USA Today Bestseller Vicki Hinze — A Publishing Pioneer

By Bayard & Holmes

 

USA Today Bestseller Vicki Hinze

USA Today Bestseller Vicki Hinze

 

Vicki Hinze can write anything. She has several popular series from romantic suspense to military thrillers to Christian fiction and non-fiction books on the writing craft. She has published over thirty-five books in as many as sixty-three countries and won multiple awards since her writing career began in 1987. A kind and sharing lady who enjoys associating with others, Vicki Hinze is also one of the charter sponsors of International Thriller Writers and served on its Board of Directors.

We are honored today to welcome Vicki Hinze.

Vicki, you write romantic suspense, military thrillers, science fiction, Christian thrillers, and pretty much everything else. Is there any correlation between events in your life and the types of book you prefer to write at any given time?

Honestly, I write about what I’m fearing most at the time or about something that sets me off like a rocket.  For example, I was midway through a three-book contract for paranormal romance novels when I went to the commissary (grocery store on a military base).  Anyway, this young airman and his wife were standing in the aisle debating between buying a jar of peanut butter and a can of tuna–they couldn’t afford both.  I was stunned to hear that, went home did some research and discovered the lowest four pay grades in the military were eligible for food stamps.  I went postal.  They put their lives on the line for us, their families sacrifice too, and they’re eligible for food stamps?

I went on a “this has to change” binge with elected reps (and it has now) and called my editor.  I wanted to write military romantic suspense/thrillers that depicted the special difficulties soldiers and their families face.  Like custody battles due to deployments.  Military romantic suspense/thrillers hadn’t really been done, but the editor trusted me and we went for it.  That gave me the opportunity to write about a lot of fears–environmental terrorism (before the phrase was coined)–fear of our water supply being poisoned, our food supply, dirty bombs.  I wrote about all of those things in the mid 90s before they were totally on everyone’s radar.

It’s God’s sense of humor, when you get down to it.  I hate to cook, so where do I have the most epiphanies?  In grocery stores.  And in a quirk I can’t explain, I marry my fears to them. That often results in a new sub-genre, or something being done differently than it has been, but I’m okay with that.  It’s interesting and challenging.  I gravitate toward challenges.

Your books or articles are published in over 60 countries. When publishers in countries that are very different from America contract for your books, do they ever ask you to change things to appeal to their local cultures?

Typically in these situations that’s established in contracts.  That publishers can alter content so that it is consistent with the market in the distribution area. When you think about it, it’s it everyone’s best interest.  Something that is ordinary and totally acceptable in one culture could be extremely offensive in another.  The objective isn’t to isolate or irritate readers.  Now, authors are seeing more contracts call for world rights and those contracts do retain rights on that front.  Since the objective is to provide great reads, it’s a common sense thing to give the work the best possible chance for attaining its objectives.

Christian fiction is a relatively new publishing genre, if you don’t count the Book of Esther. Some people think Christian fiction is all about prayer meetings, devout pioneer women, and girls in fluffy dresses giggling over boys at youth camp, but your books include such gritty turns such as murder and human trafficking. How would you describe the Christian (faith-based) thriller genre to people who are not already familiar with it?

That’s a common misconception about the Christian fiction market and I’m not sure why it exists.  Being a Christian doesn’t exempt you from life’s problems or insulate you from realities occurring in the world.  What it does do is give you tools to cope with those challenges and an understanding that whatever you face, you don’t face it alone.  Christian fiction is as diverse as human beings.  You will find people struggling in relationships, struggling against bad things that happen to them, hard times, and all the rest.  It’s a solutions-oriented genre, and one that embraces constructive solutions to everyday problems as well as ones we hope we never have to face.

Often what happens is out of our control.  But how we react to it is in our control.  Faith provides a foundation to sustain us and knowledge of faith provides us tools and constructive solutions.  You’ll find the same diversity in the challenges, obstacles or conflicts that you encounter in any thriller. 

You’re known through the publishing world for your original ideas, such as creating limited edition, multi-author ebook collections. In keeping with your reputation, you just launched a new web site that allows your readers to connect on a private social media site. Could you please tell us more about this?

Readers Group News Community is a community I created for my Readers. Those who get my Newsletter are eligible for the Community and everything there. I’ve gotten to know many of my readers, and they’re great people. I thought they might enjoy having a place where they can meet and get to know one another. I also didn’t want our conversations and interactions to always be all about me. I want to know more about them, too. A community where we can chat and interact seemed like the answer, so I thought we’d give it a try and see how they like it.

So far, I’d say they like it very much. There are recommendations for books that are free and on sale, virtual exercise buddies and virtual walk videos (Venice and Australia and other cool places). A place to share recipes. Contests. A place to celebrate whatever anyone is celebrating, chats–and well, all kinds of things.

Readers Group News Community is new, but the responses and feedback thus far have been great. The site has been busy, that’s for sure.

Anyone signing up for my newsletter receives an invitation to join us. People are encouraged to do as little or as much there as they like. It’s not supposed to be “another thing I have to do” for anyone. It’s supposed to be a place where you can get support if you need it, someone to cheer with you, or you can recommend a book you read and enjoyed so others can read and enjoy it, too.

My goal in creating Readers Group News Community was to give Readers a place that isn’t so overwhelming and is more intimate and focused, where you can interact and grow friendships. Readers clearly like the idea of it, so that bodes well for the community long-term.

Sounds like a brilliant way to connect with your readers and provide them with a way to connect with you and each other. We predict many authors will follow your lead, as they so often do, and reader communities will become familiar throughout the writing world.

Thank you so much for sharing your time and insights with us. It’s been an honor to have you at our site today.

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Vicki The Marked Bride

 

Our sincere thanks to this lovely, talented lady whose big heart and talent are legend in the writing world. Her latest release is THE MARKED BRIDE, first in the Shadow Watchers series. Would you turn to the man that you dumped at the altar and ask him to risk his life for you? When terrorists kill and threaten to kill again, do you really have any choice? You can find this and Vicki’s other bestselling books at her website, Vicki Hinze, along with inspiring posts, common sense, and resources for both writing and life.

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Susan Spann–Historical Mystery Author or Ninja Conspirator?

By Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

It’s happened again. It starts with a twitch, and then, before you know it, Holmes and I are kidnapping another author and whisking them away to our secret blog prison.

Today, our victim guest is Debut Historical Author Susan Spann. Susan earned her bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies at Tufts University in Boston. She somehow got bamboozled into pursuing a law career—friends don’t let friends go to law school—and received her J.D. from UCLA. After years of teaching and a stint as Associate Academic Dean at Trinity Law School in Santa Ana, she now practices intellectual property law and writes historical mysteries set in 1500s Japan. Her debut, CLAWS OF THE CAT, is due out tomorrow (Minotaur Books).

Claws of the Cat Cover

We snatched Susan gave Susan a ride from her office in Sacramento. It wasn’t too hard to get her to come with us. We lured her into our black helicopter by telling her that her favorite author, James Rollins, had once been held against his will  spent a lovely afternoon in it with us.

Welcome to our blog today, Susan. Please make yourself comfortable. We had these tatami mats flown in especially for your visit . . . No, not from Japan. From Kansas. They’re woven from genuine American GMO wheat stalks. We believe in buying American. Hope you don’t have any allergies.

You’re welcome to remove your blindfold now. If you notice, it’s a Hello Kitty sleep mask to match the Hello Kitty handcuffs. Very Japanese.

Would you like some tea? I studied that scene in Shogun several times to get it right.

Let’s begin our interrogation conversation. Keep in mind that Intelligence Operative Holmes is just behind this one-way glass *waves*, and the NSA will have a permanent and complete record of your answers.

Susan Spann Historical Author and Ninja Conspirator

Susan Spann
Historical Author and Ninja Conspirator

Now, Ms. Spann—just what is your connection to the Orient?

I’d say “I’m a ninja” but if I was really a ninja this blindfold and handcuffs would be on someone else.

So, instead, I’ll say I’ve always loved Japanese history and culture, especially medieval Japan. In college, my studies focused on early Imperial China and medieval Japan, including the Muromachi period (1337-1573) when samurai ruled and ninjas really existed.

It was a dangerous time, but also beautiful and intriguing – and the Shinobi series gives me a fabulous chance to explore the era in more detail and translate it into fiction.

So your special interest is ninjas, is it? Exactly why would you be studying these assassins and their ways?

Technically, they attacked me first. I’m just returning the favor.

Hmm. The old “he started it first” line.  Doesn’t work for my kids, either. Please go on.

The moment I had the idea to write a mystery novel featuring a ninja detective, I realized a shinobi (which is the Japanese pronunciation — “ninja” is based on a Chinese word) would make the perfect sleuth. Shinobi were masters of disguise who trained in undercover operations as well as assassination – much like modern spies.

Speaking of spies … Hi Holmes! Can he see me waving?

Ahem. Holmes prefers the term “spook.” Spying is a bit seamy—its what the NSA and the Russians do.

Anyway, a shinobi seemed like the perfect sleuth, provided I could find a believable reason for Hiro to use his skills to solve murders instead of committing them. Fortunately, the mystery in CLAWS OF THE CAT offers just the right “incentive.”

I love your style in CLAWS OF THE CAT in that you weave in the setting and history of 1500s Japan in just the right amount as you unfold the story. You’ve heard me describe it as the ultimate cozy whodunit with a healthy dose of “Cool, I didn’t know that” on the side. Is there some dark force that draws you to creating intricate patterns of deception in the form of mystery novels?

I learned it from my kitten, Oobie. Who better to teach deception than a cat?

And thank you. One of my goals for the novel was to immerse the narrative in an unusual cultural setting, showing the reader the beauty and danger of samurai Japan within the scope of a fast-paced mystery romp. Each book in the series incorporates a different facet of Japanese culture, which means new and unusual settings in every one.

Also, I’m delighted to hear you enjoyed the book. I loved your novel, FIRELANDS, and it means a lot to me when authors whose works I enjoy like my book too.

I have someone here who is familiar with your novel, and who has some tough questions for you to answer. *crosses to intercom* Bring in Inspector Parker.

Inspector Parker

Inspector Parker

*enters and sniffs at Susan’s ankle* You don’t smell too suspicious, but I don’t like that large, black bag you’re carrying. I deduce that you are hiding ninja weapons in it. Your hero, Hiro, uses a number of them. Please empty your purse and explain these items.

The weapons on the cover of CLAWS are neko-te, which translates “claws of the cat” – a specialized weapon favored by female ninjas (called kunoichi). The claws were worn on the ends of the fingers, transforming a kunoichi’s hands into lethal weapons. In many cases, the claws were poisoned too.

This thing that looks like a stick is a ninja smoke bomb, made from a length of bamboo filled with a special powdered mixture that produces smoke when ignited. Ninjas used a variety of bombs and other explosive devices, mostly to create distractions but sometimes for destructive purposes too. Hiro doesn’t use any bombs in CLAWS OF THE CAT, but he will in some of the later books. 

That last thing is a pen. For signing books …

Surely you are aware that all the world has heard of war dogs, but no one has ever heard of war cats. It’s a proven fact that writing about war dogs increases an author’s book sales. Why would you instead choose to glorify cats in your writing?

I humbly beg forgiveness for that oversight, Inspector Parker! It’s true that dogs make any book better, but in the interests of interspecies fairness, I decided to give a kitten equal time.

When I started writing CLAWS OF THE CAT, I knew I needed to soften Hiro’s ninja edge and make him someone readers could relate to—unrepentant assassins aren’t a classic hero archetype. The fastest way to demonstrate Hiro’s gentler side was letting him rescue, and keep, an orphaned kitten.

But I didn’t want to make Hiro too soft, and I like books with plenty of tension, so I also made Father Mateo, Hiro’s Jesuit sidekick, allergic to cats.

While you’ve written an excellent book, even the name CLAWS OF THE CAT might unjustly put off your dog readership. Do you have any plans to remedy that unfortunate choice by adding dogs to your novels in the future?

Absolutely! A dog appears in the series’ second installment, Blade of the Samurai, which is scheduled for publication in July 2014. I’m afraid he’s not as nice a dog as you are, Inspector Parker, but he’s a brave Akita who does his best to protect his people.

If the series continues beyond three books, you’ll also get to see a ninja dog—but I can’t reveal any more or I’ll blow his cover!

I will look forward to reading about such noble members of my species . . . Excuse me, but may I sniff your bag again, please? . . . Is that salami? Did you bring that for me? *sticks head in Susan’s handbag*

Now, now, Inspector Parker, it’s not appropriate to beg from our subjects. If you’ll just go to Holmes, he’ll share some salami with you. Thank you for your input in this case. *Inspector Parker departs*

Ms. Spann, what is your current Work In Progress?

I’ve delivered Blade of the Samurai to my editor at Minotaur, and I’m currently working on Flask of the Drunken Master, the third installment in the Shinobi Mystery series. I love spending time with Hiro and Father Mateo.

And where do you go from here? Do you have any upcoming book tours or other promotions?

CLAWS releases tomorrow, and I’m really excited about sharing it with readers! I currently have signings scheduled in California and Colorado:

Thursday, July 18, 2013: 6:30pm Launch Event: Face in a Book Bookstore, 4359 Town Center Blvd., #113, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762

Thursday, July 25, 2013: 7:00 PM Reading & Signing: Barnes & Noble (3rd Street Promenade), 1201 Third Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Tuesday, July 30, 2013: 11:00 AM Reading & Signing: Towne Center Books, 555 Main Street Pleasanton, CA 94566

Wednesday, August 28, 2013: 7:00PM Reading & Signing: Barnes & Noble, 6111 Sunrise Boulevard, Citrus Heights, CA 95610

Monday, September 16, 2013: 7:30 PM Reading & Signing: Tattered Cover Bookstore
2526 East Colfax Avenue Denver, CO 80206

You can also get up to date information on these and other signings at my author events page: Find Susan–Live Events and Conferences

Thank you for your time today, Susan. I’m going to have to ask you to put this parachute on over your kimono before we leave. Don’t worry—we’ll remove your handcuffs and blindfold before we push you out of the helicopter deliver you safely to your home. You may keep the Hello Kitty paraphernalia as a souvenir of our chat, if you like, but we’ll be sending someone by to collect the parachute. Tight budget, and all.

I can certainly confirm that CLAWS OF THE CAT is a great read. Find it now in hardback and paperback at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. Also find this awesome book at IndieBound, Powell’s, and at the iTunes Apple Store.

Is America Headed Toward Firearms Confiscation?

By Piper Bayard

Currently, a great deal of misinformation is firing throughout the Cyberverse about gun control. Tempers flaring, insults flying, and people “unfriending” those who state even the barest, most uncontested facts from any source on any side of the issue. In an effort to wrest this topic kicking and screaming from the fear mongerers on both sides, I spoke with University of Colorado Constitutional Law Professor Richard B. Collins to get the straight skinny.

Firearms West Midlands Police wikimedia

image by West Midlands Police, wikimedia commons

Bayard:

Many people in the US are comparing the latest New York gun control laws to the laws of the UK, Canada, and Australia, where guns and gun ownership are highly restricted and regulated. They are concerned that the registration requirement will be enacted at a federal level, and that it will lead to confiscation. What, if anything, would prevent registration leading to confiscation from happening in America?

Collins:

America is the only country in the world with the constitutional right to own firearms at the federal level. Forty-four states also have the right to bear arms in their constitutions, and those state constitutions are not to be underestimated. The UK, Canada, and Australia never had the right to bear arms in their countries’ founding documents.

When it comes to confiscation, the confiscation question is, “Confiscate what?” If police find a nuclear device in your basement they can already take it, and we hope they will. The extreme image is that the government will confiscate handguns and rifles. I’m pretty sure that couldn’t be done. Even in Australia they couldn’t get the wherewithal to confiscate [rifles and most handguns 9mm in caliber or less], and, as I said, Australia has no right to bear arms in its Constitution. I am reasonably sure that if any US legislature had the political guts to try to confiscate guns, the Second Amendment and political climate would prevent that from happening.

A point of American law that gets ignored is that we already have legal limits on what guns we can possess. All kinds of legal limits. One example is the National Firearms Act of 1934, which banned the private use of machine guns.

Every country has a definition of a weapon so powerful that only the government can possess it. We have a line in America. In most other countries, the line is much lower than it is here; however, even the most stringent of countries do allow hunting rifles and [some] handguns.

Bayard:

In your opinion, do you believe the newly enacted New York gun laws will pass muster with the Supreme Court?

Collins:

More likely than not, they will. But I’m not at all sure. The seminal case is District of Columbia v. Heller. It is a case from D.C. with an opinion by Justice Scalia that is very pro-regulation. It does not stop people from having a gun at home to protect their houses, but once they walk out their doors, they can be regulated. New York law is very complex. In general, comparing the new gun laws in New York to the Heller case, I would say they will probably survive 2-1.

One possible issue, however, is if a federal employee falls under the requirement to report information about a patient who owns guns. According to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), no wellness or health promotion activity under that Act is allowed to require the disclosure or collection of any information relating to the ownership or possession of firearms or ammunition. However, nothing in Obamacare prevents a state or private health care worker from doing so.

Bayard’s Note:

The State of New York does not have the right to bear arms in its state constitution. This makes gun control a different ball game for them than for most of the other states. California, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, and New Jersey also lack any right to bear arms in their state constitutions. All other state constitutions have some provision for the right to bear arms. Also, in all other states, excepting Hawaii, Kansas, Massachusetts, and Virginia, the right to self-defense with a firearm is either explicitly protected as an individual right in the state constitution or it has been upheld as an individual right in case law.

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Richad B. Collins is a Professor of Law at the University of Colorado and the Director of the Byron R. White Center for the Study of American Constitutional Law. The short version of his resume contains six pages of accomplishments, each more impressive than the last. Notably, he worked with the Native American Rights Fund, argued numerous Supreme Court cases, published countless articles in law journals and reviews, organized several symposiums, was awarded a Fulbright grant and the the Smith Kline Beckman Award in Legal Education, and was a Visiting Professor at Wuhan University and Beijing University in China.

My profound thanks to Professor Collins for giving us the Second Amendment facts in this time of high passions around the right to keep and bear arms.

In a future article, we will discuss Professor Collins’ perspective on executive orders.

The Next Big Thing

By Piper Bayard

We usually avoid writing about writing on our blog, but it’s time for an update. Big things are happening for Holmes and I this year. Not only are we now featured bloggers at the Social N Network*, but we have been picked up by Stonehouse Ink Publishing. The first book due out is one of mine, SEEDS, a dystopian sci-fi that will be released this spring. Look for our Bayard & Holmes spy thriller, APEX PREDATOR, later this year.

When I mentioned our progress to our great friend and International Best Selling Author Vicki Hinze, Vicki immediately invited me to participate in the Next Big Thing Blog Hop.

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

A Blog Hop is a way for readers to discover new authors. On this stop, I’ll tell you a bit about SEEDS by answering ten set questions, and then I’ll link you to other authors who answer the same questions.

My gratitude to Vicki Hinze for inviting me to participate in this event.  You can click the following links to learn more about Vicki and her books.

Website:  Vicki Hinze

Buy her books: http://www.amazon.com/Vicki-Hinze/e/B000AQ48S4/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

The Next Big Thing

1: What is the working title of your book?

SEEDS

2: Where did the idea come from for the book?

The story I like to tell is how I was SCUBA diving one day when a handsome merman with a striking resemblance to Hugh Jackman gave me a magic abalone shell with the word “destiny” engraved on it. I asked him if he’d like to have dinner with me. You know. As friends. I mean, my husband wouldn’t mind. Not too much. Hugh Jackman Merman declined with some tale about needing to sort his mer-socks. So I surfaced and opened the shell. Inside were the words “apocalypse,” “famine,” and “prophet.” Then, I fell into a magical sleep and woke up with the book fully formed in my mind. . . . That’s the story I like to tell.

The truth is that I haven’t got a clue. I wake up at 4 a.m. with this stuff in my head and write it down. I don’t make it up. It moves through me.

Hugh Jackman US Navy wikimedia

Hugh Jackman Merman, image from US Navy

3: What genre does your book come under?

SEEDS is a dystopian sci-fi thriller.

4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

My dearest hope is that one day Kristen Stewart will star . . . Just kidding. Really.

The main character, Archer, I envision as something of a Kiera Knightley. Her love interest, Quinn, could be played by Ian Somerhaulder, Chris Pine, Liam Hemsworth, or Hugh Jackman Merman. I’m not picky.

5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

In a post-apocalyptic world where hunger is a weapon, a huntress must befriend her worst enemy to overthrow a theocratic dictator before he exterminates her people.

6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?

SEEDS will be traditionally published by indie publisher, Stonehouse Ink. I didn’t put much effort into finding an agent, but Holmes and I do work closely with our publishing attorney and fellow author, Susan Spann.

Stonehouse Ink Logo

7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

All my life. But for the purposes of this question, four months.

8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Parts of SEEDS have an unfortunate resemblance to THE HUNGER GAMES, which I never even heard of before writing my first draft. Apparently, almost every author who’s been in the business for long has suffered this unjust circumstance so I’m rolling with it. Taking it on the chin. Sucking it up. I don’t mind. Really. *stabs voodoo doll with pin*

9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?

A friend offered me the opportunity to sell life insurance. It made sense and dovetailed nicely with my law degree. Thinking about it, I realized that if I accepted, I would die some day having never written a book. I declined her offer and got busy. So on all of those days when I’d rather watch the dog catch flies than work, I remember that I could be selling insurance and I clock in at the WIP.

10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

SEEDS, while it does not contain a Hugh Jackman Merman, is a story with many levels that can alter with every read. It can be a light action thriller, a future world escape, or an experience of the limitless change that is possible in one seemingly isolated act. Every reader will see something different in it.

This is what people are saying about SEEDS.

“With echoes of UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN and HUNGER GAMES, SEEDS is a sprawling adventure ranging across a world racked by post-apocalyptic want, denial, and prophetic dictum. Equal parts heroic quest and morality play, it races forward on a current of deftly woven characters and breakneck action, never failing to deliver what every reader wants—a helluva good story.” ~~ Ryne Douglas Pearson, screenwriter of KNOWING and bestselling author of SIMPLE SIMON and CONFESSIONS

“SEEDS envisions a terrifying and prescient future of a United States lost to the worst extremes.  Piper Bayard’s wonderfully relevant and beautifully realized fantasy tale would make George R.R. Martin proud as it combines the best of CHILDREN OF MEN with Stephen King’s seminal THE STAND. . . . The result is a major debut that is not to be missed.”~~ Jon Land, bestselling author of STRONG AT THE BREAK and BETRAYAL

“Piper Bayard explodes on the scene in SEEDS. Creative. Imaginative. Chilling and reassuring. A captivating tale well told.”~~ Vicki Hinze, bestselling author of DUPLICITY

These are the other authors on today’s Hop:

1.  Kathy Carmichael

2.  Kimberly Lyllewellyn

3.  Buzz Bernard

4.  Kellie Sharpe

Below are the authors who will join the Hop next Wednesday. I hope you will bookmark them and add them to your calendars for updates on WIPs and New Releases.

1.  Ellie Ann

2.  Jen L. Kirchner

3.  K.B. Owen

4.  Kerry Schafer

5.  Susan Spann

What is the Next Big Thing happening for you in 2013?

*The Social N Network is a network of news and events sites in over thirty cities across the US with a collective following upward of 500k. The flagship site is SocialInDC. Lonny Dunn of ProNetworkBuild is the brains and talent behind the business.

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From the Secret Blog Prison — James Rollins and Bloodline!

By Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes

Last fall, Holmes and I devolved into serial interviewers, targeting best selling authors. Our first victim guest at our secret blog prison hideout was New York Times Best Selling Author and Heckuva Guy James Rollins*. Dr. Rollins was a stellar interviewee, not once complaining about the handcuffs or the fact that his parachute got tangled when we pushed him out of the plane over his house. (James Rollins and New Characters for Sigma Force)

During that interview, my dog, Daisy, showed her astute doggie intuition and hit on just the right questions to pull some exclusive info from this author/veterinarian. She asked about war dogs. Here is an excerpt.

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Hi Dr. Rollins. *lick, lick, wag, wag* It’s so nice to meet you. I love meeting writers who get it. Writers who understand that dog readership is a driving force in today’s market. Would you please explain the benefits of having animals in books?

As a veterinarian, I simply enjoy folding them into the story.  I knew from third-grade that I wanted to be a vet, and though I only do volunteer work with my vet degree, that passion still runs strong.  So animals keep creeping in on silent paws into my books.  Also, I think an animal is a great way to personalize and characterize the men and women in a story.  Are they a cat person or a dog person?  Can they ride a horse?  What type of dog or cat do they have?  These details can really make a significant difference in how a reader views a character.

I know they certainly matter to me and to my pet human.

There’s been lots of news about Cairo, the war dog who took down Bin Laden. (Sincere thanks to Cairo’s pilots and assistants.) War dogs are really hot, the way they sky dive and save their pet humans from bombs. Have you ever considered adding a war dog to the Sigma Force team?

In fact, that’s coming up in my very next book:  Tucker Wayne and his canine partner, Kane.  They are an incredible team.

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On June 26, we finally got to see Kane and his pet human, Tucker Wayne in Bloodline, the eighth novel in the Sigma Force series. To celebrate this event, we tracked Dr. Rollins on his Bloodline Tour and approached him on the street outside of a bookstore to interrogate chat with him about this exciting new release.

When he first saw us coming toward him, he dodged into a nearby pet store. We found him crouched behind a large open glass container full of Belgian Malinois puppies, and, once we proved we didn’t have any blindfolds on us or black helicopters hovering outside, he agreed to answer a few questions.

Dr. Rollins, will Tucker and Kane be a natural addition to the Sigma Force team in Bloodline, or will they have issues to settle to blend in?

From a professional standpoint, Tucker’s training as an army ranger and his partnership with his military working dog, Kane, create a formidable search-and-rescue team—the perfect recruit for Sigma.  But Tucker is disillusioned and bitter and not a team player.  With Kane at his side, he’s a bit of a lone wolf.  His trust needs to be won—but can Sigma earn it?  That’s answered with in the pages of Bloodline

When you spoke with Daisy, you told her Sigma Force will go up against The Guild in Bloodline, and only one group will be left standing. Does this mean Bloodline is the close of the Sigma Force series?

Nope.  This book exposes the true puppet masters of the Guild and dramatizes the final, fiery confrontation between this shadowy organization and Sigma. But as this story ends, a new thread begins that will carry the story of Sigma into the future. 

Would you please tell our readers a bit about Bloodline?

The president’s pregnant daughter is kidnapped by Somali pirates, and it’s up to Sigma and its newest recruits–Tucker and Kane–to rescue her from the mountainous jungles.  But her kidnapping masks a greater threat–one tied to her unborn child, a baby who may hold the key to the secret of immortality.

About this time, a Vietnamese woman who seemed well-acquainted with Dr. Rollins showed up. As she passed the puppies and pushed her way between us and our target friend, I noticed the outline of a Sig Sauer in her belt holster under her shirt. In light of this new development, we wished Dr. Rollins all the best and left him to resume his Bloodline Tour.

Our sincere thanks to James Rollins. We were honored to have another opportunity to speak with him. You can find Bloodline at his web site, James Rollins Bloodline, or at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Do you like the idea of a war dog and his pet human in a thriller?

*James Rollins is the author of eight Sigma Force novels, the Jake Ransom YA series, and the novelization of Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. He is known for high adventure drawn from his extensive and accurate knowledge of science, technology, and history. He is also a veterinarian who regularly contributes his time to his local clinic to spay and neuter animals.

Best Selling Author Vicki Hinze – A Writer for All Seasons

By Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes

My blogging and spy novel writing partner, Holmes, and I have been restless lately. Fidgety and irritable. Unable to sleep at night. Piper even found herself re-arranging the objects on her writing desk into alphabetical order, muttering about blog hideouts, interrogations, and best selling authors. That’s when we knew it had happened. It was undeniable. We had become Best Selling Author Serial Interviewers.

Rather than deny ourselves the pleasure of talking with more greats like Sandra Brown and James Rollins, we began stalking our new target, Award Winning, Best Selling Author Vicki Hinze. We believe she is the perfect prisoner guest for the Romance Doctors in this season of Valentine Love.

Vicki Hinze

Vicki Hinze can write anything. She has several popular series from romantic suspense to military thrillers to Christian fiction and non-fiction books on the writing craft. She has published over twenty-five books in as many as sixty-three countries and won multiple awards since her writing career began in 1987. A kind and sharing lady who enjoys associating with others, Vicki Hinze is also one of the charter sponsors of International Thriller Writers and served on its Board of Directors.

We are honored today to welcome Vicki Hinze to our blog.

Please make yourself comfortable, Ms. Hinze…. What? Open a window? I do apologize, but that actually isn’t a window. We just put up some curtains because we knew you were coming and wanted to make the cement walls a bit cozier.

Thank you so much for allowing our black helicopter to bring you here to our blog hideout.

I appreciate the opportunity and the ride.  You know I have a special fondness for all things military and those that fly.  (I married a Hurricane Hunter I asked to get into something safer.  He went into Special Ops. 🙂 )

You have a well-deserved reputation for the sort of kindness and generosity that pays it forward. Who were some of the people who helped and influenced you when you were new to the publishing world?

There have been many.  First, I’d have to say Nina Coombs-Pykarre.  At the time she’d published about 60 novels, and yet she invested a great deal of her time bleeding red on everything I wrote.  That was two decades ago, and I still in my head ask myself, “Would Nina buy into this?”  Susan Wiggs has been another mentor.  She’s a very savvy business woman and since the first time I met her has always been home when I’ve had questions or needed to talk over business issues.  There’ve been many mentors over the years, and I’m grateful to all of them.  In this business, you rarely have the opportunity to pay back those who help you, but you can pay it forward, and I’ve tried hard to do that and will so long as I’m able.

You write romantic suspense, military thrillers, science fiction, Christian thrillers, and pretty much everything else. Is there any correlation between events in your life and the types of book you prefer to write at any given time?

Honestly, I write about what I’m fearing most at the time or about something that sets me off like a rocket.  For example, I was midway through a three-book contract for paranormal romance novels when I went to the commissary (grocery store on a military base).  Anyway, this young airman and his wife were standing in the aisle debating between buying a jar of peanut butter and a can of tuna–they couldn’t afford both.  I was stunned to hear that, went home did some research and discovered the lowest four pay grades in the military were eligible for food stamps.  I went postal.  They put their lives on the line for us, their families sacrifice too, and they’re eligible for food stamps?  I went on a “this has to change” binge with elected reps (and it has now) and called my editor.  I wanted to write military romantic suspense/thrillers that depicted the special difficulties soldiers and their families face.  Like custody battles due to deployments.  Military romantic suspense/thrillers hadn’t really been done, but the editor trusted me and we went for it.  That gave me the opportunity to write about a lot of fears–environmental terrorism (before the phrase was coined)–fear of our water supply being poisoned, our food supply, dirty bombs.  I wrote about all of those things in the mid 90s before they were totally on everyone’s radar.

It’s God’s sense of humor, when you get down to it.  I hate to cook, so where do I have the most epiphanies?  In grocery stores.  And in a quirk I can’t explain, I marry my fears to them.  That often results in a new sub-genre, or something being done differently than it has been, but I’m okay with that.  It’s interesting and challenging.  I gravitate toward challenges.

Your books or articles are published in over 60 countries. When publishers in countries that are very different from America contract for your books, do they ever ask you to change things to appeal to their local cultures?

Typically in these situations that’s established in contracts.  That publishers can alter content so that it is consistent with the market in the distribution area. When you think about it, it’s it everyone’s best interest.  Something that is ordinary and totally acceptable in one culture could be extremely offensive in another.  The objective isn’t to isolate or irritate readers.  Now, authors are seeing more contracts call for world rights and those contracts do retain rights on that front.  Since the objective is to provide great reads, it’s a common sense thing to give the work the best possible chance for attaining its objectives.

Christian fiction is a relatively new publishing genre, if you don’t count the Book of Esther. Some people think Christian fiction is all about prayer meetings, devout pioneer women, and girls in fluffy dresses giggling over boys at youth camp, but your books include such gritty turns such as murder and human trafficking. How would you describe the Christian (faith-based) thriller genre to people who are not already familiar with it?

That’s a common misconception about the Christian fiction market and I’m not sure why it exists.  Being a Christian doesn’t exempt you from life’s problems or insulate you from realities occurring in the world.  What it does do is give you tools to cope with those challenges and an understanding that whatever you face, you don’t face it alone.  Christian fiction is as diverse as human beings.  You will find people struggling in relationships, struggling against bad things that happen to them, hard times, and all the rest.  It’s a solutions-oriented genre, and one that embraces constructive solutions to everyday problems as well as ones we hope we never have to face.

Often what happens is out of our control.  But how we react to it is in our control.  Faith provides a foundation to sustain us and knowledge of faith provides us tools and constructive solutions.  You’ll find the same diversity in the challenges, obstacles or conflicts that you encounter in any thriller. 

Your newest faith-based thriller, NOT THIS TIME, was released yesterday. Would you please tell us about it?

This is the third book in my Crossroads Crisis Center series.  The books all stand alone and you need not have read FORGET ME NOT or DEADLY TIES first.  It’s a story about two friends that started what’s become a very successful business.  One marries a man that the other can’t stand.  When he goes missing, is kidnapped, and reported murdered, she becomes the prime suspect.  Her partner, the man’s wife, is hospitalized, and this suspect, Beth, must choose.  More than anything she’s wanted this man out of their lives.  Now she suffers torn loyalties.  Does she do the easy thing or the right thing?  Does she put her effort and energy and resources into protecting him?  It’d be right and best in her judgment to not lift a finger, but can she live with herself if she takes that route?  And unless she finds the truth, will she be blamed for everything that’s gone wrong?  Terrorism rocks the town and all signs point to someone close to her being responsible for it.  She fears the truth.  Fears uncertainty.  And she fears the answer to a question she must ask:  is anyone so evil that they’re beyond redemption?

Hard questions, and sometimes not-so-pretty answers.  But we eventually have to face what is.  Not what we wish or want to be reality.  Yet when we do, we gain gems.  New insights, bits of wisdom that help us endure and grow and move on in life stronger for the experience.  Sometimes we discover that what we thought was true wasn’t true at all, and we face our futures with that expanded vision.

We have a big fan of yours here who would like to ask you a few questions, if you don’t mind a bit of dog hair.

Not a bit.  I love pooches.  Especially this rascal. 

*crosses to intercom* Rolf, please bring in The Love Pooch.

Daisy. She had this opportunity to do this final interview with Ms. Hinze shortly before passing on.

It’s so nice to meet you, Ms. Hinze. *lick, lick, wag, wag* I love your books. You really know how to appeal to your dog readership with all of that action and romance. Dogs are all about being active and loving people.

Loyal, too.  *scratching scruff*.  It’s great to see you, Daisy.

My pet human tells me you enjoy oil painting. I know at least one of your books, BEYOND THE MISTY SHORE, involves a mysterious painting. Do you often incorporate art and painting into your books?

I don’t.  Well, once in a while I do.  It’s hard to get a lot of action and adventure going on there, and since 1995, most of the books I’ve done have had heavy military influences.  Not much art or time for painting in between fighting terrorists and preventing biological, chemical or nuclear attacks, you know?  Yes, Misty Shore, the first Seascape book, is about a mysterious artist and a particular painting of the mystical Maine, Seascape Inn.  I also have an artist play a pivotal role in FORGET ME NOT, the first Crossroads book.  Otherwise, it just hasn’t fit.

I know you also enjoy home improvement. I like home improvement, too. I’ll bet you can do much more with your opposable thumbs and tools than I can do with my teeth. Do you draw on your love of home improvement for any of your novels?

True about the thumbs, Daisy, but your teeth are far stronger, to be sure.  Actually I finished a proposal for a mini-series of books on home improvement recently.  I’m not sure yet I’ll write them, but you know the idea holds appeal.  I love home improvement projects.  A couple years ago, my pet human, a.k.a. Hubby, got tired of the racket and domestic upset and asked for a six-month moratorium on me knocking down any walls.  I opted for a year.  Then last February, we did two major projects.  Both are done now except for a few tidbits.  One more big project to go.  Gutting the kitchen.  Hubby’s an amazing woodcarver (usually of fish and ducks since I tried to kill the carved rattlesnake he had the poor judgment to leave on the kitchen bar overnight) and I’ve conned, er, asked him to build the cabinets.  He agreed and wanted to get started now, but I suggested we wait until after hunting season.  He liked that idea.  Between you and me, Daisy, I did, too.  I need the rest from all that hammering. 🙂

Would you mind dropping by Piper’s place and helping me fix a door frame I chewed? There was this little thunderstorm, you see, and….

I totally understand, Daisy.  *rubbing scruff*  Alex–I was her pet human–hated thunderstorms.  She handled bombs being dropped on the range that jarred windows and teeth just fine, but lightning made her a nervous wreck. She loved to chew ice.  Do you like ice?  Alex would bat the icemaker on the fridge door and get her own.  That worked out fine until we had a hurricane and no electricity.  She batted and batted and got no ice.  She was not a happy puppy about that.

Now, Daisy, it’s not appropriate to ask Ms. Hinze for home improvement assistance. She’s our guest.

*crosses to intercom* Rolf, would you please take The Love Pooch?

Wait.  *Smooch*  Bye, Daisy.  You stay in touch and here’s a “cookie” *dog biscuit* for later when your pet human says it’s okay. 

Thank you, Ms. Hinze. *lick, lick, wag*

Ms. Hinze, can you tell us anything about your current project? Will it be another faith-based thriller, or are you returning to one of your earlier genres?

I’m working on a new series, actually, called Lost, Inc.  Two books are done.  I’m just starting on the third one.  Don’t know the title of it yet, but I think it’s going to be My Deadly Valentine (obviously a February planned release).  They are faith-based romantic thrillers.

You know, every novel I’ve written, regardless of genre, has had suspense, mystery and romance.  The defining factor has been which of those three elements gets emphasis, and to know that I have to develop the story or write it to see what happens.  The Lost, Inc. books are romance with a mystery/suspense element in a faith-based setting.  NOT THIS TIME is a suspense with a mystery and a touch of romance in a faith-based theme.

What comes after this third Lost, Inc. book?  Honestly, I’m not sure.  I have two others in progress that are unrelated, three possible new series, all of which are in some stage of development, a great idea for a new mainstream thriller series, and I’ve been doing a lot of reading in a genre I haven’t tackled to see if I want to tackle it.  Could be fun, but the jury is still out.  I need to read more books in it before deciding for sure.

When I finish this Lost, Inc. novel, I’ll know.  One of the projects will start haunting me, nagging me, waking me up during the night with ideas, and that’s the one I’ll focus on next.

Are there any questions you wish we had asked you here today, or any further comments you would like to share with us?

If you don’t mind, I’d like to expand just a bit on your last question, for your readers who are writers, enough to say that it’s far easier to build a career by writing one type of book.  You build a readership that knows what to expect from you and that helps gain momentum.  I obviously haven’t done that.  I’ve known that I should, but my mind doesn’t work that way and forcing it to violates my vision of success.  I’m a purpose writer of healing books.  So I follow where that takes me.  Self indulgent?  Yes.  Harder to build a readership?  Yes.  Gratifying?  Oh yes.  But if you can write one type of book in one genre, that’s clearly better for building a career–provided it’s the career you want to build.  Just tossing that out there because it’s worth making deliberate choices not drifting onto harder roads.

Thank you so much for sharing your time with us and visiting our blog. It’s been an honor. We’ll have to ask you to put the blindfold back on before you leave, but you’re welcome to take it off before you parachute out over your home. You might like to keep it though. It makes a lovely sleep mask.

Why thank you.  I appreciate the lovely gift, and getting to visit with you here in the cave.  I’ve read about it, of course, but visiting firsthand is a whole different experience.  And my very best *hugs* to you and Holmes, Piper.  Oh, wait.  I nearly forgot.  I brought gifts.  A gold pen for you, Piper.  No, that’s not your name inscribed on it.  It’s the guarantee.  “Thou shalt never experience writer’s block.”  And this is for Holmes. *passes box.*  I know how much Holmes loves things that go boom, so here’s a new ACOG scope for his Sig.  All the bells and whistles–aim is everything, dahlink.

What thoughtful gifts! Thank you so much, Ms. Hinze. You are every bit as gracious as your reputation foretold.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Ms. Hinze is safe once more in her writing cave, and our interview-junkie shakes have calmed for the moment. Our sincere thanks to this lovely, talented lady whose heart is becoming legend in the writing world. You can find her new book at NOT THIS TIME, as well as all of her books at her website, Vicki Hinze. Also, you can find NOT THIS TIME at a Christian bookstore near you. Find a Christian bookstore near you.

 

James Rollins and New Characters for Sigma Force

Sometimes, Fortune smiles down, and early this summer, she smiled on us. Holmes and I were driving along a pristine mountain road, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine, when a movement caught our attention. It seemed to be a man, trussed up like a Christmas goose and wriggling about in the ditch. Half dazed, he was muttering something about a crazy blonde woman . . . Kristen Lamb, I think it was . . . and a white van. We helped him up and took him home. And, as Fortune would have it, that man was none other than New York Times bestselling author, James Rollins.

James Rollins is the author of seven Sigma Force novels, as well as the novelization of Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull and the Jake Ransom YA series. He is known for high adventure drawn from his extensive and accurate knowledge of science, technology, and history. He is also a veterinarian who regularly contributes his time to his local clinic to spay and neuter animals.

He was so grateful for our help that he agreed to an interview here on our blog. . . .

James Rollins in the woods near the site where we found him.

Good to see you, Dr. Rollins. Thank you for visiting our blog today. I appreciate your cooperation with the handcuffs and the blindfold. I’m sure, as the author of the Sigma Force series, you understand we can’t be too careful about people tracking us to our blog.

Please. Have a seat in the steel chair while I turn on the light. . . . Too bright for you? Oh, you’ll get used to it. . . . No. That burly fellow by the board and bucket isn’t the mysterious Holmes. Holmes leaves the interrogations interviews to me. That’s my assistant, Rolf.

Rolf, you may go now. I’m sure Dr. Rollins won’t be any trouble, will you, now, Dr. Rollins? . . . Just leave that can of RedBull, Rolf, and fill the bucket with water on your way out.

Now, Dr. Rollins. Thank you, again, for being here with us today. . . . You seem to be shivering. What a shame we don’t have a sweater for you. We’ll just get on with the questioning, then.

What was the inciting incident in your own life that inspired your commitment to writing novels?

I don’t know if there was one defining moment, but more a series of ones:  my mom loved to read and instilled it in us kids; reading a lot made me want to write; and finally I figured if I’m ever going to write, I’d better stop dreaming about it and do it.  So I wrote a bunch of short stories that are now safely buried in my backyard and hopefully will never see the light of day—then one day I felt secure enough to tackle the bulk of a whole novel.

*crosses to intercom* Rolf. Send a team to Dr. Rollins’ backyard.

So tell me, Dr. Rollins, when did you first realize you had become a celebrity?

Celebrity?  Me?  I don’t think I’ve reached that status yet.  When I get involved in a blog war with Paris Hilton (or Perez Hilton, I have trouble telling them apart), then I’ll know I’m a true celebrity.

That is a common issue with those two. Being able to tell them apart, that is. . . . Recently, you mentioned that you’re working on a book with your friend and fellow New York Times bestselling author, Steve Berry. When you two work together, what is the division of labor? In other words, how does this arrangement work in a practical sense?

It’s actually a short story, and as we’ve not officially begun that process, I can’t say how that will work out.  I’m thinking we’ll end up on some dueling range with pistols at dawn over some trivial bit (a name of a character; the color of the hero’s shirt, etc.).  Whoever wins that duel will get top billing.

I certainly hope you sell tickets to that duel. I have a lovely Sig Sauer you’re welcome to borrow if you need it.

Now, do you actually travel to all of the places in your books? If not, what sorts of things do you do to research those places?

I travel to about 65-70% of the places that I write about.  But I seldom travel for research.  I simply travel for the pleasure of it, gather notes, take pictures, and ask weird questions of locals (“What’s a strange story no one knows about this place?”). Then I shelve it all away until my characters cross that territory.  For those places that I don’t travel, my research is a combination of Internet searches, digging through stacks at libraries, and doing interviews.  Of the two ways, I prefer the traveling.

When you travel, do you pack more like a commando on a mission or a barfly on a one night stand? In other words, are you the guy passing out the sunscreen, or the one borrowing it?

I pack pretty light.  I hate checking luggage.  I did a two week book tour with only a carry-on bag.

*Note to self: Bring extra sunscreen for James Rollins at DFW Writers Conference 2012.*

One of your Sigma Force protagonists, Painter Crowe, is a Native American. What inspired you to write a Native American main character into your books?

For too long, the main characters of action adventures were all Caucasian—and male.  I wanted to stomp all over that stereotype by creating a team that is as diverse as real life, where the women are not regulated to the role of arm candy for the hero or the damsel in distress who needs rescuing.

I certainly appreciate that about your Sigma Force books, and on behalf of women and my small percentage of Native American ancestors, thank you.

Pardon me a moment. *crosses to intercom* Rolf. Bring in the Love Pooch.

Daisy, The Love Pooch

Dr. Rollins, my dog, Daisy, is a big fan of yours. She’ll be questioning you now for a bit. . . . What? The RedBull? Perhaps after the interview, if you give us enough information.

Hi Dr. Rollins. *lick, lick, wag, wag* It’s so nice to meet you. You seem like a nice writer vet. The vet my pet human takes me to is nice, too, but he gets too personal with me. You’re not going to get personal with me, are you?

Well, it depends on the presenting complaint of the client.  Sometimes there’s no way NOT to get up close and personal.

I love meeting writers who get it. Writers who understand that dog readership is a driving force in today’s market. Would you please explain the benefits of having animals in books?

As a veterinarian, I simply enjoy folding them into the story.  I knew from third-grade that I wanted to be a vet, and though I only do volunteer work with my vet degree, that passion still runs strong.  So animals keep creeping in on silent paws into my books.  Also, I think an animal is a great way to personalize and characterize the men and women in a story.  Are they a cat person or a dog person?  Can they ride a horse?  What type of dog or cat do they have?  These details can really make a significant difference in how a reader views a character.

I know they certainly matter to me and to my pet human.

There’s been lots of news about Cairo, the war dog who took down Bin Laden. (Sincere thanks to Cairo’s pilots and assistants.) War dogs are really hot, the way they sky dive and save their pet humans from bombs. Have you ever considered adding a war dog to the Sigma Force team?

In fact, that’s coming up in my very next book:  Tucker Wayne and his canine partner, Kane.  They are an incredible team.

Oh! That’s so exciting! Do you know any war dogs you could introduce to me?

Well, Daisy, Kane is not spoken for at this moment—but first he needs to survive his first Sigma adventure.  Then we’ll talk…maybe over biscuits and a rawhide bone.

That would be lovely. I love biscuits and rawhide bones and war dogs and nice writer vets. Especially all in the same place.

I loved your new novel, The Devil Colony, too. For those who don’t know, it’s about a brave dog named Kawtch who flies in helicopters and goes spelunking and saves the world from total apocalypse with a little help from a few minor characters. He’s like a war dog. Does he have a mate? And does he like tall girls?

Unfortunately, Kawtch has his eye on a cute golden retriever.  He has a thing for redheads.

Oh. . . . Do they need a maid? 

That’s not appropriate, Daisy. Rolf, you may take Daisy back, now.

Dr. Rollins, many people, myself included, are already looking forward to your next Sigma Force novel. Is there anything you can share with us about it?

Well, I think I’ve given a small hint about a new character.  As to the rest, that’s still tightly under wraps—except in this next book, Sigma goes head-to-toe with the true leaders of the Guild.  And only one group will be left standing afterward.  And how that all ends is a shocker.

Ah. Now, that’s the answer that gets you the RedBull.

Thank you so much for your time here today. I do apologize, but we’ll need to put you back in the handcuffs and blindfold as we leave. You can take them off when we push you out of the plane over your house. Just count to ten and pull the cord for the chute. You’ll be fine.

James Rollins is now safely back in his writing cave once more until at least December. You can find his bestselling books at his James Rollins website, on Amazon, or at Barnes & Noble.

Thank you, again, James Rollins, for your time, and for being such a good sport about the chute getting tangled up. It was an honor to have you visit.

Any questions or comments?

Piper Bayard–The Pale Writer of the Apocalypse

Holmes–Student of Sex, C4, and Hollow Points