Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for October, 2019

Author PhotoSusan McCormick writes cozy murder mysteries. She is also the author of GRANNY CAN’T REMEMBER ME, a lighthearted picture book about Alzheimer’s disease. She is a doctor who lives in Seattle. She graduated from Smith College and George Washington University School of Medicine, with additional medical training in Washington, DC and San Francisco, where she lived in an elegant apartment building much like the one in the book. She served nine years in the military before settling in the Pacific Northwest. She is married and has two boys, plus a giant Newfoundland dog.

Connect with Susan on the web:

Goodreads / Bookbub

Find out more about THE FOG LADIES:

Amazon / B&N

INTERVIEW:

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, The Fog Ladies. To begin with, can you give us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?

A:  THE FOG LADIES is a cozy murder mystery with a group of spunky older women and one overworked, overtired, overstressed medical intern who all live in an elegant apartment building in San Francisco where old ladies start to die. Mrs. Bridge falls off a stool cleaning bugs out of her kitchen light. Mrs. Talwin slips on bubbles in the tub and drowns. Are these deaths the natural consequences of growing old, or is it murder?

Years ago, I lived in an apartment building similar to the one in the book, and I always thought it would make a good setting for a cozy. The name of the book and the idea for the group of women came instantly, before anything else about the story. They call themselves the Fog Ladies because you can count on them like you can count on San Francisco early morning fog burning off by midday. Being a life-long cozy murder mystery lover, I concocted murders around them and set a killer loose in their apartment building.

TheFogLadies_w13428_cover

Q: What do you think makes a good cozy murder mystery? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A:  Characters drive a cozy, and I tried to create a memorable cast of quirky yet identifiable  characters that will hopefully survive this killer in their building and persevere for more mysteries to come. Another cozy feature is an enclosed setting, like the elegant San Francisco apartment building in my story, so the victims and the killer are all known to each other and it is hard to hide.

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A:  The first draft of THE FOG LADIES had far too few suspects, thanks to my hope of “letting the story write itself,” without an outline or plot points. That process gave me the wonderful characters of Chanterelle and Baby Owen, who wrote their own scenes. But without enough villains, I had to go back and turn perfectly lovely characters into potential killers. So now I outline everything, and plot it all ahead.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

A:  The Fog Ladies each have their quirks and foibles, and I created entire character sketches about each, plus every other character in the book. But sometimes things don’t go as planned, and that is the surprise and magic of writing. Enid Carmichael, a busybody with sharp hearing, discovers Starbucks lattes at the ripe old age of eighty. She loves the bitterness, the froth. I wrote that. Then she craved more lattes, and the next thing I knew, she was stealing Starbucks coupons from her neighbor’s newspaper to feed her addiction. She did that. Not me.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A:  My killer has his motives, his hopes, his setbacks. The original draft of THE FOG LADIES, that first exciting but unplotted, unoutlined draft, included my villain’s voice sprinkled throughout the story. In re-reading, there were too many points of view, and to decrease reader confusion, I took his chapters out and stuffed all his thoughts into a scene toward the end. I miss his commentary throughout the book, but his perspective is still there.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A:  The best part of writing for me, and the part that creates the most memorable and lively scenes, is the part of writing that is not planned. One of my characters wrote herself onto life support and expected me to resuscitate her. Exacerbating but interesting. The characters of ne’er do well teen parents Chantrelle and Big Owen and their baby were nowhere in my mind when I started to write. They created themselves, and the story is richer for them.

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A:  I lived in an apartment building much like the one in THE FOG LADIES, minus the murders, when I did medical training in San Francisco. Elegant apartment buildings are found throughout San Francisco, especially in Pacific Heights, where the story is set. Tenants of all ages live together for years, providing the perfect cast of characters and cozy-type enclosed setting for a series of murders. I tried to describe the building, the love the old handyman had in polishing the wood and brass, and also the Fog Ladies’ apartments, aged and dated but still glorious, a little like them.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A:  The theme of murder and fear is a given in a cozy murder mystery. I always knew I wanted to write about growing old and female bonds of friendship. But some of the other themes of the book, like love, mistakes, even parenting, came only after the characters took over.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

A:  To me, craft is the careful planning and plotting I wish I’d done before the writing fun began, art is the fun I had when I didn’t know what was going to happen. Revision is the ick I had to endure because I didn’t plan and plot ahead. Editing is the tightening of phrases, condensing of scenes, overall improvement made once the manuscript is almost there. The fun creation part of writing lives through all the hard work that comes later.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

A:  In life, I think the single most important attribute we take to any profession is showing up on time, with enthusiasm. A cruder way to say this is “butt in seat.” I am a doctor in a training hospital, and it applies to our medical residents trying to further their medical knowledge base, it applies to students in college, and my first job as a shopping mall Easter Bunny, and my second job as secretary, and my weirdest job as a mate on a sport fishing boat, and my current jobs as a doctor and author. Putting in the time and looking forward to putting in the time (or pretending to) go a long way to a successful career. For writing, it also helps to have imagination and a talent for storytelling.

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. Thoughts?

A:  Until the book is in your hands in hard copy, you are never finished with that book. There are always tweaks to make it better, typos to discover, characters who need one more boost. Even once that book is out in the world, there is promotion and marketing, which means more writing, more time. And there is the next book, and the side book, and the book that’s screaming to be written even though you are writing the next book and the side book. It is never ending.

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

A:  Elizabeth Lyon comes to mind as far as helpful books about editing. Reading cozy murder mysteries is immensely helpful in solidifying my cozy craft while enjoying this genre.

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

A:  Plotting and planning is smart, or you will end up with too few suspects or no side story of how a single mistake can change your life. However, you need to give your characters a little space to be themselves, because the surprises they bring, like Enid Carmichael’s latte binge or the trio of Chantrelle, Big Owen and Baby Owen, will delight you and your readers.

 

 

 

Social media

https://www.facebook.com/susanmccormickauthor/

https://twitter.com/smccormickbooks

https://www.instagram.com/susanmccormickbooks/

Read Full Post »

Title: DARK JUSTICE
Author: Angela Smith
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 249
Genre: Romantic Suspense

BOOK BLURB:

She’s in love with her sister’s killer…

Lauren has loved Luke since first grade. They planned to marry—until he murdered her sister. The moment he was sentenced to prison, Lauren fled with her secret baby and made a new life. Now she’ll do anything to keep their daughter safe. But her hard won peace shatters when Luke is exonerated, and it sets her on a path of mixed emotions to discover the truth. Letting a killer into their tightly knit family is out of the question. Or is it?

She almost destroys her life by threatening his…

Prison stole his future with Lauren and twelve years of Luke’s life, so the last thing he needs from her is a knife in the back or a gun in his face. Lauren believes he killed her sister, and he has no plans to pick up where they left off. Luke can’t afford to trust her, but he wants nothing more than to convince her he’s worth fighting for.

Their daughter is in danger…

Luke is heartbroken when he learns they had a child together. Now his daughter is in danger. Lauren trusted the wrong person for far too long, but he hopes she’ll now trust him. Luke will risk everything to keep them safe. And Lauren will risk everything if she lets him into her heart.

 

★★★★★ORDER YOUR COPY★★★★★

Amazon → www.amzn.com/B07TZWHCC3

 Barnes & Noble → https://tinyurl.com/y4j5n4yd

 

Book Excerpt:

Luke—Twelve Years Ago

 

“All rise for the jury.”

I stand, my legs unsteady. The jurors filter in, one by one, their eyes downcast. Those who look, only glance at the prosecutor. Not me or my defense attorney.

Wayne’s breath hitches. It’s a whispery whoosh, a sound he likely doesn’t realize he’s made, but it tells me everything I need to know. I almost collapse in defeat.

He thinks they found me guilty. And by their expressions, I agree.

I size up the crowd gathering in the courtroom. Most of them sit on the prosecutor’s side. Clint is there. Once my best friend, but now I’m convinced he’s a killer. He’s next to Lauren. The love of my life and the one I presumed would stand by my side forever. But since she believes I killed her sister, I guess I can’t blame her for turning her back on me.

But Clint? Fear curls my spine. He’s charming, I’ll give him that, but he’s an absolute psycho. Nobody in Lauren’s family will listen, especially Lauren. And before all this, I wouldn’t have believed Clint is the killer. He killed her sister. How do I know she won’t be next? How can I protect her if I’m locked in prison for the rest of my life?

The judge drones on about the charge, then asks the jury if they’ve reached a decision. Wayne shifts and gives me a blink that tells me he wants to make sure I’m aware of what’s going on. I’m eighteen, for God’s sake. How could anyone my age understand criminal justice?

He’s warned me of how you can never predict a jury, but this group of fourteen holds their heads high as if they’ve never been surer in their lives. Two of them are alternate jurors, so it’s up to five men and seven women to decide my fate.

An older gentleman hands the bailiff the verdict. I hold my breath, and the judge reads. “We the jury find the defendant, Lucas Donovan Fuller, guilty of murder.”

Gasps fill the room. Chaos erupts, at least in my bones. More like a commotion, nothing too disastrous to alert the judge, and something he’s probably accustomed to. He only regards the crowd. A lot of loud talking, crying, and my mother’s wails. He’s way more patient than me and waits for everyone’s reaction to subside.

My muscles grow weak. I badly want to sit and wonder when I’m allowed. I want to reach out to Lauren. Tell her I’m sorry this happened, I didn’t do it, she has to trust me, and please, please don’t trust Clint. I open my mouth to say these things, but my attorney stations his hand on my shoulder, as if his one palm is going to keep me silent.

He warned me over and over not to react. I’m not allowed to speak. I am barely allowed to move, and I can’t look her way, although I shift to do so. The bailiff puffs out his chest and walks closer, as if I’m going to bolt.

“Calm down,” Wayne says. “We still have punishment. Don’t make a scene.”

Why shouldn’t I react? This is life changing. My life is over. I’m going to prison. The judge hasn’t declared a final sentence but after everyone’s testimony, I’ve started to believe my own guilt. I’m likely going to prison for the rest of my life.

****

Luke—Present Day

 

Luke Fuller’s pen scribbled across the page. His heart hammered while he wrote the words, ears filling with the deep drum of his heartbeat as if he was re-experiencing the event. Tired of writing, he shut the notebook and tossed it on the wrought-iron table beside him, along with his cap and shades. He stood and opened the grill to check the ribeye.

Food would be ready in a few minutes, and all he needed was right here. A little salt and pepper, paper plates and plastic forks to eat with, and a cooler full of drinks. Even a hundred feet from the river, the bullfrogs’ croaking put him at ease.

A sound he never expected to hear again.

He closed the grill, grabbed a beer from the ice chest, and lounged on the patio chair. It took a while for his heartbeat to settle. Writing these memories was difficult, harder than he expected, and his body ached from the flashbacks.

The sun descended, a showcase of gold fueled by rain clouds and humidity. He loved the open porch and didn’t want a screen to filter him and the outdoors. With bug spray, sleeping out here at night was a dream come true, despite the oppressive mugginess. Lightning flashed in the south, implying the much-needed shower was near. Nothing better than the clatter of rain on the roof.

Even the mosquitoes avoided the Texas July heat, but he’d take heat over the prison cell where he’d spent the past twelve years of his life. He’d take it over that any damn day.

LED lights strung across the porch offered a soft glow to ease him come sundown. He hated the darkness. Too many reminders of prison and the things he wanted to forget. But this darkness out in the country was peaceful, welcoming, different. Almost bearable.

A car drove up, the headlights zipping through the trees. His muscles tensed. He studied the nearby monitor attached to the front security camera. The car parked, the lights shut off. His lungs tightened, burned, then disintegrated when the woman stepped out and sauntered to the back.

She remembered. Friends always came to the back door. But she was no friend.

He blinked, his gut churning. Was he dreaming? Hallucinating after writing those memories? Lauren shone bright in his mind, even the seductive scent of honey and berries he once loved to sample behind her ear.

Her footsteps echoed up the stairs, and she came into view. She was no illusion. He remained sitting, nonchalant and drinking his beer as if he had no care in the world.

His mouth dried. The beer a sour tang. Her presence meant nothing good.

She thought he’d killed her sister. The entire community deemed him guilty before a jury of his peers sentenced him to life in prison. His sisters never stopped fighting to prove his innocence. He was released two months ago thanks to Adrienne and Charlotte and the team of defense attorneys who fought for him.

But he favored prison over the look of revulsion on Lauren’s face. A flowing skirt skimmed her knees, the imprinted flowers rivaling the charm of the countryside. Her slender body was as gorgeous as ever, heating him in ways better left ignored. She wore open-toed sandals. He never understood why she chose those shoes while hiking. They had to stop many times during their treks to pluck out grass burrs.

At one time, they didn’t mind the interruption.

Her dirty blonde hair was darker, accented by rich caramel, and the image of her ocean blue eyes burned in his memory. Despite the similarities, she wasn’t the same woman who once loved him.

He didn’t flinch when she pointed the pistol his direction. He continued to sip his beer, his ears tingling with the chatter of June bugs and crickets. If she wanted to shoot him, so be it.

Although he hadn’t killed her sister, he was just as much to blame. He had been selfish in spending his time with Lauren and didn’t mind leaving her sister alone. He trusted his best friend, had known him since grade school, but ignored his recent questionable tendencies. The town of Terrence was quick to point fingers while the real killer roamed free.

****

Lauren—Present Day

 

Lauren Cooper pointed the pistol at Luke, knees knocking and thighs quaking. She was proud of herself for keeping a steady grip despite her sweaty palms.

She’d practiced plenty, eyeing her target, strengthening her resolve. Today, Luke Fuller was her target. Maybe her first moving target—although he didn’t move, didn’t even flinch—and definitely her first human target. Still, she’d often imagined him on the other end of her gun.

What was she thinking? She risked losing her job over this, even facing jail time, for threatening with a firearm. Was it worth it to lose everything she’d worked so hard for? Even worse, to risk her daughter’s wellbeing?

Luke had murdered Elizabeth, was released, and now another man accused. But not just any man. Clint Merkel. A close friend. Almost family.

Thousands of times she’d confronted Luke in her dreams. Robbed him of life as brutally as he had robbed her twelve-year-old sister’s. More like nightmares. The man she once loved with all her heart. The jury had convicted him, but now he was exonerated. Doubts still clouded her mind. The newest facts couldn’t obliterate twelve years of certainty, no matter how credible.

Her spine clenched. She had tossed and turned and cried herself to sleep for years. Her emotions skyrocketed all over the place. Suppressed memories jumbled out of her. Memories of his kiss, his embrace, their shared lives, their plans. In high school, they’d been dubbed Luke and Lauren. She didn’t want to plan college without questioning where he’d go. They were a team, a couple and everybody—including her—presumed they’d stay together after high school.

Stupid to give her life away to a man, to halt her ambitions and plans. And then one fateful night the truth had been discovered, and the cops had placed the cuffs on his wrists.

He was still the most handsome man she had ever seen. Still captivated her. The sting of attraction needled through her muscles, her bones, her heartbeat. Her pulsed thrummed into her toes. She fought to stand her ground and reveal nothing about his effect on her.

Thunder boomed. She jumped. The rain began a harsh and fast hammering on the roof.

He sipped his beer, body relaxing as if knowing she wasn’t about to pull the trigger. He remained unaffected by the thunder, by the deluge, and by her presence.

“You going to shoot me or not?” He shrugged one shoulder, his drawl tightening the shivers in her stomach. Heat flared under her skin, the familiar anger—the reason she came here—blazed to her core. Him all casual, enjoying a beer while smoke billowed from his fire pit. The spices of the steak tore knots in her throat.

But she wasn’t only angry at him. She was angry at herself for letting him charm her.

The storm doused the dusk, but miniature lights lined the porch. She saw every inch of him and the way his gaze slid over her. They had studied each other for hours when they were younger, in love and carefree. The green of his eyes soaked up the earth and emitted the colors of eternity. They were harder, his face bearing a few scars only she might notice.

He dropped his beer to the table beside him. “What are you doing, Lauren? Just shoot me already. I’ve practically been dead these past years, anyway.”

Her throat closed. She refused to imagine what he experienced these last few years.

Luke shifted forward and frowned, let out a rickety cough, then perched his elbows on his knees. He swiped a hand over his face, then continued. “Look. I’m sorry about everything. Sorry you had to go through the loss of your sister and you believed I did it. Sorry I couldn’t comfort you. I’m… just sorry.”

His wobbly voice shattered her reserves. His movements broadcasted an unexpected nervousness. She let out a whoosh of breath, every fiber of her being sinking into a black hole of misery. Tears rolled out of her, hot and choking. Her grip on the gun wavered but remained clasped in her fingers.

He stood and swaggered toward her. His heavy-booted steps on the wooden planks thudded in her ears. She wanted to back away, but her butt rested against the porch railing and an invisible anchor rooted her to the ground.

She swayed.

Her hands shook, and her best interest was to put down the gun before somebody got hurt. Most likely her.

She lowered the pistol. He stopped in front of her and took it. She was too weak, too helpless to fight. His presence suctioned every bit of her power.

He set the gun on the ground. She jumped as another round of thunder boomed. Rain pounded the roof. Droplets hit her skin, but not enough to matter. She craved the cool refreshment. He stood facing her, his eyes boring into hers. She licked her lips as if drawing sustenance from that one small move, a move that drew his gaze to her mouth.

She swayed again, about to fall. He grabbed her and pulled her into his arms.

“Careful.” His words wisped across her ear and trailed down her spine to spool into a reservoir of lust in her loins.

She planted the top of her head against his chest and sobbed as he held her. Her shoulders shook, the tears escaping in violent torrents. She couldn’t stop no matter how hard she wanted to.

He smelled like mesquite smoke and musk, along with crisp grass cuttings under Texas sunshine. Stupid, stupid to imagine such things.

The tears were a release. A goodbye she never had a chance to say.

Had she believed he was capable of murder? She refused to listen to his sister when she begged. All the evidence pointed to him. The police, the prosecutor, even the city mayor had convinced her.

How could they all be wrong? Her mind churned with questions. Questions she should have asked before she’d threatened him with a gun.

His fingers skated up her hair, and he tucked a piece behind her ear. She straightened her spine and lifted her head, willing her body to fight the attraction as her tears dried.

“I don’t know if I believe it,” she finally said.

“What? That I didn’t do it?”

She nodded, her limbs weak and trembling.

“Well, if Clint didn’t do it, why did he run?”

She wondered the same thing, but Clint being a killer was terrifying, even more so than Luke, considering she’d entrusted her daughter with him.

She lowered her head and sniffled. He placed his fingers under her chin and forced her to look at him.

Not a force but a slow, gentle move. He had always been gentle. Clint had been the edgy one, the one who tested her nerves. And yet after Luke had been accused of murdering her sister, she had turned to Clint as a friend and let him take part in her life. How had he manipulated her? How had she allowed it? Her belly flopped, the drying tears searing her throat.

She’d always felt safe with Luke. Safe, yet vulnerable, because her heart was at risk.

He dropped his hand from her chin and finger brushed her hair. Her neck tingled. She longed to savor his mouth on hers after all these years.

“I’ve imagined being in front of you, begging you to listen.” His voice was a slow deep penetration to the core of her being. Something impossible to pull away from. “I did not kill your sister, and as much pain as I knew you were in, it broke my heart you never gave me a chance.”

She lifted her chin higher and stared straight into his eyes. “And I imagined having the chance to stand in front of you and kill you.”

A strangled sob escaped him. His eyes flickered. Her body grew warm with regret. Regret for her words, regret for refusing to hear him out so many years ago, and regret for wanting him so much she hurt.

“You’ve got that chance now. Why don’t you take it?”

Meet the Author

Angela Smith is a Texas native who, years ago, was dubbed most likely to write a novel during her senior year in high school. She always had her nose stuck in a book, even hiding them behind her textbooks during school study time. Her dream began at a young age when her sister started reciting ‘Brer Rabbit’ after their mom read it to them so often. She told her mom she’d write a story one day and never gave up on that dream even though her mom was never able to see it come to fruition. By day, she works as a certified paralegal and office manager at her local District Attorney’s office and spends her free time with her husband, their pets, and their many hobbies. Although life in general keeps her very busy, her passion for writing and getting the stories out of her head tends to make her restless if she isn’t following what some people call her destiny.

★ WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS: ★

Website → http://www.loveisamystery.com

Blog → www.loveisamystery.com/my-blog

Twitter → www.twitter.com/angelaswriter

Facebook → www.facebook.com/authorangelasmith

Goodreads → https://tinyurl.com/y48996ej

BookBub → https://tinyurl.com/yxr9ezxy

Read Full Post »

 

New York Times bestselling author Caitlin Rother has written or co-authored 13 books, ranging from narrative nonfiction to memoir and crime fiction. Her latest titles are the true-life thriller Hunting Charles Manson and her memoir short, Secrets, Lies, and Shoelaces. A former investigative reporter at daily newspapers for 19 years, Rother has been published in Cosmopolitan, the Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Boston Globe and Daily Beast. She has appeared more than 200 times on TV, radio and podcasts internationally, including Australian Broadcast Corp’s “World News,” “Crime Watch Daily,” “People Magazine Investigates,” “Nancy Grace,” “Snapped,” and dozens of shows on Netflix, Investigation Discovery, Oxygen, A&E, Reelz, C-SPAN and various PBS affiliates. Rother also works as a writing-research coach and consultant, leads writing workshops, and plays keyboards and sings in an acoustic group called breakingthecode. She is working on two new books, one titled “Justice for Rebecca,” about the Rebecca Zahau death case, and one about the San Diego Zoo’s Frozen Zoo. Please visit her on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter or visit her website at https://www.caitlinrother.com.

★ WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS: ★

Website → https://www.caitlinrother.com

Blog → https://www.caitlinrother.com/blog

Twitter → https://twitter.com/CaitlinRother

Facebook → https://www.facebook.com/caitlinrother

Goodreads → https://tinyurl.com/y3oy4cwp

Interview:

Would you call yourself a born writer?

I have been writing stories ever since I was a little girl. I also used to speak them in different voices, talking to each other, to keep myself amused when I was growing up as an only child. I read a ton of books, too, which is crucial to learn how to be a good writer. That said, even after 13 published books, I’m still learning and growing as a writer. And because all but one of those books are narrative non-fiction, I don’t create, exaggerate or embellish any details. With the exception of one mystery novel, NAKED ADDICTION, all my books are deeply researched true accounts. Because, as they say, truth is often stranger than fiction.

What was your inspiration for DEAD RECKONING?

This true crime story tells the story of the murders of Tom and Jackie Hawks by transgender killer Skylar Deleon and a crew of twisted misfits. Skylar, who was still presenting as a man at the time of the murders in 2004, was married to a woman named Jennifer. They had a 10-month-old daughter, and Jennifer was pregnant with their second child. They used their daughter and their pregnancy to gain the Hawkses’ trust, posing as a family that wanted to buy the Hawkses’ boat and run a charter business on it. When Skylar came back with two other men for a sea trial, they forced the Hawkses to sign power-of-attorney documents, tied them to the anchor of their yacht and threw it overboard, drowning them alive. Skylar’s primary motive was to get money to pay for gender confirmation surgery, which she is still trying to get on death row at San Quentin, a men’s prison, where she has transitioned to a woman, using hormones. She just legally changed her name and gender to female, and wants to be transferred to a women’s prison. You can’t make this stuff up.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

My true crime books explore murders involving addiction, mental health issues, psychological manipulation for financial and emotional gain, predators and sexual deviancy, and sociopathy. I try to educate people with this information to help protect them and to place a spotlight on flaws in our systems that allow these tragedies to occur, so we can learn from them. My hope is that we can prevent such tragedies from happening again, or at least catch the bad guys (and women). In addition to writing memoirs both for myself and with my co-authors, I always enjoy finding non-fiction topics that will have a positive influence or inspiration on readers, such as my current project about the San Diego Zoo’s Frozen Zoo.

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

This is not a novel, it’s a true crime book, and I’ve been covering this case for longer than any other one in my entire career as a professional investigative journalist and author. The first edition, which came out in 2011, involved going to three trials over several years and then a couple more to research and write. I’ve continued to gather fresh material for this latest updated editions, which brings me to 15 years total.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

Yes, very much so. It’s imperative. But being a professional full-time author of non-fiction is far more involved than just writing. Each book has a series of phases, and with non-fiction, I can go for months just doing research and interviews, while I plan the narrative structure and story arc of the book. Only then do I start writing, because otherwise, I will just have to rewrite entire sections. I first do research to put a book proposal together, which may entail going to an entire trial for months at a time. Then my agent has to sell the proposal to a publisher. After that, I do more research and interviews before I even start writing the book, which usually takes about nine months. But books don’t sell themselves. Once I get going on the next book, I still have to promote the one that just came out. So depending on where I am in the process, I do different tasks all day long, dedicating a certain number of hours to writing or editing, some hours to continued research and follow up calls and emails, until I finally finish the manuscript. Toward the end, I will spend entire days writing and/or editing.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

There are a lot of moving parts to this story, many characters, and a large span of time to cover. I had way more story than I had space for, which meant I had to cut 35,000 words from the first draft. This time, because the book was long already, I had to go through it again to find ways to cut 4,000 more words to make room for the updated, fresh material. The trick is to make the story seamless, fast-paced and suspenseful, and still maintain accuracy. I also felt it was important to be sensitive to the victims’ families as well as to the LGBTQ community, which was a tough thing to balance.

What do you love most about being an author?

I enjoy the freedom of being able to choose the stories I want to write about vs. when I was a newspaper reporter and often got assigned stories I didn’t care about. I also enjoy the freedom and flexibility of working for myself. I’m busier than I’ve ever been, but I’m constantly stimulated by my varying tasks and by always learning new things.

Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?

The original version of this book was with a traditional publisher. When it let the book go out of print, I got my rights back and did this re-release with WildBlue Press, which is an indie press. For the first time, I got to have input into the cover design, which was great fun, and I think the book and cover turned out very nicely. Statistics show that 70 percent of readers buy their books online vs. in bookstores these days, so this publisher is geared more toward those readers.

Where can we find you on the web?

My website and blog are at https://www.caitlinrother.com. This book is sold at wbp.bz/deadreackoning. The photo gallery, with tons of color pics of the key players, is at wbp.bz/deadreckoninggallery. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Just type in my name.

Title: DEAD RECKONING
Author: Caitlin Rother
Publisher: WildBlue Press
Pages: 504
Genre: True Crime

BOOK BLURB:

Tom and Jackie Hawks loved their life in retirement, sailing on their yacht, the Well Deserved. But when the birth of a new grandson called them back to Arizona, they put the boat up for sale. Skylar Deleon and his pregnant wife Jennifer showed up as prospective buyers, with their baby in a stroller, and the Hawkses thought they had a deal. Soon after a sea trial and an alleged purchase, however, the older couple disappeared and the Deleons promptly tried to access the Hawkses’ bank accounts.

As police investigated the case, they not only found a third homicide victim with ties to Skylar, they also uncovered an unexpected and unusual motive: Skylar had wanted gender reassignment surgery for years. By killing the Hawkses with a motley crew of assailants and plundering the couple’s assets, the Deleons had planned to clear their $100,000 in debts and still have money for the surgery, which Skylar had already scheduled.

Now, in this up-to-the-minute updated edition, which includes extensive new material, New York Times bestselling author Caitlin Rother presents the latest breaking developments in the case. Skylar, who was ultimately sentenced to death row for the three murders, transitioned to a woman via hormones while living in the psych unit at San Quentin prison. Recently, she legally changed her name and gender to female, apparently a strategic step in her quest to obtain taxpayer-subsidized gender confirmation surgery and transfer to a women’s prison. Combined with Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent moratorium on executions, this only adds insult to injury for the victims’ families, who want Skylar to receive the ultimate punishment for her crimes.

“Rother gives readers compelling insight to an unthinkable American nightmare. A gripping read… frank and frightening… it sizzles.”

Aphrodite Jones, host of True Crime on Investigation Discovery and bestselling author

 

Amazon → https://tinyurl.com/y3jr7mk3

 WildBlue Press → https://tinyurl.com/yyj9xlvk

 

Book Excerpt:

PROLOGUE

Alonso Machain was unemployed, with bills to pay, so he took up his friend Skylar Deleon’s offer to help restore a family boat at the Cabrillo yard in Long Beach, California.

As they were sanding the Hatteras together, Skylar boasted about his plans for fixing up his new toy, which he’d gotten from his grandfather. Then Skylar offered his twenty-one-year-old buddy a much more lucrative job.

“How much are you talking about?” Alonso asked.

“A couple million dollars,” Skylar said.

“Wow. How do you make a couple million dollars without it being illegal?”

“Well,” Skylar said, “it’s not really illegal, unless you get caught.”

As Skylar’s plan evolved in the coming days of October 2004, the promised payoff for Alonso soon increased to “several million” dollars to help Skylar “take care” of some people who had done something bad and pissed somebody off.

Skylar wasn’t usually paid for these gigs, he said, but he got to keep the assets of the “targets,” who were typically well-off. His first contract, for example, was a guy who’d been selling drugs in Huntington Beach schools and owed money to the wrong people.

Skylar said he’d split the proceeds of his next job with Alonso, but didn’t give him much time to mull it over.

“So, you want to do it or not?” Skylar asked a couple days later.

Alonso wasn’t really sure what to think. Skylar was always talking about how rich he and his family were, and Alonso believed him. Although he knew Skylar liked to tell stories, he never stopped to consider that the few times Skylar had thrown him a mere twenty dollars for the boat restoration work, they’d had to drive to an ATM to get it.

After Alonso decided to take the job, Skylar went into more detail about the plan, showing him photos of a yacht called the Well Deserved, whose wealthy owners had put it up for sale. Alonso’s role was to help Skylar get “in” with the owners, Tom and Jackie Hawks, then hold them down.

The fifty-five-foot trawler was moored in the upscale community of Newport Beach in Orange County, a sharp contrast to the sprawling mix of urban, industrial, and suburban areas of Long Beach, where Skylar lived with his wife, Jennifer, in neighboring Los Angeles County.

Unlike the spacious homes in Newport, decorated in the mute beiges and sandstone of the wealthy, home for Skylar and Jennifer was a cramped converted garage behind her parents’ duplex. Space was so tight the Deleons had to stack their belongings on the floor and hang their clothing from a pole lodged between two dressers next to the bed. It was a far cry from the opulent mansions featured on The Real Housewives of Orange County and The O.C.

Contrary to the story he’d told Alonso about the $3 million a month he’d earned working with Ditech Funding, Skylar had been fired from his job as appraiser’s assistant there and looked at his wealthier neighbors in “The O.C.” with envy. He coveted their waterfront homes, boats, and private planes that he couldn’t afford, and he lied to persuade folks that he could.

Although he wasn’t anywhere near as smart or capable as Bernie Madoff in building a complex financial scheme, Skylar’s scam was just as—if not more— deceitful. And when it came to lying and manipulating people, Skylar was pretty good at that, too.

The next time he and Alonso met, Skylar said he’d analyzed photos of the boat’s interior for radios and weapons, such as spearguns, and had determined the best way to overcome the couple. Using stun guns and handcuffs, Alonso would grab Jackie in the galley while Skylar took down Tom in the stateroom, where no one could hear him scream.

Skylar said he’d considered taking Tom scuba diving and finishing him off underwater, but he’d realized that would preclude the Hawkses from signing over the boat title and power-of-attorney documents he was going to draw up.

“What I’ll do is just take them out to sea and toss them overboard,” he said.

They purchased two stun guns together, then Skylar sent Alonso, a former jail guard he’d befriended while serving time for armed burglary a year earlier, to buy two pairs of handcuffs.

The next day, November 6, Skylar said it was time to do the deed. By now, Alonso felt it was too late to extricate himself from the situation. If twenty-five-year-old Skylar really was a hit man, what would prevent him from harming Alonso?

As they drove to the dock, Skylar stopped a couple blocks away to scope out who was aboard, then called Tom to pick them up in his dinghy. The Hawkses were expecting them.

On board, Tom proudly gave them a tour of his home, but Alonso could see from Skylar’s tone of voice and body language that he’d changed his mind. Skylar seemed far too relaxed to kill anyone as he chatted with Tom for forty-five minutes about possible modes of payment. Before they left, Skylar made sure that Tom and Jackie knew he was definitely interested in purchasing the vessel and would be back for a lesson on how to operate it.

Skylar told Alonso afterward that he’d changed his mind once he’d realized that Tom was too muscular for the two of them to overpower alone. They really needed a third man. Skylar also sensed some discomfort on the Hawkses’ part, so he called Jennifer on his cell phone as soon as they got back to the car.

“Hey, you need to come down, take a look at the boat, to make these people feel a little more at ease,” he told her.

After sending Alonso on his way, Skylar and his pregnant wife went back on board, pushing their ten-month-old daughter, Haylie, in a stroller, to do just that.

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: