Here’s a reader review for our crime fiction novel Tom Stone: Sweltering Summer Nights. Lon and I enjoy feedback from readers, whether it’s constructive or downright complimentary. Read below:
My internet was down and the good thing about it was, I got uninterrupted reading time. I finished reading Tom Stone: Sweltering Summer Nights and I would like to commend you and Don for a great, awesome, readable and stand-alone book.
I must say that it was not difficult for me to follow the story, considering that I started reading book two first. I like that the story was realistic, bringing about the relevant drug issues and social inequalities that come with it. And I love the details. How drugs morphed into a “user-friendly” facade to get into the hands of the masses. That part I would say is very well researched.
I echo Tom Stone’s concern of his daughter having anything to do with drugs. I can relate much there. As a parent myself that is one of my greatest fears – that my daughter will be introduced to drugs. I like that he is very human in that aspect. He has fears and frustrations of the things he can’t control but tries anyway – to the point of being over-protective. I totally get it.
Tom Stone is one hell of a detective with a big heart. That’s what makes him unique among other detective stories I’ve read. He has strong family values such as love and compassion – despite his non-traditional setup. Family love is strongly felt in the story.
The promising love interest is not overbearing. I like Alisha. Just the right spice in the story. And I want to know more of Sara in the next book as well. I hope she’s in a better position. I’m a fan of happy endings.
Thanks, Hazel, for your support. If you’ve just come across our Tom Stone Detective stories, you can check them out here:
The evidence was clear to this crime fiction author, taking a break instead of working to write another amazing piece. I had finally sat at my laptop after a day of constant interruptions and decided, before I finally started in on my piece, that I should check the toothpaste.
What I noticed shook me to my core. The tube was squeezed in the middle and not neatly rolled up from the end. Damn. Who could have done this? I stared at it, searching my memory bank for who could have walked into the bathroom and then–
“Aren’t you supposed to be writing?”
The wife. Dang. Always the wife. Or the dogs barking at the mailman. Or the kids yelling at each other or plumbers working on the neighbors line to the water supply next door or the coyotes howling in the middle of the night.
“What are you doing?” She sauntered in, grabbed the tube and–squeezed from the bottom.
“I see.” She brushed her teeth and left.
So I decided that now was the time to return to the laptop and upload an excerpt from our latest crime thriller novel Tom Stone: Day of the Dead on Amazon. Read below the cover image.
EXCERPT CHAPTER FIVE
Sara brushed a hand through her hair. “It’s getting scary out there. The soccer store. The bowling alley. It’s all over the news. Who’s next?”
The question sent chills through Angel. Where he and Sara lived was no secret. “Maybe you should stay with your uncle Robert and Leonna for a while.”
“And put them in danger? No way. If Amman wanted me dead, I’d be dead already.”
“Quiet down.” Angel carefully glanced from one side to the other, making sure they had at least minimal privacy. “Kiss me, all right? Act like you love me.” He ran a hand along her back.
Sara kissed him on the lips. “It’s not an act. Of course, I love you. You know I got to take word back to Amman, right?”
“You’re a good little messenger, aren’t you?”
“Angel, I’m scared, but I’m just doing what I have to do. Trying to protect you.”
He pulled away from her and strolled toward the doorway.
Sara rolled her eyes. “Damn it, Angel, I don’t want to be caught up in this mess. Stop playing games.”
“You telling me not to play games? They strong-arm me into working with them. Try to rip me apart and ruin my life. What I know is none of Amman’s business or whoever the hell his boss is. Mister Goldchains.”
“Angel, you ripped them off. It’s all on you so just give it back. I’m sick of this. Tell him—
“Who the hell’s side are you on? Why don’t you believe in me?”
“I do believe in you, but just tell them where the coke is,” pleaded Sara. “Then he leaves you alone and we’re free.”
“Free to do what? They won’t give me a cent. And even if I do get out, they’ll never leave me alone. No matter where I go, they’ll hunt me down. It’s me or them.”
“Don’t say that.”
Angel grabbed her hands and looked her in the eye. “I don’t want you talking to Amman.”
“Really? Like I got a choice?”
“I’ll make a deal with him, but only on my terms.”
He motioned for her to be quiet. They stepped inside the commissary, surrounded by bags of snacks and sodas. “You want a root beer or 7-Up?”
“Dr. Pepper. You know that.”
A bag of chips and a packet of muffins rounded out the purchase. He wanted to take her, right there, pulling her into his arms and forgetting about the prison fights and lockdowns. But they could only step outside and find an empty bench to sit on.
“How are your classes going?”
“Good. I’m going to be a LVN real soon, like I told you. And then a RN.”
“That’s good, Sara.” He opened his soda, and Sara opened hers.
“Guess what?” She smiled.
“I was driving up Figueroa Avenue the other day and I just got this urge to turn left. The street went up a hill and there was a little house for sale.”
Angel sipped his soda and looked across the prison yard. “How little?”
“Two bedrooms. One bath. Had cute front and back yards. It got me thinking again, Babe.”
“About kids?” Angel sounded less than enthusiastic.
“And I’m sure the place was a real bargain for just under six-hundred thousand.”
“Just under five-hundred.”
“Only a half-million? In LA? Must have some real problems.” He munched on a snack.
“Come on, Angel. I want to dream with you.”
“Look around you, Babe. I’m living a nightmare and don’t really have time for your kind of dreams right now.”
Sara closed her eyes to block out the frustration. She just wanted him to play along, and maybe things would get better.
“You got to have goals. You’ve told me that so many times. You’re not stuck here forever.”
“Yeah and I don’t know if that’s good or bad.”
“It’s all good. I want a family. I want us to have a baby.”
“But you’ll be too busy working as a nurse,” Angel sneered and opened a bag of potato chips.
“We can make it happen.” Sara refused to give up. She looked around to see if anyone was near, took a sip of her Dr. Pepper, and ate a few chips. “This is about as alone as we’re going to get. Let’s talk.”
“You want me to talk as much as Amman does.”
“Because I want you home.” She snuggled against him, wrapping her arms around his. “Let him have his coke and his money. Let him get caught and go to jail. We can have a better life. I know we can, but first, we have to get out of here.”
Angel was quiet and scanned his surroundings. “Okay, you want me to talk? I’ll talk. But before we get into that, I want to let you know that I do like your dreams of being together, and raising a family.”
“Angel, that really means a lot.”
He pulled her close for a kiss and then looked in her eyes. “Now, listen up.”
We welcome author Meghan Holloway to our author interviews on the Tom Stone Detective Stories blog.
Relationships themselves are quite a mystery and worth exploring in-depth. Read how Meghan achieves that discovery in her work with her answers that follow, written in a wonderfully engaging style.
Links at the end of the interview give you the chance to learn more about her and stay in touch.
How do you define romantic suspense and what draws you to write in the genre?
I have always thought of romantic suspense as the perfect literary cocktail. The romance genre is full of heart and an exploration of what I think is our most basic human need—connection.
The development of relationships can be such a fantastic launchpad for exploring the human psyche in a way that is uplifting and beautiful, but I’ve always been fascinated by chiaroscuro, an art term that refers to the strong contrast between light and shade.
I think that if storytelling is going to be authentic, it has to examine the darker side of humanity with as even a hand as it does the lighter side. The suspense element allows me to interweave these more haunting, gritty threads into the story and bring the tale full circle. Romantic suspense gives me the avenue to write a tale that ultimately ends in hope and the promise of happiness and companionship while still having a driving plot that winds through the labyrinth of the grimmer side of humanity.
For me, romantic suspense is the ideal medium for telling a story that is a balance of light and dark.
What compelled you to write fiction?
Compelled is the appropriate word here. Writing, telling stories, has always been a compulsion for me. My love of stories began, of course, with reading and with sitting on my grandfather’s knee begging for tales from his boyhood. As soon as my hands learned to fashion letters into words, I’ve written. I don’t know if there was ever a conscious choice to write fiction. Storytelling is simply part of what it has meant to be me. If I had to pinpoint a source, I would say it’s the Celtic blood in me, and I inherited the tendency from my grandfather, who spins tales with as much talent and care as a master weaver.
What contributed to your ability to create characters “that feel more like old friends” in A Thin, Dark Line?
I think Cormac and Eloise appealed to readers because both are wounded but neither is willing to be a victim. There’s a fierceness about each of them, and a solitary aspect as well. But mainly I think it was the fact that I tried to create authentic characters, with weaknesses and fallacies and nuanced personalities. Neither of my main characters are good, and they’re all the more real and approachable for it.
What techniques did you use to craft your novels — outline? Simply forging ahead? Feedback from friends?
I know many writers fall into two classes, the “pantsers” and the “plotters.” I fall somewhere in between. I have a general outline of the overarching narrative and a list of key plot points I know I need to hit to move the story in the right direction. But I find if I outline too much, I feel stymied. I set guidelines and trail markers, but my creativity needs a bit of free rein at the points in between.
Were you pleasantly surprised with how your stories turned out?
I was. It is such a surreal feeling to reach ‘The End.’ That feeling of creation, of bringing something into being that has not existed in this exact shape before, is awing and indescribable. I recently finished my third novel, and I must say that the feeling does not diminish. It’s not a level of astonishment over how the story unfolds and ends so much as it is that sense of fashioning something from nothing, from a simple germ of an idea that blossomed into a story.
Why do I think that you’re Scottish? Lol! Tell me. I read that you live in the Appalachian foothills?
I am, and I do. My family came to the states when I was young, and though I’ve made a bit of a circuit around a portion of the US—Mississippi, Maine, New York City, Colorado, Boston—I’ve come back to the hill country where we settled to help take care of my grandparents in their twilight years.
Do you prefer writing in the country versus the city?
I have never cared much for excessive noise or not being able to see the natural light of the night sky. I live—and write—on the quiet edge of a city, close enough to be able to venture in when desired but far enough out to enjoy the stars over the lake on which I live.
What are your current projects if any?
I recently finished a historical thriller set in the wake of Paris’s liberation in WWII, and I have been working these last months on querying agents and submitting it to publishing houses. I am currently writing a trilogy of romantic thrillers set in the contemporary American West.
Thank you for inviting me to interview. It was an absolute pleasure.
The Burbank police held a meet and greet to get close up with the community. Each officer was easy to chat with—down to earth and pleasant in a very tough job. I was impressed that Chief Scott LaChasse had already spent 32 years (if I remember, correctly) with the LAPD and 8 years with Burbank. Forty years plus in law enforcement.
The department also has an active police foundation that’s volunteer-led.
I’d like to find out how many departments in Southern California have occasional get-togethers. I’m sure it varies a lot. Conversations are helpful to have as we’ve portrayed Tom Stone and Jake Sharpe as quite down-to-earth. In fact, in Tom Stone: Day of the Dead, Jake plans a Halloween party with his church.
It’s important to get away from behind the computer screen and chat, get to know people, and appreciate who they are in order to get past the cliché. Police are appreciated and yet feared and sometimes loathed because they have to enforce the law. Not an easy thing to do.
Jake came back to the bodies and noticed a bloody stub where each man had his little finger cut off. He fought a wave of repulsion as he pictured them not just being shot, but deliberately disfigured.
“I see somebody has a sense of humor.”
The abrupt comment shook Jake from his thoughts. His partner Tom Stone arrived on the scene and pointed to a large poster hanging on the wall that read Ghoooulll! showing a Day of the Dead skeleton dressed as a soccer player scoring a goal.
“Maybe the attacker didn’t like the pun,” said Jake. “Glad to see that you finally made it. I’m on the verge of solving this and was getting ready to take all the credit.”
“I wouldn’t mind if you had it wrapped up.” Stone surveyed the area around the corpses.
“Where you been?”
“Kids. The girls were at my place last night instead of their Mom’s. Of course, Meagan forgot her phone so I had to run it over to her. College freshmen forget everything these days. Traffic seems like it’s getting worse everywhere. Burbank to Studio City used to be a quick run.”
Jake didn’t sound sympathetic. “It could have waited until after school.”
“She needed it. Had to call her mom to arrange a ride or else I’d be playing chauffer this afternoon.”
“You’re becoming soft, Stone.” Jake spoke in a low voice as he knelt alongside the dead men. “Or should I say, domesticated? Speaking of which, how’s Alisha?”
Stone changed the subject. “Maybe we should just talk about this.” He motioned to the corpses. “What happened? And to answer your question, Alisha’s fine. I just wish we could find more time to see each other. Getting more than a quick date with her has been almost impossible.”
“I’ll be glad to offer advice. Being a black man and married, I think I’m an expert on women of color.”
“No man is an expert when it comes to women, regardless of their color. But if I need your advice, I’ll ask.” Stone looked closely at the dead bodies. “Do we know who these guys are?”
“They owned the store. Father and son.”
“Any ideas who didn’t like them?”
Jake wrinkled a brow. “Haven’t gotten that far. The money’s not been touched so the assailant, or assailants, didn’t want cash. And the credit card receipts are neatly tucked away.”
… well, it is what you say … and how you say it … and who says it. Words matter but to what extent? Okay, we got one fan listening.
On this post, Lon and I show how he’ll put some words under a microscope to carefully arrange them for maximum impact. This post can also be titled “A Letter from Lon.” Sound sweet? Read on.
Echoes and use of profanity in our latest chapter.
We have an echo. One line reads “Where the hell is Arturo?” A few lines down we have a very similar line “Arturo, where the hell are you?” Both lines are thoughts from Angel, but when he thinks the second thought he is much more panicked and desperate. So I suggest that we change the second “hell” to “f*ck”. This way he thinks “Arturo, where the f*ck are you?”
So it works. We keep the first “hell” as “hell” and change the second “hell” to “f*ck”. The only problem is that now it snowballs into another echo of having too many “f*cks, because a few lines after the new “f*ck” that we just put it, we already have an old “f*ck” where Angel says “What the f*ck are you thinking?”
I suggest that we change the second “f*ck” to “hell” so that line will now read “What the hell are you thinking?”
So instead of having an echo with “hell” “hell” “f*ck” we replace the second “hell” with “f*ck” – fixing that echo. That will give us “hell” “f*ck” “f*ck”. But, that’s too much profanity, too close together.
So again, we get rid of the second echo of “f*ck” f*ck” by replacing the second “f*ck” with “hell” and that will finally give us “hell” “f*ck” “hell”.
If we make these changes, it will solve our echo issues and also keep the use of profanity down to a minimal in this chapter.
Solving murders in a crime drama is tough enough, but add the challenges that relatives bring and – good grief! Bring out the stress balls!
It’s fascinating to see how detectives are played and portrayed – not just in books, but also in TV and film. Here on our Detective Tom Stone crime story blog, we feature crime fighters from the whole world of entertainment.
The popular Endeavour, a British mystery and drama that airs in the U.S. on PBS, brings us the human foibles of Inspector Morse (Shaun Evans) and Detective Thursday (Roger Allam).
In the current season, episode 2, Cartouche, that aired July 1, featured murders in the local movie theater. But the show gave us a personal glimpse of Detective Thursday’s annoyance with his brother Charlie, played by Phil Daniels.
Charlie brought his wife Paulette, played by Linette Beaumont, a good-natured woman who was a bit embarrassed at the antics of her husband and daughter Carol (Emma Rigby) who accompanies Morse on a rather awkward tour of Oxford.
Family brings depth and gives the character a chance to explore sensitivities and quirks that we hide in the workplace.
It’s a personal side that didn’t come out of Jack Webb’s Sgt Joe Friday on Dragnet whom we wrote about here or in Richard Boone’s Paladin in the 1950s western Have Gun will Travel, featured here.
In real life, we can’t avoid chatter from family or co-workers, like Morse not appreciating the banter of assistant DC George Fancy, played by Poldark actor Lewis Peek.
Entanglements are a universal problem and our Tom Stone finds his own in each of the three crime stories so far in the series—from befriending a boy in a foster care group home, to catching his daughter in a marijuana dispensary, and falling for the attorney who defends the man he’s pursuing.
It’s great to see the creators of Endeavour work these personal challenges so naturally into the story line. After all, detectives are people, too.