Category: Guest Blogger

Cool Gus Book of the Week…Space travel in the 17th Century?

Please welcome Colin Falconer to the House!



Imagine you’re on a flight from Amsterdam to Jakarta. Flying time is around 14 hours. Let’s face it, you would probably be annoyed if the flight was delayed for an hour; two would leave you furious.

Yet imagine making that same journey in 1628. The one that takes you less than a day would take them eight months. That’s how long it currently takes for an unmanned space ship to travel to Mars.

If you were on of the 4,000 hardy souls to undertake the trip on a Dutch East India ship every year, it would in fact be very much like traveling to a distant manned space station. After a seemingly endless and extremely hazardous journey you would arrive at your company’s outpost – in Batavia, now Jakarta – to be greeted by a sour and hard-bitten community of singular individuals, in an alien and hostile environment.


But that is if you arrive. First, you have to survive the journey, which is so tedious and so uncomfortable that you will wish cryogenics had been invented. Imagine over three hundred people living and sleeping for eight months in a space not much larger than an interstate bus and you have some idea.

As part of my research I went on board a replica of one of those seventeenth century spaceships, the retourschip Batavia. I couldn’t even stand up straight below decks. And then there are the bathroom arrangements; the best you can say about them is that they were … novel.

The bathroom was a platform extending from the hull below the stern, the toilet paper a long piece of rope with a frayed end. You pulled it up to use it; you dropped it back down into the ocean to activate the self-cleaning mode.

During that eight months between Amsterdam and the Spice Islands you would travel through a dangerous and uncharted world. It would be actually less hazardous than going to Mars today: our navigational systems today far exceed Dutch capabilities in 1628.


For example, skippers then could calculate latitude with the aid of an astrolabe but had no reliable way to calculate longitude – distance east or west – and relied on experience and dead reckoning.


Often the skipper’s dead reckoning was out by some considerable distance; it was how one East India Company ship came to shipwrecked on the Houtman Abrolhos, off the western coast of Australia, over 1400 nautical miles to the south of its intended destination.

Now I’ve visited the Houtman Abrolhos. It’s a great place if you’re a sea eagle or a reclusive seal. But if you had come from the bustling port of Amsterdam in the seventeenth century and then found yourself abandoned there, it must have seemed like being stranded on – well, the moon.


And rescue? As unlikely as Matt Damon getting off the space station in The Martian.

But they did, somehow. What was left of them.


You have to hand it to our ancestors, they were a tough bunch. They had to be, because as they say – in space, no one can hear you scream.

East India by Colin Falconer


Exclusive on Amazon

Cool Gus Book of the Week: A hot romance to warm up your fall day…

Welcome myself to the house!

There is something very special about the first book an author writes. Doesn’t matter if that manuscript went in a drawer, or eventually published, there is an overwhelming sense of satisfaction to have written “the end” for the very fist time.

In Two Weeks was the first book I ever wrote. Also the first book that was ever published. I was lucky that way. Trust me, I have my share of manuscripts hidden away in a drawer, but this book and these characters mattered so much to me that I had to re-write and re-write until it was ‘good enough’.

It all started one day at the lake… I had finished reading just about every backlist title for the tenth time by Nora Roberts and Sandra Brown. The ones from back in the 80’s. While my kids were playing in the lake, I picked up a pen and notebook and just started writing. See, I couldn’t pull them out of the water yet again so mommy could go buy another book. The Kindle did not exist back then. I though perhaps thinking of my own imaginary people might be fun. I had no laptop, so I’d write at the lake, then come home and type in what I wrote. I literally fell in love with these characters. So much so, that Jared makes an appearance in the 5th book in the series coming out in December: Murder in Paradise Bay.

You know its good when the characters inside you head just won’t be quiet. These characters spent over a year with me. And they keep popping up here and there, showing their faces as I write more books in the series.

In Two Weeks is currently free on all platforms right now. Below is links to all the platforms and a book trailer to give you a little taste of what the story is all about. Enjoy!

Two Adirondack chairs

Amazon | Nook | iBooks | Kobo | Google


Cool Gus Book of the Week: Lost and Found by Amy Shojai

Welcome Amy Shojai to the house!


AmyShojai-Magic-Seren-karma-copyHey there, everyone, and thanks to Jen and Bob for the invitation to guest post. Some of y’all know I write both THRILLERS WITH BITE! and pet-centric nonfiction. Since yesterday (September 18) was National Puppy Mill Awareness Day, I wanted to share a few furry tips to help you out with your special dogs and cats.

Most pet lovers know puppy mills (and kitten mills) are simply poorly run breeding facilities that churn out sad and damaged babies with no regard to the well-being of the pet, or the people who buy them. We have our share of ’em here in North Texas where I live, but I don’t need to rub your face in it. I’d rather share what a GOOD pet source looks like!

You see, in my other life, I’m a certified animal behavior consultant. So is the main character in my September Day thriller series, which also are set in North Texas. September is prettier, younger, and gets in more trouble than I do–but we’re BOTH passionate about proper pet care.


My German Shepherd, Magic, was the inspiration for Shadow, the dog viewpoint character (yes, he has his own chapters) trained by September. I’ve shared a picture of him the first day he came home with us…so cute! In fact, both September and I followed these tips that led us to finding our heart-dogs.

Backyard breeders and puppy mill establishments offer “purebred” puppies dirt cheap, but they won’t pass any of these test questions. You’ll get what you pay for, and your puppy may pay for the rest of his life.


In the first book LOST AND FOUND, September has chosen a German Shepherd to train as a service dog for her autistic nephew. This breed instinctively is protective and works as a “moveable fence” able to keep the boy from wandering.

Rescue dogs and shelters have marvelous pets available, but she wanted predictability based on a savvy breeder’s reputation and knowledge. Legit breeders provide both a health history of parents, the puppy, and registration and health records. I looked for a year before finding Magic’s breeder, and then was on a waiting list for two years. Yes, it was THAT important to me!


Health is an issue for cats, too. September has a Maine Coon cat named Macy who seems healthy, but some breeds of cats and dogs are prone to specific problems. For instance, hip dysplasia may not become apparent until the puppy or kitten is a couple of years old. Dog breeds known to have problems with dysplasia should have the parents tested by OFA or Pennhip. That’s not a guarantee but does help predict if certain dogs should be bred or not.

Puppy and kitten mills don’t care about such things. sigh If you have succumbed to one of these needy babies, though, many pet health problems can be treated. In fact, research into pet health helps people–and vice versa.

I love that about pets, when our mutual bond benefits each other, don’t you?


Before being smitten with pet-love, get an up close and personal look at where the baby was born and raised. Visit the facility. Breeders have valid reasons for declining visits—puppies too young, for instance—but should be able to explain to your satisfaction. (I got to see Magic when he was three days old!)

The facilities should be clean. There should be adequate food and water. Look for warm comfortable sleeping areas free of feces or urine. Expect a modest number of dogs, and go elsewhere if the yard or house is filthy and they’ve got dozens of dogs and different breeds with multiple litters.

Puppies can be hard to keep clean, especially with large litters, but you can tell if cleanliness is neglected or is a priority. If the pups and mom-dog are kenneled, ask how much people interaction is provided. That’s vital for proper socialization. You don’t want to adopt, and then discover your pet is TERRIFIED of men, or can only go potty on cement because he’s never seen grass before.


Ask to see the parents, if possible. Stud dogs often are owned by someone else, but the mother dog should be on the premises. Some mothers are quite protective of puppies, so it may be best to meet her away from the litter.

Checking out mom can be a window into your puppy’s future. That lets you see how the puppy may develop once grown. If the mother dog acts fearful, growls, or must be locked away, reconsider your choice. These traits can be inherited.


The best breeders and rescue organizations want puppies to go to a forever home that provides proper care and training. So expect to be quizzed on what you want and can offer to their treasured baby. If there are no questions from the breeder, run the other way.

Ask if the breeder has ever turned down a sale. You want the answer to be YES, rather than learning they’ll let a puppy go to just anyone who asks.

A healthy puppy from a reputable breeder or rescue organization won’t be cheap. Local newspapers may post advertisements for much less, and you may find the pet of your dreams.


While I do have a nonfiction puppy book available with lots more details about such things, I love including pet-people “issues” in my thrillers. That’s why LOST AND FOUND addresses autism and off-label drugs. It was the book I’d always wanted to read–so I finally wrote it. s

In fact, we’ve made LOST AND FOUND permanently free in all Ebook formats, so perhaps now is your chance for some furry fiction. Jen and Bob updated the cover when that happened so it looks a bit different than in the trailer.

I promise, Shadow doesn’t “talk” (except with canine-appropriate body language), and appears to have gained a fan club with him as a favorite character. Maybe you’ll come to love these characters as much as I do.

Oh, and my cats would get hissed off if I don’t mention them, too. Karma-Kat Is three and Seren-Kitty the Siamese wannabe is 20. And Magical-Dawg just celebrated his 10th birthday. Now…go pet your pets for me!










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