STORM RISING's Missing Chapter

Before we start into today’s blog post, just a note that Ann and I took over Kensington’s Tumblr page last Thursday following the release of STORM RISING and posted five mini blog posts. If you’re interested in some extra content about the FBI K-9s, STORM RISING, or search-and-rescue dogs, pop over to Kensington’s Thumblr: http://kensingtonbooks.tumblr.com/


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I have a treat for the readers of STORM RISING this week in the form of some supplementary material—a chapter that existed in the original manuscript, but was deleted from the final version. Our editor extraordinaire, Esi Sogah, had a concern about the original set-up of the book. The story starts with Meg and Hawk participating in live rescues following Hurricane Cole’s landfall in Virginia. It’s only after the first two days of searches that the main plot starts when Meg and Webb stumble across a human trafficking ring. Esi’s concern was that the central mystery took too long to start. She made a very good point as there were three major search scenes that came before the human trafficking story, two water rescues and one land rescue. So we decided we needed to cut one scene. That scene became a short conversation between Meg and Brian to fill out their search activities of the day, and an even shorter conversation between Meg and Webb. Without a doubt, Esi made the correct call, and the book is stronger for it.

A side angle of this scene’s deletion is that brainstorming for the book’s cover came directly from this scene. In it, the team is in a boat, moving between houses flooded nearly to their roof lines. Hawk hears a cry for help and jumps out of the boat to swim toward one of the houses. On the cover, we see Hawk just after launching off the bow of the boat, before he hits the water. In my head, Meg and the boat are just off scene, following Hawk on the way to the rescue.

First, here is the conversation between Brian and Meg:


“How did the rest of your morning go?” Brian’s words lifted Meg from her contemplation. “The last time I texted you, you sounded pretty discouraged.” He glanced down at Lacey trotting at his side. “Lacey sure was. She started gnawing at her paw after we found the fifth or sixth deceased victim.”

“Poor girl.” Meg ran her fingers over Lacey’s back, earning her a quick, ear-perked look from the dog. “These kinds of searches are so hard on them. We had a terrible start to the morning, but got lucky later on. There was a family trapped in their two-story house with the water nearly to the roof. Dad drowned downstairs trying to keep the water out, but Mom, her newborn baby, and two other kids made it up to the attic. Then Mom threw a postpartum clot and stroked out, leaving the care of all four of them in the hands of her ten-year-old son. Not knowing what else to do, he stood at their attic window bellowing for help. I couldn’t hear him, but Hawk could. Launched himself out of the boat because we weren’t going fast enough and swam right to the window where the boy stood in waist-high water. We got them all out.”

“Did Mom make it?”

Meg nodded. “We can thank Todd for that. I got him on his cell and told him the symptoms. He confirmed it was an ischemic stroke and told us what we needed to do for her and what meds she needed immediately to save her life. We called in a Coast Guard chopper with a medical team and they got her into the chopper and had meds flowing before they even had everybody off the roof. Then they airlifted the whole family right to the hospital. Her chances for a full recovery look pretty good, thanks to Hawk and Todd. Even another hour or two would have changed her life forever, or ended it.”

“A full recovery is crucial now that she’s lost her husband. Those three kids are going to need their mother more than ever.”


And now, a link to a PDF of the original first version of this scene before it was cut from the manuscript. Enjoy!

STORM RISING Original Chapter Six

STORM RISING Tumblr Takeover!

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It's a #ThrillingThursday Tumblr takeover! Kensington gave Ann and I the keys to the car and we've been on their Tumblr all day talking about STORM RISING. Want some short and snappy tidbits about how we write the FBI K-9s, how search-and-rescue dogs work, or my favourite scene in STORM RISING? You can catch all this and more on Kensington's Tumblr page, so follow this link: http://kensingtonbooks.tumblr.com/

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It's Release Day for STORM RISING!

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Happy Tuesday, everyone! But it’s a happier Tuesday here because STORM RISING is finally out in the world! **throws confetti**

The early reviews are in and they’re spectacular!

Publisher’s Weekly gave it a starred review, saying: “Exceptional… The descriptions of the teamwork between dog and human are detailed and dramatic, and the interactions between Meg and Todd as their relationship develops are convincing. Readers will hope this series has a long run.”

Library Journal said, “Driscoll’s third thriller offers an action-packed story combining the drama of a post hurricane search and rescue with the suspenseful investigation of a human trafficking case.”

The Reading Room described the book as "This book covers so much, but it is at its core a story of rescue... Storm Rising is not only a great piece of storytelling; it is an important read for awareness."

Still not sure and want to see more review goodness? Then head over to Goodreads, where readers have given it a 4.57 rating.

You can get your copy of STORM RISING in hardcover, ebook and audio at these fine online retailers: Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, Barnes and Noble, Indigo, and IndieBound, or at your local bookstore.

The heart-pounding thriller of a series continues as FBI Special Agent Meg Jennings and her search-and-rescue K-9 companion confront the fury of nature—and the more dangerous nature of man . . .
 
In the wake of a devastating hurricane, Special Agent Meg Jennings and her Labrador, Hawk—invaluable members of the FBI’s Human Scent Evidence Team—have been deployed to Virginia Beach. They have their work cut out for them. Amid graveyards of debris, and the buried cries for help, the search and rescue operation begins. The most alarming discovery is yet to come—a teenage girl hiding in the Great Dismal Swamp. Shaken by the storm, she has reason to be scared. But this young survivor is terrified of so much more.

Her name is Emma—a disheveled runaway lost to the sordid underbelly of a Virginia sex-trafficking ring. Its leader has disappeared in the chaos—along with other victims. With so much evidence, and so many witnesses, seemingly washed away, Meg joins forces with Special Agent Walter Van Cleave to ensure no further harm comes to their vulnerable charge. They soon discover that this is no small-time localized syndicate. Its branches are rooted in some of the most influential powers in Virginia. Now as Meg’s investigation digs deeper, she’s making some very dangerous enemies. And one by one, they’re coming out of the storm to stop her.

Looking for a taste of what is to come? You can find the first chapter of the novel here: STORM RISING - Chapter One

Also, a reminder that if you are in the greater Toronto area, the launch for STORM RISING is this Saturday at 4pm. I’d love to see you there if you can make it.

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Walter Van Cleave – A Character in Memoriam

 Lt. Col. Walter Van Cleave (1927 - 1969)

Lt. Col. Walter Van Cleave (1927 - 1969)

Late in the winter of 2017, just as Ann and I were deep into the developmental edit of BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE, I was approached by a representative of the National League of Families of PPOW/MIA. One of their local groups was going to be holding a fundraiser, and she asked if I would be willing to contribute a book to raffle off along with an opportunity to name a character in our next book. Anyone at the fundraiser could win the raffle, but they were hopeful that a family member of a missing-in-action or killed-in-action soldier would win. Ann and I were quite happy to be involved, so I sent them a copy of LONE WOLF for the raffle and then we waited to hear about the winner.

We finished developmental and copy edits of BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE, and then dove into planning what would become STORM RISING. Considering that we were honouring a fallen soldier, we wanted this particular character to be good guy and a straight shooter, so we created an FBI agent to fill that roll. As we didn’t yet have a name, he appeared in the outline as Agent Raffle. He even appeared in an early back cover copy from Kensington as Agent Raffle!

Finally, in late June, I was introduced to the winner of the raffle. And that’s when we met U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Walter Shelby Van Cleave, a Phantom F-4 fighter pilot. Born in August of 1927, Lt. Col. Van Cleave was forty-one when he was shot down on April 22, 1969 over Laos. His body was never recovered. His son Chris won the raffle and was kind enough to provide us with some personal details to integrate into our fictitious Walter Van Cleave.

Thus was born Special Agent in Charge Walter Van Cleave, an agent out of the Norfolk, Virginia field office who specializes in human trafficking and in finding justice for trafficking victims. When Meg Jennings, Hawk, and DCFEMS Lieutenant Todd Webb stumble across victims of human trafficking, Meg joins forces with SAC Van Cleave, or “Van”, as the local expert in his field. SAC Walter Van Cleave not only has Lt. Col Van Cleave’s physical traits, he even smokes the same kind of pipe tobacco. Still a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, his personal military history has been updated to fit the current setting of the series.

Meg swiveled to see what Craig was looking at. Twenty feet down the hallway a tall, lean man with dark hair cut almost military short stood at the nurses’ station, his identification flip case open and extended as he talked to a nurse. “That must be SAC Van Cleave.”

“That’s what I was thinking.”

Meg turned her back to the nurses’ station. “Know anything about him?”

“Not personally. When I heard who we were going to be handing this off to, I looked him up. Ex–air force, flew Tomcats in Operation Desert Storm. Been with the Bureau for nearly twenty years. Going by his record he seems like a good man with a lot of experience. Also sounds like a straight shooter with no BS tolerated.”

“Sounds perfect.”

“Better still, he hasn’t burned out. My six months working human trafficking as a junior agent was enough to show me that wasn’t my niche. It looks like he’s been doing this in the Norfolk office for close to a decade.”

“Can’t beat that kind of experience,” Meg said. “Does he work in conjunction with local law enforcement?”

“That’s what I’ve been told, so he’ll have some useful contacts. Here he comes.”

Meg turned around to face the man coming down the hallway in the standard FBI uniform of white dress shirt paired with a dark suit and tie. Craig stepped up to stand beside her, holding out his hand. “SAC Van Cleave. I’m SAC Craig Beaumont from the Forensic Canine Unit out of D.C.”

“Beaumont, nice to meet you.” The special agent in charge shook hands with him, then turned to Meg. “Walter Van Cleave.”

Meg shook hands. “Meg Jennings. Canine handler for the Human Scent Evidence Team.”

Van Cleave’s head tilted slightly as he considered her. “You’re the one who tracked the girls.”

“Yes.” Standing so close to Van Cleave, a faint scent caught at Meg, tugging at a long-buried memory. Not cigarette smoke, nothing so acidic, something mellower, almost carrying a trace of cherries. Then it hit her—pipe smoke, and from a similar blend of tobacco as the one her Irish grandfather used. She blinked at him in surprise. In this day and age, a man who smoked a pipe. He was a throwback to the classic 1950s G-man. Walter Van Cleave was a rarity in more ways than one apparently.

SAC Walter Van Cleave turned out to be a great character and it was a pleasure to be able to include him. Thank you, Chris, for giving us the opportunity. We hope we produced a character you would feel proud to bear your father’s name.


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STORM RISING releases in a week! There’s still time to pre-order at these fine retailers so you can meet SAC Walter Van Cleave: Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, Barnes and Noble, Indigo, and IndieBound.

The heart-pounding thriller of a series continues as FBI Special Agent Meg Jennings and her search-and-rescue K-9 companion confront the fury of nature—and the more dangerous nature of man . . .
 
In the wake of a devastating hurricane, Special Agent Meg Jennings and her Labrador, Hawk—invaluable members of the FBI’s Human Scent Evidence Team—have been deployed to Virginia Beach. They have their work cut out for them. Amid graveyards of debris, and the buried cries for help, the search and rescue operation begins. The most alarming discovery is yet to come—a teenage girl hiding in the Great Dismal Swamp. Shaken by the storm, she has reason to be scared. But this young survivor is terrified of so much more.

Her name is Emma—a disheveled runaway lost to the sordid underbelly of a Virginia sex-trafficking ring. Its leader has disappeared in the chaos—along with other victims. With so much evidence, and so many witnesses, seemingly washed away, Meg joins forces with Special Agent Walter Van Cleave to ensure no further harm comes to their vulnerable charge. They soon discover that this is no small-time localized syndicate. Its branches are rooted in some of the most influential powers in Virginia. Now as Meg’s investigation digs deeper, she’s making some very dangerous enemies. And one by one, they’re coming out of the storm to stop her.

It's a Launch Party for STORM RISING!

We’re coming closer to the release date for STORM RISING, and that means it’s almost party time! I’ll be celebrating the launch at A Different Drummer Books in Burlington (full details below) on December 1st at 4pm. Southern Ontario peeps, I know it’s a busy time of year, but I’d love to see you that day. It’s also a great time for holiday shopping and STORM RISING is perfect for the mystery or thriller lover on your list (and A Different Drummer is a fantastic indie bookstore, perfect for all your book-lover gift giving needs!).

If you’re in the area, please stop by for a reading, some refreshments, and to get your own signed copy of the book. We’ll also have the entire K-9 series on hand, as well as the new versions of all the Abbott and Lowell books.

Hope to see you there!!

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A sneak peek at STORM RISING and your last chance to win an advanced copy!

Storm Rising HC.jpg

We're a little over a month away from the release of FBI K-9s book three, STORM RISING, and I've got a special treat for you—a sneak peek at Chapter One!

The heart-pounding thriller of a series continues as FBI Special Agent Meg Jennings and her search-and-rescue K-9 companion confront the fury of nature—and the more dangerous nature of man . . .
 
In the wake of a devastating hurricane, Special Agent Meg Jennings and her Labrador, Hawk—invaluable members of the FBI’s Human Scent Evidence Team—have been deployed to Virginia Beach. They have their work cut out for them. Amid graveyards of debris, and the buried cries for help, the search and rescue operation begins. The most alarming discovery is yet to come—a teenage girl hiding in the Great Dismal Swamp. Shaken by the storm, she has reason to be scared. But this young survivor is terrified of so much more.

Her name is Emma—a disheveled runaway lost to the sordid underbelly of a Virginia sex-trafficking ring. Its leader has disappeared in the chaos—along with other victims. With so much evidence, and so many witnesses, seemingly washed away, Meg joins forces with Special Agent Walter Van Cleave to ensure no further harm comes to their vulnerable charge. They soon discover that this is no small-time localized syndicate. Its branches are rooted in some of the most influential powers in Virginia. Now as Meg’s investigation digs deeper, she’s making some very dangerous enemies. And one by one, they’re coming out of the storm to stop her.


Click the link below for a special preview of STORM RISING:

STORM RISING - Chapter One


For those of you who have asked about pre-order links, can can find STORM RISING at these fine retailers: Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, Barnes and Noble, Indigo and IndieBound.  


I'm holding the very last giveaway for one of five softcover advanced reading copies of the novel. If you're in Canada or the United States please click the link below for your chance to win between now and 11:59 on Friday, November 3rd!

STORM RISING - Rafflecopter ARC Giveaway

Good luck!

A Starred Review for STORM RISING and a Giveaway!

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We’re less than two months away from the release of FBI K-9s #3, STORM RISING! And we just had the great thrill of receiving a starred review from Publishers Weekly, who described the book as “Exceptional… The descriptions of the teamwork between dog and human are detailed and dramatic, and the interactions between Meg and Todd as their relationship develops are convincing. Readers will hope this series has a long run.” If you’re interested in the full review (with some light storyline spoilers) you can find it here.

To celebrate a great review, we’re giving away 5 softcover advanced reading copies of STORM RISING. Interested in a free copy almost two months before it releases to the general public? Then enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below! Open to residents of the U.S. and Canada. Good luck!

The New Trade Paperback Versions of the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries Are Out!

I'm happy to say that the new trade paperback versions of the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries are now live on all the Amazons. For those who are interested, you'll find them at the following linked locations:

 

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DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT: amazon.com, amazon.ca, and amazon.co.uk.

 
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A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH: amazon.com, amazon.ca, and amazon.co.uk.

 
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TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER: amazon.com, amazon.ca, and amazon.co.uk.

 

Thank you to all of you who have come with me on the journey through all these great new covers. Enjoy!

Cover Reveal for TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER

We've finally come to the last of the new covers for the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries' new release in trade paperback format. Once again, many thanks to Jess Danna Photography for the wonderful custom job. She was tireless in giving me exactly what I needed for all the covers and I'm thrilled with the results.

This cover is the one that is closest to the original, but that's because this is the scene that starts off the whole book. When Five Star asked for our input on what we wanted on the cover, it was our answer then, and it's still our answer. Our cover is just a little closer to the actual prose. *big grin*

The case in TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER kicks off when Prohibition-era skeletal remains are found inside the wall of a Massachusetts speakeasy, lost to time for roughly seventy years. Jess built this image out of pieces instead of starting with a base photograph as she had for DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT and A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH. She used a skull from the pictures that I took in 2011 for this blog when I was doing a series of blog posts on using skeletons to determine sex and age (you'll see this same skull gracing the cover of LAMENT THE COMMON BONES). The sledgehammer used by Matt and Rowe to take down the wall came from a photo shoot Jess did for one of her Bachelor of Photography projects at a blacksmith's workshop. And the bricks themselves came from a number of pictures taken at a condemned building in town.

The only other aspect I wanted to make sure was captured was the flavour of Prohibition. So Jess added an aged barrel, just like the ones found in the back room of the speakeasy.

Put it all together and this is the final result:

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And the full cover for the trade paperback print version:

Two Parts Cover-FINAL-2.jpg

This cover was the most work intensive of all of them as it was built from components and had to be combined seamlessly. But I'm very please by how it came out.

And now the good news! The trade paperback versions of the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries will be available on April 24th through Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, and Amazon.co.uk. That's next week! So if you want copies of these new versions (D, I'm looking at you!), I'll be back next week with active buy links. See you then!

Cover Reveal for A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH

This week I'm happy to present the next new cover in the new trade paperback editions of the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries, A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH. Once again, this cover comes care of Jess Danna Photography.

Of all the original covers we had, this was the one I was least happy with, partly because it was the least organic. There are so many themes in this book that combining them all in the cover lead to an image that looked artificially constructed, at least to my eye (news flash - I'm a scientist and a writer, not an art director, so I may have this all wrong). So in designing the cover, I wanted to simplify things. We have both the themes of firefighting as well as witchcraft, so I chose to go with the theme of fire because in many ways, fire fulfills the role of one of the books antagonists.

There are three major fires in the book - an antique store, a church, and a residential home. Of the three, I felt the second fire at the church had the greatest visual potential. The church we used while writing the book was based on Holy Trinity (German) Catholic Church in Boston (though our fictional church was located in Salem) which closed in 2008. In it's heyday, this was what Holy Trinity looked like:

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There was no way I'd be able make a quick trip down to Boston to get an actual shot of the church, but Jess had the perfect answer - a smaller church of similar architecture not far from her apartment. So we waited until it finally stopped snowing (January in Canada, what can I say?) and trekked downtown so Jess could shoot the church. She took a bunch of shots, but this ended up being the perfect one:

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This was a great place to start, but there was still a lot that needed to change. The fire takes place at night, in October, just a few days before Halloween (so, no snow...), and the church needed to be a raging inferno complete with flames, smoke, and a glowing skyline.  Jess managed all that through Photoshop.

From a late afternoon, sunny winter scene, she gave us this:

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And the full cover for the trade paperback print version:

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I love the mood of this cover and I feel it really embodies how this case got away from Matt and Leigh for while. This fire is the low point of the book for everyone involved, so it's right that it's the focal point of the cover.

One more Abbott and Lowell cover to go next week as we reveal the new face of TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER!

Cover Reveal for DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT

Over the next few weeks, I have some exciting cover reveals for our Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries. When Five Star closed down its mystery line, they returned the hard cover publication rights to us. And while we didn't want to continue to publish this series in hard cover, trade paperback seemed like the perfect print format. We commissioned all new covers for the series as created by Jess Danna Photography and we'll be bringing them to you one at a time. And as I find the process of making these covers interesting, we'll also look at how the individual designs came about.

DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT depends very heavily on its sense of place.The salt marshes of Essex county are practically a character in the book. It's also an area that's near and dear to my heart and my daughters' who accompanied me to the marsh in Massachusetts on a research trip. So when Jess and I sat down to brainstorm the new cover, there was really only one possibility for us - our own photos of the actual marsh.

From a technical standpoint, Jess was given some challenges, but easily managed them. All our shots were taken in bright and cheerful daylight, but that wasn't the mood we wanted. We wanted something that captured the darkness and danger of the marsh.

She started with these two pictures:

She combined the images, removed any sign of life in the form of houses or outbuildings, changed day into night, added the correct star constellations for when the book is set in that location (September 2012), and then spent time working the colour tones to make them just right.

Honestly, I really love this cover. It's Matt and Leigh's marsh, right down to the last detail. Looking at it, I remember standing there, the sea wind blowing around us, hearing bird song and the rush of water through the marsh grasses. It's like a trip down memory lane, back to one of my favourite places.

Now, without further ado, here is the finished cover:

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And here the full cover for the trade paperback print edition which will be available later in April:

DEAD COVER FINAL - 3 (light).jpg

More to come on availability in the coming weeks as we are actively finalizing this version of the series.

Next cover reveal - A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH!

Big Publishing News!

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We've known for about a month, but Ann and I are thrilled to finally be able to share our big news that we've contracted with Kensington Books to bring you more of Meg Jennings, Hawk, and the rest of the FBI K-9 team!

Kensington has signed us for books four and five in the FBI K-9 series, and, like the first three books, they will launch in hardcover and e-book. We don't have release dates yet, but seeing as we have a continuation of our December 1st deadlines for manuscript delivery, I'm hopeful that book four will follow STORM RISING by a year or so after its November 27, 2018 release to keep the series rolling.

So buckle up, there's a lot more exciting K-9 adventures yet to come!

Cover Reveal for FBI K-9s #3, STORM RISING!

Today I have the first of four (yes, you read that right... FOUR) new covers to reveal over the coming weeks. We're going to start off with a bang and the book that many of you have asked for—the upcoming FBI K-9s #3, STORM RISING, coming November 27, 2018.

STORM RISING takes place a few months after BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE, giving Meg time to heal after that final struggle, and for Meg and Hawk to get back in the game. Along with the other FBI K-9 teams, they set out to rescue the lost and the missing after a terrible hurricane hits the east coast, but, in the end, it isn't Mother Nature that will put them all at risk...


The heart-pounding thriller of a series continues as FBI Special Agent Meg Jennings and her search-and-rescue K-9 companion confront the fury of nature—and the more dangerous nature of man . . .
 
In the wake of a devastating hurricane, Special Agent Meg Jennings and her Labrador, Hawk—invaluable members of the FBI’s Human Scent Evidence Team—have been deployed to Virginia Beach. They have their work cut out for them. Amid graveyards of debris, and the buried cries for help, the search and rescue operation begins. The most alarming discovery is yet to come—a teenage girl hiding in the Great Dismal Swamp. Shaken by the storm, she has reason to be scared. But this young survivor is terrified of so much more.

Her name is Emma—a disheveled runaway lost to the sordid underbelly of a Virginia sex-trafficking ring. Its leader has disappeared in the chaos—along with other victims. With so much evidence, and so many witnesses, seemingly washed away, Meg joins forces with Special Agent Walter Van Cleave to ensure no further harm comes to their vulnerable charge. They soon discover that this is no small-time localized syndicate. Its branches are rooted in some of the most influential powers in Virginia. Now as Meg’s investigation digs deeper, she’s making some very dangerous enemies. And one by one, they’re coming out of the storm to stop her.



The one thing I really wanted to see in this cover was a little more action. The covers for LONE WOLF and BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE are wonderful, but static, and I felt it was time for something a little different. So Kensington picked up the ball and ran with that request, giving us a scene from early in the book when the teams are out in the boats in a devastated Virginia Beach. When the boat doesn't go fast enough, Hawk takes matters into his own hands to launch himself out of the boat. He is a water dog, after all! And, for him, the live find is everything. In my head, Meg is in the prow of the boat, just off scene as Hawk leads the way to a rescue:

Storm Rising HC.jpg

I love this cover and think they did a fantastic job!

And for those who asked about advanced buy links, the book is now available for pre-order at these fine retailers, with more to come: Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, Barnes and Noble, and Indigo.

More new covers to come soon as we launch the new look of the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries!

Changes To The Blog In 2018

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Happy New Year! Many would say that 2017 has been a questionable year on multiple levels, so here’s hoping that 2018 brings prosperity, safety, and peace to all.

As we move into 2018, I’m looking ahead to my work schedule for the coming months and how to manage both my day job and my writing. My goal for 2018 is to negotiate for additional contacted books in Kensington’s FBI K-9 series, but also to sell a couple of new proposals that I’ll be working on early in the year. I’m not a full-time writer, so figuring out how to manage this on top of my 40 hour/week job as a lab manager always involves a lot of juggling (the goal being, as my husband has stated in the past, to not end up in the hospital after burning out). I want to be able to manage two, if not three, projects a year, so that means I need to be more intentional about my writing time. Schedules and self-imposed deadlines have always been my go-to method, including charted weekly goals when drafting, which is often the hardest part of the process for me. But this also means I’m going to ease back from weekly blogging as that can involve hours of research and writing time that I could dedicate instead to my manuscript.

Does that mean you won’t hear from me at all? Absolutely not. All publishing news, and cover reveals, and early sneak peeks will come through my newsletter  and the blog. And I’ll be sure to blog any hot and interesting related stories that come across my desk. But, at least for the short term, I want to concentrate on my upcoming fiction projects, so that means you’ll hear from me less often.

However, there is still lots to come this year. Ann and I turned in the third FBI K-9s book, STORM RISING, at the end of November, so we expect developmental edits to arrive any day now as we prepare for a fall release. And my daughter Jess, the creative skills behind the cover for LAMENT THE COMMON BONES, and I are working on the new covers for DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT, A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH and TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER as we prepare for their re-release (hopefully in February), making the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries a complete series in trade paperback format. And hopefully there will some announcements over the year concerning new projects.

Lots to look forward to in 2018, so hang onto your hat, here we go!

Photo credit: DaPuglet

Happy Holidays! And May I Suggest...

It’s that time of year again, when people are frantically shopping for the holidays and the black cloud of university final exams is hovering over select houses (ours being one of them!). For me personally, it’s not often that I can say the Christmas season is the most relaxed schedule I’ve had in a while, but it’s certainly true this year. With two book launches and a completed manuscript in my rear-view mirror, I’m finally getting the chance to concentrate on the Christmas season and to recharge a bit. Hallelujah! Being busy is great, but a person needs a little downtime every once in a while to avoid burnout.

So, dear reader, while you are working on your own shopping lists, may I suggest some great books for the mystery and thriller readers in your life?

For the mystery reader/geek/science-leaning/lover of a touch of romance—The Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries:

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  • DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT: The book that started it all. Massachusetts State Police Trooper Leigh Abbott joins forces with Boston University’s Dr. Matthew Lowell when skeletal murder victims are found buried on the Essex coast.
  • NO ONE SEES ME ‘TIL I FALL: Matt, Leigh, and the team reunite when the remains of a young woman are found carelessly tossed away in a garbage dump.
  • A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH: As Halloween looms and bodies are discovered following catastrophic arson fires, Matt and Leigh are drawn into Salem’s Witchcraft community to stop the killings.
  • TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER: The discovery of human remains in a Prohibition-era speakeasy starts Matt and Leigh’s investigation into a  series of connected murders spanning from the 1930s to present day.
  • LAMENT THE COMMON BONES: When a skeleton in a university research lab is found to be a murder victim, Matt brings the case to Leigh, setting off a deadly chase that could mean the end of the team… permanently.

For the thriller reader/dog lover—The FBI K-9s:

  • LONE WOLF: The first book in our newest series features FBI handler Meg Jennings and her search-and-rescue black Labrador, Hawk, as they track down a mad bomber with a grudge who is blowing up government buildings, killing innocent bystanders inside.
  • BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE: When victims resembling Meg are kidnapped and trapped in deadly scenarios, the team can only save them if they are able to decipher a cryptic coded message, solve the resulting puzzle, and rescue the victims before time runs out.

The FBI K-9s series continues next fall with STORM RISING!

No matter what holiday season you celebrate, best wishes to you to enjoy it with family and friends, and to find the time to recharge and rejuvenate as you look forward to the new year. See you in 2018!

The CreateSpace Experience

First of all, I’m happy to say that Ann and I completed the manuscript for FBI K-9s #3, STORM RISING, and passed it off to Esi Sogah, our editor at Kensington. We’re looking forward to working with her to fine tune the story in the new year.

Publishing LAMENT THE COMMON BONES was certainly a different experience for me. I’m the first one to admit that I like working with a publishing house rather than doing it myself. Maybe it’s because I have a full-time job on top of a busy writing schedule, but I really appreciate not having to worry about covers and formatting and distribution etc. Also, we’ve been lucky to have great publishing partners, so I wasn’t actively searching out another avenue to publishing. But we also had a manuscript that was crucial to the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries because it tied up a major multi-book arc, so, in the end, there wasn’t really any question about whether we’d put it out or not. Luckily, authors now have more options than ever if they want to self-publish.

We’d self-pubbed a novella before, but this was the first time I’d done a print version as well as an e-book. Because of my previous experience publishing NO ONE SEES ME ‘TIL I FALL through Kindle Direct Publishing and Kobo’s Writing Life, I knew the e-book would be no problem and could be done separately, but I looked to CreateSpace to put the print copy together and to ensure seamless delivery through Amazon worldwide.

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When LAMENT THE COMMON BONES was orphaned by Five Star’s decision to close down their mystery line, the book was already written and had gone through the developmental edit. But we knew it needed another set of eyes on it, so the amazing M.M. Harden graciously offered her services as our copy editor. She can adjust her edit based on what an author is looking for; I asked to be hit with both barrels, and definitely got it in the form of a comprehensive and critical edit. My theory has always been that you have to know the flaws in a book so you can fix them. Yes, it’s hard on your ego and you hate to see your baby bleeding, but the final completed version was so much improved, it was definitely worth it.

A huge thank you goes to my husband Rick for taking on the task of formatting the manuscript. Not difficult work, but fiddly and time consuming in the extreme, requiring a large amount of patience for whenever Word starts getting frisky and doing things on its own (or so it seems!). All those section breaks and text formatting, then adjustments around page numbers, and indent size, and page size, and so on. So many changes and slightly different versions of the manuscript. However, we learned a lot with this manuscript that will make subsequent attempts MUCH easier. I will say that CreateSpace’s ability to upload the document and then convert it into a virtual live version of the printed book was incredibly helpful to the fine-tuning process. Many versions, many uploads, but we worked through the kinks until we had the interior exactly as we wanted.

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The cover was a little trickier, but was not beyond my daughter Jess’s skills. She’s also the brains behind the cover for NO ONE SEES ME ‘TIL I FALL, but now has a lot more experience as a photographer and photo editor under her belt. She initially did the front cover for the e-book version, but then expanded that image into the full cover complete with spine, back cover copy, and previous reviews for Abbott and Lowell. It took a few kicks at the can to get the cover right (partly due to CreateSpace’s vague error emails about why the cover didn’t work during the review process). But this is another exercise that taught us a lot and we’ll definitely be more prepared next time.

Getting an ISBN for each of the three versions was a breeze as Collections Canada provides them free of charge to Canadian publishers, so that was lightning fast and saved purchasing separate numbers for each.

This pretty much put the print copy together, so we completed the setup and I ordered a hard copy proof to make sure there weren’t any errors (and yes, there were… I always catch errors in new formats because I look at the book differently). This was a step that cost a little and took some time to have the copy shipped, but was well worth both.

Rick reformatted the manuscript for the e-book versions and we got those up and ready for pre-order with a few weeks to go still. This process would have been a little simpler if I hadn’t been juggling the still work-in-process post-crit team manuscript for STORM RISING, but somehow it all managed to fit in. And on November 21st, LAMENT THE COMMON BONES went live. And I survived the self-publishing process! ;)

What’s next for Abbott and Lowell? I’m going to tackle the re-release of DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT, A FLAME IN THE WIND OF DEATH, AND TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER in print. Five Star has stopped printing the hardcovers, and, honestly, I always thought those were too expensive for a debut author’s book, so I’m going to be putting together the trade paperback versions to match LAMENT THE COMMON BONES. So, watch for new covers to come in the new year with the book releases following shortly after. Rick and I are already well into the formatting of those manuscripts and I’ll be working with Jess over the next month or two to get new covers ready to go. More of that in the new year. Stay tuned!

Back Next Week!

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The fall has been absolutely insane. September held the release of BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE. October was Bouchercon and our fantastic crit team's return of all their copies of STORM RISING (FBI K-9s #3) which then required a full edit (as it always does). November has been crazy between getting LAMENT THE COMMON BONES ready for publication and working on the final edits of STORM which is due in three days. So I'm head down on the final couple of passes of STORM right now and I'll be back with a real post next week, no doubt feeling about two hundred pounds lighter with no deadline hanging over me (seriously... I may not know what to do with myself without one!).

See you next week!

LAMENT THE COMMON BONES Is Out!

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I'm happy to announce that the latest book in the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries is out today! Looking for a holiday gift idea for the mystery reader in your life? LAMENT THE COMMON BONES could be the book for you. And never fear that it's book #5 in the series - we had a number of early readers who were unfamiliar with the series, and they all said that it was extremely accessible to new readers (and they now need to go back and catch up on books 1 - 4!). So with Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and other holiday celebrations just around the corner, keep this book in mind as a gift idea for the readers in your life.

You'll find LAMENT THE COMMON BONES at the following fine outlets:
Trade paperback and Kindle e-book: Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk
E-book for both Kobo and Nook e-readers: Indigo.ca and Kobo.com


When death hides in plain sight, only the most discerning eye can see the truth.

Forensic anthropologist Dr. Matt Lowell and his team of grad students don’t go looking for death—it usually comes to them. But when one of Matt’s students suspects the skeleton hanging in a top competitor’s lab is actually from a murder victim, Matt has no choice but to sneak in to confirm a suspicious death. Once the case comes to Massachusetts State Police Trooper Leigh Abbott, the team is back together again.

While trying to handle the new murder case, Matt and Leigh also uncover new evidence behind the mysterious deliveries intended to smear the name of Leigh’s father, an honored cop, fallen in the line of duty four years before. When the person behind the deliveries is finally uncovered, it becomes clear that lives are in jeopardy if they attempt to thwart him. At the same time, as the murder case delves into underground societies and grows complicated when the killer himself becomes a victim, it will take all of Matt and Leigh’s teamwork to solve both cases and escape with their lives.


Happy reading and gift giving!

A Sneak Peek at LAMENT THE COMMON BONES

We’re only a week away from the release of LAMENT THE COMMON BONES! So, as a special treat to our fabulous readers who have been waiting so long since TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER, Ann and I would like to give you a little sneak peek of our upcoming release. We really hit the ground running (and ducking bullets) in LAMENT THE COMMON BONES, so settle in for the explosive beginning of the book and then the start of the case that sets everything in motion:

When death hides in plain sight, only the most discerning eye can see the truth.

Forensic anthropologist Dr. Matt Lowell and his team of grad students don’t go looking for death—it usually comes to them. But when one of Matt’s students suspects the skeleton hanging in a top competitor’s lab is actually from a murder victim, Matt has no choice but to sneak in to confirm a suspicious death. Once the case comes to Massachusetts State Police Trooper Leigh Abbott, the team is back together again.

While trying to handle the new murder case, Matt and Leigh also uncover new evidence behind the mysterious deliveries intended to smear the name of Leigh’s father, an honored cop, fallen in the line of duty four years before. When the person behind the deliveries is finally uncovered, it becomes clear that lives are in jeopardy if they attempt to thwart him. At the same time, as the murder case delves into underground societies and grows complicated when the killer himself becomes a victim, it will take all of Matt and Leigh’s teamwork to solve both cases and escape with their lives.

Read Chapters One to Three here: LAMENT THE COMMON BONES Ch. 1 - 3

Like instant gratification and want your copy waiting for you when you wake up on November 21st? For e-book readers, we have the following links ready for pre-order:

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077721M4V/

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/lament-the-common-bones

A New Method to Determine Time Since Death?

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There are two significant challenges in any criminal investigation involving badly decomposed or skeletonized remains: who is the victim and when did he or she die?

In the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries, we’ve dealt with the time since death, or post mortem interval (PMI), issue a few times. In the very first book in the series, DEAD, WITHOUT A STONE TO TELL IT, Trooper Leigh Abbott and Dr. Matt Lowell nearly come to blows when Leigh needs a time since death estimate so she can start looking at missing persons reports, and Matt, a quintessential scientist, refuses to guess when he’s lacking sufficient data. In TWO PARTS BLOODY MURDER, when a skeleton is found immured behind a brick wall, it is Dr. Edward Rowe and his knowledge of history that dates the skeleton. But in LAMENT THE COMMON BONES (out two weeks today!), when a murder victim is found hanging in a forensic anthropology lab, it’s impossible for Matt to estimate the PMI because he’s missing the usual markers—tissue decomposition or bone weathering. The best he can do is to provide a minimum PMI based on the time required to prepare the bones. The maximum can be determined by the last time the victim was seen alive, but that only provides at best a detrimentally large window for a murder investigation. However, a small side storyline involves Dr. Trevor Sharpe, Matt’s scientific arch nemesis, and why Matt hates him so much. In the end, it all has to do with PMI estimates and the extent some researchers will go to in their search for scientific glory.

In the real world, a lack of understanding of PMI started the criminal investigative aspect of forensic anthropology as we currently know it when Dr. Bill Bass misjudged the age of a corpse by over a century (see the fascinating story of Colonel William Shy). As a result, he started the University of Tennessee Forensic Anthropology Research Facility (nicknamed the ‘Body Farm’) in 1981. Since then, research into decomposition in different locations and during different seasons, scavenging, the affect of trauma, entomology, and many, many other aspects of the process of death have elucidated scientific details that have greatly improved criminal investigations.

However, definitive estimates of PMI continue to elude scientists in certain cases, especially those involving skeletonized remains. Without definitive tissue markers, or obvious weathering clues, some estimates around PMI can span months or even years, greatly complicating any criminal investigation. Enter Lincoln Memorial University, Dr. Beatrix Dudzik, and her new project to study bone marrow, the protected inner contents of bones that produce both red and white blood cells. They hope to use the decomposition of lipids within the bone marrow to estimate the time elapsed since death. They are basing their research on a study by Paul Wood and Natalie Shirley where PMI was reliably determined based on skeletal muscle decomposition and the biochemical breakdown products produced up to a year after death. Knowing the difficulties involved in skeletal remains, Dudzik would like to translate a similar breakdown process to bone marrow.

The study will take place at the Body Farm, using twenty donor cadavers over a two-year time period, as well as samples already in the Body Farm’s bone collection with known PMI’s from one to thirty years. The study, which will start in January 2018, will study three types of bones specifically—the calcaneus from the ankle, the tibia from the lower leg, and a vertebrae—as well as teeth to test for lipid breakdown products.

The group hopes that the initial two-year study will produce data allowing for an extension and additional research to better understand this complicated process.


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LAMENT THE COMMON BONES releases two weeks from today and we’ve got a couple of buy links already up for readers who like instant gratification and want their copy waiting for them when they wake up on November 21st. So for e-book readers, we have the following links:

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077721M4V/

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/lament-the-common-bones

Newsletter readers are getting an advanced sneak peek at the first three chapters of the book today, but come back to the blog next week for a chance to see the exciting opening chapters early!