Author Spotlight: Ted Halstead

Ted Halstead is the author of The Russian Agents thriller series. His latest release is the third book in the series, titled The End of America’s War in Afghanistan.  

He served twenty-five years in the State Department as a Foreign Service Officer, most of it overseas, and was promoted to the Senior Foreign Service after his second tour at US Embassy Riyadh. His tours included four years at US Embassy Seoul, and two years at the East Asia Pacific Bureau in DC. He is a National War College graduate, and served for three years at a regional US military headquarters.

While there is continuity of some characters through the series, each of the books is a standalone novel. it is not necessary to read any one book before reading the others. The books are all set in different countries at different times, and each book’s story ends with a satisfying resolution.

What inspired you to write?  

Throughout my career in the US Foreign Service, I had experiences that I shared with my fellow officers. From my very first tour, I was told I should write a book about them.  Security classification and privacy concerns have made writing a nonfiction account impossible. However, I have worked many of those experiences into my novels.

What’s your favourite thing that you have written?  

That’s a very hard question. I will always have a special place in my heart for my first book, which took me almost seven years to write. I poured a lot of myself into The Second Korean War, drawing on the four years I served at the US Embassy in Seoul. That was also true for my second book, The Saudi-Iranian War. I drew on two tours at US Embassy Riyadh for that book, spaced twenty years apart. My third book, The End of America’s War in Afghanistan, has some of my favorite supporting characters. Sadly, many don’t survive.  If I must choose one, I have to say The Second Korean War.

What’s your favourite thing that someone else has written?  

Wasp, by Eric Frank Russell. I read it when I was starting high school, and it made a great impression on me. Published in 1957, it was incredibly far ahead of its time. I genuinely envy anyone who hasn’t read it yet!What are you working on writing now?  The End of Russia’s War in Ukraine. Check out my blog, accessible through my Amazon Author Page, for the first couple of pages.

Do you have a favourite food or drink that helps you write?  

Coffee, of course!

Who designs your book covers?  

Ivan Zanchetta, for all three of my books. Just Google his name to find his site. Highly recommended!

What’s your favourite kind of music?  

At the moment, 1970s R&B. Check out the soundtrack for the movie Shaft and see if you agree with me that Isaac Hayes really did deserve his Grammy. Especially for the block of songs following Cafe Regio’s. Or try the song Natural Man by Lou Rawls, and see if you’re as amazed as I am that it came out in 1971.

What’s the best vacation you’ve had?  

Hawaii, during my tour in Seoul. After the pollution of early 1990s Seoul, it was such a pleasure to breathe clean air!

What is your pet hate? Have you ever built it into a character or used it in your writing?  

Bureaucracy. I hated it all 25 years I was part of one of the largest on Earth, and did my best to make it bearable for every member of the public we served. You will see this in all my books in many ways.

What movie can you watch over and over again?  

The Incredibles. First, it’s one of those rare movies I can safely enjoy watching with my granddaughter. Plus, there are so many sly references to old Bond and superhero movies it takes repeated viewings to find them all!

What would you like people to know about being an Indie author?  

I started self-publishing on many sites, including Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Google Books, Apple etc. But I ended up dropping the others because I decided to try making my first book available through Kindle Unlimited, which required me to do Amazon only. I was honestly shocked by how many people read both that book and the others since through KU – literally millions of pages! That actually means more to me than book sales. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s bought a book and either never read it, or just read a few pages before losing interest. As someone who puts a lot of himself into his books, it’s very gratifying to see that people are really reading them!

Thanks for being here and sharing with us today, Tom! 

Thanks for having me!

Ted’s books are all available in Kindle, paperback and audiobook formats.  They are also available through Kindle Unlimited.

Book Review: ‘Angels of Perdition’ Chaos of Souls Book 2′ by R. M. Garino

It is during times of significant trial that one experiences growth and development far beyond that achieved by luxury or effort. 

Themes of endurance and resilience and the survival of the fittest are  explored in depth in this sequel to ‘Gates of Golorath’. (link) ‘Angels of Perdition’ is a saga focused on Arielle and Angus, characters from the previous book who begin a new phase of their lives in this next instalment in the series. The cast of characters and the incredibly complex world established in the first book are continued in the second, but because they are already familiar to the reader, it feels as much like a reunion as it does a continuation. The banter and interactions between various characters are highly engaging and draws the reader deeper into the story as the action and drama build. 

The story is really well told and  expertly paced. The writing is infused with energy and rich imagery that really makes the scenes and characters come to life in the reader’s mind. The action scenes are well developed with excellent attention to detail. 

This is a captivating and quite inspiring read that holds definite appeal to readers of epic fantasy, particularly those who want to discover sophisticated worlds and complex societies with a rich history and a future to fight for.

Book of the Week: Source of Power: The Complete Trilogy by Tony Lindblom

The Source of Power trilogy is a fast-paced Space Opera with elements of Epic Fantasy, following both heroes and villains through a universe where the line between magic and technology is blurred.

The planet Entori

In the Free Kingdoms on the planet Entori, the royals are desperate to defend themselves and their kingdoms against the aggressive Taran Empire. The Free Kingdoms would not stand a chance if the Tarans would launch a full attack, unless they can find the legendary city of Anzoria, which is said to contain a weapon of immense power.

Milky Way galaxy

In the milky way galaxy, the ruthless corporation Aterion Industries and their plans for domination are only held back by the Intergalactic Trade Council. The council was formed as an alliance between multiple governments and authorities to keep companies like Aterion Industries from gaining too much power, and they have succeeded at keeping them in check for some time. But when a previously unknown alien race starts attacking the human worlds; Aterion might be the only ones with a military power strong enough to counter the alien threat.

The books in the trilogy are also available individually.

The trilogy’s homepage features some excellent concept art and additional background information to the series.

Note: Because the series does include some sensitive content, the Source of Power trilogy is intended for new adult and adult audiences.

Read a review on Amazon or Goodreads.

Book Review: ‘Cookies and Scream’ by CeeCee James

Find your copy here.

‘Cookies and Scream’ is the second book in the Baker Street Cozy Mysteries Series by  CeeCee James, which features amateur sleuth Georgie Tanner, her Aunt Cecelia and the fictional historical town of Gainesville, Virginia. 

A visit to a local historical re-enactment places Georgie at the heart of a murder mystery that has many roots in both local history and her own past. What ensues is an intriguing and often dangerous chain of events that nudge Georgie closer to the truth. 

The story is well-written and the mystery is challenging and interesting. This is shaping up to be a series I am keen to follow. 

New Release: ‘The Shikari 3: The Order’ by Dora Blume

The Shikari is a fast-paced urban fantasy series that pitches good vs evil as the Shikari warriors fight to stop demons from taking control of America.

The Shikari 3: The Order’ is the newest book in the series.

In the world of the Shikari, all hell is breaking loose.Literally!

Demon’s have taken over the order.Every city is being overrun. 

But the gang is going in search of one of their own. Let someone else save the world for a change

Jessie’s mom is missing. In their search for her, they come across the device that can take away all Shikari powers. It slips through their fingers and the entire Shikari’s survival is at stake.
But Who can they trust?

Never figuring out who killed their mother, Sloane and Erik are out for answers. Their father’s don’t seem to be adding up and his cowardice is making them suspicious. They’re going to need their bonds and gifts more than ever.

How will they save Jessie’s mom, stop the demons from killing them all, and discover who’s behind their mother’s death while also keeping their relationships intact?

Life as a Shikari warrior is far too complicated some days. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, it won’t be.

If you love K.F. Breene and Lindsey Hall, you’ll love this fast-paced urban fantasy series.

Book Review: ‘The River Of Time’ Shiva XIV Book 4 by Lyra Shanti

‘The River of Time’ is book 4 in Lyra Shanti’s magnificent Shiva XIV space opera novel series.

In this instalment, there is plenty of intrigue, suspense, action and epic battle as Ayn and his comrades work agaisnt the evil power that threatens to destroy not only individuals, but also the universe as they know it. 

It is also, however, the most intensely mystical of the series, exploring themes of friendship and loyalty, the nature of the power at the centre of the universe, and redemption and reincarnation.  It is in the context of these themes that Ayn and Axis each question their identity and experience, and their roles in both the history and the future of the worlds they inhabit. 

Through their existential quests, the reader too is reminded that each of us has a role to play, services and gifts to offer, and dreams to pursue, which can contribute to either the destruction or the redemption of our world. The choices we make are crucial, and their impacts and implications extend far beyond our own individual lives. Thus, like Ayn and Axis, Pei and Meddhi, and all the other much-loved characters from this series, we all navigate the River of Time.

This is a universal story and a deeply personal story at the same time, one which confronts and challenges while also entertaining and inspiring the reader. 

Book Review: ‘Azalea Wang Mysteries’ Books 1-3 by Lucy Ai

Amateur detective stories are abundant, and readers are generally spoiled for choice. While readers will always choose books that appeal to them for their own reasons, it’s always exciting to find a series that not only presents a succession of very interesting mystery stories, but also addresses bigger ideas such as prejudice, jealousy and the assumptions people make about one another.  

Azalea Wang Mysteries is one such series, and is well worth reading for more than just well-developed mystery stories that will keep you guessing right to the end. 

These stories are set largely in and around the senior citizens community of Evening Glory. Azalea Wang is, like many of the residents, of Chinese heritage, and the Chinese culture adds a refreshing and interesting perspective in these mystery stories. The stories draw on particular Chinese cultural elements in such a way that they become part of the story and become more familiar to non-Chinese readers, providing a new sense of familiarity and understanding that builds both knowledge and acceptance.

The stories very subtly address not only the assumptions non-Chinese people make, but also the biases that different groups of Chinese people hold about one another. Because those stereotypes are challenged, the characters and the reader begin to see the people in these stories as individuals, each with a story and a past and reasons why they behave the way they do, rather than simply as a member of one group or another. This adds a positive tone to the stories that is actually very hard to resist, drawing the reader in and making them feel as though they too are part of the community. 

The three mysteries contained in this book are varied and unique, while Azalea’s own story continues throughout. The three cases are well crafted and there are some great surprises and twists along the way, making the stories unpredictable and entertaining.

Azalea is a delightful character. Kind, thoughtful, intelligent and lively, the reader gets to know her as a friend and a mother as well as an amateur sleuth. The people with whom she shares her life are a diverse group, so the cast of characters and suspects is realistic and relatable. 

There is a little bit of not-really-for-younger-readers content in one of the stories, but it is not graphic or explicit.

A most captivating and enjoyable mystery story collection, the Azalea Wang Mysteries collection has been awarded a Silver Acorn. 

Find your copy here