The Write Stuff – Monday, November 5 – Dan Grant Interview

KODAK Digital Still Camera

This week’s author, Dan Grant, has always loved stories and intriguing tales, especially suspense and thrillers that weave science, medicine, or technology into the fabric of the drama. Dan’s focus is thrillers. His debut novel, The Singularity Witness, is a thriller that mixes science, medicine, and technology into story threads. He is a licensed professional engineer with degrees from Northern Arizona University: a bachelor’s in electrical engineering and master’s in college education and English with an emphasis in creative writing. His engineering work has provided opportunities to work with a variety medical and technological applications, as well as get behind the scenes at military facilities. Those experiences have provided conspiracy threads that form a broader storytelling tapestry.

For The Singularity Witness, Princeton University was selected as a story backdrop and a place for characters to take root because of its unique setting, historical connections, and its active research programs. For a year, Dan and his wife lived outside the town limits and fell in love with the place. Dan currently lives in Colorado, where he’s working on his next thriller, entitled Thirteen Across.

I asked Dan to provide The Singularity Witness’s premise:

What happens when a radical technology ushers in an ominous future? Governments and corporations will kill to control it. So murder and abduction are just the beginning.

When a clandestine research lab disposes of its test subject and kidnaps a U.S. Senator to protect its secrets, those events trigger a federal investigation. The covert program requires the services of Thomas Parker, a Princeton University professor and cutting-edge neurologist, to deliver their breakthrough achievement. And FBI Special Agent Kate Morgan needs Parker to help her infiltrate the secret lab. They discover that no sacrifice is too great for a cause that unravels the mysteries of the mind and changes the world forever.

Parker and Morgan are faced with the dilemma of advancing the revolutionary technology in order to solve the senator’s abduction, save The Singularity Witness  and others, and survive. Who is The Singularity Witness? Read it to find out.

The Singularity Witness  plays off “what if” scenarios facing current medical and biological research endeavors. Some of those initiatives may fundamentally change social and geopolitical landscapes forever.

What do you want readers to know about your book?

Mix some science, medicine, technology, and conspiracies together and have some fun. The Singularity Witness  finds ways to make these areas understandable and fun. It strives to be an “intellectually stimulating thriller.” Not only will readers be entertained but they will learn a few things too.

The Singularity Witness  plays with “what if” scenarios facing modern-day scientific and medical research efforts. It explores complexities to scientific achievements not yet realized.

I like research-based stories. I do field research as much as I can (rather than just make stuff up to fit the structure of the story). Many of the places and locations are real. I try to find ways to layer in setting and scene to add more story depth.

Aside from the plot, is there a story behind it?

As with all major medical discoveries, there can be doors that “lead to deep, dark passages.” How far will governments and power-hungry groups go in order to secure a technology that can rewrite geopolitical landscapes and control or influence mass populations? Where will ethics fall?

Why is your writing different from other authors in this genre?

The Singularity Witness  takes a different approach to the topic, blends in murder and mystery, and presents a new twist to neurological science. What is neurological singularity? Read the book to find out.

What was your path to publication?

The original concept was my master’s thesis, written in a screenplay format. It was too close to concepts similar to reading the minds of primates (perhaps with influences from Planet of the Apes). Years later, I wrote a completely different version using some of the characters and attended writer’s conferences to help improve my narrative style and writing. Even though the story concept had meat to it, my writing was average. Everything went in the desk drawer while my engineering career took off. The manuscript deserved its interim fate. The writing wasn’t good enough. Looking back, I clearly did not work hard enough on the craft of being a good storyteller much less a good narrator.

Many years later, my wife heard about Pikes Peak Writers Conference on the radio. I attended the conference, and during a stretch of four years, I completely rewrote the entire novel. During that time I crafted a theme, deeper subplots and storylines, found interesting secondary characters. I had to relearn lessons, overcome bad habits, and found a story.

Oddly enough, during the duration from my college thesis to publication, much of the emerging technology that I researched actually came to fruition. I had to find explore new technologies that sit on future horizons.

Pikes Peak Writers was a great re-start. Since then I have attended ThrillerFest, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and SuperStars Writers and worked to refine the story. Each group has made me a better writer. I hired an editor and worked with a peer group to tighten the story and find my storytelling voice as well.

My master’s thesis was May of 1994. My publication date is October 2018. Yep. That’s a big span of time. But guess what? I never lost sight of my dream to be an author.

What are you working on now?

I am writing more of a catch-me-if-you-can thriller set in Washington, DC, entitled Thirteen Across. It still has a fabric of science and medicine as a secondary story element. This story focuses on FBI Special Agent Kate Morgan who is forced to confront a dark secret from her past.

After that is The Singularity Transfer. Thomas Parker and Kate Morgan face an old nemesis and are confronted with overwhelming odds. Pandora’s box is open. And the fate of the world is at stake.

Are there any awards or honors you’d like to share?

I have several Starred Reviews on The Singularity Witness. These can be found at:

Pacific Book Reviews

http://www.pacificbookreview.com/the-singularity-witness/

Hollywood Book Reviews

http://www.hollywoodbookreviews.com/the-singularity-witness/

Do you create an outline before you write? 

I’m an outliner but love the freedom to free-write between plot points. Outlines can be tweaked, changed, or redirected, but I like knowing my ending and story destination.

I like the hero’s journey because of my screenwriting exposure. Not all stories are hero’s journeys but there are a lot of tools in that toolbox to use.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

Plotting helps some. There’s always a plot point to work on, investigate. If not, go back a revise and edit. Always try and push forward. Somedays there may only be 500 words written. Other days 5,000 words. Writing is rhythm. Find your rhythm and just do it.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I had to relearn how to write and how to be better at narration and craft several times during my writer’s journey. My original narrative style was flat and lifeless—concept and ideas weren’t enough. I went from wanting to write like Clancy and Crichton third-person omni to developing a more modern thriller pace and style and third-person close.

Pace and style and rhythm came over the past two years.

Writing is rewriting. I had to learn be a better editor. Trim words, long passages, and info dumps. Sometimes, shorter really is better.

Tell us about your writing community.

I support four writer’s groups: Pike Peak Writers, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, SuperStars Writers, and International Thriller Writers. Each writer’s group is unique and different, yet I’ve been able to network with like-minded people that have helped make me better. People who inspire you and nurture the muse.

Every writer should have peer readers and use an editor… listen to what others say and take that information and try to be better at your craft.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

Licensed professional engineer.

If you could do anything differently, what would it be?

Changing the past is dangerous.

For me, work harder at being a better writer the first time… without excuses, distractions, and don’t stop until my writing was worth a damn. But then I wouldn’t be an engineer.

But of course I think my writing is better now because it sat; I’m a far better storyteller for it.

What is your greatest life lesson?

More like words of wisdom. Three things:

– Life is short. Take chances and risks (without injuring yourself or others). Explore the world and see the sights. Do things different than anyone else. Dare to dream.

– It’s okay to fail. Learn from your mistakes and those from others.

– Surround yourself with people you care about.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Where to start? There’s so many and no matter what I’m going to leave someone out… here is goes… Michael Crichton, John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Dan Brown, Tess Gerritsen, Steve Berry, and James Rollins. There’s so many more!

Lightning Round (answer in as few words as possible).

My best friend would tell you I’m a: nerd.

The one thing I cannot do without is: air.

The one thing I would should change about my life: I have lots of areas that need improvement… just ask my wife.

My biggest peeve is: long lines, rude people, traffic.

The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is: (person/people) = family; things (engineering degree, licensed professional engineer, wrote and published a novel).

Do you have a parting thought you would like to leave us with?

Encourage others: Find time and ways to give back. Mentor and teach. Spend time with others. In your own way, leave the world a better place than you found it.

Here is an excerpt from The Singularity Witness, followed by links where you can follow Dan and others where you can purchase his book:

Excerpt:

FAREWELLS

ANCRI, Undisclosed Research Facility, West of Princeton, New Jersey

Caroline Wang knew the authorities would view her atrocities as murder. No doubt they would be right.

She shook off the thought and cast her gaze down the intersecting sterile white corridors stretching before her. Deep inside her chest, her heart shuddered as pale lighting and colorless tile seemed to run forever. Trepidation smothered her like a swimmer caught in a swift undertow, her body submerged as an endless black tide towed it away from a distant, unreachable shore.

Caroline soaked in the foreboding silence before reaching back into the morgue and gripping the gurney’s stainless steel handle. In the corridor, a wheel on the gurney wobbled and competed against the echo of her shoes clicking on flooring as she navigated it through a maze of similarly placid corridors.

Caroline stopped at a nondescript door marked INCINERATOR.

Placards read: DISPOSAL OF MEDICAL NUCLEAR WASTE IS PROHIBITED. AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY.

As the institute’s neurogeneticist, a biological data-farmer of sorts, she was responsible for keeping their Genesis participant alive as long as possible. But that had been a grave mistake.

Caroline cleared her throat, gripped the gurney’s handle tighter, and shoved it through the hinged door, which slammed closed like a blast of thunder.

She’d never visited the incinerator room. Disposal wasn’t in her job description. Gray masonry walls surrounded her. The floor’s dull finish soaked up most of the artificial light. A three-foot, dish-shaped door protruded from the far wall. Beside it hung a console packed with buttons and gauges.

Angst surged inside her as she searched for composure, while her vision settled on the crisp white sheet covering the body on the gurney.

“You thought I was your friend,” she said. “You were wrong.”

Her gaze found the surveillance camera above the door. Through the lens of the camera, she could almost see an audience of detached observers watching from comfortable offices located elsewhere in the facility.

The bastards were watching.

They should be here. Not me.

How many rats had fled the sinking ship? Nearly all of them. Most of her colleagues had resigned, citing philosophical differences. Others disappeared along with all traces of their existence. Her mistake was staying, naively thinking she could make the breakthrough. But in a year’s time, the institute had gone from resembling a thriving metropolis to a desolate ghost town. Those who stayed kept silent. Opinions were discouraged. And Caroline became no different from the hired boatman who ferried the damned across the river to the shores of Hades.

She slammed her palm into an orange, mushroom-stemmed start button. A pneumatic eruption roared to life behind the thick door of the incinerator. A thermometer needle crawled upward on an analog dial.

A waft of air filled her nostrils. The room felt different as microscopic particles escaped ventilation filters as a blower fan hummed to life. She knew what that meant. Air pressurization was a safety protocol—positive air flow introduced into the room to provide back-pressure, to keep fire and fumes from expanding, in case of a malfunction. She half-hoped the furnace would explode in a life-consuming blast, saving her from completing this mission. Disposal. Her current mandate.

But Caroline was not so fortunate.

A tear streaked down her cheek, and she fought a swelling watershed behind tired eyes.

“You didn’t deserve this. All you wanted to do was impress your father.”

Caroline stripped back the sheet to expose the naked body past a bony collarbone. Amy Richards, pale and stiff, was barely recognizable. Only a grotesque outer shell remained of a once-vibrant woman. Her head was shaved, including her eyebrows. Alien-like deformations and sutures arced across a leathery scalp. Thin, hair-sized lines connected the dots on her scalp to larger dime-sized gray circles, the obscure tapestry forming a fragmented set of geometric patterns. Her eyelids were sunken and shut, and Amy’s mask hid a recent, horror-filled past.

A year earlier, Amy had volunteered as their Genesis participant.

Now she was dead.

“This is how we repaid you,” Caroline said, tracing her fingers along Amy’s scarred forehead. Cold skin felt taut and rough, like starched linen.

Amy’s death had shown her that the institute’s Genesis program was a distorted conquest.

“I won’t let your sacrifice be in vain,” she said behind twitching lips.

Shielding her movements from the camera over her shoulder, Caroline withdrew a core biopsy needle from her lab coat. Using choreographed movements, she uncapped it, leaned over, kissed Amy on the forehead, and thrust the needle into Amy’s heart. After rising, she etched AMY RICHARDS RIP in the pale skin along the centerline of the body with the tip of the needle. She recapped it and returned it to her coat. Next she retrieved an iPhone, held it tight to her chest, and tapped the camera feature. The phone went back into her coat pocket too.

Evidence. And an insurance policy.

The world had to know what they had done.

Caroline folded back the sheet and flattened the edges over the body. Reluctantly, she turned back to the incinerator.

With a nervous hand, she opened the door and yanked the holding carriage out of the fire box. The protective ceramic coating on the carriage rails retained little heat, allowing Caroline to manipulate it with bare hands. She positioned the gurney parallel to the carriage. Her breathing stalled as she slid one arm beneath Amy’s torso, her elbow cradling the head, and the other hand below the buttocks. Amy’s emaciated body was lighter than expected, and Caroline had no problem laying it onto the carriage.

“Walk with God, in a place where no harm will come to you again,” she said over the knot forming in her throat. “Someday, I hope you’ll forgive me.”

Caroline shoved the carriage into the fire box and closed the door. After flipping up a clear plastic protective cover, she pressed a red button on the console. An inferno rumbled to life behind the door. The temperature dial on the incinerator leapt toward the 1600 degree Fahrenheit mark, where the unit would cremate the body in an hour and destroy all evidence.

Almost all evidence.

She stared at the incinerator, hoping to steal some warmth and overcome the soul-crushing cold residing inside her. It was a vain effort.

This was a funeral.

And she was the only one who had come.

As instructed, her efforts to get to know Amy Richards had been pretense, subtle coercion. Now Caroline was alone, with no one to give a eulogy when her time came to depart this life. It was a time that might come soon.

She knew too much.

And those who knew too much became liabilities.

Liabilities, well, they disappeared—like Amy.

Long black hair splashed across her shoulders as she collapsed across the empty gurney and sobbed. She wondered if the audience watching on surveillance monitors had returned to regular duties, as if this moment, the death of a human being, meant nothing.

Their Genesis participant was gone.

The world had to know the truth.

Caroline pressed a shaking hand against the pocket of her lab coat.

All will know the truth, and the truth will set us free.

Social links:

Website:         http://www.DanGrantBooks.com

Facebook:      http://www.Facebook.com/DanGrantAuthor

Twitter:          https://twitter.com/DanGrantAuthor

Goodreads:    https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7097347.Dan_Grant

 

Book online sales links:

Amazon (print & e-book)

https://www.amazon.com/Dan-Grant/e/B07GT8X81P/

Barnes & Noble (print)

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-singularity-witness-dan-grant/1129410776?ean=9781732504011

IndieBound (print)

https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781732504011

Tattered Cover (print)

https://www.tatteredcover.com/search/site/the%20singularity%20witness

Kobo (e-book)

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-singularity-witness-1

Smashwords (e-book)

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/891393

The Write Stuff – Monday, June 4 – Interview With Jean Rabe

Words on a page can be hollow or moving, flat or intriguing, woven into a masterpiece, or thoughtlessly scribbled onto paper for the sole sake of profit. However those twenty six letters are arranged, they can either end up as the stuff of fine novels or, too commonly these days, hackneyed pulp fiction. What a joy it was, then, to stumble onto the pages of The Bone Shroud, the latest novel by this week’s guest author, Jean Rabe, in which the world she creates is at once mesmerizing and haunting. In this, my website’s one hundredth post, I invite you to join me as I delve into her long and notable career, as well her mastery of the craft of fine writing.

This is how Jean describes herself:

I’m a writer, indefatigable tennis ball tosser, avid reader, board game geek, dog-belly scratcher, glass-fuser, and lousy gardener.

The Bone Shroud is my 37th novel. I’m working on 38 and 39 now. I write a lot, short stories, too—more than a hundred in all sorts of genres. And I write in old, comfortable clothes with either raggedy sandals or well-worn slippers. At the moment, I’m writing on my back porch—living in a tiny town in central Illinois. There are train tracks practically surrounding me, providing music to work by. I love warm weather, which is why I’m on my porch.

I studied journalism at Northern Illinois University many years ago, intending to be a crusading reporter… which I was for nearly a decade. Then I got itchy feet and went to work for TSR, Inc., the original producers of the Dungeons & Dragons game. I wrote several novels based on D&D worlds, and then wanted something new. My feet were itching again. I went freelance, fantasy and science fiction novels, game materials, edited magazines, ran writing workshops, and acquired dogs. I love dogs. And somewhere in there I wrote a true crime book with F. Lee Bailey.

Now it’s all about mysteries. I suppose I needed something new again. I always read mysteries, figured it was past time that I wrote them. I have two Piper Blackwell “uncozy cozies” out, and my suspense-thriller, The Bone Shroud. Nested in my computer are a lot more mystery plots … including one with The Bone Shroud’s protagonist. I’m going to be writing mysteries for a long while if the fates are benevolent.

I asked Jean to describe the book and she gave me this:

Irem Madigan’s wedding trip to Rome turns into a desperate search for historical relics, and a struggle to stay ahead of a killer. Irem, an archivist at the Chicago Field Museum, flies to Italy to be the “best man” in her brother’s wedding. He’s marrying an archaeologist who lures Irem into a centuries-old mystery.

In Rome’s belly, Irem discovers secrets, alliances, and is teased by a potentially world-shocking discovery. Her family ties and her sensibilities are tested, and she can’t seem to keep her eyes off what could be a life-changing prize.

Unfortunately, there are other players in the game, and some of them are playing deadly. Can she survive and uncover the ancient secrets?

“Strong characters, shady dealings, ruthless villains, a beautiful setting, an ancient mystery—The Bone Shroud has ’em all. Don’t miss it!”
New York Times bestselling Richard Baker, author of Valiant Dust

 “Jean Rabe uses her mastery of flowing prose to immerse you in a world of archaeological intrigue. From the art world to the underworld, keep your mind sharp as the bread crumbs she leaves are there to find if you read with your eyes wide open. With an intrigue reminiscent of Michael Crichton, I expect you’ll like this book as much as I did.”
Internationally bestselling author Craig Martelle

“Intrigue, romance, and danger amid the relics of Rome’s storied past, with compelling characters and building tension that will keep you turning pages!”
Gail Z. Martin, bestselling author of Vendetta

The Bone Shroud’s opening scene reminded me of a personal experience in Italy when, travelling at night by train, I made the mistake of sleeping without locking the compartment door. My travelling companion, eventually ex-wife, watched helpless as a man wearing what she described, back in 1976, as a two thousand dollar suit, chloroformed me then parsed through our luggage. The term the conductor taught me later was il furto when I attempted un robo in Spanish. Did any real life events help fuel this story? If so, please elaborate.

“Back in the day” I used to be a news reporter, often covering police. I’d written a few articles about purse-snatchers and pickpockets, and decided I would include such a scene in one of my novels. It took a while for me to get around to that, but it seemed like the perfect opening for The Bone Shroud. I wanted a beginning that had a little action to it, would make the reader curious about the character, and at the end of that scene would reveal that she had a kick-ass quality. Along the way, I got to describe an Italian street going by in a blur. And now, after hearing your story about your train trip, I’m mulling over how I can use a scene like that… In Irem’s backstory, I talk about a mugging in the Chicago subway. I was mugged once in the Chicago subway, and I never went down into a subway again. Shudder. Bad times, good fiction fodder, eh?

Your chapters are short, a technique that authors like Dan Brown use to propel the reader forward. Was this deliberate, or did it evolve of its own accord?

My short chapters are deliberate, and are entirely the result of attending a panel years ago at a gaming convention. Often gaming, sci-fi, and fantasy conventions have writer tracks, with all manner of seminars. At the Origins Game Fair in Columbus, OH, I sat in on a Michael Stackpole seminar. Mike is known for Star Wars novels as well as his own sci-fi works. He said he’d read a study that claimed a reader was more likely to finish a novel if the chapters were 2,500 to 3,000 words long. At the time, the chapters in my fantasy novels averaged 5,000 to 6,000 words. Intrigued, I figured I’d give it a try. I don’t know if it made a difference in whether my readers finished my novels, but it made a big difference in my writing. In the very next novel that I wrote—and I kept my chapters to 2,500 to 3,000 words—I had an insignificant rewrite. In fact, my editor said he only had a few suggestions and that my style had somehow overnight remarkably improved. I kept to those short chapters after that, and in many cases my editors ask for no rewrites. My storytelling is sleeker, the plot more focused. Win-win-win.

You appear to admire linguistic skills, as do I. You have an apparent understanding of both Italian and Latin. Might I ask how many languages you speak, regardless of the degree of fluency?

I studied Latin, which provides a little background into other languages. I love the intricacies of languages, though I’ve never studied anything beyond Latin… and Egyptian hieroglyphics—I took a course in that. I also know American Sign Language and some Amslan. But I know people who are fluent in languages… Italian, French, Spanish, German, Finnish, Japanese, and I rely on them. I love to smatter different languages into my fiction, and I make sure I get it right because my friends are so kind as to check it for me. The man I studied Egyptian from is Italian, an archaeologist, and an Egyptologist. He was a lot of help with The Bone Shroud.

Your story takes the reader under the centuries old city of Rome. How much time have you spent studying archaeology? Have you visited any digs, especially Roman ones?

I visited digs in Illinois and Wisconsin, and incorporated a Wisconsin dig into an earlier book. Archeology intrigues me, and it was fantasy and sci-fi author Andre Norton who really got me into it. We’d have engaging conversations about new discoveries and digs around the world, and she’d share some of her books and magazines. She was particularly interested in the digs in the Middle East. I wrote a novel with her, Dragon Mage, that we set in ancient Mesopotamia. I read some archaeology books about the setting before I started work. I’d also taken some archaeology courses in college, and entertained pursuing it as a career, but decided on journalism, with an emphasis in geology and geography—of all things. As a coincidence, I was in my basement book room yesterday, looking for a military battles dictionary (for a short story), and I ran across two big books on underwater archaeology, one pertaining to WWII ships. Now I’ve got that topic twisting in my brain, needing to work it into a plot somehow. Yeah, I brought the books upstairs. I can see one of them right now out of the corner of my eye.

I enjoy the path you paint, weaving dialogue and thoughts throughout the exposition. It reflects the way our thoughts and perceptions intertwine with our experiences. Somehow through all of it you manage to move the reader forward without slowing the pace. Which authors have inspired or influenced your writing?

Oh, I have soooooooooo many authors who have and continue to inspire me:

Andre Norton, because I had the fortune of collaborating with her. She’d always stir my imagination with her “what if” and “what if” and “then what ifs.”

Gene Wolfe, another sci-fi author. He is a master stylist who layers multiple meanings into his prose. You have to read one of his books twice to truly appreciate it.

Ed McBain. I discovered the 87th Precinct when I was looking for a book at the airport to occupy me for a long flight. Then I went looking for all of his books and corresponded with him via email. He told me he started writing sci-fi and it didn’t fit him. A buddy sent me McBain’s only sci-fi novel, one of my treasures.

George R. R. Martin, but not for his Game of Thrones novels. The first book of his I read (when I met George at a convention in Louisville, KY), was Fevre Dream. It’s about vampires on a riverboat. The writing was butter that melted off the page. I decided I needed to write fiction instead of writing for a newspaper.

Michael Connelly: I love Harry Bosch. He moves a story seemingly effortlessly, and his protagonist never grows stale. Plus, he gets the police work right. A former police reporter, that’s a real big deal to me.

William Blake. I studied him in an English Lit course in college. Then I kept reading him on my own. He made me… makes me… think.

You wrote a series of fantasy novels with Andre Norton. How did that collaboration come to be and how would you describe the experience? I ask because writing, to me, is a highly personal affair, and I tend to find this sort of approach difficult to consider.

Writing with Andre happened accidentally. I edited a fantasy anthology for DAW Books, and they gave me an Andre story to include. All the other authors had provided recent bios, but I had none for Andre. I was told they’d come up with a “stock bio,” but I didn’t want to turn over the project missing that piece. So I found her phone number (remember, I’d worked as a news reporter, I know how to find people), called, and she answered. Andre was delighted that someone wanted a new bio, and she was quick to email me. Then she emailed me a few more times, and we struck up a friendship. I have a file folder filled with letters she wrote me. We later edited an anthology together.

Her agent approached her about doing a sequel to Quag Keep, the first Dungeons & Dragons-inspired novel, and she was getting up there in years and didn’t want to write a whole book. She told the agent “only Jean” could write this book with her, as she knew I played Dungeons & Dragons and had written for the company. So I outlined the book, Return to Quag Keep, got her approval, and started writing. We called often, chatting, retooled the villain, and had a grand time. She was disappointed at first that I wanted to kill off one of the characters, but I convinced her. I have this “thing.” I kill characters.

In the end, after I’d sent her the manuscript, I was watching the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football. She called me and said (and I will remember this always): “Jean, you are an amazing writer.” The football game faded into the background and I did the Snoopy dance.

I went on to write Dragon Mage, and I finished her final novel, one she’d started and just couldn’t physically continue… she was 92… A Taste of Magic. She taught me how to ask: what if and what if and then what if?

How awesome was that?

What prompted you to break away from fantasy and turn to writing thrillers?

I’ve always read thrillers and mysteries. That’s mostly what fill my bookcases. I just thought it was time I wrote some. I had a taste of it, as I’d penned some Rogue Angel novels for Gold Eagle… modern-day adventure with a little supernatural bent. I had these mystery plots twirling away in my brain, and I just decided to go for it. Not easy switching genres, as all the contacts I had in the sci-fi and fantasy community couldn’t help me in the mystery field. I had to start over. The first mystery I wrote took second place in the Claymore Awards at Killer Nashville. The judges said I should be writing mysteries.

I’m really enjoying it. I find mysteries more difficult to write, challenging, refreshing. I have soooooooooo many ideas still churning. I’m having a hard time finishing your questions because I want to get back to my mystery book-in-progress, The Dead of Summer.

I laud your 2013 decision to step down from your position as the editor of SFWA’s Bulletin and I suspect it took a great deal of courage. Some argue it sparked the ensuing firestorm, but it seems to this outsider to have been merely one catalytic event among many. Three questions follow:

Would you care to comment on your thoughts leading up to it?

How did your move either enhance or diminish your friendships in the author community?

Would you care to comment on the organization’s response to the issue, both initially and over the course of the ensuing years?

Ahhhhhhhh… interesting times. There was a lot involved with the SFWA issue. I won’t go into all of it, lots of politics and such. People decided to be offended at magazine covers and at columns. Opinion columns. It taught me that writers need to be very careful about their topics and sentences and views.

I see people on Facebook today being offended by this and that, people banding together and complaining and getting people removed from convention guest lists and ousted as panelists. I see people being dragged through the mud because of something they said or wrote… or were perceived to have said or wrote.

Political correctness is so political. And freedom of speech… is it really free?

I resigned because I didn’t want to argue, didn’t want to be defensive, and I didn’t want to be involved in something that was so polarizing and where people I respected were being tossed under a bus that was driven by their peers.

I’m proud that I was able to put the magazine back on schedule after it consistently came out late. I’m proud that it didn’t miss a deadline under my watch and that I was able to get the writers paid.

I made some good friendships, and I kept the friendships that I treasured. I don’t know if I’m diminished in the author community; that’s up to the community.

I know that I like the mystery community much better. Fewer eggshells to walk on. I know that I’m doing well, and that I’m happy.

This brings me back to The Bone Shroud in which you tackle the issue of same sex marriage. Now that you’ve stepped away from fantasy, are you enjoying the opportunity to touch on social issues in a way fantasy did not permit?

I used to often touch on social issues in my fantasy works. In particular, books I wrote for Wizards of the Coast—the Goblin Nation trilogy—let me play with levels of society, discrimination, injustice… all cloaked with goblin and hobgoblin characters. That trilogy was about how vicious segments of society could be to each other. At the end, I let hope rise. (Literally, I had a character whose name translated into Hope.)

But you’ve more room for social issues and inclusivity in real-world mysteries. I want to be inclusive in my fiction, so in The Bone Shroud I opted for a strong female character of Turkish-Irish parentage, a gay brother and his Italian fiancé; and I touched on age-different relationships.

My friends are straight, gay, young, old, students, professionals, retirees, dirt-poor, and quite affluent. I draw from all of them to inspire my characters. In my Piper Blackwell novels, I touch on race, social disparity, and the “ruralness” of small town life.

What’s life like for Jean Rabe these days?

Busy. I’ve always been a workaholic. I’m not good at relaxing. So I write and edit, and take breaks to play with dogs. When I’m working on one book, I’m thinking about the next. Sometimes, like now, I’m working on two books. One for the morning, one for the afternoon. Short stories? I’ve got two I promised; those get the weekends. Well, I still game. This weekend it’s Axis & Allies. In the evenings, if I’m watching TV, I have a notebook in front of me so I can sketch out characters, scenes, start book outlines. My husband is correct; I cannot relax.

Thank you, Jean, for taking the time to share with us. Before I present an excerpt from The Bone Shroud, followed by your social links and links to your book, I always conclude my interviews with a Lightning Round because of the unexpected insights it permits. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m a: kind soul

The one thing I cannot do without is: dogs

The one thing I would change about my life is: not moving out of Wisconsin

My biggest peeve is: prejudice

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: dogs… always dogs. I measure my life in dog years—the number of dogs who have shared their years with me.

Do you have a parting thought you would like to leave us with?

I hope people will try my mystery books. Many of my fantasy fans have bought them—and said they were surprised that they liked mysteries. I want to stay in this genre because it’s harder work for me and because I have all these stories I want to tell in so many different settings. I’ll never have enough days on the earth to tell all the stories; but I hope to tell the good ones. I’ve been a reader since age five, and a writer since age seven. I was first published at twelve. I can’t imagine doing anything else. Just tell good stories. Life is too short not to do what makes you happy and satisfied.

I guess my parting thought is: do what makes you smile, adopt a dog or three, and don’t judge; let fictional characters do that.

Excerpt

Irem was surprised to see car headlights and traffic signals holding off the night. Time had melted in the tunnels.

It had rained recently, adding a thin layer of freshness to the air that was otherwise heavy with the big city smells of car exhaust and too many people. Business lights reflected in wide, shallow puddles, the mirror image of a nearby fluorescent sign looking like wiggling pink and green snakes that extended from her feet.

Her legs ached from the climb, and she resolved to enroll at a gym when she returned to Chicago … pursuing something other than hapkido, which held acrimonious memories. But, for now, she’d exercise her ever-present curiosity.

“Benito, what did Santiago mean ‘if we don’t all end up dead’? I didn’t want to ask him when he’d said it.” But I should have. It had niggled at her brain for hours. Irem had plenty more questions—those all relating to the Roman underground, the bone tapestry and why it couldn’t be used as a map any longer, who’d been buried in it. She intended to answer at least some of those on her own later with a thorough Google search on her iPhone. “Is Santiago worried the underground is going to cave in? Or is it the tapestry? Does he think it’s cursed? Does he think pursuing—”

Neinte.” Benito shook his head.

“Then what is he worried about?”

“The bone shroud is not cursed, Irem. That’s the stuff of fantasy fiction. The deaths of the restorer and her husband were unfortunate to be certain, the museum intern to drugs and alcohol. Sfortunato. Unfortunate.”

Intern? A third death? Levent hadn’t mentioned that.

“No curse. I am not superstitious, and neither are the Garcias. If Santiago is worried about the tunnels giving way, he would not be digging with me. He has the fears of a young archaeologist new to the dark parts of this field. That is all.”

Benito stopped and stared at the sidewalk, let out a long breath.

“Dark parts.” Irem wasn’t willing to let the question drop. Her curiosity pushed her to pursue it. “Dark parts? Of archaeology?”

Mi scusi,” a man said, brushing by them and wrapping his long rain slicker in close. “Sono di fretta.” He said something else, softer, lost in the giggle of a sequined woman passing by.

Non è un problema,” Benito called after him.

The sequined woman giggled again and blew a kiss to an elderly man leaning against a post, then pointed a finger at Benito and winked. Irem guessed she was a hooker.

“So what did Santiago mean—”

“Archaeology is—” Benito ground the ball of his foot against the pavement. “Brutale. Cutthroat, Irem. I had to think of the English word. Cutthroat is a good word. In some circles the competition for finds is not unlike divers racing to discover a sunken ship full of treasure. I think that is an apt analogy.” Benito directed her south and around a white-haired woman with a walker, a man with a cane following. “Santiago worries that if someone discovers what we do, who we work to uncover, they will try to steal our find. His concern is not unfounded.”

 Buy links:

Amazon          https://www.amazon.com/Bone-Shroud-Jean-Rabe-ebook/dp/B07B6S5F7Y/

and                  https://www.amazon.com/Bone-Shroud-Jean-Erlene-Rabe/dp/1732003602/

 You can follow Jean here:

Amazon author page:           https://www.amazon.com/Jean-Rabe/e/B00J1QR5U2/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_1

Website:         www.jeanrabe.com

Newsletter You can subscribe here:http://jeanrabe.us14.list-manage1.com/subscribe?u=89364515308e8b5e7ffdf6892&id=9404531a4b

Twitter:          @JEANR

Facebook:      https://www.facebook.com/jean.rabe.1

 

 

 

 

SaveSave

The Write Stuff – Monday, April 9 – Interview With Ron S. Friedman

Ron S. Friedman is a science fiction novelist and a short story writer, a Calgary Herald #1 Bestseller Author and a Best Short Fiction finalist in the 2016 Aurora Awards, Canada’s premier science-fiction and fantasy awards. In his day job, he works as a senior Information Technologies analyst. During the Gulf War he served as an NCO in the Israeli Air-Force Intelligence.

Ron’s short stories have appeared in Galaxy’s Edge, Daily Science Fiction, and in other magazines and anthologies. Ron co-edited three anthologies, and he received ten Honorable Mentions in the Writers of the Future Contest. Ron is a Quora most viewed author in Space Exploration, Astronomy and Planetary Science, with over a million views. His first novel, Typhoon Time, a time-travel thriller, has been released by WordFire Press. A time travel project goes awry when a nuclear submarine goes back to 1938, resulting in Hitler gaining a nuclear weapon.

Ron came from a family of Holocaust survivors. Part of his fiction was inspired by the experiences of his grandfather during WWII. Originally from Israel, Ron is living with his loving wife and two children in Calgary, Alberta.

Ron describes Typhoon Time this way:

The Hunt for Red Octobermeets Timeline.

A nuclear submarine led by a Holocaust survivor, travels back in time to 1938 in an attempt to prevent WW-II.

###

MARTIN RICHER, a pacifist history professor specializing in pre-WWII Germany, has two passions in his life: history, and opposing nuclear weapons. That is why he feels torn when he finds himself traveling back in time to 1938 aboard a nuclear ballistic missile submarine.

When ERIC SOBOL, a terminally ill holocaust survivor billionaire, learns about the existence of a wormhole leading from present days to 1938, he decides to do everything within his power to change the past.

###

A modernized Russian Typhoon class nuclear submarine, manned by twenty-first century multi-national experts, and equipped with the best civil and military technologies money can buy, jumps the time barrier and appears in 1938.

Eric’s plan to stop the war falls apart when a saboteur steals a nuclear warhead and hands it to the German War Navy. As the crippled Typhoon is ambushed by a U-boat wolf pack and barely escapes the pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee, Hitler contemplates how to use his newly acquired weapon to make all of Europe fall to the Third Reich.

What do you want readers to know about your book?

World War II was the most devastating war in history, with countries destroyed, cities leveled, and with a total of over 60 million people killed, including 418,000 Americans. During the Holocaust, 9 million people were systematically murdered in industrial methods, including 6 million Jews, and others such as gays, Slavic, Romani and disabled people. Even someone like Stephen Hawking wouldn’t be spared.

If you, the reader, had a chance to prevent the war, would you take it?

How far will you go?

Will you create a new Holocaust to prevent another?

This is the main dilemma the main protagonists face when they take a nuclear submarine back in time to 1938.

Aside from the plot, is there a story behind it?

I would like to speak about two items under this umbrella.

The first issue is personal. I came from a family of Holocaust survivors. My grandfather was a Polish Jew who served as a lieutenant in the Polish army. In September 1939, Germany invaded Poland from the west, while the Soviet Union invaded from the east. My grandfather’s infantry battalion was sent to stop the advancing German panzers… It didn’t end well.

A couple of scenes are loosely based on his story.

The other issue I would like to discuss is the German resistance to the Nazis. In 1938, a number of high ranking German officers plotted against Hitler. In our history, later, many of those conspirators were executed following the failed July 20 1944 plot. I wanted to ensure the Germans in the story are presented as three-dimensional complex characters.

Why is your writing different from other authors in this genre?

The intention. The time travel mission is well planned, focused and goal oriented.

In many WWII alternate history and time-travel stories I read or watched, something happens by mistake and history is taking a new course. The characters are reacting to the events as they fold.

Unlike those, in Typhoon Time, the time travel mission is well planned in advanced. Eric, the person in charge, knows very well what he is doing. He recruits a nuclear submarine, hires the best scientists and engineers to the task. And he purchases the best equipment money can buy. Only then, they travel back in time to 1938 with a clear intention to stop the war.

Unfortunately, even the best plans can fail. Well… it’s not really unfortunate. At least not for me, the writer. Because, if everything works according to plan than we have no story.

What was your path to publication?

I faced many challenges. The biggest one was the language barrier. I immigrated to Canada from Israel in 2002. English is my second language. When I started to write stories, and submitted them to magazines, I got rejections in the form of: “You are not a native English speaker. It would be best for you to choose another hobby.”

The thing is… I’m not a good listener. So, I ignored that advice and I continued to write. My first story was published in Daily Science Fiction in 2011. Since then I published 14 short stories.

When I finished Typhoon Time, I submit it to a few publishers. Granted, it was rejected, and in one case it was lost in the slash pile.

In late 2014, I decided to self-published it. But before I did, I heard of a writer’s workshop David Weber was leading at VCON. I registered to that workshop and submitted the first three chapters, just to get a few tips from David before self-publishing it. David liked it, and he asked to read the entire manuscript. The rest is history.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a sci-fi novel that takes place on Titan, after Earth goes through an apocalypse. Mad-Max in space.

What else have you written?

I published 14 science fiction short stories in various magazines and anthologies. My story Game Not Over was selected by Mike Resnick, and has appeared in Galaxy’s Edge in 2015. My name was listed right besides Robert Heinlein. Can you imagine that for an emerging writer?

You can find a link to that Galaxy’s Edge issue here: https://www.amazon.com/Galaxys-Edge-Magazine-Predestination-Tie-ebook/dp/B00RKM2Z3G/

Are there any awards or honors you’d like to share?

Typhoon Timeis an Amazon.ca #1 Bestseller in Time Travel.

Best Short Fiction finalist in the 2016 Aurora Awards, Canada’s premier science fiction and fantasy awards.

Calgary Herald #1 Bestseller.

Quora most viewed author in Astronomy and Planetary Science with over a million views.

Ten Honorable Mentions in the Writers of The Future Contest.

What is your writing routine?

I write for an hour or two every day. I do have a day job and a family, which makes it challenging to commit more than that. A large portion of my writing is posting on Quora.

Do you create an outline before you write? 

When I wrote Typhoon Time I didn’t write an outline. The story developed organically.

Lately, I started to spend more time on planning the plot and the characters. The recent stories I published were outlined. The novel I’m currently working on has an outline.

Why do you write?

Creativity. I want to do something creative, and I feel writing is the way to share it. I also used my writing experience as a tool to improve my written communication skills.

Tell us about your writing community.

I belong to a writing group in Calgary called IFWA (The Imaginative Fiction Writers Association). I’d been a member of IFWA since 2005.  I think writers should support each other rather than write in solitude, and IFWA had been a great source for support, both as a critique group and for social writing related events.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I’m senior Information Technologies analyst with over 20 years of industry experience. What one learns in the computer industries could be a great material for science fiction stories.

In the late 1980s early 1990s I served in the Israeli Air Force as an Air-Force Intelligence analyst. I guess some military experience could be helpful when writing MilitarySF.

What motivates or inspires you?

The future. I think we are now at the start of a new era in human history.

Some of the greatest future revolutions will involve Genetic Engineering, Artificial Intelligence and Space Travel. I’m trying to promote those topics in my writing. Some of these revolutions were seeded in the 20st century. Some, during World War II. We want to make sure to learn from the past in order to navigate to a better future.

What is your greatest life lesson?

Persistence. If I may quote Tom Alan’s character from Galaxy’s quest: “Never give up, never surrender.” If you want to be successful in something, do it and don’t be afraid to fail. And if you do fail, try again. And again.

Thank you, Ron, for taking time to share. Before I present our visitors a Typhoon Time excerpt, as well as links where they can follow you and purchase your book, I’d like to conclude with a customary Lightning Round. Please answer the following in as few words as possible:

My best friend would tell you I’m: Hard working and honest.

The one thing I cannot do without is: Time

The one thing I would change about my life: No idea.

My biggest peeve is: Stress

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: Family

Do you have a parting thought you would like to leave us with?

Thank you for reading the interview. I hope you’ll enjoy reading Typhoon Time.

 

Excerpt:

Atlantic Ocean

April 13, 2018

Oh shit oh shit oh shit. Professor Martin Richter fiddled with the frayed fabric of the fresh bullet hole in his tweed jacket. How did Eric Sobol convince me to join this lunacy?

Alarms sounded. Dim, red light flooded the control room. Crewmen rushed to take their positions. Russian syllables rolled from the speakers all around as the Typhoon-class submarine prepared to enter the wormhole.

Martin looked to Vera Pulaski for a translation, and so did Steve T. Stiles and Eric Sobol. Of the four Americans who were invited to the control room, Vera was the only one who spoke Russian.

“They have detected a bomber on an interception course,” she said. “The captain gave the order to dive. We have less than four minutes.”

This is a mistake, thought Martin. I’m not the adventurous type. What was I thinking when I signed up for this suicidal experiment?

Martin always knew himself as the kind of person who remembered historical events. He could recount when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. He could recall the date Dr. Albert Schweitzer won his Nobel Peace Prize and when the demonstrators toppled President Mubarak from office. So, even if he forgot certain dates once or twice, he could still claim to be a person who was passionate about history.

But describing himself as a peaceful, non-adventurous sort, while standing on the bridge of a nuclear submarine about to enter a wormhole in a desperate attempt to violate the laws of physics and travel back in time?

Evidently, that specific self-assessment will now have to be revised. I can’t really claim I’m not a militaristic risk-taker, in the same way that Marcus Junius Brutus couldn’t claim that stabbing Julius Caesar on the Senate floor wasn’t like him. I guess, deep down, I’m not exactly who I thought I was.

A strange buzz filled the control room as a new image appeared on the main screen. A black and blue sphere, surrounded by dark clouds and electrical sparks filled the monitor. The way the dark sphere spun, devouring the ocean in its path, was both awe-inspiring and horrifying.

Cold sweat trickled down Martin’s forehead. He could barely stand up straight. What are our chances of surviving the wormhole? He didn’t think they were attractive.

“I’m scared,” Vera whispered. Her voice quivered.

Martin stared at her in silence. He was probably more terrified than she was. Mechanically, he lifted his shaking arm and put it around her shoulders.

“Don’t worry,” he said to comfort Vera. His mouth was dry. He cleared his throat. “It’ll be over soon. In a few seconds, we’ll cross the 1938 threshold.” He doubted he convinced her. He didn’t convince himself either.

Someone tapped on Martin’s shoulder.

Martin flinched. He nearly had a heart attack. Thank God Vera had been there to support him.

“This is so wicked!” He heard Steve’s voice. He turned and saw a grin spread across Steve’s face.

“Have you ever seen anything so cool?” Steve pointed at the wormhole image. “The first dudes in history to travel back in time. Boy, that’s what I call a thrill.”

Martin wondered if Steve had lost his mind. They were staring at certain death, and Steve found the prospect exciting?

“Hey, look.” Steve stepped closer to the monitor.

The sphere was now clear of smoke and electrical discharges. Caribbean water slowly poured into the rupture like honey into a bowl. The inside was black. Was Eric successful after all? Could this bubble really lead to 1938 Earth, or was the wormhole’s dark entrance their death sentence?

“That’s a good sign.” Steve stared at the monitor. “The submarine’s propulsion should work on the other side.” He made the victory sign with his fingers. “Let’s rock ’n’ roll!”

A rumble shook the vessel. Martin gulped.

As the submarine began to submerge, Martin held his breath. The crew seemed nervous.

The dark blue globe grew bigger. Then, the monitor turned black. Martin tensed. He forced himself to breathe; in, out, in, out …

“We’ve just crossed the threshold,” Steve announced. “Do you feel anything?”

“I feel like I’m about to throw up,” replied Martin, gazing at the black monitor.

“I mean the smooth motion.” Steve shrugged. “I wonder if it’s normal. I expected some kind of rumble or shake, something more … grandiose.”

The image of the Caribbean Sea slid back to the center of the screen. The operator must have turned the camera backward. They were looking at Earth from the inside of a wormhole.

“What’s that?” Back on the contemporary Earth’s side of the wormhole, something white was entangled with the rear cable line which fed power to the ultra-capacitor on Eric’s yacht. The same yacht that had brought them to the submarine and carried all the scientific equipment which made time travelpossible.

The image flickered.

 

Those of you who would like to follow Ron online can do so here:

Website:                     https://ronsfriedman.wordpress.com/

Amazon Author Page:          http://amazon.com/author/ronfriedman

Goodreads:                https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6979231.Ron_S_Friedman

Quora:                       https://www.quora.com/profile/Ron-S-Friedman/answers?sort=views

Facebook:                  http://www.facebook.com/friedmanron

Twitter:                      https://twitter.com/RonSFriedman

LinkedIn:                   http://ca.linkedin.com/pub/ron-raanan-friedman/a/904/770

Google+:        https://plus.google.com/u/0/?tab=wX#102514383771529750251/about/p/pub

SFWA speaker’s Bureau:    speakers.sfwa.org/profiles/ron-friedman/

 

You may purchase his book here:

https://www.amazon.com/Typhoon-Time-Ron-S-Friedman-ebook/dp/B07B7J2BJF/

SaveSave

SaveSave

The Write Stuff – Monday, March 30 – Interview With Robert Dugoni

On several occasions over the past two years, I’ve had the privilege of interviewing some of the world’s first tier thriller authors. This month, I have the special pleasure of introducing you to Robert, or Bob, Dugoni as he prefers to be called. I first met this humble and gracious man in August of 2011, at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association’s Summer Conference in Bellevue, Washington. It was Thursday, August 4, and Bob was going to be teaching the second part of a course on writing, later that afternoon. Early that morning, just before his co-presenter, Chris Humphreys, opened the seminar, I spotted Bob at the back of the room. When I approached him, I found him to be immediately open and affable. Although it was a brief conversation, I will never forget how genuinely touched he seemed to be when I told him my wife had enjoyed all of his books and thought him to be a better writer than Scott Turow—an author whom Bob conceded was one of his favorites. Even so, you will see from his biography that follows, he is a force to be reckoned with.

SAM_1300Robert Dugoni is the #1 Amazon and New York Times Bestselling Author of eight novels. His latest, My Sister’s Grave, was the #1 Amazon bestseller for two months and Amazon, Library Journal, and Suspense Magazine all chose it as a 2014 Best Book of the Year. Dugoni is also the author of the best-selling David Sloane series, The Jury Master, Wrongful Death, Bodily Harm, Murder One and The Conviction, as well as the stand alone novel Damage Control. His books have twice been recognized by the Los Angeles Times as a top five thriller of the year. Murder One was a finalist for the prestigious Harper Lee Award for literary excellence. Dugoni’s first book, the nonfiction expose, The Cyanide Canary, was a Washington Post 2004 Best Book of the year. Dugoni’s books have been likened to Scott Turow and Nelson DeMille, and the Providence Rhode Island Journal has called him the “the undisputed king of the legal thriller” and the “heir to Grisham’s literary throne.”

The following is a brief peek at My Sister’s Grave:

MySistersGrave CoverTracy Crosswhite has spent twenty years questioning the facts surrounding her sister Sarah’s disappearance and the murder trial that followed. She doesn’t believe that Edmund House—a convicted rapist and the man condemned for Sarah’s murder—is the guilty party. Motivated by the opportunity to obtain real justice, Tracy became a homicide detective with the Seattle PD and dedicated her life to tracking down killers.

When Sarah’s remains are finally discovered near their hometown in the northern Cascade mountains of Washington State, Tracy is determined to get the answers she’s been seeking. As she searches for the real killer, she unearths dark, long-kept secrets that will forever change her relationship to her past—and open the door to deadly danger.

Bob, will you please tell us about My Sister’s Grave?

I wanted to do something fresh. One of my joys as a writer is creating new characters, getting to know them and then letting them run and see what happens. I had been fascinated with an idea ever since I read that Washington was taking down several dams to restore the wild Salmon’s natural spawning grounds. When I read further, I learned that large lakes above the dams would drain and so, as a writer, I thought, “What if?” “What if they were to find a body?” From there the questions multiplied. “What if the body was someone who had disappeared years earlier, without a trace?” “What if the body was someone prominent or the daughter of someone prominent?” “What does a murder do to a family, to an entire small town?” “What if the discovery of that body included evidence that maybe, just maybe, the person convicted and in jail might be innocent?” “What if that small town is harboring some big secrets that certain individuals don’t want exposed?”

It’s taken me more than a decade of writing but I’ve come to realize that while I write thrillers they have a very strong “relationship” element to them not unlike Gone Girl, which was really all about the relationship between the husband and the wife. I think readers will love getting to know Tracy and her relationship to her sister, Sarah. I think women in particular will feel the bond that those two characters share as well as the pain Tracy feels when Sarah disappears, without a trace. I think they’ll love reading about a tough, strong willed, intelligent woman seeking justice. Beyond that, I hope they’ll just love an old-fashioned edge of your chair thriller with a heart pounding ending.

What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?

Trying not to write from the perspective of a woman, though my lead character is a woman. I knew that would be a potential disaster. So I wrote from the perspective of a human being struggling to find closure and justice for a horrific crime committed to her sister that damaged not just her, but her entire family and bucolic existence in a small town. I have four professional sisters and a mother who has run her own business for 40 years. I’ve been surrounded by intelligent, strong willed women my entire life. Tracy Crosswhite is an amalgamation of all of them, with a healthy dose of real life Seattle Homicide Detective Jennifer Southworth. So I tried to draw from all of them.

What other novels have you written?

I’ve written 8 other novels: The Jury Master, Damage Control, Wrongful Death, Bodily Harm, Murder One, The Conviction, Her Last Breath, The Cyanide Canary as well as The Academy, a short story.

Have there been any awards, productions, videos or anything else of interest associated with your work?

Several have hit the NY Times Bestseller List, including My Sister’s Grave, which was also the #1 Amazon download for two months.

Murder One was a finalist for the Harper Lee award for literary excellence

Murder One and Bodily Harm were chosen as one of the five best legal thrillers of the year by Library Journal and by the Los Angeles Times Book Review.

What else are you working on?

The sequel to My Sister’s Grave, Her last Breath will be published September 8, 2015. I’m working on the third in the series.

Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?

Yes, hearing voices in your head all day that sound very real to you.

Hah! I know that one. I also know you were a two-time winner of PNWA’s annual literary contest, which is an unusual accomplishment in and of itself, and those were events that helped get you started. Can you give us any additional insights to your path to publication?

Like a roller coaster. I had an agent die, a publisher get bought by a huge conglomerate, been to the top and back to the bottom and back to the top. This is not a profession for the faint of heart.

Indeed it isn’t. What would you say is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing a novel?

Putting your butt in the chair day after day.

So true. Writing thrillers demands that you “do in” certain characters. Have you ever dispatched someone in a book and then regretted it?

Yes, in Bodily Harm, though I won’t say who.

I guess our visitors will have to read it, then try to figure that out for themselves. Do you have another job outside of writing?

I still practice law a couple days a week.

What motivates or inspires you?

My kids. I have a son who is 18 and a daughter 15. I want the best for them because they are terrific kids and deserve every opportunity to succeed.

How do you pick yourself up in the face of adversity?

What else are you going to do? You can’t quit. If you quit, the critics and cynics win. You have to keep going forward, believe in yourself and be intelligent about your career path.

Some people do quit, despite all that, so I must say how much I admire you. Will you tell us what has been your greatest success in life?

My marriage and my two children.

Do you have any pet projects?

I clean the dog poop in the backyard on a regular basis!

Now that was unexpected. Who has been your greatest inspiration?

My mother and father. They raised 10 kids, all professionals. They just never gave in.

And that tells us where you got your attitude. Before we close, Bob, I like to finish with a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m a …

bit of a Gremlin.

The one thing I cannot do without is:

My wife

The one thing I would change about my life:

Nothing

My biggest peeve is:

People who don’t follow the rules of society the rest of us follow

The person or persons I’m most satisfied with:

My Children

Thank you so much, Bob, for having taken time out of your life to join us here. I’m sure a number of my visitors are glad you stopped by.

For those visitors who would like to sample some of Bob Dugoni’s writing, you can find his latest release at:

http://www.amazon.com/Sisters-Grave-Tracy-Crosswhite-Book-ebook/dp/B00K2EOONI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1424715166&sr=8-1&keywords=My+Sister%27s+Grave

Bob’s website:           www.robertdugoni.com

On Facebook:            https://www.facebook.com/AuthorRobertDugoni /

On Twitter:               @robertdugoni

email:                         bob@robertdugoni.com

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, March 16 – Interview With Matt Pallamary

Over the months since I began this series, I have been privileged to interview several award winning authors. Few of them, however, have garnered as many awards as this week’s guest, Matthew Pallamary. His awards, and the works that earned them, are as follows:

International Book Award – Award Winning Finalist – A Short Walk to the Other Side
USA Best Book Awards – Award Winning Finalist – A Short Walk to the Other Side
International Book Award – 1st Place – Nonfiction New Age – The Infinity Zone
San Diego Book Award – Finalist – The Infinity Zone
Award Winning Finalist – National Best Book Awards – Spirit Matters
San Diego Book Award – Best Spiritual Book – Spirit Matters
San Diego Book Award – Land Without Evil
San Diego Writer’s Monthly Man of the Year Award 2000
2002 Independent e-book award — 1st Place horror/thriller category – Dreamland with Ken Reeth

Author PhotoMatt’s work has appeared in Oui, New Dimensions, The Iconoclast, Starbright, Infinity, Passport, The Short Story Digest, Redcat, The San Diego Writer’s Monthly, Connotations, Phantasm, Essentially You, The Haven Journal, and many others. His fiction has been featured in The San Diego Union Tribune which he has also reviewed books for, and his work has been heard on KPBS-FM in San Diego, KUCI FM in Irvine, television Channel Three in Santa Barbara, and The Susan Cameron Block Show in Vancouver. He has been a guest on nationally syndicated talk shows and a frequent guest on numerous podcasts, among them, The Psychedelic Salon, and C-Realm.

He has taught a fiction workshop at the Southern California Writers’ Conference in San Diego, Palm Springs, and Los Angeles, and at the Santa Barbara Writers’ Conference for twenty five years. He has lectured at the Greater Los Angeles Writer’s Conference, the Getting It Write conference in Oregon, the Saddleback Writers’ Conference, the Rio Grande Writers’ Seminar, the National Council of Teachers of English, The San Diego Writer’s and Editor’s Guild, The San Diego Book Publicists, The Pacific Institute for Professional Writing, and he has been a panelist at the World Fantasy Convention, Con-Dor, and Coppercon. He is presently Editor in Chief of Muse Harbor Publishing.

I could go on for pages with more of his accomplishments, but I’d rather introduce you to the man and talk about his recent release, CyberChrist, a science fiction thriller. This brief introduction will give you a feeling for it:

Ashley Butler, a prize winning journalist at the San Diego Times receives an email from a man who claims to have discovered immortality by turning off the aging gene in a 15 year old boy with an aging disorder. The email has pictures showing a reversal of the aging process and the names of a scientist and a company to investigate. Thinking it a hoax, she forwards the email to friends. Though skeptical, she calls to investigate and gets a no longer in service message. When she leaves her office she overhears a news story about the death of the scientist mentioned in the email. Ashley checks out the company mentioned in the email and discovers a gutted building. At the deceased scientist’s address she has a confrontation with an unfriendly federal investigator. Returning to her office she finds him, subpoena in hand, confiscating her computer. He tells her that the scientist who sent the email is a killer that they need help catching. When her own investigators do more checking, none of them return. The forwarded email becomes the basis for an online church built around the boy, calling him the CyberChrist. The church claims that the Internet is the physical manifestation of the group mind of humanity and the boy is the second coming of Christ online. The federal government tries to shut down the church, but its website replicates faster than they can stop it. While church and state battle over religious freedom online, the media and the state battle over freedom of speech. Ashley battles to stay alive.

Matt, I can’t begin to tell you how pleased I am that you dropped by to talk with us. Will you tell us how CyberChrist came to be?

CyberChrist grew out of my fascination with the subject of immortality, genetics, and the too early death of a close friend, who I “immortalized” in print.

What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?

Keeping up with the rapid pace of technological change which I overcame by keeping abreast of breaking technological advances. CyberChrist needed to be as up to date as possible while being as timeless as possible.

What other novels have you written?

Land Without Evil, DreamLand (With Ken Reeth), Eye of the Predator, Night Whispers. I have also published two short story collections, a nonfiction book, and a memoir.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

No. I write, teach, and edit.

In this day and age, that is highly unusual. Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?

Eating.

That was unexpected. Would you care to elaborate?

I was referring to the inconsistency of income. Sometimes it’s feast, but more often than not it’s famine. Being a novelist, you can’t depend on it for steady income, (unless you’re Stephen King or someone like that.), so if you are dedicated to it, you have to be doing it for the love. I write full time, but I also teach and edit to make ends meet and even that goes in feast and famine cycles.

Most of us imagine life as a successful novelist somewhat more romantically. This takes some of the blush off the rose. Clearly, you know it on a more intimate level. Getting down to the nuts and bolts—if you’ll allow me to mix metaphors—what is your single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing a novel?

Staying focused and avoiding distractions.

Boy! Do I know that one. Distraction can come at you from all directions and in all sorts of disguises. You’ve come a long way as a self-published author. Will you tell us about your path to publication?

I have been through a few publishers and agents and now take great satisfaction in doing my own thing.

CyberChrist is a thriller and thrillers usually involve loss of life. If you were going to commit the perfect murder, how would you go about it?

By not telling a soul about it, or how I would go about it.

I hope you don’t have anything of that sort in the works. Have you ever dispatched someone in a book and then regretted it?

I never regretted it as it was necessary for the story, but it broke my heart on more than one occasion.

How many people have you done away with over the course of your career?

Thousands.

After CyberChrist, what else are you working on?

Phantastic Fiction Front CoverI have another nonfiction book titled Phantastic Fiction – A Shamanic Approach to Story, which will be released this coming June at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference where I have been teaching a Phantastic Fiction workshop for twenty five years.

Very nice. Will you tell us what has been your greatest success in life?

My novel, Land Without Evil and the amazing aerial stage show that came from it.

Here is a link to the preview.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUftl-0AqAI

What do you consider your biggest failure?

One of my best friends is a huge fan of the Mythbusters show. I have watched it a number of times with him. They have a motto, which I will paraphrase here.

There is no failure, there is only data.

Who have been your greatest inspirations?

My Mom, Ray Bradbury, Sparky Schulz, Barnaby Conrad, Chuck Champlin, as well as Sid Stebel and David Brin, who is a good friend of mine.

Is there anything we haven’t touched on you want to make sure potential readers know?

I have been writing for over thirty years and have been teaching and leading writing workshops at major writer’s conferences for over twenty five years, so I am not someone who jumped on the self-publishing bandwagon without any skills or experience. I was blessed to have Ray Bradbury as a mentor as well as Charles (Sparky) Schulz, Barnaby Conrad and the late, great Charles (Chuck) Champlin, the L.A. Times leading film critic for twenty five years. I was very pleased to see Chuck honored at the 2015 Oscars tribute. Together they adopted me into the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference family.

Very nice. Before we present a sample from CyberChrist and tell our visitors where they can get your books, let’s do very quick Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m…

Nuts

The one thing I cannot do without is…

Breathing

The one thing I would change about my life…

The last woman I was married to.

Here is a quick peek at CyberChrist, followed by various links you can use to learm more about Matt and his work.

CHAPTER ONE

CyberChrist Front CoverAshley Butler set her chamomile tea and bran muffin down on her desk and hit the power button on her computer. While the little electronic monster under her desk beeped and chattered to life, she brushed ringlets of long brown hair from her face and pulled them into a pony tail, then she leaned back in her chair and watched the never-ending activity from The San Diego Times newsroom through the tinted glass wall of her office.

Mounted close to the ceiling above the doors, half a dozen TV monitors lined the far wall showing CNN, MSNBC, local, and national news. Smaller computer screens glowed from rows of cubicles below them. The steady clicking of keyboards filled the air while phones rang and people scurried in and out of offices.

Less than a year ago Ashley had occupied one of those cubicles until her prize winning story about the murder of an environmental terrorist brought her from reporter to feature writer. Her editor and mentor Scott Miller had worked through the assignment with her, pushing for more revisions. His suggestions helped pull things together, sparking a close father-daughter relationship that made her eager to please by giving him nothing but her best work.

Her computer played the opening strains of Virginia Woolf by the Indigo Girls, signaling the log-on screen. Ashley nibbled her muffin and tapped in her password with one hand. Her email popped up showing seventeen messages. She recognized sixteen of the names. She had never seen the seventeenth. It had an enclosure.

Dr. Justin Stephens — Subject: Immortality

“What’s that all about?” she muttered, double clicking the mail icon. The message screen appeared, but it had no words. She clicked on the enclosure. Pictures and algebraic equations filled her screen.

The first picture showed a wizened sexless countenance with wrinkled, ashen skin, no eyebrows, and a bald head that seemed too large for such a small face. A beaked nose and receding chin looked as if the mouth would swallow them. Jagged teeth sprouted from red gums and milky blue eyes protruded under lashless eyelids.

Ashley’s breath hitched when she read the caption beneath it.

Diagnosis/Prognosis: Chris Daniels, age 14 presents with Progeria, an acceleration of the aging process to approximately seven times the normal rate. Symptoms include heart disease, arteriosclerosis, arthritis, stunted growth, and premature aging. Applied gene therapy has resulted in the isolation and turning off of an inverted insertion in the long arm of chromosome one. The miraculous results of the administered protocol are shown in the following photos.

More pictures followed, their sequence appearing to go backward in time. In the second picture, Chris’s eyes looked clearer. His or her skin appeared softer with a flush of color; as if it now held moisture, and the child’s teeth had evened some. Ashley thought she saw peach fuzz where eyebrows should be.

The child’s face looked fuller and more feminine in the third picture and the teeth looked straighter. Ashley saw hair on Chris’s head and the kid definitely had eyebrows. The fire in Chris’s now ice blue eyes burned brighter.

The two pictures that followed looked younger and more perfect somehow; androgynous with brighter eyes, a normally proportioned face, and fully formed eyebrows. Feathery lashes, a thickening head of long hair, and healthy skin tone accented everything else, giving Chris an angelic countenance.

I’ve seen this trick before, Ashley thought. They Photo-shopped these to make it look like the person ages at warp speed.

In the last picture, Chris’s hair had grown down to his or her shoulders. Other than tiny crow’s feet around the kid’s eyes and indeterminate sex, Chris looked like a normal teenager, only this kid was beautiful. Ashley couldn’t believe the caption under the picture.

Chris Daniels – Age:17

 

Friend Matt on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/matthew.pallamary

Visit Matt’s Author Page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MatthewJPallamary

Follow Matt on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mattpallamary

Visit Mystic Ink Publishing: http://www.mysticinkpublishing.com/

Visit Mystic Ink on Google +: https://plus.google.com/+Mysticinkpublishinggoogleplus/posts

Connect on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mattpallamary

Favorite Matt’s Smashwords author page: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/Picaflor

The Write Stuff – Monday, February 2 – Interview With Gerard Bianco

Every now and then I encounter someone I cannot pin down. How does one label a man who is an artist, a jewelry designer, a writing coach and an author? This week’s guest is just such an individual. And when I try to identify his writing, I’m in an even worse predicament. One published work was called “a horror thriller, a psychological thriller, a whodunit, and a wonderful mystical thriller all rolled into one.” Another was described as “a love story, a laugh-out-loud comedy, and a sympathetic mix of wit, banter, love, and frustration.” Now, his latest release, A Sharp Bend in the Road: 17 Intriguing Stories, is described as a book that “redefines the art of the short story collection.”

Author photoThe one I’m referring to is my guest week, Gerard Bianco who divides his time between Portland, Maine and Boston. He holds an MFA in Writing from Albertus Magnus College. His short stories have appeared in various literary journals. His lessons, exercises and advice on the art and craft of creative fiction have appeared on the web and in the new book, Now Write! Mysteries: Mystery Fiction Exercises From Today’s Best Writers and Teachers. (Tarcher, 2011; Edited by Sherry Ellis and Laurie Lamson.)

The Deal Master (2006) A mystery/thriller novel. Won the Editor’s Choice Award and the Publisher’s Choice Award.

Discipline: A Play (2012) A love story and a laugh-out-loud comedy that uses wit to depict human frailty, won the Editor’s Choice Award, 2012 and was a Finalist in the 2013 Indie Excellence Book Awards.

A Sharp Bend in the Road: 17 Intriguing Stories (January 2015)

Book Blurb: “A virtuosic collection of stories followed by the sharp blade of a killer novella as the final act. Gerard Bianco’s stories do not creep up on you: they fall upon you like a raptor plummeting, wings folded, golden eye ablaze. Their signature swirl of caustic irony is bitter, often brutal – a gleam of talons and a sudden cry – resulting almost always in a small death of the heart.” -Dianne Benedict, Author of Shiny Objects

Book Review: “A Sharp Bend in the Road showcases a carnival of amazing and totally different types of stories. From a story about a young man’s encounter in an elevator, to a gay couple in a jewelry store, to a woman entering a retirement home, Bianco’s characters are real, yet colorful and unique. He has a gift in creating genuine dialogue making each story come alive. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of stories. 5 stars for sure! A fine collection written by one author who clearly knows his craft.” –Susan Violante for Reader Views

Final CoverSynopsis of four of the seventeen stories:

From “A Sharp Bend in the Road.” Following a devastating fall, Rita finds herself standing outside the dining hall at an independent living facility. She squeezes the handle of her cane, and her knuckles turn white. Her wire-rimmed glasses accentuate the tears she tries to hide. – After eighty-two years, and a lifetime of memories, Rita believes she’s been abandoned at the mouth of a fiery dragon that will swallow her up-and she is terrified.

From “A Process of Elimination.” When a man purchases a remote log cabin in the Adirondacks, he believes he has found a peaceful haven, until he discovers a stranger dead on his living room rug.

From “The Organization.” A man, looking for a new adventure, joins a unique organization and quickly learns that getting what you want can sometimes lead to unimagined consequences.

From “The Long Ride.” Two couples set out on a vacation in Maine, only to find their dreamy trip has turned into a getaway nightmare.

Welcome to The Write Stuff, Gerard. I’m so happy you could join us. Your two previous works sound quite compelling. As for your most recent release, it’s always somewhat difficult to follow on the heels of success. What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?

One of the biggest challenges an author faces when putting together a short story collection is making certain all the stories look, and sound different. In this collection, plot, theme, voice, and rhythm change dramatically with every story so that each time the reader picks up the book, the stories are fresh and exciting.

Another way I made certain the stories are different is by writing solid, singular concepts that end with either a twist or an ironic conclusion. (Hence the title: A Sharp Bend in the Road.)

Is there anything you want to make sure potential readers know?

Yes, Raymond. I want readers to understand that the fun about this collection is that the reader never knows what the next story will bring. It’s a total surprise. Some stories are serious, while others are absurdly dark and humorous. Some stories are based in reality, while others are sprinkled with speculative fictional elements. I’ve even included a Maine ghost town story. The length of the stories vary considerably as well. Some stories are short, while others are an average length for short stories. The collection’s finale is a novella.

Tell us about your other works.

I wrote a mystery/thriller titled, The Deal Master. It’s a story based upon a popular 13th century tale. It’s filled with twits and turns and a surprising subplot that takes over and becomes the main thrust of the story. We filmed a Hollywood-style book trailer that I’m certain your readers will enjoy watching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ilXHaugenQ

I also wrote a play titled, Discipline. It takes place in Manhattan. It’s a laugh-out-loud comedy whose meaning goes much deeper than first appears. The deepest truths can only be revealed through fiction. It’s also a love story and it’s available in book form.

Describe a typical day.

When I’m writing, my day begins early, usually about 4:30 a.m. The house is quiet. I write until about 7:30. Then the family gets up and our normal day-to-day life begins. My girlfriend and I have three dogs so they need attention – breakfast, walks, etc.

In the afternoon I spend a few hours on marketing. Then another hour or two writing until dinner. Then it’s dinner and a movie – every night. I love watching movies to see how other writers structure their work, or not.

Off to bed around 10 or 11 p.m. Then back at it the following day.

That’s a rigorous schedule. What motivates or inspires you (not necessarily as regards your writing)?

I’m passionate about art, music, the theater, and of course good writing, all of which inspires me. I’m also inspired by moments that ignite in my brain. It might be a thought, an expression someone uses, or a fleeting glance. And I love the sea. We live a block off the ocean in Maine, and daily beach walks with the pups invigorate me and stir my imagination.

How do you pick yourself up in the face of adversity?

I’m optimistic and I have a positive outlook on life. But, of course, no one is immune to adversity, it either sneaks up on you, or it comes crashing down. I suppose my attitude on life can best be summed up by one of my characters from the title story, “A Sharp Bend in the Road,” in my new book. “Life,” he says, “is like a road that twists and turns from the time you’re born until the day you say good-bye. And if you don’t twist and turn with it, you’ll run smack into a brick wall. There’s nothing you can do about adversity. So live with it. But live, damn it! Don’t fight life. Fight to live life the way it was meant to be lived—with gusto, no matter how old you are.”

That’s a wonderful attitude—realistic as well. Before we conclude, it’s time for the Lightning Round. Please answer the following as concisely as possible:

If I were to ask your best friend about you, what would your friend say?

My best friend would tell you I’m determined.

What is the one thing you cannot do without?

The one thing I cannot do without is the creative process.

What, of all the things you can think of, bothers you the most?

My biggest peeve is people who don’t understand the concept that we’re all in this together, and we need to help each other.

Who are you most proud of?

The person I’m most proud of is my son.

Thanks for the time you’ve spent with us today. It’s always fun to introduce my visitors to someone unique.

If any of you, who’ve dropped by to listen in, would like to learn more about Gerard, here are some links to help you. Please note you can order signed copies of Gerard’s books on his website:

Website:                      www.gerardbianco.com

Author email:             writingcenter@gerardbianco.com

Blog:                            www.gerardbianco.blogspot.com

Facebook Fan Page:    https://www.facebook.com/GerardBiancoWriterEnRoute

Twitter:                       https://twitter.com/GerardFBianco

Google +:                    google.com/+GerardBianco

Amazon link to “A Sharp Bend in the Road” Kindle Edition:

http://www.amazon.com/Sharp-Bend-Road-Intriguing-Stories-ebook/dp/B00S50CY7O/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1421349884

Amazon link to “A Sharp Bend in the Road” paperback edition

http://www.amazon.com/Sharp-Bend-Road-Intriguing-Stories/dp/1491753617/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1421349884&sr=8-1

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Gerard-Bianco/e/B00770UC90/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Gerard’s Writer Coaching Programs: http://www.writercoachingprograms.com/

The Write Stuff – Monday, November 17 – Interview With Melissa Foster

Today’s interview concludes this year’s series and I couldn’t be more delighted with my guest. One of the world’s most successful self-published authors, she is a New York Times, USA Today and Amazon best-selling author. If that’s not enough, this year Melissa won five, count ’em, Readers Favorite awards! This powerhouse, who writes seven days a week, often twelve to fifteen hours per day, is currently turning out one novel per month, aided by a team of editors, artists and formatters. She has so far sold more than one million copies of her novels that encompass the genres of women’s literature, thriller and romance and generate a six figure monthly income for her. While Amazon rates Nora Roberts as the number one romance author, my guest has ranked between number nine and number twenty-five. Of all authors, all genres, all countries worldwide, she’s typically in the top 100, although that changes hourly. That’s not bad for someone who was still waiting to be published only six years ago.

Mel Author Photo brickWhile these details are certainly impressive, to my mind they are the least impressive part of who this woman is. Not content to have risen to the pinnacle of success, she devotes large portions of her already over-loaded schedule to mentoring other aspiring authors, teaching them the ins and outs of marketing and connecting them with resources such as editors, formatters and cover artists. Her untiring efforts have launched the careers of many who were waiting impatiently in the wings, mine included.

Whether you are a reader or a writer, whether you are a regular visitor to this website or have landed here as a result of social network advertising—even by accident—it is my undisguised pleasure to introduce you to Melissa Foster.

Melissa, will you tell us exactly when and why you chose to self publish?

I decided to self publish in 2009 because rejections were plentiful and more importantly, they were demeaning. I wanted to see what readers thought of my work and realized that agents’ and traditional publishers’ scope of interest was quite narrow. I’m glad I did!

Very few self-published authors have experienced your degree of success. Will you tell us a bit about your path to publication and the road beyond?

FOSTER_Traces_Kara_final_awardSure! When I began self publishing there weren’t many supporters of self publishing. I decided early on that I wouldn’t let the naysayers hold me back, and I pushed forward, learning as much as I could about the publishing industry, book marketing, and reaching readers. My second book took off (CHASING AMANDA) and I remember the day I realized I’d sold 60,000 copies in a month. I think my entire mindset changed at that point—and it pushed me to work harder and spread my wings to help other authors learn to do the same.

Exciting things seem to be happening to you all the time. Any new events you’d like to share?

Oh goodness, I have huge news but I can’t share it yet. I’m on the verge of some very exciting ventures! But what I can share is my new series due out next April, HARBORSIDE NIGHTS. I’ve been waiting two years to write this new adult series, and I’m finally diving in later this year. HARBORSIDE NIGHTS is a sexy, hot, and evocatively real New Adult Romance series that follows a group of friends who have known one another for years as “summer” friends, and now come together after college to build their lives. They’re tough, edgy, and accepting—most of the time. This series will be written in the loving, raw, and emotional voice my readers have come to love.

I’m sure we all want to hear what’s brewing when the moment is right. For now, though, I’d like to find out a little more about Melissa the person. For starters, what life experiences have inspired or enriched your writing?

I think every life experiences enriches my writing. I learn and grow from everything I do.

Describe a typical day.

To an outsider, I’m possibly the most boring person on earth – but in my eyes, I’m the luckiest woman on the planet. In addition to taking kids to school and picking them up, and other motherly duties, I typically check email, catch up on social media, and handle non-writing work from 7:00 am-8:45 am, then I write until 2:45, pick up kids, and write again from 4-whenever I feel like I am done, which ranges from 6-midnight. I walk on my treadmill while I write from 9-11 each day (and wish I could walk longer, but my knees won’t take it). This year I’m adding a morning weight workout to my routine, so that will bump my schedule a bit, but hopefully it’ll be worth it. I take social media (or sanity) breaks several times each hour. In addition, I handle my businesses (World Literary Café and Fostering Success) throughout the day.

I’ve seen photos of your new home in Maryland and must admit it’s quite beautiful. That said, if you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be?

This is easy for me to answer. Cape Cod. It’s my favorite place on earth.

What other interests do you have, aside from writing and your other well-known passion, chocolate?

Oh Raymond, you have let my secret out! I have a few other interests, although most I do while enjoying my chocolate addiction. I love to read, and I love to exercise. Painting is always joyful, although I have little time for that any more with my writing schedule.

Do you have a favorite quote you’d like to share with us?

Yes “Enjoy each and every day. No one else can do it for you.” I made it up years ago and I live by it.

It takes a very special individual to achieve what you’ve done, so I’m wondering how you pick yourself up in the face of adversity.

I remember my mother’s face any time I’ve complained about something that stands in my way. She wrinkles her brow and her response is usually something like, “Yeah? And? What are you going to do about it?” In other words, everyone can complain—what can you do to make things better? She’s always been a source of inspiration and strength, and I thank God for her on a daily basis.

If I spoke to your closest friend about you, what would he or she tell me?

Luckily, my best friends would never share my secrets, so she’d probably say I was stubborn, a rule breaker, and that if I want to accomplish something, watch out world, because here I come!

If you could change one thing, what would it be?

I’d make chocolate fat and calorie free.

Hah! Why am I not surprised? Alright then, what makes you laugh?

My husband. He’s a joy to be around. And puppies. They always make me laugh.

What is your greatest life lesson?

There are so many, but the one that serves me best is noted above. When faced with a roadblock there are three routes we can take. We can stop. We can turn around and retreat, or we can stay on track and find a way over or around it. That’s my path.

Lightning round, Melissa. As briefly as possible, please answer the following:

The one thing I cannot do without is:

Writing, chocolate, and my family. Sorry – three things.

In one or two words, what is your defining trait?

Persistence and happy thoughts.

Hard copy or ebook?

Paperback—except when traveling or lying in bed, then ebook.

Vice? Virtue?

Neither. Valor.

Favorite movie:

Secret Life of Bees

These few moments have passed all too quickly. Do you have a parting thought you would like to leave us with?

Yes, I’d like to thank you for hosting me with such a fun interview, and I’d like to thank readers who have picked up my books and/or shared them with friends, and readers who have reached out to me on social media and via email. I love hearing from you! Please continue to reach out. xox

Thank you, Melissa, for taking the time to share with us.

To help my visitors contact or follow Melissa, here are several links:

Writers who are looking for assistance in their quest for self publication would do well to check out:      http://www.fostering-success.com/

To find additional related information or locate the type of resources mentioned above:     http://www.worldliterarycafe.com

To visit Melissa’s website:  www.MelissaFoster.com

Facebook:      https://www.facebook.com/MelissaFosterAuthor

Twitter:          http://www.twitter.com/melissa_Foster

Amazon:        http://www.amazon.com/Melissa-Foster/e/B002LTT7U2/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

 

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, October 20 – Interview With Michelle Weidenbenner

Today, The Write Stuff features Michelle Weidenbenner. Both her YA Thrillers, To Cache a Predator and Scattered Links won Readers’ Favorite gold medals this year. She has won other awards as well. This is no small accomplishment and this is not the first time her name has come up on this website. I had considered featuring this remarkable writer early on, but instead she pointed me to Oliver Dahl, my first interviewee. It’s her turn now. When I asked her to describe herself, this is what she told me:

Author Photo 2014 #1Michelle is a full time employee of God’s kingdom, writing and encouraging writers every day. She’s often a sucker for emotional stories, her sensitive side fueling the passion for her character’s plights, often giving her the ability to show readers the “other” side of the story.

She grew up in the burbs of Detroit with five brothers. No sisters. Each time her mom brought the boy bundle home from the hospital Michelle cried, certain her mom liked boys better than girls. But when her brothers pitched in with the cooking, cleaning, and babysitting–without drama, Michelle discovered having brothers wasn’t so bad. They even taught her how to take direct criticism without flinching, which comes in handy with book reviews.

Michelle is living her dream–writing every day and thanking God for the stories He puts in her path. She’s a random girl who writes in random genres.

When Michelle isn’t writing she’s winning ugly on the tennis court. She’s known as “Queen of the Rim Shots.” No joke. It’s ugly.

There’s not enough space here to shine a spotlight on both her gold medal winners, so we’ve decided to focus on Cache. The Midwest Review has this to say about it:

Cache a Predator isn’t a one-dimensional story of one man’s vendetta: it’s also about mystery and suspense wrapped up in the modern art of geocaching (thus the title)…that’s part of the allure of Cache a Predator, which uses this urban game to the best advantage in the context of a urban mystery.

Any who look for deep psychological elements in their mysteries will find this a satisfying read, moving beyond the usual one-dimensional focus on mystery to reach out and tweak the reader’s heart.

—D. Donovan, Reviewer

Here’s an excerpt:

Cache-A-Predator-AMAZON-GOLDWhen she finally fell asleep, she dreamed she was a child again. That she and her brother were playing tag outside near the barn, and their mother was calling to them, standing in the front yard with a kite in her hand. She played out some of the string, and the kite’s rainbow colors sailed back and forth in the wind. She said, “Come, I’ll teach you how to fly a kite.”

Sarah and Dean giggled and ran to her, running against the wind. But the wind’s force pushed Sarah back and made her run harder to gain distance. She gulped air and lost her breath. The more she ran toward her mother, the farther the wind pushed her back. She yelled, “I’m coming, Mama.” But the wind took the sound of her words away. Her mama kept waving for them to come.

Dean held Sarah’s hand. Little brother, Dean. His tiny arms and legs like thin tree branches. He was always small for his age and sickly. She tightened her grip on his hand, certain the wind would blow him away from her if she didn’t. “Hold tight, little brother. We’ll get there.”

But the more they tried, the farther they fell back, until finally Sarah couldn’t see her mother anymore. She’d disappeared. The wind died, and their father loomed above them. His yellow teeth, his bent nose, and the scar on his forehead stared back at them. When she heard his deranged, boisterous laugh she screamed, which made him laugh all the more.

Sarah bolted upright in bed, her heart racing. Perspiration crawled down her neck like ants marching up a tree. Why had the old man suddenly appeared in her dreams here in her mother’s room? It was like he was taunting her, saying, “You can’t escape me.” Oh, how she hated him.

Chilling! Michelle, in your own words, will you tell us what this story is about?

Cache a Predator is a story of one man’s pursuit to gain custody of his five-year-old daughter. But first he must convince a judge, child protective services, and a deranged vigilante that he’s a loving father.

I always ask about the underlying story, the story behind the story. Will you fill us in?

So many children are living with their grandparents because of illness or unemployment. We had to help our son and daughter-in-law with our grandgirls for a period of time when our son lost his job. During that time, I discovered many other grandparents were raising their grandchildren too. My oldest granddaughter helped me brainstorm this series of chapter books. I learn a lot from her.

What are you working on now?

Several different things at once. One is a YA novel about a world where kids with powers are shunned and killed. Another is a mid-grade novel about a twelve-year-old boy who has to save the canine race. Both are supernatural. I’m also working on a few non-fiction projects and will publish the second book in my children’s chapter book series, Éclair Meets a Gypsy, late this year.

You do work in a number of genres. Why is this?

I write in random genres because I can’t seem to hone my imagination to only one. I write the stories that move me.

Why is your writing different?

My writing seems simpler, easier to read. There isn’t a ton of description, but enough to set the stage. I’ve been told I write about difficult subjects. This is true, but again, it’s what seems to move me to a strong emotion.

That said, why should someone buy Cache?

Readers who like a quick thriller, one they can’t put down, and are interested in learning about geocaching will like Cache a Predator. It’s hidden in geocaching sites all around the US and Canada to bring awareness to child abuse. The books’ goals are to travel to all 50 states and each Canadian province. Some books have traveled more than 5000 miles. It’s fun to watch how they travel, but it’s really fun to chat with geocachers so far away.

Tell us a bit about your path to publication.

I had an agent for a year and a half who was shopping my YA novel (which hasn’t been published yet) but after a few rejections, and waiting for a publisher, I decided to self-publish. I’m an entrepreneur spirit—always have been. I wasn’t afraid of the marketing and the extra work involved in seeing my books in print. What I was afraid of was not publishing a perfect book. But is there such a thing? I learned that books are products and not everyone likes the same brand. However, I’m nit-picky about editing my work. I probably spend the most money on editors.

Do you have a writing routine?

I’m totally blessed that I can write full time. I typically get to my office around 8:30 or 9:00 and start with answering emails and then jump into my projects for the day. I wear many hats, but I recently hired a virtual assistant to help handle promos. I hope it frees up more writing time.

I have a desk treadmill so I work (like right now) while I walk about 2.0 miles an hour. In a typical week I walk about 18 miles. I don’t kill myself on it, but it feels great to move while I write.

As I told our visitors at the outset of this series, I am featuring award-winning authors. Please tell us about the awards you have won.

Scattered Links and Cache a Predator both won the GOLD Medal Award in the Readers’ Favorite International Awards. Scattered Links has won several other awards too: It was the Kindle Book Promo Award winner and a BRONZE Medal winner in Dan Poytner’s Global eBook Awards in the multi-cultural literature category. The fact that it won something in the “literature” category had me dancing on the sofa.

Athletic as you are, I can see that! And so many contests.

Indie authors have to enter contests to win. Not everyone can afford them though. Contests cost money to enter. So I’m a little choosy on which ones I enter. It’s also important to enter the right category. Some categories are more difficult because there are more entrants. Authors have to research sites and analyze what they see. Is the payout worth the expense?

What else have you written?

I write for a nurses’ aide magazine because I love the elderly, and it’s my way to help in their care. I’m also working with my pastor on articles to teach other pastors how to grow their churches. Like I said, I’m a bit random about what I write. I like to have a purpose though and typically write for a reason—to help a certain group.

I wrote Scattered Links after adopting our daughter from Russia. So many adoptive parents think that love is enough when they adopt or foster a child, but sometimes love is not enough. I wrote that story to bring awareness to RAD, reactive attachment disorder.

To give our visitors a better sense of Michelle, the person, let’s hear a little about your “other” life. Do you have another job outside of writing?

Does mother, wife and grandmother count?

Where would you live, if you could live anywhere?

I love where I live—close to my family. It’s not the most beautiful place, but my family matters more than anything to me, so it’s worth the compromise. But if I could move my family to the most beautiful place it might be to Colorado or New Mexico.

What is your dream job?

I’m living my dream job. Some day I want one of my books to make it to the big screen. Hey, a girl can dream, right? So I keep working at making that dream come true.

If I spoke to your closest friend about you, (s)he would tell me:

“Michelle is purpose-driven and goal-oriented. She works hard at what she loves, almost to a fault.”

I’m not the type to sit around and chit-chat if there isn’t a purpose, but I’m working on it. I know it’s important to interact and establish relationships, but sometimes all I can think about is getting back to work. To write.

Do you have a favorite quote?

“I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives.” ― R.J. Palacio, Wonder.

Before we bring this to a close, Michelle, a few Lightning Round questions:

The one thing I cannot do without is:

Tennis, but I know some day I will have to give it up. I’m getting older. I won’t be able to place forever.

Hard copy or ebook?

Ebooks rule because I can take them anywhere and open multiple ones at a time, flipping through them easily. However, if it’s a resource book I want to dog-ear the pages and hold it.

Favorite book:

For this week: The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion. I just finished it and loved it. But I have a different favorite every month. I give a lot of FIVE-STARS because I know how difficult it is to write a good story with all the necessary elements and proper editing. Last month it was Wonder, by R. J. Palacio.

I want to thank you so much for joining us, Michelle. Visitors who want to learn more about Michelle or are interested in buying her books can do so at the following links:

Twitter: @MWeidenbenner1

Blog: http://randomwritingrants.com

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Michelle-Weidenbenner/e/B00E21RMNG/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

264 pages

Regular Price: $3.99

ISBN: 978-1490936390

Cover artist: Avalon Graphics

Random Publishing, LLC

Amazon Buying Links:   http://amzn.to/16MjTyP

Amazon Print Book Link: http://www.amazon.com/Cache-Predator-A-Geocaching-Mystery/dp/1490936394/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1407178641&sr=1-1

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, October 13 – Interview With Hank Phillippi Ryan

photo-68-primary headshotToday, I am inserting an interview between my regularly scheduled spots to feature a very special author. Hank Phillippi Ryan is an award-winning crime fiction author and the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate. She’s won 32 EMMYs, 12 Edward R. Murrows and dozens of other honors for her ground-breaking journalism. A bestselling author of six mystery novels, Ryan has won multiple prestigious awards for her crime fictions: the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, and the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. National reviews have called her a “master at crafting suspenseful mysteries” and “a superb and gifted storyteller.” Her previous work, The Wrong Girl, has the extraordinary honor of winning the 2013 Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel. A six-week Boston Globe bestseller, it is also an Anthony and Daphne Award nominee, a Patriot Ledger bestseller, and was dubbed “Another winner” in a Booklist starred review and “Stellar” by Library Journal. She’s a founding teacher at Mystery Writers of America University and 2013 president of national Sisters in Crime. She is a rare breed, as she managed to maintain two equally successful careers as a bestselling crime fiction author and award-winning investigative reporter.

Truth Be Told GALLEYHer latest thriller, Truth Be Told, was released on October 7. I’m happy to help her launch it.

Ms. Ryan, given your background, I suspect there is a story behind Truth Be Told. Would you care to fill us in?

That’s a question that some authors loathe…but I love! TRUTH BE TOLD is a puzzle in four parts.

Part one. My husband is a criminal defense attorney. When we first met, I asked: “Have you ever had a murder case where the defendant was convicted, but you still thought they were innocent?” His eyes softened a bit, and then he said: “Yes.” The man was charged with murder in the death of a young woman—the prosecution said he had lured her to a forest, and tied her to a tree.

Jonathan told me he still, to this day, thinks the man is innocent.

Hmmm. Idea.

Another puzzle piece? Another of Jonathan’s cases. A man in prison, incarcerated with a life sentence for shaking a baby to death, recently confessed to a cold-case murder. It’s very unlikely that he actually did it—so why would he confess?

Hmmm. Idea.

Another puzzle piece. We recently did a big story on abandoned homes in Boston. They are all places the banks have foreclosed on, where the owners have been evicted, and the houses are now empty. All are for sale. Many of them are neglected, with broken windows and overgrown lawns. But some are in good shape. While I was interviewing the head of Boston’s Inspectional Services Department about this, I began to wonder. What could be going on inside those forgotten empty houses?

Hmmmm. Idea.

I also thought about the people who had been evicted from those homes. People who’d gotten mortgages from banks with lots of money, but who through some failure of their lives, some catastrophe or disaster, some wrong decision or bad luck had not been able to keep up the payments. Wouldn’t there be something that could have ben done to prevent that? If a banker-type really cared about their customers, wouldn’t there be something that could be done to keep people out of foreclosure?

Hmmmm. Idea.

And finally, I was sitting at the computer in my TV station office, writing a story, and thinking about why I do what I do as a reporter. It’s making history, I decided. It’s creating the record of what happened in our lives, the comings and goings, that issues and the solutions, the documentation of how we live. And people believe it, right? What’s on TV and in the newspapers becomes a resource by which all is remembered and relied on.


And then I thought—what if some reporter decided not to tell the truth? Not big discoverable lie, but simply—little things. A sound bite, a reaction, a quote. Who would know? What difference might that make? And what would happen when the truth was finally told?

Hmmm. Idea.

And in the way we all do as authors, by spinning and polishing and twisting and turning, and shooting it full of a lot of adrenaline and a little romance, I got the key elements of Truth Be Told:

A mortgage banker turned Robin Hood decides to manipulate bank records to keep people out of foreclosure, a murder victim is found in a foreclosed home, a man confesses to the unsolved Lilac Sunday murder, and a reporter makes stuff up.

And when it all comes together in the end: TRUTH BE TOLD.

And now you know exactly where it came from.

That’s more than a little intriguing. Now, I have to say no one wins as many awards as you have by following the herd. Why is your writing different from other authors in this genre?


I have wired myself with hidden cameras, gone undercover and in disguise, confronted corrupt politicians and chased down criminals. My TV investigations have changed laws and changed lives—and I have 32 Emmys to show for it!

And it’s so fascinating to me that all those 40 years of reporting were not the end in themselves—but turns out, they were just the research to prepare me for my second career as a crime fiction author! So when my main character reporter, Jane Ryland, worries about stalkers, deadlines, breaking news, keeping her job, tracking down clues, following leads, doing research and making sure the bad guys get what’s coming to them—it’s all from my own experience! (Tweaked and polished and expanded, of course!) And that, I hope, is what brings authenticity–authentic suspense and authentic stakes—to the books.

What happens to Jane has—or could!—happened to me, or any hardworking reporter. Now, as one fellow reporter put it “She lives it, now she writes it!”

Do you ever experience writer’s block and, if so, how do you overcome it?

Oh, gosh, I get over it by denying its existence. After all these years as a reporter—can you imagine what would happen if I went to my news director and said—You know, can I be on the air at ten after six instead of six? I’m just not feelin’ it right now… ”

I’d be laughed out of the business. So I know that some days, the writing isn’t going to be fabulous, but I also know it has to get done. So I persevere, and allow myself to be bad. I can always make it fabulous later!

I also think that when people feel they have writers block, it’s actually a signal from their writer brain that something is wrong—and a message to you to find it and fix it. Sometimes when I’m stuck—and that’s inevitable!—I scroll back fifty pages and just start reading. Often the mistake or the omission or the error in continuity or the plot glitch will appear, and ping! I can fix it and go on.

That’s marvelous advice. If I may pry a little, can you tell us a little about Hank the person? For example, if you could do anything differently, what would it be?

Not a thing. Not one little thing. The “mistakes” I have learned from .The joys—I count my blessings. It’s all good. (I might have learned how to play the piano, but still, no. That took time from something else that matters.)

What is your greatest life lesson?

Oh, gosh! I think I have learned not to worry. To try not to worry, at least. If I had to go back to my geeky unpopular bookish 10 year old self and tell her something—I would say—get ready, sweetheart, everything going to be great.

What are a few of your favorite authors?

Edith Wharton. Shakespeare. Tom Wolfe. Thomas Wolfe. Stephen King. Kent Krueger. Oh, so many! If I start listing contemporaries, the page will soon be full.

A few Lightning Round questions. Please fill in the blanks.

The one thing I cannot do without is:

Coffee. Paper and pencil. My husband. (fine, fine, in the opposite order.)

Hard copy or ebook?

Hard.

Vice? Virtue?

Yes, wine. (Is that a vice?) Virtue? I love to solve problems. And I am a good cook.

Favorite book:

Too hard. The Stand? Custom of the Country? Bonfire of the Vanities? Winters Tale?

Favorite movie:

Too hard. Lawrence of Arabia. To Kill A Mockingbird. Desk Set. The Godfather. Working Girl.

I can only imagine how hectic your schedule must be as your launch date approaches, so I want to thank you for taking the time to stop by and visit with us. Before I draw this interview to a close, do you have any closing thoughts you’d like to leave us with?

Two things. On a practical level— If you love a book? Please tell someone. Word of mouth is the most valuable commodity in publishing. (If you don’t like it… um, just don’t say anything.

And philosophically? I am so grateful to readers. I didn’t start writing until was 55, in the midst of a terrifically wonderful career as a journalist. I’m the poster child for following your dreams at midlife! So what is it YOU’D like to do? And what are you waiting for?

Ms. Ryan, thank you so much for taking the time to share with us.

For those of you who would like to learn more about the author, these are her social links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HankPhillippiRyanAuthorPage

Twitter: https://twitter.com/HankPRyan

Website: http://www.hankphillippiryan.com/

You can find numerous links through which to purchase her books on her website. As a quick assist, here is her Amazon link:

http://www.amazon.com/Truth-Be-Told-Jane-Ryland/dp/0765374935/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1405641425&sr=1-1&keywords=0765374935&dpPl=1

TRUTH BE TOLD

Hank Phillippi Ryan

A Forge Hardcover

ISBN: 978-0-7653-7493-6

400 pages / $24.99

On-sale: October 7, 2014

Also available in E-book, ISBN: 978-0-7653-7497-4

Audio CD: 978-1-4272-4387-4

Digital Audio: 978-1-4272-4388-1

The Write Stuff – Monday, July 14 – Interview With Author Eden Baylee

This week, I am interviewing my long-time friend, Canadian author, Eden Baylee. Back in 2012, Eden and I were part of the writers’ blog, Black Ink, White Paper. It was a collaborative effort of a dozen or so authors wherein we shared all the experiences that influenced our work—not just the literary stuff, but our day trips, food, family life and all the other parts of our everyday existence. I always enjoyed our chemistry, so when I learned Eden was releasing her first full-length novel, I knew I had to bring her on board.

ebEden Baylee left a twenty-year banking career to become a full-time writer. She incorporates many of her favorite things into her writing such as travel, humor, music, poetry, art and much more.

Stranger at Sunset is her first mystery novel, on the heels of several books of erotic anthologies and short stories. She writes in multiple genres.

An introvert by nature and an extrovert by design, Eden is most comfortable at home with her laptop, surrounded by books. She is an online Scrabble junkie and a social media enthusiast, but she really needs to get out more often!

To stay apprised of Eden’s book-related news, please add your name to her mailing list.

Welcome, Eden! I am so excited to have you join us. I thoroughly expect Stranger at Sunset to carry the flavor of your previous works. Can you summarize it for us?

A vacation can be a killer. 

Dr. Kate Hampton, a respected psychiatrist, gathers with a group of strangers at her favorite travel spot, Sunset Villa in Jamaica. Included in the mix are friends of the owners, a businessman with dubious credentials, and a couple who won the trip from a TV game show.

It is January 2013, following the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The luxury resort is struggling, not from the storm, but due to a scathing review from caustic travel writer, Matthew Kane. The owners have invited him back with hopes he will pen a more favorable review to restore their reputation.

Even though she is haunted by her own demons, Kate feels compelled to help. She sets out to discover the motivation behind Kane’s vitriol. Used to getting what he wants, has the reviewer met his match in Kate? Or has she met hers?

Stranger at Sunset is a slow-burning mystery/thriller as seen through the eyes of different narrators, each with their own murky sense of justice. As Kate’s own psychological past begins to unravel, a mysterious stranger at Sunset may be the only one who can save her.

I can already tell this book is a hot one. Aside from the plot, is there a story behind your book?

The book is all about the interaction of strangers, and the word ‘stranger’ has multiple meanings throughout the story. As adults, we are not usually forced into situations with people we do not like, so I wanted to explore a tense atmosphere with strangers, and to do it in a Jamaican resort which, by all accounts, should be a place of paradise and happiness.

The desires and motivations of the strangers in the story are not always clear, not even to themselves. In many ways, it reflects how I feel about people in real life. Sometimes we are strangers to ourselves.

We certainly are. The one thing I do know about you is that you’re never idle. What are you working on now?

I’m working on A Fragile Truce, which is the book that follows Stranger at Sunset and features the same protagonist, Dr. Kate Hampton. There is an excerpt of it at the end of my book.

That’s an indication of how far along you are. I must say, mysteries like these are departures from your previous work. Why have you chosen this particular genre?

I enjoy reading the mystery and thriller genres. There are many nuances contained in them and different ways to tell a story. I’m not a ‘blood and guts’ storyteller, so I don’t have the talent to write police procedurals or crime novels. Where my interest lies is in the motivations of people. That is why I classify my book as a psychological mystery/thriller, because much of it is based on intellectual mind games.

If someone were to ask why they should buy your book, what would you tell them?

The quick and dirty answer is: Buying my book is for entertainment and escapism. Though I was inspired to write it based on my own experiences and views of the world, there are no great life lessons in it.

I’ve read The Austrian and the Asian and enjoyed it very much. That says a lot about your skill as a writer, since not many men read or enjoy erotica. Will you touch on what else you have written?

Prior to Stranger at Sunset, I’ve written short stories, novellas, and flash fiction. They have all been in the erotica genre for the most part. This novel marks my venture into a new genre. It was a huge challenge for me, but I’m proud I pushed myself to do it.

As you should be. Stepping outside one’s comfort zone is a challenge for many of us. I should also tell our visitors how well-developed and layered your writing is. What life experiences or careers inspire or enrich your writing?

I was a banker for twenty years before I took up writing full time. Believe it or not, there are many stories from that period of my life. I just haven’t put them together in my head to create a book.

Music, people, and travel are the biggest inspirations for me.

As a writer, I find even the most mundane of life’s experiences fascinating, as often I need to incorporate those moments into my writing, and to do it in a way that interests the reader. Life, after all, is not always a fast-moving thriller. My book moves at a smoldering pace because I want to pull the reader in slowly.

Because I love the mystery and serendipity of life, I wanted to highlight both these elements in my fiction.

That’s smoldering, as in slow burn, as opposed to blistering. Let’s take a minute to look at your “other life”—your life outside writing. Where would you live, if you could live anywhere?

Thailand—for many reasons, but mainly because of the heat, the beaches, and the people. One of the most personal stories I’ve ever written, called “The Lottery” takes place in Thailand. If you read that book, you will understand why I have a special place in my heart for the Thai people, especially the women.

What is your dream job?

I’m doing it now. To be able to use my imagination to create stories that connect me to others … it’s remarkable.

Hah! That’s every author’s dream. If I spoke to your closest friend about you, what would he or she tell me?

Eden is whacky, creative, and directionally challenged. I hate when she gives me directions in a car because I’ll end up making three or four U-turns in one trip. The only reason we are still friends is because I now have GPS.

Do you have a favorite quote?

“Life is a series of short stories pretending to be a novel” – Anonymous.

What makes you laugh?

Fart jokes. I don’t care how old you are, fart jokes are damn funny.

Now that is something I never would have guessed. OK. Lightning Round.

In one or two words, what is your defining trait?

Curious and tolerant, or perhaps curiously tolerant. (And I can’t count. Sorry, Ray! )

Hard copy or ebook?

Both, depends on my mood.

Vice? Virtue?

Vice in fiction, virtue in real life.

Favorite book:

50 Shades of … NOT! Too many to name, I’m afraid.

Whew! I’m glad you didn’t go there. Favorite movie:

Anything with Anthony Hopkins in it.

Do you have a parting thought you would like to leave us with?

First and foremost, thank you Ray, for your time and energy. It’s lovely of you to interview me given your own busy schedule. I truly appreciate the exposure and look forward to meeting one day for a scotch. You’re buying of course, right?

Uh… er… Would you care to share a little of your book, Eden? (Notice how deftly I changed the subject.)

Sas_KindleThe body plummeted two and a half stories into the sea. It bobbed between crests before foamy waves swept in and yanked it under the surface. The tide rushed out dragging its new possession deep into the ocean’s dark belly. Swells curled and collapsed against the shore. The evening breeze whistled an eerie tune.

Despite how tightly his fingers gripped the large barrels, the binoculars trembled in the man’s hands. He now wished he had bought the more powerful Porro-prism model. This less expensive design darkened the image, especially against a pale orange sky reflecting the chopped glass of the water. While adjusting the diopter ring behind his right eyepiece, he bit down on his lower lip.

A silhouette met his lens, haloed by the glow of the setting sun. With his breath thickening the atmosphere, he pressed the eyepiece harder against his face to stop from shaking.

The woman stood naked with her hair pinned up, loose strands trailing down the nape of her slender neck. Her palms rested on the metal railing of the balcony. As she stared out at the churning sea, he zoomed in on her face, then moved his binoculars downward to her breasts, lingering there longer than he should have. Slowly, he lowered his gaze to her flat stomach. Firm thighs extended off the arc of round buttocks. A dancer’s body—willowy and muscular, but not too muscular, she was beauty and grace, and yet, what she just did …

A hint of dark pubic hair blurred past his lens. While he re-calibrated the magnification, she drifted out of focus. When he brought her back in view, her contemplative mood had changed. She moved a chair to the corner of the terrace. Gathering up a pile of bed sheets, she crossed the threshold into the room and scurried out of view.

He dared not avert his eyes. The light was fading fast, and night would soon fall upon the villa like a magician’s cape. With his elbows pressed to his sides, he loosened his grip on the binoculars and tried to flex his aching fingers.

She had to come back, right?

The doors leading to the patio were still wide open. Secluded in his dark corner of the island, he spied the room as if ogling a dollhouse with its front wall sheared off, scaled down to about the same size too.

The naked woman strolled back into his field of vision as a cramp sneaked up on him. A painful twitch stabbed his wrist, reminded him of old wounds. He dropped the binoculars secured by a strap around his neck to shake out both his hands. By the time he brought the lens to his face again, she had disappeared, no … wait, she popped up from behind the bed carrying two pillows. With an unhurried pace, she stepped out on the balcony and propped the cushions on the chair, even fluffed them before re-entering the suite. She closed the wooden French doors behind her.

The light in her room replaced the sun’s blush, a poor substitute given a set of floor-to-ceiling jalousies bracketed his view. He waited to see what she would do next. His breathing deafened his ears as if he were wheezing through a mask; adrenaline pumped in his veins. She moved in front of the window facing him. With hands on her hips, legs spread apart, she stood full frontal and stared straight at him. He shrank back and jostled her image.

Could she see him?

 

If you would like to read more from Stranger at Sunset, or learn more about the author, please check out the following links:

 

Amazon:         http://authl.it/B00L7BVDFM

Website:          http://www.edenbayleebooks.com/

Blog:                http://edenbaylee.com/

Twitter:           https://twitter.com/edenbaylee

Facebook:        https://www.facebook.com/edenbaylee

Goodreads:      https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4563150.Eden_Baylee

Linkedin:         http://bit.ly/edlinkedin

Google+:         https://plus.google.com/108816906889719718910/posts

Pinterest:         http://www.pinterest.com/edenbaylee/