News & Blog

The Scariest Part: Karen Randau Talks About DEADLY PAYLOAD

My guest this week on The Scariest Part is author Karen Randau, whose new novel is Deadly Payload. Here is the publisher’s description:

Dead birds raining from the sky. Poison in the water supply. Spies on the back porch.

A lifeless crow shatters the windshield as Rita Avery, her daughter-in-law, and her granddaughter arrive at Arizona’s Rim Vista Park. Rita dodges bird carcasses on the road home, where she finds her husband Cliff and son Travis gravely ill from a mysterious pathogen with no cure.

The CDC assembles a team to create a cure, but Rita doubts it will arrive in time to rescue Cliff, Travis, and dozens of her friends and neighbors.

In a race to save her family, her community, and potentially thousands more Americans, Rita launches her own investigation. She partners with a certified herbalist and a homeless war veteran dubbed Crazy Mary.

But the more clues Rita uncovers, the deeper she finds herself in the middle of a ruthless plot that could unleash a wide-ranging American disaster. And the culprits aim to stop her at any cost.

Before it’s too late for her loved ones, Rita must thwart the next attack on innocent civilians.

Murder, spine-tingling trips through Arizona’s rugged wilderness, and callous spies determined to spread havoc — this isn’t your average family outing!

And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for Karen Randau:

The scariest part about writing Deadly Payload was researching how easy it would be for the spies among us to launch a chemical attack on our nation’s water and food supply. It scared me so much I kept having to pause work on the manuscript — once for several months.

The protagonist in my Rim Country Mystery series is a middle-aged mother and grandmother named Rita Avery. Her first husband died in the first book, Deadly Deceit, in a movie-theater shooting on the couple’s thirtieth anniversary. The investigation into the shooting uncovered a web of her husband’s lies that originated during his service in first Gulf War, making her question everything about her marriage, her life, and herself. Because her late husband knew his sins had put his family in danger, he led Family Fight Night every Friday for years. Rita didn’t realize what kinds of self-defense skills she had gained until she had to use them.

Since then, Rita has partnered with her second husband, Detective Cliff Avery, to solve the crimes that have followed them everywhere they go. Her adventures include saving her husband from drowning, him saving her after a bomb blew her onto a tree branch hanging over a deep gorge, and working together to escape from the grips of a serial killer.

In Deadly Payload, Rita is on her own.

She is thrust into the heart of a deadly mystery when her husband and son fall gravely ill from tainted water, along with hundreds of other people in her town. She deduces that the city’s water supply is the culprit and investigates what went wrong. As she digs deeper into the puzzle surrounding the contamination, she realizes that a homeless war veteran nicknamed “Crazy Mary” may be a part of the conspiracy, and that the roots behind the attack have something to do with Mary’s service in Afghanistan. They partner up to uncover the truth, but when they come too close, Rita is taken.

I’ve done a lot of research for all of my books, but nothing has scared me as much as what I uncovered for Deadly Payload.

It started with news stories about Russia’s meddling into the 2016 election. Wondering what else they’ve done to weaken their enemies, I discovered the real Russian spies who inspired the TV show The Americans, the actual use of chemical weapons on school children in Afghanistan, and multiple assassinations worldwide using KGB tactics.

I combined those revelations with my curiosity about the American electrical grid, water system, and food crops. The result was Deadly Payload.

My friends and I spend more time washing our produce and filtering our water now.

Deadly Payload: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / IndieBound

Karen Randau: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads

Karen Randau is the author of four Rim Country Mysteries: Deadly Deceit, Deadly Inheritance, Deadly Choices, and her newest, Deadly Payload, as well as Deadly Reception, one of several novellas by best-selling and award-winning authors. All her books are published by Short On Time Books. A native of the southwest U.S., Karen’s books feature a tough family-oriented protagonist from the fictional mountain town of Rim Vista, Arizona. Her article, “How Research Can Help Sell Your Story,” recently was featured in Writer’s Digest. She is a proud member of the International Thriller Writers, Sisters in Crime, and Mystery Writers of America. Karen lives with her family in the mountains above Phoenix, Arizona.

The Scariest Part: Linda Bennett Pennell Talks About MIAMI DAYS HAVANA NIGHTS

My guest this week on The Scariest Part is Linda Bennett Pennell, whose new novel is Miami Days Havana Nights, a follow up to her novel Al Capone at the Blanche HotelLet’s hear what the scariest part was for Linda Bennett Pennell:

My fourth work of fiction, Miami Days Havana Nights, was released as an e-book through Amazon on July 18. The dual-timeline work of historical suspense and contemporary mystery features 1920’s-1960’s gangsters and a young, female history professor determined to suss out their secrets.

While there are certainly some exciting action scenes filled with tension scattered throughout both timelines, in my opinion the scariest part is something that readers might not initially consider frightening. It is not a murder or attempted murder, though several such take place over the course of the novel. It is not a natural cataclysm, though the deadly 1926 Miami hurricane blows through the early historical chapters. It is not the undertaking of a dangerous assignment that could have fatal consequences, though that type of action certainly occurs in both timelines. For me, the scariest part is something more subtle than blazing guns and howling winds.

The back cover blurb offers hints at my choice for “the scariest part”:

Sometimes our biggest debts have nothing to do with money.

1926. When seventeen-year-old Sam Ackerman witnesses a mob hit, he is hustled out of New York under the protection of Moshe Toblinsky, A.K.A., the mob’s bookkeeper. Arriving in Miami with no money, no friends, and no place to hide, Sam’s only choice is to do as the gangster demands. Forced into bootlegging, Sam’s misery is compounded when he falls in love. Amazingly, the beautiful, devout Rebecca wants only him, but he cannot give her the life she deserves. When Prohibition ends, Sam begs the mobster to set him free. The price? A debt, as Toblinsky puts it, of friendship. A debt that will one day come due.

Present Day. History of American Crime professor Liz Reams has it all — early success, a tantalizing lead on new info about Moshe Toblinsky, and a wonderful man to love. Life is perfect. So what’s keeping her from accepting her guy’s marriage proposals? Confronting a long-standing personal debt sets her on a journey of self-discovery. While she delves ever deeper into Sam’s and Toblinsky’s relationship, her understanding of her own relationships increases as well, but the revelations come at a price. The emotional and physical dangers of her dual journeys may prove too big to handle.

The idea of being indebted to a powerful gangster who controls the entirety of one’s adult life chills me to the core. It would have been a psychologically and emotionally claustrophobic way of living to never know when the debt would be called in or the nature of the repayment. For me, never knowing when the axe might fall would be an unbearable form of exquisite torture.

Miami Days Havana Nights: Amazon

Linda Bennett Pennell: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest / Newsletter Sign-up

Linda Bennett Pennell has been in love with the past for as long as she can remember. Anything with a history, whether shabby or majestic, recent or ancient, instantly draws her in. She supposes it comes from being part of a large extended family that spanned several generations. Long summer afternoons on her grandmother’s porch or winter evenings gathered around her fireplace were filled with stories both entertaining and poignant. Of course being set in the American South, those stories were also peopled by some very interesting characters, some of whom have found their way into her work.

As for her venture in writing, it has allowed her to reinvent herself. We humans are truly multifaceted creatures, but unfortunately we tend to sort and categorize each other into neat, easily understood packages that rarely reveal the whole person. Perhaps you, too, want to step out of the box in which you find yourself. She encourages you to look at the possibilities and imagine. Be filled with childlike wonder in your mental wanderings. Envision what might be, not simply what is. Let us never forget, all good fiction begins when someone says to her or himself, “Let’s pretend.”

She resides in the Houston area with one sweet husband and one adorable German Shorthaired Pointer who is quite certain she’s a little girl.

Her favorite quote regarding her professional passion: “History is filled with the sound of silken slippers going downstairs and wooden shoes coming up.” Voltaire

Brand New Blurb for 100 FATHOMS BELOW!

Check out this awesome new blurb for 100 Fathoms Below!

“Full of claustrophobic horror, Cold War submarine warfare, and hardcore evil, 100 Fathoms Below creates a powerful sense of place and a tension that festers in your gut throughout. Kent and Kaufmann invite their readers into a submerged haunted house and lock the door behind them.” — Christopher Golden, New York Times bestselling author of Ararat

Don’t forget, 100 Fathoms Below is available for preorder now from Amazon, B&N, and wherever fine books are sold!

My Necon 38 Schedule

Necon 38 is coming up this weekend! Necon is my favorite annual convention. I’ve been attending since 2000, and only missed two years between then and now. Here’s where you can find me over the course of the convention:

Friday, July 20th

The Spark: What Inspires a Great Short Story, 2:00 PM
This will be a fun panel! Here’s the official description: “It’s the question all short fiction writers hate — ‘Where do your stories come from?’ And since most Necon Campers are too old to believe that old wives’ tale about a stork, we’ve gathered some of the best in speculative short fiction to give us a glimpse into their creative process.” With Meghan Arcuri-Moran, Christa Carmen, Nicholas Kaufmann (M), Toni L.P. Kelner, Ed Kurtz, Lisa Manetti, Helen Marshall

Meet the Authors Party, 8:00 PM
I will have copies of Chasing the DragonDying Is My Business, and In the Shadow of the Axe for sale! (Sorry, I’m all out of copies of Die and Stay Dead right now.) I will also be happy to sign any books or magazine appearances of mine that you bring along!

Saturday, July 21st

The Infamous Necon Roast, 9:00 PM
Once again I will be co-hosting the roast with Jeff Strand. This year’s victim is a doozy! You won’t want to miss this!

Sunday, July 22nd

Necon Town Meeting, 11:00 AM
I was responsible for putting together most of the programming this year, with the tireless Matt Bechtel’s help, so if you liked what we did come tell us so! If you didn’t like what we did, come tell us that, too.

You can also find me attending other cool panels, hanging out in the lobby or lounge, or browsing the dealer’s room. Come say hello! I look forward to seeing you there!