Meet the Author: Martyrs of the Mind by Andrei Cherascu

Today we travel to Timisoara, Romania to chat with Andrei Cherascu about how his grandfather, comic books, music journalism, Garden of Rama, science fiction, augmented reality, classics, Game of Thrones, detailed outlines, improvisation, playing the guitar, and living on Mars come together as part of Andrei’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Andrei Cherascu. I live in Timișoara, Romania with my wife, Ioana and our Bichon puppies, Jazzie and Teyla. I’m a full time writer, editor and music journalist.

In which genre do you write?

I write science fiction. It was the genre that really made me fall in love with storytelling. I started reading very early on in my childhood, mainly because I idolized my grandfather, who was a voracious reader. I loved bonding with him over books. He would read just about anything. Once he was done with a book, he’d pass it on to me and then we’d talk about it.

When he handed me “Garden of Rama” by Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee, it opened up a whole new world for me. It was an experience unlike any other. On a purely emotional level, the grandeur of these “big idea” stories and these monumental events made me feel like I was part of something important. It made me feel like life was important.

It was an organic transition from cartoons and comic books and all these fantastic tales of childhood to something that was equally wondrous but made even more impactful by the fact that it used reality as a reference point. Over time, though I enjoy reading almost anything, it was always the scifi stories that stuck with me the most. They were pivotal to my development — emotionally and intellectually.

When I decided to become a writer, it just felt natural to write scifi stories. I wanted to write the kinds of books that impacted me the most. That’s why my tagline is, “Science Fiction in the Style of the Classics.” I actually took that from one of the reviews for my first book; it just fits perfectly.

The “augmented reality” of science fiction stories gives you the opportunity to place characters in moral and ethical situations they could never encounter in the real world. That’s what always drew me to these stories. It wasn’t the science and technology, but the way these things shaped the characters’ inner lives, their moral philosophy, their emotional spectrum.

My series takes place in a world where telepathy is common and people called Mindguards are tasked with protecting other people’s thoughts from intrusion, essentially preserving their mental integrity. So I was able to contemplate the concepts of privacy, information security and especially responsibility in a setting that presented these topics in their most extreme form. It was the concept of responsibility that I was particularly interested in. If people presented themselves to you in their most vulnerable form and you were responsible for the wellbeing of their very minds, what kinds of consequences would this responsibility have on your own mind? It would essentially be an unprecedented exercise of empathy. Would that be a privilege or a burden? Or both? As a person who tends to be excessively protective of people, these questions are very important to me. This series allowed me the space to think about them very deeply.

How many published books do you have?

I’ve published four novels and two novellas, all in the same universe. My series is called “The Mindguard Saga.” It centers around a character named Sheldon Ayers, who is an extremely powerful telepath tasked with guarding “information packages” in his clients’ minds. I came up with this character almost a decade ago, when my wife was going through a difficult time at work. I tried to comfort her but was constantly frustrated with my own limitations in doing so. It made me wish I could truly guard her mind from everything that was upsetting her. So I came up with the concept of a Mindguard and then imagined the kind of world that would have to exist in order for somebody like Sheldon Ayers to become who he was.

I started from this complete character and then built an entire universe around him. It became a really complex story with several plot lines coming together at the end. It was really interesting to explore all the layers of this world just based on this character’s place in it.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on the fifth and final book in the series.

“Mindgod” will come out at the end of the year and will bring all these narrative threads together in what I’m hoping will be a satisfying finale. This is really important to me. No matter what I’m going to be writing in the future, this series is fundamental to who I am, as a writer and a person. I want to make sure that, when it’s all over, I will have done justice to these characters. I want the conclusion to truly feel like it matters. I want to be able to still feel comfortable with it a decade from now.

I remember how disappointed I was in the final season of “Game of Thrones.” Remember that? It was almost universally hated. As a fan of the show, it just left me lamenting all the wasted opportunities. If I felt that way as a fan, I can only imagine what it would feel like to be a writer and be disappointed in your work. I don’t want to be haunted by regrets. That’s why this last book has taken longer to write. But I’m done with the first draft and I’m happy with how it turned out. Hopefully the readers will be too.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?

Just how the mind works, really. There are so many things in the back of your mind that you never consciously realize. It’s interesting how many things you can come up with on the fly.

I write a detailed outline for every story — it’s the only way I can work. However, I do leave a lot of room for “improvisation.” When I write the first draft, I do it almost without thinking. I use the outline as a guide and just furiously type away, just pouring everything onto the page. It’s like a trance. I’m always surprised by how many things pop up that I’ve never really thought about consciously, in spite of my detailed outline. Most of these things come in the form of conversations and musings about all sorts of things and just character development. But sometimes it will be something that takes the story in a completely new direction. Then I have to adjust the outline. At the end, I’m left wondering where all of that came from. It’s an interesting exploration of one’s own psyche.

What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?

I think it’s the ability to integrate so many interesting things into your life. I’ve always been interested in all sorts of things. Growing up, it was difficult to decide what to do with my life. There were so many fascinating things to which I wanted to dedicate my time. There was never really one dominating area of interest for me.

I love art, I love music, I love history, I love wine, I love doing all sorts of physical exercise. But I don’t love any of those things more than the other. I have a good singing voice and I can play a bit of guitar. Sometimes, I get together with friends and we do jam sessions and it’s really fun. But I could never be a professional musician. I’d have to dedicate so much time to it. That time would come at the expense of reading about art, or practicing my photography, or training. I train every day and do all sorts of things, from running to martial arts to weightlifting. But I couldn’t be a professional athlete because, firstly, I would have to dedicate myself entirely to one sport and then I would have to train for so many hours a day I wouldn’t have time to practice guitar. I’d have to watch what I eat and I wouldn’t be able to drink wine on a daily basis. And I love wine.

So, basically, writing is a result of an indecision regarding what to do with my life. Because writing practically gives you an excuse to pursue anything you’re interested in for exactly as long as you want. When you’re a creative person, especially a storyteller, anything you do in your life is conducive to creativity. You get to indulge in information without actually having to specialize in anything and thus restrict the time you can spend learning about something else. This jack-of-all-trades nature of writing really fits my personality. I might never be a professional athlete, but I can make up a character who is and then imagine what that would be like for a little while. There’s nothing I love more than imagining what things would be like.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

When I’m not writing my own books, I’m helping other people write theirs. I run, where I offer developmental editing and professional beta reading for indie authors.

Since 2012, I’ve also been active as a music journalist, covering adventurous music from all over the world (jazz, world music, experimental, indie, avant-garde and the like). On my website, The Music and Myth, I post reviews, news articles and interviews with musicians like Bill Frisell, Al DiMeola, Thana Alexa and Jazzmeia Horn.

What are you currently reading?

I’m actually currently reading one of my clients’ manuscripts, a lovely literary fantasy novel that’s going to be the first in a new trilogy. This is a client I’ve been working with for years and the stories I’ve read are all set in the same universe, so it’s been great to revisit this world and watch it grow.

If Mars or another planet was livable, would you accept a one-way ticket there? Why or why not?

No. Despite my predilection for scifi, I’m good here. I’m a socially active person. I love traveling to different places, meeting people, spending time in cafes and restaurants, going to museums. The breadth of experience on this planet is more than enough for me. Mars would get really boring really quickly. That soil is probably terrible for wine production and I can’t imagine walking my dogs in that gravity.

Tell us about your most recent book.

My most recent published book is “Martyrs of the Mind,” the fourth novel in my Mindguard Saga. The events in this book directly influence the series finale, which I’m working on now.

For my series, I used the same structure that Frank Herbert used for his Dune Saga, which is my all-time favorite work of fiction. In the Dune Saga, the first three books are kind of similar in their structure, pacing and themes, with “God Emperor of Dune” kind of sitting in the middle as its own separate entity and then the last two books once again connected. It should have been the last three, but he passed away before he could publish the series finale. He wanted to have this balanced structure, with his God Emperor at the center of the universe, so to speak. It’s really elegant.

I wanted to do a similar thing as a tribute to my favorite author. So the first two books in the Mindguard Saga introduce this universe, its characters and the dramas and tragedies they have to deal with while the third book sits by itself as a sort of character study of Sheldon Ayers (who, at least symbolically, is my version of a God Emperor). The final two books chronicle the unavoidable classic scifi “war to end all wars.”

It was wonderful to have you on MTA, and to learn more about you, Andrei. I am inspired by the thoughts you shared. Beautifully conveyed. I wish you all the best and much success! – Camilla

Book Blurb for Martyrs of the Mind:

In the aftermath of Earth’s battle with the Vintages, an unlikely messenger delivers a shocking revelation: the existence of an advanced civilization that threatens to change the very core of human identity.

As the world falls into panic, a terrorist organization once thought extinct rises from the ashes of its violent past to embrace the dawn of a new era. Led by a charismatic prophet – a telepath with unprecedented powers – the Martyrs of the Mind wage a holy war on the Federation in the name of the God Revealed.

Now the de-facto leader of mankind, Enforcement Unit Commander Tamisa Faber must step up as the world’s last guardian. But Tamisa is no stranger to war. As the crimes of her past return to haunt her present, Tamisa is faced with her own chilling revelation: humanity will need the Mindguards she herself has all but destroyed.

Where to find the books:

All of my books are available in digital format pretty much wherever e-books are sold.

Connect with Andrei:


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To support this website and the author’s interviewed, visit Support MTA for suggestions. Thank you! – Camilla, Founder and Host


Book Shelf: The Awesome Adventures of Poppy and Amelia by Maddy Harrisis and Misha Herwin

The Awesome Adventures of Poppy and Amelia by Maddy Harrisis and Misha Herwin

Lovely and magical adventure of two best friends who suddenly become witches. Once a new and strange girl arrives in school, they become a trio working together to defeat Miss Mortimer and her ilk. Thoroughly enjoyed!

I interviewed Misha on MTA in July 2020. Go here to read the interview …

Meet the Author: Belvedere Crescent by Misha Herwin


To support this website and the author’s interviewed, visit Support MTA for suggestions. Thank you! – Camilla

Book Shelf: Life is Yours by Abigail Yardimci

Life is Yours – from heartbreak to heart awake by Abigail Yardimci

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I interviewed Abigail on MTA in July 2020. Go here to read the interview …

Meet the Author: Life is Yours by Abigail Yardimci

To support this website and the author’s interviewed, visit Support MTA for suggestions. Thank you! – Camilla

Meet the Author: Falcon’s Shadow by Marthese Fenech

Today we travel to the Toronto area, by way of the Maltese Islands, to chat with Marthese Fenech about how a rabbit, being a teacher, climbing things, practicing yoga, chasing landscapes, magic, a Siberian husky, teddy bears, kickboxing, the Great Siege of 1565, tongue-twisters, and Point Break come together as part of Marthese’s adventurous life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in a town north of Toronto with my husband, Brad, and our Siberian husky. I’m the youngest of five, with a 12 to 16 year gap between my siblings and me. I teach high school English, Social Science, and Special Education.

I’m an avid traveler and adventure-seeker. Brad and I spend a lot of time outdoors and tackle challenging hikes all over the world. When I’m not climbing things or throwing myself out of things, I enjoy practicing yoga and paddle-boarding.

Languages fascinate me. I spoke Maltese before English and studied French in school. I’d love to learn conversational Spanish beyond asking where the bathroom is.

Photography is another of my hobbies. I especially love chasing landscapes, seascapes, and sunsets. I’ve recently taken up skateboarding so I can improve my surfing. I consider myself a lively, fun, energetic risk-taker. I also hope I’m as funny as I think I am.

In which genre do you write?

I write historical fiction. Sixteenth-century Malta and Turkey serve as the settings of my novels.

My parents are Maltese, and frequent visits to the island from the time I was very young piqued my interest in its opulent history. Life under the rule of the Knights of St John fascinated me most. The Maltese islands lend themselves very well to literary descriptions—gifted with four compass points of natural beauty, the smell of the sea constant no matter how far inland one might venture, ancient temples that predate the pyramids of Egypt.

In high school, history was my favourite subject. I loved to learn about daily life in the Middle Ages, communication and the importance of scribes and town-criers, the development and enforcement of laws, the cause and outcome of battles, the roles of different institutions, the use (and misuse) of medicine, the creation (and banning) of art and literature, and most of all, the perspectives of the people, their motivations, their resilience.

Despite the passage of time, people want and need many of the same things today as they did in the past. Beyond necessities for survival, people crave human connection, acceptance, recreation, fellowship, justice, knowledge, a sharing of ideas, progress.

This realization gave me the confidence to tackle historical fiction—I didn’t have to create characters I could never relate to simply because they lived five hundred years ago. And while living in the sixteenth century undoubtedly presented its own set of challenges and struggles, the human condition remains the same. The story needs to revolve around the characters and their experiences—the setting becomes virtually incidental.

How many published books do you have?

Eight Pointed Cross, originally published in 2011, and Falcon’s Shadow, published in 2020, are the first two novels in my Siege of Malta trilogy. The third instalment is scheduled for a May 2022 release to coincide with the anniversary of the Great Siege of Malta, the event on which the novel is based.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

Creating images with words always seemed to be a kind of magic. From a very young age, I found joy in storytelling, something as reflexive as breathing.

I remember rattling off fairy-tales to my teddy bears, which I would arrange around my room as an audience.

My second-grade teacher often gave me “lines” to copy as punishment for being too talkative in class. I’d grow bored and write a story instead—usually about a little girl who upset her teacher and was so very sorry. It often won me back into the teacher’s good graces—though not always.

I was incredibly lucky to have older siblings that read to me, introducing me to authors like Tolkien and Dahl and Adams. I loved the wonder and poetry within their prose. My dad also told me stories he’d make up, usually involving his own take on Hansel and Gretel. My mom surprised me with a book from the Babysitters Club series when I was little, and I was instantly hooked. She’d buy me a new one every few weeks until I finished the entire series. I have no doubt all that reading cultivated my love of the craft.

CS Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia had the greatest influence on me as a budding writer. Taking my cue from him, I wrote stories cast entirely with talking animals. Even now, in my Siege of Malta series, I tend to treat our four-legged friends more delicately than humans. While I no longer write about talking animals, my Siberian husky has a cameo in Falcon’s Shadow as Louie, a stray wolf-dog who saves the life of one of my protagonists.

In the summer of 1994, I watched the movie Speed ten or eleven times between daily visits to Canada’s Wonderland. A crush on Keanu Reeves inspired me to write a thriller set in the very theme park my friend and I frequented—my first attempt at a composition involving people. Mostly, I wanted to prove to myself that I could start and finish a novel. It took me two years writing part-time while attending high school and working at Red Lobster, but I managed to complete it.

Soon after that, the film Braveheart drew me more insistently to the historical genre, a love further reinforced by Gladiator, which coincidentally, is filmed in Malta and features several of my friends as extras.

What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?

Sometimes, an idea will come to me, but I don’t jot it down, confident I will remember it. Then, of course, I forget. So, I will pace in a big square as long as it takes until I remember the thing I should have written down.

When I’m trying to describe a facial expression, I make the expression and hold it as I write down everything my face is doing. My brow is sure to end up permanently furrowed.

I find reading aloud a very helpful practice when editing, and when I read aloud, I put on accents to entertain myself.

I like writing to music, but the songs can’t have lyrics because they distract me. Epic scores guide my scenes, stir up intricate, emotional passages. The right soundtrack helps me to pace battle scenes and take the quieter scenes slow. As I wrote Falcon’s Shadow, my workspace swirled with evocative arrangements from Game of Thrones, Inception, Braveheart, the Grey, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

I bite my nails when I’m working on a new scene or editing an existing scene.

What outdoor activity haven’t you tried, but would like to try?

I consider myself a thrill-seeker. A former kickboxing instructor, I surf, snowboard, scuba-dive, rock-climb, skydive, zip-line, and throw axes. I’ve also done the EdgeWalk at the CN Tower in Toronto, the Via Ferrata in Ollantaytambo, Peru, and hiked the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand.

There are several outdoor activities I’d yet love to try. Sand-boarding in the desert looks wild. I took a beginner kite-surfing lesson but would like to take it up more frequently. I’m also keen to try potholing (the subterranean version of tree-top trekking). I recently discovered “high-diving,” which involves throwing oneself down a giant waterslide before diving into a high-altitude lake. Looks kind of awesome. And my husband and I plan to do the trek to Mount Everest Base Camp in Nepal when Covid restrictions lift and it is safe to travel.

I find physical exertion gives me perspective and opens up my mind to so many creative possibilities.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

In July 2000, I travelled to Malta for a pre-college vacation. I intended to spend my days at the beach, my nights bar-hopping, and every second sharing laughs with good friends. I checked off every box, every day.

But this trip became so much more when my friend suggested we go to the capital city Valletta to check out the Malta Experience, a film that showcases the island’s incredible seven-thousand-year history.

The moment the Great Siege of 1565 played out on the screen, everything changed. Suddenly, the battle I’d heard so much about came to life for me as never before. The siege tested the resilience and fortitude of this little island and its people in ways I could hardly comprehend. It’s an underdog story for the ages.

The idea to write a novel based on this epic battle took root.

It just ended up taking three novels instead of one—the story is simply too big to fit in one book.

What movie can you watch over and over without ever getting tired of?

Point Break.

I mean, come on—surfing bank robbers??

Point Break always brings back waves of wonderful memories, from writing an essay about director Kathryn Bigelow for a film studies class in high school to vacationing in Malta and hanging out at a beach bar which happened to be playing Point Break on a mounted TV set.

This movie inspired me to learn to surf. And to sky-dive. And to rob banks (which I have yet to do). I had the opportunity to surf for the first time in Tarifa, Spain (epic fail), then my husband gifted me with a week at a surf school in Costa Rica, followed by another session in New Zealand. I cannot put into words how much I love it and how badly I wish I lived near the ocean so I could continue improving daily, rather than yearly.

Point Break turns 30 this year, and its energy transcends. It is timeless—stories that capture the human spirit always are. I’m certain this movie contributed to my love for adventure, my need to challenge myself physically, to try new things—even the things I’m afraid to try.

Especially the things I’m afraid to try.

Although I never became the pro-surfer of my imagination, I did follow my literary dreams of becoming a bestselling author of historical fiction—my equivalent of big wave riding.

Also, as a wink at Point Break, I threw the line “Vaya con Dios” into my forthcoming third novel.

Can you play a musical instrument? If not, which instrument would you like to be able to play?

Musicality runs in my family. My dad is an accomplished organist and pianist. My brother Dave plays the trumpet, my brother Steve the guitar.

When I was eight, Dave bought me an acoustic guitar and signed me up for lessons. I loved it and progressed well, but my interest fizzled, and I gave up—something I regret to this day.

Years later, I saved enough money to buy a Fender Stratocaster electric bass and taught myself to play because I wanted to start a rock band. A huge Def Leppard fan, I’d watch recordings of their concerts and try to mimic the bassist’s riffs. I could strum a mean “Hysteria.” I also learned to imitate the basslines of songs by Guns N Roses and Skid Row.

In high school music class, I chose the alto saxophone. I loved wailing on that thing. I drove my parents to the brink by practising “Auld Lang Syne” nonstop in my not-soundproof bedroom.

Giving up on these instruments remains a sore spot. The creation and performance of music is so beautiful, the same kind of magic that exists in storytelling—because really, music is storytelling with sound. Perhaps I will take up an instrument again.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve done or experienced to help create a scene or plot?

Battles feature prominently in my novels. As such, I thought it important to feel a fraction of what my characters may have felt while defending Malta during a mid-summer siege.

One August day, I took the bus to the seaside village of Birgu, one of my main settings, and spent an afternoon on the wall of Castile—essentially, a stone oven. For three hours, I stood on that battlement and wrote detailed notes describing everything I felt, like the way the sweat would bead and run down my face or arm, pool in the dimple of my knee. I ignored every impulse to find shade or drink water. Though effective, it was hugely reckless and idiotic, and I was rewarded with heatstroke and a day spent in bed, shivering, sweating, cramping, and convinced I contracted the plague.

I also spent time in Istanbul, a living museum, every street corner a testament to the city’s vivid past. Lively exchanges with locals inspired a cast of Turkish characters, including a very kind and helpful shopkeeper, an equally unpleasant staffer at my hostel, and five or six kittens that worked together to steal a cooked chicken—yes, that scene made it into Falcon’s Shadow.

In my first novel, Eight Pointed Cross, I introduce Katrina, a female protagonist who wants to learn archery. For Kat, finding someone willing to teach a girl the bow in sixteenth-century Malta would prove a challenge. For me, the challenge began once she found that person. I’d need to describe her struggling through lessons and finally mastering the skills. Skills I did not possess. As I developed her character, I knew I had to learn archery.

And so, I signed up for a two-day workshop, which I thought was a beginner archery lesson. It ended up being an intensive, archery certification course. The other students knew not only each other but all the technical terms. They frequented archery ranges and competed around the country. I hadn’t so much as picked up a bow since gym class ten years earlier. Despite my mistake, I stayed—might as well learn a few things in case of a zombie apocalypse.

Learning to teach archery proved to be an unexpected gift. Katrina’s instructor would have to demonstrate the proper technique. In Falcon’s Shadow, Kat becomes the teacher. Although it was important for me to learn how to do the thing, it was as important for me to learn to teach it so I could write believably from an archery instructor’s point of view. I could now write with the confidence that comes from experience. Amazingly, I passed the final exam and am technically a certified archery instructor. In the years since my certification, I’ve taken archery lessons—but certainly never taught any.

Many styles of weapons were used throughout the siege. I took up axe-throwing and went to a gun range, where I shot a variety of guns and felt the incredible kickback—something I needed to experience because muskets and arquebuses were the matchlocks of choice at the time in which my novels are set.

You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. What song do you listen to before speaking, and what do you do to prepare yourself?

In July 2020, I hosted a virtual book launch via Facebook Live since Covid cancelled my in-person event. Up to that point, I had always been a nervous wreck before appearing on camera.

And so, I needed to get amped before I hit “Go Live.”

My pre-game hype song-list includes:

“All I do is Win” – DJ Khalid featuring Ludacris, Rick Ross, T-Pain and Snoop Dogg

“Live like Legends” – Ruelle

“Revolution” – Ruelle

On the day of a speaking engagement or live reading, I occupy my mind to keep it from playing out disaster scenarios. I practice tongue-twisters and work on dropping my breath (belly-breathing). I fold a bunch of laundry and empty the dishwasher and water the garden. I go a few rounds on the punching bag, go for a jog, or hit the speed-rope. I take the dog for a long walk and recite my script to him. I roll out my yoga mat for a session. Anything to calm my frazzled nerves.

Was there anything surprising about that period of history you learned about which made it into the book?

I find period pieces tend to romanticize history. We think of a knight in shining armour as noble and flawless. But reality objects to that image. Were the knights brave? Absolutely. Were they flawed? Beyond doubt. To be accepted into the Order of the Knight of St. John, one had to prove noble ancestry in all four lines. Knighthood was something for which these young men were pre-destined. The system did not operate based on merit. Someone who embodies the qualities you expect a knight to have wouldn’t be worthy if their lineage did not measure up.

As a woman, I was also very proud to learn that during the Great Siege of 1565, women played a pivotal role in Malta’s defence. They stood on the battlements alongside the men, shooting flaming arrows, gathering cannonballs, and repairing walls. Again, period pieces often portray damsels in distress that need to be rescued. These women didn’t need any rescuing.

If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?

Three questions I would ask my Siberian husky:

1. What is your favourite memory? (Surely the time he got loose and chased seven cows around a farm for fifteen minutes as my brother Steve chased after him)

2. Do you know how deeply you are loved?

3. Why do you take one kibble at a time out of your bowl, eat it outside, then return for another?

What are you currently working on?

I have a few things on the go at the moment. The third novel in my Siege of Malta trilogy is in the editing phase. I have yet to write the epilogue—this has proved challenging as I don’t feel emotionally ready to complete a project that’s been twenty years in the making.

Set for publication in 2022, the third book will feature the culmination of all battles—symbolic and literal—with the Great Siege of 1565.

The novel begins on the eve of one of the bloodiest battles in history. The elite Ottoman army departs Istanbul, the seat of Sunni Islam, with a force 50,000 strong, a great host heading for Malta intent on crushing the Knights of St John once and for all.

In the final book of the trilogy, characters will face hopeless odds and endure terrible losses amid hurtling cannonballs and exploding mines, poisoned wells and crumbling ramparts. But there will be the forging of unlikely allies also, the creation of unexpected bonds. And most of all, there will be the triumph of the human spirit.

Seeing my novels come to life on the screen is my biggest dream. For years, I have wished someone—a director, a producer, an actor—would approach me about adapting my books. It suddenly dawned on me that I am capable. I wrote the novels, after all. Six weeks ago, I enrolled in a screenwriting course and have started to adapt my novels into a script for a series. I’m currently working on the pilot episode that I hope to pitch to streaming services, HBO, and the History Channel. Stay tuned.

Tell us about your most recent book.

Falcon’s Shadow, published in 2020, is the second novel in my Siege of Malta trilogy.

When legendary Ottoman seaman Dragut Raїs attacked the Maltese islands in 1551, his army left Gozo a smoking ruin emptied of its entire population. Among the five thousand carried into slavery is Augustine Montesa, father of Domenicus and Katrina.

Wounded and broken, Domenicus vows to find his father, even if it means abandoning Angelica, his betrothed. Armed with only a topaz to serve as ransom, he sets out on a journey that sees him forcibly recruited from the streets of Europe and thrown into the frontline. On Malta, Katrina struggles to find work after the Grand Master has her publicly flogged for speaking out against him. When at last, she stumbles upon a promising position, all is not as it seems. Her job forces her to confront a terrible truth—one that may prove disastrous for Robert, the man she loves.

Hundreds of leagues to the east in Istanbul, Demir, son of a wealthy Turkish bey, works hard to become an imperial Ottoman horseman, despite having to endure the cruelty of his father and half-brother. Life takes an unexpected turn the moment Demir encounters a young woman, stolen from Malta, brought into the household as another of his father’s servants.

Falcon’s Shadow picks up in the immediate aftermath of Eight Pointed Cross and sweeps from quarry pits to sprawling estates, tumultuous seas to creaking gallows, the dungeons beneath the bishop’s palace to the open decks of warships. Chance connections are made, secrets revealed, and betrayals exposed against a historical backdrop. Fates will collide at the Battle of Djerba, a momentous clash that unites lost kin, only to tear them apart once more.

Falcon’s Shadow is available as a paperback, ebook, and audiobook (narrated beautifully by voice artist Simon Hester) across all Amazon platforms, ebook and hardcover from Barnes and Noble, ebook from Kobo, and paperback available from bookshops in Canada and Malta.

It was great fun learning more about you, an absolutely pleasure having you be a part of MTA. Wishing you all the best, with loads more adventures and novels! – Camilla

Find the books here:

Eight Pointed Cross –

Falcon’s Shadow –

Connect with Marthese:


My most recent blog-post inspired by a debilitating bout of writer’s block:

Overcoming Writer’s Block When You Feel Uninspired



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*My last name, Fenech, means Rabbit in Maltese. Fenka, is girl-rabbit.


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Friday With Friends: Another Friday Night – Val Portelli

Another Friday night.

Friday 1.

Friday night. At last.

‘See you Monday everyone. Have a great weekend.’

Dash to the supermarket on the way home from work. Pile the bags into the car boot and head for home. Pour myself a drink while I put it away; the first in five days but I deserve it after slaving from nine to five, or rather eight to six for a demanding boss.

Check my phone to confirm where we’re meeting tonight – glad rags or casual?

8.30 in the pub for a quick bite and then on to the new club which has just opened. Smart casual it is then as I browse my wardrobe after the quickest bath in history. No time for wallowing tonight – people to see, dancing to be done and with a bit of luck, some flirting thrown in for good measure. The night is young and so am I. Bring it on.

Friday 2.

‘Hi Mum. In case you haven’t guessed, it’s your favourite daughter, Lisa, and yes, I am after something. How are you fixed for Friday night? Do you fancy a bit of babysitting with the monsters? – er, I mean your adorable grandchildren.

‘Great. Paul can pick you up about 7.30 if that’s OK. We won’t be back late, but it’s ages since we’ve had some time to ourselves and we wanted to try out the new restaurant that’s just opened. Perfect. Thanks, Mum. Love you.’

Friday 3.

‘Paul, what do you think about going out somewhere on Friday? We could try the cinema, or even splash out and go to a show. The kids are old enough to be left on their own and we’ve got to start trusting them sometime. I said Katie could have her friend for a sleep-over and John will be out with his mates.’

Friday 4

‘Anything interesting on TV tonight? It looks as if it’s all the usual repeats. Maybe we should sign up to one of those streaming programmes, or even buy some films on DVD. Do they still make them? I’ve out of touch with all this new technology. What do people do for entertainment these days?’

Friday 5

‘Hi Jen. It’s me, Lisa. I wanted to sound you out about this football bash on Friday. Are you going?

‘Yes, I wasn’t sure but let Paul talk me into it. You’ve been before. What are they like? Knowing that lot I imagine it’ll be a bit riotous.

‘Really? That’s sounds good. I’ll book a cab and then we won’t have to worry about driving. Great, we’ll see you there. If you can’t beat them, we’ll have to join them.’

Friday 6.

‘Nanny Lisa. Mummy says you’re coming on Friday to look after us while she and Daddy go for a Can-oo-doodle. Can you bring me some sweeties? And will you read me a story? And can we make some cakes like we did last time? That was fun. I promise I’ll be ever so good. Love you lots.’

Friday 7.

‘This lockdown is driving me crazy. Do you remember the times Friday night was party night? Funny how people always used to say Saturday was their big night out, but for us it was always Friday. Perhaps because that was the first time you asked me out, and Saturday you would be down the pub with your football mates. Now the highlight of my life is a trip to the supermarket. Which reminds me, Paul, we’re running short of pretty much everything so we need to stock up. I’d better make a list.’

Friday 8.

Same old, same old. Will it ever end? At least we’ve got our date for the jab. We’ve got to be at the health centre for 11 next Friday. I hope it’s not pouring with rain. Roll on the Spring.

Friday 9.

I’m beginning to lose the plot. If it wasn’t for the date on my laptop, I wouldn’t know whether it was today or tomorrow. It’s come to something when I’m reading the holiday ads, even if there’s no chance of getting away this summer if things continue as they are.

Friday 10.

Things are looking up. The news is more positive, the sun actually shone today, and I’ve just seen the first daffodils in the garden.

Friday 11.

I don’t believe it. My collection of short stories proved so popular I’ve already had people asking about my next one, even though it’s in a totally different genre. All that time making up stories to keep the grandchildren amused has paid off. I’m now officially a published author.

Friday 12.

I check my dairy for the zillionth time even though I know the venue and date off by heart. The cab is booked for next Friday. I’ve Googled the route for the posh West End hotel who are hosting the event in case the taxi gets lost. The new dress is hanging ready in the wardrobe, and the hairdresser is booked for 10 o’clock. Even if I don’t win, the publicity will ensure my name is known in all the best literary circles. My acceptance speech is prepared and I’ve rehearsed until I’m word perfect. What could possibly go wrong?

Friday 13.

Don’t you just love a cliff-hanger. 😁

© Val Portelli February 2021

To see Val’s previous interview on MTA, go here …

Meet the Authors: Story of a Country Boy by Val Portelli

Connect with Val:

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Twitter: @vals_tales



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Val’s latest release:

Find it here:


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To support this website and the author’s interviewed, visit Support MTA for suggestions. Thank you! – Camilla, Founder and Host

Book Shelf: The Black Fire Chronicles – Guardians 2 – Patrick the War Man by Kim Rigby

The Black Fire Chronicles – Guardians 2 – Patrick the War Man by Kim Rigby

I very much enjoyed reading this one. A grand adventure of war, love, loss, and friendship, rooted in cleverness and compassion. Had me hooked and guessing until the very end. A refreshingly different type of story and book. Loved it!

I interviewed Kim Rigby on MTA in December 2020. Go here to read the interview …

Meet the Author: The Black Fire Chronicles by Kim Rigby

Meeting the Author: Freedom of the Creed by NJ Coleridge

Today we travel to Nottingham to chat with Nick Coleridge about how corporate life, being a stay-at-home dad, pots of coffee, baking, Dungeons and Dragons, living room raves, a do-it-yourself painting disaster, and The Doctor come together as part of Nick’s writing life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Nick Coleridge (my nomme de plume is NJ Coleridge as there is already a Nicholas Coleridge writing. We are definitely not the same person though might be related, apparently….). I am a father of two and have always had aspirations (read daydreams) of becoming a fully fledged writer.

A few years ago, I made the best decision of my life to become a stay-at-home dad to my lovely daughter. As a hobby and after some encouragement from my long-suffering wife, who I think might have suggested it as a way of making me put my money where my mouth is, I decided to focus on and write in the small windows of opportunity that “nap time” allowed.

Over time what was at best a dabbling evolved into a story and eventually a proper book! And so, Freedom of the Creed was published on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited last summer. After good reviews, even from those unafraid of hurting my feelings, I started writing the sequel in autumn of 2020, titled Better to Die, and I’m hoping to release it later this year.

I am based in Nottingham, UK.

In which genre do you write?

Freedom of the Creed, and its sequel, is a western, though not in the traditional sense. I have written it more like a thriller which just happens to be set in the old west, if that makes sense, taking cues from writers like Elmore Leonard and Lee Child.

I am also planning a thriller set in the British boarding school system as well as a fantasy series.

How many published books do you have?

One and one short story. For now!

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

I have had many careers but the only thing I ever really wanted to do is write. Stepping off the treadmill of corporate life to look after my daughter seemed like a perfect opportunity to scratch that itch.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

Our dining table with a pot of coffee close to hand, facing a window looking out onto any greenery I can find. Either that or a secluded corner of a coffee shop, don’t mind where as long as the coffee is good! Upon reflection it looks like an abundance of coffee is key as opposed to venue.

What are you currently reading?

The Name of the Wind. Book One of the Kingkiller Chronicles. By Patrick Dothfuss. It is amazing.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

I have always loved westerns, having grown up on a steady diet of John Ford and Sergio Leone, but I was inspired to write about Saoirse and Wolfe after watching Godless. It’s a fantastic limited series on Netflix produced by Stephen Soderbergh and I highly recommend it.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

I am a full-time/stay at home dad so when not writing you will find me tidying up my children’s toys, baking, singing songs, make things out of playdoh, and organising living room raves (we dance round the living room to disco or club classics……anything to exhaust a small child!) At the end of the day, I curl up on the sofa and collapse before remembering that I have words to write.

Have you ever had any Do It Yourself disasters?

Far too many to count, there is a reason I have been forbidden to ever pick up a paintbrush by my wife. For example –

When we were first married, it seems like an age ago, in our first ever flat. Ever the practical romantic I thought how lovely it would be for my wife to come home to find the decorating (that she had planned meticulously) to be finished, allowing her a well-deserved night off! It was a relatively simple job, essentially paint a part of the wall with very special iron filing paint to make a black board.

However, in spite of its simplicity, I essentially painted the entire kitchen wall black as the paint ran, and ran, and ran. My furious wife had to completely redecorate the wall and the skirting board of the kitchen. Needless to say I was not popular.

What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?

Two things –

a. Being able to lose yourself completely in a world of your own creation.

b. The problem-solving element of it. Particularly when you write your characters into a corner and then have to write them out of it.

You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. What song do you listen to before speaking?

Knights of Cydonia by Muse. A piece of pure prog-rock genius.

What actor or actress would you want to play you in the movie about your life, and why?

Probably Seth Rogen as I look a little like him and have always got the impression that he and I are quite similar in our general outlook on life. If my life was an action movie, Gerard Butler; because he’s awesome.

If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?

As a child of the 80s it would have to be Dungeons and Dragons. It was based on the classic role-playing game and is about a group of teenagers who find themselves in a fantasy world of magic, demons, and wizards. I have often fantasised about having magical powers, particularly those that meant I could bewitch brooms to do the cleaning for me; even if it only lasted a few minutes before I was barbecued by an irritable dragon.

What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?

Frozen 2 with my daughter, her choice not mine. Though I would be lying if I said I didn’t know all the words….

You can have anyone fictional as your imaginary friend, who do you choose and why?

The Doctor (from Doctor Who). Because he has a TARDIS, and there are days that I could really do with a time machine. Also, I think he/she would be very good company, just think of the adventures!

What are you currently working on?

I should be proofreading the sequel to Freedom of the Creed, but instead I am working on creating the world and rules for an as yet untitled fantasy project. That and staying sane during lockdown whilst trying to home school a four-and-a-half-year-old and sleep train a nine month old!

It was great learning more about you, and having you be a part of MTA, Nick! Wishing you all the best with the living room raves, and your writing! – Camilla

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Book Shelf: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Shoot this book into my veins! I loved it so much. I completely invested in the story, the characters, and found it hard to put down. I took the story with me to sleep and into my dreams. Beautifully written and captivating!


To support this website and the author’s interviewed, visit Support MTA for suggestions. Thank you! – Camilla

Latest News: Contact Form is Open

The time has arrived to re-open the Contact form for authors! The form will only be open long enough for about 20 authors to apply. This could happen within an hour or up to one week. At that time, the Contact form will close once again. This is to avoid having a back log of wonderful authors who wish to be interviewed.

**Update on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 – Contact form is once again closed. Be sure to subscribe to the site so you receive notification when it re-opens. It is always posted on the blog FIRST, before any social media.**

If you have been interviewed on MTA in the past, and if it’s been longer than 6 months since your interview, you can complete the contact form for a “Friday with Friends” feature. Make sure to note that in the comments of the contact form. If you have already been featured on Friday with Friends, please note that I will add your name to a wait list, as those who have not been featured previously will take precedence.

In addition, I interview book bloggers once or twice per month. If you are a book blogger, and wish to be spotlighted, please complete the Book Blogger contact form.

Go here – Contact Form

Don’t miss out – Come on over! As a reminder, there is no charge to be interviewed on this site.

Thank you for your continued support of these authors and the interviews on this website. A great deal of work goes into these interviews by the authors and me. Deep gratitude! –Camilla, Founder & Host

Meet the Author: The Widow – A British Police Thriller by Will Patching

Today we travel to Koh Samui, in southern Thailand, to chat with Will Patching about how being a workaholic, playing the guitar, a tropical island, sewage treatment filter beds, a Hawk training jet, a sunken charter yacht, corporate life, sunsets, photography, and audio books come together as part of Will’s current and past life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

​Although I’m a Brit, originally from ‘sarf Lunnon’ (south London!), my current location is on the tropical island I now consider home. Koh Samui, in southern Thailand, is a dream destination for many holidaymakers, and I am blessed to be able to spend most of time here.

Having semi-retired some years ago after baling out of my former workaholic corporate life, I decided to live somewhere most people only visit for a couple of weeks a year for some well-deserved downtime.

Writing from a tropical island sounds wonderful!

It is.

Having said that, compared to a ‘proper job’, writing thrillers anywhere is pure joy. I know this is true because I’ve had many roles in my time—from working as a teenage ‘gardener’ weeding sewage treatment filter beds (where I learned to hold my breath for minutes at a time), through flying a Hawk training jet very fast, very low and very dangerously before the RAF realised and booted me out, followed by years of hauling my reluctant body up the greasy management pole, eventually blagging my way onto a Harvard course for CEOs, largely thanks to the Peter Principle of promotion, to more recently building my dream, a charter yacht that sank in SE Asian waters.

These varied life experiences help me write my twisted tales.

In which genre do you write?

​I love reading thrillers so that’s what I write. More specifically: crime thrillers, conspiracy thrillers, serial killer thrillers, and police procedurals.

My novels reflect my keen interest in psychopathic behaviour and how such antisocial personality traits affect individuals and society as a whole.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

The warped plots and complex characters in each story are the result of a whole host of ideas coming together, so I cannot point to a single idea for any of them. However, I always have an overarching concept and a theme for each tale as these help me maintain the direction of the novel and they create boundaries that keep my characters from wandering too far off the reservation.

For ‘The Widow’, my latest crime thriller, the overarching concept is:

Traumatic events come back to haunt us all.

The theme was originally just:


Although the Deadly Sin of ‘Greed’ gets a look in too!

Lots of research goes on in the background and, to build a believable narrative, I always incorporate some aspects of real-life criminal misdeeds. ‘The Widow’ is no exception to that rule.

Can you play​ a musical instrument?

I play guitar, badly. I’d like to play much better than I do but a trapped nerve in my shoulder restricts the time I can spend practising so I will never be the aging rock god of my imagination!

What is your favorite time of day and why?


I love how the light changes and, especially here in the tropics. With such vivid colours painted on the horizon, offering a visual feast on so many days a year, I’ve amassed numerous photographs featuring sunsets. So many that I think I’m obsessed!

Is photography a hobby of yours?

I can’t claim to be a photographer, but living where I do offers incredible opportunities to create stunning images – even using a basic smartphone rather than a camera, as I do.

Being an ancient fellow, I remember the days when expensive rolls of film had to be sent away to be developed. Processing took weeks and was expensive, and my excited anticipation was usually followed by deflated disappointment. The prints often turned out to be a waste of money and, frankly, photography was a hobby I could not afford.

Back then, you could not see what you’d photographed until you received the prints from Kodak or similar outfit. Now, you can instantly view the result, framing shots perfectly before tweaking them yourself using sophisticated software. And so, I can’t help taking thousands of ‘snaps’ a year, mostly of the beautiful views in my locale, photographed at my favourite time of day.

There are more images in the Gallery on my website but you might like the one I took in early February as it gives an idea of what I mean.

What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?

​Being ‘god-like’ in the pages of my own novels.

The characters generally come to me out of thin air, fully formed, but develop a life of their own as I write, often refusing to do as their creator demands! I’ve had many plot ideas tossed out by such obstinate characters, determined to go off in their own direction, reluctant to be involved in my crazy plans for them. Off they trot, taking me with them – and that’s truly exciting for me as I never really know how things will turn out. I can always kill them if they get out of hand though…

Are you a ‘plotter’ or do you start writing without much prior preparation?

I’m not a detailed plotter, generally only having a vague outline when I first start typing the manuscript, and this ‘unknown’ aspect means I’m regularly surprised by the twists and turns that I hope will entertain my readers.

The only time I spent months preparing a detailed synopsis was for my first attempt at writing a novel. I created a detailed chapter-by-chapter outline, lengthy character bios, and reams of scribbled notes on plot points etc, with the whole story planned out to the ‘nth’ degree.

What happened?

It never saw the light of day. I soon became bored with writing the story, decided readers would feel the same, and abandoned the project. Live and learn, as they say. Spontaneity and that god’s eye view are the elements of writing that I need as much as enjoy.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve done or experienced to help create a scene or plot?

​Thanks to my short-lived career in the RAF, I had quite a lot of experience flying in helicopters. I have used that knowledge in a few of my novels and received a wonderful response from a reader to a scene featuring a flight over London. Private pilot, Tony Jason, wrote to me, explained that he had access to a helicopter, and offered to take me on a trip following the route I had created in the novel.

Of course, I was delighted and we flew together the next time I was back in the UK. What a fantastic experience that was. Tony’s reward? A character named after him in my international thriller, ‘The Hunter’.

Many readers have contacted me over the years to tell me how much they’ve enjoyed my stories and I’ve met some keen fans on occasions too, but this is the only time I’ve been invited to ‘relive’ a fictional scene. Mind you, most of my writing is so dark and deadly, I really wouldn’t want to!

What are you currently working on?

​Too many things…

In addition to a few new writing projects at various stages of development, I’m working with a top-notch, award-winning narrator to convert my novels and short stories into audiobook format. In October last year, I published the audiobook editions of ‘The Hack Trilogy’, individually and as a compilation, and these are available from most online audiobook retailers. They can also be ordered from libraries too, so for anyone who can’t afford to buy, that is often a viable option.

Do you prefer to read or listen to novels?

I thoroughly enjoy audiobooks as well as reading in the traditional sense, so I have no preference. I believe more and more people are beginning to appreciate the flexibility the audio format delivers.

Unlike reading a book or ebook, an audio edition allows the listener to do other things simultaneously. Driving long distances is the most obvious one, but there are many people who enjoy pottering in the garden, for instance, while listening to gruesome murders and silently rooting for the fictional detectives or other protagonists.

I think this is an exciting time for authors, especially independents like myself, as a whole new world of opportunity is just opening up. Audiobooks represent a hefty investment but one for the long term and I believe it will prove well worthwhile. Hence, I’m aiming to publish my remaining four novels and three short stories in audio editions before May this year.

Tell us about your most recent book.

‘The Widow’ is a British police procedural with three strong female characters at its heart. There’s no romance in this one(!) but plenty of thrills, and many readers have described it as my ‘best yet’ and a proper ‘page-turner’.

The lead character, a female detective, played a relatively minor role in ‘Mutilated’, the second novel in ‘The Remorseless Trilogy’, but I felt she had unfinished business in that story, so this novel was born.

I mentioned above the concept and theme of this thriller, but for the opening, I had a simple idea, one that underpins the plot. The very first line of the novel is the dialogue from a phone call, spoken by a psychopath, informing the newly widowed character of the book’s title:

‘Your husband is dead.’

​To make the plot more intriguing, I asked myself:

What if the newly widowed listener wanted her husband dead?
How would the police react if they discovered that simple fact?
And what if the widow was not as innocent as she might first appear?’

From that starting point—via some 90,000 twisted words in between—our feisty female police detective eventually reaches a conclusion…

I can say no more without spoilers. Sorry! The opening pages can be read online as ‘The Widow’ is available from all the major retailers. The audiobook will be published in May.

What other publications do you have?

‘The Hack Trilogy’—three international crime thrillers. The first novel, ‘The Hack’, is free with most online retailers and has around over 500 reviews with Amazon for a rating of c4.4 stars. These dark conspiracy thrillers have plenty of action and—I am told—believable characters, with a gentle ongoing romance threaded through the three stories. Like all of my writing: ‘Not for the fainthearted!’

‘The Remorseless Trilogy’—three gritty British crime thrillers that take the reader deep into the disturbing minds of some vicious psychopaths. The characters are different in this miniseries, offering plenty of excitement and twists, but once again, there’s a touch of romance along the way.

All of these thriller novels can be read as standalones, including ‘The Widow’, but frankly, most readers will enjoy them more if they are read in order.

My two other publications are quirkier as both include some insights into the workings of my own demented brain:

‘Short Shots—Blood on their Hands’ consists of three short-form thrillers that relate to ‘The Remorseless Trilogy’ in some way. I’ve added author’s notes to explain how they fit together, and I encourage new readers who are unsure about my dark tales to read this publication to sample my writing before buying the full-length novels. A free copy can be downloaded at my author website.

‘Killer Inspiration’ is another alternative publication. Many people ask me where I get my ideas and what has inspired me to write the stories I have. This compendium offers some answers to those questions while exploring the misdeeds of real-life psychopaths, and puts into context how those individuals relate to my characters and plots.

Both publications include a little biographical information about yours truly too, once again offering additional context to my writing.

It was great fun learning more about you Will. Sounds like you’ve had some pretty wild adventures! Wishing you all the best! – Camilla

The Widow blurb:

A brutally murdered husband. An abused wife who wanted him gone for good… Did the wealthy widow arrange his death—and can a disgraced detective discover the truth?

‘Your husband is dead.’

Lorraine Rowe receives the news from an anonymous killer threatening her too—unless she pays an inflated fee for her estranged partner’s murder. Overwhelmed by fear and indecision, Lorraine struggles to survive as her carefully constructed life of lies begins to unravel.

Detective Sergeant Fiona ‘Fifi’ Fielding is fighting for her future after allowing her violent temper to jeopardise her career. Is it karma that dumps a man’s badly tortured corpse on her doorstep—or something more sinister? And will the ensuing investigation enable Fiona to redeem herself?

Both women have lived through traumatic events and have much in common, but when the truth-seeker meets the accomplished dissembler, events spiral inexorably towards a deadly climax.

This hard-hitting, twisted thriller weaves deception, misdirection and psychological torment into a page-turning tale of murder and mayhem that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Not for the faint of heart…

Where to find The Widow:

Connect with Will:

Facebook author page:


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To support this website and the author’s interviewed, visit Support MTA for suggestions. Thank you! – Camilla, Founder and Host