking is a part of our society that is ignored, and very often, hidden in plain sight.

Is there anything you don’t like about social media as an author?

I’m sure there is, but honestly, the camaraderie I’ve found with other authors and the insight I’ve gained from their experience far outweighs any negative aspects.

What do you do marketing wise and what do you think generates the most attention to your books?

I do some tweeting. I’ve been featured on a few blogs. I’ve been selected by Amazon for a couple promotions which have gone quite well. Other than that, I just try to put out a quality product.

Would you be able to come up with a credible excuse why you haven’t written a whole day? Remember, I have to believe it!

Yes. I honestly do go days at a time without writing. I am training now for an Ironman Triathlon on April 19. I’ve been training since November and it takes up quite a bit of time. Sometimes 3-4 hours a day. Along with raising a family and other commitments, sadly, writing is often the last item on my never ending to-do list.

Okay, now that we have the mandatory questions out of the way, shoot your mouth off. Tell me whatever you want the blab about. Make me laugh, or cry, or even envious. Tell me something none has ever heard before from you. hehehe, love those little dirty secrets, real or make believe. 🙂

When I wrote The Clay Lion, it was in response to the news that a little girl named Lauren (who happened to be a very good friend of my daughter) had been diagnosed with leukemia. I knew Lauren and her older sister Hailey (who would eventually be her bone marrow donor) were extremely close. I tried to imagine what it would be like for Hailey if Lauren should ever die. It’s the age old question of what to do if you could go back in time and change just one thing. The story of Brooke and Branson was my way of honoring their sibling love. Sadly, Lauren passed away this past October, which came as a crushing blow to all of us. I hope that Lauren, wherever she is, would be proud of the story I told.

That is sad news, but I hope she had a good last time after her bone marrow donation and died in peace. I want to thank you for sharing this with us and end this interview with an excerpt of Among The Shrouded, for those that got curious.

 Among The Shrouded

Mia looked through the one-way glass into the room of men. Each was of similar height and build, about five and a half feet tall and moderately overweight. She had spent so much of her life looking into the lineup room that by the time she officially became a part of the police force, she had been given her own spot. There was a sign taped to the wall of the room. It read, ‘Stay out of Mia’s spot.’
She had begun coming to the lineup room just after her seventh birthday, several years after she revealed her gift to her father, the Chief of Police, Carlos Rosetti.
“Who do you think did it?” her partner Jack whispered.
She wrinkled her nose and squinted, pushing closer to the glass in front of her.
“I don’t know exactly. Two have dark auras, but one of them is darker than the other. He’s probably our guy. Whatever he’s done is recent.” She didn’t take her eyes off the possible suspects as the door to the lineup viewing room opened.
“Ma’am,” Jack said to the elderly woman who joined them in front of the window, “I need you to look carefully and tell me which of these men you think you saw breaking into your home on the night of the 17th.”
The woman hesitated, scanning the row of men before her.
“The second one, there on the left. I believe that’s him,” she responded at last.
“Okay. I’ll mark him down,” Jack said. Then he spoke into the call box. “Send in the next group.”
He escorted the elderly woman out of the room and returned with a middle aged man in a well-tailored suit.
“Good morning, Mr. Franklin,” Jack said, shaking the man’s hand. “All I need you to do is take a look at the next group that will be arriving and let me know if you see who was vandalizing the storefront on the night in question. Take your time. There’s no need to rush.”
In the adjacent room, the line of short, fat men filed out and another group shuffled in. The men in the second lineup were just over six feet tall with thin, muscular physiques.
She gasped audibly, causing both men to turn. Jack raised an eyebrow in her direction.
“It’s nothing,” she remarked. “I was just clearing my throat.”
The men turned back to the lineup and she remained silent for the remainder of the process, although she was unable to take her eyes from the last man in the row. He was attractive, almost strikingly so, but his face could not hide a sadness lurking just beneath the surface. However, it wasn’t the man’s features she found so alarming. For her, there was something even more unusual about the man.
Mr. Franklin quickly identified who he believed to be the vandal and was immediately ushered from the room.
Once they were alone, Jack could no longer curb his curiosity.
“What’s the matter? Did he pick the wrong guy?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” she responded, still unable to comprehend what she had just seen.
“You don’t know?” he said incredulously.
“No, Jack. I don’t know,” she replied, her voice rising.
“Why don’t you know? You never ‘don’t know.’”
She paused, chewing at her nail. “One of the men. I couldn’t see his aura.”
“Why not?” he asked. “Was there a glare? Is it too bright in here?”
“No,” she replied, shaking her head incredulously, “he just didn’t have one.”
“How could he not have one? Everyone has an aura. That’s what you’ve always said.”
Instead of responding to her partner, she turned on her heel and left the room without further explanation. The door slammed behind her and she nervously scanned the hallway for the lineup detective, Peter Winchester. She spotted him coming around the corner at the far end of the hall.
“Pete! Hold up! I have to talk to you,” she shouted.
Pete stopped walking and headed back down the hall in her direction.
“The last group…” she began.
“The vandal?” he interrupted.
“Yeah. Do you have the list of participants with you?”
He handed her the clipboard from under his arm. She scanned the list. “Who was on the end? The last one?”
“Uh, he’s here,” he said pointing to a name on the chart. “Thomas Pritchett. He was a plant though. He just signed up to be designated as a regular. Do you think something’s up with him? You know we get a lot of trash walking in here looking to make a quick buck.”
She paused. “No. Nothing like that. I thought he looked a lot like an old classmate of mine, but I guess not. Thanks, Pete,” she said, unwilling to disclose the truth about her inquiry.
“No problem. Anyway, have a good weekend, Mia. I have tomorrow and Sunday off. First time in months,” he said.
“Have fun,” she replied absently as she headed in the opposite direction, down the hall toward her office.
She was grateful to be alone as she sat at her desk, and hoped Jack would be occupied elsewhere in the station for a while. She held her head in her hands, trying to understand why she had been unable to see Thomas Pritchett’s aura. For the first time in over twenty years, her confidence in her ability was shaken. She recalled the only other time in her life when the validity of what she saw had been brought into question.
The auras had been a part of her life for as long as she could remember. For many years as a child, she had wrongly assumed that everyone saw the world as she did, with each person surrounded by a veil of light or dark. In the beginning, she didn’t know what the difference represented.
When she was four, her mother had taken her to visit her father at the police station for the first time. Until that point in her life, she had only seen people with auras that were light. There were some that were considerably dimmer than others but everyone she had come into contact with had radiated some form of light. However, as they had entered the building that fateful day, an officer had walked past her escorting a man in handcuffs. The detainee was cursing and screaming as he was being lead into the booking area. She was shocked to see his aura had no light and instead he appeared to be shrouded in a veil of darkness.
She had immediately questioned her mother about what she had seen and repeatedly asked what had happened to the man’s light.
“Good girls don’t make up stories or tell lies,” her mother had scolded her as she swatted her on the bottom for being an embarrassment and causing a scene.
That night, she had trouble falling asleep. From under her blankets she had laid awake listening to her mother and father arguing about her outburst at the station. Her mother had been convinced Mia was either possessed by an evil spirit or she had some kind of psychiatric disorder requiring immediate medical attention. Her father, on the other hand, felt a 4-year-old could not be trusted to tell the truth and that her outburst had simply been the result of an overactive imagination.
At some point, no longer able to listen to their fighting, she had crept down the stairs and joined her parents in the dim light of the kitchen. That night, she understood for the first time her parents did not see what she saw. They were unable to see the auras. She realized no one could. She tried in vain to explain to them how everyone appeared to her, bathed in a wash of luminosity, but they did not understand. It would be many years until her father would open his mind to the promise of her gift. Sadly, her mother would never come to accept there were parts of the world that were beyond her understanding.
Mia was roused from her thoughts by a presence in the room. “Jack said I might find you in here,” said Major Rosetti from the doorway.
“Hi, Dad,” she smiled.
“He said something spooked you. What’s going on?”
After she revealed her gift to him, her father eventually accepted and embraced her unique view of the world. However, he had always encouraged her to keep her visions private so others would not be able to take advantage of her abilities. Out of respect and love for him, she had done just that, sharing her secret with only a handful of people in her life.
“One of the plants in the lineup, this guy named Thomas Pritchett… I couldn’t read him. He had no aura.”
“Is that unusual?” her father asked.
“In twenty-four years, I’ve never seen a person without an aura. So yeah, it’s unusual.”
Rosetti sat in the chair at Jack’s desk and ran his fingers through his thinning hair.
“So you saw a kid without an aura? So what? So that’s it for the day? Pack it in?”
“No, Dad. No. I’m fine. I’m working on my case load. It’s just… I don’t know. I thought I had this thing all figured out. The light, the dark, the shades and variations. But this? This nothing? It’s new. I don’t do well with new,” she said, looking at her father solemnly across the room.
He rose to stand behind her, giving her shoulders a gentle squeeze and planting a kiss on the top of her head. “I’m sure you’ll be fine, my Mia. You always rise to the occasion. I’ve got one more meeting this afternoon about the new commissioner’s visit next week and then I’m headed home. Give your grandmother a call if you get a chance sometime and don’t stay too late, okay?” he said as he headed out the door. “Love you.”
“Love you too, Dad,” she said, shaking her head and smiling at his ability to brush her concerns aside so easily.
She filled out several forms to close out her cases from the week and was slipping on her jacket when Jack appeared in the doorway.
“Heading out?” he asked.
“Yeah. You?”
“Not yet. I still have to log the evidence inventory from the assault in Fells Point on Tuesday. What a mess that’s been. It’s always the drunk guys, right?” he laughed, winking at their inside joke.
“Always the drunk guys,” she confirmed.
“You okay? About earlier? The lineup?”
“I’m fine. It just took me by surprise.”
“I’m sure it was a fluke. See you in the morning,” he called as she headed into the hallway.
“Bright and early,” she said.
She left the station and drove to the apartment in Parkville she shared with her best friend Chelsea. The two had grown up living across the street from one another, and she had always been drawn to her because of the brightness of her light. Chelsea radiated goodness and she found herself inexplicably drawn to people with the brightest auras. So although their lives had taken different paths career wise, she found she functioned better with Chelsea in her day to day life, especially considering the darkness she was surrounded by at work. After graduating from the police academy, she had reconnected with Chelsea, who had spent four years earning her degree in education. The plan was for them to share an apartment for a while, until they both established themselves financially. Two years later, they were still living together. She was excited to see Chelsea’s subcompact parked in front of their building as she pulled into the parking lot.
“Rough day?” she asked as Mia came through the door and tossed her sidearm and belt on the table.
“Not until the end. But we caught the jerk that beat those women behind the loading docks, so that was good. How about you?”
“I had three IEP meetings this afternoon and not a single parent showed up. I don’t know how I’m supposed to help these kids singlehandedly. It’s pretty bad when I can’t even get the parents to show up. Makes me sick for the kids,” Chelsea said as she pulled a bottle of wine and two glasses from the cabinet. “So what happened at the end of the day?”
“Nothing really. There was just this guy in a lineup…”
“A guy?” Chelsea asked, raising an eyebrow in her direction.
“Yes. A guy,” she replied, rolling her eyes at her friend. “It was nothing. He was just… unusual.”
“Unusual like ‘I’m in a trailer for a horror flick’ way or unusual ‘I’m totally interesting and you should get to know me’ kind of way?”
“Neither. What are you doing tonight?” she asked in an attempt to change the subject.
“Nothing. I’m beat. Tyler is working late, so he won’t be over. I picked up a movie if you want to watch it with me.”
“Yeah. Let’s do that. Let me change and I’ll help with dinner.”
She spent the rest of the evening trying desperately to forget about Thomas Pritchett and his missing aura, but her mind kept wandering back to him. She wasn’t sure if it was the missing aura or the sadness she saw in the lines of his face, but she was convinced there was more to him than met the eye.

Let me just say that this book is available on Amazon, and so is The Clay Lion.