Thursday, November 20, 2014

Spotlight: Strike of the Cobra by Stephen Heubach

Strike of the Cobra by Stephen Heubach * Connect on Twitter
Published by Mereo (5 Nov 2013)

“Started in the morning of Boxing Day and couldn't put it down until I had finished it that night.”

Strike of the Cobra is based on true events. A few of the names and locations have been altered due to the story culminating in a trial at The Old Bailey. It is a thrilling tale of crime, subterfuge and drug smuggling in Britain, Turkey and Singapore.

It all began in early January at an evening of the International Boat Show at Earls Court in London. Stephen was approached by a well-dressed Mediterranean looking gentleman. He was alone on the booth, quietly closing up, the crowds had long since dispersed and his colleagues had headed to the bar. This was just the moment he had been waiting for.

He was polite and took a false interest in the five small sailing craft on show that my business partner and I had spent years perfecting. He asked if we would be interested in manufacturing our boats for a more reasonable price in his own factory in Turkey. I was sceptical but mentioned that we were actively looking for small sports/recreation boats. He said that they made just the thing and would come back to see me the following day with details.

Arranging to visit the factory was difficult; they could not accommodate Stepen for at least a month. The Turkish gentleman showed Stephen to his car at the airport, supposedly his own, but the carpets had recently been wet vaxed, there was condensation on the inside of the windows, only one key on the fob, no personal effects at all. Stephen was sure the Mercedes 200 was a rental, the Turkish gentleman was lying; alarm bells were already ringing. Stephen thought about getting the next plane home.

They travelled towards the factory the following morning but he would not give any detail of its location. Stephen was becoming increasingly troubled by the lack of forthcoming information, there was not even a map in the car for reference, nobody on the planet, not even Stephen knew where he was and he’d broken his mobile phone by dropping it at the airport. After 2 hours they were off onto unmade, unmarked roads. The Turkish gentlemen sensed his apprehension, and objected to his questioning, eventually telling Stephen with pride that he had kidnapped him. This did not seem ridiculous at that moment as none of the pieces seemed to fit together, Stephen’s anxiety grew.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Merry Wishes by Karen Pokras

An ugly divorce behind her, Carly Cater is looking forward to a truly Merry Christmas. With interest for her art from a high-powered fashion designer and a new romance with her handsome contractor, Jason Hardy, her life is finally heading in the right direction. That is, until her ex-husband suddenly returns to interfere, and mysterious texts draw Jason away. Is this another holiday disaster in the making, or will an offer to create a mural for the brain-injury patients at Greenbriar Manor bring her the Christmas joy she’d been seeking?

About the Author:
Karen Pokras writes adult contemporary and middle grade fiction under the names Karen Pokras and Karen Pokras Toz. Her books have won several awards including two Readers’ Favorite Book Awards, the Grand Prize in the Purple Dragonfly Book Awards, as well as placing first for two Global E-Book Awards for Pre-Teen Literature. For children, her books include the Nate Rocks series, Millicent Marie is Not My Name, and Pie and Other Brilliant Ideas. For adult readers, Karen’s books include Chasing Invisible, and her newly released, Whispered Wishes series. A native of Connecticut, Karen now lives outside of Philadelphia with her family.

Connect with Karen Pokras:

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Forensic/Medical Author’s Take on Ebola and the CDC

Outbreak… Breakdown
A Forensic/Medical Author’s Take on Ebola and the CDC

D.J. Donaldson is a retired professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology at the University of Tennessee, Health Science Center—where he taught and published dozens of papers on wound-healing and other health issues. He is the author of Louisiana Fever, one of the seven in the Andy Broussard/Kit Franklyn series of forensic mystery thrillers.

My book, Louisiana Fever, involves the spread of a bleeding disease known as Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever. This is a real disease that, like its close relative, Ebola, is caused by an infectious virus. And having researched this thoroughly (and having come from a forensic/health background) I feel compelled to weigh in on the Ebola outbreak.

When I was plotting Louisiana Fever, I figured I ought to have a character in the book that was once an infectious disease specialist at the CDC. It seemed like a logical idea because the CDC is this country’s unquestioned champion against virulent organisms, an organization staffed with experts that know every nuance of tropical viruses and how they can be controlled.

To make sure my writing about the CDC would have an authentic ring to it, I asked the public relations office of the CDC if I might be given a tour of the place. “Sorry,” I was told. “We don’t give tours.” Considering how many dangerous viruses are stored in the various labs there, that seemed like a good policy, even to me. So there would be no tour. But then I heard from someone in my department at the U. of Tennessee Medical Center that one of our former graduate students now worked at the CDC. I began to wonder if this connection might work to my advantage.

And it certainly did. The former student was now a virology section chief. A SECTION CHIEF…. Holy cow! This could be my way in. But would the man be generous by nature and sympathetic to writers? He proved to be both of those.

On the day of my visit, I reported to the security office as instructed. There, I had to wait until my host came to escort me into the bowels of the place… no wandering around on my own with a visitor’s badge. That day I saw the hot zone in action and spoke with experts in many fields of virology, even spent some time with the world expert on porcine retroviruses. At the end of my visit—including all the cumbersome clinical protocols I had to engage in both before and during said visit—I not only left feeling more educated, but actually more safe and secure that no tropical virus would ever be a threat to this country… not with the meticulous, detail-oriented, security conscious, microbe fighters at the CDC watching out for us.

So, it’s with much regret and… yes, even a little fear, that I witnessed the head of the CDC recently assuring us that the Ebola virus is very difficult to transmit and that we know exactly how to control it. Instead of (what looked like) his clumsy attempts to soothe an ignorant and paranoid public, the CDC head should have given a blunt assessment, educated everyone like adults, and encouraged them to exercise precaution. Then, seemingly in answer, two nurses who cared for the index patient from Liberia become Ebola positive. And the CDC clears one of those nurses to take a commercial airline flight, even though she was in the early stages of Ebola infection…depressing. From a medical professional standpoint, this was practically criminal negligence. At present, the disease is not transmitted by air ("airborne"), but any scientist worth his/her salt cannot account for mutations the virus may undergo. This is why the job of the CDC is to contain harmful microbes, issue protocols to protect the public against them and ultimately eradicate them... period. It is not to be PR professionals for television cameras and fostering carelessness.

I’m still convinced that the combined knowledge and brainpower of the CDC staff will be a major impediment to any virus taking over this country. But Ebola probably has some tricks we haven’t seen yet. That means we may lose a few more battles before we can declare that this particular threat is behind us.

Meanwhile, how is development of that Ebola vaccine coming?

About Louisiana Fever:

Andy Broussard, the plump and proud New Orleans medical examiner, obviously loves food. Less apparent to the casual observer is his hatred of murderers. Together with his gorgeous sidekick, psychologist Kit Franklyn, the two make a powerful, although improbable, mystery solving duo. When the beautiful Kit goes to meet an anonymous stranger—who’s been sending her roses—the man drops dead at her feet before she even could even get his name. Game on.

Andy Broussard soon learns that the man carried a lethal pathogen similar to the deadly Ebola virus. Soon, another body turns up with the same bug. Panic is imminent as the threat of pandemic is more real than ever before. The danger is even more acute, because the carrier is mobile, his identity is an absolute shocker, he knows he’s a walking weapon and… he’s on a quest to find Broussard. And Kit isn’t safe either. When she investigates her mystery suitor further, she runs afoul of a cold blooded killer, every bit as deadly as the man searching for Broussard. Louisiana Fever is written in Donaldson’s unique style: A hard-hitting, punchy, action-packed prose that’s dripping with a folksy, decidedly southern, sense of irony. Add in Donaldson’s brilliant first hand knowledge of forensics and the sultry flavor of New Orleans, and the result is first class forensic procedural within an irresistibly delectable mystery.

Buy Louisiana Fever on

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

October Reading Wrap Up 2014

Yes, I am late in writing up my reading for October. I'm going to blame hosting a birthday party, Halloween, and the end of Daylight Savings Time for the delay. I got four books read last month, including the second huge Outlander book.

Leading With Intention: Every Moment is a Choice by Mindy Hall, PhD: I received a copy of this book from the Library Thing Early Reviewers Program in exchange for a review on the site. Being intentional is one of the things that I am trying to focus on this year as a foundation for living a more intentional life. I want to be more aware of myself in each moment and truly understand how my choices and actions are impacting those around me. Although this book is based on being an intentional leader in a business setting, I still found that many of the questions and techniques presented by Mindy Hall, PhD apply just as well to my life as a stay at home mom. I was not able to directly connect to the majority of the examples given because of their corporate nature, however I still came away with information of value and I look forward to exploring some of the additional online resources that are available at

Landline by Rainbow RowellLandline is the first book I have read by Rainbow Rowell but from reading reviews of this book and her others I can tell that it will not be the last.
After reading a few heavy books, lengthy and emotional, Landline was a fast, light read even though it addressed a marriage in trouble. Georgie McCool writes comedy with her best friend, Seth, for a television sitcom. Her husband, Neal, is the stay-at-home dad to their two girls and is fundamentally unhappy. When Neal and the girls go visit his family without her at Christmas time, Georgie wonders if he has left for good this time. While taking refuge at her mother's house, Georgie drags out an old, yellow phone to call Neal and ends up connecting with the Neal that left her fifteen years before. She wonders if this is her chance to set things right or change something fundamental in their history.
The entire book felt like it was written in short scenes, as if it were a television show. Often the dialog and the characters felt like we were only getting to know them on the surface. At the end of the book I was left wondering what happened next? How did things actually work out with Georgie's job and her marriage? Could she really hold on to both? Landline was enjoyable while it lasted but it never felt like much insight was gained or that the main issues the characters were facing were actually resolved.

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon: I enjoyed Dragonfly in Amber, possibly even more than Outlander, but the book was too bloody long. Although I loved learning more about the characters and getting to know new ones, I felt like it took me forever to get through this book. By the time I reached the end I had already forgotten parts from the beginning. I love the way Gabaldon is moving from one timeline to another to give the reader an entire picture of events.
I will continue with the series but I'm going to take a break and read some shorter books for a bit until I feel like I can tackle another one of this length.

Anabel Divided by Amanda Romine Lynch: I already wrote up my full review of Anabel Divided so I'll give the short version here: This is a great sequel to Anabel Unraveled. If you haven't read these books start at the beginning and join me in waiting for the third Anabel book to come out. Lynch writes fantastically flawed characters and emotionally charged situations.

Currently reading Voyager (Outlander #3) by Diana Gabaldon

Amazon Affiliate Links are used within this post. If you purchase something (anything!) after clicking one of these links I will earn a small percentage of the sale. It costs you nothing extra but it helps me maintain the blog.