See more original eCards at http://pinterest.com/alanannand/ecards/
See more original eCards at http://pinterest.com/alanannand/worlds-most-interesting-astrologer/
It’s a mini-milestone! HARM’S WAY has just entered the Top 10 in Amazon’s hard-boiled mystery category. Originally published by St. Martin’s Press in 1992, I revised it extensively in 2012 (see backstory here) and republished it with Amazon and Smashwords.
Since December of last year I’ve offered it FREE on Smashwords to allow people to sample my writing, and thus promote my three other mystery thrillers. During this period, Amazon has toggled the price of Harm’s Way back and forth between free and $0.99. To date, there’ve been almost 15,000 downloads.
So if you like a very fast-paced mystery with a dose of hard-boiled action and dialog, and you don’t get your knickers in a knot over the occasional references to astrology (see that other story here), then scoop up a copy sooner than later.
Have a great day. As for me, I’m celebrating over breakfast with mimosas and — what else? — hard-boiled eggs !
Montreal investigator with astrologer girlfriend searches for politician’s runaway daughter, only to become embroiled in a plot of corruption, decadence, greed and murder.
(digital $0.99, paper $8.99)
The other day I was browsing through some recent Amazon reviews of my hard-boiled mystery thriller Harm’s Way. It was originally published years ago under a pseudonym at St. Martin’s Press, but I rewrote it in 2011 and self-published it under my own name, eventually offering it free in 2013 to pique interest in my other mystery/thrillers.
In one review the reader complained that Montreal wasn’t Los Angeles and I wasn’t Raymond Chandler. Although I’d suspected the latter already, I was still pleased he’d correctly identified a writer whose style I’d emulated in writing the novel.
The reader went on to grumble, however, that the novel contained too much cat, as well as too much astrology. Just to paint the big picture, my private investigator owned a cat which was savaged by a rogue Doberman in the first chapter, thus requiring the attentions of a lady vet with whom my hero subsequently became, um, intimately involved.
As for the astrology, my hero had a longstanding astrologer lady friend with whom he occasionally sought counsel. In the novel, astrology was discussed in two scenes totalling less than 1400 words; in a novel of approximately 80,000 words, that’s roughly 1.7%.
Although little more than a page and a half every hundred pages, it was obviously too much – constituting a near-toxic dose for my reader, whose belief system was apparently so challenged by those few pages that he fell into a fever of intolerance, almost shutting down his reading experience.
In all fairness, perhaps he does suffer from allergies – probably to cats, but maybe also to open-mindedness. There’s a lot of that going around. Even among some of my own friends, who know I’ve been a professional astrologer for 30 years, there’s this attitude: Practice astrology all you want with the kooks you call your clients, but when it comes to writing novels, please don’t inflict that nonsense on the rest of us.
Luckily, I’m still amused by the ignorance of people ever ready to criticize things they know nothing about. Ironically, many of astrology’s harshest critics never read any serious books on the subject, nor consulted professional astrologers. Everyone wants the easy route, and clearly it’s less effort to develop an uninformed opinion than an informed one. As Sir Isaac Newton chided a fellow scientist critical of Newton’s interest in astrology, Newton said, “Sir, I have studied the subject. You have not.”
Anyway, that review got me thinking… Do we now live in an age where the public’s attitude toward astrology is as virulent as its allergy to peanuts, shellfish and soy? Do I need a consumer label on my book covers, saying: “Warning! This novel contains trace amounts of astrology. Those of a fragile mind are cautioned to browse elsewhere less you catch a New Age virus.”
Good thing this particular reader hadn’t discovered my New Age noir mystery thriller Scorpio Rising, whose content dedicated to astrology, palmistry and other esoteric subjects runs to 10%. If he’d read that, he might have died of anaphylactic shock, and I’d be facing a lawsuit.
Alan Annand is an astrologer (Dipl-FAS, Dipl-ACVA) based in Toronto. He is also the author of several mystery thrillers, and some of his novels feature shockingly-realistic depictions of major and minor characters who are also astrologers.
Mystery thriller, eBook $2.99, paper $11.50
Montreal homicide detective Sophie Gillette, still mourning the death of her brother during covert ops in Afghanistan, investigates a fatal hit-and-run, uncovering a terrorist plot to assassinate an American governor, disable New England’s electrical grid, and kill 10,000 hockey fans.
Kindle or paperback version:
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For the record, I’m a writer, not a terrorist, although I admit to a fascination with the latter. As a Canadian, I’ve watched terror events unfold across the world with frightening speed and consequences. These events usually occur at a distance, allowing Canadians to be mere spectators rather than forced participants. But sometimes, things happen right in our backyard.
In 1999 the LAX bomber, Ahmed Ressam, was intercepted in Port Angeles, WA, with a carload of explosives destined for the LA airport. He’d entered Canada in 1994 with a forged French passport and lived in Montreal for almost five years, surviving by stealing airport luggage. After a trip to Afghanistan where he learned how to build bombs, the RCMP began following him, and alerted US authorities when he crossed the border from Vancouver en route to Los Angeles.
In 2006, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) arrested a group of jihadists, the Toronto 18, as they took delivery of three tonnes of ammonium nitrate with which they’d planned to build massive bombs in U-Haul trailers. Their targets: the Toronto Stock Exchange, the CSIS offices in downtown Toronto and a military base. After the bombs, they would storm Parliament, seize the Cabinet and behead the Prime Minister, all in time for the evening news and instant fame via al-Jazeera. But the Toronto 18 had been infiltrated and monitored for over a year by 700 security officers gathering evidence via 80,000 electronic intercepts.
Last week, following hard on the heels of the Boston Marathon bombings, two men with alleged al-Qaeda connections were arrested in Canada for plotting to derail a Canadian train travelling between Toronto and New York.
Apparently, news of our latest domestic terrorist plot raised only tepid interest from the US media, while the Twitter-verse responded with several jokes on the subject. Understandably, a neutralized threat in Canada pales in comparison to exploding bombs in Boston, but seriously, folks… Just because Canadians are liberal and polite doesn’t mean our society is any less liable than America’s in unwittingly harboring terrorists in our midst. Quite the contrary.
I wrote the first draft of my novel Al-Quebeca in 2009 and revised it several times since then. Each time it all seems even more inevitable. The plot involves an al-Qaeda sleeper cell in Montreal summoned to life by order of a Paris-based mullah. Although Osama bin Laden is dead and gone, he’d issued a fatwa several years ago, vowing revenge against any country, Canada included, that had sided with America in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Some jihadi never forget, and it’s now payback time.
The Montreal terrorist plot involves a simultaneous three-pronged strike: to sabotage the Hydro-Quebec electrical grid that supplies power to Boston and New York, behead the visiting Governor of New York and, for body-count bonus points, kill thousands of hockey fans with nerve gas.
Preposterous? Not really. For years the CIA has warned CSIS that Montreal, where almost one in four residents is Muslim or has ties to Arabic-speaking homelands, is a hot-bed of al-Qaeda sleeper cells awaiting the call to jihad. We all think it could never happen here. Until it does.
For years nothing happens; then everything happens at once. A week and a half ago, bombs went off at the Boston Marathon. Obviously prompted by FBI concerns that other plots were in play, CSIS arrested the two Canadian men plotting to derail a US-bound train. Turns out there may have been an Iranian connection, wherein financial or technical aid was provided on behalf of al-Qaeda.
Small (parallel) world. In Al-Quebeca, the heroine Sophie Gillette is a Montreal homicide detective dispatched in the middle of a snowstorm to investigate the suspicious hit-and-run death of an Iranian engineer who worked for Hydro-Quebec. Defying easy resolution, the case launches her on a collision course with biker wars, arms smuggling and, unexpectedly, a terrorist plot.
In the course of her investigation, Gillette uncovers militant students at Concordia University, drug financiers and a rogue professor with a PhD in chemical toxicology. All are linked to a shadowy figure called al-Quebeca whom Gillette must track to a brutal confrontation.
I just hate to be prescient, but as Aldous Huxley once said, The trouble with fiction is that it makes too much sense.
But don’t take my word for it. Read Al-Quebeca and judge for yourself.
$0.99 on Amazon www.amazon.com/Harms-Way-ebook/dp/B005LVXIA2
FREE on Smashwords www.smashwords.com/books/view/86740
HIDE IN PLAIN SIGHT
$2.99 on Amazon www.amazon.com/Hide-in-Plain-Sight-ebook/dp/B0050K1EZA
HALF PRICE this week only on Smashwords
$2.99 on Amazon www.amazon.com/Scorpio-Rising-ebook/dp/B0050IOY6I
HALF PRICE this week only on Smashwords
Booktalk Nation returns from its holiday hiatus with a full slate of nationwide dial-in events. This week, former CNN anchor Kitty Pilgrim discusses her latest thriller and Carolyn Mackler and Jay Asher talk about collaborating on their acclaimed YA novel, The Future of Us. Next week, Lois Lowry will discuss the concluding book in her Newbery winning series that began with The Giver, and Emma Straub will talk about her widely praised debut novel about Hollywood’s golden age.
Alex Carson’s life has turned into a country song. He owes the government thousands of dollars in taxes, courtesy of his fraudulent accountant; his wife, Connie, is bipolar and his dog is dying. What he doesn’t realize is, things are going to get much worse. During a visit to Alex’s wealthy brother Dave, which Connie turns into a quest to get financial assistance, Connie causes Dave’s death after a heated argument.
Alex decides that the only way out of this mess is to take Dave’s place and allow Connie to go establish an alibi, thereby avoiding the ordeal of having to ‘fess up to the police about what had transpired. The execution of Alex’s creative solution makes for a crazy wild ride as we tag along in Alex’s first person narrative.
Inside the Mind of Alex Carson
According to Annand, who agreed to talk with Suite101 about his book, his use of the first person was designed to, among other things, “oblige the reader to suffer in sympathy with Alex, no matter what morally questionable actions he had to follow through on.” And suffer the reader does. Exquisitely.
During this charade, Alex must share a bed with his beautiful sister-in-law, a woman stolen from Alex by Dave years before. He must also maneuver his way around Dave’s various existing relationships, including one with the housekeeper, with whom Dave may or may not have been having an affair.
Following Alex on his adventures in Dave Land makes compelling enough reading, but the questions that arise about what was going on in Dave’s life at the time of his death compound the intrigue and the tension. When you also factor in the logistical issues with which Alex must contend, reading the story becomes an addiction.
Annand, as always, has done his research to make everything in his novel authentic and credible. Dave suffered from Guillain-Barré Syndrome, something with which Annand was familiar via an extended family member who had the disease. Having Dave suffer from GBS was a unique twist that makes things more demanding for Alex playing Dave, and of course makes it more entertaining for the reader. Connie’s bipolar disorder also spices things up, but it also provides a glimpse of what it might be like to be married to someone who is bipolar.
The most intriguing questions presented by the novel, and dealt with deftly by Annand, however, relate to Dave’s body and how Alex deals with it: How can Alex store the corpse? Where will he keep it? How can he obscure the time of death? How can he create a new, believable cause of death? Can he really pull it off? Should he really pull it off? The practical considerations run neck and neck with the ethical ones.
Tension and Sleepless Nights with Hide in Plain Sight
Alan Annand has an uncanny knack for forcing the reader to read at breakneck speed to get past all the tense moments, while at the same time making him/her wish the ride would never end. The first time you read Hide in Plain Sight, you will want to savor it, but it’ll be impossible. As the tension and questions mount, you can’t help but read as fast as you can to see what happens next. It is a most delightful form of torture.
Don’t pick up this book if you’re looking for a bedtime reading cure for insomnia. But if you’re looking for suspense, tension and the queasiness that comes from participating in questionable activities, then this book is for you. This is the perfect book to take on a flight or on vacation.
HIDE IN PLAIN SIGHT (psychological mystery suspense) eBook $2.99, paper $9.99. A man assumes his twin brother’s identity in order to alibi his own wife who’s accidentally killed his brother in an argument. But when he finds himself sharing a bed with his beautiful sister-in-law, he faces bigger challenges and harder choices.
Val Tobin is a Feature Writer for Suite101. Formerly a software developer, she has pursued her interests in the occult, paranormal and spiritual fields through formal studies in nutrition, mediumship and parapsychology, all of which have become active professional avenues. For more information, see her website at: http://www.serenitynowgifts.com/