Saturday 31 March 2012


Chapter One of  
Exceeding Expectations

January 2, 1962
       Glancing down at the Porsche’s speedometer Jack eased up on the gas. The nearest car was a mile back, but a cop could be hiding around the next bend. Being stopped by the police did not fit into Jack’s plan. He blamed the excitement. And guilt. Composing the single page to his daughters had been agony. There was no nice way to say he intended to kill himself. There were no comforting euphemisms for suicide. No words to excuse a mortal sin. And worst of all, no way to ease the pain his beloved girls would experience. But they, and everyone else, had to believe his intention was absolute and irreversible or the plan would fail. After several miserable gut-wrenching attempts, Jack wrote how much he loved them and said that this was something he had to do to protect them. 
       Knowing he could rely on Petal’s steely strength, Jack’s letter to his wife was more direct. He had explained that he was doing this to save her and his girls from scandal and disgrace. And as he was making this noble sacrifice, he knew she could be relied on to be good to his daughters. Petal might not be the maternal sort, but no one could accuse her of being tight-fisted. After reading the letter, his dying declaration, and waiting for two Chivas Regal’s straight to take effect, she would call a few select members of her powerful family, and her attorney. The results of those calls would be a discreet obituary in The New York Times, another in the local paper, hinting at a long-term debilitating disease, and no further investigation. A quiet memorial service would be held in Manhattan, Petal’s preferred place of residence, and she would be stunning in black for the next six to ten weeks, depending on her social calendar.
       The best thing about his plan was its simplicity. He would wait until two or three in the morning when the roads would be deserted, park the car on the middle of a bridge and disappear into the night. The bridge and town had been carefully selected – less than a five-mile walk to the railroad to prevent someone later recalling giving a lift to a stranger. And the town had to be small – an insignificant speck on the map. The smaller the town, Jack had reasoned, the less sophisticated the police force. Fielding, Florida, a town that lacked a drug store, supermarket, bank, and beauty parlor was ideal. Serious crime in Fielding probably consisted of intimidating the kids who tipped over outhouses on Halloween and jailing the same town drunk every Friday night. A costly abandoned car, coupled with the later discovered suicide notes, guaranteed Jack would be the topic of intense gossip for years, and the object of a bumbling investigation for no more than a week. The Porsche would get more attention than the lack of a corpse in an area where alligators outnumbered house pets, and a Ford with all four fenders intact was considered a damned fine automobile.
      Once he boarded a train he’d be fine. Men who rode the rails kept secrets. They were members of a tribe of vagabonds who preferred the town around the next curve – adventurous men ready to share a pot of tramp stew with another kindred spirit. And he was eager to join them. For the last two and half decades, his life had revolved around his girls. Jack had chosen that life and never once regretted it. A man couldn’t have finer daughters than Amelia and Charlotte. But they were grown now and maybe he had earned himself a change. He thought he might head for Texas, a leviathan-sized state where a man’s past was not apt to be questioned. And Texas was known for its horses. He loved horses — riding them, watching them trot, canter, toss their heads, nurse their foals. Gorgeous, glorious creatures they were.
        After several hours of driving through towns too small to boast a stop sign, Jack reached his destination. A weather-beaten building with a concave roof housed the grocery that doubled as Fielding’s post office. He gave his letters to a leathery man behind the counter and gazed at a jar of pickles with interest. He had been so focused on reaching his destination he had forgotten to eat lunch. “Is there a place around here to get something to eat?” “Just Wiley’s. Kind of a bar/restaurant down the street. Lost its sign in the last hurricane, but you’ll find it.”  
      An orange neon light in the window erratically flickered Budweiser. Jack glanced inside. It was more bar than restaurant, and grimy. Lacking an alternative, he entered. A wall of vacant knotty-pine booths faced a long bar backed by a mirror so streaked with fly droppings and smoke, that reflected images appeared cloudy. Five or six patrons turned to note his presence and then quickly resumed what they had been doing. Jack proceeded to the bar’s last booth and took a seat where he could oversee the comings and goings. The gym bag containing twenty-seven thousand dollars he stowed under the table. 
      A blowsy overweight waitress with an elaborate hairdo and a too-tight skirt approached. “Need a menu?” she asked as she wiped the table with a dingy towel.
      “What time do you stop serving food?”
      “The kitchen closes at eight.”
      Jack removed his buck suede jacket and placed it on the seat beside him. Assuming this place closed at midnight, he had five long hours to kill. “Bring me a draft beer and a hamburger. And if you could spare a newspaper, I’d appreciate it.”
      She soon returned with his beer and a ten-page weekly tabloid filled with notices of church events, and feed and grain ads. It was a typical weekday night in a small town bar: plenty of griping and boasting, lengthy recitations of what could have been and should have been, a few stale jokes, more men than women, a lot of talk, little action.
      “Would you turn up the radio?” a customer called from the far end of the bar. “That’s me and Wanda’s favorite song.”
      The bartender adjusted the dial. A twangy melancholy western tune drowned out the dull background noise.    
      “Turn it down! Turn that blasted thing down!” several customers shouted in unison. 
      The bartender found an agreeable level of volume and conversation resumed. It started to rain about nine — a light drizzle at first and then a steady hard-driving downpour. On her return trip from the ladies room, a woman in her late thirties, attractive in a tired way, paused to inquire if Jack would be in town for a while. He politely explained that he was just passing through and she rejoined her companions at the bar. 
      “That would be eighty cents, including the beer. Would you mind settling up now?” the waitress asked at nine-thirty. “I’m leaving in a few minutes. Buddy, that’s the bartender, he’ll take care of you. I’m going home to my kids.” Jack handed her a dollar and told her to keep the change. At ten o’clock Jack went to the men’s room and ducked into a stall. Removing the bills from the gym bag Jack distributed them around the money belt. Twenty-seven thousand dollars. Money painstakingly gleaned from his checking account in amounts that wouldn’t later arouse suspicion. It wouldn’t finance the way of life he had been enjoying very long, but it could buy ten new Chevrolets. More than enough for a fresh start.
      Customers, who had been checking their watches and shaking their heads for the last hour or more, decided the rain was not going to let up. One by one, they finished their beers, turned up their collars, cursed the weather and dashed into the street. 
      “Last call,” the owner announced to Jack and two stragglers. “Closing at eleven cause of this miserable weather.” 
      “No more for me. I gotta go to work tomorrow,” the older of the two remaining men announced. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and paid his tab. Jack closed his eyes and listened to rain pounding the wood roof. The last customer drank his beer and stared out the front window at the unrelenting downpour. He was about Jack’s size and weight, somewhere in his twenties – a kid. His light brown hair was home-cut and in need of a trim. His pants were deeply creased and stained with what Jack guessed to be grease. A handyman, or maybe a mechanic who worked nearby.
      Jack grabbed the empty gym bag, handed a dollar bill to the bartender, and headed for the door. The kid blocked the exit.
      “My truck’s about a mile or so down the road. It weren’t raining when I started out. I’d be grateful, mister, if you could give me a ride,” the kid said.
      Jack appraised the kid grinning back at him. Crooked teeth vied with one another for space, and his tired green eyes spoke of a resilience born of hardship. The faded denim shirt he wore over a grimy T-shirt would provide no protection from the cold and rain. Jack looked at the bartender owner hoping for some indication that this kid was a local, but the bartender was busy counting the day’s receipts. “You having any trouble with that truck?” Jack tapped his chest. “This old ticker of mine doesn’t work as good as it used to,” he lied. “If you need a hand with that truck, I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to help.”
       “I got no trouble with the truck. Runs dandy,” he assured Jack. “I left it at a farmhouse to be unloaded. Sold them folks a cord of firewood. But they had to unload and stack it theirselves. That was the deal. They unload it and stack it theirselves whilst I go into town.”
      Jack weighed the risk. He had twenty-seven thousand dollars in the money belt, but this kid didn’t know that. All he knew was that it was pouring, it was cold and he needed a ride. Eleven o’clock was far too early for Jack to carry out his plan. All that awaited him was two or three hours of boredom in a parked car. “What’s your name, kid?” 
      “Folks mostly call me Iowa.”
      “My name’s Jack and the Porsche across the street is mine. Wait here. No sense both of us getting soaked.” By the time Jack reached the car and jumped in, his hair and clothes were drenched. Mostly Iowa had fared little better. “Which direction?” Jack asked his passenger. 
      “You’re headin’ the right way. Just follow the road a piece. I’ll tell you where to turn.”
      “Is it on the left or the right?”
      “I expect you live around here.”
      “Just passin’ through.”
      They soon left the residential part of town. The driving rain and incessant flip-flop flip-flop of the windshield wipers blurred his vision. Jack tried the high beams and quickly switched back. Pointing to a dim light on what appeared to be a house he asked, “It that it?”
      “Nope. That ain’t it. It’s up yonder a bit.”
      “When I first saw you, Iowa, I said to myself, now there’s a fellow who knows his way around cars. You a mechanic?”
      “I fiddled with cars some. Nothing as swanky as this.”  
      For the next two or three miles there wasn’t a break in the road — not a path, planted field, farmhouse or shed, only endless sawgrass and pine trees. “That had to be some hike into town. Are you sure we didn’t pass it? You did say it was on the left?”
      “Yep. On the left.”
      While Jack had been struggling to locate the elusive house and truck, Mostly Iowa had been facing right. Damn! What an idiot he had been! A solitary man wearing expensive clothes and a flashy gold watch. A new Porsche – obviously his. A mysterious gym bag that had never left his side. A transient loner who needed a ride.  “We must have passed it. I’m going to turn around.” 
      “Just pull over here!” Mostly Iowa’s eyes were cold. His right hand expertly cradled a knife.
      Targeted like a deer by a hungry kid. Stalked! Jack’s foot remained on the accelerator. “You don’t want to do this, Iowa. How about I slow down to ten, fifteen miles an hour and you jump out? We part friends and forget this ever happened.”
      “You stop this here car or I’ll stick you like a pig. It wouldn’t bother me none to kill you.”
      Now Jack was a man who liked a good laugh as much as the next guy, but irony had its place. Dying the very night he scheduled his fake suicide was not his idea of a joke.  Iowa grabbed Jack’s right arm. “Stop this car or I’ll cut out your gizzard and leave it for the birds.” 
      “I’m not stopping the car as long as you got that knife,” Jack said in a calm friendly voice. He could feel the frightening tip of the steel blade through his suede jacket. “Toss it out the window and I’ll stop the car.”
      Iowa grabbed the steering wheel. The Porsche hydroplaned and fish-tailed, barely avoiding trees on both sides of the road.
      By intuitively releasing his grip, the finely engineered racing car realigned itself. Jack glanced at his passenger looking for some hint of humanity, still hoping to change the kid’s mind, yet very much aware of the danger. “You’re going to get us both killed. We’re doing twenty miles an hour. The ground is soft from the rain. Open the door and roll out.”
      “Not a chance in hell, you miserable fuck. You’re going to die.”
      The knife slashed the jacket and dug into the money belt. If it weren’t for the thick wad of bills, the blade would be boring into his rib cage. Jack deliberately swerved the car right and then left. Iowa grabbed the wheel. Using the butt of his right fist Jack smashed his attacker’s hand. Iowa howled with pain and dropped the knife. He alternated curses with punches aimed at Jack’s head.
      Jack fought to simultaneously keep the car on the road with his left hand and ward off his attacker with his right. A pothole caught Iowa off balance. He slid away. Jack used the opportunity to use the bent right arm that had been guarding his chest and lash out, landing an explosive blow with his clenched fist. He could feel the bridge of Iowa’s nose collapse, hear the bones crack.
      “Goddamn you! You jackass. You busted my nose!” Iowa fumbled beneath the seat.
      Seeing the dreaded knife reappear, Jack made the only decision left. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” He braced himself and floored the Porsche, aiming the passenger side at a massive oak tree. Iowa reached for the wheel again, too late. The car hit the tree with a violent jolt, throwing both men forward. A branch smashed the windshield a microsecond before Jack’s head reached it. The glass shattered harmlessly, but his chest had struck the steering wheel with an impact that left him gasping for air. The motor groaned and sputtered as Jack waited with his eyes closed. His chest ached with every breath. Tentatively touching his forehead he discovered a swelling throbbing bump. Jack opened his eyes. Mostly Iowa had not fared as well. He lay slumped against the door. Blood from the broken nose bathed his face, neck, and shirt. Jack didn’t know if he was dead or unconscious, but he wouldn’t be a threat for a while.
      “Why didn’t you jump when you had the chance?” Jack asked the limp figure. “Soon as I find out what kind of shape I’m in, I’ll figure out what I’m going to do with you. If I can walk back to town, I’ll send someone out to help. And that’s better than you deserve, you dumb bastard, considering you were trying to kill me.”
      Limb by limb, joint by joint, Jack tested his extremities. His arms, hands, and fingers moved, painfully, but they didn’t appear to be broken. He flexed one leg and then the other. “My legs seem okay,” he informed his silent companion. His chest and shoulders ached. “Probably cracked a few ribs and there’s a buzzing in my ears. Going to be sore for a while, as well as black and blue, but I’m alive. What about it, Iowa? You going to make it?”
      Jack leaned across the inert body expecting to hear a heartbeat. Nothing. Silence. The kid was dead! Jesus Christ! He hadn’t intended to kill the kid. His goal had been to prevent his own imminent demise.
      “Now look what you did, Iowa. You tried to kill me and you ended up killing yourself. God damn dumb kid!” he said to keep his teeth from chattering. “God damn dumb kid!” His entire right side throbbed and he was trembling. “Got to get out of here.”
      He tried the door handle. It turned, but the bowed door would not budge. He threw all his weight against it and grimaced. It groaned in sympathy and swung open causing him to crash onto the muddy ground. The rain had subsided to a trickle. Jack wiped his hands on soggy moss and sat down to think beside the demolished car.
      There was nothing more that could be done for Iowa. His problems were over. Jack’s problems had tripled. In a day or two, Petal and the girls would read the letters he had mailed. A first-class plan wiped out because he wanted to help out a dumb kid. Okay, he told himself, if faking his suicide by leaving the Porsche on a bridge was no longer possible, he simply needed a new plan. A new plan. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The Porsche would be traced to him. They would find a dead kid in his car. If he disappeared now he would be accused of murder. Unless . . . Unless  . . . Iowa was about his size. The police would assume the body belonged to Jack Morgan if – if it was unrecognizable. But how? The car and its contents would have to be burnt beyond recognition. He could do that. Provided he kept calm, and no one came along in the interim, it was a good alternative plan.   
      Jack removed the ruined suede jacket. It could go on the corpse. A scrap of burnt suede would add to the illusion, as would his wedding band. He had intended to sell it before he reached Texas, but it would be better used now. As he removed the ring he noticed his prized gold watch. They might look for it. It was too bad about the watch, but it too had to go. 
      The tight quarters inside the crumpled Porsche, coupled with Jack’s reluctance to touch the bloody corpse made the exchange time consuming, exhausting, and grisly. As a final touch, Jack traded shoes with the dead man before shoving him into position behind the wheel. 
      An hour had passed since the crash and no one had driven by. His luck was holding. Now he needed matches. Matches or a cigarette lighter. His pockets yielded neither. His plan would fail because he lacked a pack of matches that every bar and restaurant supplied free. Think, he told himself. There had to be a solution. The Porsche’s cigarette lighter. Would it still work? Leaning over Iowa’s body, Jack located it and pressed it. Thirty seconds later it popped out glowing red. God bless the Germans! Every twenty or thirty years, it took a war to remind them who was boss, but they sure knew how to build a car. Jack looked for something to start the fire. Downed branches were too wet. A dry rag. He kept a towel in the trunk.
      Jack walked to the rear of the car to unlock the trunk but it wouldn’t release. He kicked it with his heel. Another sharp kick. The trunk creaked open. A white, still-folded hand towel lay tucked in a corner. A few more minutes and it would be over.
      He stuffed as much of the towel as would fit into the gas tank, then replaced the ignition key. As he was about to press the cigarette lighter he remembered the knife. What if it were found with the remains? Palm beach socialite Jack Morgan didn’t carry a switchblade. He would have to find it. Ten minutes passed as he searched the car and the corpse. He was about to give up when he felt it lodged under the passenger seat. He folded it, tucked it into his belt, and inserted the dependable lighter. 
      Half a football field away Jack leaned against a tree and waited. Several times the flame appeared to die, only to flare up again. And then the rag ignited with an enormous pop – followed by ear-splitting thunder. Roaring flames, the height of a church steeple leapt from the car’s rear. Jack could no longer make out Iowa’s silhouette in the flames. Just a few more minutes, he told himself. The smoke and heat from the blaze reddened his face and seared his lungs. When it was time to leave Jack strode away in Iowa’s ill-fitting shoes, away from the wrecked Porsche, the town of Fielding, and his past. Then he heard it. A train whistle. The magical hollow sound of a train whistle. And it wasn’t far off. Damn, if he wasn’t a lucky so-and-so. One of God’s favorite children. Jesus tolerated the pious, sober, and abstinent. Yes, He tolerated the tiresome righteous and their smug unforgiving Christian smiles. And He had little pity for the tyrant, the merciless, and the cruel. But Jesus loved the ordinary sinner. Isn’t that what the bible taught? The Almighty loved sinners. Without sinners there would have been no reason for Jesus to come to earth and experience the joy and pain of mortals.   
      Intoxicating freedom mingled with the chilling air. Jack could forget the chafing money belt, cheap ill-fitting shoes, sore feet, and aching muscles. He had a new name and a thousand new possibilities. The next time he found himself with a drink in his hand he would remember Iowa and raise his glass to the tragic dumb kid. 
      “This one’s for you, Iowa, you miserable misguided creature,” he would say. “May the good Lord take mercy on your soul and your time in Purgatory be brief.”


About Exceeding Expectations

            It’s 1961 and Palm Beach socialite, irresistible rascal and devoted father Jack Morgan encounters genuine danger while staging his suicide to shield his beloved daughters from disgrace. Next, meet his daughter Charlotte (Charlie), an over-indulged 23 year-old struggling to cope with the traumatizing loss of her beloved father, her sister’s resulting mental breakdown and the discovery that she’s suddenly penniless. Fortunately Raul, an admiring young attorney, appears to offer assistance. As terrified as she is about daily survival, Charlie soon realizes that she has to learn what drove her father to kill himself. With Raul’s much needed ego-bolstering, the drive of necessity and unforeseen determination, Charlie finds a practical use for her annoyingly lean 5’ 11” frame. In time, this career finances her hard-wrought independence, her sister’s costly treatment and an emotional eye-opening journey to Paris.

            Jumping back in time to romantic pre-WWII Paris, readers meet young Alan Fitzpatrick – aka Jack Morgan – lack-luster artist and expert lover and the bewitching girl who will become the mother of his children. Not even Charlie’s relentless detective work will uncover all Jack’s secrets, but in a fireworks of surprise endings, she discovers all that she needs to know and more:  disturbing truths about her father, her own unique talent, crimes great and small and a diabolical villain.  


Today, as part of her Virtual Book Tour, I have the great pleasure of hosting Lisa April Smith, who has agreed to answer a few questions. Welcome, Lisa.   
Thank you for inviting me, Sandra. Great to be here. 
If you could have any author of your choice (dead or alive) over for dinner and a chat who would that be?
Tough decision. I think if I had to choose one it would be Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens). He was a brilliant author, entertaining speaker and daring social commentator. Portraying black characters as brave, loyal, admirable human beings with souls, he took a stand against slavery and social injustice. Black or white, his characters were memorable, flawed and real.  Clemens’ life was dotted with failures, loss and personal tragedy, but he was known for his wit and engaging disposition. He was often billed as a “Humorist.” How I would love to sit down with him, over dinner and wine, to listen and learn.

If you found a magic lamp and were permitted to choose another career, what would you choose? Do you have another job as well as writing? 
If that magic lantern could give me incomparable talent, I’d like to be George Gershwin’s successor. (No point in wasting a magic wish opportunity by aiming at anything but the top.) Being an incredibly talented painter would be my second choice. It’s second because, as much as I love art, with the exception of Picasso, it’s hard to find an artist that made a decent living and lived a long happy life.
And do I have another job as well as writing?  I have many, just none that I get paid to do. 

If you found a magic lantern and were permitted to choose another career, what would you choose? 
If that magic lantern could give me incomparable talent, I’d like to be George Gershwin’s successor. (No point in wasting a magic wish opportunity by aiming at anything but the top.) Being an incredibly talented painter would be my second choice. It’s second because, as much as I love art, with the exception of Picasso, it’s hard to find an artist that made a decent living and lived a long happy life.

If Exceeding Expectations was made into movie, have you given any thought as to casting?
That’s a question often put to me at book events. I can see George Clooney as Jack Morgan at fifty. He has the talent to play serious and comedic roles, and the looks and sex appeal to play Jack. The problem is, what actor could make viewers believe that he’s George Clooney at twenty-five? Maybe false eyelashes would help. Deborah Previte, the Bookish Dame, thinks Raul is Andy Garcia’s clone. I’d love to hear suggestions from readers. As for my heroine Charlie, I see a young Gwyneth Paltrow playing her. Sadly, I don’t know how to turn back time.

The first chapters of your books are free on your website but we’d love a short excerpt. Can you do that without giving away too much of the story?
She raced toward his front door. Alan caught her as her hand reached the knob. Tears cascaded freely down her cheeks and chin. To his astonishment the slight figure collapsed into his arms. She clung to him as she sobbed — massive body-racking sobs. A new emotion overtook him, flooded his being like a powerful narcotic. Growing up with four older brothers, an alcoholic father to knock him about, and only an overburdened sister to look after them all, Alan had never been the object of compassion or warmth. If pressed, he could not explain what he felt as he held Nicole in his arms. He had known passion and desire. He knew the companionship of friends. He knew pain and laughter. But simple tenderness had eluded him.   
Where do you get your inspiration?
My books are generally inspired by media coverage of events and people that I find intriguing. In 1998, Florida television and newspapers were reporting a story of a local Palm Beach socialite (ironically named Fagan) arrested for kidnapping his daughters eighteen years earlier, when they were 2 and 5 years old. The primary reason that it had taken eighteen years to find Fagan was that he had successfully reinvented himself. As William S. Martin, a handsome widower with two young daughters and no apparent means of support, Fagan had met and married a wealthy Palm Beach widow. After their divorce, another affluent woman agreed to wed and maintain his family’s plush lifestyle.
Neighbors, friends and the teachers at the girls’ tony private school all described him as “likeable,” “charming” and “devoted father.” Throughout his arrest and subsequent proceedings, his loyal third wife steadfastly stood by him, as did both daughters. Perhaps what most surprised people who followed the case was that the girls’ mother, a research scientist teaching at the University of Virginia, through the media and her attorney, repeatedly begged her daughters to meet with her and they refused. To my knowledge, that continues to this day.
As I was following the case I found myself thinking that there was an even juicier story behind this headline-grabber and set out to create one. I began with a few core facts. A man with an invented name and history, twice married to wealthy widows, living in Palm Beach, playground of the mega-rich and famous, and involved in a crime. Two adoring daughters unaware of their true identities. Over time my imagination happily supplied the rest. A townhouse off Fifth Avenue. A sprawling estate in Virginia. Romantic Paris in the years prior to WWII. A riveting past for Jack Morgan: skilled lover, lack-luster artist and irresistible rascal. A full-blown range of challenges and hard-wrought triumphs for his traumatized daughter Charlotte (Charlie).  
Do your books require much research? 
Absolutely! Some books more than others. I’m a stickler for accuracy. When I find the 2nd or 3rd critical error in a book or movie, that’s it for me. I’m done. Fortunately, I love history and find research fascinating. I estimate that for every researched detail I use, thirty are waiting to be plucked from my Word files or taking up needed space in my brain. Is it any wonder I have problems remembering names? 

What particularly pleases you about writing fiction? 
The creative experience. I’ve always envied painters, sculptors, composers. Imagine applying oil to canvas and fashioning a masterpiece. Imagine hearing wonderful music in your head that hasn’t been heard before. Imagine turning a shapeless lump of clay, or block of stone, into an object that produces emotions in viewers. Writing is an art too. With words as their sole tool, authors weave them into stories and place invented people into invented problematic situations. If the author is truly skillful, she not only entertains, she touches, transports and meaningfully moves readers. That’s a powerful and addicting drug. 

I understand that Exceeding Expectations has a sequel. What is the title and when will it be available?
Thank you for inquiring. It’s a question I love to hear. Readers have been asking when it will be available, practically since Exceeding Expectations launched. It’s titled Paradise Misplaced and fans can expect it about six months from now. Check my website for updates. 


Exceeding Expectations
  Online Book Tour
  Featuring Lisa April Smith
    March – April, 2012

           About Lisa April Smith
Author Lisa April Smith lives with her husband, He-Who-Wishes-to-Remain-Anonymous, in
Eternal Playland, Florida, a delightful spot just off I-95. Ms. Smith describes Eternal Playland as
"a little piece of level heaven with occasional dampness, where the bugs are plentiful but respectful, and even the smallest strip mall contains at least one pizza place and a nail salon."

Before discovering a passion for writing, Ms. Smith sold plumbing and heating, antiques, taught ballroom dancing, tutored, modeled, designed software and managed projects for IBM.  She
She returned to college multiple times to study anthropology, sociology and computer science, in which she holds degrees, as well as psychology, archeology, literature, history and art. Combine those widely diverse interests with a love of travel and a gift for writing page-turners and it’s easy to understand one reviewer’s unbridled praise for Exceeding Expectations, “She (Ms. Smith) has a brilliance for conveying characters, and the intellectual capacity to place them in historical settings that sparkle with glamorous detail . . . that make it fun to read . . . ” But it takes much more than lush settings, an eye for detail and a love of history to write a page-turner. Read what another reviewer said about Exceeding Expectations: “Lisa April Smith . . . has woven an intriguingly rich tapestry of delightful well-developed characters into a perfectly balanced plot bursting with riveting mystery, crimes of the petty and the horrible sort, suspenseful twists, and romantic tension complete with love scenes that sizzle and pop. . . Clearly, this author has, and wishes to share with her readers, what the French call joie de vivre  – not simply the joy of life – but an all-encompassing appreciation for every facet of life.”

For more about Lisa, her books, and upcoming projects visit her website:
Lisa April Smith can be contacted at WriteLisa(at)LisaAprilSmith(dot)com  

Friday 30 March 2012


Dark Light Anthology


BLURB from Goodreads
DARK LIGHT explores the darker side of our world, the things no one wants to speak about or admit. The stories in this anthology will make you think, make you shiver, intrigue and entertain you. Please step into our world of the darker side where little light shines through. 
It's always difficult to know the best way to review anthologies, do you review the individual stories or the book as a whole or even both? Well here's my version, first the anthology as a whole, I really enjoyed and would definitely recommend. the anthology is a great way to try authors you may not have read before. There were a few of the stories I didn't like that I thought leant too much towards a horror theme for my personal liking. I did however, enjoy well over half of the stories. The anthology is well put together and I think has something for most people.To review the individual stories/novellas I have decided to rate each of them out of 5. I would look at other books by the majority of the authors in the anthology, though more eagerly at some than others. I will admit to being a hard scorer in that i don't give a 5/5 unless i absolutely love the book.
Headless Homecoming by Andrew Katz ~ Initially the title put me off as I don't really like the knights of the round table type of stories but this was okay, once you got into it! The low score is more a personal taste issue than how the story was written. Would I pick up a full length novel by this author? maybe. So it's 2/5
A Scarlet Night by Megan J Parker ~ This was a classic Vampire type story, with a different twist on it that I did enjoy. I liked how this story flowed, loved how the author wrote.Would definitely look at other books by Megan J Parker! So it's 3/5
The Bones For You by Char Hardin ~ This one was really different, being buried alive, though it also had a religious edge to it. I don't normally go for things with lots of religious content/reference in it but, I did enjoy this. I would look at other titles by Char Hardin. So it's 3/5
Whispers From The Darkness by Jana Boskey ~ This had references to the true life mate concept, and fae myths which was good mixture. I really enjoyed this one and definitely will be searching out other books by Jana Boskey. so its 4/5
The Faery Hunt by Alexia Purdy ~ This one involves the Fae again, its well written. It has one of the characters making a sacrifice to save her brothers...hmm I wanted to read more of it really. I already have another full length title by Alexia Purdy on my kindle to read and review. So it's 4/5
Breakdown by Bonnie Bernard ~ I don't want to give away too much with this one. It's very well written and I really did enjoy reading this one. Definitely on the look out for more by Bonnie Bernard. It's 4/5
The Full Wolf Moon by LD Ricard ~ As suggested by the title this one is a werewolf story. The life mate concept is mentioned in this story as is the pack concept. Again, yes I enjoyed it, but I wanted to read more and more. So LD Ricard is firmly on my authors to watch out for list. It's 5/5
His First Snow by Linna Drehmel ~ An angel type story. A tale from the light. It had a moral hidden in there too. A good short tale really, difficult to say more without telling the whole tale. Yes I will take a look at more Linna Drehmel book as I enjoyed her style of writing. It's a 3/5
Dementria's Task by Amanda Browning ~ This tale has demons. Again difficult to say much without giving too much away. It's Eerily good! Another author on my look out for list. Definitely want to read more by Amanda. So 4/5
Blood And Soil by William Greer ~ This is really is a good suspense does have Nazi soldiers in it too and is set at the time of oppression and war. I enjoyed the suspense, the oh no what will happen now aspect of the tale. Would consider more books by William Greer. It's a 4/5
The Darkon Prophecy by Linna Drehmel ~ This one is a tale from the dark. Again I enjoyed Linna's writing style which makes the tales so easy to read. Another 3/5
Death Becomes Him by MR Murphy ~ This tale concerns the living impaired. A guy that has not passed on. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He has to protect the women he loves... A brilliant tale, loved it. Wanted to read more! Looking out for more MR Murphy. It's 5/5
Dark Faery Reflection by S J Thomas ~ This tale is eerily, creepy, maybe leaning a little to the horror genre as well as including the fae elements of the tale too. I did like reading this even though I would say I do not read horror. Would consider more titles by S J Thomas so long as they weren't horror! So 2/5
Spider Whisperer by Lisa Goldman ~ Another one that had lots of horror type elements in the tale. I read it okay. It was a bit spooky and creepy, not really my type. Would I read more by Lisa? ...maybe 2/5
The Kiss by Jenny Phillips ~ a girl learns her true identity of a succubus......A strange man she's never met   offers her help, should she trust him?.... It was okay, the ending was the best really. this could be a spin off novella. There could be a series of books about the succubus - those I would like to read! So looking out for Jenny Phillips? Yes. 3/5
Goddess Of Death by John Hansen ~ Another Demons tale. This one about demon possession, and demon masters. Okay tale but not really my type of thing. Would give othe titles by John Hansen a  look over. So 2/5
The Flaming Vengeance by Linna Drehmel ~ This is an unusual tale of a prophecy. Would love this to be a novella so I could read more about "the green eyed one" Linna is definiitely on my watch out for list! It's a 2/5 for this one.
The Miller's Daughter by Stefan Ellery ~ Oooo Spooooky, a ghost/haunting tale. A bit leaning to horror again though I did like this one too. Good short tale. Read more by Stefan Ellery? Would take a look. So 3/5
The Transformation by Ruth Barrett ~ I wasn't at all sure on this one , a bit odd for me.... Would I try more by this author? dunno, probably not It's 1/5
Open Your eyes and See by Naomi Bonthrone ~ Again a bit odd and weird for me...sorry another dunno, probably not on reading more by this author. So 1/5
First Boy by Dennis Harpe ~ This one is more horror, I don't like horror. It is very well written though.
Read more by Dennis? sorry not if horror  So 1/5
Alba by KR Jordan ~ This one, I also did not get along with. It felt very Americanised to me, so not been American, perhaps I missed some of the points being made. Read more by KR Jordan? probably not So it's a 1/5.
And a Score out of 5 for the whole anthology...hmmmm ..... would have to say ...4/5! I have certainly found some authors that I would like to read more of! 


Dark Light Anthology

BLURB from Goodreads
DARK LIGHT explores the darker side of our world, the things no one wants to speak about or admit. The stories in this anthology will make you think, make you shiver, intrigue and entertain you. Please step into our world of the darker side where little light shines through. 

My Description
This Anthology has as it says in it's title both Dark, and Light. It has Fae, Vampires, Living Impaired, Ghosts, and Demons among other things in the tales.
I would say that there is something for everyone within the Anthology. There's "happy" endings, courqge and bravery, as well as mystery, suspense and ...horror!
This anthology is a little taster of each author, so you can get a feel for how they write and if you would like to read more.

Thursday 29 March 2012


What is your name, where were you born and where do you live now?
Hi, Jean, it's great to be here today. I'm Mal Olson. Born in Beloit, WI, I haven't strayed far—I live about seventy miles from my home town. Wisconsin and Milwaukee have been popular spots for locations in my stories.

Do you work another job as well as your writing work?
I have my own freelance landscape design business.  But now that I'm published, I have the feeling I'll want to concentrate even more  time on writing. I think I'm already an excessively compulsive writer.

What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it in less than 20 words what would you say?
Shadow of Deceit, a romantic suspense,  is my debut novel.  In less than 20 words:  Shadow of Deceit is an  adrenaline-kicked, action-packed romantic suspense filled with sexual tension and emotion.

Who is your publisher? or do you self publish?
The wonderful people at The Wild Rose Press published Shadow of Deceit. I self published two short stories, which are free for my readers on my website:  And both of the short stories (Danger Zone and Me and Brad) are also listed free at and most other ebook retailers.

What can we expect from you in the future? ie More books of the same genre?  Books of a different genre?
Adrenaline kicked romantic suspense  is my niche.  I'm working on a series centered around a CIA undercover counterterrorism team, as well as another stand alone romantic suspense that features a female rookie sheriff, her field training officer, and a Belgian Malinois working dog—Too  Sexy For His Stetson.

Do you have anybody read your books and give you reviews before you officially release them?ie your partner, children, friends, reviewers you know?
First and foremost, my oldest daughter is my critique partner.  She's an excellent editor as well as a fantastic writer.  Every chapter, every short story goes to her numerous times during the process of completing a project.  My youngest daughter and her writer/husband also critique for me, as well as my husband and several friends. The more readers who edit, critique, and proofread ahead of time, the tighter and better the final product.

How do you come up with the title and cover designs for your book/books? Who designed the cover ofShadow of Deceit? Do you choose the title first, or write the book then choose the title?
I started out with a working title, but after some major revision, Shadow of Kilimanjaro became Shadow Chasers, and evolved to Shadow of Deceit before I submitted it to The Wild Rose Press.  Everyone at TWRP is great to work with, and they let me keep the title I wanted. Then during the publishing process I was given a choice of several cover artists,  and was allowed to make suggestions as to what I'd like on my cover.  Rae Monet did a fantastic cover—I've loved it since the minute I set eyes on it. Again, my daughter did the covers for my short stories.

Which format of book do you prefer, ebook, hardback, or paperback?
I still love the feel of a paperback book in my hands, and enjoy seeing my favorites lined up on a bookshelf.  Not to say there aren't a lot advantages with an ereader—portability of a large number of books, price of books (many are cheaper than paperbacks), and there are certain books that I want to read which simply aren't available except in e-format.

What are you currently reading Are you enjoying it? What format is it?  (ebook, hardback or paperback)
I'm reading several. A thriller by J.A. Konrath and Ann Voss Peterson entitled Exposed. Yes, I'm enjoying it and sitting on the edge of my seat as I was in the first book of the (Chandler series). This one is only available as an ebook.  I'm also just finishing Linda Howard's Veil of Night, which I thoroughly enjoyed. That one was a paperback purchase.

Are there any new authors you are interested in for us to watch out for? and why should we watch out for them?
I love Trish McCallan's debut Forged in Fire. Not only was it a great story but the writing was tight and very fresh.  Can't wait for her next book (me and many, many others.)

What do you think about book trailers?
Trailers are so much fun to make, as if I made mine myself. But I chose the music, wrote the script, and picked out the pictures, then my critique partner/daughter and my granddaughter worked the techno part.  I love how it turned out, but I'm not sure how effective trailers are as a marketing tool.  You'll find mine for Shadow of Deceit on my website and youtube.  If you watch it, make sure you have the sound on, that's what makes it.

What piece of advice would you give to a new writer?
Never give up. In the words of J.A. Konrath, "There's a word for writers who never give up—published."

If you could invite three favorite writers to dinner, who would you invite and enjoy chatting with?
Greg Hurwitz, Suzanne Brockmann, and Linda Howard—but I'd send the girls home early with carry out dessert so I could keep Greg to myself for a while. I've met him in person, and he's not only a brilliant writer, he's cool, and he's cute—so  what if I'm old enough to be his ... older sister ... lol

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press                                                  
(see buy links) for and (for short stories)  


Author bio:
Mal Olson writes adrenaline-kicked romantic suspense. When her consuming passion for writing allows time, she enjoys reading, flower gardening, jamming with friends on the mountain dulcimer, and hiking in a nearby state forest (or in the mountains somewhere). She has three grown children and one granddaughter and resides with her own special hero in southeast Wisconsin where she juggles writing time with her freelance landscape design business.

Visit Mal online: