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.

Fast Five: Mystery/Thriller Book Recommendations

True’s Love
 https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00EN2LZ8C

The Zen Detective
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01N0RSOHR

The Mystery of Landon Miller Trilogy + Bonus Prequel
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07D62SGD5

The Christmas Miracle Mystery Romance Series Books 1-4
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B078SQ99XD/

The Damien Dickens Mysteries Books 1-3
https://www.amazon.com/Damien-Dickens-Mysteries-Phyllis-Entis-ebook/dp/B06VVCSNPY/

Book Review: ‘Pandora’s Matryoshkas’ by Ferdy S.G. Dumel

“You know, a man loves the mystery of woman, but not the moral confusion.”

This is the essence of the situation in which Chris, one of the central characters, finds himself.  Caught in a web of grief, desire and a deepening sense of confusion and frustration, Chris is trapped within that very riddle packed in a mystery, wrapped in an enigma that is both Russia and her women. 

The author effectively captures the reader in the same mysteries that engulf Chris, deepening the reader’s sense of empathy for his situation and heightening the suspicion that Chris will never fully understand what he has gotten himself into.

Although this reader was not entirely satisfied by the conclusion, and my suspicions remain unassuaged, it certainly gave me insights into the different world of Moscow and the vastly different lifestyle of its people to my own. This added to the sense of mystery and intrigue that the story evoked, and heightened my interest in the events of the plot.

Overall, this is a confronting read, quite well-written and intentionally unsettling. It reminds the reader that little in life is ever as straightforward as we think, and that trust is something we tend to do far too easily.

Pandora’s Matryoshkas has been awarded a Silver Acorn. 

Find your copy here.

Audiobook Review: ‘Stalking Jack the Ripper’ by Kerri Maniscalco

The identity of Jack the Ripper remains one of the biggest mysteries in the history of both Victorian England, and of the murky world of serial killers.

Maniscalco takes that mystery, envelopes it in the life and times of a fictional would-be forensic scientist, shrouds it with London fog, and hides it in a dark place where nobody thinks or dares to look.

‘Stalking Jack the Ripper’ is a beautifully written blend of mystery, macabre horror and historical fiction that keeps the audience completely rivered as the story unfolds. Suspense builds from the time of the discovery of the first victim right up to the climax and conclusion.

Available on Kobo and Audible.

The cast of characters is varied and complex, each with secrets and personal motivations that intrigue both the reader and one another. The way in which the author drops hints and suggestions is quite tantalising, adding another layer of mystery to the characters and their actions.

I thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook. The narration was fluent and well paced, and a pleasure to listen to.

I definitely plan to indulge in the sequel very soon.

‘Stalking Jack the Ripper’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn.

Book Review: ‘Freedom’ by R.M. Gauthier.

‘Freedom’ is a real page-turner, full of intrigue and suspense.

Renee Gauthier LM 3 FreedomThe third and final book in the Mystery of Landon Miller series, Freedom answers the questions that readers have wanted the answers to since reading ‘Control’ and ‘Bound’. Far from being about light-hearted romance and alternative lifestyles, ‘Freedom’ turns the spotlight onto Landon’s experiences and point of view in a way that raises some really important issues.

It’s really great, as someone who has read ‘Control’ and ‘Bound’, to get that different point of view that really opens up the main character and explores his motivations and concerns. It makes it much easier for the reader to empathise with Landon after having felt so much concern and sympathy for Lexi in those previous two books.

I also really appreciated the fact that the author was able to complete the story and maintain continuity with the previous books without going over old ground or telling parts of the story over again. Instead, the events in ‘Freedom’ fit neatly into that story like pieces of a puzzle, completing the bigger picture that carries with it so much more understanding.

If you enjoyed ‘Control’ and ‘Bound’, you really need to read ‘Freedom’ for the answers. If you’ve not read any of this series yet – you should! Not only do these books offer a great mystery/thriller read, they’ll open your eyes to important issues and open your mind to seeing things from different points of view.
Acorn Award I Golden

A real page turner, ‘Freedom’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn.

Find your copy here.

Dec 11 ~ Featured Book: ‘Daisy Chain’ by Mark Montgomery

A powerful blend of mystery/thriller and erotica, ‘Daisy Chain’ is an adults-only trip back to the 1970s. 

Book Squirrel’s Advent Event featured book for December 11 is ‘Daisy Chain’ by Mark Montgomery

A powerful blend of mystery/thriller and erotica, ‘Daisy Chain’ is an adults-only trip back to the 1970s.

Mark Montgomery Daisy Chain

Alexandra ‘Alex’ Holman-Hunt and Dr Oliver Kane live in worlds, poles apart. Alex lives and breathes the new—fashion. She hopes to influence a modern generation of women. Help them shape the way they dress—a new look to take them away from the austerity of the Fifties and the excesses of the Sixties. A new look to better place them in a man’s world. Oliver Kane is very much buried in the past—the study of human history. He lives for what lies under the ground, sharing his passion with best friends; Linnet ‘Lunar’ Moon, a ‘hippy digger’, and a small black and white dog called Hector. He lives and works in academia, teaching his discipline, but also works with new enlightened Law and Order— new techniques to uncover bones and bodies—a new science; forensic archaeology.

Their story, set in Britain, France and West Germany, is played out to the rich sounds and sights of the Seventies; in a world shaped by a terrible world war, and a new world order dictated by new freedoms and new constraints, as communism and democracy fight a new cold war. The world holds its breath. London holds it breath too—a killer stalks, and Oliver is drawn into the intrigue surrounding a serial murderer. Alex is stalked too, by a shadow intent on harm. She fears for her life—who will help her? 

Five lives collide. Secrets are uncovered—death and discovery—murder and mutilation. A string of events unfold—a daisy chain.

Daisy Chain is a powerful, complex erotic thriller from the masterly pen of Mark Montgomery, author of the popular Borderer Chronicles. A tale full of rich characters, gripping story telling, profound thought and an affectionate nod to a different time—when innocence still existed in a pre-internet world. 

‘Daisy Chain’ is available at Amazon.

Book Review: ‘Bound’ by R.M Gauthier

The mystery surrounding Landon Miller builds to a heart-pounding crescendo in this fantastic sequel to ‘Control’.

R.M. Gauthier Bound
The mystery surrounding Landon Miller builds to a heart-pounding crescendo in this fantastic sequel to ‘Control’.
 The action is fast-paced and unpredictable, providing a really effective contrast between those moments of waiting and wondering that heighten the tension and intrigue even further.

Gauthier’s characters are for the well-written and believable, and the reader continues to build empathy with Lexi throughout the story. I felt involved in the story and shared in Lexi’s frustration and anger with various situations and other characters at various points of the plot. Gauthier very cleverly positions the reader to understand the central character so that her responses feel both reasonable and justified, even though the reader might not personally respond in the same ways. In all honesty, I know Lexi is much more brave than I am, even if her stubbornness is something I can totally relate to.

This was a great read that focused on the mystery and the chase, rather than the “underground lifestyle” portrayed in ‘Control’, which was really only alluded to in ‘Bound’.

Golden Acorns

‘Bound’ gets a lovely shiny Golden Acorn!

I’m really keen for the release of the third book in the series.

Book Review: The Undernet by J.S. Frankel

‘The Undernet’ by J. S. Frankel brings new definition to the age-old contest between good and evil, and between truth and deceit as a young man seeks answers that seem determined to remain hidden. 

‘The Undernet’ by J. S. Frankel brings new definition to the age-old contest between good and evil, and between truth and deceit as a young man seeks answers that seem determined to remain hidden.

Jesse Frankel The Undernet

Frankel has crafted realistic, likeable and engaging central characters in Milt and his girlfriend, Robbie.  They’re not perfect, and their mistakes have consequences, which makes them easier to empathise with and understand. Insights into Milt’s thoughts and gut reactions, and his feelings about Robbie, draw the reader into the often very confronting story of his quest for justice and truth.

Part of Frankel’s genius in casting this story is designing characters who live and work in the shadows, so that the reader has to keep questioning whether they are the good guys or the bad guys. There are so many layers of intrigue and concealment in this story that the reader is kept curious and wanting to know, much like Milt throughout this story, seeing the truth despite layers of concealment and misinformation. In this sense, the Undernet and the Dark Net take on the roles of additional impersonal characters that deliberately obscure reality in this story, just as they seem to in actual fact.

Some parts of The Undernet are definitely uncomfortable to read. In graphic contrast to the sincere and honest friendship Milt has with Robbie and with his best friend, Simon, Frankel gives his readers a solidly-written exposè of the dark side of human nature as one is likely to find it on the dark side of the internet – or anywhere. This is delivered with confronting realism and honesty. Through all of this, It was the strong identification I felt with with Milt’s “ordinary person” response to the ugly side of life that enabled me to keep reading and hoping for him to find the resolution he was so desperate to find.

The Undernet is available on Amazon or from devinedestinies.com

Book Review: Sweet Discovery by Aliya DalRae

If you’re looking for delicious paranormal mystery adventure laced with more than a dash of hot sauce and romance, look no further. DalRae’s Jessica Sweet mysteries are the books for you. 

Having thoroughly enjoyed Sweet Vengeance, the first book in Aliya DalRae‘s Jessica Sweet mysteries, and Bittersweet, the back story of Malcom, I was keen to read Sweet Discovery.

Aliya DalRae Sweet Discovery

Not until I started reading did I realise how ironic the title is – many more questions than discoveries were arising in the most fascinating and heart-stopping ways. Absolutely, 110% intrigued, I had to keep on reading to find the answers to my own questions and theories, as well as Jessica’s.

This book is a fast-paced roller coaster of emotions, complete with loop-the-loops and tilt-a-whirls of mystery, secrets, horror, and intense personal conflicts for a number of key characters.

It’s a mark of a great writer that a story can take you on the journey not just of the main characters and the key plot, but also of the other characters through sub-plots that weave seamlessly with the main story. Characters I disliked intensely in the first book became more likeable not only through the development of their personality and actions, but also through gaining a greater understanding of their motivations and histories. Other characters that I quite liked in the first book underwent an almost opposite kind of transition. Once again, DalRae reminds us through this fabulous book that no matter how confident we might be that we’re right about people or situations, or even that we know something for sure, things aren’t always what they seem.

If you’re looking for delicious paranormal mystery adventure laced with more than a dash of hot sauce and romance, look no further. DalRae’s Jessica Sweet mysteries are the books for you.

Now, I’m waiting with bated breath for the next in the series. I’m definitely hungry for the next course.

Aliya DalRae’s Jessica Sweet mysteries are all available on Amazon.

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Book Review: ‘The Gift’ by Nikki Landis

Nikki Landis The Gift

Narrated in the first person by the character of Gemma Harding, ‘The Gift’ keeps the reader guessing right to the end. This story draws the reader into a complicated web of deceit and carefully constructed appearances that leave Gemma able to trust only  herself and her gift in her search for the answers she needs.

 

The reader is drawn into Gemma’s character in the first chapter by a  narration that is almost a stream-of-consciousness passage, through which Landis reveals Gemma’s special ability and how it has impacted on her life thus far. The reader, familiar with Gemma’s thoughts and feelings, follows her through this story sharing her thrills, fears and questions as events unfold.

 

This is a brilliant read. I recommend it for anyone who enjoys the mystery/thriller genre, particularly with a psychological edge to it.

 

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