Chasing the Narco-Sub in Our Thriller Novel Work in Progress

Creating an entertaining novel is a thrill and a mystery: who are these characters fighting for their lives and fighting to save lives?

Photo credit Stefano Pollio on Unsplash

Book 5 in the Tom Stone Detective Series is unnamed as of this writing, but we’re discovering what happened on this ill-fated voyage of a narcotics submarine, known as a narco-sub.

These self-propelled craft sail just below the ocean’s surface and the number of them is expected to grow steadily as drug cartels from Mexico and South America transport cocaine, fetanyl and other narcotics to markets in the United States and Western Europe.

We write more in-depth in the post Chasing the Drug Smuggling Narco-subs.

In this upcoming thriller novel we look closely at a man from a village in Baja California who, with his son, was given a deal he couldn’t refuse to set sail on this sub. Luis Delgado and his son, Eddie, were fishermen and they struggled to make a living. They’re given a deal they can’t refuse and are told to board the sub and help on one trip, but tragedy and mayhem strike during a battle between rival cartels.

Luis Delgado survives gunfire and an explosion in the Channel Islands off Ventura County. He swims and floats exhausted to Malibu’s El Matador Beach. As he’s recovering in the hospital he finds himself under the watchful eye of Detective Tom Stone, Jake and other characters you’ll recognize from the earlier stories. Delgado knows very little but he’s the only surviving member of this drug smuggling operation.

How it all will play out, we’re still discovering and we’ll definitely keep you updated.

Stay on top of this crazy world in our Tom Stone Reading Group then scroll below our book covers to read an excerpt from novel 5.


The only survivor was clinging to consciousness when he was airlifted to UCLA Medical Center in West LA and kept under close supervision. Stone and Jake waited for the doctor’s okay to question the man. The next day, they battled traffic and made it to the facility. The man only spoke Spanish and the Department provided an interpreter. When Stone and Jake entered his room, the bed was propped up part way and his eyes fluttered closed and then open. A nasal cannula allowed him to breathe easily while he was attached to an IV drip line. The blood pressure and pulse meters showed a normal range.

              He looked up at the ceiling. Stone noticed how the man’s mustache accentuated the lines that were etched into his face. Another man sat in a chair by the bed and Stone showed his badge. “Detective Tom Stone.”

              Jake flashed his badge. “Detective Jake Sharpe.”

              “I’m Rafael Gueverra, the interpreter.”

              Stone settled near the head of the bed. He and Jake knew nothing about the man except for his name. Luis Delgado. They had to take his word since he had no identification. No money. Nothing. He had slept for hours after arriving at the room and hadn’t given an official account to anyone. Doctors sutured a gash along his ribs, made sure he was hydrated, and kept him stable.

The vulnerability of his situation touched Stone who was tempted to brand him as a drug runner since the containers tested positive for cocaine. But he wanted to let the man speak for himself and slowly bring all the pieces of the puzzle together.

              “Mr. Delgado,” Stone began, “I’m Detective Tom Stone and I work with the Los Angeles Police Department. Looks like you had some trouble in the ocean. Can you tell me what happened?”

`             The translator relayed the message as Luis Delgado listened and then turned to face Stone and nodded. His face was somber.

              “We’d like your help,” said Stone.

              Delgado’s eyes were vacant while he mumbled in Spanish, still very weak.

              The interpreter told Stone and Jake, “He says he is nothing. Nobody.”

              Jake addressed the man softly. “What do you mean that you’re nobody?”

              The interpreter relayed the question and Mr. Delgado looked at the ceiling. “I’m cursed.”

“Tell us about the boat you were on,” said Stone.  

“I didn’t want to be on it,” came the reply.

“Then why were you on it?”

“A gun was pointed in my face and I was told I had to go.”

              “Who said you had to go?” Jake perched near the window.

              Luis Delgado closed his eyes and took a breath. “I don’t know.” He squinted and put a hand against his head. “They forced me and my son.”

              Stone took a respectful pause. “Your son?”

              “Yes.” Delgado looked to Stone and Jake with concern. “Do you know where he is?”

              Luis Delgado was the only known survivor.


Join in the chase in this detective thriller series. Here are links to each of the Tom Stone novels on Amazon or read about them on our crime fiction books page. Each one is stand-alone.

Book 1 Tom Stone: A Nitty Gritty Christmas

Book 2 Tom Stone: Sweltering Summer Nights

Book 3 Tom Stone: Day of the Dead

Book 4 Tom Stone: One Shot, One Kill




Chasing the Drug Smuggling Narco-subs

Every year, semi-immersible and fully immersible vessels carrying hundreds of tons of cocaine up the coast of Mexico toward California while others sail to Europe.

Note: Narco-subs are featured in the upcoming Detective Tom Stone thriller novel which is currently unnamed. Stay up-to-date with our Reader’s Group for fun specials and great reading.

Narcotics submarine spotted by a U.S. Coast Guard plane moments before its capture in the eastern Pacific.
A Narco Sub in 2007; Photo by U.S. Coast Guard

The narcotics submarines, known as narco-subs, are manufactured along the rivers of Colombia and Ecuador, then assembled closer to the ocean and set to sail with a crew of only a few men. While many get through, others get detected in the ocean.

Crewmen on the Coast Guard cutter Munro sped through the Pacific Ocean, pulling alongside a submarine sailing at the water’s surface, gauging the right moment to leap on top. One misstep and the crew, dressed in full combat gear, could slip in between the vessels or into the choppy surf and risk drowning. The sub was suspected of carrying illegal narcotics.

As the cutter aimed and maneuvered closer, the crewmen readied themselves and then leapt on top of the semi-submersible boat, went to the hatch and pounded on it with rifles at the ready. The hatch opened and a shaken crew member raised his hands as the Coast Guard sailors shouted surrender instructions.

Crew from the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Munroe leave the ship in a transport speed boat and intercept a narco-sub.

The submarine was escorted to shore, the crew arrested and 16,000 pounds of cocaine confiscated. The June 17 incident in the eastern Pacific Ocean was one of 14 drug seizures that the crew of the Munro made in three months, capturing 39,000 pounds of cocaine and 933 pounds of marijuana with a street value worth over $569 million dollars.

The Danger of Narco-Subs

The subs cost up to two million dollars to build and take about a year, but the investment can return up to one hundred times that amount.

Many of the subs now produced are capable of carrying ten tons of cocaine and they’re now making their way to Europe as well. Spanish police captured a narco-sub off its coast in November 2019, the first time that one was detected and caught off the coast of Spain. The craft measured 68 feet in length and was seven-and-a-half feet wide, much larger than most narco-subs.

Trafficking cocaine is the primary objective of the narco-sub, but what trafficking stores of weapons to arm terrorist cells in the U.S. or in western Europe?

It would be easy to have a stockpile of firearms that can easily be disassembled and assembled en route to the target region. They’re stealthy enough to carry any illicit drug or weapon that’s a threat to the country.

Tracking and Fighting Narco-Subs

U.S. agencies cooperating include the Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Navy, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and law enforcement agencies throughout Latin America. The DEA “is the single point-of-contact for drug and drug money-laundering investigations overseas,” as stated on the agency’s website.

The DEA provides training and equipment to other countries along with investigative assistance.

Slowing the rate of drug trafficking will continue as a challenge since so much money is at stake. Major drug cartels are Mexican and Colombian and generate from $18 billion a year to $39 billion in drug-related income. That kind of money will allow the cartels to find new ways to take risks and distribute the goods.

Excerpt from Our Upcoming Crime Thriller Novel–the 5th in the Detective Tom Stone Series

In this excerpt, a power boat makes a scheduled dump of canisters filled with cocaine in the ocean off California’s Ventura County.

This was Anacapa Island, uninhabited and rarely welcoming any of the tourist boats or park rangers who oversaw the Channel Islands National Park. The arch grew more recognizable, and as he piloted beneath it he signaled the crew, “Aqui.”

Quickly, the men grabbed the barrels, grunted and began heaving them into the water. Rain was pouring so hard that it wasn’t possible to hear the barrels hitting the waves. The terrible weather was a natural barrier against being spotted and arrested for smuggling cocaine. Each barrel was the size of a small beer keg. One after another, the men wrestled them from below deck and tossed them into the ocean. Men bumped into each other and swore with irritation from the weariness of the misty voyage. The pilot, holding the wheel and making sure the boat didn’t get grounded on jagged rocks, snapped at the men to keep them focused.

The last barrel was tossed into the ocean as the pilot revved the craft and pulled from beneath the arch. He gradually powered the engine and the island grew distant. He sighed relief for another safe mission, then hit the throttle and headed south toward Mexico.

Immediately after the cargo was thrown into the sea, a Zodiac gas-powered, inflatable boat emerged from beneath an overhang of the island and a few more men, dressed in heavy rain gear, laid a net over the barrels, snagging them like they were a school of fish. Once the netting was in place the pilot of the Zodiac pressed a button on a transmitter in his pocket.

After a few minutes, bubbles appeared on the surface and a submarine rose into view. The craft was sleek and narrow, powered by battery cells and carried a minimal crew.  

The hatch opened and gunmen appeared. This was the signal for the Zodiac to guide the barrels toward the sub. One of the gunmen shouted below deck and men came up the ladder to haul in the canisters. It took several trips up and down the ladder with men bumping into each other and the gunmen swearing at them. Once the cargo was transferred and the laborers were thoroughly soaked, the gunmen disappeared below and the hatch was sealed. The craft dipped below the surface and made its way out the channel.  The crew in the Zodiac hauled in the net and motored back between rock cliffs and into hidden sea caves. But before entering and declaring that the mission was accomplished, they saw a flash in the night and heard a dull roar like an explosion. The pilot of the Zodiac thought he heard an exchange of gunfire. Through the rain, he saw the shapes of what looked like speed boats circling in the distance. Another explosion rocked the night.

 Enjoy Our Detective Tom Stone Novels

A collection of Detective Tom Stone novels on a bookstore shelf.

Find each one on Amazon or check our Crime Books page.

Book 1 Tom Stone: A Nitty Gritty Christmas

Book 2 Tom Stone: A Sweltering Summer Night

Book 3 Tom Stone: Day of the Dead

Book 4 Tom Stone: One Shot, One Kill

Thanks for reading and enjoy our Reader’s Group which we send from two to four times per month.

Is it a Mystery Why Women Love Crime Fiction?

I was searching the topic “Why women like crime fiction” and one of the searches returned had a headline from an article in Slate, “Guilty Pleasures” and the sub-title “ A boom driven by women’s interest has made true crime respectable. Why doesn’t that feel like more of a victory?

Photo by Lacie Slezak on Unsplash

“Crime stands at the extreme of human behavior and experience,” writes Laura Miller. “It’s inherently riveting, like any other highly dramatic, risky, and tragic subject full of conflict and emotion.”

We’re drawn to it. Women as much as, if not more than, men.

There are thoughts from three different articles and then at the end we have an excerpt featuring our own strong woman in the Tom Stone Detective Stories, Sara who is the girlfriend of Anthony Angelino. She’s trying to finish nursing school and woo him away from a life of crime.

Good Crime Fiction Produces a Sense of Anxiety

We seek thrills in fiction just like in scary movies and in roller coasters crawling up several stories high, only to drop in seconds and loop to make the riders scream. Women will say they understand what it’s like to live with fear much more than men.

A 2014 article in The Guardian noted that 80 percent of the audience at the Theakston’s Old Peculiar crime writing festival in Harrogate. “Women love crime fiction, and not just in its cosy, sanitised, Midsomer Murders version,” writes Melanie McGrath, the author of the Edie Kiglatuk series of Arctic crime novels. “For women required in youth to be decorous and in maturity to be invisible, crime fiction gives us permission to touch on our own indecorous feelings of rage, aggression and vengefulness, sentiments we’re encouraged to pack away somewhere, along with the big underwear and the tampons, where they won’t offend.”

Those powerful emotions turn women to crime … novels, that is.

Crime Fiction Holds the Appeal of Emotional Violence and Turmoil

Murder is a great mystery. What leads someone to take the life of someone else? Exploring it from an emotional perspective leads to a never-ending reservoir of ideas.

From The Atlantic:

The female writers, for whatever reason (men?), don’t much believe in heroes, which makes their kind of storytelling perhaps a better fit for these cynical times. Their books are light on gunplay, heavy on emotional violence. Murder is de rigueur in the genre, so people die at the hands of others—lovers, neighbors, obsessive strangers—but the body counts tend to be on the low side. “I write about murder,” Tana French once said, “because it’s one of the great mysteries of the human heart: How can one human being deliberately take another one’s life away?”

Crime Fiction can Empower Women as noted in the National Post

Because crime fiction written by women often reflects parts of the female experience which remain taboo and are frequently neglected, both in other genres and by male writers. Women have long turned to crime fiction, both as readers and writers, because it explores the place male writers and readers often fear to tread — where female power, terror and rage intersect. In women’s crime fiction, what might seem on the surface to be a story about women aggressed by men is often a cover for a deeper more disturbing truth. Take Gillian Flynn’s 2012 international blockbuster Gone Girl, the book that kick-started the current popularity of psychological thrillers in domestic settings. On the surface it’s a revenge thriller of a scorned woman against her feckless husband but look a bit deeper and you’ll see that the protagonist Amy’s real rebellion is against the parents who ruthlessly pressured their little girl into becoming the ‘perfect’ daughter, then exploited their confection for financial gain in a series of ‘Amazing Amy’ children’s books.

Strong Women in the Tom Stone Crime and Thriller Novels

One of our characters, Sara, has many strikes against her. Despite being the girlfriend of wanna-be drug lord Anthony Angelino, she committed herself to finishing nursing school–the first one in her family to graduate from college.

In this excerpt Sara is visiting Angel while he’s in prison, waiting on his defense attorney to get him out.


Suspicion coursed through Angel. It wouldn’t take much for some guy to notice Sara, give her a little gift, and reel her in. “Yeah?”

“Yeah.” She sounded annoyed. “Look, Angel. We got more serious matters to deal with.”

He sure as hell didn’t want to talk about anything within earshot of the prison guards. “Let’s get a snack. I’m hungry. I still got the money you put in my account.”

“Sounds good.”

He took Sara’s hand and wandered outside toward the commissary, a privilege for low-security inmates who follow the rules. “I hate depending on you for money.”

“What do you mean?”

Angel tried to control his annoyance. “Makes me feel like I’m helpless in here. Needing you to send a hundred dollars.”

“No problem. I did it. What are you upset about?”

“Nothing.” Angel was silent with a dark mood clouding his thoughts.

“So what’s the problem? I like helping you, Babe, when I can.” Sara stopped, tried to kiss him, but he turned away.

“You shouldn’t have to. I shouldn’t be here in the first place.”

“Yeah, I know and you know what you have to do to get out. So let’s talk about that.”

“Let’s not.” Angel held her hand and gripped it tightly.

The commissary was fifty yards away.

“We can’t ignore it. It’s not going away.”

“Really? You’re that stupid? You think if I give them what they want, then they’ll spring me? Bullshit.”

“What choice do we have? Come on, Angel. I want you home.”

“It’s not that easy.”

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.”

For the first time, Angel felt the sting of doubt. Maybe Sara made sense. She could work at a hospital and make good money and he’d—what would he do? He had options. Go into the flooring business with Ronaldo. Rebuild his vending business.

I’m not going to do that shit. The profits that came from selling cocaine were as intoxicating as the drug itself.

Indie Book Store Carrying Our Tom Stone Thriller Novels

Indie bookstore 2nd Chapter Books in Ligonier, Pennsylvania is stocking the shelves with our Tom Stone Detective Stories.

Our Tom Stone novels on the shelf at 2nd Chapter Books in Ligonier, PA, Westmoreland County

Thanks to owner Laurie Young McGinnis for her support of indie authors writing in various genres.

Now, truth be told, Don Simkovich and Laurie were in the esteemed Ligonier Valley High School Class of ’79 so they do have a connection that goes back a few years. We’ve sent two signed sets to 2nd Chapter so if you’re shopping for books in this Westmoreland County borough then stop in and check them out.

2nd Chapter Books is at 139 E. Main, Ligonier, PA 15658 and is a member of the Ligonier Valley Chamber of Commerce. Visit on Facebook.

Crime in Ligonier isn’t nearly as bad as in Los Angeles, but the thrill of reading one of our titles is spine-tingly no matter where you live.

Indie book stores who want crime thriller novels on the shelves are welcome to email us or call.

We’re flexible on selling a couple of sets at a time on a consignment basis or giving more of a wholesale price arrangement.

We can also provide original, signed copies for readers.

Let us know what suits your needs.

We started writing our Detective Tom Stone series in January 2015 and took until August 2016 to publish our first complete novel.

Now that we’ve published four, we’re working on story number five. The stories are realistic in tone and language while keeping friendships and the love of family as important themes. The stories revolve around various Los Angeles neighborhoods including Van Nuys, Boyle Heights east of downtown Los Angeles, Highland Park and Marina del Rey.

If you’re a bookstore owner go ahead and get in touch … email Don at

You can also join the Tom Stone Detective Series newsletter and stay up-to-date on some criminally good, gripping and unputdownable stories. Stores who carry our books definitely get a shout out from us here on our blog and on our Facebook pages.

You can also skim our books on our Crime Books page where we have write-up and links to

  • Book 1 Tom Stone: A Nitty Gritty Christmas
  • Book 2 Tom Stone: Sweltering Summer Nights
  • Book 3 Tom Stone: Day of the Dead
  • Book 4 Tom Stone: One Shot, One Kill

Hey, if you want a pretty good list of independent bookstores in the U.S. then here’s a link from Wikipedia!

Crime Fiction Worth Reading has a Compelling Opening

If you’re looking for crime fiction worth reading, then consider this advice to crime authors from Standout Books: When writing crime fiction, you should almost always start with the crime.

Photo by Ian Espinosa on Unsplash

Starting with the crime, goes the reasoning, still lets you start with drama and intrigue. Moreover, it’s the drama and intrigue the reader is expecting.

Let’s explore an opening that keeps the attention in crime fiction stories.

(If you like crime fiction, then we suggest you ride along with our Tom Stone Detective Stories newsletter).

A Gripping Opening in Crime Fiction

Openings are so fun to read. Here’s a look at openings through an article Thrillers, Mysteries and Crime Fiction: 5 Masters of Opening Lines.

The openings of five authors are explored, including this one from Lee Child:

”I was arrested in Eno’s diner. At twelve o’clock. I was eating eggs and drinking coffee. A late breakfast, not lunch. I was wet and tired after a long walk in heavy rain. All the way from the highway to the edge of town.”

There’s a matter-of-factness to the opening lines of Lee Child’s first novel, Killing Floor, that is deceptive. A diner, lunchtime, eggs, and coffee—it’s hard to get more matter of fact than that. And yet, this simple opening segment’s immediacy captures our attention. The short, punchy sentences create a rhythm and pull us into the story with a series of equally matter-of-fact whys.

Why was this guy arrested? Why is he eating breakfast at lunchtime? Why was he wet and tired and walking into town in the rain—who does that?

Jack Reacher, of course.

The other authors mentioned in the article are Gillian Flynn, Harlan Coben, Sue Grafton, and Dennis Lahane.

Tension before the Opening Crime Happens

In the opening of our crime fiction-thriller novel, Tom Stone: One Shot, One Kill a sniper is waiting patiently for the precise moment to strike. An excerpt is below the image.

Novel Excerpt

The mission was clear. Take out only the white-haired man. Having a few people around was just fine since it would add to the excitement. This was the third trip back to the ridge, waiting for the perfect moment. Take the shot. One shot. One kill. And then softball. The rec league that played in Griffith Park where the team needed a win to get a good seed in the playoffs.

His finger was set on the trigger and he breathed deeply, but the woman in the halter top ruined it by sashaying in front. He kept breathing gently, rhythmically ready for the moment that she stepped away.

Take a deep breath. Slowly. Poetry in motion, feel the rhythm of the moment with the finger on the trigger. A kid jumped out of the pool and ran past the man who got up out of the chaise lounge. Breathe. No problem. Just wait for the right moment. Patience. You were trained for this.

Brown weeds covered the hillside down into the luxury home development and the city of Los Angeles rolled beyond to the ocean. The pool was nicely situated behind the house and the setting sun illuminated the target. Once the round was sent, there was plenty of time to slither away through the weeds, disassemble the rifle, and walk back to the hiking path. The sunset promised to be beautiful and he could admire it among the health-conscious joggers and lovers entwined in each other’s arms. And getting to the park for warm-ups would be a cinch. The team needed him with his .375 batting average and ability to drive a fly ball to deep center field.

Another look in the scope. The woman was extra chatty. Maybe had too much to drink. A barbeque grill sat in one corner of the patio with something sizzling on it. This was like being a kid and stumbling upon an ant hill with the ants moving neatly in one line after another until he took his foot and kicked the dirt to scatter the critters. Watching them instantly transform from an orderly community into a panicked dizzying pack of insects always made him laugh. Take that. And that. One kick and another kick. It didn’t bother him because the ants would re-build. And sometimes he’d let the ant hill alone.

This was no different.

Read the opening of Tom Stone: One Shot, One Kill on Amazon.

The Master of Crime Openings–Elmore Leonard

In this article from, Elmore Leonard is hailed as a master of great openings and “era-defining crime novels like Get Shorty and Out of Sight.”

Leonard was also renowned for his opening lines. (In his “Rules,” he warns writers to skip prologues and never to start by describing the weather.) Rightly, he’s now remembered as one of the greatest lead writers in the history of crime fiction, able to engage a reader, capture a mood, and establish a world in a few brief words.

“They put Foley and the Cuban together in the backseat of the van and took them from the Palm Beach County jail on Gun Club to Glades Correctional, the old redbrick prison at the south end of Lake Okeechobee.”

“Chris Mankowski’s last day on the job, two in the afternoon, two hours to go, he got a call to dispose of a bomb.”

The Turn-the-Page Quality

Getting hooked is one of the fun things about crime fiction. When you’re compelled to turn the page and keep reading, you, as the reader are caught up in the journey and the action.

Great crime fiction will start with compelling openings that raise the question and open up intrigue. Then strong characters will keep the action going.

Crime fiction is bursting in popularity and it’s the best-selling genre in the U.K. The Guardian interviewed various writers on what they’d recommend and here’s a couple.

Val McDermid said she’d recommend On Beulah Height by Reginald Hill and said, “This is the perfect crime novel.”

Lee Child mentioned The Damned and the Destroyed by Kenneth Orvis.

A compelling opening with curious characters keeps the crime fiction churning through the imagination.

Grab a book this holiday season. We certainly hope you’ll enjoy one of our Tom Stone novels:

Enjoy and sign up for our newsletter to stay-up-to-date on crime and thriller fiction.

Author Interview with Meghan Holloway, Suspense & Thrillers

We’re privileged to have author Meghan Holloway as our guest author this month. Take a few moments to discover the creative talents she brings to the realms of suspense and thrillers.

Author Meghan Holloway

How authors get their start is itself fascinating and a process of personal discovery.

As Meghan says she, “found her first Nancy Drew mystery in a sun-dappled attic at the age of eight and subsequently fell in love with the grip and tautness of a well-told mystery.”

Now how about this–She:

  • flew an airplane before she learned how to drive a car,
  • did her undergrad work in Creative Writing in the sweltering south, and
  • finished a Masters of Library and Information Science in the blustery north.
  • Spent a summer and fall in Maine picking peaches and apples,
  • And she traveled the world for a few years, and then
  • did a stint fighting crime in the records section of a police department.

Meghan now lives in the foothills of the Appalachians with her standard poodle and spends her days as a scientist with the requisite glasses but minus the lab coat.

She is the author of ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH, available now from Polis Books.

Her upcoming thriller, HUNTING GROUND, will release in May 2020.

Follow her at @AMeghanHolloway.

What draws you to a book as a reader?

As a reader, I love a book that is atmospheric in setting, lyrical in language, and driving in plot. I love a book that keeps me guessing, has me on the edge of my seat, and manages to surprise and inspire me.

What draws you to a book as an author? 

I have a hard time turning off my author brain when I am reading, so I find myself always studying what I am reading with an eye toward the craft. When I am writing, I strive to create something I would enjoy reading: a tautly paced plot with an ebb and flow that keeps me turning the pages, a narrator who skates the line of moral ambiguity, a setting that feels like it is a character, and a tale that immerses and leaves me pondering it long after I have finished the read. 

How much of your writing comes from sheer discipline and how much inspiration?

I think if one is going to attempt to be a career author, writing must be 98% sheer discipline. That flash of inspiration is needed to begin germinating the story, but everything after that initial flair of an idea is pure discipline, hard work, and stubborn determination. 

What about your promotional strategies? A lot of authors, esp indie authors, are using a rapid release strategy … you seem to write one novel and promote it well in advance. How does that work for you? Want to name your publisher? 

I am not an indie author, so the difference in my publishing schedule and promotional strategy is that I work with a publishing house. Because of that, I don’t have a rapid release strategy and have a longer time to build interest in my upcoming novel. Polis Books has been phenomenal to work with, and authors will find that traditional publishing houses operate on very strategic release schedules. As such, I have a new release once a year. It allows me to stay a year ahead on my own writing schedule, and it works well for me.

Where did your love for writing fiction come from?

In the first pages of ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH, readers will find a dedication that reads To E.A.D., For telling me stories. 

Those initials represent my grandfather, who for much of my life was a stalwart tower of a man with a stubborn Scottish constitution, a flair for storytelling, a relentless work ethic, an abundance of generosity, a ready smile, and a sly laugh.

He was the bedrock of my childhood, and his memories were the fairy tales that enchanted me. I did not grow up asking for stories of princesses. Instead, I sat on my grandfather’s knee and heard the story of how he and his brothers were caught on a railroad bridge when a train approached. He and all but one of his brothers jumped and landed in the river below. The youngest jumped, missed the river, and had to be dug out of the mire he had landed in—luckily with no shattered bones—on the riverbank.

I did not ask for stories of knights in shining armor. Instead, I followed along behind my grandfather in his garden and heard the tale of how his father overestimated how much dynamite was needed to blast a well and ended up blowing a hole into the land large enough to drive a truck into—and the rubble fell right through the roof into my irate great-grandmother’s kitchen.

I did not ask to hear stories about castles and dragons. Instead, I sat on the tractor’s seat passing him tools as my grandfather worked on the engine and heard the story of how his youngest sister had grown ill soon after birth and he walked with his father to the store for medicine. When they arrived and were asked the infant’s name, my great-grandfather could not remember his ninth newborn’s name and when he turned to his son, all my grandfather could supply was “Sister.”

And so my great-aunt grew up to be known only as “Sister.” I heard of how he thought my grandmother “was just the prettiest little brown-haired lass” the first day he saw her board the school bus he drove his last years of high school. I was told of how as a newlywed he almost lost a finger courtesy of his wedding band when he disobeyed the rule of no jewelry when working on planes on the Air Force base where he was stationed. My grandfather is a consummate storyteller, and with such a weaver of tales so integral to my upbringing, I could not help but follow suit. 

What about training? 

I began college as a pre-med student, fully intending to go on to medical school. A stint volunteering in the burn ward at a government hospital in Kampala, Uganda, convinced me that life course was not for me, as it turns out I am a fainter when it comes to the sights, sounds, and smells involved in medicine. I moved on to a mathematician track thinking I would become a mechanical engineer, but I continued to choose literature courses as my electives until one day a professor called me into his office.

He taught a number of the literature courses I had taken, but he was also the head of the Creative Writing department. He pushed the paper I had written on T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock across his cluttered desk toward me and said, “Meghan, why are you not in my program?” I did not have an answer for that.

Writing had always been my passion, from the time I first set pencil to paper, but it had never occurred to me to pursue it academically. The next day, I went to my advisor and changed my major for the third and last time, and I graduated with a BFA in Creative Writing. That course of study shaped me as a writer and taught me a tremendous amount that I would never have learned without the influence of critical feedback and the insight and guidance of more talented and more experienced writers. I think one of the most important and beneficial pursuits one can do for his or her writing is to study the craft at an academic level. 

What’s one thing you’d like to say to readers and one thing you’d like to say to writers?

To readers, I would say: “Thank you for investing your money and time into an author’s love and pursuit of the craft. There is an art theory that posits that art is only fully and truly art if it has an audience. I think it’s important for we writers to remember that you are an integral part of what makes our craft successful.” 

And to writers, I would say: “Keep writing.”

Reading Crime Fiction Classics and Choosing Timeless Authors

Timeless authors, chilling plots and questions that stump the characters and guide the readers along in a mental chase—crime fiction and thriller stories serve up spine-tingling stories.

Here’s your invite to join our reading group and stay up to date on adventure.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Now, of course, we’d lean toward the Tom Stone Detective Stories but there’s a tremendous crime fiction history stretching back into the early and mid-1800s. That much history leads you to ask one critical question:

So who do you read?

Here are three authors who are foundational to crime stories and thriller fiction.

Edgar Allen Poe—he’s known as the father of the detective story and the master of horror writing.

We covered him in an earlier post on this blog: Classic Crime Author: Edgar Allen Poe.

What caught my attention is that his parents were struggling actors in the early 1800s.

Here’s why he’s widely read and his work has lasted for over 200 years, according to the Edgar Allen Poe Society of Baltimore:

One reason Poe is read so widely is that there is something in his writings for everyone. His works span the range of human emotions — joy, passion, hope, rage, despair and, of course, fear.

Want more Edgar Allen Poe?

Check out this article on Book Riot, 24 Edgar Allen Poe Quotes on Love, Death, Madness and More.

Sherlock Holmes—the legendary detective

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes was a doctor and journalist whose parents sent him to a strict Jesuit school for education.

On a Quora forum, someone was wondering what crime fiction authors to read and a reader noted something critical about Holmes:

I’d suggest you to start with the Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan-Doyle, because they have the sort of deduction which looks remarkable at first, but later the reader realises it is keen observation that does it.

The stories are set in the 19th century, so there are no modern forensics to help Holmes. No wonder Holmes continues to be popular even today!

This article, Arthur Conan Doyle Didn’t Care Much for Sherlock Holmes, claims that Doyle’s passion was writing about history and Sherlock Holmes was holding him back.

Now, for someone completely different …

Agatha Christie, The Queen of Crime

Murder on the Orient Express. Who hasn’t heard of it?

Before we go any further, there’s something fascinating to note about Agatha Christie that we’ll reveal below.

Published in 1934 the famous novel was made into three movies.

The “Queen of Crime” was born in 1890 and died in 1976. She wrote 66 detective stories and 14 short story collections. She completed three major series: “hercule poirot” series, “Miss Marple” series and “Tommy and Tuppence” series.

Who was she? The English newspaper The Sun published this article Agatha Mystery.

Now, about that fascinating Agatha Christie fact. Here it is.

On Agatha, she is known as the “best selling author of all time” except for Shakespeare and the Bible.

As far as fiction is concerned in the English-speaking world, that’s an amazing accomplishment and shows how popular the crime fiction genre is and how it differs so much from one author to another.

If you want to dig deeper, go on a forum via the website and you can discover the Maps / Floor Plans in Agatha Christie’s novels.

Once you read a few of these crime fiction stories, you’ll have a good foundational grasp of the genre.

Covers for action thriller Tom Stone Detective Stories on Amazon
Racing through the streets of Los Angeles neighborhoods in pursuit of justice.

Of course, today there are so many great writers to choose from and we’d like to introduce you to Detective Tom Stone and his friends:

Book 1 A Nitty Gritty Christmas

Book2 Sweltering Summer Nights

Book 3 Day of the Dead

Book 4 One Shot, One Kill–EXCERPT BELOW

Here’s an excerpt from Book 4

Tom Stone: One Shot, One Kill.

The small room was dark, a little dusty, and the cool night air of Zacatecas flowing through the open window was starting to warm as dawn approached. Arturo lay with his arm around Marta. The hormones of pregnancy had taken their toll, but for the first night in a long time she was sleeping soundly. Arturo wasn’t. He hadn’t slept much since the news of the murders. Charles Scott assured him that there would be no problems, now he was dead. Murdered by an unknown assassin.

The sleepless nights were wearing on him. A new wife, two stepchildren, and a child of his own on the way. He just wanted to provide for them and give them a good life. Be a father. He thought back about his childhood growing up in the San Fernando Valley. The SFV. He remembered his mom. She was a good woman with a big heart. But she couldn’t deal with his dad’s womanizing, and she turned to drugs. After years of abuse, she eventually OD’d, leaving him and his dad on their own. Being raised by a single hard-working parent was tough. His father taught him a good trade, construction, but otherwise, he was never there. He was always out drinking and chasing after his next one-night stand while leaving Arturo on his own.

Arturo thought about how he searched for a new family and eventually found one, Angel, Ronaldo, Lil’ Jo and the rest—The Victor Boyz. Angel stood out because he bragged about big dreams and how they could all become rich and powerful. He made it known that he was the most qualified to run the show.

They became the best of friends – but like all kids with no direction, they looked for something to do. It was fun at first – tagging, petty vandalism, taking cars for joyrides. And when that wasn’t enough, drugs came into their lives. First it was just weed, but it turned into ecstasy, coke and then everything else came so fast and spun them out of control. Crime, real crime, drug smuggling, murders. Arturo thanked God that he never killed anybody, but he sure put a few in the hospital.

But that was in the past and now, finally, he left all that behind. A sad smile crossed his face because he had to steal a ton of cocaine from his friends in order to get out and live the life he wanted. But if he hadn’t, he would be dead like Angel and Ronaldo. Poor Ronaldo—he only wanted to take care of his mother but had gotten caught up in Angel’s schemes. Or he could be in prison like Lil’ Jo. He had made the right decision. With the help of Charles Scott, he sold the coke to help his community and now he was going to be a dad. Life had promise.

The floor creaked. Arturo rolled over to see if one of his stepkids was coming into the room wanting a glass of water or fleeing a bad dream. Nothing. He sat up as he heard another creak that sounded like a door opening. Not wanting to wake Marta, he carefully slipped out from beneath the covers and stepped quietly into the hall. He listened, then opened the door to his kids’ room. Both were twisted up in the blankets, but they were sleeping soundly.

Arturo closed the bedroom door then stepped into the kitchen to get a drink of cold water. As he opened the fridge, he heard the creak again. This time behind him. He turned and came face to face with a bad dream – evil, black-eyes staring at him.

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