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April 2012

"Desert Drop": Mystery Writer Rex Kusler Keeps Himself Guessing

KuslerGuest post by Rex Kusler, author of the Las Vegas Mystery series.

When I started writing the Las Vegas Mystery series, I had no idea where the characters would lead me or which category the books would fit into. My goal was to act as an impartial reporter, allowing the characters and their actions to dictate the storyline as it developed. I never knew in advance who the killers were, what anyone in the story would do, or how events would play out. And some of the characters wound up doing things average people wouldn’t even consider—such as committing murder.

The protagonist, Jim Snow, is a former Las Vegas homicide detective in a midlife crisis. He tried playing poker full-time, but that didn’t work out—and he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do next. He could probably get back on the force, but instead he decided to just take it easy and drink a lot of beer.

In the beginning of Snow’s investigation of his brother-in-law’s murder, in Punctured, he meets Alice James. She’s a homicide detective partnered with a guy whose ambition is to keep his female junior partner in her place. But Alice isn’t satisfied being just another tagalong detective. She aspires to start her own agency, and eventually she convinces Jim join her.

Alice James is the opposite of Jim Snow. While Jim has never had it very tough—he’s a fairly bright white guy with enough charisma to climb the ladder easily in law enforcement—Alice, a black woman, has had to struggle to achieve all her success.

Despite intermittent conflict between the two detectives, a mutual fondness develops. After hearing about Alice’s estranged birth father, Jim orchestrates a reconciliation. In Desert Drop, the third and newest installment in the Las Vegas series, events take a tragic turn for the worse: Alice and Jim are compelled to launch their own investigation, following a twisted trail of leads from Las Vegas to Silicon Valley and back again and meeting a cast of bizarre characters, many of whom could have been involved in the crime.

In all three books in the Las Vegas series, I had a vague idea in the beginning who the murderers might be. But I always guessed wrong.

—Rex Kusler

Pre-order "The Dark Monk" and Save $5

PotzschDo you love international best seller The Hangman’s Daughter and historical mysteries with a 17th-century twist? Then we have a treat for you: Pre-order the second installment in Oliver Pötzsch's gripping series, The Dark Monk, and get $5 off for a limited time.

In the highly anticipated follow-up to The Hangman’s Daughter, a parish priest in a sleepy Bavarian town has been poisoned. When hangman Jakob Kuisl and his headstrong daughter launch an investigation, what they uncover sends them chasing after a legendary treasure—but they're not the only ones. A team of mysterious monks is always close behind, tracking their every move.

Take advantage of this special offer through June 11, 2012.

Guest Blogger Jeffrey Archer: Grabbing the Gold Ring of Publishing

Jeffrey ArcherGuest post by international bestselling author Jeffrey Archer.

In 2010, I decided to take on the challenge of writing The Clifton Chronicles, a five-volume saga that would follow the life of Harry Clifton from 1920 to 2020. All I knew for certain when I sat down to write volume one, Only Time Will Tell, was that Harry Clifton was born in the back streets of Bristol in England; his father was a docker, his mother a prostitute, and his destiny was therefore surely to be one of mundane mediocrity. But at the age of seven, Harry discovers he has a talent given to few, the voice of an angel, and overnight his whole life changes.

Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey ArcherNow I realise what a foolhardy enterprise this might have turned out to be, as I had no idea how this tale would progress, let alone how it would be received by my readers. But as I write this blog, volume two, The Sins of the Father, is No.1 on four continents: Australasia, Africa, Asia, and Europe, and I’ve recently completed the eighth draft of volume three, Best Kept Secret. Although I may not yet have reached the Promised Land, it is no longer out of sight.

The Sins of the Father by Jeffrey ArcherHow the world has changed. I have just returned from a tour of South Africa, taking in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, where I appeared on television, took part in radio shows, was interviewed by journalists, and went to book shops where I signed every copy in sight; the old fashioned way to get your book to No.1 on the bestseller list. In fact, in 1974, I did a 17-city tour of the United States in 24 days for Kane and Abel, but not today for The Sins of the Father--that’s not what they want. Now, I write a daily blog which reaches 2.4 million readers a month, update my Facebook site, and send out half a dozen tweets, which means I don’t even have to leave my office, let alone sleep in 17 different hotel bedrooms.

For any Englishman, the final challenge, and by far the toughest, is to be No.1 on the New York Times Best Seller list. Although I achieved this with Kane and Abel, that was several years ago, and now, with only a few days to go before the U.S. publication of volume two, The Sins of the Father, I can do nothing except wait, and only time will tell.

It’s Story Time with the Kindle Fire

Last weekend, a friend asked me to babysit her three-year-old son, Carter. Being new to the Kindle editorial team, I thought it was a perfect chance to try some children’s books on my new Kindle Fire. Here is what I discovered:

  • Carter loved the interactive features like double clicking the text to instantly expand it for easy reading and swiping the pages to see what was coming next.
  • I was impressed with the full-color backlit display. The Fire makes it fun and easy to read vibrantly colored kids' books in a dimly lit room. All you need is the Fire and a nightlight.
  • Carter asked to read a Thomas the Train book and thankfully it was easy to find right from the Fire. You can browse the bookstore from the device and let your child choose his own book from thousands.

Not sure which books to start with? I picked some for your family to read on your Kindle Fire. These are all appropriate for kids ages 4-8: 

A Dress For Me!A Dress for Me! by Sue Fliess

Hippo is looking for a new dress. There are so many choices. Sue Fliess's rhyming text and Mike Laughead's adorable digital illustrations bring to life Hippo's exciting day at the mall.



Five Funny BunniesFive Funny Bunnies: Three Bouncing Tales by Jean Van Leeuwen

Whether these five bunnies are trying to outdo each other or cheering one another on, they will hop, pop, twirl, and leap right into your heart.




If Beaver Had A FeverIf Beaver Had A Fever by Helen Ketteman

Little Bear is wondering, if Mama Bear were a doctor, how would she handle: a beaver with a fever, a goat with a sore throat, a gnu with the flu, and more? Mama Bear has the answers.





Jack and the Giant BarbequeJack and the Giant Barbeque by Eric A. Kimmel

Help Jack get even with the greedy old giant who stole his daddy’s barbeque recipes. John Manders' hilarious paintings bring Eric Kimmel's new take on the Jack and the Beanstalk story to life.





Mother Goose Picture PuzzlesMother Goose Picture Puzzles by Will Hillenbrand

Children will have fun seeing a picture and guessing some of the words in twenty Mother Goose rhymes. There are clues on every page in Will Hillenbrand’s imaginative mixed-media artwork book.

Guest Blogger: Robert B. Reich About Authoring "Beyond Outrage"

Guest post by Robert B. Reich, former Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton and current professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley.

I've written Beyond Outrage: What has gone wrong with our economy and our democracy, and how to fix them because we have to get beyond anger and cynicism in order to take back our economy and reclaim our democracy.

Beyond Outrage by Robert B. ReichWealth is more concentrated at the very top than it's been in 80 years, and large corporations and Wall Street are more powerful. The rich have reduced their tax rates lower than they've been since the 1920s. There's no money left for our public schools, public highways, public transit systems, public pipelines, public libraries, and public universities.

The regressive right is replacing the idea of the public good with a social Darwinism that gives the rich even more tax breaks, lets big corporations and Wall Street run rampant, cuts public services to the poor, and makes life as risky as possible for everyone else: survival of the fittest.

We're allowing this to happen because Americans are so angry and frustrated--so vulnerable to loss of job and healthcare and home--that we're easy prey for demagogues offering simple answers and ready scapegoats.

They blame our problems on undocumented immigrants, labor unions, public employees, the poor, or anyone who's different - gays, Hispanics, blacks.

They refuse to engage in real debate. Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, for example, accuses me of being a communist because I call for public investment in schools and infrastructure, but he doesn't have the guts to debate me.

They merely repeat their big lies that the rich need more tax breaks, that economic growth trickles down from the top, that regulation is bad, that government is our enemy.

And they want us to become cynical about the possibility of changing anything. That way, they win hands down.

Don't believe them.

Three times over the last century we've taken back our economy and reclaimed our democracy--during the progressive era at the start of the 20th century, in the Depression decade of the 1930s, and in the civil rights and women's rights movements of the 1960s and 1970s.

It is time to do so again.

American professor, economist, and commentator Robert B. Reich served in the administrations of presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. His exclusive Kindle Single, Beyond Outrage, was released on April 17, 2012.

Five Ways to Die in Medieval Battle

Guest post by Erik Bear and Joseph Brassey, co-authors of the The Mongoliad, an alternative-history epic about a small band of warriors who stand between the Mongols and their conquest of 13th-century Europe.

MongoliadOnce upon a time, a bunch of ne'er do well writers decided they really should live up to the old adage of 'write what you know,' and so they decided to learn how to fight with swords—the right proper medieval way. It was all research, they told one another, for this long-form adventure novel they had decided to write collaboratively: The Mongoliad. The West, you see, has a long and vibrant history of martial arts, and what better way to showcase those arts than a secret history of what really happened in the fall of 1241 when the Mongol Empire came a-knocking.

Of course, research like this must start with a primer on the awful ways to die on a medieval battlefield:

1. Get hit with something heavy, sharp, and/or pointy
The first, and most obvious, way to die is at the end of an opponent's weapon. Armor made from chain link was widespread in the 13th century, which meant most fatal wounds came from stabs, deep cuts, or blunt force trauma (for the lucky). The unlucky typically got hacked in half.

2. Infection
In an era when leeches were the pinnacle of medical technology, festering wounds presented a very real and very disgusting danger. Putrefaction and gangrene meant that a deep cut to the arm could become so severe that you might wind up a cripple if the amputation process didn't kill you outright. Far more terrifying, however, was the likelihood of infection via blood-borne pathogens. That bloody sword that ruined your day out on the battlefield was most likely coated with the blood of every other person wounded before you. A wound might be cleaned, stitched and healed, only for the survivor to be stricken with disease days or weeks later.

Mongoliad-book23. Death from Above
If you were really unlucky, you might die before you even got to swing your sword. A skilled longbowman could fire an arrow to a range of 200 yards or more. Naturally, from that far away, it wasn't personal, but with a few thousand bowmen shooting in your general direction, odds were good you were going to get hit with something.

4. Get Burned Alive
It wasn't just arrows that fell out of the sky, either. There were all manner of catapults, ballistae, and trebuchets that were exceptionally capable of flinging all sorts of objects over long distances. Gravity was a bitch, even before they understood the science behind it. What was worse? A heavy object falling from the sky that was also on fire.

5. Starvation
Now, some thought the one surefire way to not die in a medieval battle was to stay behind the solid rock walls of your castle. However, a patient army could camp around your castle and wait you out. This took real patience, though, because sometimes castles had stores that would last them a year or more. Impatient besiegers sometimes threw dead bodies and dung over the walls--the medieval plague bomb--hoping the people inside were dumb enough to inspect these unwanted surprises. Of course, nothing was more embarrassing than showing up for a siege and having to abandon it when you ran out of rations.

Erik Bear, Joseph Brassey, along with Greg Bear, Neal Stephenson, Mark Teppo, Cooper Moo and E.D. deBirmingham are the authors of The Foreworld Saga, which launched on April 24th, 2012 with The Mongoliad: Book One.

Send to Kindle for Mac

Send to Kindle for MacSending and reading your personal documents on Kindle is now easier than ever.

We are excited to announce “Send to Kindle for Mac”, adding another convenient way to send documents to your Kindle devices and supported apps from Finder and many other Mac applications. From Finder, simply drag and drop one or more documents on to the Send to Kindle icon on your Dock or launch the application and drag and drop one or more documents on to it. From Finder, you can also control-click on one or more documents and choose Send to Kindle. From any other application that can print, select Print and choose Send to Kindle.

You can also simply archive documents in your Kindle Library for re-download later. Your last page read along with bookmarks, notes, and highlights are automatically synchronized for your documents (with the exception of PDFs) across your Kindle devices and Kindle apps for iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, and Android.

 “Send to Kindle for Mac” is available for free download at  Send to Kindle for PC application is also available for free download at As always, you and your friends can continue to send documents to your Kindle by e-mailing them to your Send to Kindle E-mail address.

 Learn more

Guest Blogger: Anna Quindlen--What's in a Book Title?

Anna QuindlenYou know how you walk into a crowded party, see a person across the room, and suddenly you know that’s it for you, forever and ever?

Yeah, me neither.

But it occasionally happens with book titles.

Sometimes it’s not even that shock of recognition, but a quiet and persistent sense of what is. For Blessings, I knew that was the name of the book before I’d written the first sentence. It was about a family who lived in a large house on a big piece of land known to everyone in town as Blessing’s. There was that pesky apostrophe, and three or four days when the grammarians who copyedit at Random House managed to convince me that the correct title was Blessings’. Just by looking at it you can tell that wasn’t going to stand.

But that’s just punctuation, not a title.

Sometimes the title occurs to you as you’re writing, as it did with my last novel when the protagonist uttered the words, “Every last one.”

Sometimes it doesn’t occur to you at all; it took me so long to find a title for my first novel, Object Lessons, that we were doing cover designs with “Title TK” where a title would go.

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen“A title is reductive,” I told my editor, and she patiently replied, “Yes, but every book has to have one.”

But the closest I’ve come to love at first sight for a title is with my new book. It’s a memoir about aging, and because it covers so much terrain—friendship, family, growing older, doing a headstand—it was difficult to come up with a title that covered it all. I only knew it was a book that was ultimately about being happy to be alive—gray hair, creaky knees, crow’s feet, and all. As George Burns once said, “Consider the alternative.”

One night I was walking across town to have dinner with a friend when it suddenly occurred to me that I might have lots of candles, but I've still got the cake. As I texted my agent and my editor, I felt a little bit like one of those cartoon characters with a light bulb over her head: Eureka!

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake.”

I told it to one reader recently, and she said, “Oh, that’s my motto.” You can’t ask for more than that. --Anna Quindlen

Hat Trick: Max Allan Collins' New "Triple Play"

CollinsGuest post by New York Times best-selling author Max Allan Collins, a Shamus Award winner.

When Thomas & Mercer approached me about bringing my Nathan Heller historical mystery novels back into print, I was very pleased. Other publishers had made inquiries, but Thomas & Mercer was anxious to bring the entire 12-novel saga back into print (two more entries have followed: Bye Bye, Baby and the forthcoming Target Lancer). Never one to be shy about asking for a second helping, I suggested bringing the Nathan Heller short stories back into print as well.

The Heller stories seldom deal with famous crimes. The novels, however, are among the longest private-eye yarns ever written. They delve, in considerable historical detail, into such real-life 20th-century mysteries as the assassination of Chicago Mayor Cermak (True Detective), the disappearance of Amelia Earhart (Flying Blind), and the Roswell Incident (Majic Man).

In tribute to Rex Stout, a favorite mystery author of mine, I named the book Triple Play, following the pattern Nero Wolfe’s creator used when he collected three novellas into a book (Trouble in Triplicate, Triple Jeopardy, etc.).

Two of the three crimes in Triple Play are obscure, but one is well known. “Dying in the Post-War World” looks at the so-called Lipstick Killer, William Heirens, who was convicted of the kidnap-murder of six-year-old Suzanne Degnan. The “lipstick” designation grew out of a message on a prior victim’s wall, including the now famous phrase “Catch me before I kill more.”

This case was perfect for a Heller story—especially for a novella. After the first handful of Heller novels, it became necessary to take my detective out of his native Chicago to address various famous crimes. So I was happy to get him back home.

The time frame was interesting, too, because it placed Nate Heller in the postwar era as a guy in a troubled marriage with a kid on the way. The emotions stirred in this expectant father as he deals with a dead child in “Dying in the Post-War World” takes us outside the typical tough private eye story, always a goal of mine.

There is a fairly chilling postscript: Not long after the first publication of “Dying in the Post-War World,” I received a letter from convicted killer William Heirens about my treatment of his case, which he found “interesting” but disagreed with. For a time, I received Christmas cards from the imprisoned Heirens.

This past March, when I was proofreading Triple Play, the death of the still incarcerated Lipstick Killer was announced.

—Max Allan Collins

Top 10 Kindle Books for April

Best-of-month top banner 

April's editors' picks include a hilarious personal journey to health, an eye-opening look at the American presidency, and some intense thrillers. From the Appalachians to Seattle, the selection presents a collection of worlds we're excited for you to explore.


The Cove 2The Cove by Ron Rash

Deep in the North Carolina Appalachians lives the witch Laurel Shelton with her brother Hank, a WWI veteran. When a stranger captures Laurel's heart, his secret may destroy everything the trio cherishes.



The Presidents ClubThe Presidents Club: Inside the World's Most Exclusive Fraternity  by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy

Starting with the surprising relationship of Truman and Hoover, and following through to "Obama and His Club," TIME Magazine's Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy trace the complicated story of America's post WWII presidents.



The Land of DecorationThe Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen

With intensely taut storytelling and crystalline prose, this gripping debut explores how far we'll go to protect the things we love through the faith-driven and persecuted life of 10-year-old Judith McPherson.



The Coldest NightThe Coldest Night by Robert Olmstead

At 17, Henry Childs falls for the young, beautiful Mercy, but when her father threatens Henry’s life, he escapes to the Korean war.




AfterwardsAfterwards: A Novel by Rosamund Lupton

This intense psychological-thriller picks through the smoldering aftermath of a school fire that has torn Grace's family apart, but the danger isn't over until Grace uncovers the arsonist.



Truth Like the SunTruth Like the Sun by Jim Lynch

This cat-and-mouse story of urban intrigue is set in Seattle in 1962--when the Emerald City hosted the World's Fair--and in 2001, after the Microsoft gold rush.




Bird SenseBird Sense: What It's Like to Be a Bird by Tim Birkhead

How do birds interpret the world through their senses? Tim Birkhead answers this question with engaging, scientifically-grounded prose.




Drop Dead HealthyDrop Dead Healthy by A. J. Jacobs

Feeling ashamed of a body he likened to “a python that swallowed a goat,” A.J. Jacobs felt compelled to change his middle-age ways. More than simple weight loss, his goal was maximum health from head to toe.



The Beginner's GoodbyeThe Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler

A physically-challenged man, Aaron's relatively calm middle-aged life rips apart after the tragic death of his wife, Dorothy. Only Dorothy’s unexpected appearances from the dead help him to find peace.



A Land More Kind Than HomeA Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash

Reminiscent of the John Hart's work, This mesmerizing debut thriller explores the bond between two brothers and the evil they face in a western North Carolina town.