What’s the secret to writing great fiction?

A good fiction book needs to be filled with action. The good guys are after the bad guys, the doctor needs to find a cure. From the beginning to the end, the reader can’t bear to stop reading because the action just keeps coming.

The best answer goes something like this: “Write the book you’ve always wanted to read.” Now that might sound easy enough, until you sit down at a computer for twenty minutes wondering where the hell to begin. After attending a zillion workshops and taking notes that will probably never be read again, I can honestly say the formula for creating a powerful story is relatively simple, provided you include a few key ingredients. You see, in fiction, the writer’s job is to entertain, to draw an emotional response from the reader. The reader is often looking for suspense, action, and to go on a journey they have not been on before, one they will not easily forget. Readers want to get drawn into and experience the story for themselves. They want characters they can relate to and form a personal connection with. But most importantly, they want a good book. One that leaves them anxiously awaiting each turn of the page. With this in mind, here are the elements I consider essential to writing great fiction.

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Well-developed characters: The characters in the book must be well developed and believable. The characters should remind you of your teacher, your lawyer, your doctor, or maybe even your best friend. Even though they are fictional, they come alive for us in the story.

Action: A good fiction book needs to be filled with action. The good guys are after the bad guys, the doctor needs to find a cure. From the beginning to the end, the reader can’t bear to stop reading because the action just keeps coming.

Great Plot: The writer keeps the reader guessing right to the end by using surprising, realistic plot twists. Just when we think we know “who done it” – bam – a new twist creeps up and a story involves more. As we near the end we wonder if there is time to solve it? Will it have a happy ending? Most readers long for a good ending to their story as they grow fond of the characters in the book and want to see the best happen to them.

Enjoyable to Read: Readers want to have fun. They want to escape into this book and for the moment forget the day’s events and challenging issues that face them. They want a personal connection with the characters and also they want a story that inspires them to make a difference.

Keep Your Audience in Mind: When writing fiction it’s important to remember to keep the audience in mind. These are the people who will be picking up your book and buying it and also hopefully recommending it to a friend or family member. For your particular book, what do they want to read? What will keep them on a Friday night turning each page to see what happens next. It’s different with each book, but once you capture your audience you have the makings for a success.

Writers write about what they know. They can bring the sounds, colors, and images of their world to life in their story. Fiction is where writers get the opportunity to bring you into that world and keep you there until, “the end.”

Blue Ink Starred Review!

SEVERED THREADS by Kaylin McFarrenSEVERED THREADS Cover Jpg

Creative Edge Publishing, 330 pages, (paperback) $12.95, 9781475186529 (Reviewed: February 2016)

STARRED REVIEW

A romantic adventure set in the exciting world of salvage diving, treasure hunters, and modern-day pirates, Severed Threads is an action-packed, crowd-pleasing page-turner.

Four years ago, Rachel Lyons’ father died in a mysterious diving accident, ending her love affair with the sea, as well as her love for her current flame, Chase Cohen, who was there when Sam Lyons died. Chase disappeared from Rachel’s life shortly thereafter, with no explanation. Since then, she has buried herself in a new corporate job and new life devoid of treasure hunting.

However, things are starting to get complicated. Rachel’s brother is in deep trouble with some dangerous people, and one of her father’s close friends needs a priceless Chinese artifact to end a deadly curse. In order to save the ones she loves, Rachel must team up with Chase to find the Heart of the Dragon and other promised riches. Their shaky partnership is thrown off balance by secrets, hidden motives, and unmistakable romantic tension.

McFarren expertly blends Chase and Rachel’s personal story with an exciting treasure hunting narrative punctuated by detailed diving knowledge. One moment Chase and Rachel are fending off sharks and discovering ancient treasure; in the next, their sizzling chemistry lights the pages on fire.

The plot develops quickly, while action, intrigue, sensual romance, and surprising twists and turns abound. The author’s descriptions of an underwater world are vivid and breathtaking, and a supernatural edge colors the search for legendary treasure. The main characters, Chase and Rachel, are wonderfully flawed and are surrounded by interesting and well-developed secondary characters that add depth to the story.

Severed Threads is an exciting and engaging read, simply perfect for fans of romantic suspense.

Also available as an ebook and audiobook.

Book Reviewers Wanted

A lone figure stood in the estuary lookout nestled in the trees above the North Sea on the Holderness Coast, waiting with restless anticipation as Gwen Gallagher approached the cliff’s edge. A quick adjustment to the night- vision binoculars allowed the watcher a closer view of the twenty-eight-year-old secretary as she savored the last autumn sunset she would ever see. The crisp, cool air picked up speed, leaving her long black hair sailing like a ghostly pirate’s flag behind her. It lifted the hem of her black skirt slightly, exposing her white, shapely legs and black suede booties to the wintry elements. Her blue eyes sparkled as they swept across the landscape, appraising the beauty surrounding them. She raised her chin toward the darkening sky and smiled, obviously believing the note she had received, inviting her here, had come from her married lover.

As Gwen moved even closer to the edge, the watcher took a deep breath. All that remained between this ludicrous woman and the vividly blue ocean was two meters of solid rock. From the lookout vantage point, there was barely enough light to confirm that she was staring down at the tossing sands and churning water, mesmerized by the early evening breeze. All it would take was one push, and she would feel the rush of wind through her hair and see the crystal-blue sea one last time as she slammed headlong into the jagged rocks.

Interested in reading my latest release and providing your honest to goodness review? Much-anticipated Banished Threads  the third book in my Threads series, featuring treasure hunters and adventure seekers Rachel Lyons and Chase Cohen, will be coming to Amazon, B&N and independent book stores this spring (Creative Edge Publishing LLC, March 20, 2016). If you’d like to receive an advance copy, please let me know and I’ll try my best to accommodate the hosts of review sites willing to spread the word.

USReview Book Image

Book Summary: While vacationing at the Cumberforge Manor in Bellwood, England, Rachel and Chase attend an elegant dinner party hosted by her uncle, Paul Lyons, and his aristocratic wife, Sara. Before the evening ends, a priceless collection of Morris Graves’ paintings are stolen from her uncle’s popular gallery, throwing all suspicion onto his wife’s troubled granddaughter Sloan, and turning Rachel and Chase into crime-stopping sleuths. Determined to clear Sloan’s name and, in the process, win Paul’s favor, Chase scours the countryside looking for answers. In his absence, the police accuse Rachel’s uncle of an unsolved murder and secrets surrounding her grandmother’s death and the deaths of Sara’s former husbands turn his wife into the most likely suspect.

With the true villains hell-bent on destroying Paul and his family, solving both crimes while ensuring her uncle’s freedom not only endangers Rachel’s life but that of her unborn child. Will Chase save them before the kidnappers enact their revenge or will the ultimate price be paid, as predicted by a vagabond fortuneteller?

Read the book to find to out! Send your request for Banished Threads to Kaylin@kaylinmcfaren.com.

Thank you!

POV By Columbia Review

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SEVERED THREADS – A NOVEL
REVIEWED BY: EDITORIAL BOARD
The Editorial Board of The Columbia Review accepts submissions from authors, publishers, directors, agents, producers and fans. http://www.TheColumbiaReview.com

“Severed Threads” by Kaylin McFarren is the first installment in romantic suspense series. It provides an engaging mix of mystery, action, and drama that readers are sure to enjoy.

The story’s protagonist is Rachel Lyons, who is devastated after her father dies from a terrible diving accident. Rachel copes as best she can by choosing a life path that seems safe and comfortable. Her path soon becomes not so safe and comfortable, however, when she is drawn very reluctantly into an endeavor to recover a priceless relic from a sunken Chinese merchant ship. Because a former love interest named Chase Cohen is involved in the adventure, Rachel strongly desires not to be involved:

“Word had it, Chase Cohen, the renowned treasure hunter, was more determined than ever to leave his mark. He’d rifled ocean plots stretching from Spain to Key West, selling off remnants of other people’s lives. She had hoped their paths would never cross again.”

Despite her adamant hope to stay away, however, Rachel finds herself pulled into the situation as a result of yet another traumatic event. A drug-dealing gangster kidnaps Rachel’s brother and holds him ransom for $2 million. After learning about this horrific situation, Rachel determines that she has no choice but to become involved in the recovery of the ship’s relic…because it also holds the Heart of the Dragon, which she must steal to save her brother. The whole process forces Rachel to relive the circumstances of her father’s death, an experience that she finds incredibly challenging:

“She pulled the covers under her chin and longed to be lulled to sleep by the ship’s rocking motion—to be transported to a peaceful place. However, whether her nightmares were triggered by being aboard Stargazer or in the proximity of the place where he had met his untimely death, they had grown in intensity. They had become so horrifying and real with each passing night that she got little or no sleep at all. She closed her eyes and concentrated on the sound in the room.”

Through this adventure, Rachel must overcome her greatest challenges and biggest fears and ends up learning more than she realized about herself and her father’s death along the way.

“Severed Threads” offers a psychologically thrilling and adventurous story that includes surprising twists and turns sure to keep its readers at the edge of their seats. The novel will delight readers of all ages with interesting characters, clever plotlines, and an engaging combination of romance, villainy, and the supernatural. Highly recommended!

Great advance review for Banished Threads!

USReview Book Image         Pacific Book Review

The saga of Chase Cohen and Rachel Lyons continues in book three of the Thread Series! The inimitable treasure-hunting business partners sail to England in the hope of asking Paul Lyons, Rachel’s uncle, for his blessing. Rachel, on the other hand, is not only dealing with morning sickness atop thoughts of her soon-approaching marriage, she is also riddled with a flurry of “what-ifs.” Chase’s relationship with Paul is rocky at best. Yet that pales in comparison to the serious family issues—more like skeletons in the closet—that are at stake in the Lyons household, especially when Sloan, Paul’s step-granddaughter, and Rachel are kidnapped.

Mistress storyteller and award-winning author Kaylin McFarren spins another action-packed adventure shrouded in mystery in her latest sequel. McFarren opens with a supposed tryst that morphs into an unexplained death. Grabbing her audience’s full attention, McFarren quickly shifts gears to the emotional and sexual tension brewing between Chase and Rachel, her two featured characters. Critical to McFarren’s writing style is how she slyly weaves in an array of colorfully complex characters—many of which function as foils for the purpose of building her dynamic cast—while undergirding her story with themes of the lovers’ anxiety and their unfolding relationship. Equally critical is the inclusion of a handful of supportive characters that play distinctive roles in the development of both the storyline and series.

Lightly punctuating her third person narrative with omniscient viewpoints, McFarren provides readers with windows that take snapshots into her character’s thought processes and inner turmoil, especially when she places them within life-threatening scenes. Although the bulk of her story is grippingly fast-paced, McFarren keeps readers engaged by throwing in a variety of sexual scenes that range from steamy to downright disturbing, as well as off-the-wall unexpected moments. Great “unexpected” examples include Chase inadvertently overhearing a sexually skewed hypnotic session and artistic representatives attending a posh dinner with bags on their heads, just to name a few.

Amid chapters replete with alternating character scenes, plenty of un-clichéd scenes, and romance—all set within suspenseful environs, McFarren’s tale would be incomplete without the infusion of a bit of history. Inspired by her love of the arts as well as owning and operating her own art gallery, McFarren aptly sprinkles in elements of art, giving particular attention to the works of the eccentric abstract painter Morris Graves. Also of interest is the way she portrays aspects of London, such as the infamous Soho district.

As with Severed Threads and Buried Threads, book three closes on a cliffhanger—one that indubitably will keep readers on edge anticipating its sequel. Well written and absolutely enthralling, Banished Threads is a wonderful addition to McFarren’s award-winning series!

Inside Scoop Radio Interview

For anyone who’s interested in hearing more about Buried Threads and Kaylin McFarren’s creative process, please take a few moments to listen to Inside Scoop…a fun and informative radio interview. http://insidescooplive.com/kaylinmcfarrenburiedthreads

Linda Yoshida writes the book on giving

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Front Page – Portland Tribune, Clackamas Review, Oregon City News
Wednesday, 11 December 2013
Written by Ellen Spitaleri
Although Linda Yoshida may not call herself a Renaissance woman, it is easy to think of her that way. She used to own a large art gallery and is still a major supporter of the arts, and she is an author, who has published three books, with another one on the way. But more importantly, Yoshida, along with her husband, businessman Junki Yoshida, supports communities throughout the metro area with several charities, especially the Soulful Giving Foundation.Linda Yoshida’s father died from colon cancer, and during the process of his death, she kept a journal, which provided the basis for her first book, “Flaherty’s Crossing.” She donated 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of that book to colon cancer research. Then she visited Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel and found out about the Cancer Center for Children. The visit made her realize she needed “to spread out and do more for cancer research. I would love to see treatment start with children. So I sat down with my husband and we came up with the Soulful Giving Foundation; after all, giving comes from the heart and soul.”The Yoshidas started the foundation five years ago, and the result was an event called the Artful Giving Blanket Concert, held on the grounds of their home in Troutdale. “It combines all the artistic elements — music, visual arts, food and wine. Since everything I do is about the arts, it seemed like a natural connection,” she said. Guests pay $50 for a ticket to the grounds, set up a blanket and enjoy everything happening around them in a forested, natural setting.

“This is an opportunity for the community to come together, and 100 percent of the proceeds benefit Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel and Providence Cancer Research Center,” Yoshida said.

And what does she like best about giving back to her community? “I have received a number of letters from people who appreciate what we do. They see we want to help them. It is easy to just write a check and donate money, but with the foundation, we see people coming together and that is so much grander.” She added that she appreciates the support she gets from board members, all of whom have a connection to cancer in some way, and from more than 100 volunteers. “We welcome volunteers and sponsors. We love to see people affected by cancer find an avenue to help others, and dedicate a contribution to someone they’ve lost,” Yoshida said.

Although she and her husband are Troutdale residents, the board members for the Soulful Giving Foundation come from across the tri-county area, including Angela Fox, publisher of the Clackamas Review and Oregon City News. J. Mark Garber, president of Clackamas-based Pamplin Media Group, Gov. John Kitzhaber, Metro Council President Tom Hughes and U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, who are honorary chairmen of the foundation.

When she sat down to write “Flaherty’s Crossing,” her first book, Yoshida decided to come up with a pseudonym that would honor both her own Irish heritage and her daughter, Happy Valley resident Kristina McMorris, who also is an author. Yoshida chose to write under the name Kaylin McFarren; the Kay is based on the letter K, for Kristina, and Yoshida’s own maiden name, McFarren. “I am 100 percent Irish — both my parents’ families emigrated from Ireland,” she said, noting that the name is also a dedication to her aunt and her great-grandmother, who also were writers.

“Flaherty’s Crossing” is based on Yoshida’s own father’s death; it is a novel about love, loss and the power of forgiveness when a young woman, who is estranged from her father, hears his deathbed confession. “I had a strained relationship with my father, and we tried to connect before his death, but he passed away before we had that opportunity. So I thought about a character whose father comes to see her as a ghost, to complete those issues in life,” she said. As she set about writing her second book, Yoshida made a decision to self-publish her work, noting that she can now be her own boss and write when she feels like writing.

Both her two most current books, “Severed Threads” and “Buried Threads,” fit into the romantic suspense category and have sold so well that she is now working on a third book in the series, “Banished Threads.” In “Severed Threads” we meet deep-sea diver Rachel Lyons, who is called upon by a museum director to assist Chase Cohen, her former love interest, with the recovery of a cursed relic from a sunken Chinese merchant ship. She has no intention of cooperating, until her brother is kidnapped by a drug-dealing gangster. In order to save him and gain control over her own life, Rachel must not only overcome her greatest fears, but also relive the circumstances that led to her father’s death in a diving accident.

In the most current book, “Buried Threads,” published in October, readers meet the treasure-hunting duo again. “They have been invited to Japan to look for a sunken treasure, but this job is much more complex and dangerous than anything they have done before. Shinzo, a Buddhist monk, tells them if the treasure isn’t found, then the destruction of Japan will happen,” Yoshida said. Other elements that come into play are beautiful, exotic women, some of whom can fight their way out of most situations, Japanese gangsters, hungry sharks and eels, restless spirits, and lots of obstacles that Chase and Rachel must overcome to survive. Yoshida noted that 20 percent of the proceeds from these two books will be donated to children’s cancer research.

Yoshida’s third book in the series, “Banished Threads,” is going to be more of a mystery-thriller. In this book, her duo will go to England to visit Rachel’s uncle and will become embroiled in an art theft.

The word “threads” ties in to all of her books for a reason, she said, since Asians believe that love and people are connected by threads, and if you lose someone, the thread is severed. But, if you choose to, you can keep the memory alive, or you can move on and develop a new relationship.

Her biggest thrill is to see her books in print: “It is so exciting. I feel accomplished that I started something and finished it.”

To read excerpts from or purchase Linda Yoshida’s books, visit her website at kaylinmcfarren.com. Her books also are available at Amazon.com.

Buried Threads – Chapter One: The mystery begins…

Kenji Ota didn’t fit the description of a bloodthirsty killer. Upon meeting him, it would be difficult to believe he’d gotten away with murdering at least twenty-five men. He was intelligent, intuitive and physically attractive. His black hair was kept short and neat, and from the professional manner in which he dressed and carried himself, he could have been mistaken for a television announcer or successful business executive. He socialized in mixed circles – with stockbrokers, politicians and street-smart hoodlums alike – and his charming, larger-than-life personality drew the attention of women everywhere. However, after meeting Mariko Abe, his taste in the fairer sex had been spoiled forever. No one in his mind would ever compare to Kyoto’s most beautiful geisha or be foolish enough to keep her away from him.

At 8:45 P.M., he stepped inside RAIN, one of the hottest nightclubs in Japan’s Roppongi district with his face hidden behind a katou anime mask. He knew only the “big” people in Tokyo could gain access to this place, and at the age of 29, he was already considered one of the largest. His loyalty to his yakuza family, the Zakura-kai, carried great weight and had earned him three rankings within the Japanese syndicate: Kaito Mitsui’s body guard, his personal advisor, and captain of his own crew of soldiers. Yet his hard-earned promotions were not the result of monies earned, smart business dealings or his ability to entice new, ambitious recruits. They came as the result of his eight-year incarceration on behalf of his boss for a botched extortion scam.

With renewed interest in the noisy scene before him, Kenji pulled off his mask and tucked it into his black studded belt. He ran his hand across the back of his sweaty neck – the irritating result of another muggy August night. Unlike the devoted men in his crew, he shied away from solid black suits by wearing tight jeans and a loose white shirt most days. And although the police had released him only four days earlier, across his back he carried a red wakazashi– a lethal 31” sword.

Associates who were below Kenji’s rank moved quickly aside and bowed in respect as he passed. On more than one occasion he’d proven himself a deadly adversary with his sweeping blade, the most memorable occurring ten years earlier. Boss Mitsui had called a meeting between Katsu Nagura and all the underbosses in the Zakura-kai to discuss territorial issues. Foolishly, Nagura had challenged their supreme leader, bringing him to his feet.

“You’re not even worth killing! You stupid ingrate!” Kaito Mitsui yelled at the top of his lungs.

Dedicated to his mission to protect his boss at any cost, Kenji appeared in front of Nagura in the blink of an eye. He whipped out his sword and slashed the yakuza boss’s face twice across both cheeks. Within seconds, four of his men jumped in and were dropped to their knees with gaping wounds and severed arteries. The ones that could stand scrambled to get out of there. The two that couldn’t were carried off and deposited in a common grave. Strangely, the whereabouts of these men were of no interest to local officials or members of Nagura’s group. Kenji was never confronted for his part in the bloody incident and was left to conduct business as usual in the Zakura-kai with the same unaffected attitude he exhibited tonight.

As he neared the DJ’s booth, the base-infused rock music grew louder. Hundreds of bodies were bouncing to the techno beat. Dresses were shimmering beneath flashing strobe lights and the surrounding bar was filled three deep with thirsty customers. By Kenji’s estimate, it was unusually busy for a Monday night, even with the discounted drinks and Rockabilia theme.

While he continued to eye the club’s glitzy interior, contemplating owning it one day, two girls crossed the dance floor and were heading straight for him. “Ken-chan, come dance with me,” the girl in the skimpy red dress called out. She was swaying her hips to the music provocatively and angling a come-hither look. Her friend in a micro blue skirt joined in, matching her move for move. In his book, with their thigh-high stockings and hemlines barely covering their assets, they looked like Sasebo bargirls. But another quick look around convinced him they weren’t alone in their meat market attire.

“You promised last time,” the girl in red persisted.

Right. Kenji feigned a smile. He knew these girls belonged to Tak – a “family” member who enjoyed cheap whores and spending his money in by-the-hour love hotels.

“He’s not interested in you,” the other girl said, tugging at his arm. “He promised to dance with me. Right, Kenji?”

He didn’t, of course. He had better things to do and would have remembered if he’d made a promise to anyone…especially these two. He pulled his arm free with little effort. “Sorry, Tak’s waiting. Maybe another time.” Kenji could hear their annoying little whines as he stepped away. Hustlers like these were more disappointed in the watered-down drinks you didn’t buy them than the time you weren’t willing to spare.

He edged his way around the crowd and spotted his friend at the back of the room. As usual, the acme-scarred rebel was holding court in one of the club’s high-back chairs with drinks on the table and two girls seated before him hanging on every word.

As he drew near, Tak’s eyes lifted. “Hey, man! Been waiting for you. What took you so long?” Unlike most of the people Kenji socialized with, Takashi Bekku lacked proper manners. He was slow at paying tabs unless there was someone at the table he needed to impress. Although he was street smart, his education ended at junior high. The knife scars on his arms and cheek came from his father and not from gang members as his girlfriends were lead to believe. But despite it all, Kenji Ota valued their friendship and was confident that if worse came to worst, Takashi would be there for him – watching his back all the way.

“Sorry I’m late,” Kenji said. “I had some business to take care of.” He pulled up an empty chair and two new girls came over to join them. They giggled, prattled away and padded his shoulder, but he paid them no mind.

By the look of excitement in Tak’s eyes, he knew exactly what Kenji was talking about. Earlier that night, Mitsui-san had ordered a hit on Nobu Kimura. He was a retired detective who had spent half his life trying to bring down the Zakura-kai. The man was clever, considering he was old, half blind, and favored a leg from a childhood injury. But he was also brazen and secretly corrupt. He had raided their clubs, planted wires and hassled their business associates. He even went so far as to interrupt the boss’s birthday party just when his cake arrived. All because Mitsui refused to drop a dime – hand him a boss on a silver platter to make him look good with his department heads.

Of course, it came as no surprise when Kenji got the order to get rid of him. Yet the recollection left him grimacing. He didn’t mind taking care of the competition or squirrely guys in the organization, but this was different. Kimura was an outsider, a well-known official people were likely to miss.

Tak was grinning over the top of his drink. “So how’d it go? As good as I’m guessing?”

Kenji glanced away, recalling the white bathroom’s blood-splattered walls. He grew anxious and started bouncing his heel under the table. Like chewing on fingernails, he found it hard to sit still and not move when surrounded by people.

“C’mon, gimme the gory details,” his friend insisted.

Kenji leaned in and lowered his voice. “I sliced his neck from ear to ear like I’m gonna do yours if you don’t shut up.”

Tak laughed and slapped his fist into his hand. “Aw, man! Nice. Quick death. Now if it was me, I would’ve delivered slow torture.”

“Yeah, that sounds like you. Anyway, you didn’t ask me to come here to discuss Kimura. There must be something else on your mind, right?”

The girl on his left handed him one of the beers from the table. He nodded his thanks and twisted off the cap. After a long pull, he sat back and waited for Tak’s answer. “I heard Satoru Yamada hooked up with an American treasure-hunting company and is flying in from Los Angeles tonight. The lead diver showed up three days ago and has been real tight with your sister Yuki ever since. They’ve been buying gear and going to libraries…checking out history and treasure-hunting shit. No one seems to know much, but I got a good feeling about this one.”

Kenji listened closely, thoughtfully nodding.

“Anyway, it turns out this guy has been trying to line up a dive boat. Since you got one stored in that marina you own, this could be your chance to pull in some real dough…maybe even throw a few crumbs my way.”

Kenji snorted a laugh. “Yeah, right. What else do you know?”

“They’re getting together for a meeting on Friday night and Yamada invited that geisha Mariko Abe to join him. He was checking out rings before leaving town. Before the night’s over, they might be celebrating more than a partnership.”

Shit. Kenji swallowed hard. He lowered his crossed arms but managed to keep his eyes level, knowing the slightest sign of weakness could undermine his position. “Is that it?” he asked.

“So far. I’m going to do a little more snooping around to see if there’s anything worthwhile to report. Just wanted to give you a head’s up.”

Ah…now it made sense. The real reason Tak had called and insisted he show up. It wasn’t about his sister forming an alliance with Yamada. They’d been friends for years and were always covering for each other. But when it came to his boss, if the American was here to recover something of value, stealing it and handing it over to Mitsui could result in gaining his favor. Maybe even expedite a promotion.

“So, where’s this meeting going to take place?” Kenji asked. “If it’s anywhere near the Tanahashi mansion, you won’t make it in there alive. There are hundreds of guards surrounding that place. You’ll be cut into tiny pieces if you take one step on their ground.”

Tak was quick with a comeback. “No way in hell. You think I’m stupid? My connection at the Garden restaurant said they’re due at 6:30.”

“Fancy. Yamada must’ve swindled some rich gaijins out of their money,” Kenji said. “So you got any idea what they’re after?”

Tak half shrugged. “Not a clue.”

“Well, if you hear anything, I’d be interested in knowing.”

“Sure, you got it. Anyway, I’m thinking of crashing their party.”

Kenji huffed a laugh. “Why would you do that?”

“First hand information, of course.”

“Well, good luck with that.” Kenji stood up and started to leave.

Tak reached out and grabbed his arm. “Wait a minute! I need your help.”

“No way. It doesn’t matter how much I hate Yamada, I’m not going anywhere near him. Not without the boss’ say-so.”

Tak’s eyes narrowed. “Whatever I find out could benefit the Zakura-kai,” he reminded him.

It was no secret Kenji would do anything for the family: infiltrate investment companies, circulate meth, demand protection money…even destroy their enemies should he be called upon to do so. And even though friendships were short-lived, they were equally important. He didn’t want to waste the rest of his life looking over his shoulder. Too many years had been spent that way.

Kenji heaved a sigh. If he didn’t go along to keep Takashi Bekku out of trouble, the next execution order he received could have his name written all over it. “All right,” he finally said. “What do you want me to do?”

“You’ll love it. I picked up a wig and borrowed some women’s clothes. I heard they’re looking for wait staff, so I thought we’d sneak into the restaurant pretending to be servers.”

Kenji unleashed a cynical laugh. “You’re kidding, right? Women’s clothes? And who do you think is going to wear those?”

Tak’s brow furrowed. “You got a better idea?”

“As a matter of fact I do.” Kenji thought about Yamada and Mariko, and the promise he made to himself to never let anyone have her…especially that ridiculous self-serving monk. “I might have to clean out half my bank account before I’m through,” he said, “but in the end, it will all be worth it.”

 

* * *

 

The doorbell buzzed again. Kenji laughed and walked to the front door of his apartment with his towel draped over his shoulder and his white shirt unbuttoned. He was getting ready to tell Takashi he wasn’t interested in his stupid plan or in hearing more about the container he was in the process of loading. But by the time he’d pulled the knob and begun to swing the door open, he realized he really didn’t know who was on the other side and almost slammed the door in the face of a nerdy-looking guy.

“Kenji Ota? I’m here about a plumbing issue. Sorry, am I interrupting?”

What the hell. Kenji looked him up and down. “Yes to the first, no to the second,” he said sternly. The guy had brownish hair, which was scattered ambiguously about his head. His face was freckled and he appeared to be middle-aged with neither the build nor the dress of a yakuza gang member. All and in, he looked perfectly harmless. Still, Kenji reflected, so had the others.

“I’m in charge of maintenance,” the man explained. “My name is Daiichi Asano. As you may know, there have been some concerns about possible water leakage in the building. We’re having a terrible time trying to find the source, though, and we’re reduced to looking at any suspect blip in our readings, no matter how insignificant. Uh, have you noticed anything leaking in your apartment?”

“I was using the shower earlier,” Kenji said. “Would that do it?”

Daiichi sighed. “Ah, yes. I believe it would.” He fiddled with the seam in his pants, then seemed to notice himself and swiftly placed his hand in his back pocket.

“Did you want something else?” Kenji said.

“Well…I know this is a bit of a bother, but might I take a look around, just for appearance sake? If I can’t tell my boss I gave this an inspection, even a cursory one, he’ll have my head.”

Kenji hesitated, but decided that he might as well let the man take a look rather than arouse any kind of suspicion, however small. “Sure, help yourself,” he said.

Before Daiichi could respond, Kenji immediately walked into the kitchen. He took Kimura’s watch from the counter where he had left it and slipped it into his back pocket. When he looked up, Daiichi was peering around the corner, scrutinizing his movements.

“You keep this place pretty neat.”

“Well, you know…confirmed bachelor here,” he said with forced cheer.

The man nodded and flashed a wry smile, showing he didn’t have a clue. He followed Kenji through the kitchen and looked around. Surprisingly, his gaze passed over a steak marinating on the counter and the diamond-inlaid tanto knife Kimura had confiscated from a local hood – the same one Kenji had reclaimed on his sister’s behalf and intended to flaunt at their next meeting.

“Getting dinner ready?” Daiichi asked.

“Yeah. I hope you’re not planning on joining me.”

The man turned away with no comment. He stepped into the living room and didn’t seem to find anything of interest. Then he took a quick peek into the bedroom before withdrawing into the hallway.

“Well, I think we’re good here,” he said, smiling the wide smile of someone who didn’t really want to be there.

Kenji nodded and smiled back. He walked toward the entry and waited for Daiichi to follow. But as the inspector passed by the bathroom, he halted. “Oh, mustn’t forget!” he said.

Before Kenji could stop him, Daiichi ducked inside and took a look around. Kenji rushed after him, thinking up distractions. By the way the man was staring, it was obviously too late.

“What on earth is this?” he asked.

Wrong question, Kenji thought. The sudden urge to take this little man and put his head through the wall was threatening his self-control.

“I don’t believe it!” Daiichi said. “Have you been washing clothes in here?”

Kenji had the sense to look at the ground, feigning deference and biting the corner of his lip to hide the smile that was threatening to break out. “Yes, “he managed at last. “As a matter of fact, I have. Exactly. God, how embarrassing.”

“Mr. Ota, while I doubt that this habit of yours has anything to do with the water leaks, it sure isn’t helping to prevent them. We have industrial washing machines in the basement to take care of your laundry needs. Why don’t you use them instead of wasting water and doing this in your own home?”

While he was talking, Kenji had been staring at him, but now he glanced back at the pile of clothes in time to notice a tiny thread of blood weaving its way down the drain.

Daiichi’s eyes were stretched wide in horror.

Great. Kenji sensed that he was about to say something that would undoubtedly evoke a negative reaction. His faithful wakazashi was still hanging on the back of the bathroom door. It would only take two seconds to grab it. One quick swing and this annoying little creep would be silenced forever.

“Oh, that,” Kenji said, tracing his line of vision.

Daiichi tilted his chin. “Exactly. What’s been going on here?”

“Relax, Mr. Asano. I work part-time as a butcher. I ripped a carcass wide open earlier today and had to rush home to change for a date. Normally, I wear an apron when I work…especially when there’s a mess to clean up. But as you can tell, I left everything in the wash.”

Daiichi’s eyes dropped to Kenji’s ripped abs and the claw marks tattooed on his chest. His Adam’s apple bobbed up and down with audible swallows. “Right…okay…great. I think we’re done here,” he said. “But if this happens again, I…well, never mind. Just finish what you need to get done.”

“Thank you,” Kenji said, smiling. “I always do.”

He shut the door behind the maintenance inspector and peered through the keyhole. As soon as Daiichi was out of sight, he leaned against the wall. This time it had been a little too close. His confidence was making him bold and careless. But at least now, he had a faithful ally – someone who would vouch for his innocence, if it ever came to that.

Kenji wiped his damp forehead with the towel from his neck. He went into the bedroom and mused over how easy it was to convince feeble-minded people of anything. Their blind faith wouldn’t allow them to see the worst in mankind. He knelt down in front of his clothes cupboard, opened it and reached deep inside, grabbing hold of a small box hidden behind his shoes and spare arsenal. It was heavy, and its contents clinked as he pulled it out. He removed its lid and dropped the watch on top of all the others. Then he stood back and looked into the sink mirror.

“Hmmm…how sad,” Kenji said aloud. “People just have too much faith these days.”

New, Hard-hitting Reviews for Severed Threads!

I’m very excited about the latest editorial reviews I’ve received for Severed Threads and thought I would take a moment to share them. 

“In this romantic suspense novel, a woman and her ex fight to recover a mysterious relic from a wrecked ship—and maybe salvage their relationship along the way.

The last person Rachel Lyons, marine biologist turned foundation executive, wants to see is her former love interest, Chase Cohen. He was working with her father, Sam, as an ocean salvager until Sam’s death in a diving accident, after which Chase disappeared with no more than a scribbled note. Even when a museum director begs Rachel to help finish the business Sam and Chase started and recover an important relic, she declines. But when her brother is kidnapped by drug dealers and held for ransom, Rachel agrees to lend her father’s boat to the task of exploring a 400-year-old ship. It’s said to contain gold, porcelain and the “Heart of the Dragon”—a gift from an emperor’s beautiful concubine to her illicit lover. According to legend, the concubine’s ghost still protects it. As Rachel and Chase work to bring up treasure from the sunken ship, they must fight off dangers, uncover secrets and confront their mutual rekindled passion. McFarren (Flaherty’s Crossing, 2010) offers an exciting, romantic adventure story that’s anchored by well-researched, authentic technical details of boats, scuba diving, salvage law, Chinese history and underwater archaeology.

Watching the characters thoughtfully do their jobs makes them more appealing to the reader and heightens the novel’s boldly erotic love scenes; Chase and Rachel are more than just beautiful bodies. (It’s irksome, though, when Chase treats Rachel like a child, at one point having a crew member send her to bed and doping her against her knowledge when he wants her to rest.) McFarren’s varied cast—from professors to gangsters to salty dogs—feels well rounded; despite a few ethnic clichés, like the Native American “warrior” and a hard-drinking, lusty Irishman, she toys with expectations more than once. Some odd word choices and unfortunate mistakes show that the book could use an editor’s hand, but with plenty at stake, erotic chemistry, dastardly villains, a lost relic, an unusual setting and a touch of the supernatural, this indie novel could stand on any romance publisher’s shelf. The full package of thrills and romance.” • KIRKUS REVIEW

****1/2

“Chase Cohen and Sam Lyons went diving together searching salvage for the elusive riches that come with the perfect find. When Chase realized Sam had not come back up from the dive, he went looking for him. Sam did not make it and Chase, filled with guilt, had to tell Sam’s daughter Rachel.

Years later, Rachel was discussing business with Dr. Ying, the museum director, when Chase interrupted. She was furious and declared that the foundation she worked for would not fund any projects that involved Chase. With the combination of Rachel’s brother, who was in trouble up to his ears, Dr. Ying’s manipulations, and Rachel’s unquenchable need to mend the past, she was had no choice but to search for the Heart of the Dragon.
Dive right in; the water is full of danger, intrigue, and passion. This treasure‑hunting jewel of a story will hold the reader captive to the very last page.” • LAUREN CALDER, Affaire de Coeur magazine

“Sometimes it is only when you carry the weight of the world on your shoulders that you really see what it is you want and what it is you are missing out of life. Such is the epiphany that Rachel Lyons comes to in the ever-suspenseful Severed Threads. Kaylin McFarren’s novel takes the reader through twists and turns as the story navigates romance and adventure, murder and mystery. With a central theme of guilt and deception, throughout all the action of the book, the reader sees the redemption of several of the characters; lessons are learned and bridges are built and crossed.

Believing herself to be the reason for her father’s death, Rachel has withdrawn from the world and the life she once knew to play it safe. With her last words to him replaying over and over in her head, playing it safe still wasn’t bringing her much happiness. She is stuck on this track until an old flame comes back into the picture, with tales of sunken treasure and undersea adventure. Forced into taking part in his quest because of the kidnapping of her brother, who has himself created a world of chaos after the passing of his father, Rachel sets out on a journey to discover hidden secrets, buried treasure, and herself. Throw in a little paranormal activity, curses and ghosts and such, and some strong sexual attractions, and the book will keep you on the edge of your toes throughout.

With so many plot turns and the many characters’ underlying stories, this novel is a true treasure unto itself. As a reader, I couldn’t put the book down because I constantly wanted to know what was going to happen next. Many of the ups and downs were not obvious, and I enjoyed the surprise as each revelation was made. The characters are extremely complex but real, and I found myself being very involved in their thoughts and actions. I felt for each character, questioned their reasoning and cheered them on.

It is easy to see through reading this book that McFarren familiarized herself with the information she was presenting in her book. The time and information she put into the history and the undersea world lent depth to the book and helped to present a very genuine story. I enjoy nothing more than a well-researched, thought provoking read, and Severed Threads definitely found itself in that category for me.” • SUZANNE GATTIS, Pacific Book Review