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Two Graves Cover MEDIUM WEB.jpgTitle: Two Graves (Retribution Series #1)

Author: Zoe Kalo

Genre: Dark Psychological Suspense

Audience: New Adult/Adult

Word count: 18,000 words – 70 pages (short novella)

Launch date: October 1st 2016

Purchase on Kindle

About the Book

A Dante-ish descent through a sinister world of decadent shadows and woeful souls…

Seven years ago, he shattered her life. The town eventually forgot the headlines and the nightmares. But 23-year old music student Angelica hasn’t forgotten.

For the past seven years, she’s contemplated payback with as much intensity and unwavering faith as she puts into her violin playing. Finally, all the pieces are in place. Over the course of one night, disguised for a masquerade ball, Angelica orchestrates a journey of revenge.

Chapter 1

Present.

Mask in hand, I walked to the living room and looked at the bleak January sky through the balcony glass doors. I glanced at my watch. Only five. But it was almost dark. The forecast had promised snow. A setback. But, in the end, it wouldn’t matter.

I lifted the Venetian mask to my face—the Colombina, or so said the booklet that came with the box—and stared at my reflection in the darkening glass. The mask was gilded and ornamented over the cheeks and around the eyes, its edges embroidered in gold, and it covered half my face. It was mysterious yet inconspicuous. Perfect for anonymity. The tiny iridescent rhinestones, like a breath of crushed diamonds, went well with my red gown.

“Want to know my recipe for courage?” I said, barely above a whisper. “Welcome death. When you welcome death, there’s nothing to lose. When there’s nothing to lose, there’s no fear.”

All the female performers in the orchestra had to wear red tonight. The mask was for the after-concert, fundraising masquerade bash being held to benefit teenage mothers.

I lowered the mask and stared at my real face. But not really. For the past three years I had dyed my blond hair black. My eyes were blue under my dark brown contact lenses. I had even changed my name. A mask under a mask. Did the real me still exist under the layers?

I put the mask into the duffel bag. I picked up the gun and weighed it in my hand. It had been hard to get. I tucked it under a strap around my upper thigh. Good thing my gown had a slit.

Five minutes later, I was ready to go. Bag zipped, violin case in hand, my body covered in wool—long flowing coat, hat, scarf, gloves—in an attempt to obliterate the cold that never left me.

After seven years, revenge had become my soulmate. Being in its arms brought me peace. We could read each other’s thoughts and feel each other’s pain.

I stepped out of my apartment and headed toward the underground parking.

Tonight.

***

Mozart’s “Requiem” coursed through my veins. I played, eyes closed, in total surrender. Music was my opium, the only other thing that kept me functional. But this particular piece, especially the opening movement, with its seductive crescendo, then its plunging, enveloping darkness, embraced me like the wings of a fallen angel. Black feathers velvety against my flesh. Wisp of frigid breath on my cheek like sharp little teeth. Please, take me down.

For an instant, the thought of tonight electrified me. My eyes flew open and I crashed to the present. The concert hall came alive with razor-sharp clarity: rows of toy-like musicians—Kens in tuxedos, Barbies in princess gowns—the chorus like radiant seraphs, the audience, the cream of Baltimore, rapt and fascinated as if we weren’t musicians but magicians. My vision narrowed to the guest conductor, the Maestro. Salt and pepper hair swept back, parted in the middle, thick and softly curving at the shoulder, a masculine mane that didn’t quite match his pale, delicate fingers. The other day, after rehearsal, I had passed by him as he leaned forward to get some sheets of music from his attaché case. From the corner of my eye, heart tight shut, I’d looked at his hands, knuckles so soft they weren’t there at all, nails as glossy and immaculate as if he washed them in holy water.

Clapping thundered. I rose with the rest of the orchestra and we bowed in unison. The Maestro raised his arms toward us, beaming with pride like a shepherd to his flock.

I glanced at my watch. Past eight thirty.

A feeling of euphoria permeated the air. But no one talked to me as I walked backstage to put my violin in its case. No one asked if I was going to the ball. Eventually they had stopped asking me out—a coffee here, a drink there—and left me alone. It’s not that I didn’t like people. I had nothing against them. I just wasn’t able to talk without their faces blurring, blending with the surroundings, and without my soul floating out of my body leaving me struggling to reel it back in.

I slipped into my coat and wound my scarf around my neck.

“Hey, Angelica,” someone said. “Great show, huh? You going to the party?”

I turned and my heart beat a quick staccato.

Melanie, viola player. She was in my composition and musical theory classes. Always polite, the type of kind-hearted person who wants to be liked and who wants to save the world. Once, outside the conservatory, she’d asked me to hold a kitten for her. She’d found it abandoned on the school grounds and needed someone to keep it while she went to get some papers from her professor. She put in in my hands before I was able to say a word. Holding something so weightless and fragile—two, three weeks old?—had left me trembling. After she came back for it, I had to run to the nearest bathroom and vomit my lunch, my hands gripping the toilet seat.

It took me a second or two to answer. “Yes. I’m going.”

Her eyes widened. “I’m glad! I guess I’ll see you there then.” She was gone in a second, arm hooked with one of the oboe players.

I left my violin case in the well-guarded “green room,” took my mask, and joined the throngs of people as they exited the concert hall toward the ballroom through a glass tunnel that traversed the gardens. Snow flurries pirouetted in the wind, shimmering blue under Victorian lampposts. The concert hall and the ballroom were part of the palatial estate of Richard Pierrepont, an eccentric billionaire aristocrat turned patron of the arts. I’d never met him until tonight when he gave his pre-concert welcoming speech, though I’d seen his photo—embracing the Maestro—in the papers months ago when the fundraising was announced.

Some of the people were putting on their masks as they walked and I did, too. Through the trees and ice sculptures that decorated the gardens, I squinted at an intricate series of tall hedges in concentric circles, part of a three-dimensional maze meant to confuse people, or so the paper said. Apparently, Pierrepont was a Dante fan and had built the maze depicting the Nine Circles of Hell. Fitting. Ironic.

I searched for the Maestro over the heads of the people, and for a terrible instant thought I’d lost him. But no, there he was. His salt and pepper mane stood out, the way it fell back, full and gently curling at the ends. As he approached the entrance to the ballroom, he put on his mask. He turned inside and glanced over his shoulder at the crowd—at the crowd, not at me—and I saw it fully. The Colombina, gilded and ornamented like mine, but black.

Something ugly and bilious flipped at the back of my throat. I was struck with an incomprehensible sensation, as if I were staring at my own reflection as I had done earlier in the darkening glass doors at my apartment. I looked away and took a gulp of air to keep from retching. All it took was one thought, one moment of inattention, for my stomach to erupt. I pressed my hand to my stomach. Stay. Like a dog, yes.

A hand touched my elbow. “You okay?” asked a manly voice, soft, deep.

His mask covered half his face and revealed a pair of full, sensuous lips slightly tinted purple from wine. He held a medieval-looking glass in his hand.

“I’m fine,” I said. I’m fine.

“You sure? You want to sit down?”

I shook my head, murmured thanks, and drifted away from him like a ghost.

The ballroom was all red and gold and crystal chandeliers and mirrors. And candles, lots and lots of candles. A dramatic Russian waltz drifted out from hidden speakers. I moved slowly through the crowd and lingered by one of the buffet tables. A disguised waiter passed by with a tray of champagne flutes and wine goblets and I reached for a flute. Not that I was going to drink, but I needed something in my hands. From the corner of my eye, I spotted him across the room by the grand staircase. He had taken his mask off and was chatting with a small group of people, a goblet of wine in his hand. Master of disguise, his body language intimate, head leaning in slightly—I listen to what you’re saying—arms and shoulders relaxed—I’m enjoying your company—head nodding—I’m empathetic…human. They didn’t know him at all. No, no. They couldn’t. If they did, they would be running away.

As I kept my attention on him, I glanced at my champagne flute, feigning interest. Crystal on top, pewter at the stem and base, decorated with complex Celtic-looking knot work—upon a closer look, snakes intertwined with a sword and black roses. Maybe a family crest.

I moved furtively to the other side of the room, through the laughter and the chatter, and caught my reflection in one of the mirrors. There were so many mirrors and so many women in red that for a moment my vision fragmented and they all seemed a reflection of me.

And then Melanie was next to me, clammy hand on my arm. “I’m feeling a little sick,” she said. “Can you take me to the bathroom?”

“Er…” I was taken by surprise. I was wearing my mask, she wasn’t. Did she know who I was?

“Where’s your boyfriend?” I asked, referring to the oboe player, though I wasn’t sure if they were serious. They often hung out together around school.

She grabbed me tighter and gave me a ferocious roll of the eyes. She was always so nice, her reaction was refreshing. Everyone has the capacity for rage. Her eyes widened and she stared at me, her cheeks flushed. “Angelica?” She looked like she was having trouble keeping her balance.

Leaving the ballroom was not in the plan, but I said, “Where’s the bathroom?”

We had to ask one of the waiters—Go that way and through that door, ladies.

My eyes darted to the Maestro. He was speaking with a different group of people. I tried to control the wild tightness in my stomach and move normally. Her hand gripped my arm. Melanie was leading me, instead of the other way around.

Together we found the Roman masterpiece of a bathroom. Gold fixtures, glass and marble, mosaics. Cool as a mausoleum. Above us, a domed fresco displayed—what? Dionysus? The Bacchanalia? I glanced away, vaguely repulsed.

Melanie threw her mask on the floor and rushed to one of the toilets. I shut my eyes at the retching and purging, but stepped closer. In her haste, she hadn’t had the opportunity to shut the door.

“Are you okay?” I asked through the crack.

She was muttering curses at her boyfriend. “Oh crap, the dress! Oh, man. Now I’ll have to pay for dry cleaning.”

“Are you okay?” I asked again. I picked up her mask, a flamboyant concoction of white and red feathers; two or three were cracked and fell at odd angles, like broken wings.

A moment later she came out with a pale face and a stain on her dress. “Sorry,” she mumbled, avoiding my eyes. She rushed to the sink and leaned forward to wash the stain.

How had she gotten drunk so quickly? Maybe she was one of those people who couldn’t hold liquor. I placed the mask gingerly by her side.

“Thanks.” She glanced at me through the mirror and her lips curled in a curious half smile. “You must really like your mask.”

I forced my hands to the back of my head and reluctantly unlaced the ribbons. I felt as if I were ripping the flesh from my face. I weighed my mask in my hands, the weight of seven years.

To my surprise, she started crying, her hands flat on the marble top, her bowed head veiled by feral reddish curls.

I didn’t move, but I asked, “What’s wrong?” And then, when she didn’t answer, “Can I call someone for you?”

She just kept crying, her shoulders shaking.

I glanced at the door, then at her. “I must go…I—”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to dump myself on you,” she said, looking up and sniffing. “You must think I’m such a weirdo.”

“You’re not the first to drink too much.”

She turned to me, eyes wide. “Oh, is that what you think? But of course, what else would you think?” Her mouth twisted as if she’d thought of some big humorless joke.

My dress grew thorns. I could feel them clawing up my legs. I knew what she was going to say before she said it.

“I’m pregnant.”

 

 

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DD Cover for MGRandy Rawls lives in Delray Beach, Florida, slap-dab in the middle of paradise. Not only is the weather perfect, but the writing environment is wonderful. In fact, it’s so good you can’t cross the street without bumping into an author.

Before retiring in Florida, Randy grew up in North Carolina, then spent a career in the Army. After retirement, he went back to work with the Department of Defense as a civilian, the aspect of his career that led him to South Florida. Somewhere along the way, he fell in love with writing. The writing was a natural progression since he has always been an avid reader.

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

A: Here’s a brief summary of the book I prepared for the cover: “The Chief of Police of Coral Lakes, FL has the goods on Roger Adamson, a dirty politician; however, the chief knows Adamson has additional information that could bring down a drug lord and disembowel his organization. Chief Elston asks Beth Bowman, a South Florida PI, to assist by becoming Adamson’s consort/bodyguard while Adamson parses out data. Beth agrees, not realizing multiple homicides, a kidnapping, a tight frame for murder, and the loss of the man she loves await her. If not for Beth’s homeless friends, all might be lost.”

My stories come from the headlines. While I’m sure South Florida does not have a corner on the market of politicians who, shall we say, look the other way, anyone who follows the decisions made by these same politicians might find reason to wonder. So, I decided it was time for Beth to take on a dirty politician. That’s where DATING DEATH begins. Once she meets Roger Adamson, the story took on a life of its own.

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: A mystery is (throw out all the frills) a whodunit. With that in mind, the three most important elements are the protagonist(s), the clues, and the red herrings. Everything else is icing on the cake. We must have a competent protagonist(s) who will eventually solve the riddle. We must have clues for our protagonist to find. And, equally as important, we must have red herrings to challenge both our protagonist and the reader.

Think Sherlock Holmes. Yes, we enjoy the relationship between Holmes and Watson, but is it critical to solving the mystery? In my opinion, no. The critical element is Holmes fantastic deductions. But, he must find something to cause him to make those deductions—clues. And, so his life isn’t too simple, Arthur Conan Doyle planted red herrings to keep Holmes from solving the case too quickly. Bingo, we have a good mystery.

Randy Rawls Promo Pic - Hi RezQ: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A: I started with Beth and Chief Elston’s request that she “babysit” Roger Adamson, the dirty politician. Beth took it from there, narrating the story faster than I could capture it. Many times, I had to ask her to slow down so I could catch up.

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: Beth revealed herself to me as I wrote her stories, similar to learning about a friend in real life. First, she was simply a PI in South Florida, who had run from her ex-husband in Texas because—in her words, “Texas wasn’t big enough for both of them.” Then she told me about her mother who still resides in Richardson, TX and raised Beth and her brother alone after Beth’s father died in a bungled burglary. As we spent more time together, she shared other tidbits of her life—her brother in Wisconsin with the “perfect” marriage, per her mother’s words—the stalker from whom she saved her mother—the retired Dallas policeman who had been her mentor, trainer, and protector when she was on the Dallas force—the man of her dreams—her friends in the homeless community, etc. One of the joys of writing Beth’s stories was getting to know her in depth. She’s a fascinating character.

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: Similar to how Beth came about. A basic idea that grew as the story unrolled. In DATING DEATH, I knew there was someone behind the dirty politician. But I didn’t know who or how when the book opened. Then I discovered Zachary Zogby, a seemingly honest and successful businessman, known as Mr. ZZ on the criminal side of his empire. Then came his associates and the rest of the villains, large and small, who fill the pages.

I try to make them realistic and enjoyable to read by giving them one or more specific personality trait(s). Everyone we know has something that makes him/her stand out in our memories. That’s what I tried to do with the villains.

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

A: This is always the challenge to a writer. How to keep the “saggy” middle from sagging. What to introduce to keep the reader reading. In DATING DEATH, I kept the tension about Beth’s future high. She is being sought by the drug lord and, after certain events, by the police. She has no choice but to hide out from both, even as she works to clear her name. Hopefully, the reader will share her desperation and keep flipping pages.

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: With all my books, setting is a major character for me. In the Ace Edwards Dallas PI series, each story was set in a small town, and I integrated some history of the town/area into the story. For Tom Jeffries and Beth Bowman, it is South Florida. It would be difficult to write any story set in South Florida without the setting emerging as a major player. In DATING DEATH, everything from the Everglades and canals to I-95 and the Florida Toll Road enter the story, not to mention warehouse areas, well-known local businesses, and amphitheaters. Yes, South Florida is a major player in my stories.

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: Not exactly sure what this question is seeking, but the theme of all my books is “good triumphs over evil.” With that in mind, I knew that Beth would win in the end. The problem was how to work her through the multiple dangerous situations and have her come out on the top.

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

A: Every author brings three things to the table: style, voice, and vocabulary. The style and the voice are unique. The vocabulary is shared by the world and is an ever-changing thing. Editing can destroy style and voice by imposing the editor’s whims. An author has to defend his work and be proactive in protecting his voice and style. Good editors recognize this and are careful. After all, it was that same style, voice, and vocabulary that attracted the editor.

Some would say the author brings a plot to the table. That’s true, but there are so few plots in the world that uniqueness cannot be claimed.

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

A: A fertile imagination backed by a willingness to learn and tenaciousness. Without any one of them, failure to is a given. The imagination is obvious. The writer must dream up a plot that will interest the reader. Willingness to learn: Becoming an author is an acquired skill. The writer who is not willing to adjust and learn the “tricks of the trade” will not be successful. And tenaciousness: Nothing comes easy in this business. The writer who tries, then walks away will fail.

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: Yes, I can identify with that. Each chapter is a teaching point that must be worked through carefully. Rushing or doing sloppy work is an invitation to failure.

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

A: Oh, yes. As I said above, writing is an acquired skill. No matter the skill level of the presenter, there is always something to be learned. Writers’ conferences are especially helpful. One gets to interface with everyone from the beginner to the proven author. Listen and learn, and you will be stronger for it.

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

A: Yes. The secret to writing is reading. Every author should read, read, read. Through osmosis, he will absorb some good traits, while hopefully rejecting the bad. I’ve heard some writers say they won’t read while writing a book. They are dooming themselves to long-term failure.

 

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“Writing has taught me the importance of self-confidence in becoming good at anything,” says Christine Amsden, who, in spite of having been diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a condition that effects the retina and causes a loss of central vision, has gone on to become the award-winning, bestselling author of the Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective fantasy/mystery series published by Twilight Times Books.

“My parents encouraged reading a LOT,” says this speculative fiction writer, who grew up gobbling up The Chronicles of Narnia, The Baby Sitter’s Club, and Flowers in the Attic. “I know they read to me too, but I was an advanced reader at an early age and preferred to read on my own when I could. I have memories of staring at picture books, making up stories about the pictures though I couldn’t understand the words.” At the tender age of 8, she wrote her first short story, about Cabbage Patch Dolls going to Mars. From then on, she wrote fairly consistently until 2003, which marked the beginning of her professional career when she attended a workshop with Orson Scott Card.

Amsden may be legally blind, but she hasn’t allowed that part of her life to stop her from becoming a prolific author, and nowadays she splits her time between writing, freelance editing, and coaching — with a keen focus on writing. She loves to write about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations, giving special attention to people and relationships, her way of making science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone. “I will continue to marry romance with speculative fiction because I simply love both genres,” states the author. “I love a good character story. I think character is more important than just about anything else, and a great character will have me reading any genre at all and loving it. I get a lot of people telling me that they like my books even though they ‘don’t normally read stuff like that.’ I think it’s because of the characters.”

In what she describes as her messy, cluttered desk, and with a special arm attached to her monitor to help her eyes and back, Amsden creates her stories rich in characterization and world building. Her latest book, Madison’s Song, a companion to her Cassie Scot series, is about a shy young woman who has suffered more than her fair share of betrayal in the past. A friend of Cassie (the only ungifted daughter of powerful sorcerers), Madison now gets a chance to prove that she can be more than a plump, shy sidekick. When her brother’s life is in danger, she faces her greatest fear with head held high to save him. The story is equally about Scott, a werewolf who has fallen in love with a woman he doesn’t believe he deserves.

MadisonsSong_medAmsden’s writing style is straightforward and conversational, which is probably why most readers and reviewers describe her work as highly entertaining and fast paced. “I’m not the sort to hide the story behind flowery prose,” she says. “I like the words to get out of the way of the story.” She’s a fast writer as well, finishing the rough draft of the book in only two months, though she then put it aside for a year before revising it, a process that took her five additional months. Her writing process, though fluid, is different with each book. “My best story ideas are the ones that come to me while I’m doing something else, although this doesn’t excuse me from putting in my hours of conscious effort. No two projects that I’ve worked on have developed in exactly the same way, either. I like to try new strategies, mix things up, so life doesn’t get boring.”

Like the Cassie Scot series, Madison’s Song will also be available in audiobook format, which is how Amsden “reads” most books these days. “It was important to me, when I became an author, to make my books available to listen to as well as read, and not just for others with disabilities. Audiobooks are a terrific way to enjoy books for busy people whose reading time can be combined with a daily commute, or with housework.”

Like most authors, Amsden loves sharing her creative ideas with the world, something which can be understandably challenging. “Nothing is universally liked,” states the author. “I try not to read negative comments or reviews, but it’s almost impossible to avoid all of it. When someone ‘gets me’ I feel an almost euphoric connectedness to the world; when someone doesn’t, (in a really big way), it almost makes me feel isolated.”

The definition of success varies from writer to writer. For Amsden, it has changed since she started writing. “At one time (not too long ago), I had an unrealistic expectation of success that involved becoming a bestseller and making an upper-class living off of my books,” she confesses. “When the Cassie Scot series came out, I sold thousands of books but still didn’t make the kind of money that would let me ‘earn a living’ off of it. It made me rethink my definition of success, because MessyDeskby all measurable standards my books are doing well – I’ve got great reviews, I’ve won several awards, I’ve sold many thousands of books, and I’m making money. I feel most successful when I connect with readers who love my books. So maybe that’s what success is. I’d love to connect with more readers, sell more books, and make more money, but I’m becoming satisfied with who and what I am now. (Like Cassie.)”

At the moment, the author is waiting for her next book, Kaitlin’s Tale, to be released by Twilight Times Books. She’s also hard at work on a new series set in a completely different world and with a new cast of characters. Though it’s way too early to say much about it, readers can count on it being filled with romance and the paranormal.

A native of St. Louis, Christine Amsden now lives in Olathe, Kansas with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success, and their two beautiful children.

TouchofFateSigningBibliography:

Touch of Fate (Twilight Times Books, 2006)

The Immortality Virus (Twilight Times Books, 2011)

Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective (Twilight Times Books, 2013)

Secrets and Lies (Twilight Times Books, 2013)

Mind Games (Twilight Times Books, 2014)

Stolen Dreams (Twilight Times Books, 2014)

Madison’s Song (Twilight Times Books, 2015)

Connect with Christine Amsden on the web:

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Galanti, Donna 2 (1)Donna Galanti writes murder and mystery with a dash of steam as well as middle grade adventure fiction. She is the author of books 1 and 2 in the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy, A Human Element and A Hidden Element, the short story collection The Dark Inside, and Joshua and The Lightning Road (Books 1 and 2, 2015). She’s lived from England as a child, to Hawaii as a U.S. Navy photographer. She now lives in Pennsylvania with her family in an old farmhouse. It has lots of writing nooks, fireplaces, and stink bugs, but she’s still wishing for a castle again—preferably with ghosts.

Website: www.ElementTrilogy.com
Blog: http://www.elementtrilogy.com/blog/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/DonnaGalanti
Facebook: www.facebook.com/DonnaGalantiAuthor
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5767306.Donna_Galanti

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, A Hidden Element. What was your inspiration for it?

A: A Hidden Element is book two in the Element Trilogy. The novel that I was stumped on…and a dream. My readers asked for a sequel and I said, never! Then one day I woke up with a vision of that second book. I dropped the psychological suspense novel I had over-plotted and was stuck on, and got to work right away on the sequel. There’s a third and final one planned out, A Healing Element.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.

A: Caleb lives an oppressed life. He has sons he can’t be a father to, he can’t choose who he loves, and he must carry out despicable acts just to survive. Yet Caleb finds he is pushed to the wall even further and must risk the very things he desires to save those he loves. Caleb is also a Watcher in a way, and Watchers are some of my favorite characters to write. Read an article I wrote about this theme.

Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?

A: I wrote this novel in a Write a Novel in 9 Months Class. We met once a week and it kept me accountable to get the story down in a certain time frame. One challenge was completely re-working some of the chapters to be in different voices from the original draft. I had to critically review each scene and really decide which character’s point of view was best to tell that scene.

?????????????????????????????????????????????Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?

A: I look at each chapter as a short story in itself. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end – and I love ending my chapters on cliffhangers that raise a question and (hopefully) beg the reader to keep turning the pages.

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?

A: Each day I sit down is like starting with a blank page all over again, so yes, there is some anxiety. The day before I try to finish writing in the middle of a scene or paragraph, and not end a chapter. This way I can easily re-read the scene’s intro and jump back into finishing it.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?

A: There are many days each week that my alarm is set for 4:30am. Early morning hours are my best writing time when the skies are dark and the world is asleep – and my mind is not yet filled with the details of daily life. During the school year my day ends at 3:30pm when I pick my son up from school but I have a very understanding husband! I often spend a weekend day writing all day at my favorite spot in my local Wegman’s Café.

Q: How do you define success?

A: To me, success in writing is continuing to learn the writing craft, add it to my expanding toolbox, and apply all I learn along the way and see the fruits of that labor. Success in writing can also only truly come when you let go – let go of your ego that is. I believe that this is the biggest reason why I am published, have a wonderful agent as my champion, and have four books coming out in the next year. And this is the biggest reason I see writer’s fail because they do not accept criticism and are not willing to do the hard work to make their writing better. To succeed you cannot think your writing is perfect or that your story can’t change. You cannot take it personal when a developmental editor tears apart your manuscript for you to re-work. I love it! I am like – bring it on! Help me be a better writer. Why? Because I want to write a good book and then a better one and a better one. This writing business is hard. If it were easy everyone would be doing it. This writing business is not going to be easy – it’s going to be worth it!

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?

A: Every writer has times when they hit lows in their writing and think, I can’t do this! Every time I debate whether I should be a writer and tell myself that I should just update my resume and get a real full time job with an actual weekly paycheck so I can support my family better – I remember how I sat down and wrote my debut novel A Human Element without knowing anything about writing a book. And I remember how it came from my heart and came from the deep places inside me where I most love, where I most hurt.

And I know that no matter how much I think I suck at times – I KNOW THAT I AM A TRUE STORYTELLER. And this is what I was born to do. And if you think that, then that’s what you need to follow. No matter how much you suck at times. No matter if others tell you that your writing sucks. Don’t let the negative thoughts – or negative people – stop you from telling your stories. We need your stories. We need to tell our stories. Be the true storyteller you are. Visit my Writers Corner for inspiration and resources to help you keep writing.

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?

A: Yes! If we didn’t have demons chasing us to write, why would we? Knowing what I know now about being an author I have to wonder if I would have gotten in this business at all. If someone told me all I would have to go through to get here I would have said “I can’t do that! It’s too hard and too long!” I’m grateful I was ignorant about it all when I started.

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

A: I truly believe that something wonderful can come of something that threatens to break your spirit. I started writing books to survive the grief of my mother’s death. She died from cancer five years ago. But here’s the thing. If she were alive I would not have finished writing my first book – or any book. I would not be getting published. I took care of her in the final moments and when she passed away I knew I had to make my dream come true. For in passing away my mom gave me her own gift – the gift to follow my dream of becoming an author.

So every once in a while I say these words out loud. “Thank you, Mom.” I let them hang in the air like a gift to her. She defined who I am and who I hope to be. And she was always my #1 champion and now I have be my own champion – like all of us writer so. So, I may have started writing books from grief but eventually my grief turned to peace and then joy at discovering what I love to do. Be a storyteller.

ABOUT A HIDDEN ELEMENT:

Evil lurks within…

When Caleb Madroc is used against his will as part of his father’s plan to breed a secret community and infiltrate society with their unique powers, he vows to save his oppressed people and the two children kept from him. Seven years later, Laura and Ben Fieldstone’s son is abducted, and they are forced to trust a madman’s son who puts his life on the line to save them all. The enemy’s desire to own them—or destroy them—leads to a survival showdown. Laura and Ben must risk everything to defeat a new nemesis that wants to rule the world with their son, and Caleb may be their only hope—if he survives. But must he sacrifice what he most desires to do so?

PRAISE FOR A HIDDEN ELEMENT:

“Chilling and dark…a twisty journey into another world.” —J.T. Ellison, New York Times bestselling author of When Shadows Fall 

“Fascinating…a haunting story…”—Rebecca Cantrell, New York Times bestselling author of The World Beneath 

“Will keep you up long past your bedtime…a pulse-pounding read.”—Allan Leverone, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Final Vector

BUY THE ELEMENT TRILOGY BOOKS:

Purchase Book 2 in the Element Trilogy, A Hidden Element: http://amzn.to/1p1YD1o

Purchase Book 1 in the Element Trilogy, A Human Element: http://amzn.to/1mNcyCO
ON SALE NOW FOR JUST $.99cents!

ENTER HER GIVEAWAY HERE: 

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Donna Galanti writes murder and mystery as well as middle grade adventure fiction. She is an International Thriller Writers Debut Author of the paranormal suspense novel A Human Element, the short story collection The Dark Inside, and the forthcoming Joshua and The Lightning Road.

Galanti, Donna 2An avid reader as a child, Galanti grew up in a nurturing environment, immersed in books such as The Hobbit, Little House in the Big Woods, The Island of the Blue Dolphins, My Side of The Mountain, Call of the Wild and White Fang. “My favorite author was Roald Dahl and my favorite book of his was Danny the Champion of the World,” says Galanti, whose dark imagination ran wild from the start.

From her early years in England to her later work in Hawaii as a U.S. Navy photographer, Galanti always dreamed of becoming an author. She wrote her first murder mystery screenplay at the tender age of seven. She had a career in writing for marketing and communications and ran her own resume writing service, but it wasn’t until her mother died five years ago that she began writing novels out of her grief. Eventually, that grief turned to peace, when she fully realized what it was she truly loved to do: becoming a storyteller. In addition to being a full-time author, Galanti also works part time as a freelance copywriter for an advertising agency.

“I write from the dark side with a glimpse of hope. I am drawn to writing the hero’s journey – more so the tormented hero, and tormented villain. I enjoy creating empathy for both by blurring the lines between good and evil,” states the author, whose first two books in The Element Trilogy, A Human Element and A Hidden Element (Imajin Books, August 2014) are both full of murder and mystery with a dash of steam, and both have their own tormented hero and villain. “I slay my own demons through my writing – and I highly recommend it!” she says.

A Human Element, just released by Imajin Books, is the thrilling, unrelenting page-turner story of Laura Armstrong. Her friends and family members are being murdered and, despite her unique healing powers, she can do nothing to stop it. Determined to find the killer, she follows her visions to the site of a crashed meteorite in her hometown, where she eventually unravels a terrifying secret that binds her to the killer.

The book has already garnered excellent praise from New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Maberry and international bestselling author M.J. Rose.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00067]Galanti lives in an old farmhouse – sadly, with no ghosts – with many fireplaces where she often curls up to create her page-turners. Other times she works in her office overlooking the woods. Throughout the year she meets weekly with a women’s writing group at a café where they write together and share advice and their success stories.

“When I am creating a new book I love to sit outdoors overlooking the woods with a pen and notebook and handwrite my ideas. My thoughts are slowed down this way as my brain connects to pen in hand, and it opens my mind up to brainstorm,” says the author, describing her creative process. “There is nothing more freeing creatively to journal story ideas and throw all sorts of ‘what if?’ questions out there to find the kernel of a good story you want to pursue. Then I create character worksheets and type up a ten page synopsis of the book. I do all this before I write that first word of the story. And I always create a title first! It’s what drives my inspiration for the story.”

Galanti began writing A Human Element seventeen years ago from a vision she had while driving to work one day. She wrote two chapters and shelved them for over a decade. When she finally decided to continue the story, she wrote Monday through Friday from 4:30am to 6:30am. After seven months she typed THE END.

All writers have their stronger and weaker points, and for this author, revision is her favorite process. That’s where she can make her story shine. “Knowing how important this process is has been one of my strong points,” she says. “There are many layers to a story to be found after you write that first draft, and that’s what I love to do: peel back the layers.” One area she struggled in for a long time was to slow down her writing. She can be a very fast writer, creating pages and pages of words that often would need to be trimmed down. She has since then learned to slow down her writing and craft her words with care as she writes them, so she doesn’t have to spend so much time on revision.

In an era when small presses, the good, the bad and the ugly, abound, Galanti’s experience has been nothing but positive. “My experience with Imajin Books has been amazing!” she says of her Canadian-based publisher. “Imajin Books is dedicated to working with me to help my books succeed. The owner, Cheryl Kaye Tardif, is a bestselling author in her own right.” Imajin Books was very responsive and provided in-depth editorial guidance as well as marketing plans, not to mention fantastic book cover designs. The publishing industry is notorious for being slow-moving, but in the case of The Element Trilogy, Imajin Books made the process quick and efficient.

As with many authors, Galanti finds starting a new book most challenging. The first blank page can be a scary thing, until the story takes over, propelling your main character into his new unbalanced world toward the ultimate end. However, being an author can be extremely rewarding. “When it comes to readers, there is nothing more thrilling than reading wonderful reviews about your book that you spent months, or years, creating and shaping,” she says. “It’s from that private place in your heart, where you love the most – and hurt the most – that you pour out pages to show the world. And it’s all worthwhile when you discover that others have been touched by your story, just as you were touched while you were writing it. Second, it’s rewarding to pay it forward to up-and-coming authors. There is a wonderful feeling that comes from speaking to writers about your publishing journey and sharing advice and techniques on how to find success as an author, and hope that they do.”

Galanti is currently working on the idea for the third and final book in The Element Trilogy called, A Healing Element, and gearing up to release book 2, A Hidden Element, on August 28th. A native of upstate New York, the author now lives in Southeastern Pennsylvania with her family in an old farmhouse. It has lots of writing nooks, fireplaces, and stink bugs, but she’s still wishing for a castle—preferably with ghosts.

Connect with the author on Facebook Twitter and her Blog.

This profile was originally published in Blogcritics

 

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corneredNew Release – A gripping crime thriller written by award winning Author Alan Brenham.
In Temple, Texas, Police Detective Matt Brady, assisted by FBI Special Agent Steve Casani, is investigating the disappearances of five beautiful women. Desperate, with no leads and the number of missing women growing at an alarming pace, Matt is desperate for answers.
Everyone knows that the person we become in life can be affected in a moment, by a word, or circumstance. The paths we take as a result and their consequences are sometimes, only discovered after the passing of time. These life-changing moments or words, for some people are stamped in their mind forever, silently festering and waiting to emerge, bringing back memories, which cloud the present.
This book is even more enjoyable because, whilst writing it, the author has been able to draw from his wealth and variety of personal experience in police and law, among which is his time as a Temple patrol officer and, Assistant General Counsel for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
A brilliantly written compelling thriller, action packed, clever and with twists and turns which are guaranteed to keep the reader guessing until the very end.
Reviewed by Susan Keefe – http://www.susan-keefe.com
 
Available from Amazon.

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SYNOPSIS
2044. Willow Carlyle is the youngest cultural epidemiology research director in the history of the Ministry of Health and is on the fast-track for further promotion until a night of passion shatters her carefully constructed life.
Marked and unemployed, Willow falls in with a band of dissidents. Everyone wants something. In the process of discerning friend from foe, Willow begins to unravel secrets that will shake the New Republic of America to its foundation.
Purchase The Camellia Resistance

 

About The Author

A.R.’s Blog / Twitter / Google + / GoodreadsA.R. Williams is obsessed with language and myth, not just playing with words and making up stories, but with the real-world impact that our words have on the way we live. Words are the only puzzle that never gets boring, and writing is the only thing she has wanted to do consistently. Other interests, such as sewing and photography, become alternate means to feed the writing habit.

Ms. Williams feeds her obsession with curiosity: people, philosophy, technology, psychology, and culture. Living in Washington D.C. is a good source of inspiration. From the sublime heights of arts and achievement available for
free at the Smithsonian to the bureaucratic banality of Beltway politics and scandals, it is a great city for fantasy, possibility, power, and consequence—ideal fodder for the fictional life. She lives between an ordinary external life filled with time cards, meetings, and deadlines; and an extraordinary imaginary world where anything is possible and everything is fueled by music.

Follow the entire Camellia Resistance tour HERE
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Cover Small - Seed of EvilThis novella begins an entire up-coming saga: The Saga of Evil. In production for about ten years it finally reached the light of day in February of this year and is gradually taking the world by storm. The novella itself combines military Sci-fi and horror and takes it to a whole new level with fast-paced action and more. It’s a book no one should miss out on. The events within the book start a ripple that will in time reach across an entire universe, but right now you just have to ask yourself: Are you ready for what lurks out there? Seed of Evil: An Ancient Evil Rises is a thrilling and intense ride no one should miss out on.

Barbara Garcia from Readers’ Favorite: 

“Seed of Evil: An Ancient Evil Rises by Robert Friedrich takes place in the not too distant future. The moon and Mars have both been colonized, and are being mined. The mining team on Mars has uncovered a structure of non-human origin, and in the process of studying it, have inadvertently released a horrifying evil. Now contact has been lost with the colonists on Mars, and deciphering a corrupted message indicates that something has gone wrong, but no one is prepared for just how terribly wrong. Corey and his elite team of Marines are brought in to investigate, and are confronted with this evil almost right away. As his crew is picked off one by one, Corey finds himself alone to battle the evil that’s been unleashed. It’s an ancient evil with immense power, but Corey gets some help from an unexpected source.”

“It is a fast paced story, but I never felt overwhelmed or rushed through it. Narrated by Corey, I easily got a good sense of who he was, and with good world building and nicely descriptive combat scenes, I was quickly immersed in this story and was rooting for Corey all the way. Being a Marine, Corey kept his cool fairly well when confronting the spawns of this evil, but I was a bit creeped out just envisioning the bloody mess all those bodies made, and most definitely when he had to face the winged creature with all the heads on it. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick read packed with action and a spooky sci-fi kind of feel.”

Blurb

THE SAGA OF EVIL BEGINS…

From a distant galaxy far beyond our time, the most ancient of all EVIL awoke before descending upon our unsuspecting galaxy. The planet it reached never faced such a threat, but didn’t submit to it, either. In a final attempt to survive, a prison between dimensions was built, the last hope to hold the DARK POWER for an eternity. The planet withered and died, and its people found a new refuge among the stars. That planet is now known as: Mars.

But even eternity doesn’t last forever. Ignorance and an infantile arrogance of a nation leads to its release. And once again, it only leaves death in its wake.

Read the fast-paced Sci-Fi/Horror, where the elements of OCCULT meet with an advanced MILITARY thriller, wrapped in a colossal battle between good and evil.

The first part of a new, long-awaited Saga, from the internationally renowned author of “The Darkness Within” will give you a gulp of a SMASH HIT and will leave you wanting more…

Bio

robert foto3miniRobert Friedrich is an Author who writes in a multitude of styles which include Novella’s, Short Stories, Poetry and even Screenplays. His books are famous for taking an unconventional route through the darkest of places and emotions, and are generally driven by fast paced action and direct-from-heart dialogue. His current releases include: The Darkness Within: A Novella, Enlightened by Darkness Anthologies, The Book of Metal Lyrics and Seed of Evil, which is the first part of an entire up-coming Saga. Robert surprises his audience by how different, each of his book’s tone, message is and how they are visually descriptive. He also designs his own book covers and trailers.

“A fictional Dystopia is better than a fake Utopia.” — Robert Friedrich

Website: http://robapexenterprise.wix.com/robert-friedrich

Book links (Excerpt is directly there via Amazon): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IF63J9K

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00IF63J9K

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8N6oMt4tuU

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ATT00001After completing his medical residency and liver disease fellowship, Dr. Malnak practiced as a board certified internist. He served as Chief of Internal Medicine at the US Army Hospital, Fort Sill, OK., and was medical director of several organizations. Dr. Malnak was also a Clinical Assistant Professor at the Stritch School of Medicine of Loyola University.

Dr. Malnak’s father emigrated to the US from Lithuania when he was sixteen, leaving behind a large family. They were all subsequently sent to a Nazi death camp during World War II and were exterminated. As a result of that tragic familial history, Dr. Malnak developed a keen interest in the Holocaust and has read widely on the subject. He and his wife, Patricia, live in Florida with their whippet, Paige, and parakeet, Kiwi. Hitler’s Silver Box is his first novel.

Purchase the book on Amazon and B&N.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Hitler’s Silver Box. What was your inspiration for it?
A: After retiring as an internist, I took a fiction writing class taught by a well known writer. Perhaps because my father’s entire Lithuanian family had been murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust, I wrote a short story about a young silversmith captured during the Second World War and forced to make a silver box for Hitler’s birthday. The teacher suggested I expand the story into a novel.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.
A: Bruce Starkman is a young chief emergency room resident at Chicago’s Cook County Hospital where he’s totally devoted to his profession. He’s tall and athletic and has a casual love interest. When his uncle, a Holocaust survivor, dies under mysterious circumstances, he’s forced to risk everything to keep himself and others alive and to protect the world against a Nazi resurgence. Much of Bruce’s ER experience is based on my experience working in an ER and being a medical director of a large ER.

Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?
A: I didn’t exactly outline the book, but I kept detailed notes on the characters as well as a list of chapters and planned carefully scenes for each chapter. Then each morning I’d write furiously pushing my censor aside until I finished a scene. When I next wrote, I’d carefully edit the last scene before beginning the next one. Just couldn’t wait until the book was finished. Too compulsive, I guess. Unfortunately, I suffer from a number of serious illnesses and because of various operations and complications, had to put the book aside for long periods. Thus, the novel required some nine years to complete.

Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?
A: I always look for conflicts to keep the major characters off balance. I also try to put the reader into the story, so she or he will hear the rustling sounds and smell the noxious odors or the sweet perfume.

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?
A: This seldom happens to me, but since like Bruce, I also suffer from claustrophobia, the section where Bruce was stuck in a dark tunnel was difficult to write. I literally pushed myself through it and didn’t even proofread the part for almost a week.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?
A: I’m a morning person. Up early. Set the coffee up the night before. Get in an hour or two before breakfast. Since I’m retired, don’t have much to interfere with my writing. My wife is very cooperative. When the door to the computer room is closed, I’m literally left alone with my writing.

Q: How do you define success?
A: Success is holding the finished, printed copy of a book in my hand. Of course, positive reviews and being asked to autograph copies make it even better.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?
A: Never let them discourage you. Find a time and place to write, whatever that takes and write, write, write. Please yourself. Join writing groups to get support that you can’t get at home.

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?
A: Pretty much so. It’s like an itch that you must scratch. Cliche or not, it does become an obsession.

Q: Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?
A: All the stress and aggravation is worth it in the end. Also, follow this advice: write, rewrite, get it right!

My review of Hitler’s Silver Box…
Hitler’s Silver Box is a compelling, exciting thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the end.

In a two-story Georgian house in one of Chicago’s affluent suburbs, Max Bloomberg, an old bookseller, is brutally killed. Before murdering him, the killers burn his holy books and ask him for ‘the box.’ The old man refuses to give them any information. However, unbeknown to them, he’s left his secret journal to his nephew.

Enters Dr. Bruce Starkman, Chief ER Resident at Chicago’s Cook County Hospital. Bruce is crushed when he learns about his beloved uncle’s unexpected murder. Although Bruce would like to accept the murder as an unfortunate turn of fate, he soon becomes suspicious. Why was Uncle Max, an orthodox Jew, cremated? Uncle Max would never have allowed cremation. Why was his bookstore vandalized? And why is a black Chevy following Bruce lately? The situation gets more complicated when he inherits a large sum of money and property from his uncle, suddenly making him a suspect.

Thus begins Bruce’s search for the journal, and once he discovers it, the reader is transported to 1945 when Max was 23 years old and a prisoner at the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Tension escalates, innocent people are killed, and together with Miriam, a beautiful and extremely smart Israeli woman with military training, Bruce travels to Paris and the Czech Republic. It quickly becomes evident to Bruce that he must outwit the neo-Nazis and find the silver box his uncle built—and the secret document hidden within it—if he is to save the world from an imminent Nazi resurgence.

The premise is ambitious, the stakes are high. Hitler’s Silver Box is a well-written novel full of non-stop action and suspense. The story is written from multiple points of view separated by chapters. From the beginning, I was hooked. The pace is quick and the scenes full of tension. There’s a lot of dialogue and little exposition, thus propelling the action further. I especially found Max’s journal engrossing and compelling, distressing and shocking. The horror of Max’s story touched me at a profound level. It is one of those tales not easily forgotten. The journal adds depth and another dimension to the book. I also liked how the voice, pace and tone in the journal are different from the rest of the novel. The protagonist, Bruce Starkman, is sympathetic and I really enjoyed all his ‘medical’ insights; it’s obvious the author is a medical doctor himself. Miriam, with her quick tongue, adds a lot of color and spunk to the scenes and I wish she had appeared much earlier in the story. I didn’t care much about Bruce’s ex-girlfriend, who’s quite active in the beginning, though keeping in mind what happens to her, I suspect why the author didn’t make her too likable.

In short, Hitler’s Silver Box is a fast-moving, entertaining read and one of those books that would make a good film. Recommended.

 

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gabriel_valjan_wintergoose-199x300Gabriel’s short stories and some of his poetry continue to appear in literary journals and online magazines. Ronan Bennett short-listed Gabriel for the 2010 Fish Prize. Gabriel won first prize in ZOUCH Magazine’s inaugural Lit Bits Contest. Winter Goose Publishing publishes his Roma Series: Roma, Underground(February 2012), Wasp’s Nest (November 2012) and Threading the Needle(October 2013). Gabriel lives in New England. 

Twitter: GValjan
Purchase THREADING THE NEEDLE on Amazon / B&N

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Threading the Needle. What was your inspiration for it?

A: In July, 1992, when I was in Milan, I saw a poster of two men in friendly consultation. The slogan beneath the portrait said: “Non li avete uccisi, le loro idee camminano sulle nostre gambe!” “You did not kill them: their ideas walk on our legs.” Those two men were Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, who had been assassinated months apart for their work against organized crime. These two men were iconic figures in Italy for their creative legislation and clever prosecutorial strategies. At the time of their assassinations the magistrates were investigating connections between organized crime and government officials. The more I read the more I learned about the ‘strategy of tension’ and the ‘Years of Lead.’ I knew that I wanted to explore these two events of Italian history. Threading the Needle is the result.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.

A: Bianca Nerini is an extremely intelligent woman, a forensic accountant on the run from a covert U.S. government agency called Rendition. She used to investigate white-collar crime. In Italy she finds that Rendition is feeding her assignments through a mysterious handler she calls Loki. While living under an alias, she becomes romantically involved with Dante, a forensic accountant, and develops a circle of friends through him. Bianca is a guarded, closed-off individual. She has ‘issues.’ The ambiguity of Rendition and the demands of her relationships bring out the best and worst of her. Bianca is unpleasant at times, but she knows it and she knows why she is difficult and she is determined to fix it. Each mystery and each journey with her friends brings her closer to opening up, becoming a better person.

Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?

A: I consulted my notes. I began Threading on January 20, 2012 and completed it February 13, 2012. The novel is shy of 90,000 words. The math works out to 25 day of writing, at 3,600 words per day and, with standard formatting of one-inch margins all around, double-spaced with Times New Roman 12-point font, approximately 250 words per page, about 14 pages a day. While this is all matter-of-fact computation, the reality is that some days I wrote more and other days, less. The point is I sat down every day and I wrote, committed to the story inside my head. Pure persistence. The hard work of editing and revisions came later.

Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?

A: I vary the rhythm. If, for instance, I just had a section in which a lot of information was conveyed I try to introduce levity or color, which could be a description of a part of the city or some quirky aspect of Italian culture, or the latest blunder of one of my characters. Alessandro and Silvio are two ThreadingtheNeedle_3D-523x600characters who create glorious disasters. I try to write intelligent characters but I also try to make it realistic in that a character might be on the right path but arrives at the wrong conclusion because he or she left out a vital piece of information, which another character did not miss. Misdirection. It is important to involve the reader in working with the same clues. Narrative moves and breathes when the writer weaves in subplots. A recurring them in the Roma Series is Gennaro’s battles with Italian bureaucracy or navigating office politics. In Threading the Needle, readers will join Farrugia as he fights Internal Affairs and discovers the benefits of yoga.

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?

A: I don’t experience anxiety before I write. I’m often excited and eager to attack the keyboard. I may experience frustration because the wording doesn’t come out of my fingertips just right. I’ll wrestle with it a few times, slap something down and put an asterisk next to it and move on. If the frustration is with dialog, I’ll read it out loud for authenticity to that character’s personality and for flow. I read once that Flaubert would go outside and yell out his day’s writing to the orange trees. The important thing is not to get snarled up in perfectionism. Keep writing. Keep moving.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?

A: I am a morning writer. I find that writing first thing in the morning when the mind is receptive is best for me. On a great morning, I’ll write twenty pages, but I average eight to ten pages. In terms of word count, accounting for standard formatting, I’d say that is 2,500 to 5,000 words a day. I’ll get up very early and have a fair amount of work done in a few hours. Like exercise, I know that I’ve done something for myself before I meet the demands of the day.

Q: How do you define success?

A: I know my faults better than anyone else. Success for me is about becoming a better person, leaving behind more than I took and hoping that a few good words are said in my absence.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?

A: This is a tough question. If writing is a passion, a sincere aspect of who you are as a person, and another person is hostile to it, then I am inclined to say that the relationship isn’t going to work out. At best, I’d like to think that there is room for negotiation for a set time and space for writing out respect for what is important to the person. It must be an awful predicament to realize that the person you love and share your life with does not want you to be happy and successful.

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?

A: I don’t. I can understand why he said it: the man had TB, so writing was painful and a struggle for him. He wrote under the shadow of the clock. I disagree with the romantic statement because the implication is that writing is some form of masochism. Writing to experience pain does not pass the test of common sense. Orwell was too clever a writer not to know the allusion to the daimon, that supernatural force of destructive inspiration. Writers can surprise themselves with turns of phrases, unexpected scenes, but writing is the most controlled form of artistic expression. The medium is language and the writer chooses every single word, devises every scene and calibrates the effect. In this sense, the author can be said to be the god of his creation, but one false move, one inauthentic note and the reader will end the misery and close the book. Writing is about your response to language and literature, using both in your inimitable way, and entertaining others. The intimacy is cultural and personal. Another human being chooses to spend time with your words, walk through the world that you created.

Q: Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

A: Respect your readers. They are spending their money to buy your book. Money can be replaced. The time they spend with you cannot. There are so many books and so little time and the sand in the hourglass is always moving. Respect your readers’ intelligence and write to tell a good story. Don’t write to be clever or write in the latest genre because you are out to make money. Write the story that you have in you. You can’t please everyone, but the greatest compliment after “I cared for and loved your character” is that someone has spent precious time with you.

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