Mystery Novelist Margot Kinberg Discusses her new book Downfall

Downfall Margot Kinberg



They Said It Was a Tragedy. They Said It Was an Accident. They Lied.


Second Chance is a Philadelphia alternative school designed for at-risk students. They live on campus, they take classes, and everyone hopes they’ll stay out of prison. And then one of them dies. When Curtis Templeton falls from a piece of scaffolding near the school, it’s called a tragic accident. A damned shame. A terrible loss. And everyone moves on.

Two years later, former police detective-turned-professor Joel Williams and two of his colleagues do a study of Second Chance for a research paper. When they find out about Curtis’ death, they start asking questions. And no-one wants to answer them.

The search for the truth takes Williams and his research partners behind the scenes of for-profit alternative education – and straight into the path of someone who thought everything would stay buried.

In the meantime, changes are coming to Tilton University. The School of Social Sciences is going to be the new home of a center for research on juvenile offenders. But not everyone is happy about it. YouthPromises, the company that’s underwriting the center, is a for-profit alternative program that has a stake in the outcome of any research the center does. What will that mean for the faculty? Williams finds himself caught in the controversy over the center, just as he’s finding out the truth about Second Chance


Amazon | Goodreads





Today's Guest Talk Show Microphone Discussion Interview Program








*Is it easier writing about protagonist Joel Williams as the series progresses?

It actually is. As the years have gone by, I’ve gotten to know him better, if I can put it like that. So, it’s easier to see him as a complete person.



*How did you develop the plot for Downfall?

When I write my crime fiction, I always start with the victim. So, in this case, I began with fifteen-year- old Curtis Templeton. Once I imagined what he might be like, I thought about the sort of school/program he’d attend, and about his background. That gave me the context. And that led to the people in his life, and to the reason he’s killed.



*What are alternative schools like Second Chance?

Alternative schools are intended for students who can’t benefit from ‘regular’ public schools or private schools (like religious schools). For example, students who are pregnant or who are raising young children might need a school program that allows them to parent as well as attend classes. Students who have certain medical problems may also need an alternative program that allows them to meet their medical needs. And students with certain behavioral problems (this is where Curtis Templeton fits in) may benefit more from an alternative program with closer supervision and a different learning environment.








*What does ‘at risk’ kids mean and how do they qualify as such?

The thing about the term ‘at risk’ is that its definition varies depending on (for the US) the state and sometimes the school district. In a very general sense, an at-risk student is a student who is in danger of either failing out of school or of being expelled. Both situations make a student far more likely to end up in the juvenile justice system, so the idea of the ‘at risk’ label is to help these students before they end up in prison. It doesn’t always work, sadly, but that’s the idea. A student who’s got several suspensions from school might be considered ‘at-risk.’ So might a student who struggles academically. For instance, students who are a certain number of grade levels behind their peers in reading might be considered ‘at-risk,’ depending on other factors in their lives.



*What were the most challenging aspects about writing this book?

The thing about writing crime novels is that, in most of them, people die. That’s a devastating loss for friends, loved ones, and co-workers who grieve for them. To portray that grief in what I hope is an authentic way isn’t easy. Everyone grieves differently, and there’s nothing to say that one way of coping with loss is ‘better,’ or ‘more normal’ than another way. So, one challenge is allowing for different people to express grief
differently. Another challenge is to do so without either getting melodramatic, or not doing justice to the real-life suffering of those who lose people.




Challenges road.jpeg





*What are the most rewarding?

One of the best parts about writing this novel was seeing the characters come to life, so to speak, and letting them tell their stories. When the characters start to seem real (or close to it), the story gets more interesting. And that makes it more of a pleasure to write.

I also richly enjoyed exploring Philadelphia as I wrote. It’s a large city with a lot to it, so even though I consider Philadelphia my home town, there’s still a lot I don’t know about it. It was rewarding to learn a few things. And I did enjoy the chance to immerse myself in the city. I often get homesick, and writing the book was a good tonic.




Reward Rises From Risk





*Who are the members of Joel’s research team?

The other members of the research team are Dr. Jered Carr and Dr. Ben Peterson. Carr’s a former parole officer who’s gone into academia. He’s got experience working with juvenile offenders and their families, so his skills will help in getting a broad picture of Second Chance. Peterson has a background in data analysis and an interest in computer crime, so his research skills are invaluable. He’s also got a brother in prison, so he has a personal interest in whether for-profit programs are helpful.




laptop computer




*Tell us about the changes coming to Tilton University and the Social Sciences department. 

Any academic can tell you that when a foundation or corporation is willing to invest several million, a university sits up and pays attention. In this case, a for-profit company called YouthPromises is planning to donate three million (US) dollars to Tilton to fund a center for research into juvenile offenders. On the one hand, this is very good news for the School of Social Sciences. Members of the Departments of Psychology, Sociology, and Criminal Justice (that’s Joel Williams’ department) will have all sorts of opportunities. Trust me, universities everywhere love it when they get funding for research. Among other things, it means that faculty can pursue their interests, and that students interested the field can get the support and facilities they need.

On the other hand, YouthPromises is a for-profit company. What might this mean for the sort of research that goes on at the new center? Some people are afraid that there might be an undue amount of pressure on the faculty to research certain topics, and to support certain findings. And what might that mean for academic freedom and integrity of research findings? It’s not an easy set of questions.



*Tell us about Youthpromises and the role it plays in the book. 

YouthPromises is a company that owns several alternative programs. This company has just agreed to donate three million (US) dollars to fund a research center at Tilton. And that means both lots of opportunities, and some very difficult controversial questions.


While YouthPromises employees and facilities don’t appear in the book, the fact that it wants to fund a research center means that the School of Social Sciences will be paying a lot more attention to alternative programs for young people who are at risk of ending up in prison.




Companies Youth promise




*Tell us some fun facts you discovered that aren’t in the book. 

That’s what I love about researching for a book. I always learn a lot. One thing I learned is the sometimes-complicated picture of which police authority has jurisdiction in certain places. In US National Parks, it’s the National Park Service, which is a federal authority. Park rangers may be assisted by local police in nearby towns or townships, or by state police, depending on the situation. And it works better for everyone if these different groups share information and cooperate. But, when a murder occurs in a US National Park, as one does in Downfall, the US National Park Service steps in. Thanks, by the way, to Valley Forge National Park for helping me with this part of the novel.

I also learned some interesting things about different sorts of row homes. For those of you not familiar with row homes, they’re a very common sort of architecture in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and some other cities. They tend to be longer than they are wide, and you may see several blocks of connected row homes. Here is a link to an interesting article from Philadelphia Magazine about Philadelphia row homes. There are
some helpful photographs, for those who haven’t seen this style of home before.

Thanks again, Benjamin, for hosting me!





Margot Kinberg headshot




Margot Kinberg is a mystery author and Associate Professor. Born and raised in Pennsylvania, Kinberg graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, then moved to Philadelphia, which Kinberg still considers home.

Kinberg had always been fascinated by crime fiction and mystery novels. In fact, she became an “addict” while still in her teens. So in 2007, she began her fiction writing career with her debut novel, Publish or Perish. In that novel, Kinberg put her experience in the world of higher education to use in creating a murder mystery that takes place at fictional Tilton University. This story introduces Joel Williams, a former police detective-turned-professor, who teaches in Tilton University’s Department of Criminal Justice. In this first outing, Williams helps solve the murder of a graduate student. The second in Kinberg’s Joel Williams series is B-Very Flat, in which Williams helps to solve the murder of a young violin virtuosa who dies suddenly on the night of an important musical competition

Kinberg, who now lives with her family in Southern California, is currently at work on her third Joel Williams novel.




Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon







Blog Tour: Baby Lies by Chris Collett


Baby Lies Chris Collett




Do you love gripping mysteries with great characters?

Discover Detective Tom Mariner in this critically acclaimed series.

‘Collett is a wonderful writer, subtle, clever, strong on atmosphere and character.’ Yorkshire Post





Six-week-old baby Jessica is abducted from a local nursery. And Detective Tom Mariner realises he’s not going to get the time-off he was hoping for.

The police get a good description of the woman who took Jessica, but the appeal to the public doesn’t generate a single lead.

Then the kidnapper calls demanding money for Jessica’s safe return   . . . and a terrible discovery is made in the woods.

Can Mariner get to bottom of a complex case which involves much more than a child abduction?

Discover an absorbing crime mystery full of stunning twists and turns.

Perfect for fans of Peter James, Ian Rankin and Peter Robinson. This is the fourth book in the DI MARINER SERIES, more books coming soon!




If you haven’t started the DI Mariner series yet, you’d better start.  Author Chris Collett expertly crafts a dazzling plot and delivers on every page. A new mum struggling to let her baby girl go to nursery the first time. A crime operation to bring down the rising tide of prostitution in the city. A complex crime to solve for Detective Tom Mariner no doubt. A juicy crime mystery awaits you!





100 percent quality





Birmingham is a city of stark contrasts with a rich cultural and historical heritage. Playing a key role in the industrial revolution, it helped shape the nation’s manufacturing industry

But with its many green spaces, Birmingham also borders on the beautiful countryside of Worcestershire and Warwickshire, is just a few miles from Stratford on Avon and a short drive from the wild country of mid-Wales.

Birmingham’s population is large and ethnically diverse, and while urban regeneration has forged a modern and culturally vibrant city, the decaying remnants of the industrial past and 1960s concrete jungle give it a unique and gritty character; the dark underbelly policed by DI Tom Mariner and his team.


Departure for Birmingham, United Kingdom



Detective Inspector Tom Mariner is, on the surface, an average dedicated policeman, but his experiences as a younger man have given him an insight into life on the dark side, and a clear sense of right and wrong. Mariner has little interest in material things. He lives in a modest canal-side cottage, enjoys the occasional (real) beer and game of dominoes and drives an old car. He is most at home in the outdoors, with an OS map and a compass, and in times of crisis, will take off and walk for miles in any weather.





Detective walking at night city lights.



Book 1: Deadly Lies
Book 2: Innocent Lies
Book 3: Killer Lies
Book 4: Baby Lies
Books 5-7 coming soon



Chris Collett author photo jpg





I was born and grew up in a Norfolk seaside town, almost as far east as it’s possible to go in England without falling into the North Sea. There I worked variously in a boarding house (now defunct) a local bakery (closed down) and a crisp factory (razed to the ground). I graduated in Liverpool, then for twenty-five years taught children and young people with learning disabilities, including autism, before going into higher education as a senior lecturer.

Mindful of its reputation, I moved somewhat reluctantly to Birmingham, where I met my husband, in 1981. But just a few years later DI Tom Mariner was created to police its mean streets, and these days I relish the vibrancy and rich social history of the city. After eight outings for Mariner, I still feel as if I’ve barely scratched the surface.

Recently retired from lecturing and I’m currently luxuriating in the time I now have to continue the Mariner series, alongside published short stories and academic works. In my spare time, among other things, I’m a manuscript assessor for the Crime Writers Association.



Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter





Interview with Author & Filmmaker Vivian Schilling







Vivian Schilling



*What traits or characteristics define you as a storyteller?

I am an existential thinker with a robust curiosity about life. Because of this, the material I create often varies greatly.

I can almost always see life from another person’s perspective, no matter how upsetting or different it may be from my own. If I open my mind to truly acknowledge that person’s circumstances, I can usually see their justification for their views, even when they are in direct conflict with my own. I think this ability has helped me tremendously when it comes to bringing my characters to life, especially my antagonists.

I am a strong believer in research and strive to build my writing, no matter how fantastical, on a solid foundation of accuracy. In Quietus, I create an entire mythology surrounding death, but it is drawn and pieced together by linking numerous sources, including ancient scriptures and apocrypha, Egyptian mythology and art from the Reformation. I feel the more support I can provide for as many of the story elements as possible, the more credibility it adds to the purely fictional ones.




Storytelling image typewriter




*Which medium resonates with you more, film or books?

As a creator and connoisseur of film and books with a deep love of both, it would be painful to lose either from my life. But if I had to make a choice, books would win the battle on both

Filmmaking can be a tremendous amount of fun. But writing is introspective, going deeper and further and leaving a more profound impact on my creative spirit.

As a filmgoer, I enjoy movies immensely. I love that I can sit in a theatre and completely escape for a couple of hours. I love the community experience of a film, especially in L.A., where the
film business is such a part of the culture. I love the dialogue that takes place with my friends immediately following a film, usually about the production, but also about the underlying themes and philosophical and cultural aspects of it. Film has often been the centerpiece of some of the most interesting and enlightening conversations I’ve ever had.

Reading books, on the other hand, is a very personal experience, a deeply gratifying one. I enjoy attending book clubs as a guest author, but I make a terrible book club member. Unlike film, I usually don’t feel the need to discuss the book in great detail. I would rather think about and savor it on my own.

I can completely forget a film after a week, but I rarely forget books. Another telling factor is that I don’t collect movies, but my place is packed with books.








*According to your experience as a writer define what the imagination is. 

What a beautiful question. Imagination goes to the very core and health of my spirit. With this said, I feel imagination and spirit are one in the same. If I open up my mind and allow my spirit to roam freely, I create. Sometimes these creations are dark and sometimes light. Most often, they embody both. When I am feeling caged in by the mundane demands of life, my imagination retreats and it is far more difficult for me to create.




Imagination Quietus




*How has writing affected your creativity as opposed to working in the film industry?

Writing has always been there for me. From the time I was a young girl, scratching out plays to perform or writing in a journal, writing has been my door to the world. I can write about anything I want. I can explore any thought I have and take it as far as I choose. Through writing, I am constantly discovering who I am and where I am headed. Its lack of limitations is very empowering to my creative spirit.

Film has its own positive attributes to offer, in an almost opposite way. It teaches restraint and discipline, as well as versatility. It is a collaborative process so you have to be able to adapt and to be open to the ideas of others and to give them space to create alongside you. It also can be very limiting if the project is restricted by budget, time or resources.



Creativity painting Quietus




*How long did it take to write Quietus?

The concept of Quietus was with me for many years before I wrote the novel. I had explored it in two other works, including a screenplay entitled Dark Angel that circulated Hollywood for some time. At one point, the film was set to start shooting in Canada, but the money fell through. That’s when I decided to turn it into a novel where I could embark on a more serious exploration into the concept. Once I finally began the novel it took me seven years. During that time I often found myself split off to do film or other writing projects. If it weren’t for my cabin escape in Big Bear, it would have taken a lot longer to complete.




Pen writing Quietus




*From Los Angeles to the Ozark mountains. Do you need complete solitude to write?

Most often times, yes, especially if I am deep into a novel. My most productive time as a writer is in seclusion, surrounded by nature. Even if I work long days and nights for weeks without a
break, I always leave feeling rested and light.




Ozark Mountains





*Did the cabin there have anything to do with the cabin in Quietus? 

I had already written Quietus before I had a cabin in the Ozarks. But I did stay thirteen months alone in a different cabin in Big Bear, California while writing the novel. It had a large loft that I turned into a writing den. That one completely inspired the layout of the one in the novel, along with some other moments and scenes later in the book.




Cabin Quietus


*Quietus has a very elegant writing style. What’s your editing process like?

What a nice thing to say. Thank you. I find my most inspiring times to write are first thing in the morning or late at night when I simply let my mind roam and fingers dictate. I return to these pages the next day and start tightening the scene structure. I usually go back to the same scene several times until I can read it aloud and like what I hear. I always edit as I go, which I know is not how most writers prefer to write. But my mind works linearly when it comes to prose. I have to hear the flow from the beginning.




Beauty writing





*Does your book employ a certain theme?

Quietus is a psychological thriller that follows a woman’s survival after a terrifying plane crash. It explores a myriad of cultural, philosophical and spiritual beliefs that question the very meaning of death and asks whether modern medicine is tampering with its balance.

*What are you working on next? Can you give us a bit of a teaser?

At this point in my journey as a writer, I am heavily drawn to Celtic culture and mythology. My story is set in the past and is close to the earth. I’m having an incredible time with my location research—opening my spirit and letting my imagination go where it takes me. It’s been a lot of fun!





Schilling headshot



VIVIAN SCHILLING is the award-winning author of the novels QUIETUS and SACRED PREY, as well as a screenwriter, producer and director of independent films. She recently completed work as co-writer and producer of the documentary “Bonobos: Back to the Wild” and is currently at work on her third novel.



Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon






Blog Tour: A Time to Kill by Stephen Puleston

A time to kill



A missing person.

Investigating the disappearance of local antiques dealer, Harry Jones, is not high on DI Ian Drake’s priority list. He has more important things to spend his time on than looking for a man who has probably just walked out on his wife. Until they find Harry’s dead body…

Shot at close range and dumped like rubbish.

Drake knows they are dealing with a cold-bloodied killer. But the valleys of Snowdoniaare an unlikely place for a murderer to hide out, and Harry an unlikely victim. As the investigation unfolds, Drake discovers a web of intrigue surrounding Harry, and business links with the criminal underworld.

A killer hidden in plain sight.

When another murder takes place that strikes at the heart of the community Drake is convinced the killer lies closer to home. And when two key witnesses disappear, Drake faces a race against time to bring the killer to justice, before he strikes again…


Amazon US | Amazon UK | Goodreads 












Review image with stars




Author Stephen Puleston has a very smooth style of writing. He’s adept at bringing forth characters set in motion and solidifying the scenery. Even the murder scene was beautiful. Not too much, but just enough craft a good setting.  I enjoyed seeing Inspector Drake in action as he solves the crime. How we do things define us, and with him its no different. He’s meticulous with an energy that leaps off the page. You gotta love that about any character!






Stephen Puleston Author image




I write crime fiction based in Wales and about Wales. The rural landscape of north Wales provides the backdrop to the Inspector Drake novels. And Cardiff the capital of Wales provides the setting for the Inspector Marco novels set in a modern urban environment.
I love the novels of Raymond Chandler, Ian Rankin, Mark Billingham, Henning Mankell, Val McDermid – the list could go on! And I enjoy watching detective series on the television the recent Hinterland series based near Aberystwyth in Wales was great. One of my favourites is the French series Spiral but The Bridge and Broadchurch and the Rebus series with Ken Stott and Kenneth Branagh in Wallander are great too.


I have been on writing courses at the Welsh Writers Centre in Llanystymdwy, North Wales tutored by Matt Whyman and Marcus Sedgwick as well as crime writing courses with Peter Robinson and Andrew Taylor at the Scottish Writers centre.


I was born in Anglesey an island off the north Wales coast and after leaving school in Holyhead I went to University in London before training as a solicitor/lawyer. I practised in a small family business doing criminal work in the magistrates and crown courts, divorce and family work. I still live on Anglesey, North Wales near the beach and the mountains of Snowdonia

Website | Twitter | Facebook | 

In the News: The Red Sparrow Trilogy by Jason Matthews



In the news image 2 Red sparrow




The Red Sparrow Trilogy by Jason Matthews



Red Sparrow Trilogy bk 1 Jason Matthews




Now a major motion picture starring Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton!


In the grand spy-tale tradition of John le Carré comes this shocking thriller written with insider detail known only to a veteran CIA officer.

In present-day Russia, ruled by blue-eyed, unblinking President Vladimir Putin, Russian intelligence officer Dominika Egorova struggles to survive in the post-Soviet intelligence jungle. Ordered against her will to become a “Sparrow,” a trained seductress, Dominika is assigned to operate against Nathaniel Nash, a young CIA officer who handles the Agency’s most important Russian mole.

Spies have long relied on the “honey trap,” whereby vulnerable men and women are intimately compromised. Dominika learns these techniques of “sexpionage” in Russia’s secret “Sparrow School,” hidden outside of Moscow. As the action careens between Russia, Finland, Greece, Italy, and the United States, Dominika and Nate soon collide in a duel of wills, tradecraft, and—inevitably—forbidden passion that threatens not just their lives but those of others as well. As secret allegiances are made and broken, Dominika and Nate’s game reaches a deadly crossroads. Soon one of them begins a dangerous double existence in a life-and-death operation that consumes intelligence agencies from Moscow to Washington, DC.

Page by page, veteran CIA officer Jason Matthews’s Red Sparrowdelights and terrifies and fascinates, all while delivering an unforgettable cast, from a sadistic Spetsnaz “mechanic” who carries out Putin’s murderous schemes to the weary CIA Station Chief who resists Washington “cake-eaters” to MARBLE, the priceless Russian mole. Packed with insider detail and written with brio, this tour-de-force novel brims with Matthews’s life experience, including his knowledge of espionage, counterintelligence, surveillance tradecraft, spy recruitment, cyber-warfare, the Russian use of “spy dust,” and covert communications. Brilliantly composed and elegantly constructed, Red Sparrow is a masterful spy tale lifted from the dossiers of intelligence agencies on both sides of the Atlantic. Authentic, tense, and entertaining, this novel introduces Jason Matthews as a major new American talent.


Amazon | Goodreads
















First Chapter Synopsis



Thought bubble Red sparrow



It’s no secret that Jason Matthew’s Red Sparrow trilogy is becoming a blockbuster movie starring Jennifer Lawrence. That’s how I heard about Matthews’ work actually. It movie debuts this Friday, March 2nd, but I’m going to read the book first.  Read the first chapter last night and loved it. It delivers everything you’d hope for in a first chapter of a spy thriller. The “good” guys, bad guys, handling of of classified material, and a good chase.


Nathaniel Nash, a young CIA operative secretly meets with a russian mole codenamed “MARBLE” at an undisclosed location. They have their set 7 minute conversation and exchange classified material. However, Nathaniel notices something different in his confided mole this time.  Someone’s on his tail and they can’t risk getting caught together. They seem to escape, or do they? Definitely whets your appetite for the remainder of the book, so I can’t wait to devour this one.




Jason Matthews Author



Jason Matthews is a retired officer of the CIA’s Operations Directorate. Over a thirty-three-year career he served in multiple overseas locations and engaged in clandestine collection of national security intelligence, specializing in denied-area operations. Matthews conducted recruitment operations against Soviet–East European, East Asian, Middle Eastern, and Caribbean targets. As Chief in various CIA Stations, he collaborated with foreign partners in counterproliferation and counterterrorism operations. He lives in Southern California.


Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon



Red Sparrow Trilogy

Red Sparrow #1

Palace of Treason #2

The Kremlin’s Candidate #3






MTW Thin Banner April 2018

Vulnerable: A Prequel to the Red Dog Conspiracy by Patricia Loofbourrow

Vulnerable P. Loofburrow




Eleanora Bryce faces prison for a crime she didn’t commit.

In the far future domed city of Dickens, no mercy is given.

So when Eleanora Bryce finds her husband dead at his own hand, she finds herself trapped between the truth and his mountain of debt. Eleanora faces debtor’s prison — or worse — unless she can find a way out of Dickens. But can she return to the city which ruined her husband and murdered her son?

A 6,000 word short companion story to the Red Dog Conspiracy steampunk crime fiction series.

Vulnerable takes place shortly before the events in The Jacq of Spades: Part 1 of the Red Dog Conspiracy, and can be read at any time.




The Alcatraz Coup
Vulnerable <- you are here
The Jacq of Spades
The Queen of Diamonds
The Ace of Clubs
The King of Hearts (coming October 2018)




Patricia Loofborrow image


Patricia Loofbourrow, MD is an New York Times and USA Today best selling author, PC gamer, ornamental food gardener, fiber artist, and wildcrafter who loves power tools, dancing, genetics and anything to do with outer space. She was born in southern California and has lived in Chicago and Tokyo. She currently lives in Oklahoma with her husband and three grown children.






Book Review - 3d rendered headline




This is a great short story considering the length. It truly reads like a novel and leaves you wanting more. A great beginning to the Red Dog Conspiracy series. Excellent.




Five golden stars isolated on white background





At the beginning of my series starter The Jacq of Spades, my main character Jacqueline Spadros is called to Eleanora Bryce’s fabric shop to investigate the disappearance of her son David. Although Mrs. Bryce doesn’t seem to recognize Jacqui, my main character knows her – the woman has been missing for ten years. Jacqui seems to be afraid of Mrs. Bryce and is worried about taking the case to find David Bryce for a variety of reasons.

The very first mystery in The Jacq of Spades is: where has Mrs. Bryce been for the past ten years?


The best way to describe the domed city of Dickens is social Darwinism taken to its extreme, as you find in much of Charles Dickens’ writings. These people have chose to live there, and of course, they believe their way is best.
Vulnerable is a short story which takes place just before The Jacq of Spades and answers this question. Finding her husband dead of suicide, Eleanora is immediately faced with his enormous debt which she knew nothing about – and his life insurance policy, which is void if he’s found to have taken his life. With the insurance money, she and her two sons can survive – if she hides how he died. But the police constable investigating her husband’s death thinks she’s murdered him. Thus the dilemma.

Author Interview with Sam Boush of the Cyber War series

Sam boush



Please welcome Sam Boush author of All Systems Down


All Systems Down




Describe the process you went through to write this particular kind of book.

In short, I read a lot of books and talked to a lot of experts. I’m not an information security wonk, myself, so I leaned a lot on the thoughts and works of others. I joined a lot of groups, interviewed experts, and ultimately tried to write a fun, compelling, and accurate book. It’s a work of fiction. But that’s not to say it couldn’t happen.



Question mark pic MTW



How do you feel about the security of our infrastructure?

No one with any expertise in this area thinks our infrastructure is safe. People at power companies have told me how vulnerable their systems are. People at nuclear plants have told me how hackers have targeted their operations. It’s not just the online or software spaces that are vulnerable, though. Firmware and computer chip manufacturing aren’t even safe, especially when those chips are manufactured in East Asia.



Infrastructure MTW



Isn’t Ipv6 supposed to be inherently more secure?

That’s my understanding. But there isn’t a system that’s safe from hacking. If it’s connected to the Internet (and sometimes even if it isn’t) it can be hacked.



Name some surprising things you found in your research.

So many things. Did you know the Iranian government accessed the control systems of a dam north of Manhattan? Or that the Russians recently used cyber war to destroy 30 Ukrainian Howitzers? Or that last year hackers from a group called Dragonfly 2.0 accessed American power grid operations so deeply they could have induced blackouts at will?



Cyber crime MTW



How would we prepare for something like a blackout?

A short blackout is simple enough. You need light (candles/flashlights), heat (firewood/blankets), and a way to cook food. Water still runs in a blackout, since water towers are filled using generators.

A long blackout is a different story. And a long blackout where generators aren’t working and emergency services are shut down… well, that’s not something I could prepare for.




Blackout image MTW




Are you a prepper by any chance?

I’m not. Sadly, if disaster of any kind struck, I’d be out of food and water within the week. I don’t think many of my readers are preppers either, though I’ve had loads of people write in that they’re creating a cyber war emergency kit after reading the book.

Really, we should all be more prepared for emergencies than we are, no matter what kind. Here in the Pacific Northwest, a major earthquake is a reasonable concern. If my city were leveled by something like
that I’d be wishing I had a month’s worth of canned food!



Prepper image MTW




Who is Pak Han-Yong and what motivates him?

Pak Han-Yong is a junior lieutenant in the North Korean army. Specifically, he’s a member of Unit 101, a hacking unit focused on asymmetric warfare. There are many complicated characters in All Systems Down, but he’s fairly straightforward. A nationalist, he’s devoted to crushing the American imperialist infrastructure as a way to punish the nation that has kept his own country from achieving its rightful glory.




Hacker image MTW




What if you were Brendan Chogan? How would you survive?

This is the question that a lot of readers ask themselves: How would I survive if I were thrust, unprepared, into a global collapse of this scale? What would I do differently from the protagonist? Would I fortify my home, or leave?

If I were Brendan, I don’t know what I’d do. Maybe that’s part of the fun.



Survival image MTW



What are your favorite type of books to read?

I read a lot of non-fiction. But when I read fiction it’s sci-fi thrillers like Jurassic Park or technothrillers like The Hunt for Red October. But I read across genres, too. Right now I’m reading Stephen King’s Pet Semetary and David Benioff’s City of Thieves. I just finished Ken Follett’s Whiteout yesterday evening.




Books image MTW



Name a few things you struggle with as a writer.

What don’t I struggle with? I have trouble finding time to write. It’s difficult to manage publicity, book signings, marketing and outreach with the ticking clock of my next book deadline. Not to mention the obligation and joy of family time, taking my kids to school, spending time with my greater family, my friends, and my wife.



Do you follow a method for writing or are you more intuitive?

My method is to write flawed characters, end every chapter on a cliffhanger, have every scene advance both plot and character, and never write anything boring. And I usually have a broad idea of plot, even going into the first draft.



What are you working on next?

Book two of The Cyber War series is coming along nicely. It picks up right where book one left off.




Sam boush



Sam Boush is a novelist and award-winning journalist. He has worked as a wildland firefighter, journalist, and owner of a mid-sized marketing agency. Though he’s lived in France and Spain, his heart belongs to Portland, Oregon, where he lives with his wife, Tehra, two wonderful children, and a messy cat that keeps them from owning anything nice. He is a member of the Center for Internet Security, International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, and Cloud Security Alliance.


Website | Facebook | Twitter | Linkedin



All Systems Down




Don’t miss Mystery Thriller Week beginning April 12-22nd 2018! 


MTW Thin Banner April 2018

How sampling a range of genres can help your writing


Sam boush



Reading it all How

sampling a range of genres can help your writing
By Sam Boush, author of All Systems Down


Most of us have a favorite genre. We read cozy mysteries. Or romance. Or thrillers. We write in these categories also. And we rarely step out of the warm, comfortable embrace of the fiction we know and care about into  other genres.

But we should.

Reading across genres helps us write better in our own. It can help us develop deeper characters, build better suspense, and create a richer, more realistic world to draw in the reader.

Here are four genres you should be reading to improve your writing.



Genre books




When you think “Western” you might think about a lawman who comes in from the East. Or Tumbleweed. Or the Cowboys and Indian tropes.

But the best part about Westerns have nothing to do with those things. Instead, the real meat is in the villains.

We read about wickedness without consequence. Bad guys who do terrible things and make the reader seethe. And when we read a Western, it’s often this despicable antagonist who keeps us flipping page-after- page to reach the conclusion where, inevitably, justice prevails and the villain is driven off or killed.

One publisher called my antagonist “not very scary” and “almost clownish.” So what did I do? I swung by the library for a few Westerns and rewrote the villain. And it worked. After All Systems Down was published, Kirkus called my bad gal, “The most striking character… a terrifying villain.”

If your book has an antagonist who just isn’t bad enough, I strongly recommend reading this genre, to learn how to craft a truly repugnant but- believable bad guy. It worked for me.







Even in non-Romance- genre fiction, readers like to see sparks. Emotion. Steamy love. You don’t have to be writing bodice-ripping scenes to benefit (though if you are writing sex scenes, you absolutely need to avoid ending up on the Telegraph’s list of bad ones.)

The kind of romance that enters your book may just be in how a husband looks at his wife from across the room. Or how a woman’s imagination takes flight when she hears a stranger at the door. But no matter how small, a little bit of romantic energy can charge up your writing. And Romance books can help.







A ticking clock. A racing heart. Intrigue. These attributes of a thriller can give your writing a sense of urgency. Readers will turn pages faster, sweating sometimes, eager for an outcome.

If your work in progress doesn’t quite get your readers feeling like they’re straddling a kicking bull, maybe you should read how some of the great thriller writers build suspense by keeping readers on the edge of their seats as the plot builds to a climax.







A solid foundation in reality will allow you to create believable scenes and circumstances. Whether you’re writing about a character who loves old cars, a conversation with an arborist, or
cyber war, every conversation, thought and action can have more resonance if it’s well

Michael Crichton investigated DNA extensively to write Jurassic Park. Tom Clancy researched submarines. Harper Lee studied the legal system. And you, also, should be poring over non-fiction books so you get the details right, no matter what you’re writing about.

Personally, non-fiction is my favorite genre. Not only does it allow the writer to craft a world that meets expectations, but by learning new and interesting facts in this category we are able to surprise the reader with unexpected information.

No matter what you’re writing, looking outside your genre can add depth and intricacy. And if you’re feeling really adventurous, don’t be afraid to play genre-roulette at your local library. Give yourself five minutes to pick out three random books. Check them out and don’t read them until you’re home. This is a great way to kick writer’s block to the curb and maybe create depth in your secondary characters the reader could never have predicted.



Sam boush



Sam Boush is a novelist and award-winning journalist. He has worked as a wildland firefighter, journalist, and owner of a mid-sized marketing agency. Though he’s lived in France and Spain, his heart belongs to Portland, Oregon, where he lives with his wife, Tehra, two wonderful children, and a messy cat that keeps them from owning anything nice. He is a member of the Center for Internet Security, International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, and Cloud Security Alliance.


Website | Facebook | Twitter | Linkedin



All Systems Down


Amazon | Goodreads | Barnes & Noble




Thanks Sam!

Steve Regan Undercover Cop Series by Stephen Bentley

Who the F am I








Crime Fiction About An Undercover Cop By a Former Undercover Cop

‘Crime Fiction About An Undercover Cop By a Former Undercover Cop’ is roughly how the blurb goes on the Amazon listing for my latest book ‘Who The F*ck Am I?’

The title may be a tad controversial to some, but it is part of the very fabric of an infiltrator. Identity confusion among undercover agents is a medically recognised condition.

It is Book One in a trilogy featuring Steve Regan, a fictional British undercover cop. The action takes place mainly in the United Kingdom but also takes the reader to Miami and Boston in the United States.

The book is available from October 31, 2017 in both Kindle and paperback through Amazon. It will also be available in other eBook formats through Smashwords and at most other online book stores.

The blurb also makes the claim, “This surely has to be a first! Crime fiction about an undercover cop written by a former undercover cop!









From author, Stephen Bentley, comes a fictional undercover cop, Steve Regan, following on the success of his true crime undercover cop memoir ‘Undercover: Operation Julie – The Inside Story.’

Steve Regan, undercover detective, is tempted by the riches of drug smuggling so he can be free of debt, police bureaucracy, and help a loved one. He wonders whether he can go ‘rogue’ and cross the line.

Regan gets involved in one deal with a Miami-based drug lord. But is everyone who they say they are?

Short, fast-paced, high-impact entertainment, from an author who knows  how to suck you into a story.”

This novella was inspired by two gangsters I met in real life while undercover. I harboured thoughts about them for many years and felt obliged to deal with those thoughts in this fictional work. I believe I can safely say that is a first!






Gangster cartoon







As the author and a former undercover cop, I do not profess to know with certainty if my claim about it being a “first” is fact. I mean the claim: This surely has to be a first! Crime fiction about an undercover cop written by a former undercover cop!

I could argue, in line with another former profession of mine (lawyer), that it isn’t a claim at all – merely a hypothesis. Pedants may argue there ought to be a question mark following “has to be first.” Possibly, they are correct.

But in any event, whether claim or hypothesis, it intrigues me. So, a challenge to all readers of this blog post – tell me if I am right or wrong about it being the first fictional work about an undercover cop written by a former undercover cop. At least I ask you to leave a comment letting us know your thoughts.

There is a reward for the best comment left – one free copy of the book featured here and a free copy of my bestselling memoir ‘Undercover: Operation Julie – The Inside Story.’

Please note there can only be one winner and the prizes will be provided in any eBook format of the winner’s choice.

The winner will be judged by the author on the basis of the insight provided by the commentator, the originality of the comment, and any tendency to humour gains extra marks 





Stephen Bentley



Notes For The Blog Owner

Stephen Bentley BIO

Former UK Detective Sergeant, undercover cop, barrister (trial counsel). Now a writer, author, and blogs at HuffPost UK.

Author of ‘Undercover: Operation Julie – The Inside Story’ – an Amazon UK bestselling book about his undercover days on one of the world’s largest drug busts.

Lives in the Philippines, enjoys the beaches and a cold beer and follows “his team”, Liverpool Football Club from afar.

Amazon link: Who The F*uck Am I?







Blog Tour: The Call by Amanda Fleet


Female using her mobile phone outside at night




What if your ex-boyfriend called you desperately asking for life-or-death help?

Summer Morris gets a phone call from her ex-lover Patrick begging for help. But he’s cut off before he can give her all the details.

He’s in deep trouble. She would have been happy to never hear from him again, but can she really refuse to help a man whose life is in danger?

Patrick turns out to have many enemies who might want him dead. He’s been working in Malawi and uncovered a scandal. He’s involved with a powerful woman. And he’s borrowed money from the wrong people. And that’s just for starters.

Along with an off-duty policeman, DS Stewart, Summer gets swept into Patrick’s world of lies and deceit, in a desperate race against time to find him alive.

Who is behind Patrick’s disappearance and can Summer find out before it’s too late?



Amanda fleet blog-tour-banner-the-call



Eight Things You Might Not Have Known About Amanda Fleet Until Now

1. She spent 20 years lecturing in human physiology at university before a serious health issue made her reassess her life, and leave to focus on writing. Most of those years were at the University of St Andrews, where she also did her undergraduate degree.

2. Naturally ambidextrous, she generally writes with her right hand, but all of her lab books were written left-handed during her PhD after RSI in her right prevented her from being able to hold a pen.

3. She helped to set up a charity in Malawi that works to help homeless children stay in education. The charity buys uniforms and school supplies, pays school fees and helps to support any remaining family to keep the children off the streets.

4. She never drinks coffee, but drinks oceans of tea. Her favourite tea is Fortnum and Mason’s Earl Grey, for its hint of smokiness along with the bergamot.

5. She once did a charity lecture for medical students, dressed as Braveheart, wearing her husband’s kilt. The outfit was completed by blue face paint and a plastic sword, which she used as a pointer during the lecture. Amanda is English, incidentally. The irony was not lost on her.

6. A stationery addict from an early age, the has a cupboard full of notebooks and another full of fountain pen ink. She probably owns more notebooks and ink than she will be able to use in a lifetime.

7. She has ‘O’ levels in Art and Latin. One has been much more useful than the other!

8. She loves a good ceilidh. Strip the Willow (conventional or Orcadian version) is her favourite dance.







Amanda Fleet is a physiologist by training and a writer at heart. She spent 18 years teaching science and medicine undergraduates at St Andrews University, but now uses her knowledge to work out how to kill people (in her books!). She completed her first degree at St Andrews University and her doctorate at University College, London.

She has been an inveterate stationery addict since a child, amassing a considerable stash of fountain pens, ink and notebooks during her lifetime. These have thankfully come in useful, as she tends to write rather than type, at least in the early stages of writing a book.

During her time at St Andrews, she was involved with two Scottish Government funded projects, working with the College of Medicine in Blantyre, Malawi. While in Malawi, she learned about the plight of the many street children there and helped to set up a Community Based Organisation that works with homeless Malawian children to support them through education and training – Chimwemwe Children’s Centre. It was this experience that helped to shape the Malawian aspects in her first novel, The Wrong Kind of Clouds.

Amanda lives in Scotland with her husband, where she can be found writing, walking and running. The Wrong Kind of Clouds is her début novel and was published by Matador in early 2016. It will be re-published by Joffe Books.


Twitter @amanda_fleet1