Monday, July 21, 2014

FBI Houston Citizens Academy

Guest Blogger: DiAnn Mills

Posted by K. L. Bridgewater

When I received the invitation from the FBI Houston Community Outreach Coordinator to participate in their Citizens Academy, all I could think about was the research at my fingertips and the potential of taking a future suspense novel to the next notch of credibility. Actually, my aspirations were selfish. During the seven week course, I grew as a citizen who cared more deeply about stopping and preventing crime in my city.
 Displaying FBI logo.png            The Citizens Academy is offered yearly to thirty of Houstons citizens: professionals from all walks of life, religious leaders, and others who are actively involved in the community. I was the only writer and considered the invitation an honor. The nominations are made by FBI personnel and Citizens Academy alumni. I was recommended by Houston FBIs media coordinator. Wed become good friends, and she knew my concern about providing accuracy in my novels where the FBI is depicted.
            The goal of the academy is to give those taking the class a glimpse of the FBI and how its special agents serve within their investigations. This method of outreach is popular in cities all over our country.
            The mission of the FBI is to protect and defend the United States against terrorist and foreign intelligence threats, to uphold and enforce the criminal laws of the United States, and to provide leadership and criminal justice services to federal, state, municipal, and international agencies and partners. It performs these responsibilities in a way that is responsive to the needs of the public and faithful to the Constitution of the United States.
 Displaying DiAnn Target Practice.jpg           The class met eight times, once a week from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the FBI Houston office, and they provided dinner. An appetizing perk! The first night we arrived early for fingerprinting and a drivers license check. Handguns were not permitted, even for those who had a concealed handgun license (CHL), and cell phones remained in the FBI reception area until the exited the building. Those persons who needed to contact us were given a special number. Laptops stayed at home, but we were presented with notebooks that contained a detailed outline about each session.
            The presentations through lecture, guests, and powerpoint revealed the raw and gritty crimes that snake through our city. My heart went out to young girls and boys caught up in prostitution. The prevalence of human trafficking in the bad and elite neighborhoods opened my eyes. Hate crimes yanked anger I didnt realize was there. Terrorism here and abroad, espionage, scams, intelligence, and evidence response teams gave me valuable information to share with others.
            The final meeting took place on a Saturday morning at their firearms facility, and we could bring a guest. I brought my husband, and he outshot me. But I got over it. The firearms were heavy, and accuracy would take practice. We witnessed a thrilling SWAT demo, FBI simulation training, and firearm instructions. Wow! Maybe Id missed my calling.
          We learned about the various investigations from the special agents who were in charge of those areas or who had worked a specific crime. Listening to the special agents discuss their fields of expertise filled me with knowledge that I continue to share. We also learned the process of how particular crimes and cold cases had been solved. Forensics fascinated me, and we were present to demonstration and experiments to show critical evidence.
The following is a list of what the FBI investigates:
     Cyber Crime
     Public Corruption
     Civil Rights
     Organized Crime
     White-Collar Crime
     Violent Crimes & Major Thefts         

            Since graduating from the academy
    Ill never look at a tattoo the same way again. Some gang markings are embedded in my brain.
    Ill never look at a massage parlor with indifference again.
    Ill never look at a low-life bar again without questioning a possible crime in the making.
    My cell phone is no longer used while Im walking through a public area. Victims use phones and are oblivious to a possible crime against them.
    I took additional steps to learn how to defend myself against a potential crime.
    I scrutinize my surroundings before exiting my car in public places, and I do the same before returning to my vehicle.
    I tell others about crime awareness.   
    I know how to contact the FBI with possible crime information. And Ive done this.
    My story ideas have grown deeper with the understanding of the skills needed and sacrifices made by FBI special agents to insure our safety.    
            Most of the above are common sense items, but all of us get sidetracked in the business of life.     For those interested in additional information about the FBI, its mission, and investigations, check out
 Displaying firearminstructor.jpg           Many story ideas developed during the academy, including the new series FBI: Houston. Research for Firewall began during this thrilling and informative academy.
            Im proud of our FBI and their accomplishments. I look forward to more active participation in the Citizens Academy Alumni Programlots of exciting events have taken place. Ive met more courageous people to bless my life and provide a solid foundation for my work as a concerned citizen of Houston. A trip to Washington will give me more information and hand-on experience for the future. Im now in the process of training to be a speaker in an effort to stop and prevent the growth of gangs.
            Who knows what Ill be writing next?

 This is my personal review of DiAnn Mills's Firewall, which is located on Amazon:

            Diann Mill’s latest book, Firewall, lived up to its title. It was fast -paced from the beginning chapter when a bomb erupted in an airport, separating newly married Tayne Young from her new husband, Step.  The story throws in a couple of different twists as the story progresses along. The character of Tayne Young as an introvert was talked about, but not truly believable. Even though, I did enjoy the thrill of the hunt for the missing little girl, Zoey, and the mastermind behind the explosion and the hunt for Tayne’s head, Through the quick moving plot for the first three hundred pages, the budding relationship between Tayne and Grayson kept me wondering how their emotions would play out in the end. Struggling through the hurt from Step and the troubles from Grayson’s childhood, Tayne and Grayson lean on the feelings developing inside.

           But the one down side I discovered was the ending of the story dragged a little. It appeared Mills didn’t know what to do with Tayne or the intertwining of the bad guys, so she kept having Tayne captured by the bad guys, rescued by Grayson, and captured again before Grayson  freed her. The ending took too long to explain. I skipped a couple of pages by the time I read to page 290 because I figured she would be caught again and allow Grayson to come to her rescue minutes before anything horrible would happen. To Mill’s credit, the surprising identity of the person behind all the killings and bombings was someone I did not see coming. She did a good job at keeping this bad guy’s identity a total secret. Being a huge fan of DiAnn Mills books, I would still recommend every one of her book.

If you love fast-paced, detective stories, you will truly enjoy this book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest reviews. All of my opinions are my own.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Interview with Sarah Varland

Congratulations on your first book, Treasure Point Secrets! I know it's exciting. Before we get into the book, though, tell everyone a little about yourself.

Let’s see…I live in Georgia so I’m definitely southern, but I lived in Alaska for nine years, so I consider myself an Alaskan too. I’m married to my favorite person to spend time with, have two adorable boys (who are 4 and 1 ½), and love being with my family. When I’m not writing I’m either reading, kayaking, baking, hiking, or possibly finally remembering to clean my house…

What has it been like for you as a newly published author, seeing your story come to life?

Oh, I don’t even know if I can explain it! First, though, the editing process was amazing and so hard and so wonderful. I had no idea how much an editor polished a story to really make it smooth and the best it could possibly be, but that was one of my favorite parts of the process, was seeing what the story turned into once someone with my editor’s skills worked on it. I also discovered how fun it was to help give ideas for the cover and how cool it was to see those ideas translated into the cover itself. The entire process has seriously been way more amazing than I’d realized it would be—truly above and beyond my dreams.

What was your inspiration for Treasure Point Secrets?

It was kind of a combination of a story I’d heard that got me thinking about bodies in a graveyard and why they were there and the character of Shiloh herself. Somehow she got in my head and I saw her in a square in Savannah and I knew she was running and I wanted to know why. Between wanting to find out why she was running and wanting to find out why several people were dead, I wrote the story to find out for myself.

Being a pastor's wife myself, I love the fact that Adam is a pastor. You did a great job showing the stress and expectations a pastor and his family deal with every day. How did your own experiences in the ministry inspire this?

Thankfully our congregation has been much sweeter than Adam’s. Haha. So the really negative issues he dealt with are based on things that I’ve known other people have had to deal with. But as far as my own experiences…I think what came through the most from me personal was this idea of what an ideal pastor’s wife should look like. In my head (before I was one) she was this perfect, soft-spoken woman who played the piano and did the children’s ministry and that was not me. At all. So I think I wrote Shiloh’s character to try to reconcile that in my head—that a pastor’s wife is someone who loves Jesus and marries a pastor. Not someone who necessarily fits any other role in a way people expect.

How much of yourself do you put into your characters and settings?

There’s a little of me in everyone heroine I’ve written so far, for sure. They’re not “me” exactly—in fact, some things they think or deal with are opposite of me—but there’s always an element of me in them that helps me identify with them and know them. The way Shiloh thinks, her temper, the way she hates storms, those are all things that were very, very easy for me to write. We’ll put it that way.

What's next for you?

I have another Love Inspired Suspense coming out in October. It’s called Tundra Threat and it’s set in Alaska, which is one of my favorite places in the world. I’m working on some other stories after that, but nothing is official there yet, so I’m just waiting to hear and having fun coming up with new ideas and seeing where those stories go.

Where can we find Treasure Point Secrets?

If you want to buy Treasure Point Secrets online, you can buy it at Amazon or Barnes and Noble, or you may be able to find it in your local Walmart (I even saw it at a grocery store the other day!!). I had so much fun writing it and I hope y’all have fun reading it.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Interview and Giveaway with Nike Chillemi

Please welcome Nike Chillemi to Sleuths and Suspects. In fact, while you're here, why don't you wish her a happy birthday and come up with a unique comment to be entered for a chance to win a Kindle copy of Harmful Intent.

Harmful Intent

Nike Chillemi

Nike, your newest novels, The Veronica (Ronnie) Ingles and Dawson Hughes Series, is a departure from your historical suspense novels. How hard was it to transition from Sanctuary Point to modern-day Texas and New York?

HARMFUL INTENT is set in both Texas and New York, but the remaining novels in the series will be set in many different locations. It wasn't hard at all to transition from writing historical novels. In fact, I didn't even know I was writing a contemporary novel. It started with a writing prompt which was supposed to grow into a short story. Then the characters went rogue on me and it morphed into a novella, then a full-fledged novel. The thing that took the most time was research. Then again, I always do lots of research and actually like researching. I had to research west Texas customs, culture, and topography for HARMFUL INTENT. I didn't think of that as difficult, simply as part of writing a novel.

Don't you just love it when characters develop minds of their own? Ronnie and Dawson are fairly young. How did you research the younger generation, and how did you handle this in your books?

I haven't given them specific ages, but to have achieved a certain level in their careers, I imagined Ronnie in her mid-to-late twenties, and Dawson Hughes in his early-to-mid thirties. Neither of them follow the crowd, so I didn't have to immerse myself in the culture of that generation, but I did have to figure out what music they listen to, and so forth. Dawson likes country music, and Ronnie has no taste for that, to put it mildly. Ronnie listens to soft jazz. My birthday is the first week in July, and I'm not in my late-twenties. There were times I caught myself having Ronnie or Dawson use an expression too old for them and I had to change to something more contemporary. Since I'm going to be thirty-nine, yet again, for my birthday, I'm going to give away a Kindle copy of HARMFUL INTENT to the person with the most interesting and exuberant comment.
Ahem…as to the birthday giveaway, since I can't (won't) tell you how many times I've been thirty-nine, we can also include inventive in the criteria.

Ahh, the 39th birthday...those are fun no matter how many times we have one! I can't wait to read some of the great comments. How do you juggle the promotional aspect of writing with the actual task of writing? 

I become frantic and lose my mind. ~ Seriously, it can be daunting, as you well know. The most difficult thing is knowing what is effective. I've heard that rolling postings to Facebook groups is effective. Then I hear that's considered spam. So, there's a lot of conflicting advice out there. There are many groups that specify you can post one promo per day. So, on those groups, that's not spam. I have to use my best judgment, and I've made mistakes. Certain marketing strategies can be evaluated. I can look at my blog's stats and can see where traffic is coming from. I think it would be safe to say book sales are probably coming from the same source(s). HARMFUL INTENT rose into the top 100 sellers in Amazon's mystery > private investigator category. I was pleased because this is a pretty big category with authors such as Lee Child, James Patterson, and Stuart Woods.

Wow! Congratulations on now being one of Amazon's Best Selling Authors.  Any words of advice for novice writers?

Take advantage of online writing courses. Get into a serious critique group with authors who are already published or working toward that end. And most important of all, read the top authors in your genre. Don't copy them, rather study them.

Excellent advice. Do you set a writing schedule for yourself? What challenges do you face in keeping to a writing schedule?

Actually, I don't have a writing schedule. I do push myself to write but I'm seat of the pants in that area. I find that family and life events get in the way of my writing. If I've skipped a few days, I'll make myself sit down, and I'll get into a writing marathon. On the other hand, if I'm writing at a goodly, but sane pace, I won't try to fix what ain't broken.

Thank you so much for sharing a little about your writing processes with us on Sleuths and Suspects. Where can readers buy Harmful Intent?

Author Bio:
Nike Chillemi has been called a crime fictionista due to her passion for crime fiction. She is a member of Christian Indie Novelists (CHIN),American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers.She is the founding board member of the Grace Awards, a reader's choice awards for excellence in Christian fiction.
She was an Inspy Awards 2010 judge in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category and a judge in the 2011, 2012, 2013 Carol Awards in the suspense, mystery, and romantic suspense categories. She writes monthly book reviews for The Christian Pulse online magazine.
Her recent contemporary detective story HARMFUL INTENT has garnered acclaim and has been called: sassy, witty, gritty, charming, and yummy.
Her historical suspense Sanctuary Point series brought on a crime wave that swept the south shore of Long Island during the 1940s (BURNING HEARTS, GOODBYE NOEL, PERILOUS SHADOWS, DARKEST HOUR) won acclaim and awards.

Nike may be found at her website:, on Amazon:; on Facebook:

Purchase Harmful Intent on Amazon

To be entered into the drawing for a Kindle copy of Harmful Intent:
  1. Leave a comment
  2. Leave your email address - you may spell it out, if you'd like.
The winner will be announced on July 12th. Good Luck!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Interview/Book Giveaway with Julianna Deering, Author of Murder at the Mikado

 by Jeff Reynolds

Does this author pictured here look familiar? Could it be that this is the third time I've interviewed her in the past twelve months? Would this be an indicator that a new installment of the critically acclaimed Drew Farthering Series? (Since I do book reviews on Amazon, I could be considered a critic, so the series is acclaimed by at least this critic.) And is there a possibility that we're giving away that new book? Of course -- details below.

I am going to assume that the majority of you have read the other interviews, so I'll be trying to ask new questions. For those who missed one or both previous interview, here are the links:

Sleuths and Suspects: Interview and Book Giveaway with Julianna Deering, August 28, 2013

Sleuths and Suspects: Interview and Book Giveaway with Julianna Deering, March 13, 2014

Jeff Reynolds:  Welcome back, Julianna. Since this is your third interview here on this page in the past year, I'll try to make this more challenging. Let me start by asking you what three items you most want us to know about you.

Juliana Deering: Hmm . . . three things I haven't mentioned before? Number one, I deeply and utterly despise hot weather. It's expensive and tiresome and icky and there's no hockey. So, yeah, summer is not my favorite time of year. Number two, I want to have a little tuxedo kitten called Crazy Eddie. Number three, I very much would like to have an indoor swimming pool. I suppose I used up all the serious stuff already, though I am serious about not liking hot weather.

JR:  Of course, since this is your third interview, the third installment of the Drew Farthering Mysteries must be out. (One of my favorite mystery series, by the way). Would you like to give a brief summary of the series and tell us about the latest chapter -- well, technically twenty chapters.

JD: I'd love to! The series is about Drew Farthering, a rich young Englishman in the 1930s, and his perky American sweetheart, Madeline Parker, who solve mysteries. They are my take on the classic cozy mysteries of that era. The latest book, Murder at the Mikado, starts out with the murder of a well-known local actor. The chief suspect also happens to be a former flame a Drew's, the beautiful and irresistible Fleur Hargreaves. Madeline, of course, wants Drew to stay focused on their upcoming wedding and not on Fleur. It seems that, no matter what he does, he's going to be in hot water with someone, poor chap.

JR:  For those who are culturally challenged, the Mikado is the best known of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. Were you a G&S fan before writing this? If not, how did you research it? If so (and even if not), what's your favorite of theirs?

JD: Oh, I love Gilbert and Sullivan! I've been a fan of theirs for decades. I think my favorite is the Pirates of Penzance, especially the amazing version with Kevin Kline, but there are so many others I enjoy, too.  The Mikado is probably my second favorite. It's also nice that their works are old enough to be in public domain, so I don't have to worry about when I reference them in my story.

JR:  There are times when a character meets the reaper in a mystery and I think, "Why did that nice person have to get killed off?" One of those times occurred in Murder at the Mikado. In a previous interview you mentioned you knew who did it when you get started, but how do you decide who the victims are? And while a lot of the murderees probably deserved it, is it hard knocking off one who deserves better?

Mostly I kill off the person whose death works for my story. For example, if I make it look like Mr. A is the killer and then I want to totally destroy that theory, how better to do that than have Mr. A be the next victim? Or perhaps I need to drive someone to do something he would not ordinarily consider, like take the law into his own hands. What's more likely to make him do that than for him to find the love of his life with a knife in her back and the police insisting it was suicide? Of course, I don't like having to dispatch the nice characters, but I usually know they won't be around long and don't let myself get too attached to them.

JR:  It's only been four months since your most recent book has been published, and the first one is less than a year old. I'm assuming Bethany House is a full service publishing company, but what activities do you do to promote your book besides answering my questions?

JD:  I'll admit right off I'm not a very good marketer. I'm too busy trying to write new books. But I do mention on Facebook and Twitter and my blog whenever I have news or special offers. For example, Bethany House sends me the most wonderful bookmarks and notepads for each of the books, and I'd love to send them out to readers.  All they have to do is write me at P. O. Box 375, Aubrey, Texas 76227 and include a self-addressed, stamped envelope (one at least 7" long with one first-class stamp for a bookmark and one at least 6" x 4" with 70 cents postage). Besides that, I do a lot of online interviews and giveaways and even some book signings. Mostly though, the best way to promote your books is to keep writing the best ones you can. Nothing else will last.

JR:  As you mentioned in a previous interview, there's a lot of difference between Drew Farthering's home in England of the 1930's and your real-life residence of 2014 Dallas, Texas. I have a suspicion that the spiritual climates were quite different as well. Is it much of a challenge giving spiritual challenges in our post-modern, post Christian society from a time where the Judeo-Christian worldview was alive and well and served with tea and crumpets?

JD: Actually then, as now, there were a lot of social Christians, people who attended church because it was the expected, proper thing to do and not because of a genuine relationship with God. My hero, Drew Farthering, started off as just such a person. He had a nebulous belief in a God of some sort but didn't think He was interested in our day-to-day affairs. I think the main difference between then and now is that Christianity was considered expected and proper in the 1930s. Now, thanks in many ways to the influence of the secular media, it is something to be ridiculed or, at best, distrusted. Are Christians perfect? Not by any means, but the ones I know try their best to live in a way that pleases God and shows love to those around them. I guess that's one of the reasons I like writing historicals more than contemporary mysteries.

JR:  Has your evil twin DeAnna Dodson (or are you her evil twin) written anything recently? And what else can we expect from either of you?

JD:  Well, she doesn't commit nearly as many murders as I do, so I suspect I'm the evil twin, though she may be catching up now. She's working on a new book for a new series from Annie's Attic. It's called Annie's Secrets of the Quilt, and it's about a woman who inherits a quilt and a diary that talks about the fabrics in the quilt and how they're connected to famous people in history. I'm writing the second book in the series, Lies of Splendor, which focuses on a girl who was a lady-in-waiting for Marie Antoinette just before the French Revolution.

I am very excited to tell you that I just came to terms with Bethany House for three more Drew books. Dressed for Murder is due out in the Spring of 2016. I don't have titles for the other two, but they should follow in Fall 2016 and Summer 2017. That seems a long time off, but I have a lot of work to do before then.

And if you are clever with languages, you might want to check out the German version of Rules of MurderMord mit Stil ist auch nicht Besser (Murder with Style is also not Better). I'm not sure exactly how they came up with that, but I'm really delighted to see my book in another language.  I just wish it was French or Spanish. I might be able to read a bit of it. I understand there will be a Norwegian version, too.  Then I'll be really lost.

JR:  Thanks again, Julianna Dodson  -- or is it DeAnna Deering? (Just joking.) Once again, in case we've forgotten, do you have any web-pages or blogs or upcoming interviews that you'd like to pass along?

JD: I just have to share this beautiful blog from New Zealand. I love how they have it set up.
And here are my other links:

Thank you, Jeff, for letting me visit again. If you or your readers have more questions or think of something we didn't talk about here, please comment.  I'd love to chat.

Jeff to readers: You've just seen the invitation from Julianna to ask any other questions. Also, it's time to enter the contest for Murder at the Mikado. You just have to follow these three easy steps:

  1. Leave a comment. That's easy, isn't it?
  2. Leave your e-mail address so we can contact you. You can spell it out, like AuntDotKahm(at)And(dot)com.
  3. If you had used a setting for a story like Julianna used the Mikado, what would you use? For example, it could be a play/musical/operetta, a concert of a specific artist, or a sporting event (if they had hockey in '30's England, I'm sure Drew Farthering would be at a game).