The Button Man is a delightful prequel

The Button Man“The Button Man” begins with Hugo Marston having just become head of security at the US Embassy in London. On his way to meet with his boss, Hugo decides to walk through a cemetery and discovers a body hanging from a rope. When he finally arrives at the pub, Hugo is told he’s in charge of protecting an American movie-star couple, Dayton Harper and Ginny Ferro. The problem is that the couple, while filming on location in rural England, killed a local man in a hit-and-run accident.

The assignment is ill-fated from the start because the body Hugo found hanging in the cemetery is Ginny, the very woman he’s supposed to be protecting. When the husband, Dayton Harper, disappears, a Member of Parliament and a young woman named Merlyn assist Hugo in his search across the English countryside for Harper. As the list of dead bodies start piling up, the question of who killed Ginny Ferro becomes more and more perplexing.

Despite the growing list of questions, Hugo remains convinced that if he can get enough background information on the suspects, he will understand the killer’s motive and can finally get one step ahead. As Hugo hightails it to where he presumes the killer will take his final victim, he unknowingly puts himself directly in the path of danger. Realizing the killer intends a very public murder for his final act, Hugo races to stop the killer once and for all.

Full of surprises with delightful, quirky characters and resplendent with descriptions of London, the English villages and countryside, this prequel to “The Bookseller” is a well-written and entertaining read that will captivate both Hugo Marston fans and newcomers alike.

Behind the story of Elixir with debut author Ted Galdi

Elixir Cover - Ted GaldiDebut author Ted Galdi’s “Elixir” is the story of a teenage genius who goes on a suspenseful journey to cure his girlfriend of a mysterious illness. According to Galdi, the book has been embraced by the young-adult community as well as the adult-thriller crowd, due to its fast-paced storyline and elements such as the NSA, computer hacking, and big-pharma conspiracy. For this interview, Galdi, who is himself just 29, talked about why he wrote the book and what’s behind the story.

“A lot of people ask me if the book intended to make a political statement about US surveillance and the role of the NSA in everyday lives,” said Galdi. “It’s funny because I had the idea to tie code-breaking and the agency into the story prior to the Edward Snowden controversy popping up. The concepts of computer hacking and corrupt government officials seemed a fitting backdrop to build story conflict around with a teenage-genius protagonist.  The decision to include them in Elixir was really as simple as that.”

Galdi said that he was not intending to make a political statement with the book, only tell the story. “I’m sure when people read the book, some of the events in it—though fictional—may advance their pre-conceived opinions on the surveillance issue, but I wasn’t trying to put forth a new line of thinking on the topic, or attempt to sway public opinion pro-NSA or anti-NSA.”

The issues Galdi wanted to deal with in “Elixir” were not those of policy, but those involving people. Galdi said, “Sean, the protagonist, is born with a sky-high IQ, something he grows to resent because it makes him feel different and leads to a handful of negative events early in his life.  Through the book, he transforms from being resentful of his gift, to being forced to accept it, to finally appreciating it.”

Galdi, who is himself a member of the International High IQ Society and the One-in-a-Thousand Society, recognizes his protagonist is unusual. He said, “Sean’s sky-high IQ is literally a one-in-billions phenomenon, so I don’t expect many readers to share his exact situation, however, the concept of being born with something you resent and growing to embrace it—whether it be an abnormal IQ or anything else—is universal.”

For some authors, the idea for a book comes to them almost instantaneously. Galdi said that wasn’t the case for him. “There wasn’t a ‘flash’ moment where I was hit with the story all at once. The idea baked in my head for a few months before I even wrote the first sentence.  In the very beginning I thought it would be interesting to write about a young genius who gets unintentionally pulled into intense situations because of his intelligence.  It was at this point that the concepts of code-breaking and the NSA started taking form.”

With a premise in mind, Galdi knew he still needed a detailed plot for a story he’d want to tell. “I knew the teenage-genius idea would offer enough kicks to fill the book with suspense,” he said. “But, I didn’t want to write a pure-suspense piece. I wanted Elixir to be more than a standard ‘hero on the run’ thriller.”

It was at this point that Galdi began thinking in terms of a coming-of-age story. And he saw hope for his story. “Elixir would have the fast-paced external action of a thriller, but the main character would be morphing internally along the way, dealing with universal adolescent problems like personal identity, guilt, and uncertainty about the future.  Once I was at this point, I knew I had enough underlying substance to start building an actual story with an actual plot.

“It was the love element that was the main driver of the plot and the development of most of the other characters.  Deciding to weave in Natasha—Sean’s girlfriend who’d later fall ill—was a huge turning point in the evolution of Elixir.  His ability to find love—and keep it—became a sort of hinge at the heart of the coming-of-age storyline.  Once I was there, the action was pretty natural to get down.”

One of the things that inspired Galdi when writing the relationship between Sean and Natasha was the song, “Plainsong,” by the Cure, which is his favorite song. And here’s an almost-spoiler alert, Galdi said the climax chapter, “The Edge of the World,” is actually based on a lyric in the song. “I also pay tribute to The Cure elsewhere in the book, too. They’re Natasha’s favorite band, and three other chapter names are based on their lyrics as well.”

Galdi added, “What Elixir is trying to say is that the world may give us something we don’t like, but if looked at in the right light, that something may have the potential to be wonderful. Elixir is a story about identity, secrets, and above all, love.”

For more information

Learn more about Ted Galdi on his website at elixirthebook.com. One the website, you can find a list of advance reviews from bloggers and media outlets.

The iPhone 6 contest scams

Iphone 6 image from Apple.com

Iphone 6 image from Apple.com.

You may have heard the news already, there are shipping delays for the iPhone 6. No wonder, given that the new phone broke even Apple’s own sales records. So, what does this have to do with scams? Not a thing—unless you’re looking for a way to win a new phone in one of the many contests currently being offered.

Let’s take a closer look at one of the most popular on Facebook. It’s called “Win Free Apple iPhone 6.” This contest has a number of steps you must go through to enter. Contests, of course, run rampant on Facebook and the social media giant doesn’t endorse them because they want to avoid liability. However, whoever is behind this contest has stepped back even further. The only thing they’re using the Facebook page for is to lure in more entries. To me, this seems a bit fishy. Let’s dig deeper.

Hawaii Calls

Identity theft on Kauai!
Learn more about McKenna's latest caper.
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To actually enter the contest, you go to a website called win-iphone6.com. Wow. Someone set up a website specifically to give away an iPhone 6? Very generous of them. Not so much. The website owner is not located in the US, but in Australia. The IP address of the server for the website (where the actual web files are located) is in . . . take a guess—it begins with a B and ends with an A and has an are-you-kidding-me? in the middle. Oh my, that would be Bulgaria.

Lest you still want to enter this contest, here’s one more thing to consider. Here are the steps you must go through to enter the contest:

  1. Like the contest page on Facebook
  2. Share the contest page on Facebook
  3. Download a file from the website

If you weren’t worried before, you should by now be running for the door. However, if you still want to win that iPhone 6 despite the potential costs, be my guest. There are quite likely some legitimate contests on the web to win an i-Phone 6. Bear in mind, however, that in the long run it could be a whole lot cheaper just to pay retail.

The road to Kona

Hawaii Calls

Identity theft on Kauai!
Learn more about McKenna's latest caper.
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The road to Kona from Waimea takes in many changes in scenery. Most of the tourists probably make the drive using the Queen K Highway, which is shown on maps as Highway 19. That coastal route has some of the same changes in scenery seen along the Hawaii Belt Road, but also misses some of the beauty of this inland route.

From the rolling hills of the upcountry to the lava flows scarring the center of the island to the lush country surrounding Kona, the inland route is missing only one thing—the traffic. We traveled this route at midmorning and were pleased to see very few cars. It made for a peaceful drive through some amazing country.

 

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A change in style for this Hawaii author

For most people, there comes a time when a change in lifestyle just feels right. For Kay Hadashi, author of the Island Breeze series of June Kato novellas, that time came to her writing recently. She decided it was time for her character of seven intrigue novels to move to Maui. Here’s a look behind that decision and where it has led Hadashi.

“I was surprised at how many fans I had in just the short time of writing and publishing June Kato stories,” said Hadashi. “Not all feedback was great of course, but one of the common themes in discussions with fans was how they wanted June to have a boyfriend. It was disappointing to me also that in seven novels I could never quite get her connected with someone.”

With her character unable to find “the one” in LA, it was time for Hadashi to take June Kato back to her roots. Hadashi said, “‘Chasing Tradewinds’ is about a woman at the top of her career, but she wants more than the daily grind. She finds it on a quick trip to Maui, where she meets a local hospital worker after a spider bite, and she quickly allows herself to fall in love. What followed are monumental changes in her career and lifestyle to finally find true happiness.”

Love might be what Hadashi’s fans were looking for, but this third generation Japanese American writer who grew up in a multi generational home in Honolulu and learned Japanese traditions from her grandparents knew Hawaii had more to offer. She said, “There is something that has crept into my recent plots, what is called ‘ohana’in Hawaii. Ohana is the word for family, and extends to include close friends and neighbors, the people most important in a person’s life.”

Hadashi added, “Ohana are the people we rely on for friendship and love in good times, and comfort and safety in bad. For my main character, June Kato, it means finally having a marriage, and on the heels of that, a child. Much the way many people live in Hawaii, she shares her home with her parents while raising her child in a three-generation home.”

“Chasing Tradewinds,” the first in the Island Breeze series, is the segue between two series that include June as the main character. According to Hadashi, June’s decision to move her neurosurgical practice from busy Los Angeles to quiet Maui teaches her many new lessons in life. One of the people who help her discover the deeper meaning of ohana is Auntie Haunani, a fictitious, yet prominent, island kahuna (person of importance or power).

Auntie Haunani is just one of Hadashi’s island characters, yet she does play an important role in the novellas. Hadashi said, “Throw in some Hawaiian folklore and a ghost or two, and June gets to know the ways of ohana and island life very quickly.”

Hadashi described the change in writing style as a shift from the intrigue of an LA lifestyle into a bit more romance, with Hawaiian folklore blended in.” She said, “It was a fan-driven shift. Somehow, June had come alive for fans, and they wanted more happiness in her life. She eventually found it in her daughter and husband on Maui. I must admit that learning directly from fans and readers has been very rewarding, and humbling.”

As someone who divides her time between Hawaii and the mainland, Hadashi likes to spend her time refining her Tai Chi skills, taking Zumba classes, and balancing her writing with a busy career in health care. Hadashi does not see herself as someone who seeks the limelight. “I guess that I’m a highly private person, as is my family. Publishing and promoting requires a lot of fairly high profile activity, if we want to be successful in gaining a fan base and in selling books.”

“It’s the fans’ enthusiasm for reading that keeps writers going,” said Hadashi. “For me the tradeoff between the higher profile aspects of publishing and the privacy of home and family is something like keeping my hospital work life separate from home, not bringing home troubles or headaches. When I’m done with writing, promoting, and visiting with fans, I like to step away and leave it all behind.”

In writing “Chasing Tradewinds,” Hadashi helped her character to find love and family. That decision may, in a way, have been inevitable. In a world filled with writers screaming “Pay attention to me!” Hadashi appears to know what she must to do to maintain her own ohana. “I imagine it seems very snobbish, and I really don’t want it to be, but home seems so much healthier when I can retain a personal life that could become too public.”

More information

Learn more about Kay Hadashi on her website at www.junekatointrigue.com.

Hot new bioethics thriller examines medical research

No Time to Die by Kira Peikoff

Want to know what’s behind the story on this book? Click the cover to see my interview with Kira Peikoff.

Kira Peikoff’s “No Time to Die” is a bioethics thriller in which twenty-seven people, including scientists, doctors and critically ill patients have vanished. Now, the most important person of all, Zoe Kincaid, a college student whose DNA has stopped her aging process, is missing.

Zoe’s chronological age is 20, but she’s stuck in the physical body of a 14-year-old. Frustrated at being treated and thought of as a child, Zoe seeks out doctors who can give her a medical reason for her condition. Just when it seems help is beyond her reach, Zoe learns of Galileo and the Network.

Les Mahler, chief of the Justice Department’s Bioethics Committee, suspects the Network is kidnapping people to perform illegal science experiments. He has been working for two years to find Galileo and bring down the Network. So far, he’s managed to keep the abductions classified and hidden from the public. Les knows time may be running out before he’s forced to go public. Refusing to admit defeat, he decides to do everything in his power, legal or not, to find the Network and bring Galileo to justice.

Who is Galileo and what is the Network? Are they working to help mankind or is this evil disguised as a cause to unethically advance medical science? Is there a moral issue here as to how long humans should live? Does a person have the right to say what experiments can be done with their DNA?

Kira Peikoff has written a brilliant, fast-paced thriller that provokes questions about the direction of medical science today. With smooth writing, a well-thought-out plot, and realistic characters, “No time to Die” is a winner that fans of medical thrillers will love.

FTC Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided by its publisher.

 

Fidelity Life and who?

Woman on phoneAnother email phishing scam? Maybe I’m just being touchy, but lately I seem to be getting a lot more spam targeted at insurance companies. This means either:

A) The spammers think I’m getting old OR

B) The spammers are stupid

While the reality may be closer to Option A, I prefer to believe in Option B. Therefore, I can merrily go about my day safe in the belief that even twenty-somethings are getting the same offers to obtain their life insurance, health insurance, and car insurance from  complete strangers whose only qualification is that they somehow obtained my email address from a mailing list.

Today’s first insurance email was for “Fidelity Life and eCoverage.” A quick visual inspection shows this one is perfect—until you scroll down to the bottom of the email. Oops. That’s where we find a good deal of gibberish: “friends, rip for she her Telegraph. she 20 not Earlier topless the she every well. is,” a underweight?’Sofia’s this is the Kerr gratitude. . .”

Who, exactly, is “Fidelity Life and eCoverage?” In my case, it’s Mike Prescott out of San Diego who has a server in Bucharest. In reality, it’s a nonexistent company. This phishing site’s offer for “$250k of life insurance as low as $15 per month” stinks more than a load of three-day-old fish. Unlike the photo on this post, there’s no friendly person waiting to help you. It’s more like, waiting to take you. Don’t fall for this email scam and remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

 

Vote for the Big Island Blues cover you like most!

You can help determine which cover we use for the next McKenna Mystery! Vote for one of the following two, or leave a suggestion if you think we’ve missed something. Cast your vote in one of two ways. Leave a comment below with “Cover 1″ or “Cover 2″ in the text. If you’d prefer to vote on Twitter, use “#bibcover1″ or “#bibcover2″ (that’s the hashtag followed by the acronym of BIB for Big Island Blues followed by  “cover1″ or “cover2″). We’ll watch on Twitter and collect the votes at the end of the week.

Everyone who votes will be entered into a drawing for an e-book version of Big Island Blues!

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Welcome to Puako…a coastal town without the mega-resorts

And, of course, the historical marker...

And, of course, the historical marker…

In the short history provided by HawaiiLife.com, they say that the area has been many things over the years. “The life story of that small community began nearly a millennium ago. It has been a fishing village, a sugar plantation farm, a honey farm, a feeding stop for cattle drives, and today, the only residential oceanfront community on the South Kohala Coast of the island of Hawaii.”

Puako is a beautiful little area worth a visit to get away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the coast.

By the way, I love the beach photo in the slideshow from www.mybigislandvacation.com and that great turtle shot from www.alphamatte.com/2011/05/puako-bay-snorkeling. For more of their photos, check out their sites!

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New medical thriller explores information perception vs. reality

Mercy 6 by David BajoDavid Bajo comes from a family heavily involved in medicine. For this interview, the San Diego author discussed how family dinner talk from his childhood led him down the path to write a medical thriller.

“I come from the most medical family that has ever existed,” said Bajo. “My father was a physician for over forty years. My mother was a nurse. My sister, Suzanne, has been an ER doctor for over twenty years, working in big-city hospitals throughout southern California. My brother, John, is an ER nurse. Three more of my siblings are physicians and four more are nurses.”

As if that weren’t enough pressure to go into medicine, all of the nine siblings born before Bajo were either pre-med or nursing. Bajo said, “I grew up in hospitals, not as a patient, but as an observer. I was fascinated by what I saw, but had no thoughts of pursuing any medical profession. I suppose I was programmed to write this particular novel. My protagonist, Anna Mendenhall, and the hospital she battles within and against are syntheses of my family, my other life.”

A writer his entire career, Bajo said he strives to offer what he’s learned in a way that is entertaining and provocative. “I wanted to write about our contemporary viral society, how speed, efficiency, and flash supersede truth and sensibility. This phenomenon gains importance as we all become more connected and more quickly connected. I’m not sure that Francis Bacon’s infamous and oft-repeated claim that knowledge is power applies today. The most powerful claim or impression is the one that goes viral. Truth, science, research—knowledge—don’t seem to matter much in this process.”

According to Bajo, the struggle between perception and reality is a driving force in “Mercy 6.” He said, “Anna Mendenhall functions on science, research and instincts wrought by ten years of ER training and experience. Her opposition is the information that goes viral and those forces that benefit and gain power from that information. That information is based on appearance, fear, profit, and prescribed anticipation. These forces infect her as well, and her allies. It’s disorienting and very challenging when our gained knowledge and cultivated instincts run counter to trends, to that which goes viral.”

Because Bajo comes from a family that is heavily involved in medicine, he is naturally concerned about reactions—especially from those close to him. “I’m nervous about how my many brothers and sisters and in-laws in the medical profession will react to the book,” he said. “Will they be looking for themselves in there? Will they laugh? Will they ever speak to me again?”

This is Bajo’s third novel, but his first in this genre. “I didn’t set out to write a medical thriller,” he said. “I’ve only read two, both as a teenager: Michael Crichton’s ‘The Andromeda Strain’ and Robin Cook’s ‘Coma.’ I didn’t go back to those works at all. Going in, I knew my story and I knew my main characters. I wanted to compose a narrative that was more vertical than horizontal, one driven by action, with the background and world-building occurring in the bricolage.”

Bajo hasn’t yet said whether he’ll be working on another medical thriller. When he recalls those family discussions, however, it seems a natural fit. “Dinner talk was almost always medical, peppered with odd cases and fascinating human reactions to physiology. My father, one of the last doctors to make house calls, would often take us kids on these calls, these long drives over the Otay Mesa visiting a most unique cast of characters. In ‘Mercy 6,’ I barely scraped the surface of the vast bank of medical cases I had at my disposal.”

More information

Learn more about David Bajo on his website at www.davidbajo.com. For details about Bajo’s signing event on September 9 at 7:00 pm at Mysterious Galaxy, visit www.mystgalaxy.com.