Life of a Writer: Glimpses of a Father

From the living room floor, I watched the roaches crawl across the ceiling. When they began to fall, I hurriedly wrapped the blanket around me and tucked it in as best I could. Uncle J’s death was unexpected and Aunt D came unglued, dragging my cousins from sibling to sibling. I crossed my fingers they’d be moving on soon. Alas, they enrolled in the local school, the meanest two in my grade…not twins, just one dumb one. They tormented me daily, on top of the usual bullying I received from my classmates, so that in the evenings I would ride my bike around town until dark, hoping dinner would distract them. I was ordered to come home straight after school and stay there by my mother, adamant that I show compassion. The night I took to the streets on my bike, sobbing, I returned long after sunset to find my father waiting for me in his garage. I homed in on the light as a beacon of refuge. He was fiddling around, doing a little of nothing, as he liked to say, when I entered. Without turning around, he told me—Your mother’s angry with you. He looked at me, one eyebrow raised. There was nothing to say. Facing the counter again, he said—I got you something—and brought a little box to me. We sat on his workbench so I could open it. My gift was an itty bitty radio with a pullout antenna. He took it from me, placed it on a little table next to an overstuffed chair he’d dragged down from the attic, and plugged it in. Next to the chair, he’d put a small bookshelf and filled it with some of the books from my room. He hugged me and said—You can come read in here after school; I’ll let your mother know where you are.

Rivals Break by Carla Neggers

Guests at a dinner party on a yacht in Maine end up in the hospital with food poisoning. The chef blames her carelessness in mushroom scavenging, but then discovers one of the guests was an MI5 agent and a friend of her father, who is a toxicologist in hospital in Britain dying of mushroom poisoning, blamed on his carelessness. Local FBI agents and MI5 colleagues, suspecting foul play, parse their communication, with intermittent inexplicable forthrightness. The constant repetition of characters’ main traits of being government agents blends them together in a brothy soup of spyness. Suddenly, there’s a culprit, with no previous hints or any indication of involvement, so that backstory must be thrust in awkwardly. I received a digital copy through NetGalley, where the synopsis provided no clue that it was 9th in the series, information only to be found at the end of the book. Perhaps if Dear Reader is already invested in these spy characters, this particular story would hold more credibility.


Carla Neggers is the New York Times bestselling author of the Sharpe & Donovan series featuring Boston-based FBI agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan, the Swift River Valley series set in small-town New England and many other novels of romance, mystery and suspense. With dozens of bestsellers to her credit, Carla and her husband divide their time between their hilltop home in Vermont, a pull-out sofa at their kids’ places in Boston and various spots on their travels, frequently to Ireland. Learn more at


Undercover FBI agent Colin Donovan joins his wife, Emma Sharpe, an FBI art crimes expert, for his brother’s wedding in their fishing village on the southern Maine coast. When Kevin Donovan, a marine patrol officer, receives a call to check on suspected food-poisoning at a party aboard a yacht Colin, a former marine patrol officer, tags along.

It’s quickly evident this is no ordinary case of food poisoning. They’re dealing with a deliberate attack. Most of the victims are one-time associates of an imprisoned arms trafficker—a Russian national whose arrest the previous year was made possible by Colin’s undercover work and Emma’s art crimes expertise.

A rare, boutique deadly poison is responsible for the deaths and near-deaths aboard the yacht. From his federal prison, the trafficker claims to know nothing of the attack but he believes one of his rivals is responsible or at least involved. Whoever distributed the poison had to be on the yacht at some point and therefore was either a passenger or a guest. Given the nature of the weapon used, the attacker also would have to be highly skilled in handling its volatile, deadly components. Who made the poison? What was the purpose of the attack—revenge, greed, a message, ideological?

With more questions than answers, Emma and Colin enter the shadowy world of the victims of the attack. They discover someone is out to sell extremely dangerous poisons to organized crime networks. The trail takes them to an unlikely source.

Emma, Colin, HIT and their family and friends must stop the poisoner before he facilitates his next attack.


“Well-plotted, intriguing and set mostly in the lushly described Irish countryside, the novel is smart and satisfying.” —Kirkus Reviews on Declan’s Cross

“Saint’s Gate…is a fast-paced, action-packed tale of romantic suspense that will appeal to fans of Lisa Jackson and Lisa Gardner.” —Library Journal

An “intense, edge-of-your-seat whirlwind.” —Booklist on Liar’s Key

“Insanely sensational….engaging, complex, unforgettable.”
—RT Book Reviews, a September Top Pick!, on Liar’s Key

A “suspenseful, fast-moving thriller with plot twists and excitement to the delightful conclusion.”
—Reader to Reader, on Liar’s Key

“A richly atmospheric, beautifully drawn tale with echoes of Daniel Silva and even Dan Brown.” —Providence Journal on Liar’s Key

“Carla Neggers has long excelled at forging neo-gothic, brooding tales rich in setting and atmosphere. With Thief’s Mark, though, she ups the ante in fashioning a crime thriller of rare depth and complexity.” —Providence Journal

Life of a Writer: Glimpses of a Father

He came in quietly and stood just inside the doorway. I continued perusing my bookshelf, waiting for him to announce his reason to enter my bedroom, a rare occurrence. After a couple of throat clearings, he walked over and sat on the edge of my bed, patting the space next to him. The hair on my arms prickled my skin, a vague unease settling in my stomach as I sat next to him. My father then asked me—You know your mother and I love you, right? I jumped up to face him, asking too loudly—Are you getting a divorce? He blinked and shook his head before smiling and assuring me—No, no, nothing like that…sit, sit—patting the bed again. I sat up straight and stared at the wall through a few more throat clearing harrumphs. When he finally spoke again, he told me softly—Should you ever need any surgeries…—and I again took to my feet to search his face for answers. Am I sick—I asked him—I don’t remember the doctor saying anything. Shaking his head frantically, he implored—Please sit down and stop looking at me. I complied, and he continued—If you have back pain, or shoulder pain, or need any kind of surgery…—I burst out laughing. Daddy, look—I said—I know I’m only 15, but I will never, ever want breast-reduction surgery, and you can take that to mother. He nodded, hugged me, and walked out as quietly as he came in, leaving me rolling around on my bed giggling.

Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

Grace Kelly brought British journalist James Henderson into French parfumeur Sophie Duval’s life when she hid in Sophie’s shop to avoid another paparazzi, setting in motion the tale of the star-crossed lovers, resurrecting the Duval family business, and laying the foundation for the parallel story of Kelly’s wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco. Gaynor and Webb paint a lush, yet pragmatic picture of Monaco, the Monegasques, and the Princess, with foremost the blossoming emotions of Sophie and James, characters clearly not products of their time, but who stand out from the crowd. Francophiles, parfum lovers, and Grace Kelly fans will love this novel, though other readers will appreciate the descriptive details of the setting and the intriguing characters. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Flash Fiction Friday: Danger

Karen swore the susurration followed her as she walked along the cornfield. It seemed to come only from the section right next to her, as though her energy were bouncing off the stalks. She thought she could actually feel the energy hitting her, but maybe it was just her imagination. When such things happened to her, no one else felt it, and everyone so far in her life blamed it on her imagination, ergo her conclusion here. Karen walked on, a bit jittery until the land opened up onto a meadow.

Deep inside the cornstalks, warnings leapt out as the human passed, with the universal understanding of plants that when their buds came to fruition, they would be raped and pillaged, often by the big monsters the humans employed. For now, they could only deflect the human energy, whispering to each other—a human is near; our time is coming.

Brittany Ramsey—Digital and Graphic Artist

Brittany started exploring digital illustration at age 13, experimenting with Photoshop at home for a few hours a day. She completed a multimedia program in high school (10th grade) for 3D Modeling and Animation, attended Johnson County Community College for Animation in Overland Park, Kansas, earning her degree in 2013. She moved to Colorado in 2014 to finish her degree at The Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design in Game Art in Lakewood, Colorado, graduating in 2018. She has been doing freelance digital illustration, 3D art, and graphic design since 2005.

Acacia Twitch banner
Architectural sketch

Tell me about your artistic process: schedule, environment, materials / tools / programs, inspirations, styles, etc.

A lot of my process depends on the project; typically, I like to brainstorm with thumbnail sketches of illustrations and designs first to give me an idea of direction. I also like to at that time come up with a couple different color palettes and collect reference images. The programs that I utilize most often are Adobe Photoshop and Autodesk Maya (for 3D work). My style ranges from photorealism to portraiture to more folksy-stylized work for illustrations.

Bear Necessities
Boo Cappy

Walk me through your commission, sales, and marketing strategies.

For commissions, a lot of the time I do not have a per hour structure. I tend to commission per the job while factoring in cost of time, materials (if traditional media), and of course the complexity of the project commissioned. A lot of my business is word of mouth and through social media.

Cardinal watercolor
Dark Knight

Talk about your support system online and IRL, especially your biggest cheerleaders.

My biggest cheerleaders have been my friends. Initially my family didn’t think that going into art as a career would be a good field to jump into, but over time digital art has only blown up! Especially in the entertainment and animation fields of work, technical artists are always needed. My mother was always a champion of the arts, and strongly encouraged me to do what I wanted and chase my dreams of working in game development despite what anyone else said.

Devon Disney style
Lavender Twilight

How does life influence your art and vice versa?

Life has strongly influenced my art, mostly through flora and fauna. I have always been an avid fan of realism, but fantasy has been my biggest influence. There are so many strange plants, animals and environments on the Earth to reference from that all of it has been a big inspiration for me to create “new” types of them that would exist in fantasy.

Prairie fire
Saleen S73D model

What do you love most about your creativity?

What I love most about my creativity is the way it lets me put a bit of “me” out there in the world. I don’t aim to be a super famous artist but its more than worth it to have just one single person tell me that my work inspired them in any way. Most artists, myself included, tend to be more solitary, so it’s a good format to “speak” to your audience without actually speaking. It gives me a way to communicate visually and express myself in a language that everyone can understand, with colors, shapes, and lines.

Connect with Brittany:

The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

Lucy Goodwin’s mother-in-law Diana died. A decade earlier, she’d imagined a mother figure once again in her life to counter the absence left by her mother’s death when she was thirteen. Instead, she met a future mother-in-law who seemed austere, disapproving, and unreachable, often leaving her in tears. Diana allows Lucy rare glimpses into her closely guarded heart and ultra private history. After her death, secrets surface, family dynamics shift, and Lucy and husband Oliver forge a new pathway, professionally and personally. Hepworth’s characters are realistic and compelling, eliciting emotional responses to impossible situations with muddled journeys toward resolution, as in real life. The story elucidates complex relationships, the ethereal nature of personal connections, and the dynamics of marriage and family. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy of this wonderful, well-written story from the publisher through NetGalley.

The Murder List by Hank Phillipi Ryan

Rachel North finds herself in a precarious situation, interning for Assistant DA Martha Gardiner, the nemesis of her defense lawyer husband Jack Kirkland, who warns his wife about the woman’s sketchy tactics to win at all costs. Gardiner in turn hints to Rachel of her husband’s ulterior motives, placing Rachel in a quandary as to whom she can trust. Gardiner then thrusts her into a cold case, the death of a young woman who worked under Rachel in her previous incarnation as a Senator’s Assistant. Alternating between the present and the past, Phillipi Ryan develops an intriguing, complex tale of trust, relationships, and marriage, and how a person’s breaking point can lead to murder. Fans of Andrea Bartz’ “The Lost Night” and Megan Goldin’s “The Escape Room” will appreciate the writing style and the wild ride to the finish. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy of this compelling murder mystery from the publisher through NetGalley.

Flash Fiction Friday: Priorities

Thomas towered over his seated mother, yelling—She had a cookie at school and you gave her a cookie in your home; you know I don’t allow her cookies! As he raged on, Susi’s nana stared, wide-eyed, unblinking, waiting for it to be over. Susi told her father of every cookie. She never shared with her nana the punishment at home for each cookie, ten minutes in her little chair inside the coat closet. Immediately after Thomas’ departure, Nana offered Susi a cookie and told her not to tell dad.

The Freelance Academic: Transform Your Creative Life and Career by Katie Rose Guest Pryal

Katie Rose Guest Pryal elicits emotional responses not expected from non-fiction, especially a business guide to freelancing in the academic world. As she takes Dear Reader through her journey from “always the outsider” academic positions to the freedom of working for herself, she lays out the pitfalls she learned the hard way, and the joys of discovering a viable pathway through this gig economy. She’s frank and honest in this guidebook, that although marketed toward a specific niche, offers practical advice for anyone becoming their own company, with useful suggestions such as setting reasonable pay for your services and being your best advocate. Pryal digs deep into herself to empower her readers. As a novelist, academic author, and essayist, she’s a literary Renaissance woman. Learn more about her and her work on her website I was fortunate to receive this wonderfully written book of Katie’s own story from the author for an honest review.