Monday, February 19, 2018

Faction 9 - Spotlight

About FACTION 9: A Novel of Revolution (on-sale January 19th)

Welcome to the near future, an America ruled by sharks—the Wall Street kind. Greedy gangster bankers. Carnivorous corporate creeps. Fascist war profiteers who cruise the oceans of dark power with their bloody jaws wide open, escorted by scavenger politicians nibbling at their scraps.

The billionaires live in luxurious depravity, while regular citizens work their fingers to the bone for nothing. And when the people cry out for justice, the politicians just laugh—all the way to the bank.

But new predators are stirring in the sea. These new hunters are young, cunning, and agile, with nothing to lose and only freedom to gain. Their motto: Hatred of greed is the salvation of love.  

And their mission? Taking out the sharks, starting with a billionaire so racist, deranged, and corrupt that he just might become the next US president.

They are Faction 9. They are everywhere and nowhere. And they are the only thing the plutocrats truly fear—because all the riches of hell can’t buy them off.

Faction 9 takes place at a bleak, indeterminate point in the future, or possibly a harrowing alternative present. The entire world is subdivided into nine “Pharmatainment Zones” which answer to a Politburo of Global Plutocrats: North America, South America, Russia, Sino-Japan, Oceania, Indo-Pakistan, Greater Arabia, Greater Africa, Europe, and the Lunar Company.
The US military has been completely privatized and the highest governing body in America is the Chamber of Commerce, which receives its instructions from a secretive global organization called the Billionaire’s Guild. Law and order are maintained by the National Police and the heavily armed “Warforce” wing of the FBI. The US Security Agency keeps tabs on citizens to prevent dissent. But most people are so zonked out on “Pharmatainment Tech” (including virtual reality games, interactive security dramas, and spirituality pills) that there is little organized resistance to the world Corporatocracy. Political life is dead, and basic freedoms are long gone—most human beings don’t even realize that they were sold down the river by their politicians a long, long time ago.
However, not all people are content. Jack Tone, a desk officer at the Manhattan Field Office of the US Security Agency, is fighting depression, though he’s not sure why. One day he injudiciously agrees to attend a meeting of the “Friendly Neighborhood Political Discussion Group,” only to find out that it is really Faction Nine, a tenacious band of offbeat revolutionaries. They have committed themselves to the assassination of a psychotic, narcissistic, and delusional billionaire plotting good old-fashioned world domination, but hell-bent on achieving it in a way that is not so much old-fashioned as it is charmingly, brutally insane. The only thing more brazen than this plot is Faction Nine's own assassination scheme. And they need Jack Tone to bring it off.
This is the world of Faction 9: A Novel of Revolution, a dystopian thriller whose feverish prediction of an America gone bonkers is actually less unbelievable now than even a few years ago.
About the author
James Firelocke spends his time between his rustic one-room cabin in Pennsylvania, and his gritty one-room apartment in the Newark, New Jersey metropolitan area. He struggles for existence as a freelance editor in addition to working in the document production department of a large organization.  He is divorced, with no dogs or cats, and enjoys sunlight, clean water, and fresh air.

Find out more at

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Next Year in Havanna - Spotlight

About Next Year in Havana:
In 1958, nineteen-year-old Elisa is the daughter of a sugar baron and member of Cuba’s high society where she is largely sheltered from the country’s growing political unrest—until she finds herself involved in a clandestine affair with an impassioned revolutionary that changes the course of her life. 
More than fifty years later, her granddaughter, Marisol, returns to the country to fulfill Elisa’s last wish to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth. Once in Havana, Marisol soon follows in her grandmother’s footsteps when she finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own.

Click HERE to read Chapter 1

Chanel Speaks:

In 1967, my grandparents and father left Cuba after Fidel Castro’s revolution and sought refuge in the United States. They arrived in Florida with the hope that exile would be temporary. Fifty years later, my family has built a life here, thrived in the country that welcomed them. But despite the intervening years, the subtle shifts in policy, and Castro’s death, my family has been unable to return to Cuba. My grandmother died dreaming of her homeland, and her ashes sit in an urn, waiting for us to take her back to the country she loved so faithfully.

When my family left Cuba, they were unable to take valuables with them, were forced to leave behind mementos, wedding rings, family photos, pieces of our family history. In an attempt to preserve their legacy, they hid those items in the walls of their home and buried them in their backyard for when they could return to the island. At the time, exile seemed temporary and the hope that drove their actions gripped me as a writer. I was left with the question: 

If you were forced to leave your home, and you had a box in which to place your most prized possessions, what would you choose to save for the day you would return?

Growing up, Cuba was part of my daily life—the stories my family told, the language we spoke, the music we listened to, the food we ate, the hope that one day we would return instilled in me from an early age. These stories, this version of Cuba given to me by my family, nurtured in exile, became the foundation for Next Year in Havana, the novel inspired by the idea of a hidden box and the secrets it protected for decades.

Next Year in Havana alternates between the modern day story of a Cuban-American woman honoring her grandmother’s last request to scatter her ashes in the country from which she was exiled and her grandmother’s experience in 1958, living in a country on the cusp of revolution. As these women face heartbreaking choices amid a tumultuous political climate, the novel explores the universal themes of family, love, and patriotism. This book contains a piece of my family’s history. Thanks for letting me share it with all of you.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Pride and Prometheus - Review and Excerpt

Idgie Says:
The story is told from the viewpoints of four different characters; The Bennet sisters, Victor, and Frankenstein himself. 

Frankenstein is made very human in this story, filled out with emotion and want. All of the characters are fully fleshed out and alive.  Except for the fantastical story of a monster created, the situations tend toward real life situations, fears and longings.  The novel is well written and engrossing - I found myself reading at a decidedly smart pace through the pages. 

From France to England, Frankenstein chases Victor to make him keep his promise of finding a mate that would accept a monster.  Meanwhile, Mary pines after Victor, hoping to be saved from the mantle of spinsterhood. Be it monster or maiden, everyone just wants to be loved.

Please note - there is a 2008 novelette of the same name, with excerpts out online.  This novel is not a longer version of that novelette and should not be confused with it.  This is a full novel in it's own right.


Pride and Prejudice meets Frankenstein as Mary Bennet falls for the enigmatic Victor Frankenstein and befriends his monstrous Creature in this clever fusion of two popular classics.

Threatened with destruction unless he fashions a wife for his Creature, Victor Frankenstein travels to England where he meets Mary and Kitty Bennet, the remaining unmarried sisters of the Bennet family from Pride and Prejudice. As Mary and Victor become increasingly attracted to each other, the Creature looks on impatiently, waiting for his bride. But where will Victor find a female body from which to create the monster’s mate?

Meanwhile, the awkward Mary hopes that Victor will save her from approaching spinsterhood while wondering what dark secret he is keeping from her.

Pride and Prometheus fuses the gothic horror of Mary Shelley with the Regency romance of Jane Austen in an exciting novel that combines two age-old stories in a fresh and startling way.

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Saga Press (February 13, 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1481481479
  • ISBN-13: 978-1481481472

Excerpt from Chapter 3

Mr. Frankenstein mumbled a few words and, to her great surprise, turned to Mary. “Might I have the pleasure, if you are not occupied, of sharing the next dance with you?”

His eyes did not meet hers. She suspected he asked her only at the urging of Mr. Clerval. His diffident air intrigued her. His manners were faultless, as was his English—though he spoke with a slight French accent—but he conveyed an air of hesitance, as if he acted a part that was not comfortable. Not vanity, then, and not likely pride.

He took her hand and guided her to the floor. Through her glove and his she felt the pressure of his fingers; they entered the lines of women and men facing one another, prepared for the quadrille. Once the orchestra struck up, Frankenstein moved with some grace. Unlike Mr. Collins, his attention was on Mary, and she thought, despite herself, that she danced better than she had except at those times when she danced by herself in her room, safe from the world’s observation. When she extended her hand, she did it with neither abruptness nor timidity. No trace of a smile crossed her partner’s lips. He spoke not at all. They stood side by side as the line advanced, waiting to make them top couple, and Mary’s discomfort increased. She cast about for something to say, but her mind was a humiliating blank.

At the end of the dance, Mr. Frankenstein broke the silence, asking whether Mary would like some refreshment. She might rather have been released, but she would not be rude. They crossed from the crowded ballroom to the sitting room, where Frankenstein procured for her a cup of negus. Away from the orchestra Mary could hear the rattle of windblown rain on the windows. She watched him retrieve the punch and bring it back, determined to make some conversation before she should retreat to the safety of her wall ower’s chair.
“So, Monsieur Frankenstein, did you come to London as your friend Mr. Clerval did—on business?”

He sat across from her, his cup in his hands. Other couples in the room conversed with varying degrees of inti- macy. Looking about as he spoke, in his excellent English he said, “I came to meet with certain natural philosophers here in London. Your country boasts some of the leading chemists of Europe.”
“Oh. Have you met Mr. Davy?”

Frankenstein looked at her as if seeing her for the rst time. “You are acquainted with Mr. Davy?”

“I am not acquainted with him, but I am, in my small way, an enthusiast of the sciences. Have you read his Discourse Introductory to a Course of Lectures on Chemistry?”

Frankenstein’s eyebrows lifted. “I find myself astonished to meet a young woman who has read Humphry Davy. Is this the pastime of well-bred ladies in London society?”

For the first time in their evening he seemed to be animated by something other than duty. Mary felt unaccustomed daring. What did it matter what she said to a diffident foreigner whom she would never see again?

“The well-bred ladies of London are more interested in Mr. Davy’s good looks than in his writings,” Mary said. “The well-bred men, though they may attend his lectures, are for the most part less interested in his writings than in the well-bred ladies. You and I are likely the only man and woman here tonight who will speak of chemistry. So you have met Mr. Davy?”

“I attended one of his lectures on his recent return from Europe.”

“Then you have seen more of him than I. My mother does not consider my attending such lectures a suitable way for me to pass my time. You are a natural philosopher?”

“Perhaps it is better to say that at one time I was. I studied at Ingolstadt with Mr. Krempe and Mr. Waldman. I confess that I can no longer countenance the subject.”

“You no longer countenance the subject, yet you seek out Professor Davy.”
A shadow swept over Frankenstein’s face. “The subject is unsupportable to me, yet pursue it I must.”

“A paradox.”

“A paradox that I am unable to explain, Miss Bennet.”

All this said in a voice so heavy as to almost sound 
despairing. Mary watched his sober black eyes and replied, “‘The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.’” 

For the second time he gave her a look that suggested she had touched him. Mr. Frankenstein sipped from his cup, then spoke: “Avoid any pastime, Miss Bennet, that takes you out of the normal course of human contact. If the study to which you apply yourself has a tendency to weaken your affections and destroy your taste for simple pleasures, then that study is certainly unlawful.”
The purport of this speech Mary was unable to fathom. “Surely there is no harm in seeking knowledge. The natural philosopher, Professor Davy suggests, should be as creative an artist as the poet, and combine together mechanical, chemical, and physiological knowledge. All knowledge, I believe, brings us closer to God.”

“Would that it were always so, Miss Bennet.”

“Why otherwise has he given us minds that reason, and hearts that question?”

“Why, indeed,” Frankenstein said. He smiled. “Henry has urged me to go out into London society; had I known that I might meet such a thoughtful person as yourself, I would have done so long before now.” 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Glass Forest - Review and Guest Post

Idgie Says:
This story is told from the viewpoints of the three main female characters; a 17 year old girl, a 21 year old wife and mother, and the older missing mother.  Ruby, the 17 year old, speaks in third person, which of course sets you up to feel that something is quite off with her. Silja's story is told in past tense, leading up to the time she goes missing.

There are mysterious elements surrounding all of the adults, except for Angie, who you simply begin to believe is in over her head in a situation that she doesn't understand.

As I read the novel I felt like more of an outsider watching events occur through a window instead of immersing myself in the story.  While the story was interesting, I failed to engage with the characters.  I did find Silja's storyline the most interesting and was invested in discovering why she left so suddenly.... if that's truly what happened.

This is definitely a psychological suspense novel, delving more into personalities and reasoning than shock and awe plot.  

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Bookseller comes a gripping literary suspense novel set in the 1960s about a deeply troubled family and three women who will reveal its dark truths.

In the autumn of 1960, Angie Glass is living an idyllic life in her Wisconsin hometown. At twenty-one, she’s married to charming, handsome Paul, and has just given birth to a baby boy. But one phone call changes her life forever.

When Paul’s niece, Ruby, reports that her father, Henry, has committed suicide, and that her mother, Silja, is missing, Angie and Paul drop everything and fly to the small upstate town of Stonekill, New York to be by Ruby’s side.

Angie thinks they’re coming to the rescue of Paul’s grief-stricken young niece, but Ruby is a composed and enigmatic seventeen-year-old who resists Angie’s attempts to nurture her. As Angie learns more about the complicated Glass family, staying in Henry and Silja’s eerie and ultra-modern house on the edge of the woods, she begins to question the very fabric of her own marriage.

Through Silja’s flashbacks, Angie’s discovery of astonishing truths, and Ruby’s strategic dissection of her parents’ state of affairs, a story of love, secrets, and ultimate betrayal is revealed.

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (February 6, 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1501172093
  • ISBN-13: 978-1501172090

Writing a Character-Driven Thriller

By Cynthia Swanson

Thrillers are often described as plot-driven. There’s a mystery to be solved, and as readers we’re following the action primarily to answer to the question “whodunit”? We speed through the pages looking for clues about the culprit. Was it the boyfriend, or the husband? Or that seemingly random guy our heroine met at the airport? Maybe someone from her past? Who did it? Who?

While this question is vital for any narrative featuring an unsolved riddle, there’s a deeper aspect to certain thrillers. What sets a character-driven thriller apart from standard mystery is that, in addition to wondering who, we also wonder why. The book becomes not just a whodunit, but also a whydunit?

This is where character development comes in. In a character-driven thriller (i.e., a whydunit), a well-rounded cast is vital. Stereotypes and tropes play no part in this type of story. Whydunit readers want to understand the psychology behind characters’ actions. If the perpetrator is male and the victim is female (not always the case, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume so in this example), the bad guy can’t be bad just because that’s his nature. Likewise, the victim cannot simply become a victim because she’s foolish or lacking in reasoning skills.

With a character-driven thriller, we want more. We want to understand that perp’s history. How did he become this way? What happened in his past that made him capable of such a crime? Likewise for the victim: how has her journey changed over the course of the story? What happened to put her in the predicament she’s in?

Character-driven thrillers are sometimes described as having a “slow burn.” That may be true; often, in this type of story, it takes time to learn about these characters and why they do what they do. This, however causes the resolution – when we finally reach it – to be all the more satisfying.

If you start reading a character-driven thriller and find yourself unsure where it’s going, I encourage you to stick with it. The story may not have the formulaic plot of a standard mystery, but if the novel is a well-written whydunit, you’ll learn a great deal about why things turn out the way they do. As you read the final pages and close the book, you’re likely to feel a level of reading satisfaction even greater than you feel at the end of a classic whodunit.

Cynthia Swanson is the New York Times bestselling author of The Bookseller: A Novel, which is soon to be a movie starring Julia Roberts. Her second novel, a character-driven thriller titled The Glass Forest, released on February 6, 2018. Cynthia lives in Denver, CO with her family. Find her at