SOUTHERN SECRETS Free Sample Chapters Ready

Send to Kindle

crime fictionThe 3rd book in the Detective Annie Avants crime fiction series, SOUTHERN SECRETS,  is moving along nicely.  If you want a preview, several of the beginning chapters are available as a free download at SmashWords.  Here’s the link:

Within the next week or so, SOUTHERN SECRETS will be available for pre-order at Apple’s iBooks, kOBO, and Barnes & Noble.

The publication date is set for May 1, 2014 at SmashWords, followed immediately by publication on all Amazon chanels worldwide. By the middle of May the paperback version should be ready from Create Space.

Here’s the description of SOUTHERN SECRETS;


Annie’s cousin lives in Mena, Arkansas and has come into possession of three journals written by one of his ancestors who was deeply involved with the Knights of the Golden Circle. The journals spell out explicitly the locations of some of the biggest caches of ‘rebel gold’ hidden by the KGC to fund a second Civil War.

Zachary Isom Avants is a history buff and professor at a local college who is aware that throughout Arkansas there exist the ruins of many abandoned cabins and homesteads left behind by his ancestors. He is also an avid genealogist. For years, he has been tracking down these abandoned homesteads, looking for artifacts and information on the lives of his long-dead relatives.

Deep in the Ouachita forests, he comes across a derelict shack that hasn’t been touched for almost 100 years. It’s covered with vines and falling down and he almost misses seeing it.

He sets up camp next to the shack and begins clearing away the vines. It’s a small cabin, but he finds signs that it had been occupied by a couple and 2-3 kids. It’s not the typical sentinel outpost shack of the Knights of the Golden Circle, which is probably why no one bothered with it.

When he can safely climb down into the basement, he finds an indentation in the far wall of the root cellar. He carefully digs and finds hidden inside a small opening a cast iron skillet with a lid that has been sealed with pitch.

Excited, he takes the skillet to his makeshift table outside and unseals the lid. Inside, wrapped in many layers of oil cloth, he finds three journals. One is a copy of a day book kept by someone high up in the KGC during the Civil War. The only signature is ‘Avants’. The other two were penned by Zack’s great grandfather, Orris Avants.

Unbeknownst to Zack, the leadership of the modern KGC is aware that these books still exist, but have never been able to find them. When he begins making discrete inquiries in town, the KGC suspects that he has found the long-lost journals. They are determined to recover them. Why? They don’t know what caches the journals expose, and they don’t want treasure seekers finding the hidden treasures.

Throughout the years, the American government has also been interested in the KGC and the millions of dollars they stole and hid. FBI Special Agent Jason Smith overhears someone talking about the journals and alerts his superiors. They, too, are determined to possess the journals and recover as much of the stolen loot as possible.

Zack finally realizes the significance of his find and mails the journals to his cousin, Annie, in California. He knows he is being followed and that he, and his family, are in danger.  Then the killing begins. . .

I have enjoyed writing this book and there’s a lot of my personal family history involved regarding the Avants family in Arkansas.  Annie, of course, is a fictitious character, as is Zack, but many of the other Avants mentioned were real people.  This made writing this story so much fun!

I hope you enjoy the sample.  Let me know what you think!


Pre-Orders through Mark Coker's Smashwords Can Benefit Both Readers & Writers

Send to Kindle

When I first read Mark Coker’s blog post about pre-orders, I thought it was a wonderful idea.  I only had two weeks until I was ready to publish my second book, so I moved my publishing date forward by a month so I could try the pre-order technique for six weeks.

The book I was ready to publish was the second in my Detective Annie Avants series, Damage Control.  The first book, Cause of Death, was doing okay, but nothing spectacular.  I needed a way to perk things up for the second book.

Mark Coker, the founder of SmashWords, has just released a SlideShare presentation that outlines the pre-order strategy.  I’ve embedded the SlideShare below.  The main points are as follows:

How does the pre-order system work:

  • When you place your book in pre-order status on SmashWords, it will be listed as such at Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo
  • This allows readers to reserve their copy before the book is actually released for publication
  • The customer will not be billed for the book until the actual release date

What are the benefits to you, the writer, and to your reader?

  • Sales will build up for your book before it is even published
  • When the reader is on your book page, and sees the pre-order, they can act then. You have their attention
  • Since pre-order sales for Apple and Kobo are credited to your account on the day of publication, there is a good chance the number of sales at one time can boost you into the bestseller lists
  • When you get on a retailer’s bestseller list, they are likely to promote your book at a higher level

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Success isn’t guaranteed with a pre-order. There are steps you have to take to guarantee your best results. The first criteria, of course, is writing the best book you can.
  • The timing of your pre-order is important. You should allow 4-12 weeks if possible; however, a short time is still worth the effort

The SlideShare program continues on to give you marketing and promotion tips so your pre-order campaign will be successful.

Here’s the SlideShare:

My Experience with Pre-Order and some suggestions:

Keep in mind that during your pre-order period, no one will be able to download your book. Your submission doesn’t have to be edited and revised to perfection. However, keep in mind the following:

  • Your page count should be close to what the final book will be
  • All of your front matter must be included and perfect
  • The % you are offering as a sample should be as close to finished as you can make it

Here’s what I did:

I published the pre-order on SmashWords and then downloaded the sample. That showed me what was included. This was a good idea because my first sample included a huge note to myself that I wouldn’t want the readers to see! I was able to quickly revise the book and resubmit the book to SmashWords. You can do this up until right before the book is published.

I mainly use Twitter as my social media, so I set up a schedule of Tweets using Buffer with various hash tags that had to do with my genre and novel. This worked well and I received a lot of retweets.

What will I do with my next book in this series?

  • My previous pre-order was for the second book in my Detective Annie Avants series
  • The first draft of my third novel, Southern Secrets, is almost finished. I plan to put it into the pre-order program within the next few days and leave it there for two months
  • As soon as Southern Secrets is in the pre-order system, I will revise the last pages of the first two novels to give a link to the third novel’s book page at SmashWords, as well as the links to the pre-order pages at Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo

Then, I’ll sit back and watch what happens – and begin serious work on the fourth novel of the series!

SOUTHERN SECRETS - Det. Annie Avants Book #3 - Coming Soon!

Send to Kindle

crime fiction



What have Detective Annie Avants and Detective Tom Weston of the Kern County Sheriff’s Office Robbery/Homicide Unit got themselves into now?

It seems that Annie’s cousin, Zachary Avants, who is a retired history professor in Mena, Arkansas and an avid genealogist, has found three journals buried in the root cellar of a cabin in the Ouachita National Forest near Brushy Creek.  The journals are almost 100 years old and, to Zack’s surprise, were written by his great grandfather, Orris Avants.  What Zack and Annie don’t realize is that a mysterious secret society that has been in existence before the Civil War, and the FBI, both would kill to get their hands on these journals.  And, they do. . .

Here’s the Prologue:


February 8, 1921, Ouachita Forest near Brushy Creek, Arkansas

 The man scrambled up the steep slope through the underbrush. His pursuers were about thirty minutes behind him. There wasn’t a lot of time to lose.

Many months had passed since he visited the abandoned cabin that was his destination. On his previous visit, there were no squatters or hunters in residence. He hoped that was still the case.

At last, the cabin came into view. He approached it warily, being very quiet. All he could hear were the normal sounds of the Ouachita Forest and the wildlife that lived there. He didn’t sense the presence of any other persons.

The windows were broken out and the front door lay on the porch. He entered quietly and headed for the bedroom. The cabin had once been the home of his ancestor, Peter Avants, and his family. They were dead now and Orris didn’t know of any descendants or where they might be. The cabin was all but forgotten.

In the bedroom, he found the trapdoor under the broken down bed that led to the cellar. He shined his light down the stairs to make sure they were intact. Nature was kind. The stairs appeared to be solid. Still, he tested one step at a time as he descended the rickety wooden staircase.

When he got to the bottom, he shined his light around looking for the section that housed the root cellar. Rows of Mason jars that held the produce that the wife had canned before they left filled the shelves. There were no windows and the smell was dank and musty. It didn’t take him long to locate the root cellar.

He searched the walls, looking for a good place to dig. He found a location that he liked on the back wall, about three feet from the floor. With a small shovel that he found in the outer chamber, he begin digging a hole in the dirt wall. The dirt walls were packed solid and didn’t cave in under his digging. When the hole was two feet wide by one foot high and went back three feet, he was satisfied. He lined the hole with some old pieces of tin he found on the floor of the main cellar.

Next, he took his three precious journals, wrapped in many layers of oilcloth, and placed them inside a cast iron skillet from the kitchen. He covered the skillet with the cast iron lid. From his pocket, he took a small package of pitch and sealed the edges around the cover.

When he was finished, he shoved the sealed skillet into the hole, as far back as it would go. Then he carefully begin packing the dirt he had excavated back into the cavity. He packed it tight, leaving no air spaces.

He smoothed the exterior wall when he was finished so no one could tell it had been disturbed. He scattered the extra dirt around the floor of the outer chamber and used an old branch to sweep his footsteps in the root cellar. Then, he scattered some old junk around the floor, as well as some leaves and other debris.

Satisfied that no one would be able to find his cache, he backed out of the main chamber, brushing his tracks as he left. After he climbed the stairs to the bedroom, he reached down and forced them loose from the wall so they ended up on the floor. He then replaced the trap door and the bed where they were originally.

Checking everything, he slowly backed out of the cabin, making sure any foot prints he made in the dust were obliterated. He didn’t want his trackers to know for sure he had been inside the cabin.

Feeling in his heart that there was not much more he could do, he set off through the forest. The trackers weren’t far behind.


 ”Whoa,” the lead man said to his horse as he and his men pulled up to the abandoned cabin. “Lookee here, a cabin. How convenient,” he said to his companions.

He got down from his horse and, followed by the three other men, carefully surveyed the land around the cabin. “If he was here,” said one of the men, “he covered his tracks well. But my gut feelin’ is that he passed this way within the last hour.”

“What signs do you see?” The leader said.

“Faint footprints leaving the cabin and going back into the forest. He appears to have tried to brush out his tracks in the bare dirt around the cabin, but when he got to the forest, he was less careful.”

“Well, let’s take a look inside. He could still be here hidin’.”

The men searched the house and found no obvious signs that anyone had been there for a while. The dust on the floor and what little furnishings were left appeared undisturbed.

“Hey, boss, come here,” one of the men called out. “There’s a trapdoor goin’ down to a cellar. You wanna check it out?”

The boss man came into the bedroom and they opened the trapdoor. When they saw that the wooden stairs were laying at the bottom, they shined their lights around to examine the area.

“I don’t see anything worthwhile. I don’t think he went down there, if he was even here. The trampled leaves we saw leading away from the cabin could have been left by animals,” one of the men said.

“Well, I think we should follow them anyway,” the boss said as he turned to leave the cabin. “The trail led to this cabin and now it seems to lead away from it. The cabin itself is probably not important. Let’s head out.”

With that, the men remounted their horses and set off after the man they called a spy and a traitor.

 * * *

 Orris Avants watched the four men leave the cabin in the direction of the false trail he left. Before they arrived, there was enough time to walk in a misleading direction, leaving tracks that they could easily follow. He then doubled back to the cabin, leaving no trail. He climbed a tree just off to the right of the cabin and watched the men as they did their search He needed to make sure they didn’t find his cache.

He waited in his perch for one hour after they departed. Then, he climbed down and headed back in the original direction from which he and the trackers had come.

In a hidden cave, several miles from the cabin, he rested for the night. Inside the cave was his horse and a good stash of supplies that would last him a long time. He also carried a Mason jar full of gold coins. Taking his time to travel over obscure routes and spending as little of the gold as he could, he made his way north and away from the sentinels of Polk County.


March 5, 1920

In June of 1919 I was through with my schooling and didn’t know what direction my life would follow.

Although I had been born in Mena in 1902, when I was three years old, my family moved to Fort Smith. This was a long way from where most of our other relatives lived and it was lonely at first. Most of our other relatives lived down in Polk County near the Ouachita National Forest.

My mom stayed in touch with her nieces – my cousins – Anna May and Mary Elizabeth. Mary Elizabeth lived with their brothers Joseph Isom and Archie Edward Avants in the Brushy Creek/Six Mile River area. When “Aunt Jim”, as Mary Elizabeth was affectionately known, suggested that I take off a year or so and come live with them, she said it would give me a chance to get to know my southern relatives and sort out what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t see any future for me in Fort Smith, so I was very happy with her offer.

Aunt Jim said my male cousins, Ed and Isom, were gone most of the time and the women could use another man around the homestead to help with the chores.

On the last day of June, 1919, I headed south for Brushy Creek.

Ed was 8 years older than me and Isom was 10 years older. Aunt Jim was just 2 years older than me and Anna was actually 2 years younger than I was, so it was going to be fun. I couldn’t wait to get there.

 There are many more entries that detail the daily life on the Avants homestead. At one point, he begins to get suspicious of what Ed and Isom were doing each day, but they wouldn’t answer his questions.

Then, he found Isom’s notebook left behind one day and took a peek into it. He was amazed at what he found and since he was alone at the homestead that day, he got a clean journal and copied every page of the notebook, then put it back where he found it. There were also some loose sheets of paper which he copied. He was glad he had brought several empty journals with him to record his experiences ‘down south.

Here’s how he describes what he found in Isom Avants’ notebook:

 August 30, 1920

I don’t understand what these drawings in Isom’s notebook mean, but I know they have something to do with what he and Ed are involved in. The drawings are familiar. They remind me of the etchings I’ve seen all over the hills on trees and rock faces. I’m going to start drawing what I see when I’m out and mark the locations. Maybe it will all make sense eventually.

The meetings continue in the barn and several local men attend. I’ve never been invited, but I’ve started trying to listen when I can get close enough and find out what they are talking about. I have another journal I started when I was trying to figure out what my cousins were up to – before I found Isom’s notebook – and I’ve listed the men who attend the meetings, when they take place, and any snatches of conversation I’ve been able to overhear. None of it made much sense but I’m hoping when I get a chance to study the contents of Isom’s notebook, it will become clearer what’s going on. I fear that they’re involved in illegal activities. I don’t think my aunts know anything about what’s taking place. Of course, what the men do is the men’s business and the women only concern themselves with running the household.

 After that, he watched the two brothers carefully and tried harder to overhear their conversations, especially when they had meetings in the barn with other locals. So he ended up with three journals – his original ‘diary’ talking about his life with his cousins, a hand made copy of Isom’s notebook, and the journal he was using to document what was going on with his cousins and their friends.

Here’s the last entry in his journal:

 February 8, 1921

When I first came to stay with my relatives, I was excited. Aunt Jim ran the household and Anna was there almost every day, but still lived with her parents.

I had hoped to learn more about what the men were doing each day, but they were gone a lot and when I asked about their work, or if I could go with them, they usually ignored me. They were pleasant and we had good rapport when they were at home, but I began to feel that whatever they did, they were very secretive about it.

I would watch Isom at his desk in his office when he left the door ajar. He would be writing in a small notebook but, of course, I couldn’t see what he was writing.

Sometimes a bunch of men would come and they’d go out to the barn and talk for hours. I was never included.

One day, after Isom and Ed left the house, I noticed Isom’s office door was open and that his notebook was sitting on his desk. He never left it out and, as far as I could tell, he always kept it with him. I walked around the house to see where Aunt Jim was, and she was out back hanging up the wash. I went into the office and peeked in the book. There was writing, and numbers, and lists of names but the thing that intrigued me were drawings, some looked like circular grids, or spider webs. They made no sense to me.

I heard the back door slam so went out into the kitchen to talk to Aunt Jim. I was afraid Isom would come back to get his notebook and I didn’t want to be caught looking at it. I asked Aunt Jim when they would be back. She said it wouldn’t be for a couple of days, that they had left with Will Ashcraft and some other men and were going to stop at William Wiley’s cabin and then head to Little Rock to pick up supplies.

I thought that perhaps I could sneak the notebook into my room to get a better look at it, but I was still nervous that Isom might realize he had forgotten it and return. But, Aunt Jim solved that problem for me.

She said she was going to go pick up Anna and they were going to Mena for the day to do some shopping and other chores and they wouldn’t be back until evening. She said there was plenty of food I could fix for myself and that they would probably eat in Mena before they came home.

I waited for half an hour after Aunt Jim left before I went into Isom’s office. I had another blank journal and I started at page one and copied each and every page as exact as I could. Most of it didn’t make sense to me, but I figured I would have time to figure it out later.

In the back of the journal were some loose pages in someone else’s handwriting. I copied them, also. They were coordinates from certain landmarks with a dollar amount next to them. Also, each place had the name of someone local and they called that person the sentinel. Weird, I thought.

Also, on the loose pages was the initials KGC, which I didn’t understand at the time, as well as lists of names – mostly local men that I had seen around the homestead. Some of the other names were J.I. Avants, Edward Avants, J.P. Smith, Will Ashcraft, Blalock, Joe Anders, C.B. Rowe, and Chas. Davis. Also mentioned was Shady, Arkansas.

Now, Brushy Creek was a small area and there had been rumors for years that there was Spanish treasure buried in the Ouachita Mountains. There were also strange markings on trees and rocks and other things. I had seen a lot of these markers, but no one would tell me what they meant and they discouraged me from wandering in the mountains.

Well, I liked to hike and didn’t like always being stuck in the house with the womenfolk so, every chance I got, I would go out and explore the area.

I took my third, and last blank journal and started writing my speculations as to what all of this meant. I went round in circles because I didn’t have enough information to form any meaningful ideas. I also started drawing pictures of any trees or rocks with markers on them and adding them to the third journal.

My curiosity was inflamed so I started paying more attention when Isom and Ed were home. I would try to listen to their conversations and later, I got really bold and would try to overhear what they were talking about with their friends in the barn. I had to be real careful not to get caught outside when they had their meetings because there was no reason for me to be hanging around the barn.

Each time I heard something interesting, I would write it in the third journal. There was a lot of talk about “caches” and protecting the area, and being wary of any strangers lurking about. They also talked about the government and how it would love to get ahold of what they had.

That’s what I couldn’t figure out. What did they have, exactly? I heard someone mention the Knights of the Golden Circle and that’s when I figured out what KGC meant. As far as I knew, it was no longer active, but had been a secret society since before the Civil War. I knew that the KGC had been accused of stealing a lot of money from the Union, robbing payroll and other shipments, but no one ever said where the money ended up or what it was stolen for.

I started thinking. Maybe these stashes of money were buried in our mountains and this is what all this secret stuff is about. This is why they had sentinels guarding the area to make sure there were no accidental discoveries.

I kept putting the pieces together in my third journal. I was now very careful because I knew what they were doing was in secret and I would be in big trouble if they found out what I knew, especially if they knew I had seen Isom’s notebook and the loose sheets of paper which seemed to give the precise locations of some of the places that were being guarded, as well as a list of people involved.

After six months, though, my luck ran out. One day after they left, I was sitting outside under a tree writing in the third journal, with the other two in my day pack and I didn’t hear Isom and Ed return . Isom walked over to where I was sitting and asked me what I was doing. I told him just writing. He reached down and took the journal out of my hands, spent a few minutes reading it, and then told me I was in big trouble.

He took me back into the house – I didn’t have a choice – and called Ed to come into his office. He told Ed what he’d found. They searched my day pack and found the other journals and I was sure I was a dead man.

They put my journals back in my day pack and locked it with me in the cellar. Aunt Jim was gone for the day with Anna again, so I had no one to help me get away. And I knew I had to escape. They so much as said they were going to have to have a meeting and decide what to do about the spy in their midst. They even hinted at the idea that I might be working for the government, which of course I wasn’t.

I sat in the cellar trying to figure out what to do. I didn’t think I could break down the door and there was only one small window up high and I wasn’t sure I could get to it, let alone get through it.

But, I gave it a shot and, much to my surprise, when I climbed up on some old steamer trunks and reached the window, I found it was unlatched and I was able to barely squeeze through it.

I ran to my room, grabbed my belongings, and headed north. I knew I had to get away, but I also knew I had a good head start. So, when I got to the abandoned cabin, I took the time to write this final entry in my first journal. Now I’m going to find a good place to hide them and then high tail it out of here.

If anyone ever finds these, I hope I’m still alive. All I want is to get as far away from Brushy Creek as I can.

Good bye.

If you want to know when this exciting crime fiction thriller will be published, just sign up using the form in the right sidebar on the home page of this site.  You’ll be one of the first to know and will have a chance to enter a free giveaway to get a paperback copy of SOUTHERN SECRETS when it’s published!

crime fiction


Apple iBookstore Links to My Books

Send to Kindle

For those of you who love to shop at the Apple iBookstore, here are handy links that will take you directly to my books:

Cause of Death – Renee Benzaim

Damage Control – Renee Benzaim

Salsa! – Renee Benzaim

How to Make Compost – Renee Benzaim

Can Men Get Yeast Infections? – Renee Benzaim

What Keeps Me Motivated to Write?

Send to Kindle

renee benzaim

Each writer finds their inspiration and motivation in different ways.  When I am thinking about a scene, it helps me to gaze out the window in front of my computer at the lovely lemon tree that grows in the back courtyard of my home.

Recently I did an interview with Smashwords and thought you, my readers, might enjoy reading it:

Interview with Renee Benzaim

1.  Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?

I grew up in California in a large family. As an adult, I lived in North Carolina, Delaware, and Hawaii. Looking back, I can see that the “:California mindset” is different, especially from that of the East Coast. I think this influence gives my writing a less formal, more open style. Also, my crime fiction series featuring Robbery/Homicide Detective Annie Avants is set in Kern County/Bakersfield, California where I lived for many years.

2.  When did you first start writing?

I remember the first long story I ever wrote. I was in the third grade and my teacher, Miss Steere, asked us each to write a story about something in history.

I chose to write about the Donner party and the tragedies that befell them as they tried to make it to the wild west.

3.  What’s the story behind your latest book?

Right now I’m writing a series featuring Detective Annie Avants of the Kern County Sheriff’s Office. Most of my family worked in law enforcement and I majored in Criminal Justice in college. I enjoy listening to police calls and following the action.

The real Annie Avants is an ancestor and I wanted to feature her name and her roots – she’s originally from Mena, Arkansas – but I wanted to transplant her to California where I was familiar with the location. The two blended perfectly.

I just finished the second book in the series (they will all be stand-alone) DAMAGE CONTROL and am working on the third, SOUTHERN SECRETS. The first book, CAUSE OF DEATH, is available in many formats.

4.  What motivated you to become an indie author?

In 2009 I published my first article on the internet. I didn’t realize it was possible and was amazed! I then took courses and published more and more, wrote several blogs, and just fell in love with the publishing side of writing.

Then, one day, I was reading something and I discovered indie publishing! I was shocked! The possibilities were endless. I researched how to do it and then wrote a couple of ‘how to’ books based on two of my blogs, “How to Make Compost” and “Can Men Get Yeast Infections?”. I was hooked. I followed them up with a short story I wrote several years ago, “Frog Crossing.”  I’ve also included a cookbook named “Salsa!” which has many delicious recipes for vegetable and fruit salsas.

5.  How has Smashwords contributed to your success?

I love Smashwords! They enable me to share my books with venues I would never have thought of or knew how to contact. Most of my sales are through Smashwords and the various channels they submit my work to.

6.  What is the greatest joy of writing for you?

The most excitement for me is when I put all the pieces in my head together and it all makes sense. When I first start a project, my head is a jumble of thoughts and ideas. As I progress, things begin to fall into place. Eventually, it’s all there, it all flows perfectly, and I am happy.

7.  What do your fans mean to you?

I want my fans to be my friends. I love talking to them and having them tell me what they liked and didn’t like about something of mine they read. I write for myself, of course, but my fans are the wonderful people I love to share my writing with.

8.  What are you working on next?

I’ve just started the third book in my Det. Annie Avants series, SOUTHERN SECRETS. This book will take Annie out of Kern County part of the time. She will visit her hometown, Mena, Arkansas, and the hometown of Jesse Greyeyes, a Deputy District Attorney from Kern County, who grew up on the reservation in Cherokee, North Carolina.

9.  Who are your favorite authors?
Nelson DeMille, Patricia Cornwell, Dan Brown, Travanian, Kiana Davenport, J.R.R. Tolkein, Anne Rice,and many more.

10.  What inspires you to get out of bed each day?

When I quit writing each day, I stop right in the middle of a sentence, thought, or scene. When I wake up the next morning, I’m excited to get back into whatever I was writing. This makes it easy for me to jump start my day and makes me eager to continue the story.

When my husband brings me a cup of coffee in bed, that certainly helps set a happy tone for my day!

11.  When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?

I have normal household chores, of course, and a wonderful husband who does most of our shopping and cooking so I can write. I read a lot and think about different aspects of what I’m writing. A lot of my questions are answered during quiet times, such as when I meditate or sleep.

We also have several cats and kittens that we enjoy and I spend some time crocheting, which I learned how to do from my grandmother when I was eight years old.

12.  How do you discover the ebooks you read?

A book’s description and reviews help me make my reading choices. I pick a lot of books from the police procedural genre, mainly because I learn a lot. In addition, I look for non-fiction titles on the different topics I address in my books.

Free Giveaway on Good Reads!

Send to Kindle

Hello everyone!

Hop over to Good Reads and enter to win one (or both) of the Detective Annie Avants crime fiction series books.

The first book is the 5***** rated crime thriller CAUSE OF DEATH:

Meet Robbery/Homicide Det. Annie Avants and her partner, Det. Tom Weston of the Kern County Sheriff’s Office. In this farm community, someone is abducting and killing young Hispanic females. His weapon of choice – black widow spiders. Cause of Death is a spine-chilling thriller that keeps you guessing until the last minute – and makes you wonder about the “normal” people in your life.


Go to this link to enter the CAUSE OF DEATH giveaway:


The second in the series is the 5***** rated suspense mystery DAMAGE CONTROL:

Detectives Annie Avants and Tom Weston tackle one of the most perplexing murder mysteries since they became partners. The crime victim is a well-respected attorney. He has gone missing and the only criminal evidence is his car with blood on the passenger seat.. Before they can understand the criminal mind of the killer, another person goes missing! Is a serial killer stalking Bakersfield?

Go to this link to enter the DAMAGE CONTROL giveaway:

Good Luck!!!

DAMAGE CONTROL - Download Free Sample or Pre-Order

Send to Kindle

crime fiction
Dear Readers,

I am happy to let you know that you can now download – for free – a sample (30%) of the second book in the crime fiction series about Detective Annie Avants, DAMAGE CONTROL.

Please click on this link: FREE SAMPLE OF DAMAGE CONTROL!

You will be able to download the first 30% of the book in several different formats.

DAMAGE CONTROL will be published on September 30, 2013.  It is available for pre-order until then.

Have you read the first book in this series, CAUSE OF DEATH?  If not, you’re in luck.  Between now and September 30th, you can download CAUSE OF DEATH for free. When you are on the book page for DAMAGE CONTROL, look over to the sidebar on your left.  You will see CAUSE OF DEATH listed.  Click on that link.  You can then download it for free by entering this COUPON CODE at checkout:  DU79K

OR, click this link and it will take you right to the CAUSE OF DEATH book page:FREE CAUSE OF DEATH!

Happy reading!  And, as always, I would love to hear your comments.


DAMAGE CONTROL - First Draft Completed!

Send to Kindle

crime fiction

The first draft of DAMAGE CONTROL was finished today! Now comes the fun part – revision, editing, and beta readers!  DAMAGE CONTROL is the second in the crime fiction series about female detective Annie Avants, who works for the Kern County Sheriff’s Office in Bakersfield, California.  The first in the series is CAUSE OF DEATH which is avilable at amazon, CreateSpace, and Smashwords.

Here’s a synopsis:


Detectives Annie Avants and Tom Weston tackle one of the most perplexing murder mysteries since they began working together.

The crime victim is a local, well-respected attorney who has gone missing.

There’s not much criminal evidence to go on. His car was found an hours drive out of Bakersfield with blood on the passenger seat.

No body has been found.

His staff is in a quandary. He had a new trial scheduled to begin the next morning. Everything was set to go.

And then, he just disappeared.

A mysterious package left in the restroom of the Kern County Courthouse leads our detectives to believe that the attorney is dead.

And now. . . another person has gone missing!

Will our detectives find the answers before a media frenzy erupts in the Kern County/Bakersfield area? Will the FBI be called in to help? Will they come to understand the kinds of criminal minds that lead someone to be a serial killer and narrow the list of suspects?

This fast-paced crime fiction detective thriller will keep you reading well into the night to find out ‘who dun it?”

Personal Injury Lawsuits - Part 7 - Mediation and Arbitration

Send to Kindle

There are many scenarios that can take place to settle your case between the time the Complaint is filed and the actual Trial. In fact, a majority of the cases which didn’t settle BEFORE the Complaint was filed settle before Trial.

For instance, if the other party (Defendant) is being represented by the attorney for his/her insurance company, the attorney might make an offer to settle when he realizes that your claims are valid and will reach or exceed the defendant’s insurance policy limits. Or he might make a settlement offer based on a reasonable amount that satisfies you and your attorney, and you will accept. There are many opportunities for the two attorneys to confer during this period and they know it is to everyone’s benefit if they can settle the case before it goes to Trial.

The attorneys will also be meeting with the Judge assigned to the case during this period. They will have to attend a Case Management Conference, Mandatory Settlement Conference, and Final Case Management Conference at the least, before the trial. These conferences keep the Judge apprised as to the status of the case and if someone is dragging his/her feet, the Judge can impose sanctions.

Two methods to bring forth a settlement are Arbitration and Mediation. Both can be very effective and both require your presence.

Mediation is facilitated by a mediator. The Court maintains a list of mediators, usually attorneys or retired judges, or you and the other party can agree on a mediator. During the mediation, the mediator meets with each side separately; the parties are not together.

Here is some information about Mediation:

  • The parties to the case agree to have mediation
  • Both sides agree on a mediator
  • Each party submits a “brief” to the mediator prior to the mediation
  • The cost of the mediation is usually split between the two parties
  • Both parties have agreed to cooperate in the mediation process and the case is somewhat close to resolution

The mediator functions somewhat like a “hostage negotiator” in the sense that he talks to each side, separately, in an effort to bring about a resolution that both sides can agree to. He or she will go back and forth between the parties, making suggestions, making offers and counter-offers, discussing the pros and cons of the case, until, hopefully, both sides come to an agreement. After an agreement has been reached, the attornies will prepare the necessary settlement documents and the case will be finished.

Arbitration is somewhat different. The parties have agreed on voluntary arbitration in an effort to settle their case. It can be “binding” or “non-binding.” If it’s binding, the parties have agreed to bide by the decision of the arbitrator. If it’s non-binding, and one side doesn’t like the decision of the arbitrator, that side can opt to go to trial.

After the arbitrator is decided upon, each party sends the arbitrator an Arbitration Brief, basically outlining their case. At the arbitration, usually held in a conference room, each side presents their case to the arbitrator. The arbitrator then has a certain amount of days in which to render his decision. If his decision is binding, or if it is favorable to both sides, the case is over and the settlement documents are prepared. If it is a non-binding decision and one side disagrees, then the case is headed for trial

Only about 5% of all civil cases go to trial. Usually by the time discovery is finished and all efforts have been made to settle the case have been explored, the case will have settled.

Personal Injury Lawsuits - Part 6 - Your Deposition

Send to Kindle

personal injuryPhoto Credit: Keith Syvinski


The other party’s attorney, or insurance company has sent your attorney a Deposition Notice. They want to take your deposition. What exactly does this mean? A Deposition is a chance for one party to ask the other party questions, under oath, and/or to produce documents or other things.

The Defendant (other party) can send out a Deposition Notice as soon as they file an Answer to your Complaint. They must give you at least 10 days notice and the deposition must be held within 75 miles of your residence if the lawsuit is in the same County where you live, or within 150 miles of your residence if the lawsuit is in another County, and they want to depose you in that County.

A Court Reporter will be transcribing everything that’s said during the Deposition and will be the person who administers your oath or affirmation. The Deposition may also be video taped. If the Defendant wants to video tape the Deposition, they must say so in the Deposition Notice. Be aware that everything you say will be the same as if you were saying it in Court. If you answer a question in your Deposition one way, you must answer it the same way in Court.

The Deposition Notice will list any documents or other things that the Defendant requires you to produce at the Deposition. Unless your attorney objects, you must produce these items.

A Deposition is usually held in an attorney’s conference room or, sometimes, at the conference room of a hotel. The Defendant can be there with his/her attorney. If your attorney deposes the Defendant, you can go also. In fact, it’s important that you go, if for no other reason than to make a positive identification of the Defendant. In one case, an attorney deposed a Defendant and the Plaintiff didn’t go with him. When they appeared in Court, the Plaintiff took the attorney aside and said that the Defendant wasn’t the person who was driving the car that hit him! The Judge wasn’t happy.

One purpose of a Deposition, besides getting the answers to more questions and documents, is to size you up. The Defendant’s attorney wants to see what kind of witness you will make in Court. How will you appear to a jury? Can he get you upset or angry and make you appear unstable to the Jury? Do you present a good appearance, or do you have tattoos on your neck and a pierced tongue or nose? It’s ok to have tatoos and body piercings, but you want to minimize these things at your Deposition and Trial.

Here are some things to keep in mind for your Deposition:

  • Make sure you meet with your attorney before the Deposition to review your case. This is very important.
  • Dress neatly. You don’t have to wear a business suit, but you must be neat and clean. No t-shirts or tank tops.
  • Don’t speak unless spoken to.
  • Give your attorney a chance to object to the question before you begin your answer. If he or she objects, don’t answer the question.
  • Listen carefully to the questions and answer exactly what they are asking. Don’t elaborate.
  • If you need to take a break, or talk to your attorney privately, that’s ok.
  • Always answer as precisely and truthfully as you can.

After your Deposition, you will have a chance to review the transcript and make any changes, which will be sent to the Defendant’s attorney. You will sign the Deposition after you have reviewed it and made any changes.

The Deposition, along with all the other forms of Discovery, becomes a part of your file and if it is necessary to go to Court, these will all become very important parts of your case. So treat each thing you must do seriously, so your answers don’t come back to haunt you in Court.