Federal Prison Visit

Last week I was invited by the California Writers Club, High Desert Branch, (CWC) to speak to a group of inmates at the Federal Prison. It was quite an interesting experience. The hardest part was getting inside.

First, you go inside the front door, fill out forms, sign in, and receive a stamp on your wrist. (This is after you have applied for a clearance and have been approved.) They take all your worldly possessions if you forgot to leave them in the car…phones, cash, etc. Then you go through the metal detector and into the next area. There your paperwork is pulled and checked. The paperwork for the two men from CWC, who had been there previously, had been misplaced. It took some time to clear that up, but as a result of it we were able to meet the warden of the prison and that was cool.

The next door took us into a room that had another door to the outside. Only one of those doors can open at a time so the second door won’t open until the first is closed. There was a gadget there that checked our stamps. However, the stamps didn’t show up on the machine so we had to go back out and get re-stamped…there apparently wasn’t enough ink in the pad. We returned went through the second door and walked to a gate that entered onto the complex.

By the time we arrived there it was noon and the inmates were walking from one side of the complex to the other to reach the yard. They were walking around the perimeter of the complex. We walked across and then we waited a few feet from them until they were all past us and then walked into the building where the class was being held. Twenty men awaited our words of wisdom. These were all inmates who were interested in writing, had good behavior records, and thus qualified for the class.

I spoke to the group for about fifteen minutes and then they started to ask questions. We were there for nearly two hours before a guard came in and asked us to wrap it up. The men were very respectful. I have been to many a prison to meet with clients and I have always had to deal with the “looks” and the “mutterings” by inmates. There was none of that here. These men were so thirsty for knowledge. They asked incredible questions and gave great feedback, and even laughed at my jokes. They all have a story to tell and I can imagine many of them are quite interesting. They would love to be published. In fact, two of the men were already published authors before they were incarcerated.

The difficult part for me was trying to give them some positive answers for some of their questions. It is hard enough to get published and promote a book from the outside and many of these men are “lifers.” I encouraged them to use their time to write as much as they can. Maybe one day I’ll read a novel or see a screenplay written by one of these men. No matter what, I’m sure the writing itself is very therapeutic.

Sorry, no pictures were allowed.

Barnes & Noble at Palm Desert

I spent three days at Barnes & Noble in Palm Desert last week.It was the first Meet & Greet  I have done with the new book, The Advocate’s Conviction. I was thoroughly amazed at the number of readers from the desert that came in the store to purchase a copy of the third book. It was nice to hear all the wonderful things they had to say about the first two books and to see how excited they were to start the third. Thank you, Desert Fans, you made my day.

Every event it seems I meet so many nice people and some of them are quite entertaining. This time was no different. A woman and her mother came into the store. The mother, I would guess, was at least in her 70’s, maybe more. When I asked them if they read mysteries, the older woman shook her head, made an “icky” face, and said, “Oh, no.”

I had just handed them each a bookmark and the daughter realized I was the author. She said to her mother, “Mother, you’re insulting her. She’s the author.”

The mother said, “Oh, I’m sorry.  Let me see your book.”

They walked over to my table and started reading the blurbs on my books. The mother said, “Oh, my daughter, Wendy, would love these. She loves books about legal stuff.”

“Is she an attorney?” I asked.

“Oh no,” she said again. “She works for an attorney. She does all the work and he gets all the money.”

I smiled and said, “That’s the way it should be.” She frowned at me and I said, “I’m a lawyer.”

Her daughter turned to her mother and said, “Now, you’ve insulted her twice!.”

The mother said, “Would it help if I told you I’m not from this country? I’m Canadian.”

They bought two books, and we were all laughing about it when they left. A while later the older woman came back to my table to apologize one more time. I said to her, “I thought you came back to insult me again.” Of course I explained to her that I wasn’t insulted at all. She gave me a big hug. I love those hugs.


Southern Festival of Books, Nashville, TN

Nick Valentino & Elizabeth Darvill

A couple of weeks ago I had the good fortune to attend the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, TN. It was my first trip to the festival and my second to Nashville, but the city had changed quite a bit since my last visit some thirty-plus years ago. My schedule didn’t allow for a lot of sightseeing except for a quick trip to see the exterior of the Grand Ole Opry.. I hope to return next year and do a little more.

The festival was small but busy. I met a lot of wonderful people and gained a lot of new readers. I shared a booth with two Steampunk authors, Nick Valentino and Elizabeth Darvill both dressed in their incredible costumes. If you haven’t read any Steampunk you really ought to try it. It’s a fun genre to read. You travel to Victorian times with lots of gadgets operating on steam and clockwork. Nick writes adventure novels. Check out Thomas Riley. Be forewarned if you read Elizabeth’s books. Some of them put a little extra steam in the Steampunk. She writes paranormal romance novels among other things.

The best part of the trip for me, however, was visiting with my niece, Adrienne, her husband, Dustin, and their two girls, Meredith and Amelia. They moved their in May from southern California and I sure do miss them,,,but I’ll be back.


First Reader Review on “The Advocate’s Conviction”

This is the first email I received from a reader for The Advocate’s Conviction:

“Good book…if I had to chose, it’s my favorite of the 3…although 2 was right up there also, not that I didn’t like no.1 too. Good to see JP have a bit more of a role…and like JP, I would have wanted to kick Sabre’s butt also for wandering off late at night to meet the kid. Maybe JP should handcuff himself to Sabre :)…Sabre should know better by now. :p  When’s no. 4 coming?”–Chris
Thanks, Chris. I’m sure most of my readers would love to see JP handcuffed to Sabre. Everyone seems to love JP. But then, what’s not to love? And handcuffing them together isn’t a bad idea, maybe I’ll do that in another book.

I’ll post more emails later.

Enter to Win a FREE NOOK

Enter to Win a
Three easy steps!
1. Write a review of “The Advocate’s Conviction” (It can be as short or as long as the site permits.)
2. Post it on any website such as,, goodreads, etc., or any blog.
3. Send the link to me at
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*Review date was extended a month due to reader requests.


The Advocate’s Conviction–Sneak Peak

The Advocate’s Convictions releases this Saturday, 
October 22, 2011! 

 The fourteen-year-old girl struggled to break free from the bindings on her hands and feet. One woman on each arm held her as she fought. Her feet were in stirrups, and the unbearable pain shot through her abdomen. Her blonde hair was wet with sweat. She yanked her right arm away but the heavy-set woman holding her arm threw her body across the teenager, pinning her down on the hospital bed.
            “No,” the teen screamed. “No! Don’t take my baby.”
            “Push,” the body-blocker said. “Just push.”
            The tall, thin woman holding the teen’s left arm spoke calmly. “You need to stop fighting and breathe. Your baby is coming. You need to push.”
            The girl looked around the small, dirty room for help, but all she saw was a man wearing a surgical mask sitting at the end of the bed between her legs, waiting for her to give birth. He would be no help. After all, she had agreed to this. The candles flickered around her, casting soft shadows around the room. The oak tree painted on the wall and the circle around her bed would protect her, or so she was told. But she hurt so badly and no one seemed to care.
            The heavy-set woman was face to face with her. The girl could feel her breathing and smell her garlicky lunch. “Just push,” she said again.
            The girl screamed.
            “This is your child’s fate. Your baby must be sacrificed. Are you a believer?”
            The girl wanted to say no. She didn’t know what to believe, but fear won out. “Yes,” she said.
            “Yes, what?”
            “Yes, I believe. I believe in the power of the oak. I believe in the power of the oak.” She was chanting now and the two women joined her.
            “I believe in the power of the oak. I believe in the power of the oak.”
            The young girl screamed again as another contraction shot through her. She pushed as hard as she could, then stopped.
            “Again!” the man at her feet yelled. “Push!”
            She pushed and screamed in agony until she felt the mass exit her womb. Her body lay limp on the bed as she heard the baby cry. The heavy-set woman continued to hold her in place while the tall woman took the baby to the back of the room and out of sight. The baby’s cries still filled the room.
            Then, silence.
            A few minutes later the woman returned without the child.
           The girl turned her head away and closed her eyes. What have I done?

Identity Theft Among Foster Children

Most of you know that identity theft is a real problem complicated by today’s technology. But it’s not all about the cyber space. Identity theft has been going on for years in the real world. What many of you may not know is that children are attractive targets for these thieves. They are even more vulnerable than adults because a child’s social security number hasn’t been tainted by bad credit and the crime is often not discovered for many years.
One group that appears to be particularly at risk is foster children. These children, and their private information, pass through many hands. And when they are emancipated they often have to face this predicament without any family to help them. So, on top of many years of dealing with more losses than any child should ever have to suffer, they often have to deal with the loss of their identity as well, creating problems with school loans, car loans, and other credit issues. One foster child was tagged with his own father’s child support bill because his father used his son’s social security number when applying for a job. He got the job, his wages were garnished, and then he lost the job. The debt continued until the son ultimately had a $50,000 child support judgment against his credit. Any one who has ever had to deal with this problem knows what a horrendous task it is to get something removed from your credit report.
We don’t know exactly how many of these children end up with bad credit due to identity theft because many of them are never reported. The state of California finally recognized the problem and in 2006 a law was enacted intending to clear foster children’s credit records before they left the system. However, due primarily to limited funding, implementation of the law was delayed–and still is. In 2010 a pilot program was put into place in Los Angeles with some success. You can read the complete report here but one of the key findings included the clearing of 247 separate accounts from the credit reports of 104 foster children. The largest was a home loan of $200,000.
So what needs to be done? Federal legislation was reintroduced last month, the Foster Youth Financial Security Act of 2011, requiring annual credit checks on foster children. Perhaps this will help. These children have enough to deal with. They certainly don’t need to start their adult life with bad credit.

A Weekend in Torrance at Barnes & Noble

I had yet another incredible weekend in the Barnes & Noble store in Torrance. The staff there is so wonderful and the readers have become my friends. I get hugs from some of the regulars and lots of smiles from readers. There is one special lady (we’ll call her Marilyn) who comes in every time I’m there. She always takes the time to stop and say hello and chat for a bit. Marilyn is very sweet and although there isn’t that much difference in our ages, there’s something about her that reminds me of my mother which makes the visit even more special.

I’m always flattered when people are excited to see me just because I’m an “author.” I understand why that is because as a reader I’m always excited to meet an author whose writing I admire. It’s just that I’m still surprised when it’s me. Sometimes parents will come in with their children and say, “Look, little Hayden, this woman is an author. She wrote this book.” Often the kid isn’t too impressed and the parent is apologetic because she expected a different reaction. I find it humorous since I’ve worked with enough kids to know the “Legos” display will get a lot more attention than me. But one experience last weekend is worth noting. A little boy about 7 or 8 years old stopped about ten feet in front of me. He looked at me, then at my 8 foot sign, and then at the stack of books on my table. He didn’t say anything. He started to walk away from me glancing back occasionally. Then he disappeared into the store.

About five minutes later he returned with a big smile on his face and said, “Are you the Arthur?”

I so wanted to respond, “No, I’m the George.” But of course I didn’t because he was too young to get the joke and besides he was so excited about meeting me. I signed a bookmark and gave it to him. His smile beamed across his face.

As he walked away, he nodded his head and said proudly, “I’m taking this to my teacher.”

The children, the booksellers, and readers like Marilyn are the things that make the book tours so much fun for me. There’s always some very interesting characters…even some fodder for my books. I should carry a warning sign: “Be careful, you may end up in my novel.”


A Weekend in Ventura Barnes & Noble

I just spent another great weekend in Barnes & Noble signing my novel, The Advocate’s Betrayal. This time I was in Ventura. That’s a long drive…but well worth it. I sold out and met another group of interesting people. I also had the added bonus of spending some time with my nephew and niece who live in Ventura. 

While at the store, I do what they call a “Meet & Greet” which basically means I greet people when they come in the door and let them know who I am. I offer them a bookmark and try to determine if they read mysteries. No hard selling. I know if they don’t read mysteries chances are they won’t like my book. Oh, I’m sure a few would buy it because of my charming personality, but then they probably wouldn’t read it anyway, and I want them to read my books! But I often get some very interesting answers to some simple questions. For example, I asked the question, “Do you read mysteries?” Here’s some of the answers I received this weekend.

“Not since I got cable.”
“No, we’re here to buy a book.”
“I’m a fan of mysteries, but I don’t read them.”
And my favorite: “Not now, I’m about to pee my pants.”

It’s always an experience having a “Meet & Greet” and I truly meet a lot of wonderful people. Thank you, readers of Ventura.


Third Writers’ Platform-Building Campaign

Rachel Harrie has this incredible platform-building campaign going on. This is her third one and it seems it’s a great way to work together with other writers. If you are a writer/blogger it would behoove you to check it out. I’m excited to be a part of it. The campaign timing is perfect for me with the release of my latest novel, The Advocate’s Conviction, just around the corner.

By the way, today is the last day to get on board. So if you’re interested check it out now. I think this will be a lot of fun.

Okay, so I’m trying to put a link on the “shield” but I can’t seem to get it to work. So if you’re interested in joining the campaign, please go to Rachel Harrie’s Blog Post.