Sneak Preview: Marcha Fox’s Latest Thriller!

The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon by Marcha Fox is an entertaining, suspenseful and compelling novel by the accomplished Texas indie lit author. The author extends her horizons beyond the sci-fi genre upon which she established her reputation. Canyon is a thriller that focuses on corporate crime and ecological issues while enlightening us on the state of the Indian community in Colorado and its relevance in the modern world.


The story takes place in Belton, a small town amidst the ski resort area of Colorado where Sara and Bryan Reynolds are enjoying a drive along the countryside. Their sojourn ends in tragedy as a car accident costs Bryan his life. Will and Connie Montgomery, Sara’s parents, are there in her time of need as is Charlie Whitehorse, an Indian of Cheyenne heritage who is part of the Native American community. Charlie is suspicious of the circumstances surrounding the accident. He runs afoul of Bernard Gunderson, the CEO of BG Security Services, and his top gun Eddie Johannsen. Both Charlie and Sara are targeted, and she soon realizes that the problem lies in the photos she and Bryan took during their trip. Related events unfold the mystery as an illegal excavating operation is uncovered. Corporate interests place Sara and Charlie’s lives at stake. Can the Great Spirit protect Charlie Whitehorse, a Cheyenne warrior steeped in tradition? Fox’s novel is a page-turner that will keep you up all night to find out.


The author’s signature style is evident as she combines expert storytelling with carefully-researched subplots that weave character-driven pacing alongside a fact-filled backdrop. Fox, a NASA veteran and science scholar, gives us an informative overview of the mining industry and fracking issues that have compromised the environment in Colorado. We see how urban residents, rural landowners and Indian tribes are endangered by pollution that poisons water supplies and threatens lives. There is also the element of conspiracy theory as the lengths to which corporations might protect their interests are measured. Last but not least, Fox provides us with poignant vignettes in which Charlie’s relationship with his grandfather, Grey Hawk, is depicted. It gives us a look at the Indian subculture and a spiritual vision of what makes it so unique. It is also where the legend of Dead Horse Canyon is revealed. Fasten your seat belts, brethren.


For suspense/thriller readers, conspiracy buffs and Indian history fans, as well as her legion of sci-fi lovers, Marcha Fox’s novel is one you don’t want to miss.

Sneak Peek with Lee Gimenez!!!

Sneak Peek with Lee Gimenez!!!

FBI Code Red by Lee Gimenez is a suspenseful, intriguing novel following the exploits of J.T. Ryan and the lovely Erin Welch in the latest installment of this award-winning series. The FBI has learned of an alleged connection between the prominent Veritas Foundation and the government of China. Insiders are concerned that a uranium transaction may be in progress. Congressional investigations have led to the murder of Congressman Rodriguez and a near-hit on Elizabeth Hawkins. An underworld strongarm thug named Marco Alessi takes them to the threshold of Veritas executive David Grayson. Only the mysterious Amber Holt casts a grim shadow along their path. Fraught with danger and deception, it is a treacherous road leading to the truth — only will it cost J.T. and Erin their very lives?


The author’s work reflects the accolades he has received from his contemporaries. His research brings the series to life, making us feel as if we’re behind the scenes with the movers and shakers of the shadowy world of espionage. Of particular note is the fact that Gimenez took a trip to China to validate his narrative. Going halfway around the world to make your story real is as thorough and dedicated as you can get.


Gimenez’s work also resonates with the headlines of today. As of this writing, the American President remains atop the watchtower in vigilance over the nuclear proliferation agendas of Iran and North Korea. His predecessors underwrote a deal with Russia which allowed our rival to purchase a large amount of uranium for unspecified use. We are living in a world where uranium is becoming a commodity being exchanged on markets, and works such as this suggest where this all may lead.


Suspenseful and intriguing, well-researched and highly contemporary, Lee Gimenez’s upcoming FBI Code Red is one worth waiting for.

Behind The Scenes With Bob Methot!


Bob Methot is a major protagonist in JRD’s upcoming novel Nightcrawler III – The Plague coming soon on Amazon. A NYPD detective, he previously appeared as Evan Carlow’s partner in King of the Hoboes (also on sale at Amazon). He teams up with Hoyt Wexford, Jerry Loverdi and Don Conroy as the Nightcrawler Squad, assigned to bring the vigilante into custody. Bob is well known as a Dirty Harry personality, absolutely fearless and sometimes ruthless on the field of duty. Here’s an interview with one of the more unforgettable characters in the JRD anthology.

Q: It’s unusual to see a protagonist from a suspense/thriller reappear in a different series. What was the difference for you between teaming with Hoyt Wexford and Evan Carlow?

A: I hate to say it, but Hoyt and Evan are very much alike. They’re both headstrong, virtuous and spirited Irishmen looking to do the good deed and fight the good fight. They both find themselves up against these inexorable forces of evil and go through major changes in dealing with them. I get paired with them as a kind of alter ego – I do the kind of things they wish they could but won’t. I also have lots of street experience that they don’t, which makes me sort of a big brother at times. Plus, I’m good with a gun and don’t lose my cool in a jam. All in all, I’m a good guy to have in your corner when the chips are down.

Q: The storyline has you and your partners trying to track down the Nightcrawler to gain intel on the Russian Mob. You find yourself in a scrum between the Russian Mob, the Tryzub terror gang and the Brighton Hijackers. Amidst a citywide Ebola epidemic, does it ever seem like it becomes ridiculously hopeless?

A: That’s part of the magic of a JRD novel. Everything seems so bleak and depressing, you think there’s no way out until the floor drops from beneath the bad guys. In Vampir, it’s as much of a mystery as a horror novel, so you’re more engrossed in how things work out. In The Plague, it’s a series of cliffhangers where the Nightcrawler steps in at the last minute to stave off total disaster. The bad guys pick up and come back stronger than ever, but somehow Nightcrawler makes the save once again. It’s kinda like watching a wrestling match, you figure he’s gonna save the day but you can’t figure out how.

Q: Apollyon seems to be a lot bigger and more dangerous than the Reaper from the first novel. Only the Nightcrawler seems to have his number throughout the story. What’s the difference between the two?

A: Apollyon’s connections make him more of a menace than the Reaper, even though the Reaper does way better in combat against the Crawler. The Tryzub agents have an in with the Dagestan Embassy as well as the Russian government, which almost gives them diplomatic immunity. And, of course, they have their ace in the hole with Tryzub, which is on a level with ISIS as a terror organization. As a result, you may take Apollyon down, but the trick is to keep him down. You don’t know whether he’ll walk out the door or through the door.

Q: In all three novels, the Nightcrawler is sought by the police though there are no pending charges. Do you see him as public enemy or crime fighter?

A: He’s a vigilante, plain and simple. He makes our job easier, even though he’s technically in violation of dozens of State and Federal laws. All of New York City’s rooting for him, us included. We all wish he’d open up a warehouse somewhere and become a shadowy legend like my buddy Dale Vosberg. Only that’s not his style. He’ll just keep finding more and more ways to try and kill himself. Probably the series will end with him diving off the Chernobyl satellite.

Q: Is this the best of the series? 

A: You have to remember it’s the third part of a trilogy, and it’s advertised as women’s fiction. At the end of the day, it’s all about Sabrina Brooks and her relationship with Hoyt Wexford. In the first novel, she’s trying to rebuild her world after her father’s death and realize all her hopes and dreams. In the second book, she tries to hold it all together but somehow it starts falling apart. This story is about Hoyt stepping up and saving the day with Sabrina in the hospital and a new Nightcrawler on the streets. Sabrina’s probably the most fascinating character in indie lit, and you’re cheating yourself if you read one without catching the others.

Q:  Do you think there’ll be a Nightcrawler IV?

A: I certainly hope so. Maybe I’ll get the girl in the next one, or at least one of them.

Slick as Schick?

Roger Schick

Roger Schick is a good friend and JRD reader who has been working diligently in making his indie lit debut, and the wait has been well worth it. Stormie Knight is a tour de force through the world of schizophrenia and alternate reality as seen through the eyes of its compelling female protagonist. Chock full of allegory, action-packed narrative and harrowing plot twists, this is one you won’t want to miss. Here’s my beta read on his soon-to-be-released suspense novel you need to put on your bucket list… 

Stormie Knight by Roger Schick is a well-crafted psychological thriller taking us through the labyrinth inside the mind of its female protagonist. Jennifer Peterson and her sister Jordana are unfortunates born to a dysfunctional family, trying their best to cling to a semblance of normalcy in a world dependent upon the whims of an alcoholic father. When Jordana is murdered, Jennifer crashes and burns in a state of schizophrenia. She begins inventing alternate universes through which the author brings us with Hitchcockian glee, keeping our heads spinning as Jennifer goes to sleep in one dimension and wakes up in the next. We follow her and her alter ego Nolan along with her paladin Tabitha as she careens through a kaleidoscopic existence leading to deception, delusion and murder in this breathtaking character study.

Schick’s skills as a storyteller are fully evident as we are seamlessly led through a narrative that would have normally lost us along the first chapter. The loss of her sister leads Jennifer to a halfway house where she takes on the role of Stormie Knight, hiring on as an assistant in helping homeless women. She meets Tabitha, an Artful Dodger from the dark side who accompanies Stormie on a twisted trail where the lost girls begin disappearing in horrific episodes. It brings Detective Nolan Parker onto the trail of the Blue Rose Killer, where Stormie channels both Nolan and galactic warrior Morning Star in dealing with the surreal forces tearing her world apart. We teeter on the brink of apocalyptic devastation before falling face-first into blood soaked alleys, desperately trying to cling to reality in following Stormie through the battle of her life.

Too much to digest? Don’t be fooled. Catch hold of this mindbender and join the long line of Schick readers who are anxiously awaiting the prequel.

More Marcha: Refractions of Frozen Time?

Obviously Marcha and I are good cyberspace friends and literary colleagues. We’ve developed a mutual respect for each other’s work and artistic abilities and remain in constant contact exchanging views and opinions on the changing world of indie lit. Naturally I jumped on the chance to be a beta reader of her upcoming work, Refractions of Frozen Time. Without further ado, here’s my take on Marcha’s latest endeavor…


Refractions of Frozen Time by Marcha Fox is the fourth installment of the Star Trails anthology. It’s one of those unique compilations in that each story is able to stand alone without the assistance of the others, and therein lies the magic. The Star Trails Tetralogy followed the journey of the Brightstar family as they were scattered to the farthest ends of the galaxy trying to avoid the manipulations of the evil Integration program. We watched Merapa Brightstar take a stand against the terrible trio of Governor Woeyel, Augustus Troy and Rohtik Spoigan, having to flee from the persecution of his noble Ledorian Order. His struggle anticipated the plight of his children Creena and Dirck, who abandon their own plans for self-fulfillment in finding their father and joining in the struggle against the evil empire. Now we’ve come to the turn in the road, and all we can hope is that it leads to more Brightstar tales from this prolific sci-fi novelist.


What sets this apart from run-of-the-mill space operas is Fox’s experience during her tenure at NASA. She draws upon her technical expertise and enhances it with fact-based theory that gives this as much of a ‘what-if’ perspective as you can expect within the genre. The moral and philosophical questions also give us much to reflect upon. Devenite and its chronoviatic properties may allow the Brightstars to travel through time and change the future. Yet Merapa chastises Dirck in pointing out how mankind would end up destroying its own destiny, forcing outcomes while forsaking the natural order of things in the process. How many times do we look back at what might have been, not realizing how much better off we are according to God’s perfect plan? Life is full of choices, but if our choices are preempted by those who act for the greater good, we may find ourselves ultimately having no choice at all.


It’s something to consider, and definitely a book all sci-fi fans need to check out. For series followers, the addition of Professor Denale and Eulon Argo are my dark horse bets as major players in the cataclysmic confrontations ahead. Pick up a copy of Refractions of Frozen Time by Marcha Fox and treat yourself to a visionary adventure you won’t forget.


Inside the Mind of Elle Klass?



I started working on this review the night before I even read Page One of Elle Klass’ Eye of the Storm. In my head, rolling around sleepless in the middle of the night, like most writers do. After all, it was more about Elle’s literary journey than anything else. It’s been a year since she asked me for a critique of an upcoming project, and I was happy to oblige. I reviewed her first novel, As Snow Falls, which was a postmodernist masterpiece of first-person narrative. Cormac Mc Carthy would have been proud. Her follow-up project, the Baby Girl trilogy, went in a different direction in which I was sorry to see it go. Of course, I’m the kind of guy who gets traumatized when one of my drinking buddies changes her hair style. I fight change like a burglar climbing out my window, and most of the times I live to regret it, just as I did with the adventures of Cleo.


What Elle did was pull off one of the most unusual trilogies in indie lit memory. Her Baby Girl (a title I thought apropos in how Ms. Klass babied the little $hit) started out as a vagabond waif riding the rails in a Dickensian odyssey with the unforgettable Einstein. From there she made her way to Europe and pulled a transformation which was straight out of The Talented Mr. Ripley. Only it morphed into a modern-day Jane Eyre as her benefactor, the remarkable Mr. Didier, helps her pull off her masquerade in astonishing both the snobbish members of Parisian high society and Elle’s readers alike. She then came full circle in Book Three, returning to America in joining forces with a low-rent private dick in tying up the loose ends. Cleo pieces the puzzles of her life together, helping Elle put the finishing touches on her intriguing rags-to-riches montage.


Which finally brings us to Storm, where Elle introduces us to Eilida Riley, a mysterious woman pursued by Ms. Klass’ latest quirky protagonist. Sunshine is in a perky relationship with a guy named Jerry who can’t figure out why she’s diving off the deep end after all this time. It’s a Hitchcockian plunge by Ms. Klass, who is once again exploring the world of amnesiac episodes, violent deaths and childhood trauma. The secret ingredient in her recipes is the exploration process, the self-discovery as her heroine finds out more about herself in delving deeper into the mysteries of her past. The more we learn about the centrifugal forces that drag our female protagonist deeper into the abyss, the more we learn about the character that keeps her from disappearing in the darkness. And you don’t get up until Elle Klass says you can.


Pick up a copy of Elle Klass’ Eye of the Storm and prepare to present this to your local book club. This is just another step in this author’s professional journey that you’ll want to retrace over and over again.

Return Match With Marcha Fox!

marcha Recently Marcha was kind enough to invite me to participate in a Blog Tour. I gladly obliged, which resulted in the opportunity to not only hawk my new project, Philistia, but allow my fab followers to learn more about one of indie lit’s best and brightest new sci-fi authors!

Here’s Marcha’s questions along with JRD’s answers:

1. What are you working on at the moment?

Philistia is a young adult speculative fiction Christian novel centering on a 21st century reappearance of Samson and Delilah. They find themselves in the desert outside of Bethlehem and get picked up by the police after terror attack warnings have been issued due to hostilities along the Gaza Strip. They escape and become ‘persons of interest’ to Shin Bet (the Israeli Bureau of Investigation) as well as Hamas, who know that Samson’s superhuman strength can be of use in their terror campaign. The couple are unsure of how they ended up in the 21st century, but have a vision of returning to the ancient land of Philistia, which has become part of the modern Gaza Strip. They become embroiled in the struggle between Jews, Muslims and Christians in trying to make the peace between their strange new friends.

2. How does your work differ from others of this genre?

I don’t think anyone’s tried to modernize the Samson and Delilah tale for fear of getting egg all over their faces. Samson’s superhuman strength is noteworthy but not all that formidable in the face of the firepower available to the IDF and Hamas. The female protagonist, Delilah, becomes the key figure as she has to use all her legendary wiles to get them out of mess after mess. The redeeming value is the lesson that the spirit of love and peace are lost all too often in modern-day religious conflicts.

3. Why do you write what you do?

Historical fiction is probably more essential now than ever as history is repeating itself and these Millenials have no idea how we got here. Moreover, cracking the history books is probably as exciting to most people as mowing the lawn or doing dishes. If an author can explain the deeper meanings of current day issues and leave readers with an inspiring message, then you’ve done a good deed for the day.

4. How does your writing process work?

I switch on the TV. Al Jazeera, the BBC and CNN give me all the material I can possibly use. I just need to find a couple of dynamic characters, give them some great JRD dialogue, come up with a great storyline and a dynamic ending. Presto, I’ve got a great JRD novel they’ll appreciate long after I’m dead and gone.

And my question for Marcha:

How have your professional lives influenced your career as a science fiction writer?

I’ve always wanted to be an author. Picky person that I am I figured I needed to know what I was doing if I wanted to write science fiction. Saying “I read a book once” didn’t seem adequate. So I went back to school at 35 and got a physics degree. I didn’t have the luxury of staying home to write so went to work for a small aerospace company then eventually got on as a NASA contractor. I was there 21 years and gathered a lot of experience. I got to see a lot of very cool places and meet awesome people as well as absorb the culture and its inherent bureaucratic nature as a government agency. All along I was writing in the evening and whenever I could between raising 6 kids and all the other stuff that goes along with it. When I finally was able to retire I decided it was time to get back to it. So here I am. The astrology evolved from book research a long time ago. I didn’t believe in it at the time but soon discovered it worked. I eventually went to school to qualify as a professional, set up a website and started doing readings to supplement my retirement. It’s pretty antithetical to physics on the surface but not really since early physicists like Isaac Newton and Johannes Kepler were astrologers simply trying to gather more accurate data for their readings. Someday I hope to write a book to tie all that back together.

Check out Marcha’s Amazon page at:

Interview With Rebecca Strunk-Moatz!



Rebecca Moatz (pen name R.L. Moatz) is another of my earliest Internet friends and colleagues whose autobiographical story, It Happened At A Lutheran Church, was one of the first e-books I reviewed. She provided us with an in-depth interview and a behind the scenes look into an intimate and harrowing episode in her personal life.


It Happened At A Lutheran Church must have had a major impact in your community. What updates can you provide since the publication of your book?

I anticipated the same reaction and even braced myself for it, especially where my son’s privacy was concerned.  However, by most accounts it feels like the community as a whole is embarrassed by the book.  When the initial press releases went out, not a single local newspaper, radio station or television news station responded.  I was eventually interviewed by a reporter from the Reading Eagle newspaper in January, 2014, but the article didn’t go to press until April, eleven months after the book was published.

Reading has been a city in socio-economic decline since the 1960’s.  What was once a beautiful and safe place to work and raise a family has crumbled into urban decay.  Since the new millennium, we have held the dubious distinctions of holding both the highest poverty rate and highest murder rate in the nation.  More and more kids are selling drugs, joining gangs and using guns to settle their disputes.  Philadelphia news vans are here on a regular basis covering one tragedy after another.  As a result, different groups have formed whose focus has been to take back our streets, rebuild our communities, and generate positive press.

Dedicated people have worked very hard to make downtown Reading a place that Berks countians will want to come to work and enjoy recreational activities in.  But it’s been an uphill battle for them in many respects, especially with the press.  A book like mine, detailing the emotional abuse of a child in one of the largest Lutheran churches in the city is probably not something outsiders to know about.

The book has gotten very good feedback online, however.  Nearly everyone who has read it tells me they have walked away with something positive, and I have readers worldwide on nearly every continent.  I have been interviewed on The Christian Authors Radio Show and featured on Lighthouse International Ministries with Reverend Allen Smith, Bookshelf News with Maurice Tudor, Venture Galleries with Caleb Pirtle, Brook Cottage Books with JB Johnston, and The Story Reading Ape with Christopher Graham.


Your family endured great tribulation throughout the timeframe narrated in your account. What were the long-term effects? Would you say that the family emerged stronger, or did the psychological trauma take its toll?

The long-term effects have been many and have evolved over the years, mainly because Joshua was only ten years old when the incidents took place.  He grew into adulthood from that point on having to work through someone else’s issues, anger, and attitude that he didn’t even initially understand.  Adults whom he had received love and support from for five years suddenly began looking at him and talking to him as if he was “bad” and kids whom he thought were his friends didn’t like him anymore.  Then, just as it was all far enough behind him to start fading away, we ran into Pastor Kehler.

When the memories came flooding back, he was then old enough to figure out what he was actually being accused of.  It was both horrifying and embarrassing for a 13-year-old boy to realize the depth of their depravity!  Adults in a place where he was supposed to feel safe and loved actually thought these terrible things about him, and they told all the other adults, and everyone believed it!  And worse yet, the other kids believed that he had done something really horrible!  And the one person who had always been a stable force in his life, the person who was supposed to keep him safe, his mother, kept taking him back there!

He developed trust issues as a result, and he became very selective when it came to making new friends.  Prior to the incident, Joshua was the type of child who made friends with everyone everywhere.  Our house was the kid house; everyone was always here and in the summer and during school vacations, at least one kid always spent the night.  He was the only “only child” I ever met who had bunk beds in his room, and we easily could have used a second set!  After the incident, his inner circle gradually grew smaller as time went on.  As the city declined, many families moved, and the number of friends he brought home declined with it.

Fortunately, the lines of communication between us stayed open, and we talked through a great deal of his emotions over the years, always at his pace, of course.  Whether the conversation was a direct result of what happened at St. Paul’s or secondary to it, the discussions took place only when he initiated them.  I’ve never wanted him to feel pressured or to feel as though I was prying, because I realize that there will always be some thoughts he will choose to keep to himself.

Overall, I think both individually and as a family, we are all stronger as a result of what happened.  Most importantly, both Joshua and I are using our past experiences to help others, and we are both enjoying new careers based on a life of service.  His father and I couldn’t be more pleased with his accomplishments and his choices.


Obviously the title of your book had its own significance. Do you still consider yourself a member of the Lutheran Church? Has the hierarchy ever reached out and offered an apology?

That is a very good question and one that I’ve had to answer several times recently.  I consider myself a member of the Lutheran faith, but I am currently without a Church home.  The question has come up, because I’ve been battling some new health issues and have been in and out of the hospital for the past few months.  The first time I went in and I was asked to confirm my religious status, I did hesitate for a moment.  What am I now?  After all, I haven’t yet found another church home, and I don’t know when I will.  I am not completely opposed to the idea; it just hasn’t happened yet.  I did visit another church a few years ago with someone whom I thought was a friend, but he turned out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  One would think that experience would have been the proverbial straw, but it wasn’t.

We are all sinners, and as Abigail Van Buren once said, “Churches are supposed to be hospitals for sinners, not museums for saints.”  With that in mind, I don’t have any great expectations, nor do I think the odds of having something as devastating as what happened before will happen again.  When the time and place are right, the Lord will make it known, and I will try again.  Until then, He and I have an understanding.

Sadly, no one from St. Paul’s or any level of the Lutheran Church has ever reached out to Joshua or our family, not even after the Reading Eagle finally did run the story.  The only person I heard from was the president of the Church council.  It was shortly after I left the Church, and I had sent her a letter of resignation.  She left me a message asking me to return a notebook of documents that is given to each member of council.  Nothing else was said.  Not “I’m sorry you are leaving.”  Not, “Why are you leaving?”  Nothing.  At the time, I thought what had happened to us was an isolated incident, so it never occurred to me that it might benefit others if I reported what had happened.  I have since learned that this is an ongoing problem in our country, however, and your question has prompted me to give it some prayer.  Perhaps the time has come to take the next step.


Many readers would contemplate the fact that most of these injustices occurred on the watch of a female pastor. In retrospect, do you feel that this might have been less likely to happen under a male pastor? Do you feel that Pastor Kehler was reluctant to pass judgment on an issue involving two mothers, where a male pastor might have been more objective?

No, I don’t, simply because I have had the leadership of female pastors before meeting, working with, and worshipping under Pastor Kehler.  Nor do I feel it was any more or less likely to happen under a male pastor.  I can certainly understand why these facts would be contemplated and how the arguments would be made, but at the end of the day, I think it comes down to individual personalities, backgrounds and life experience.

In Pastor Kehler’s case, although she is around my age, St. Paul’s was her first parish.  While all ministers are going to take the success or failure of their particular parish personally, I think it may have been more intense for her, because it was a total life change.  She had been married, but had no children, and was working for state government prior to becoming a minister.  After her marriage ended, she decided to pursue a pastoral career, so in many ways, she was starting over.  She was also from another county, so moving to Reading and becoming the pastor of St. Paul’s probably seemed like the beginning of a brand new life for her.

Before the incident happened, she and I talked a great deal about what she called time and talents.  I never had much money to put in the collection plate, but she always reassured me that didn’t matter, because I gave generously of my time and talents, which were equally important to the sustainability of the Church.  At the time of the incident, however, I had been sick for a few months, and Sue Ann had begun taking over some of the programs I had created and/or used to run.

One of those programs was the Junior Youth Group.  We were having a really hard time recruiting more kids, and the group was getting smaller as some of the older ones started moving up to the Senior Youth Group.  And although Sue Ann was no longer working outside the home since the birth of her third child, her husband had a very good job, so I don’t think the loss of her income impacted their tithing much.  Instead, Sue Ann was now giving of her time and talents, doing what I no longer could.  And when it came to building up the Junior Youth Group, she did an outstanding job.  She lived just outside of the city, and her children went to a different school district.  Consequently, she was able to recruit children and families who could better afford to tithe.  The end result was she was of more value to the Church than I was, and I believe that is what motivated Pastor Kehler’s decisions.


You’ve been running a blog site, The Controversial Christian. Have you been discouraged by the Lutherans’ failure to adhere to fundamental Christian tenets? Would you consider yourself a mainstream Christian, or possibly a liberal?

Yes, I have been discouraged, both by my own experience and because it seems that there are more and more “Sunday Christians” out there these days.  Growing up, I had friends who were Catholic, and I always had a problem with the way many of them incorrectly interpreted their faith, which was, “one can do pretty much whatever they want as long as they go to confession”.   As a Lutheran, more accountability for my actions was expected.  The flip side of that coin, however, is that I found many of my fellow Lutherans to be more judgmental of one another, which is where the “museum mentality” I referred to earlier comes into play.  I have since learned that neither attitude is healthy or realistic.

I call myself the Controversial Christian, because my goal is to keep it real.  I am a fallible human being who lives in a world that is complicated and messy, and to quote a friend, “I have no problem being a sheep in wolf’s clothing”.  Christ was born into a poor family and He walked among the common people.  By all accounts, He didn’t put on airs or act without emotion.  Even anger had it’s place.  So why should we, his followers, hold ourselves to a standard we can’t even begin to keep?  So yes, I would consider myself a liberal Christian.  But I am also starting to see other Christians go in the same direction, and I believe we may be heading towards a time when liberal is the new mainstream.


Have you been approached by believers in other denominations who found that basic Christian principles are being eschewed in favor of Church politics? Do you feel that more or less people are speaking out when wronged by their congregation?

Yes, I have been approached by believers in several other denominations, and in some of those cases the parties involved found they were finally able to make a decision with regard to their own Church challenges.  It always feels good to know that something I wrote played a role in that, in helping someone find their serenity.  Sadly, the sordid business of Church politics has been around for a very long time, and very few people have spoken out, which is why I thought that what happened to us was an isolated incident.  It wasn’t until after I published the book that I began to learn what a widespread problem it really is.

Lutherans are generally a stoic bunch, so I think that’s why these problems have been able to fester for as long as they have.  I can remember when I was just a kid growing up in the 60s and 70s, my father had repeatedly turned down nominations for Church council, and when I asked him why, he said he didn’t want to get involved in Church politics.  I didn’t give those old conversations any thought for years until after this happened to us.  My father had already passed when the incident happened at St. Paul’s, so I wasn’t able to discuss it with him.  One of my goals in promoting the book is to encourage people to speak out, especially those folks who are part of a culture like mine where it is ingrained in you to do otherwise.


You describe your lifestyle as being exclusively Pennsylvanian. Do you have any life experiences in big-city environments such as Philadelphia or Pittsburgh? Have any of your kids become young urban professionals?

I have never been to Pittsburgh, but I have spent a good deal of time in Philadelphia with my son for his health care.  He was seen at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children at ages four and six and at Temple and Temple Children’s Hospitals between the ages of six and eleven for numerous surgeries and follow up appointments secondary to specialized health care that he required due to being born with a rare vascular syndrome called AVM.  A good many of those trips were made by Capitol Trailways bus, and the Philadelphia terminal is located in Chinatown, where Joshua’s love of Asian culture was born.

During the follow up appointments, we had ample time between leaving the office and boarding the next bus back to Reading, so we used that time to explore Chinatown together.  After one of his last doctor appointments, we had lunch a lovely restaurant where we both enjoyed our first taste of authentic Chinese tea.  Another time we explored Fairmont Park and yet another time, we set out to see if we could cross the bridge over into New Jersey and back before having to head back to the terminal.  It was a very hot day, but we made it half way before we gave in and turned around.

Joshua is an only child and is definitely very comfortable in an urban environment.  He was only three when we moved into the city, so besides time spent at my childhood home with family up until he was about seven, urban life is really all he knows.  There was a time when he thought he might want to study art in Philadelphia, but he has so many interests that he has changed his mind several times since then.  He has since completed four years in the MCJROTC program at Reading High School where he earned an Outstanding Achievement Award and planned to continue his education through the National Guard.

Unfortunately, his bilateral hearing loss secondary to the AVM stood in the way of that, so he then decided to pursue a degree in Criminal Justice from Everest University where he made the Dean’s List.  He recently found a degreed position at Abraxas Academy as a Youth Care Specialist, working with troubled youth, many of whom are from Reading, who have either been sentenced to the detention center for various crimes or removed from their homes by Children and Youth Services.  He is also currently pursuing his Bachelor’s degree in Network Security from the University of Advancing Technology, where he recently designed an anti-stalking technology program entitled Incognito This, patent pending.  I had been the victim of a stalker a mere year before the project was assigned, and I was both touched by his choice and proud of his design, which received high marks from all four professors on the board.


How has life in Reading impacted your career as a writer? Do you feel as if your environment has helped or hindered your worldview as an author, and as a Christian?

Reading is a small city that is huge in history.  John Updike went to the same high school that my family and I did, only back in the 40s, it was called Shillington High School; now it is Governor Mifflin School District.  He was in the same class as my mother’s younger twin sisters.  Rabbit Run was filmed here in Reading, and the pool scene was shot at the East Reading Pool, the same pool that is just two blocks from my home, where Joshua and I spent many happy summers when he was in grade school.

We also have a Japanese Pagoda that sits atop Mt. Penn that is lit up every night.  I am fortunate enough to be able to see it from my back door window.  Commissioned in 1906 at a cost of $50,000 by William A. Witman, Sr. to cover his stone quarry, the Pagoda was completed in 1908.  The bell on the 7th floor was cast in Japan in 1739.  It was purchased by Witman in 1906 and shipped via the Suez Canal to the New York Harbor and arrived in Reading on May 5, 1906 by rail.  By 1910, the Pagoda and surrounding ten acres were deeded to local business owner, Jonathon Mould and his wife, Julia.  On April 21, 1911, they sold it to the City of Reading for $1, and since then the Pagoda has been owned, loved, and cared for by the citizens and City of Reading.  Reading also has a long-standing tradition on Christmas Eve; promptly at 9:00 p.m. the red lights that adorn the Pagoda begin flashing.  It is a signal to the children to hurry off to bed, because Santa is on his way.  And since New Year’s Eve, 1999-2000, we have an annual fireworks display that lights up the night sky above it.  There is also a writer’s club that meets there on the first Saturday of the month that I intend to visit in the near future.

And although I was raised in the country home I mentioned earlier, outside of Reading, my mother’s maternal side of the family has roots in the City of Reading.  Her grandfather came over through Ellis Island from Germany when he was just a boy and worked his way up through the local iron industry.  She remembers growing up during the Great Depression and visiting her grandparents, who lived on the same street I do now, and watching her grandmother buy food from the various vendors who came around in those days and give it to their neighbors, a total of seven families.  My great-grandmother helped keep her six children and their families fed along with those seven other families during those days.  My mother is a great historian, and as a result, I learned at an early age that charity really does begin at home.

So I believe that living in Reading has definitely enhanced my writing.  Big dreams have been fulfilled by folks who started out here, and big city problems are being faced every day here.  All of it is an opportunity for me to become a better Christian and a better writer.


We’ve been looking forward to more works by Rebecca Moatz. Are you planning on writing religious-themed books, or personal encouragement tomes, or will we see any fiction novels?

All of the above!  Until recently, I thought I would stay with what I know, writing about the many challenges I have faced and overcame, sharing how my faith played a part and ultimately grew, and providing encouragement to folks who are going through a similar situation.  However, I recently had an idea for a work of fiction that I think will really take off.  It’s based on some truth, of course, but taken and turned a different way that I think the reader will find quite intriguing.  If it is well received, my plan is to create a book series.

Unfortunately, I haven’t done much writing during the past several months due to the health issues I mentioned earlier.  Part of that has to do with being diagnosed with something called non-Celiac gluten sensitivity.  In other words, I have the same reaction to gluten that people with Celiac disease do, even though I don’t have Celiac disease, so it took the docs a little longer to figure it out.  And gluten is in foods you would never even imagine, like corn syrup, for example, and corn syrup is in practically everything.  So, it’s been quite a process to get well.  Now I am beginning the process of learning how to cook all over again.


What advice to you have for fellow Christians who have been wrongly treated by their congregation? Do you feel it is a duty to bring the matter before the elders according to Scripture, or in this day and age, should they turn the other cheek and walk away?

I think each situation needs to be taken on its own account.  Common sense should prevail.  If it’s an isolated incident where one person behaves badly, but nothing else changes, certainly, turn the other cheek.  I try to treat other people the way I would want to be treated, and if I have a bad day and behave regrettably, I would hope someone would cut me a break.  I would also hope I would recognize my human error and apologize.

That being said, if you feel it’s more serious than that, if you feel as though you’ve been shunned or judged, or worse yet, you feel your child is being mistreated, please do not ignore it!  Do not make the mistake I did, thinking that because you are in God’s house, all you have to do is hold your head high and the truth will prevail.

Follow protocol, certainly.  Speak to your Church elders.  But if the situation is not addressed appropriately or resolved, don’t stop there, especially if a child is involved – I can’t stress that part enough, even if it’s not your child.  Someone needs to look out for that child!  If nothing is done, not only is that child going to suffer, but who knows how many other children may suffer in the future, because no one spoke up.  There is no turning the other cheek when a child is involved.  My child and I learned that the hard way.

As I said, each situation has to be taken on its own account.  Pray and listen; the Lord will guide you.  Whether it be to go to your Pastor, contact the Bishop, or worst case scenario, leave the Church, do whatever it is you need to do to protect that child, or yourself, for that matter.  No one should be judged or shunned in the house of the Lord.

Check out Rebecca’s Amazon page at

Interview With Susanne Leist


Susanne Leist is a good friend and mutual supporter whose Dead Game is an innovative addition to the indie horror genre. A fellow native Brooklynite, Susanne brings her unique insights and lively personality to Center Stage for our interview…

The town of Oasis was the home of an upscale community in your novel. Did your current hometown of Woodmere, New York provide an inspiration for your story? Did you envision the same kind of people and places when describing Oasis?

The town of Oasis is the polar opposite of Woodmere, Long Island. In Woodmere, no one ever walks. People take their cars everywhere, even to the corner store. Most people don’t bother to say hello when they pass you on the street. Strollers aren’t pushed by mothers but by their housekeepers or maids.

In Oasis, Linda loves to walk each morning through town, waving hello to everyone she meets. Only Charles Wolf refuses to wave back, but that leads to another part of the story. Oasis is a friendly town, except for the supernatural element, but I’m getting ahead of myself again.

Dead Game was an innovative contribution to the vampire genre in incorporating the surrealistic hallucination angle. Was this your original game plan, or did you add the vampire to the concept of End House?

My books was originally going to be a simple murder mystery. A murder mystery in small town. It was to begin with End House and the mysterious party. Two of the young residents were to be murdered. The rest of the book was supposed to be the journey to find the murderer.

Instead, End House became alive to me with trap doors and deadly saws. This turned out to be only the beginning of the whole story. Dead bodies turn up on the beach. The reclusive residents don’t come out at night. The story snowballed into a supernatural thriller with a surprise ending.

Charles Wolf was undoubtedly the bad guy in this novel, but it seemed he took a back seat to Todd Morrison as the more sympathetic figure. Are we going to see more of Morrison, or are you planning a Dead Game II?

The Dead Game is the first book of two books. The first book resolves the murder mystery, but at the same time, opens a Pandora box of new mysteries. Its surprise ending will lead to more surprises.

I  have just begun to work on the sequel. My outline and notes are ready.  My writing often leads me in unknown directions, so I won’t know how the book will end until it does.

Todd Morrison will play an important role in the next book as his relationship with Linda becomes more complicated. That’s all I’m going to say for now.

The novel seemed to portray the guests at End House as being upwardly-mobile professionals who would be considered somewhat materialistic. Could the hallucinations at End House be perceived as an allegory of their self-delusuons and conceits?

No, please no. I left the world of finance to escape into the world of my imagination. My imagination doesn’t include allegories or self-righteousness.

This would be an extenuation of the last question. Could it be argued that the vampires were a further metaphor symbolizing what many feel is upper-class society, feeding on the working class, having the tables turned on them?

Vampires are the upper class. They’re the upper class of all creatures. That’s why they’re bad and have to be stopped.  And now we’ve brought politics into my imagination.

Readers could be excused for perceiving a homosexual relationship between Mike and David. It seemed as if David played a feminine role throughout the novel.

If women are silly and scared all the time, then David played a feminine role. But not all women are silly and easily frightened. And not all men are heroes and act brave. And who wins the woman at the end? Not Mike.

Father John seems as if the stereotypical religious figure in the novel. Were you just going with the generic flow in the horror category, or was there a reason you didn’t choose an evangelical preacher or a rabbi?

I used a priest because that’s who I’ve usually seen in horror movies and read about in books. I can’t picture one of my rabbis running after a vampire or chanting spells.

The church and devil worship have a long-standing relationship. I was just continuing the myth.

Most of your Facebook friends would describe you as a religious person. Does it play an important part in your daily life? Do you feel that writing provides a platform for believers?

My religion guides me on all matters. It has taught me to be kind to others and never to embarrass anyone—ever. My religion has a lot of rules so it definitely affects my everyday life. I usually miss out on a lot of things. The Sabbath, each week, keeps me grounded.

Writing could be a very important platform if used properly. However, I’m not using my writing for this purpose. I’m writing to bring adventure and enjoyment to my readers, and a little escape from the humdrum of day to day living.

You moved from Brooklyn to Woodmere. As a fellow Brooklynite, I’ve seen it change enormously in my time. Do you still have family and friends in Brooklyn, and do you see it evolving when you visit?

After my parents passed away, I had no one left in Brooklyn to visit. All their friends are gone. Everyone my age has left the neighborhood behind. I do go back to see Sheepshead Bay. It was and still is a very beautiful area.

Check out Susanne’s Amazon page!!!

Interview With Chris Birdy


Chris Birdy is another Internet friend whose The Girl In White Pajamas has proved an essential contribution to the indie suspense/thriller genre. Having spent twenty-five years as an investigator, her professional experience provides the novel with an authentic narrative. Here’s a revealing look at this personable and intriguing author… 


You’re a very private person for an author. I had to pull teeth to get your profile photo. Have you ever considered what life will be like when The Girl in White Pajamas receives the international recognition it deserves?

If is such a big word.  Over the years, I’ve learned not to live on speculation.  I would love to have a best seller, but I won’t change my life now in anticipation of that happening.


You’re also exceptional in that you’re not cranking out novels like comic books, like so many other indie authors. Are we going to be looking for a sequel or will you be exploring other genres?


The Girl was originally written as a trilogy.  Each story has the girl in a different colored costume.  As I began writing the fourth book, it seemed like a good idea not to advertise the books as a trilogy.  The terms OCB and OCD came into my lexicon through my children.  They claim I’m a neurotic perfectionist. I want my work to be the best it can be before it’s shown to the world.

The Girl in White Pajamas went through months of editing before going to the publisher.  The first books that were printed had Chapter 14 doubled.  When I found out, I felt like I was standing in a deep hole and sinking further into it.  Then I did what I usually do in high stress situations – I went to sleep for about 10 hours then woke up and dealt with it.

I like mysteries so I might stick with them for now.


In your Amazon bio you mentioned you spent a quarter century as an investigator. Is Bogie McGruder a typecast of the people who inhabit that world? The narrative seemed far more analytical than sympathetic towards him.

Bogie McGruder is not much of an investigator.  He’s a computer hacker.  His partner, Rose, is actually the investigator.  Rose enjoys solving puzzles.  Bogie is more pragmatic.  He just hacks into networks and gets what he needs.  Bogie is not a “people person.”  He doesn’t like schmoozing with folks to get crumbs of information.  Rose does that and enjoys it.  Bogie is good at strong-arming people, but that skill is not particularly useful in investigations.

Sadly, most of the investigators I worked with lacked humor and imagination.  Most were men, former cops and military.  They took themselves very seriously and worked from lists with pre-printed questions.  I always thought of situations as a game.  Of course, that’s probably why I almost got killed and they didn’t.


There seems to be a strong statement about how overlapping ties between broken relationships affect the individuals caught up in these situations. Was this common among people in the law enforcement community? Did you see the kind of True Detective thing where co-workers brought their family problems to the office with them?

I did investigative work in the confines of a law firm. A small firm doesn’t require more than one investigator and not even that.  I did other things like developing cases, going to court, doing arbitrations and mediations and settling cases.  I prepared clients for depositions and conducted depositions.  When a case required investigative work, it was usually one that had its roots in a housing project or crack house neighborhood, never the suburbs.  I was the only one qualified to go into those areas since I was armed (and dangerous).  The deal was that I took over a case if I had to do that.  I wasn’t going to risk my neck for someone else’s case.

People working in the same space eight to 12 hours for 5 or 6 days a week, get to know the ups and downs of each other’s lives.  Everybody was busy working so it wasn’t a social gathering but people shared joy and sorrow.  While I was working, I learned the worst things; my brother died, my godchild died, my mother was alone and hospitalized in another state.  No matter how professional we all wanted to be, things happened.


We see how Bogie continues his career as an investigator despite having open-heart surgery. Is this more common than we would imagine in real life? Do law enforcement professionals find it that hard to leave the business?


As I said earlier, Bogie is more of a hacker rather than an investigator.  His ability to work was not at all hampered by open heart surgery.

I’ve worked with investigators who were retired cops or military.  Most didn’t carry firearms.  They watched and reported, looked up information and went through records such as RMV (Registry of Motor Vehicles).  You can actually get a lot of information doing that.

I was in sticky situations with some of them when I was the only one who was armed.


Most of us remember The Departed, which was based on the life and times of Whitey Bulger. Did you ever find yourself up against organized crime during your own career? Were there situations where you found yourself in a ‘no-fly’ zone due to political protection?

Thankfully, I never had to deal with the tentacles of Whitey Bulger and his people.  He had a stranglehold over many of the white, Irish people of South Boston and Dorchester.  The people I dealt with were mostly minorities who had their own gangs and violence.  When drugs and money are involved, human life has little meaning. When I had to go to a crack house in Roxbury, I couldn’t get a Boston cop to go with me.  They wouldn’t go on that street, said it wasn’t worth getting shot over.


You went from Pittsburgh to Palm Beach to Boston. Why did you choose Boston over sunny Florida?

I went from Pittsburgh to Erie, to Iran, to Boston then Palm Beach.  When we came back from the Middle East, my husband got a job in Boston.  I fell in love with the city from the first day I was here.  I bought the place in Palm Beach several years ago.  It was a refuge to relax and write.  I’d work long, long hours then take off once every five weeks and go to Palm Beach for a few days to write and relax.  Palm Beach is a great place and totally different from Boston.  .


You mentioned a court case that planted the seeds for Pajamas. Has your writing career become a platform to make statements about the system? We see more and more investigative journalism these days, but it seems as if fewer insiders are willing to step forth.


I have no particular platform, I write what I know.  Some people believe the first book is a biting satire on the legal profession and law enforcement.  My answer:  they are represented as I know them to be.


What was life like in Pittsburgh? Did you dream of becoming a writer in your early days?

I was born and raised (mostly) on the South Side (pronounced souside).  It was a white working class area.  The North Side was for the black working people.  To me Pittsburgh was crowded and noisy with violence all around.  People drank too much and took their show out into the street – drunken brawls, beatings…an action movie in living color that traumatized children for life.

I apologize if it sounds snarky but from the time I was young my dream was to get out of Pittsburgh.  My life is a dream come true.



The Boston Marathon bombing undoubtedly affected everyone remotely associated with law enforcement in the city. Can we expect Chris Birdy’s reflections on the event sometime in the future?

Being a Monday morning not my style.  The bombings had the kind of effect on Boston that 9/11 had on New York City…a sense of horror and disbelief.  Cops were at the scene when the explosions went off.  It wasn’t that they weren’t doing their jobs; they thought they were keeping order at a traditional event.  They didn’t realize they would be witnesses to a tragedy.



Describe a fun day during a Boston weekend. If there was an authors’ convention, what places would they must not want to miss?

I love Boston and believe it is a beautiful, interesting city.  When guests came to town, I’d walk with them on the Freedom Trail pointing out all the historic sites, take the trolley or duck tours showing them points of interest.  I’m fascinated with history, but that’s not for everyone. Some people ridiculed me and said they wanted action.  Those folks I took to a Red Sox game.


Check out Chris’ Amazon page…