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High Res Headshot for VBTDavid Armstrong was born and raised in Natchez, Mississippi. He is an attorney, former mayor, candidate for the U.S. Congress, and he currently serves as the Chief Operating Officer for the city of Columbus, Mississippi. David received both an undergraduate and a master’s degree in political science from Mississippi State University, where he taught American and local government. He worked for over two years as a copywriter for an advertising firm before attending the University of Mississippi School of Law, which he graduated from with honors.

In addition to The Rising Place, David has written two other novels, one of which, The Third Gift, is set to be released this summer. He has also written four screenplays and has taught screenwriting at the college level. David is the father of two grown sons, William and Canon, and he lives with a snarky cat in one of the oldest and most haunted antebellum homes in Columbus.

His website is therisingplace.com, and he may be contacted at dmatyro@outlook.com.

INTERVIEW:

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, The Rising Place. 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 Rising Place is based on what I think is a compelling premise: What if you found a hidden box of letters from World War II that belonged to an old maid who had just died—would you read them? And what if you did and discovered an amazing story about unrequited love, betrayal, and murder that happened over seventy years ago in a small, southern town?

After a young lawyer moves to Hamilton, Mississippi to practice law, one of his first cases is to draft a will for Emily Hodge. “Miss Emily” is a seventy-five-year-old recluse who is shunned by Hamilton society, but the attorney is intrigued by her and can’t understand why this charming lady lives such a lonely and seemingly forgotten life.

TheRisingPlace_w14312_ibEmily later dies, and the attorney goes to her hospital room to retrieve her few possessions and bequeath them as she directed in her will, and he discovers an old box of letters, hidden in the back of one of her nightstand drawers. He takes the letters back to his law office and reads them through, and he soon learns why Emily Hodge died alone, though definitely not forgotten.

I was compelled to write The Rising Place after I read a daily devotional in The Upper Room magazine about an old maid school teacher who had just died, leaving no children. One of the teacher’s former students, from fifty years ago, approached the teacher’s niece and told her what a profound effect her aunt had had on him and several of his friends. The niece was amazed to

hear this, and a bit ashamed, since she never knew how special her aunt’s life had been. So, I decided to develop this idea into a novel, told in epistolary form through a box of old letters that had been hidden away for over seventy years. 

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

A: Love, laughter, and tears.

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

A: That’s a good question and one I’ve been asked a lot. Many writers go to great lengths to plot a story, do character sketches, make chapter outlines, keep a journal of notes, etc., but that just doesn’t work for me and a lot of other authors I’ve talked to. When I get an idea for a story, or a character appears inside my head, I’ll mull it around for several weeks, or several months, until I’ve got it nailed down. Then, when I finally sit down to write, the story just naturally flows. I rarely get writer’s block and am somehow able to remember most of the details of the story without the use of notes. By no means, though, do I credit this to any special ability of my own. I think when you “go with the flow,” as opposed to what you’ve already plotted and structured on paper, prior to writing, your creativity is greatly enhanced. And a lot of this method is simply about trust. I trust my muse(s) to help me bring the story to life. When I write, it’s like I’m sitting in a theatre and watching a story unfold, so I simply transcribe what I’m seeing and hearing on the stage or on the screen. Sometimes, I’m actually an unseen observer in the scene, itself, and I’m taking detailed notes about what’s going on. After the protagonist in The Rising Place, Emily Hodge, appeared inside my head one morning, I just started writing what she was showing and telling me. I had no idea where Emily was going with her story, who the other characters would be, what the conflict(s) would be, or how the story would end. I also had no idea what the title was until I was almost finished with the first draft. The title just came to me one evening when I was out for a walk, and I knew it was the perfect title. This, I believe, is how our muse(s) works.

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: My protagonist, Emily Hodge, appeared in my mind one day and started revealing who she was, what her story was, and how she wanted me to tell it. I literally had no idea where Emily was going with her story, how it would evolve and end, but Emily was as real to me as anyone whom I had ever known. True, I had gotten the general idea for the story from the daily devotional that I mentioned above, but I did no character interviews or sketches about Emily or any of the other characters, prior to the actual writing. Again, I simply went with the flow, and everything just naturally fell into place. This is why I trust my muse(s) and would never attempt to write another novel without his/her/their inspiration and guidance.

 

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: Again, I made no attempt to create the main villains—Harlan, Nolan, and Eddie Scruggs. They simply appeared, like I trusted they would, as Emily’s story unfolded on paper. There is a much more heinous antagonist in the story, though—the ugly prejudice that permeates the town of Hamilton, Mississippi during the Second World War. This is what the three main characters in

the story, Emily Hodge, Wilma Watson, and Will Bacon are all struggling with and against, in a  time and place where civil rights were unheard of, a woman’s place was in the home, and the color of one’s skin is what defined their character and status in society.

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

A: A basic definition of “narrative” is how you tell a story, but I think there’s more to narrative, than simply that. Most writers write in third person, which is a sound, objective way to tell a story. But that method is too detached and impersonal for me. I prefer to write in first person, as if the story were my own. I’m somehow able to get inside a character’s head and feel what he/she is feeling, know what they’re thinking, and about to say and do. To me, this makes the characters really come to life. On the flip side, though, a third person narrative is probably more revealing in description and easier to structure. In the stories I write, I tend to focus more on characters and dialogue, than I do on description and action. To me, to write, “I woke up this morning and knew I had to tell my wife I didn’t love her, anymore,” is far more alive then to write, “David woke up and knew he had to tell his wife he didn’t love her, anymore.” But writers, as well as readers, are all different. One style will work easier for you, be more comfortable, than the other, and that’s the one you need to go with. Neither style is better than the other, just different.

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: Certainly, it helps to be familiar with the setting—as I was in The Rising Place. If not, then it’s critical to do as much research as you can on where your story is located and when it takes place, especially when your story is action and/or period driven. But, I want to point out that setting should never overshadow your narrative, dialogue, or characters. Setting should be a great frame for your painting, but it should never detract from the painting, itself.

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: No, I had no idea what my themes would be, at the start. As Emily Hodge revealed more and more of herself and her story to me, the themes appeared and naturally evolved. They became as much of the background and setting as the place and period, themselves.

Yes, many of the same themes in The Rising Place are also at work in my next novel, The Third Gift. Apparently, these recurring themes in my writing are life themes I came back again to work on, or simply explore. I think we all have core themes that motivate and drive our lives, at least on a subconscious level.

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

A: In my mind, the art of writing is talent and the craft of writing is practice. I don’t think the two are separate, though, nor do I believe that one ends and the other begins. They’re both necessary ingredients that produce the final result. Like sugar and flower in a cake—they both have to be in it for the cake to be a cake (or at least taste good).

No, I don’t think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust. Good editing doesn’t destroy a story, it only makes it more believable, more readable, more professional. And a good editor will never try to change your story, only make it better. Plus, the reality of writing is that it’s not about what you write—it’s about what you re-write. Editing is simply the icing on that cake.

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

A: Talent, dedication, and discipline.

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

A: Wow, that’s a scary thought! I still have nightmares about not having done my homework for school, or not being prepared for a test. Other than graduating from law school, writing is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s also one of the most—maybe the most—rewarding things I’ve ever done. Anyone who’s ever written a novel and had it published will tell you that the amount of work and time it takes to complete such a daunting task is incalculable, to say the least. Novelists talk a lot about how much time it took them to write and re-write their novel, but if you add to this the amount of time it took them to do research for their story, and the time it took to research potential agents/publishers and then to query them all, it’s overwhelming—to the point that you have to wonder why anyone in their right mind would ever take on such a project. I think the answer, though, is that the process itself is so rewarding. Think about it—how many things are there where you can be so absorbed in what you’re doing that you totally lose all sense of time and place? And if that’s not a real turn-on, then I don’t know what is. 

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

A: Absolutely. There’s a plethora of resources, books, workshops, and websites available. Actually—too many to even attempt to mention. One of the best books, though, I’ve ever read on the craft of writing is The Writer’s Journey, 2nd Edition, by Christopher Vogler. I highly recommend this book to all aspiring, and experienced, writers. 

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

A:  Yes. I have an old friend who’s an expert on the art and craft of creative writing. He’s read all the best books on the subject—including Chris Vogler’s 2nd and 3rd editions, he’s watched most of the YouTube videos on the subject, he’s been to numerous writing seminars and literary festivals, and he can spend all day talking about the subject of writing. The problem is, though, my friend has never written anything. I don’t understand how/why someone with that much knowledge about writing wouldn’t just sit down and do it. So, the best advice I can give is that if you want to be a writer, then write. Write every day, even when you don’t feel like doing so. It’s all about practice, and we all know what they say about “practice.”

 

 

 

 

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Title: Panorama – The Missing Chapter from the Memoir Views from the Cockpit
Author: Ross Victory
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 120
Genre: Real Life Stories/ Relationships & Sex

BOOK BLURB:

After a friendship ignites and morphs into a curious tale of parallel souls with a Brazilian-American soldier serving in the U.S. military in South Korea, Panorama reflects on the author’s contemplations to return to a crumbling family life in Los Angeles or to endure his life in Seoul for an end-of-contract cash payout.

With a thought-provoking storyline that covers eating live octopus, philosophical debates about the gender of God, a pregnancy, and bisexual erasure in men, Panorama delivers a page-turning cerebral adventure. Ending with prose that simultaneously bites and soothes, Panorama suggests readers stand tall in their unique intersections of relationships and sex. Reminding us that as daunting as the vicissitudes of life, and no matter the view from the cockpit of life, the human spirit cannot, and should not, be restrained. While truth may be the bitterest pill of them all, the effects of our truth can bring us closer to an unbroken life.

PRAISE

In this small book are two masterpieces, a riveting remembrance of several life-altering experiences and relationships the author began in Seoul, South Korea, and an essay, let’s call it part tirade, part profound reflection on our view of men, masculinity, sexuality, and romance. You cannot stop until finished because there is no midway, no stopping point as you become a part of his world. After nearly every sentence you scream with or at his observations either with critical reflections or ecstasy. Ross has his pulse on his generation and the most precarious issues confronting sexuality and romance.

–Dr. Ritch C. Savin-Williams, Ph.D. –Cornell University & ​​​Author of “Mostly Straight: Sexual Fluidity among Men”

ORDER YOUR COPY

Amazon → https://amzn.to/2xZyCNi

 Barnes & Noble → https://bit.ly/2xfXQac

Book Excerpt:

I found myself in a local bar called Panorama, skimming through my work contract. I contemplated my ability to continue this working abroad disaster and considered walking away from a large end-of-contract payment, or perhaps I was simply waiting for an explanation from “God” about why everything falls apart. I read the pages over and over, searching for what I needed to do to end my contract and still get the cash. Panorama was a quaint, local bar that Koreans escaped to to enjoy horrific karaoke and shots of throat-burning Soju, the equivalent of cheap vodka. Americans were not interested, nor did they notice this dingy place.

Tonight, it was fairly empty. Alone on the stage stood a Korean ahjumma, or aged woman. An ahjusshi, or aged man, also Korean, sat in flooded tan trousers on a short stool next to her, holding a large cello. The woman had a gray, shoulder-length poufy perm with a slight purple tint. She wore a hanbok—a traditional Korean dress—her face covered in thick, pasty-white makeup. With clarity, passion, and purpose, she and the cellist performed as no one but me watched. The song had a simple, memorable riff with a reflective chord progression. The woman had turned off the karaoke television screen and sang from memory as the cellist supported her.

She sang as if this were the last song she would ever sing. Her soul flickered between every note, with presence and awe. Like she was going somewhere and would never return. As the woman sang, she reached into the spotlight that lit her, pulling the light closer to her chest—like she and the light had established a deep state of devotion. As the ahjusshi played the cello, hidden in the woman’s shadow, particles of dust floated through the light and disappeared into the darkness, like floating glowworms. I could not recognize her words but recognized the source of them. This woman must be singing to me… I thought. I fantasized about hope as she sang.

The four soldiers sat at the empty bar, near the stage. I sat in an oversized, black leather booth near the entrance. One of the soldiers went back outside, propping the door open momentarily. The glacial breeze returned. The soldier strode back in and took a detour toward my booth, warming his hands. I turned away but could see him approaching from the corner of my eye.

“Ey, excuse me, bro. Restroom around here?” He shivered.

“Behind the bar…” I pointed.

After a few minutes, as I began to pack up, I heard a voice. “Ey, can I sit here? You look normal…” I looked up, confused. It was him again. He chuckled and shivered.

“Yeah, I’m headed out…all yours. Has a good view of the stage.” I snickered to myself.

“Man, this woman can sing. I wonder what she’s saying. I’m Alveré,” the soldier continued, “Alvín in English. What you drinkin’?”

I motioned to my waiter for the check.
“Let me guess. You’re from the West Coast,” he said.

Alveré quickly made it clear that he had plenty of time to chat and was looking for a new friend. He removed his hat, placed it on the table, and rolled up his sleeves; he began flipping through the beer menu. Someone new in my life is the last thing I wanted.

Alveré had a slightly grown-in buzz cut and a naïve presence. He was dressed in army fatigues with coyote brown boots. He was covered in crisp snowflakes; Somehow, I could see the hexagonal and octagonal crystalline structure of the ice. His face was stuck in a half-smile, on the verge of a chuckle. He was nearly six feet tall with perfect posture and the typical, stiff, herculean stance of a military person.

He wore a forearm tattoo on his left arm of an Admiralty ship’s anchor wrapped in chain links. The anchor transformed into a thirty-petal rose at the eye of the anchor. There was a hummingbird feeding on the rose, its wings curled in and up.

“Yep, from California—L.A. I’m Ross.”

“Ross from Cali…” He seemed to contemplate this and quickly mumbled something in Portuguese. “Nice to meet you, Ross. I’m from New York, born in São Paulo, Brazil, though.” “Moved here when I was thirteen.” Alveré excitedly corrected himself, having momentarily forgotten that he was now in Korea. “You know what I mean…moved out there.” He laughed.

“Brazil? How’d you get into the U.S. Army?”

“Long story. My unit just got here. I just met these idiots—FML.” He continued. “You military? What are you doin’ all the way in Korea…by yourself?”

“I’m actually an English teacher in a work-abroad program,” I responded.

“You signed up to come here? Who does that?!”

I pondered, squinting my eyes. “I guess I did? What a dumbass.” We laughed. “And I’m honestly sitting here regretting every moment.” I held my contract up.

“Respect. Wow.”

For the next several minutes, we spoke about the absurdities of Korean culture. Every time I glanced at Alveré to size him up, his eye contact felt like a Cyclops beam, at least for the fraction of a microsecond our pupils met. In these moments, the details of his eyes were apparent. His eyes were thalassic, deep, abidingly blue, with a thin chestnut lining. While intense and notably awkward, something about Alveré seemed familiar, like a puppy’s gaze.

As we spoke, Alveré was wringing his hands on top of the table. He would rub his hands on the side of his pants and laugh randomly between longer gaps of silence, uttering, “Interesting!” at the end of most of my sentences. One of the other army guys tumbled into my booth.

“Hey, bro!” a drunken soldier said to Alveré.

“Ooh, he’s sexy, Alvin! Did you get his number?” the solider drunkenly joked while reaching out and twisting Alveré’s nipple. Alveré pulled away, embarrassed.

Another soldier interjected, “Alvin, you going tonight, bro? Rampant Korean p*$$y, bro…free flowing like mas agua.” The soldier began to do the robot dance.

“Alvin’s our new resident Brazilian model to attract that tiger pussy… Look at this face.” The soldiers exploded into gut-wrenching laughter, grabbing Alveré’s chin and squishing his lips. “F$g#@t,” one soldier joked. “We’re headed to this joint in Hungdae.” Hungdae was Seoul’s party capital. A night in Hungdae would mean we would be out until 6 a.m.

“You should join us…” The solider glanced over at me. “I’m Connor.” Connor reached out to shake my hand. He continued, “I hear they just let you…” The soldier paused, then wiggled his middle and ring finger around in quick circles. “And the girls just start makin’ out with each other.”

“You wanna roll through or…” The soldiers looked at me as Alveré hesitated. He whispered to me, “Don’t leave me with these idiots. Please, bro, pleassssse!”

I explained to the soldiers that I was an English teacher and that my class started early. They became distracted and began to chatter drunkenly to each other.

“Please, Ross from Cali… Don’t leave me with these douches—we vibin’, right?”

I continued to pack my bag.

“I’ll text you the address. Let me get your number. Just a few hours; never been to Hungdae…”

“Nice to meet you, Alveré, but I’m out…”

“My mom calls me Alveré; friends call me Alvin—you can call me Alví, though, if you want…” He continued. “You can tell me about L.A. I’ve always wanted to go there.”

I laughed. I stared at my contract. My passport looked back at me from the bottom of my bag. I looked back at Alví.

All right. I’m in, let’s go.

About the Author

Ross Victory is an Award-Winning American author, singer/songwriter, travel geek and author of the father-son memoir, Views from the Cockpit: The Journey of a Son (2019) and Panorama: The Missing Chapter (2020). Ross spent his early years collecting pens, notepads and interviewing himself in a tape recorder. With an acute awareness for his young age, Ross was eager to point out hypocrisies and character inconsistencies in children and adults through English assignments. If he weren’t keeping his English teachers on their toes for what he would say or write next, he was processing his world through songwriting and music.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

Website: http://www.rossvictory.com

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/rossvictoryofficial

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

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