Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Mystery’ Category

phil in b&W.jpgPhilip Cioffari is the author of the novels: DARK ROAD, DEAD END; JESUSVILLE;  CATHOLIC BOYS; and the short story collection, A HISTORY OF THINGS LOST OR BROKEN, which won the Tartt Fiction Prize, and the D. H. Lawrence award for fiction. His short stories have been published widely in commercial and literary magazines and anthologies, including North American Review, Playboy, Michigan Quarterly Review, Northwest Review, Florida Fiction, and Southern Humanities Review. He has written and directed for Off and Off-Off Broadway. His Indie feature film, which he wrote and directed, LOVE IN THE AGE OF DION, has won numerous awards, including Best Feature Film at the Long Island Int’l Film Expo, and Best Director at the NY Independent Film & Video Festival. He is a Professor of English, and director of the Performing and Literary Arts Honors Program, at William Paterson University. www.philipcioffari.com

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

A: My novel, The Bronx Kill, is about a drowning death and the effect it has on those involved in the incident. On a hot August night, five teenage friends challenge each other to swim the East River from the Bronx to Queens. In the attempt, one boy drowns and the body of the only girl among them is never found. The three survivors take a vow never again to speak about the incident. When they reunite five years later, they find themselves at the mercy of the drowned boy’s brother, an NYPD detective, who holds them responsible for his brother’s death and vows to bring them to justice by any means possible. The lead character, Danny Baker, one of the three survivors, must fight not only to preserve his childhood friendships but to save himself and his friends from the detective’s brand of vigilante justice.

Bronx Kill Cover JPEG.jpgI wanted to write about the complexity and durability of friendship. The apparent and not-so-apparent ties that bind us, the debts we owe one another, the divisive factors that can tear a friendship apart, the loyalties that can supersede everything, even ethical and moral principles—these are my concerns here.

In particular, my focus is on friendship that originates in childhood, that continues to hold us together long after childhood ends, friendship that develops and matures over time, that changes as the dynamic of the relationship changes, friendship that allows us at its best to be individuals within the larger framework of the we.

The characters in this novel have been friends since grade school. They have experienced the small triumphs and defeats that occur in playgrounds and alleys, on handball courts and ballfields. They have endured the mean streets of the Bronx, faced hardship, humiliation and loss; but it isn’t until their mid-twenties that they must confront the most severe test of their loyalty to one another. I wrote it as a suspense thriller because I thought that was the most effective way to engage the reader in this story.

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

A: Of course there are many elements that go into making a successful story. In my book, I strove 1) for a high level of tension throughout, 2) a strong atmosphere of danger and foreboding, and 3) strong, clearly defined characters. I also try to find something sympathetic in each of my characters, even the seemingly unlikeable ones.

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

A:  I work out the details of the story as I write. I take notes along the way but mostly the process is intuitive, instinctual as I move for scene to scene. What does my character want? What would be the step or steps he/she would take to get what he/she wants? The way I see it character drives plot.

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: Characters usually form inside my head. I may jot down a few notes but mostly I get a feel for them, who they are, what they want. Then they become more defined in the writing process. My lead character in The Bronx Kill is Danny Baker, a 24 year old man who returns to his hometown, the Bronx, after a self-imposed exile of five years. He is haunted by a sense of guilt and responsibility for the death of his friend. He wants to find the truth about what happened the night of the drowning, but as important is his search to find out the truth about himself, why he did what he did, why he hadn’t acted differently, what more could he have done to save his friend. I knew Danny well enough that I didn’t really have to go outside myself to develop him.

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: The obsessed detective who seeks revenge for his brother’s death came to me as I was writing the story of these friends. He assumed a greater role in my mind, and hence in the story, as I got deeper into the book. He wasn’t there at the start. What characterizes him is his unswerving dedication to seeking justice for his dead brother. He’s ruthless and will use any means necessary to enact his vengeance, which adds considerably to sense of imminent danger in the book.

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

A: As Elmore Leonard said, cut out the boring parts. I try to make each scene absolutely necessary. Each scene jumps the story forward. I use the mood and atmosphere not only of the physical setting but also the interior landscape of the characters’ minds to keep the tension high and unrelenting.

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 use as much specific, physical detail of the place—whether it be a street, a room, a tavern—to create a visual image for the reader. I always have a particular street or room or bar in mind when I write.  I use the quality of light to highlight atmosphere. I make sure I know my settings well. I’ve been there, lived there. I know the place in all seasons, at different times of the day and night, on holidays and work days. I try to capture the feel of a place, not only its physical details.

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: I never start with theme. Theme is something I discover after I’ve written the final word. I concentrate on telling the truest, most convincing story I can tell. Theme will take care of itself. And, yes, themes recur in my work. That’s probably inevitable.

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

A: For me, editing improves my work. Makes it tighter, more focused. I cut out waste, superfluity.

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

A: Perseverance. Showing up at your desk everyday. Continually improving your writing style. Keeping an open, curious mind. (Sorry, that’s four)

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

A: Writing has always brought me pleasure. If it didn’t, I’d stop.

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

A: Taking workshops and going to writers’ conferences have helped me immeasurably.

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

A: Learning the craft of writing is a life-long endeavor. Enjoy the ride.

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

EchoesOfTerrorFrontTitle: Echoes of Terror

Author: Maris Soule

Genre: Mystery

Publisher: Five Star

Websitehttp://marissoule.com 

Find out more on Amazon

The latest release by award-winning novelist Maris Soule, Echoes of Terror is a taut, tense tale about secrets, deadly intentions, and what happens when murder hits way too close to home.   Set against the backdrop of Skagway, Alaska,Echoes of Terror introduces protagonist Katherine Ward, a Skagway police officer who finds herself thrust in extraordinary—and extraordinarily frightening–circumstances when her past, present and future threaten to collide in a most dangerous way.

About Echoes of Terror:  Rural Skagway, Alaska’s small police force is accustomed to an occasional crime–a stolen bike here, a DUI there.  But when a teenager goes missing, the Skagway Police force is hardly prepared, especially with its Police Chief  in the hospital and an officer missing. Officer Katherine Ward is assigned the case, never expecting it to parallel her own kidnapping experience seventeen years earlier.  Soon, Katherine realizes what originally appeared to be the case of a rebellious teen runaway is anything but.  There’s something—or someone—sinister at work in this usually quiet town and a teenager’s life is in danger.

But missing teen Misty Morgan isn’t your average teenage girl:  she’s the daughter of a billionaire.  Misty thought running off with a college boy would get her father’s attention, but now she and another kidnapped teen are praying for their lives at the hands of a ruthless kidnapper. Stuck in China on a business trip, Misty’s father suspected his daughter was up to something and asked his longtime friend, Marine veteran Vince Nanini, to fly to Alaska and stop Misty. Problem is, Vince arrives too late to stop the kidnapping, and the police aren’t eager to let him help find the missing teen.

When Katherine realizes the same man who kidnapped and raped her years ago is the one holding Misty and the other teenager, the terror of those months in captivity resurfaces.  Together, Katherine and Vince must figure out where the kidnapper has taken two teenagers, and fast.  But nothing is at it seems in this race to stop a madman before he kills again. The clock is ticking—and this time, the past is close behind. Dangerously close behind…

Brimming with tension, filled with twists and turns, and resplendent with pulse-quickening suspense that reaches a dramatic and shocking crescendo, Echoes of Terror is a bone-chilling tale that grabs readers and doesn’t let go. Award-winning novelist Maris Soule delivers a briskly paced, masterfully plotted, spine-tinglingly realistic thriller that will leave readers gasping for breath.

According to bestselling novelist Libby Fischer Hellmann, author of the Ellie Foreman mystery series, “The pace and writing will keep you turning pages. And the twist at the end?  I didn’t see if coming. Do yourself a favor and read this thriller now.”

CHAPTER ONE

7:25 a.m. Thursday

“That guy is a frickin’ idiot.”

“Who’s an idiot?”

Brian Bane glanced at the girl sitting next to him before again splitting his attention between the twisting road in front of his Chevy Blazer and the tailgating Ford Explorer. On their right the roadway dropped over a thousand feet. As much as he liked excitement, this Internet-born adventure was not starting out as he’d imagined.

“The guy behind us,” he said, keeping a tight hold on the steering wheel. “He came up out of nowhere. Now he’s all over my ass. Like there’s any way for me to go faster up this grade.”

Misty—or Miss T as she was known on ChatPlace—twisted in her seat to look behind them. Her wild, blonde curls brushed her shoulders, and her mini-skirt showed a teasing view of her inner thigh. “Shit,” she hissed through her teeth.

“What?” Brian said.

“He sent Vince.”

“Who sent Vince?”

“My dad.”

“Your dad?” Brain didn’t like the sound of that. “So who’s Vince?”

“He’s a guy Dad knew in the Marines. He’s supposed to do computer security for my dad’s business, but he keeps acting like he’s my bodyguard. I can’t do a frickin’ thing without him showing up.”

She flopped back against the seat, and crossed her arms over her chest. The fact that her old man had sent someone after her, and the way she was pouting, didn’t bode well. For the first time since he’d picked Misty up in Skagway, Brian wasn’t so certain she was the eighteen years she’d advertised.

“How old are you, Misty? Your real age, I mean.”

She glared at him, and then looked away. “Age is meaningless.”

Meaningless, my ass, he thought. Damn, I’m so screwed. He was about to take an under-aged girl into Canada. No wonder some steroid filled ex-Marine with an over attachment to the boss’s daughter was after him. He’d be lucky if he wasn’t arrested as an International felon.

“Do you think—?”

A thump to the back corner bumper sent the Blazer into a fishtail, and Brian gasped, clinging to the steering wheel as he fought to bring the car back under control. “Jeez, Misty, your dad’s buddy just rammed us.”

“Then step on the gas,” Misty ordered, giving a quick glance behind them. “Outrun him.”

“In this thing?” The old Blazer was tired iron. The first part of the Klondike Highway, from Skagway to White Pass and the Canadian line, was a twisting, turning two-laner that rose from sea level to over three thousand feet. The steep incline was already taxing the engine. They’d be lucky to outrun a snowplow through this stretch.

Again the Explorer rammed into them, this time lurching them straight toward the guardrail as the road turned. Misty yelped and grabbed at the door. Brian swung the wheel. The sensation of the front right fender grating on metal vibrated through the steering column. When they came out of the turn, the Explorer was nearly side by side.

“Your dad’s buddy is nuts! He’s going to kill us.”

“Just go faster!”

“I’m going as fast as I can.”

The powerful Explorer began squeezing them closer to the guardrail. Jaw clenched and muscles taut, Brian struggled to keep his SUV on the pavement. Adrenalin pumped through his body, a bitter taste rising to his throat.

And then his heart nearly stopped.

Just a few hundred feet ahead, the guardrail turned into a twisted, jagged strip of metal that hung limply to the ground. Open air replaced protection. One bump from the Explorer as they passed that broken section of guardrail, and they’d definitely be going over the edge, tumbling down the mountainside.

“That’s it, Babe.”

Brian pulled his foot from the gas and began to brake.

“What are you doing? Don’t slow down!”

“Forget it,” he said in disgust. Man, his friends had been right about this whole hooking up online thing. They’d tried to talk him out of it, but all Brian had been seeing was a summer traveling through Canada with a hot chick. Instead of lots of sex and partying, after this ex-Marine got through with him, he’d be lucky if all of his body parts were intact.

Brian brought the Blazer to a complete stop, his entire body shaking. The Explorer angled in front of him, preventing a forward escape. With a sigh, Brian shifted into park, and then turned toward Misty—the beautiful, sexy Miss T.

The beautiful, sexy, under-aged, Miss T, he mentally corrected. “Wouldn’t you know I’d hook up with jailbait.”

She glared at him. “So it didn’t work out. Stop whining. Vince isn’t going to do anything to you.”

“Oh yeah?” Brian sure hoped that was true. “So, what was this, just a little joy ride for you?”

“What it was is none of your business.” Once again she looked away, out the side window.

Brian stared at her for a second, kicking himself for being such an idiot, then he stepped out of the car. As he looked toward the Explorer, he wondered if he should act angry—after all, Misty had duped him. Or guilty—because he should have known she was under-age.

The other car door began to open, and Brian called out, “Listen, man, I had no idea she was—” He broke off as the man straightened and faced him. He almost laughed when he saw the bear mask . . .

Then he saw the gun.

////////////////////////////////

MarisSoule2015

Acclaimed novelist Maris Soule is a two time RITA finalist who has won numerous awards for her novels over the last three decades. Born and raised in California, Maris majored in art at U.C. Davis and taught art for 8 years before retiring to raise a family. Maris and her husband divide their time between Michigan and Florida. Echoes of Terror is her 30th book.  Visit Maris Soule online at: www.marissoule.com

Read Full Post »

101044HarleyinTuscanyHarley Mazuk was born in Cleveland, and majored in English literature at Hiram College in Ohio, and Elphinstone College, Bombay U. Harley worked as a record salesman (vinyl) and later served the U.S. Government as a computer programmer and in communications, where he honed his writing style as an editor and content provider for official web sites.

Retired now, he likes to write pulp fiction, mostly private eye stories, several of which have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

Harley’s other passions are reading, his wife Anastasia, their two children, peace, running, Italian cars, and California wine.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, White with Fish, Red with Murder. To begin with, can you gives us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?   

A: White with Fish, Red with Murder is the story of private eye Frank Swiver, who accepts an invitation to a wine tasting on a private rail car, and brings along his secretary and lover, Vera Peregrino. They’re two thirds of a love triangle. The host, Frank’s client, General Thursby, wants him to find proof that a friend whose death was ruled accidental was in fact murdered. Thursby suspects Cicilia O’Callaghan, widow of his late friend, an old flame of Frank’s, and the third leg of that triangle. But Thursby takes two slugs through the pump, and the cops arrest Vera for his killing. Frank spends his nights with Cici, and his days trying to find Thursby’s killer and spring Vera. But soon he realizes he must change his way of thinking, or risk losing both women . . . and maybe his life.

I felt compelled to write this story because I had read all of Raymond Chandler’s fiction, and most of Dashiell Hammett’s. I loved it, and I wanted more, even if I had to write it myself. I tried to reproduce the feel of their stories in characters, atmosphere, dialogue, and plot so that readers who liked Hammett and Chandler will feel as much at home with Frank Swiver as they would with Sam Spade or Phillip Marlowe.

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

A: Character, plot, and pace. A good private eye story is not about the eye, but about the characters –the client, the femme fatale, the villain or antagonist. The characters must be believable, well-rounded, and distinct from one another. They must be driven by desires they are powerless to resist. Character is revealed in action. The plot must be credible; it has to be of a certain magnitude to hang a novel on it. And it’s good to have a couple different things going on in the plot. The best way for a writer to conceal a mystery is by interesting the reader in solving some other mystery. Finally, pace. You don’t necessarily have to write a thriller, but it needs to be a page turner. You want the reader to wonder, what happens next. A fourth element, close behind these three, is setting, environment, or a sense of place.

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

A: I’m certainly in favor of knowing where you’re going when you set out. I was working towards a certain ending that I had in mind, but in this novel, the characters revealed to me how to get there and what to do along the way as the book progressed. For example, no one saw the murder, but private eye Frank Swiver questioned the seven suspects present, each of whom had a story, a version of the truth. By studying everyone’s comings and goings, their desires, and their versions of the truth, Frank gathered the clues he needed to put the whole mystery together. By following along with Frank, I learned what I needed to know to write my way to the ending.

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: Because of his experiences in the Spanish Civil War, Frank Swiver is a pacifist, unusual in the tough, fists and blackjacks world of private eyes. He was a conscientious objector during WW II. As it happens, I was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, so I didn’t need to interview Frank. We shared the same values.

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: The villain goes back to some of the most basic ideas I learned reading Edgar Allan Poe’s first detective story, and to the idea of the duality of human nature. In some ways the antagonist is the opposite of the protagonist, Frank. He’s the animalistic side of Frank’s nature, and the dark side.

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

A: Well, Raymond Chandler says, “When in doubt, have two guys come through the door with guns.” I didn’t do that, but I kept the spirit of this excellent advice in mind. Consider variations on that theme—even a car chase, for instance. Also, I try to think of my book as a series of dramatic scenes that will tell the story. A novel’s a big piece of work, so it helps me to get my arms around it by breaking it down into scenes. I think, how will I move the plot along in this scene? How will I reveal character?

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: What I tried to do in White with Fish was create a story world–a noir-ish version of 1948 San Francisco. I used descriptions of specific locations and objects, details, and stylized dialogue to give the novel verisimilitude, and try to give the book the feel of a more human, less technological world than the one we live in.

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: Themes! Ah! I think I have a sense of the themes of my work inside my subconscious when I start writing. But I can only articulate the themes after the first draft is complete. Some of the themes in my writing have been recurring—non-violence, the duality of human nature, the breakdown of civil order, and classic noir themes, like love, lust, greed, lying dames, violence, double-crosses, and murder.

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

A: I for one, can’t imagine always hitting the mark on the first or only creative thrust. I believe editing and revision are a part of art, maybe 60 percent or more. Just don’t throw out what is good and true and right about that initial draft when you’re editing. Fix the structure to support the plot and the theme; develop and strengthen what is good and what could be better, and cut what doesn’t work so well.

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

A: Perseverance is necessary. This is especially true in marketing your manuscripts—pitching your novel to an agent or a publisher, or submitting shorter fiction to the right journal or magazine. Nearly 35 publishers declined my novelette, “Pearl’s Valley.” But it will be released as a standalone book in April by Dark Passages [ https://darkpassagespublishing.com/ ]

Discipline—To me, discipline means to write every day. The surest way to improve your skills and grow as a writer is to write. Write every day. If you write 500 words a day—a page and a half—you’ll have a first draft of a novel faster than you ever expected.

Creativity—Creativity is the fun part of making a successful novelist. You can start with the tropes of your subgenre—like I use tropes from hard-boiled fiction and from noir fiction. But you take them and make them your own—that’s the creativity part.

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

A: I don’t know. As another person (who should be famous), said, “If you’re doing what you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” Though I may have dreaded homework when I was in school, I love my writing, now, and I think I will for the rest of my life.

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

A: You should keep a handful of reference books, such as Strunk and White and a dictionary on hand. Stephen King On Writing tells you everything else you need to know to write good narrative prose, and it’s a good example of the craft, presented in a fun, entertaining style. I also use Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction, and Ursula LeGuin’s Steering the Craft when I need examples of different techniques, such as third person limited omniscience point of view. I’ve taken online writing classes from Stanford that have been excellent, and I’ve participated in classroom workshops at a place in Bethesda, Maryland called the Writer’s Center. If you’re a genre writer, like me, consider joining a group of like-minded writers for different kinds of support. For example, I’m in Private Eye Writers of America, and in the local chapter of Mystery Writers of America.

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

A: Well, classes and workshops can be great and can give you a good foundation in the craft. But I truly believe there are two keys to being a writer. 1.) Read good writing. Reading is learning to write by osmosis. See how the great writers tackled a particular problem, or learn how contemporary writers in your genre handle a specific sort of scene. And 2.) write. Everything you write is practice and experience. There will be good stuff even in your earliest writing that you can build upon.

I’m always happy to help if I can, and I’d enjoy hearing from other writers, and my readers. Harley.c.mazuk@gmail.com

 

Harley Mazuk [http://www.harleymazuk.com/] is a mystery writer living in Maryland. His first novel, White with Fish, Red with Murder [http://www.drivenpress.net/white-with-fish-red-with-murder] is out now, from Driven Press. [http://www.drivenpress.net/]

Read Full Post »

wjs_0354For more than 30 years, Jim Nesbitt roved the American Outback as a correspondent for newspapers and wire services in Alabama, Florida, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Washington, D.C. He chased hurricanes, earthquakes, plane wrecks, presidential candidates, wildfires, rodeo cowboys, ranchers, miners, loggers, farmers, migrant field hands, doctors, neo-Nazis and nuns with an eye for the telling detail and an ear for the voice of the people who give life to a story. He is a lapsed horseman, pilot, hunter and saloon sport with a keen appreciation for old guns, vintage cars and trucks, good cigars, aged whiskey and a well-told story. He now lives in Athens, Alabama.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, The Right Wrong Number. 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 Right Wrong Number is a hard-boiled tale of revenge and redemption set in Texas and northern Mexico. It’s more of a thriller than a whodunit and features Ed Earl Burch, a cashiered Dallas homicide detective eking out a living as a private eye. He’s an ex-jock gone to seed, a guy who’s been smacked around by life and has the bad knees, wounded liver and empty bank account to prove it. In this story, he’s been hired to protect an old flame threatened by the partners ripped off by her husband, a high-flying Houston financial consultant who has disappeared. These partners include some mobsters from New Orleans who send a pair of hitmen to get back their money, drugs and jewels and kill anybody involved in the score. Ed Earl finds himself locked in a deadly contest where nobody can be trusted and he’s tempted to forget his own rules by the money and sex offered up by the old flame, who has a lethal knack for larceny and betrayal. When his best friend is killed in Dallas by hired muscle, Ed Earl blames himself and sets out for revenge that winds up being a bloody form of redemption.

edearl56-300dpi-3125x4167My primary motivation is the desire to write well-told, hard-boiled crime fiction. I’ve always regarded hard-boiled or noir stories and movies as a particularly American art form. And when you read the novels of Hammett, Chandler and more contemporary writers like James Ellroy, James Lee Burke and the late, great James Crumley, the stories are so much more than a whodunit. They’re commentaries on politics, crime, art, sex, culture, music and the time and place of the stories being told. That’s the kind of hard-boiled fiction I wanted to write. Still do.

Q: What do you think makes a good hard-boiled crime thriller? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A: Crackling dialogue, rich and detailed narrative that gives the reader a vivid sense of time and place and lots of action. To me, plot takes a back seat to those three elements, although I know a lot of damn good writers will forcefully reject this notion.

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

A:  I didn’t do a detailed plot, more of a skeletal outline that gave me a general notion of where I wanted to go and where I wanted to wind up. But I also wanted to make sure I had enough freedom to let the characters and action take me where they wanted to go. If you’re strait-jacketed by an intricate plot, you might miss some marvelous surprises along the way. That said, you always have to make sure those surprises serve your story. If they don’t, kill them off and look at that rough outline again.

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: I didn’t do any character interviews or sketches, but I did a lot of thinking about who this guy is, what he’s experienced in life, what he’s done as a result of those experiences and how to make him utterly human. I wanted him to be strong, flawed, reckless, cagey and cynical, a guy who has a code he sometimes forgets to live by but returns to under pressure. I didn’t want him to be a Spade or a Marlowe—I wanted him to be more angst-ridden and tortured than those guys.

Ed Earl’s a bit of an Everyman who’s been smacked around by life. He’s fatally attracted to women ready, willing and able to drive a stake through his heart. He’s also a little slow on the uptake, but not dumb. He’s dogged rather than brilliant. And he sure isn’t supercool like Frank Bullitt—he’s the polar opposite of that. He’s Columbo without the caricature—people he goes up against underestimate him and he makes them pay for that mistake. Sometimes with a bullet.

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: I learned a hard lesson from my first novel, The Last Second Chance, when I made the main villain way too over the top, haunted by visions of Aztec heart sacrifice and nightmares of flying serpent demons. I tried not to make that same mistake with the two villains in this book—the old flame and her fugitive husband. They’re smart, remorseless predators. She’s got a violent temper and a relentless sex drive; he’s an utterly cold and charming sociopath who just knows he’s the smartest guy in any room he walks into. They aren’t haunted by otherworldly demons—the devils that drive them come from good old-fashioned human evil.

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

A: There’s a great Raymond Chandler line in response to a question about solving plot dilemmas—something like: “I just have somebody open the door and walk into the room with a gun in their hand.” Not a bad rule of thumb for keeping your narrative exciting. Chandler wasn’t a stickler for plot—his novels are driven by snappy dialogue, rich narrative and sudden and surprising action. I keep that in mind when writing my novels, not that I’m anywhere near the same galaxy as his talent. There’s something else I learned the hard way by reading Chandler and other great writers—everything they write is in service of the story they’re trying to tell. If it isn’t, kill it. You can see this discipline even in the wretched excess or wild tangents of a James Ellroy or Hunter S. Thompson. My books are pretty graphic—they aren’t for the Sunday school crowd. I’m frank in my descriptions about sex and violence because I think using euphemisms insults the reader and doesn’t serve the story I’m trying to tell. The characters in my books aren’t nice people. Even my main character, Ed Earl Burch, is profane, violent and reckless, with a mean streak a mile wide. These folks can be flat nasty whether they’re killing somebody or having sex with them. That’s who they are, so that’s how I tell it. You may not like them, but they won’t put you to sleep.

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: You’re preaching to the choir on this one. I believe the setting of a novel IS a character unto itself. You should use rich, detailed descriptions to give readers a vivid sense of time and place and give your characters a compelling landscape for what they say and do. How they react to and interact with that landscape gives depth and authenticity to your story. Too many writers don’t bother to do this and their story reads like a cardboard cutout. As for the tools of the trade that get you where you need to go, nothing beats being there. Nothing beats walking the ground, as the Brits would say. My latest novel takes you from Dallas to Houston and New Orleans and winds up in the stark, arid beauty of the Texas Big Bend country and northern Mexico. I lived in Dallas in the mid-to-late 1980s and knocked around Houston, New Orleans and West Texas and northern Mexico as a roving correspondent in the early-to-mid 1990s, which is the timeframe for this book. If you can’t walk the ground, you do the next best thing: research. You read about the places you put in your story and the time you’re trying to portray. Find historians who know that time and place and talk to them, get their recommendations on what you should read. Find friends who have lived there and talk to them. That’s what I did to give me a deeper understanding that added strength and authenticity to my writing.

Q: Did you know the themes of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Are these themes recurrent in your other work?

A: Only in the subconscious sense when I wrote the first one because I was so focused on the specifics of character backstory and motivation and was having a helluva good time seeing where these guys would next take the story. I started out with a couple of simple rules about Ed Earl — he doesn’t get the girl, he survives but winds up a little more battered physically and spiritually, he reclaims a bit of his life by remembering his code and returning to it. But I really didn’t think about the overarching themes of my books until an old Houston friend who loves Ed Earl penned a review of The Last Second Chance and shot me a note that said: “Your book is about revenge and redemption.” So is The Right Wrong Number in an equally subconscious way. Not surprising since I grew up Baptist but like to think of myself as more of an Old Testament kind of guy.

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

A: The raucous laughter and hoots you’re hearing right now come from all the editors I left bloody when I was a word-proud journalist too enamored with his own turns of phrase. I’m a little older and wiser now—and far less pig-headed. That doesn’t mean I meekly allow any editor to take a chainsaw to my work because I still believe bad editing can kill creativity while great editing can make it shine. It’s the difference between that chainsaw and a surgeon’s scalpel. As to where craft ends and art begins, I think about that question quite a bit but I’m not sure I have an easy answer. I do know that too many writers rely on artifice and obedience to the conventions and templates of their chosen genre and too many editors try to force writers into those cubbyholes. I think good writers learn about those conventions and master that template, then turn them on their ear and use what works best to tell the story they want to tell. You have to be brave enough to chuck the rules and let the story fly but smart enough to know if you’re taking a flight to nowhere.

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

A: Storytelling talent, ego and dogged persistence.

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

A: I think writing is a cruel mistress who gives me no choice but to obey her.

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

A: I think the best thing a writer can do is keep reading good writers, keep talking with other good writers to learn and get better and keep that butt in the chair to write that next story.

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

A: There’s no silver bullet. You hone your craft by doing it and reading the work of great writers.

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

tom-carter-photo

Bestselling author Tom Carter is a longtime Nashville who lives with his wife, Janie, a few miles from Nashville’s legendary Music Row.

Connect with the author on the Web:

http://www.authortomcarter.com/

https://www.facebook.com/authortomcarter

https://www.instagram.com/authortomcarter/

 

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Nashville:

Music & Murder.  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 book is scheduled for release on February 7, 2017.  It’s

a murder mystery set in Nashville, Tennessee, the home of recorded

country music.  In part, I wrote the book due to the popularity

of country music, as 107 million Americans now listen to that

genre of music once daily, according to the Country Music

Association.

 

Q: What do you think makes a good mystery book?  Could you       

narrow it down to the three most important elements?  Is it even

possible to narrow it down?

 

A: Try to make each page magnetic.

 

cover-low-resQ: How did you go about plotting your story?  Or did you discover

it as you worked on the book?

 

A: I discovered it as I worked on the book.

 

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 writing.

 

A: My protagonist is an insecure and neurotic celebrity whose

popularity is dwindling.  I’ve met many such folks in Nashville,

Tennessee, my home.

 

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: I won’t identify the antagonist.  That would spoil the

mystery.

 

 

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel?

 

A: I did not reveal the villain’s identity.  But, on many

occasions, I almost did.

 

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: The setting is “Music Row,” that part of Nashville, Tennessee

where the production of country music lies inside recording

studios, celebrities’ offices, and music publishing houses.  I

used to live on Music Row among its people.  I still visit that

neighborhood and its people regularly.

 

Q:  Did you know the themes(s) of your novel from the start or it

this something you discovered after completing the first draft? 

Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

 

A: I did not know the theme of my novel until I’d written most of

  1. This theme is not recurrent in my previous books. Those

books were mostly non-fiction.

 

Q: Where does craft end and art begin?  Do you think editing can

destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

 

A: I don’t know where the craft ends or art begins.  To me,

masterful crafting IS an art.  Editing didn’t destroy my creative

thrust.  I allowed only copy editing, nothing else.

 

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

novelist?

 

A:  A vivid imagination, daily writing, and promotion.

 

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having

to do homework for the rest of your life.  Thoughts?

 

A: I agree with that statement as long as the writer writes.  If

he retires from writing, he’ll hopefully return to spare time and

what to do with it.  I’ve been writing professionally for 47

years.  I still write daily.

 

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft

that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

 

A: I earned a five-year, Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism.  I

learned more about writing in one week while working at a daily

newspaper and by reading other newspapers and novels.  I found

that workshops or sites are largely inhabited by failed or

inferior writers who want to sponge from other failed souls.  To

me, those venues are friendly but inefficient.

 

Read Full Post »

The people at the Parliament House, a gay resort complex in Orlando, Florida, highly influenced the writing in Naked Alliances. The complex has seven bars with different themes, a full service restaurant, hotel suites, a pool, and the Footlight Theater. My husband and I attend the comedy shows and performances at the theater. My characters, both the private investigator and his sidekick, an exotic dancer, were developed based on personalities we had met at the complex. The community service by the Parliament House after the Pulse Shooting was highly commendable.

I had been writing deep, philosophical, dark novels and was falling into a funk. My husband, who reads two or three crime novels weekly, and had turned me onto some amusing Florida regional crime fiction authors, challenged me to write something lighter. Naked Alliances is a crime thriller with a humorous edge that falls on the spectrum somewhere between the work of Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard.

My family owns and operates one of the oldest and largest nudist resorts in the country, Cypress Cove, so it was a given that a fictional nudist resort would need to be worked into the settings of the Naked Eye Series, a collection of private investigator stories.  No chance of having someone carry a concealed weapon there! Having lived at the resort for six years, I developed a deep understanding of the lifestyle choice and how it is extremely different from the sex industry, yet harbors clandestine elements of intrigue and fascination.

Social issues are at the forefront of all of my writing. A former sexual assault nurse examiner (S.A.N.E.), I have a special interest in the subject matter of sex-trafficking, and have seen, up close and personal, the horrendous nature of the crime and its effects on the lives of the victims and their families.

Sex-trafficking is a heinous crime that occurs in all areas of the world, but frequently gets swept under the rug. There is somewhat of a misconception that it does not occur in our own communities, rural and urban, but it is a serious problem. I wanted to bring this crime to light in my story and interviewed many victims to obtain a realistic view of the nature of the crime. Yet, it was my desire to soften the harshness of the reality with a humorous approach.

The cold case in this dual plot thriller, actually came about as curiosity on how evidence collected at the scene of a crime can, after many years, point in an entirely different direction from that previously expected. A medical examiner in my area, Dr. Jan Garavaglia (Dr. G.) and forensics specialists I have come to know through social media, contributed to the resolution of the case.

My husband, Greg, a rocket scientist, has been super supportive throughout the process of writing Naked Alliances, as have many blogger and author friends, and my community at large.

///////////////////////////////////

nakedalliances_jpeg1

Title: NAKED ALLIANCES

Genre: Mystery

Author: S.K. Nicholls

Website:  www.sknicholls.com

Publisher: Brave Blue Heron Books

Purchase on Amazon

About the Book: In Naked Alliances, novelist S.K. Nicholls takes readers on a witty, wild, wickedly fun romp that exposes a side of Orlando tourists rarely see. The debut release in The Naked Eye Private Investigator Series, Naked Alliances introduces lone wolf P.I. Richard Noggin.

 When a young immigrant woman and an exotic dancer are forced to flee men with guns and have no place to hide, Richard Noggin, P.I., can’t turn his back—even if helping out makes him a target. Richard plans to impress an aspiring politician by taking on a big white-collar case that could take him from the streets to an air-conditioned office. Instead, he’s handed a cold case and quickly finds himself sucked into a shadowy world of sex, secrets and…murder. Marked for a bullet and stretched thin by his investigations, Richard reluctantly teams up with the unlikely, brassy custodian of the young woman on the run. With bodies piling up, Richard and his companion are forced to go undercover in a most unlikely locale: the Leisure Lagoon, a nudist resort.  Going undercover in this instance will mean going uncovered…but lives are at stake—and this Naked Eye will have to juggle to keep his balls in the air and connect the dots before anyone else is murdered. As his pulse-quickening quest for answers leads from the dark corners of Orlando’s Little Saigon to the sunny exposure of the Leisure Lagoon, Richard will be put to the test. Just how much will this Naked Eye have to bear…or bare? The heat is on in this quirky Sunshine State crime thriller.

soft_dsc4762b1

About the Author: S.K. Nicholls’ family owns and operates one of the oldest and largest nudist resorts in the nation located in Central Florida, Cypress Cove. Her experience gives her a deep understanding of the lifestyle choice and how it is extremely different from the sex industry, yet harbors clandestine elements of intrigue and fascination. Social issues are at the forefront of her writing. A former sexual assault nurse examiner, she has a special interest in the subject matter of sex-trafficking. A native of Georgia, she lives in Orlando, Florida with her husband, Greg.

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

Read Full Post »

soft_dsc4762bS.K. Nicholls is a crime romp novelist that lives in Central Florida where her family has owned and operated Cypress Cove, a nudist resort, since 1964. A Registered Nurse and former Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, (S.A.N.E.), she has a special interest in sex-trafficking. Social issues are at the forefront of her writing that is always blended with humor. When she’s not writing, she can be found tracking down Snorlaxes, wandering city parks with the homeless, or sipping margaritas on the bow of a boat. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Florida Writer’s Association and Writers of Central Florida…or Thereabouts.

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

A: Naked Alliances is the first book in the Naked Eye Series. It’s a 74,000 word crime romp set in the seedier side of Orlando that the amusement park industry tries to hide from public view.

In it, a lone wolf private investigator reluctantly goes undercover in a nudist resort and teams up with the unlikely custodian of a girl on the run to solve a cold case and bring down the mastermind of a sex trafficking ring. No possibility of encountering a concealed weapon there! With bodies piling up, Richard juggles both cases and works hard to keep his balls in the air. As his pulse-quickening quest for answers leads from the dark corners of Orlando’s Little Saigon to the sunny exposure of the Leisure Lagoon, Richard will be put to the test. Just how much will this Naked Eye have to bear…or bare?

I love to read books by Tim Dorsey, Carl Hiaasen, Tim Baker, and Randy Wayne White. I like the local Florida history woven into their work along with the humorous approach to crime fiction. I had been writing dark fiction for a while and my husband challenged me to write something with a humorous edge, lighter reading, and more softcore. I’m crazy about Chablis in John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. We attend the comedy shows at the Parliament House here in Orlando. It’s a great gay resort and home of the Footlight Theater. Characters and plot started forming in my head and Naked Alliances was born.

nakedalliances_jpeg

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

A: Readers must be entertained and held in suspense.

  • Grab them with a hook in the first chapter that’s filled with action and interesting.
  • Use comic relief to temper the suspense and pace the reading.
  • Characters must have agency. The characters must drive the plot, rather than the plot driving the characters. In the words of Chuck Wendig, “Character agency is, to me, a demonstration of the character’s ability to make decisions and affect the story. This character has motivations all her own. She is active more than she is reactive. She pushes on the plot more than the plot pushes on her. Even better, the plot exists as a direct result of the character’s actions. The story exists because of the character. The character does not exist because of the story.”

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

A: I started out with the story in my head and began writing in a word doc. With mystery and suspense, there are so many elements that must be gradually revealed. I was scribbling notes on anything I could write on, making mind maps and schematics. The characters took over and started doing their own thing. I quickly moved into Scrivener to outline and stay organized. I love how you can set up a binder where you can easily move between chapters, keep your outline on index cards in the top right corner of your writing screen, and manage all the finite details of your writing process like word counts and targets. Adding the photographic images of famous people as my characters to refer to in profiles was fun, too. It’s a mild learning curve to use it effectively, but once you get it down, you’ll never go back to writing any other way.

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: As mentioned above, character development is key to success. I go all out with character sketches separate from my manuscript and drop their histories into the novels in bits and pieces, gradually revealing details. Naked Alliances has dual protagonists, and each had to have their own background, their own stories, their own struggles and challenges.

Richard Noggin, P.I. is a gambling man, a loner, and somewhat reserved, but open-minded. His family life was strained, and his sister went missing in his childhood. Brandi is an exotic dancer at the Parliament House, a gay resort complex. She was formerly an E.O.D. Specialist in the Army and had a brief stint as a cop that didn’t turn out too well. She’s transgendered, biracial, and has developed a morbid fear of guns.

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: Being a dual plot thriller, there is also more than one antagonist. Several people die, and several are abducted. I can’t tell you who the murderers and villains are, but I can say they also had histories and their conflicts are intertwined in the story. They have their every-day-lives that keep them real.

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

A: Comic relief helps break the tension when instituted at the right time. It also helps with pacing to take a break from the suspense, letting both the characters and the reader breathe, then pick the story back up. When writing an action-packed thriller, these moments of reprieve can be those times when you dribble in back story, drop in some history of your characters, and build your ancillary character’s background. You don’t want any character coming across as cookie-cutter. They all need their own stories. Narrative builds to support a plot.

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: Florida is notorious for its zany “Florida Man” and “Florida Woman” stories. In a crime novel people are not as interested in setting as they would be for, say, a fantasy novel. Readers are cued to examine plot elements. However, the setting in any story creates the flavor of the book. My writing is regional specific and reality based. I try to add as much actual description of places as I can without distracting from the plot. Weaving in historical information is also a way to keep the narrative interesting and describe setting.

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: Social issues are at the forefront of all of my writing, whether I am writing historical fiction with tons of research, or quirky crime novels. Racism, prejudice against people who are different from us, phobias, substance abuse/addiction, and mental illness will always be a part of my work. I have these things in my mind before I ever begin to write anything down on paper about characters or plot. In Naked Alliances, sex-trafficking, a horrendous crime that exists in all communities whether urban or rural, is examined as part of the ongoing theme in the Naked Eye series. That thread begins with book one, but will return in subsequent books, laying the fabric for the series. A theme of crazy characters who do outrageous things also underpins Florida regional fiction. Honor, loyalty, justice, revenge and other underlying themes are usually not revealed until the work is complete.

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

A: Art is the unique spin put on your work. Craft is the skill with which you can pull off that spin. Especially in writing crime novels, craft can be learned. There are wonderful crime novel craft book writers, like Larry Brooks, who can have anyone writing the next best-seller. The art of writing is something that I feel is inherent. It comes from the soul you are born with, and some people have it and some people don’t. It’s a gift of the right brain. Craft work is left brain stuff.

Can editing destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

Yes, and no.

I edit as I go, but still require professional editing when I’m done. I have beta readers (advanced copy readers) who tell me if and when things don’t quite seem cohesive, or when I’m doing a really fantastic job. These are early readers who are privy to my worst faults. Hearing negative feedback can make you want to shelve your idea and quit, but you can’t do that. You have to suck it up and tell yourself, “These are my readers. This is my audience.” But be careful that you’re not hearing just one person’s opinion. I look for consistency in complaint among my beta readers. If everybody says a fight scene isn’t working because of this and that, I know I need to reexamine, but if only one person had issue with it…it’s probably their perspective. Once that beta reading and those edits are completed, I still send the work to a professional editor.

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

A: I can’t give you three things, only one. Ask yourself one question, “Am I enjoying what I am doing?” If the answer is, “No,” do something else. Life is short. Work is a four letter word. If you’re enjoying it, it’s not work. When you get to the point where you’re not working any longer, you’re successful.

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

A: I would have been a professional student if there had been anyone willing to pay me to be one for the rest of my life. I love research as much as I love writing. Learning is the only way to stay alive.

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

A: I’m a member of Sisters in Crime, Florida Writer’s Association and my local critique group, Writers of Central Florida…or Thereabouts. Writer’s Associations are wonderful ways to network and get in touch with agents, acquisitions editors, copyeditors, fans…networking, in general.

A local writer’s critique group can also offer the practice and encouragement you need to persevere in the worst of times. My local group offers writing prompts for short stories, which we read aloud in a public venue, as well as one-on-one critiques of our written work, helping members over the rough places.

I also attend Sleuthfest in Boca Raton yearly in February. It’s sponsored by Mystery Writers of America and offers both a wonderful opportunity for networking and a fabulous opportunity to attend workshops on the craft covering a variety of topics with both expert panelists and best-selling authors sharing tips and tricks.

Larry Brooks, is the USA Today bestselling author of ten books, including six psychological thrillers (novels he calls “relationship thrillers”), and three #1 bestselling writing craft books, published by Writers Digest Books.

He is the creator of the popular fiction writing website, http://www.storyfix.com/. He has a method for writing suspense that I am studying, and I have read and been highly impressed by the work of some of his students, like crime writer Sue Coletta author of Wings of Mayhem. He has mastered tension building and suspense, and she has absorbed every ounce of what he teaches.

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

A: If you are a writer, never give up. If you are a reader, tell us what you think when you’ve read our work. I read all reviews personally so that I may continually write what people are wanting to read. Naked Alliances is Book One in the Naked Eye Series, your feedback is crucial. And thank you for your support. Peace, and keep the faith.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: