Monday, September 29, 2014

Introducing Tai Randolph

*This post is part of a Meet My Character bloghop. I was invited by the talented mystery novelist James Montgomery Jackson, whose character Seamus McCree is featured on Writers Who Kill (you can find that post HERE). At the end of this post, you will find the links to Mary Anne Edwards and her POV character.

And now, please meet my protagonist, Tai Randolph — an almost-thirty caramel blonde with a new job, a new hometown, a new man, and a penchant for trouble. She's smart, aggressive, tattooed, and Southern all the way to the middle. So . . . I'll let Tai take it from here.

You want me to introduce myself? Really?

I mean, I’m glad to share — nobody’s ever accused me of being shy — but most people ask about Trey. What’s it like having a former SWAT-cop boyfriend? Does he ever let you drive the Ferrari? What kind of gun does he carry?

For the record, he packs an immaculately maintained Heckler and Koch P7M8, and I am almost as good as he is with it. I have yet to drive the Ferrari, however —  he gets nervous palpitations at the thought. And it is utterly awesome having a boyfriend with Special Ops skills, especially since he’s willing to teach me the tricks of the trade. Like how to perform a Krav Maga takedown or hit center mass with a .38 revolver. Trey is a challenge (and I’m not just talking about his brain rearrangement either) but he’s totally worth it. And I’d say that even if he didn’t have those gorgeous blue eyes.

I’m finally beginning to get my bearings in my new hometown. Atlanta is a sprawling maze of construction, still smarting from the beatdown General Sherman handed it during the Civil War. It’s often stubbornly quaint — every other street is called Peachtree Something-Or-Other ­— but you’d better conjure up some NASCAR mojo if you want to survive the freeways. Plus there’s money here — old money, new money, dirty money.
My days are pretty routine, assuming there are no fresh corpses on the ground (don‘t laugh — this happens to me far more often than the law of averages should allow). I am the half-owner and sole proprietor of Dexter’s Guns and More, in Kennesaw, a small city north of the metro area where every head of household is required by law to own and maintain a firearm. I kid you not. Georgia's enthusiasm for firearms is good for business, but it does create a certain . . . havoc. Let's call it havoc.

The “more” in the shop’s name refers to the Civil War antiques and replica re-enactment gear that I sell. I inherited it from my Uncle Dexter, who left it to me and my brother Eric, a corporate psychologist who lives in Atlanta but who wants nothing to do with it. He refers to my career as “arms merchant for anachronistic rednecks.” He says this as if it’s an insult.

Anyway, most of my working hours are spent in the shop working on ATF paperwork and trying to keep the books in the black. My customers come from all walks of life — hunters, cops, stay-at-home moms —  but the largest slice of the client demographic belongs to Confederate re-enactors. One of my favorite tasks is tracking down authentic Civil War-era weapons and accessories for them. Especially underwear. I have a proprietary source who makes the finest circa-1860 reproduction long johns in the Southeast.

After work, I kick back at Trey’s place in Buckhead, watch the Midtown lights come out from his thirty-fifth floor balcony. And if he’s off being Mr. Corporate Security Agent, I hang with Rico, my best friend from way back. Our nights aren’t quite as wild as they were growing up together in Savannah —  we’re both semi-responsible adults now — but nobody keeps me grounded quite like Rico.

Well, there’s Garrity. Detective Garrity, Trey’s former partner and slightly-estranged best friend. That man has a heart as big as Stone Mountain, but he’s got a temper as fiery as his hair. I can usually find him on the shop's doorstep, lecturing me at length on why I shouldn’t tamper with official investigations, question suspicious people, or use the phrase “life or death” around Trey.

My new life keeps me on my toes, that’s for sure. If I had more time, I’d tell you about the reticulated python or the KKK sniper or the freaking tornado that chewed up the Confederate cemetery just down the road from me. Rico says I should write a book. I might . . . as soon as things calm down. Which isn’t looking likely, unfortunately.
*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *
(A previous version of this post appeared at Dru's Book Musings. You can find that HERE, along with Tai's second visit to Dru's page, which you can find HERE.)

Visit other mystery authors also introducing their characters:

A Good Girl: A Charlie McClung Mystery by Mary Anne Edwards

For Charlie McClung, going home to Virginia with Marian was supposed to be a joyous occasion, but upon arrival at his childhood home, he’s met with a note instead of his family: “Don’t worry, Love, we’re all okay. Come to the shop. A dead girl was found in an armoire delivered just now. Huggies, Ma.”

Charlie is quickly recruited to help solve the murder of a young girl who was on the path to becoming a nun. The suspects begin to mount as Charlie delves deep into the girl’s life, revealing a sordid and ugly side of the town’s good girl. 

Get introduced to Marian Selby of The Charlie McClung Mysteries HERE.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Books and Backbeats

*This blog post is part of Sisters in Crime's fabulous September SinC-Up. For more information, you can visit the SinC website:

One of the things I enjoy most about talking to other writers   especially my fellow Sisters in Crime members  is learning about their writing processes. Some of us plot; some of us pants it. Some of us are morning writers; other are night owls. And some of us adore writing while music flows around us, while others need absolute quiet.

I’m firmly in the latter camp. Even the most gentle strains of classical sonatas poke at my brain like a whiny toddler. And yet music is a necessary part of my writing process. I don’t know what I’d do without it during brainstorming — nothing gets the imagination pumping like a solitary road trip or an hour on the front porch swing, one of my mixes playing, the creative juices flowing.

I’ve created playlists for each of  my main characters — one for Tai Randolph, my smart intrepid narrator, and one for Trey Seaver, her partner in both romance and crime-solving. Some of the songs represent personality traits; others call to mind specific plot points. I also made a playlist for them as a couple, songs that illustrate their relationship as it progresses (you know, the usual love-sex-conflict mix).

Here’s a sample of my Tai and Trey mix — you can check out the whole thing on Spotify by clicking HERE.

“Bedroom Hymns” by Florence and the Machine — Oh my, I need to fan myself for a minute just thinking about this song. Nothing captures the primal imperative of sex like driving percussion and pounding chords, but add Florence Welch’s throaty vocals, and lyrics that practically drip with sweat and need, and you’ve got a song that might catch your MP3 player on fire. This is one deep and passionate and hungry song, and it reminds me that no matter what complication I throw at my protagonists, no matter how annoyed they get with each other, there’s heat humming between them.

“Little Black Mess” by Shivaree — Sexy, retro, and make-no-apologies manipulative, this song is a testament to the fact that even if Tai manages to tamper her way into an enormous problem, she can always count on Trey to show up for her (even if he doesn’t always bail her out). He’s promised to be there for her, no matter what. He meant it. And she knows it.

“Kryptonite” by Three Doors Down; “Strung” by Joe Henry and “Where Are You Going?” by Dave Matthews — These songs couldn’t be more different. The first is a post-grunge rock anthem with an infectious hook, the second is pure blues jazz salted with ache and desperation, and the last is a tender ballad. And yet together they define the personality of Trey, my psychologically complicated, ex-SWAT hero. Damaged and haunted, strong yet vulnerable, Trey is a hero right to the middle of his bones, and listening to these songs is the solution to every “what would Trey do?” dilemma I have.

“Dani California” by Red Hot Chili Peppers — Every time I hear this song, I think of my girl Tai. Hot-blooded, mouthy, and assertive to the point of reckless, she’s a kick-ass heroine, and I love to watch her in action. This is the kind of song she’d listen to while driving down a Low Country highway in her Camaro, windows down, hair blowing in the hot summer wind.

“I Wanna Be Your Dog” by Joan Jett — Trey doesn’t listen to music anymore. The brain damage he suffered in a car accident damaged his auditory processing capacity. He can’t hear the beat, and so his cassette and CD collection sits in storage, getting dusty. I am getting to dig around in his basement for my fifth book, however, and I was fascinated to find a collection of hard rock down there, including every album Ms. Jett ever made. This song in particular, with its driving guitar and rough-edged lyrics, defines a part of his personality that has gone into hiding. I’m thinking his inner head-banger is still in there, though, under all that Armani. I’m thinking it’s going to emerge once again, like some resurrected goth butterfly.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Tina Whittle's fourth Tai Randolph/Trey Seaver novel  Deeper Than the Grave — releases on November 4th. You can find the author on her official website—

For more information about joining this fabulous Sisters in Crime September SinC-Up, visit their website for all the details:

Monday, September 15, 2014

Guest Post by Megan Cyrulewski

Megan Cyrulewski is an ordinary person who has faced extraordinary challenges and now wants to inspire people and show them that hope gives them the power to survive anything. Who Am I? is about her journey into post-partum depression, anxiety disorder, panic attacks, visits to the psych ward, divorce, domestic violence, law school, and her courageous struggle to survive with her sanity intact—and how a beautiful little girl emerged from all this chaos.

An excerpt from Who Am I? by Megan Cyrulewski

On January 18, 2012, we all convened in the courthouse for the Motion for Parenting Time hearing. My dad and I arrived with my attorney, but Tyler loved an audience so he brought his dad, step-mom, and his new on-again off-again girlfriend, Heather. Tyler walked in with his posse in tow, cocky as hell. It took all of two minutes for the judge to knock him off his feet.

The Judge addressed our respective attorneys. “Why are we here?”

“Your honor,” Tyler’s attorney began, “my client has clearly been denied his parenti—”

The Judge didn’t even let him finish. “How?” She turned to my attorney. “Don?”

“Your honor, as you can see in the divorce decree, there was supposed to be a review when the minor child turned twelve-months-old. The Defendant has ignored that review.”

“I—if I may, your honor,” Tyler’s attorney sputtered.

“I see the review in the decree. It’s here in black and white,” she told Tyler’s attorney. “What is the problem? Why didn’t you understand the review? Your client signed the divorce decree.”

Tyler’s attorney tried again. “But your honor—”

The judge cut him off. “There is to be a review conducted by the Friend of the Court referee assigned to the parties. Until then, the Defendant will continue his parenting time schedule as agreed upon in the divorce decree. Dismissed.”

And that was it. After eight police reports and numerous harassing text messages, phone calls, and e-mails, we won. As Don and Tyler’s attorney went to speak with the clerk to file the necessary paperwork, Don told us to wait for him outside the courtroom.

As we exited the courtroom, the hallway was so packed with people that my dad and I were only able to find enough space to lean against the wall. We were talking about the court proceedings when we looked up at saw Tyler and his new girlfriend standing right across from us.

“Why do you lie about everything?” Tyler screamed.

Heather walked up to me and stood about an inch from my face. “As a mother myself, you should be happy that Tyler is the father of your child.”

My jaw dropped. “I’m sorry but I don’t know you.”

She smirked. “Well you’re going to get to know me, bitch.”

Tyler made a big show of pulling her from me like I was going to punch her or something. By this time, everyone in the hallway was watching us. We were pure entertainment.

Heather continued her rant. “Two times in the psych ward, Megan? What a great mother you are.”

“Where is your mom, the real mother of our child?” Tyler screamed. “She’s the one who takes care of Madelyne.”

My dad and I tried to move away from Tyler and Heather but they followed us.

“Awww…” Heather mocked. “Do you have to take a Xanax because of your anxiety?”

“Go take your Xanax and sleeping pills, you drug addict,” Tyler shouted.

Finally, Don emerged from the courtroom and pulled us into a quiet corridor. He explained that I needed to call our referee to set-up a meeting to discuss a visitation schedule. I told Don about the verbal assault by Tyler and Heather. Don said he would call Tyler’s attorney to let him know that Heather would not be allowed in my house.

Upon leaving the courthouse, Heather screamed, “See you on Sunday, Megan.”

I turned toward her and said calmly, “I don’t know you, but you are not welcome in my home.”

That night, Tyler sent me multiple texts attacking my mothering skills, my supposed drug addictions, how he was going to fight for joint custody of Madelyne, how Heather would be accompanying him for his visitations, and a barrage of other insults:

·    “Get a life already”

·    “Don’t you have something better to do than wasting your parents’ money?”

·    “Go take your pills and relax, oh yeah, then your parents would have to watch our daughter. Oh yeah, they already do.”

·    “Go talk to your friends. Oh yeah, you don’t have any because of how crazy you are.”

·    “Interesting to know you’ve been to the hospital a couple of times. You really need to get it together.”

·    “Better go call your lawyer and make up some more stuff about me.”

·    “Don’t be mad at your sorry life.”

·    “I am sure living with Mom and Dad the rest of your life will be fun.”

·    “When you get a job, then you can pay me child support. Fun.”

I finally had to turn my phone off at midnight.

Get the Book!

Monday, September 8, 2014

What Am I Up To Now, You Ask?

Thanks to Holly McClure for tagging me in this blog hop (you can read her answers to these questions at her website). Holly says of herself, "I've been many things in my life and if I'm lucky I hope to become many more things before I leave the world. Today, I'm a priest, an author, a literary agent, and mentor among other things." Holly has several books out  you can read about them here  including The Vessel of Scion, which is getting amazing reviews. 

Plus, you can learn about three more awesome writers at the end of this post.

1. What are you working on now?
The fifth book in the Tai Randolph/Trey Seaver series, a contemporary traditional mystery series set in Atlanta. It features amateur sleuth Tai, owner of a Confederate-themed gun shop, and Trey, a former SWAT corporate security agent. And a Great White Shark named Mary Lee.

2. How does my work differ from other authors in the genre?
For one, I have co-protagonists. Tai is my narrator, but Trey is her partner in both romance and crime solving. Their issues with trust and commitment and what it means to care about someone provide lots of practice in the kind of skills that make them excellent detectives. Tai is emotional, intuitive, quick off the starting line. Trey is rational, analytical, more inclined to take things slow. Their respective strengths and weaknesses complement as often as they conflict.
Another unique aspect of my series is that I write a character in recovery from a Traumatic Brain Injury (a TBI in the medical parlance). Trey suffered damage to his frontal lobes – the seat of executive judgment, decision making, language processing, and emotional intelligence – and his challenges to recover his sense of purpose and identity help me think about larger thematic issues.

3. Why do I write what I do?
I enjoy exploring identity, the ways we create our personas to keep our real selves safe and protected. My characters allow me to do that in multiple ways – through Trey, whose sense of self was literally scrambled, and Tai, who has spent a lifetime rebelling against other people’s constructions of who she is. And I get to do it through one of the brain’s most natural function – story-telling.

4. How does my writing process work?

It’s taken me years to figure this out. I am a pantser all the way (one of those people who just starts writing and seeing where the story goes). It’s messy and inefficient, and when I wrote my second book, I swore I’d do it differently. It was a nightmare! Outlines do not feed my creative engine. I have to jump in and get messy. I’ve discovered it may not be the easiest or fastest way, but it’s my way, and now that I’ve accepted that, I’m becoming better at streamlining the process. Scrivener – a word processing program for writers – helps a lot because it allows me to write and organize simultaneously, saving me tons of rewrites.

Also get to know:

Susanna Ives

Tammy Kaehler

Bernadette Pajer

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Lee Child Coming to Savannah!

Here are the details:

What: Author Event with Lee Child
When: Thursday, September 11th at 6:00 PM
Where: The Historic Lucas Theatre in Savannah, GA (for directions, click here)

If you'd like to be a part of the action, tickets are on sale NOW!

Ticket Information:
Tickets for Child’s appearance are $15 and are available through Savannah Box Office in person, or by calling 912.525.5050, or online at
Tickets are non-refundable but transferable.
Tickets are not available at the Savannah Book Festival Office.
For more information, visit their website at

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Are You Sure About That? by Pepper O'Neal

Please welcome guest blogger Pepper O'Neal today, sharing on the challenges -- and rewards -- of research. You can read more about her book Dead Men Don't on her website or buy it at Black Opal Books.

I’m often asked why I base so many of my characters on real people. And my answer is two-fold. First, I’ve met some extremely interesting people in my travels—people with amazing stories to tell. They’ve been there, done that, and have the scars to prove it. So, while my imagination is pretty good, I doubt I could create characters as interesting and complicated as the people I actually know. It’s the little things about those people that make them so special. And secondly, because I know them so well, and because of the stories they’ve told me, it saves me tons of time on research. They’ve also been most of the places I want to write about, so if I haven’t been there myself, I can ask them. Most of them are honored that I’m impressed enough by them to put them in my books, even when I make them villains. When my first book in the Black Ops Chronicle series, Black Ops Chronicles: Dead Run, started winning contests, Levi, who was an important secondary character, was delighted. “You’re an award-winning author now, luv,” he told me, “so I guess that makes me an award-winning character. So when do I get my own book?” How could I resist? When I wrote the second book in that series, Black Ops Chronicles: Dead Men Don’t, which came out in June, Levi had a starring role.

Characters and dialogue come easy for me because I know the real-life counterparts of my characters very well, good points and character flaws, and can guess what they would most likely say in any given situation, which gives my books a ring of truth they wouldn’t otherwise have. But unless you are fortunate enough to have friends like mine who’ve led some extremely interesting lives, you’re going to have to do a lot of research on whatever subject or character trait you want to portray in your fiction. How can you tell the difference between a writer who’s done his/her homework with some good solid research and one who hasn’t? Easy. The writer who’s done the homework makes you feel like you’re actually there with the characters, experiencing what they are. They also have all their facts are correct and accurate.

So how do you do it? The answer to that is complicated. First you have to do hours of research, on the internet, or contact organizations in the target country that deal with tourism, or—if you’re lucky enough to have them—ask friends who have been there. And secondly, you have to know what questions to ask.

Think about what you might know about a place after you’ve been there that you wouldn’t know before. For example, if you are writing about a place in a third-world country, what might you learn by traveling to that country that you wouldn’t know if you hadn’t been there? Some examples of this might be what the sanitation systems are like, how garbage is collected, what the markets and stores are like, how the people in the cities get their water—does it come from a central water supply reservoir like in the US or is it perhaps delivered by truck to a cistern on the roof of the house and then gravity-fed through the pipes when someone opens a faucet. What are the rural areas of said country like? How do the people dress, get to and from work, secure their homes, etc.? For example, I was amazed when I first when to work in Mexico that many houses didn’t have closets in the bedrooms like we have in the US. Many people who live there, at least in the more rural areas or in older homes, used armoires, giant chests that you hang clothes in. And I was shocked to discover that, at least in the small town where I first lived while I was there, the garbage truck didn’t pick up at a person’s house. The bags of garbage had to be carted to the corner of a designated street on garbage day and handed to the man on the back of the truck. Little things like this are what make you remember a place when other memories about the trip have faded. Those little things are also what make your readers feel like they’re right there in the scene with the characters. The same is true of your characters. If you’re writing about an ex-CIA officer, like I was, and don’t know one, you need to research not only the type of person you want to portray, but also the “shop-talk” or trade words that would be common in their everyday speech. For example, did you know that CIA employees are never called agents by those in the know? CIA personnel in the field are called officers or field officers not agents. Authors who call them agents haven’t done their homework. Facts like this are crucial to authenticity.

So do yourself and your career a big favor and check your facts. There is no quicker way for a writer to lose credibility than to use incorrect data or facts. Whether it is a novel or a blog, if you put it out there, make sure you do your research and that your facts are accurate. Let me give you an example of what I mean. I am not going to mention any names because some of you may have read this author, enjoyed her work, and never realized her facts were wrong. And I don’t want to spoil anyone’s enjoyment of an author. But…

First let me say that I’ve had a number of jobs in my life—it took me a while to find my niche—and once upon a time, I trained racehorses. So when I saw a new novel about horse racing from a well-known author, whose work I had read and enjoyed before, I bought it. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. Not because the plot or the characters were not up to this author’s normal quality. They were. But her racing terms were incorrect. Her term for young horses versus older ones, male versus female horses, etc. were also incorrect. For example, a female horse, no matter the age, should never be called a colt. A colt is a male, un-neutered horse under the age of four. After the age of four, he’s a horse or a stud if he’s breeding mares. If he’s neutered, he’s a gelding, regardless of the age. A female horse under the age of four is a filly. Over the age of four, she’s a mare. This author seemed unaware of facts that anyone who’s spent any time around horses would automatically know. And as someone who does, this bothered me to the point that I didn’t enjoy the story as much as I otherwise might have. It wouldn’t have taken this author that much more time and/or effort to check her facts and make sure they were correct.

The next book I read from this same author was set in my home state of Oregon, and I can only assume that she has never been there. Imagine my dismay when the heroine stopped for gas at an Oregon gas station, got out of the car, and filled up her own tank. Why? Because Oregon does not and never has allowed self-service gas stations. Period. Pumping your own gas in Oregon is against the law. Had her character done this in real life, she would have had to pay a $10,000 fine. Needless to say, that was the last time I bought one of this author’s books.

If you are unsure of your facts, do the research and find out the correct terms and facts, or else keep your terms and facts vague and generic. These kinds of mistakes may not hurt you too much if you are a best-selling author (and not everyone is as picky about proper terms and correct facts in fiction as I am—probably comes from being a researcher), but if you are just starting out, this can scuttle your career. So why chance it? If you’re going to take the time to do research for a novel and aren’t writing about something you know inside and out, go the extra mile and make sure that the facts you put in your books are right.

When I wrote the first book in the Black Ops Chronicle series Black Ops Chronicles: Dead Run, I had a scene in it where the hero stopped breathing but still had a faint pulse. So my heroine, who was pretty clueless about medicine, was going to try to do CPR. Well, my critique group at the time had a registered nurse in it and she objected to the scene because you don’t perform CPR on someone who has a pulse. She pointed out, and rightly so, that someone reading my book might, however unlikely, take that scene as fact and do harm to someone in an emergency situation. I had never thought of that, but once she pointed it out, it made sense. So I changed the scene to where the heroine gives him artificial respiration and bypasses the CPR. Not that I think I would have gotten sued had I left it in, but the book was better because I changed it. It was not only more accurate and, therefore, more believable, but I also wouldn’t have readers who were registered nurses, EMTs, or other medical professionals throwing the book against the wall because I didn’t have my facts right.

And it taught me a valuable lesson. Check your facts! If you’re writing about something you are unfamiliar with and are not 100% sure of your facts, check, check, and recheck. Believe me, your readers will thank you for it.

*         *          *          *          *

A strange man has come to save her...but is he friend or foe?

Anderson Merritt’s been kidnapped, but when a stranger comes to rescue her, she isn’t sure he is who he says he is. He claims to work her father’s boss. But someone close to Andi set her up, and now she doesn’t know who to trust. Every man she’s ever known has seen her only as a tool to get to her father or his money, so why should this one be any different? As the sparks between them ignite, and the danger escalates, Andi has to choose—go off on her own, or trust that some men really are what they seem. 

He doesn’t want to hurt her…but he may have to if she doesn’t come willingly.

Ex-CIA black ops specialist Levi Komakov doesn’t believe in hurting women, but when the place is set to blow and Andi won’t cooperate, he has no choice to but toss her over his shoulder and carry her out of danger, determined to keep her safe in spite of herself. But the beautiful little spitfire doesn’t make it easy for him. With her abductors seemingly always one step ahead of him, Levi suspects there’s a rat in the woodpile, but who? Could it be someone close to Andi’s father, someone in the FBI, or someone in the family Levi works for? When a new threat appears, and even the CIA can’t help him keep Andi safe, Levi puts everything on the line—but will it be enough?

*         *          *          *          *

Award-winning author, Pepper O’Neal is a researcher, a writer, and an adrenalin junkie. She has a doctorate in education and spent several years in Mexico and the Caribbean working as researcher for an educational resource firm based out of Mexico City. During that time, she met and befriended many adventurers like herself, including former CIA officers and members of organized crime. Her fiction is heavily influenced by the stories they shared with her, as well her own experiences abroad.

O’Neal attributes both her love of adventure and her compulsion to write fiction to her Irish and Cherokee ancestors. When she’s not at her computer, O’Neal spends her time taking long walks in the forests near her home or playing with her three cats. And of course, planning the next adventure.

You can find the author on her website:

Friday, July 11, 2014