Thursday, February 6, 2014

Laura Lippman at Salon@615

Laura Lippman, author of the Tess Monaghan series, will be at Nashville Public Library on Wednesday, February 12 at 6:15 pm for Salon@615. After her presentation she will be signing her new novel "After I'm Gone". You can register for advance tickets at for a $2.50 fee. Here's that link: Lippman advance tickets.

  # # #

The last change to place an advance order for a signed copy of my new book, The Language of Excellence, is quickly approaching.  To save $20.00 go to

Monday, January 6, 2014

Solving the Leadership Mystery

I have a new book scheduled for release in February 2014, The Language of Excellence. Unlike my prior books, this one is not a “who done it?” It is non-fiction. However, it does solve a mystery. It turns up the lights and pulls back the curtain on the mystery ingredient required for sustained superior performance over the long term—leadership.

The new book applies to life as well as business—I think it is the best gift one could give to a young professional. It can be invaluable to the entrepreneur starting a new business or seasoned executive frustrated by the difficulty of steering an unresponsive corporate ship.

For more information about The Language of Excellence and for a special prerelease offer go to

Monday, November 18, 2013

Tom's Southern Cornbread Dressing

The holidays are frequent scenes in novels. In The Claret Murders, I had a character enjoying cornbread dipped in buttermilk during a Christmas lunch. I haven't yet, but I look forward to having a family Thanksgiving dinner in one of my mysteries.

For about twenty five years in real life, our home was the go-to place for forty or so family members at Thanksgiving. Two years ago we retired as host handing it off to the next generation to create their own tradition.

The most important item on the dinner table was always the “Dressing” accompanying the Turkey. Not just any dressing, but good ole Southern cornbread dressing and gravy! Some folks still call this dish “Turkey Stuffing” even though most of us no longer actually cook a stuffed Turkey. The recipe below has been handed down for at least three generations in the Collins family and will keep about twenty people happy at Thanksgiving. For more or less adjust the recipe accordingly.

Prepare two large skillets of cornbread-about 8 cubs. I use Martha White Self-rising Cornmeal Mix. Make in advance, break apart, and let it try dry out for two or three days.

Dry out a few slices of white bread, remove the edges, and tear into small pieces—enough for two cups. Crumble the cornbread into a large mixing bowl. Add the pieces of white bread. Sauté 2 large onions (chopped) and an equal amount of celery in butter. When tender, melt an additional stick of butter in the same pan and then mix the onions, celery and the added butter into the cornbread mixture. To the above mixture, add the following and mix thoroughly:
2 tsp. of poultry seasoning
Four Chopped boiled eggs
Two cups of chicken stock
Two raw eggs
Dust with pepper and salt

The mixture should moist. If it seems too dry, add more melted butter or stock. Transfer to baking pans or casserole dishes. I use disposable aluminum pans and transfer the finished cornbread dressing to serving dishes when ready to serve. Bread is a great insulator, so it will take longer to bake than you expect to thoroughly heat the dressings to a safe temperature of 160 degrees (200 degrees is even better), and that may take an hour or longer depending on the depth of the mixture in the banking dishes. The mixture should not be deeper than one and a half or 2 inches in each banking dish. Bake at 325 degrees

Do the cooking ahead of time, and reheat to warm your dressing when you are ready to serve. The cooked dressing can be refrigerated and even frozen to serve later.

Now for the Gravy that people rave about. The truth is, my closely guarded secret gravy receipt is nothing more than Campbell’s Cream of Chicken Soup thinned slightly with chicken stock and to which small handful of Turkey meat bits has been added for a real homemade look.

# # #
Mysteries by Tom Collins include Mark Rollins’ New CareerMark Rollins and the RainmakerMark Rollins and the Puppeteer and the newest, The Claret Murders. For signed copies go to Print and ebook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online bookstores. The ebook edition for the iPad is available through Apple iTunes' iBookstore.


Friday, September 13, 2013

Blackburn Votes for The Claret Murders

I had the opportunity to meet with Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn after she had read my latest book, The Claret Murders. I understand that she read the book on a long plane ride to visit our troops. After the trip, she sent me the following note:
“The Claret Murders is a captivating read. The characters come to life and make unexpected twists and turns throughout the entire story. I especially enjoyed the surprise ending.”

The Claret Murders is the fourth book in the Mark Rollins adventure mystery series. Rollins is a conservative who wears an American flag pin upside down to signal his concern over the direction of our country. As the author, I can tell you that Blackburn is one of the few lawmakers Rollins would have given financial support and his vote—if he had been a real live person that is.

# # #
For signed copies of The Claret Murders go to Print and ebook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online bookstores. The ebook edition for the iPad is available through Apple iTunes' iBookstore.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Killer Nashville

Last week I attended the eighth annual Killer Nashville conference. The conference of mystery authors draws attendees from all over the US and a few from outside, but with a concentration from the southern and eastern US.

The two guests of honor were Anne Perry and D. P. Lyle. D. P. Lyle is not only an award-winning author; he is a wonderful and generous source of information for other authors. Want to know what that three-week old body in your story would look like when discovered in a July Mississippi cotton field or the tell-tell signs of arsenic poisoning? You can ask Lyle, and he makes it easy. Just go to and follow the instructions.

Anne Perry is a most extraordinary person, gifted storyteller, and prolific writer—publishing a book about every three months. She describes herself as a frustrated preacher. In that sense, her wonderful and complex stories are sermons written with the hope that they will change the behavior of readers. She feels passionate about the notion that all it takes for evil to take hold is for good men to do nothing. As she says, we are responsible for not only our actions but also our inaction.

I was one of the faculty members for the conference serving on a panel dealing with the influence of everyday technology on the modern-day fictional sleuth. As promised, my handout at the session is reproduced below:
* * *

2013 Killer Nashville
Session14: Outsmarting the Smartphone—How Everyday Technology Helps and Hinders the Modern-Day Sleuth [Thoughts of panelist Tom Collins]

In my Mark Rollins mystery adventure series, Rollins is a retired technology entrepreneur who made himself and his technology team rich. His loyal team of technology wizards can hack into just about anything to find out just about everything. Their ability increased throughout the series. Detecting was becoming too easy. Therefore, in my most recent book, The Claret Murders, I pitted Rollins and his team against a devastating flood that knocked out communications, shut down traffic cameras, and made cell phone tracking useless. Your hero cannot have unlimited powers. Sherlock had to have his weaknesses, and even Superman had Kryptonite.

Blocking or Cloaking Cell Phones:
  • Battery Pulling is old school and not practical for smart phones.
  • Blocking bags like the EMFX-47 are in.
  • Interference with cell phone signals is illegal but when did that stop the bad guys?—blocking devices are available that shut down cell and WiFi.
  • The pocket-size Zapper costs 100 dollars and creates a 30 ft. dead zone.
  • Use the prepaid phones. Keep calls short and replace frequently.
  • Use EMP bursts by super villains and governments.
  • Natural disasters provide disruptions.
Dropping Off the Radar:
  • Virtually impossible—give up cell phones, computers, ATMs, and do not let anyone take your picture.
  • A new online tracking system can pinpoint your location to within a few hundred meters without you ever giving permission—uses the timing of e-mails, etc. 
  • Web services will build a history and pattern of movement from social media. Example Internet ad: Is he cheating on you? Enter his e-mail address and see hidden pictures & social profiles now!
  • Satellite radio, OnStar, LoJack, etc.
  • Traffic cameras, Easy Pass, and license tracking 
  • Can cars and medical devices be hacked? Yes, but…
  • Use public computers.
  • Use gift cards to purchase on the Web; ship to alternative locations.
  • Facial scanning software crawling the Web
  • Misdirection is a better alternative—misleading information and multiple personas. 
  • Tell-tell photos (See below.)

How good of a sleuth are you? If you received the photo below of the parked MDX in an email, could you determine the location?

Exchangeable image file format (Exif): Exchangeable image file is a standard that specifies the formats for images, sound, and ancillary tags used by digital cameras including GPS data. If you right clicked on the e-mail attachment you would see the file properties including the GPS details—see below:

Enter the above GPS coordinates +26° 31' 36.00", -81° 45' 20.40 in Google Map’s search box to discover the location of the MDX.

# # #
M. Thomas (Tom) Collins

Mysteries by Tom Collins include Mark Rollins’ New CareerMark Rollins and the RainmakerMark Rollins and the Puppeteer and the newest, The Claret Murders. For signed copies go to Print and ebook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online bookstores. The ebook edition for the iPad is available through Apple iTunes' iBookstore.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Pournelle's Law

Jerry Eugene Pournelle has been many things. For a quick rundown on the man, go to Wikipedia. It is the combination of our times and the insight gained from all of those bits and pieces of his life that sculpted Pournelle the Science Fiction Writer. His stories usually include a recurring element, Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy:
"In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control, and those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely."

In the blog, I point out the natural tendency of functional areas within a company to put their objectives ahead of those of the organization as a whole. The tendency is called Sub-optimization, and the illustrative graphic is an upside-down organizational chart:

Pournelle’s Law is Sub-optimization run amok! It is the same human process. It is just “bigger”! Unfortunately, once the inmates have control, there is almost no way back. Commercial enterprises do not survive once a company places its own preservation and benefit above the economic purpose for its existence. Remove capitalism, the natural praetor of bureaucracies, and Pournelle’s Law rages unchecked. Does that sound familiar to you? We seem to have a healthy dose of Pournelle’s law at work in all levels of our government and particularly at the national level.

When the consequence of Pournelle's Law is added to a story line, the author taps into real life reader frustration remembered from their experiences dealing with bureaucracies.

# # #

Mysteries by Tom Collins include Mark Rollins’ New CareerMark Rollins and the RainmakerMark Rollins and the Puppeteer and the newest, The Claret Murders. For signed copies go to Print and ebook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online bookstores.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Are You the Victim of an Unfolding Plot?

As you know, I write mysteries. When you read this post, you will have to decide if truth is stranger than fiction or if I am just testing the plot of my next novel.

According to a 2011 report prepared for the Army War College, we are unprepared for an attack that would incapacitate our electrical grid and put the nation in the dark for a sustained period. The villain could be a cyber-attack or a destructive electromagnetic pulse (EMP) due to a high altitude nuclear explosion or due to severe solar storms. According to the study, 82% of the US population would starve to death during the first twelve months following such an event.

If that isn’t scary enough, consider the actions of our government. Did you know that events like the Super Bowl designated as “National Special Security Events” will now rely partly on Russian authorities to provide security? You did not misread! Just weeks ago, in June of this year, the USA and Russia entered into an agreement that puts Russian forces on US soil. What is the reasoning for this? According to our officials, the two countries want to increase their cooperation in order to respond efficiently to all kinds of disasters. Paul Joseph Watson writing for said, “The use of foreign troops or other officials in a law enforcement capacity providing security inside the United States is illegal under the Posse Comitatus Act. Capt. William Geddes of the U.S. Army Reserve acknowledged last year that it is against federal law to use US troops to conduct police patrols, despite the fact that such occurrences are becoming increasingly common. The use of foreign troops is an even more clear-cut violation of Posse Comitatus.”

While you are thinking about the Russians, do not forget that we have also modified our road signage so that foreign-speaking individuals (troops) can navigate by road ID# versus traditional road names. I think Dwight D. Eisenhower would be shocked that his national defense highway system has been readied for foreign troops. There are a growing number of reports that, in cooperation with the UN, our road signs have also been embedded with codes (a combination of arrows) and have coded stickers on their backs for use by the US military and UN troops (or foreign troops requested by the President) in an “emergency.” Unfortunately, for us, emergency plans include government-issued IDs, detention facilities, confiscation of resources and assets (e.g., guns), etc.

I have it on reliable sources that the US is currently developing a Star Trek-style stun weapon that is adjustable to kill or incapacitate. The problem is the weapon is “a perfect crowd-control weapon”! Shoot a beam across an area and anyone entering the beam immediately begins vomiting.

Boeing successfully tested a new missile that can take out electronic targets with little collateral damage. The missile, known as CHAMP (Counter-electronics High-powered Advanced Missile Project), fires a burst of high-powered microwaves at a targeted building to knock out the electronic systems—blinding command and control sites before troops or aircraft arrive. However, this also takes us back to my opening paragraph—it can also shut down the population’s ability to get information or collaborate. It can even shut down the electrical grid to cripple a populated area.

We now know that the NSA is tracking phone calls, e-mails, financial transactions, and who knows what else for every single American! There are cameras and drones everywhere. Drones are becoming so commonplace that the college where I received my undergraduate degree now awards advanced degrees in Drone Management. Eyes in the sky on the military side can also unleash hell. In response, we have developed laser weapons that can shoot them down, and it will not be long before we have expanded their capability to the point that they can shoot down fast-moving aircraft.

Do you really think that the IRS is some benign entity that will not be tempted to use access to our personal information, including our medical information, to control our lives and punish enemies of the state? If so, you haven’t been keeping up with the news. Unfortunately, many of us haven’t been listening either.  For example, did you hear Obama say, “We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we’ve set.  We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.” As J. D. Longstreet noted in a Canadian news article, “It is well known amongst dictators, the world over, that a private army is necessary to control the great unwashed masses over which they force their rule.”  Are we the “unwashed masses”?

Edward Snowden’s leaks penetrated the wall of secrecy that keeps the “unwashed masses” unaware of many constitutionally challenged programs run by our government. However, that exposure is an exception. How does most of the stuff fly under the radar?  A perfect way to hide code-word protected government programs is to get the gamers to use the same code name for a product. Just try, for example, to find out anything about “Operation Overwatch.” Gamer traffic provides the perfect cover.

I have never been one to see conspiracies behind every event, but I have to say I am becoming concerned. Things are playing out like the plot of a novel—a mystery. Frankly, mysteries never turn out well for the victim. Could you be the victim of this mystery?—I am beginning to think you could and so could I.

# # #

Mysteries by Tom Collins include Mark Rollins’ New CareerMark Rollins and the RainmakerMark Rollins and the Puppeteer and the newest, The Claret Murders. For signed copies go to Print and ebook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online bookstores. The ebook edition for the iPad is available through Apple iTunes' iBookstore.