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Inside the Book:

Title: River of Denial

Author: Lea Braden

Publisher: iUniverse

Genre: Fiction/Suspense

Format: Ebook

River Bend is just another quiet picturesque town by the Missouri river-until its school superintendent is murdered in her office one evening. Under her leadership, the school district appeared to be thriving. But as investigators are about to discover, Timmons Worthington apparently had more enemies than friends. After the police find a sticky note stuffed under Superintendent Worthington’s computer keyboard with seventh grade science teacher Samantha Grant’s name scrawled across it, Chief Path Patterson embarks on a quest to work his way down the list of suspects that includes Samantha. As denials flow from suspects, Samantha is once again thrust into amateur sleuth mode as she sets out to find the killer and prove her innocence in an investigation complicated by flying bullets, a flaming toilet, cocaine, and her ex-husband’s crazy trophy wife. Helped by friends and her Shih Tzu, Samantha doggedly searches for the truth. But will she find answers soon enough to save her from prison or will a killer walk free? In this gripping mystery set in a postcard perfect river community, a middle school teacher must turn amateur sleuth in an attempt to eliminate her name from the list of suspects and find a determined killer.


Meet the Author:

Lea Braden is a retired middle school teacher. When she is not creating compelling mystery tales, she enjoys walks along the Missouri river with her two dogs. River of Denial is the second book in the Samantha Grant mystery series.

Giveaway

Lea is giving away a $25 Gift Card!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Gift Certificate to the e-retailer of your choice
  • This giveaway begins February 27 and ends on March 10.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on March 11.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!

ENTER TO WIN!

 

Inside the Book:

Title: From Within the Hidden Places

Author: Tracey Lafayette

Publisher: AuthorHouseUK

Genre: Religion/Spirituality

Format: Ebook

This book is about using modern day scenarios and situations to explain the Bible text in an easy to understand way, using words and thoughts to inspire the individual as they read. Many of the thoughts and inspiration for this book have been through having simple everyday conversations with people then going away, expanding on that thinking and conversation and then using the words and the environment around me to relate it back to the Bible.


Meet the Author:
Tracey Lafayette was born in 1968 and she has three sisters, she studied at Clissold Park School in Stoke Newington, London, after leaving school she decided to become a chef. She also has experience working with young children and families. At present she lives in Birmingham in the UK.

Giveaway

Tracey is giving away a $25 Gift Card!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Gift Certificate to the e-retailer of your choice
  • This giveaway begins February 27 and ends on March 10.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on March 11.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!

ENTER TO WIN!

 

 

Inside the Book:

Title: Party Girl Nurse’s Journey
Author: Victoria Godwin
Publisher: Xlibris
Genre: General Fiction
Format: Ebook

She was born with a silver spoon in her mouth, with a perfect family and childhood. Then gradually she found herself in a foreign world learning a foreign language-the drug world. Her whole life changed, and so did the lives of those around her whom she loved

Meet the Author:

She is an author who is passionate about helping others cope with the changing world that we are now living in. We are not alone, and she presents this all throughout her book

Giveaway

Victoria is giving away a $25 Gift Card!

 

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Gift Certificate to the e-retailer of your choice
  • This giveaway begins February 27 and ends on March 10.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on March 11.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!

ENTER TO WIN!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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the-brass-compass

About the Book:

Title: THE BRASS COMPASS
Author: Ellen Butler
Publisher: Power to the Pen
Pages: 362
Genre: Historical Thriller/Suspense

A beautiful American spy flees into the night. On her own, she must live by her wits to evade capture and make it to the safety of the Allied forces.

Lily Saint James grew up traveling the European continent, learning languages as she went. In 1938, her mother’s abrupt death brings her back home to Washington, D.C., and after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Lily comes to the attention of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Her knowledge of German, French, and Italian makes her the perfect OSS Agent, and her quick thinking places her as a nanny in the household of an important German Army Colonel, where she is able to gather intelligence for the Allies. After her marketplace contact goes missing, she makes a late-night trip to her secondary contact only to find him under interrogation by the SS. After he commits suicide, she flees into the frigid winter night carrying false identification papers that are now dangerous and a mini film cartridge with vital strategic information. In order to survive, Lily must make it out of Germany, into the hands of Allied-controlled France, through a path fraught with peril.

Pre-order Links:

To Be Notified for Pre-Orders Follow Ellen on Facebook, Twitter, or Join her Newsletter:

https://www.facebook.com/EllenButlerBooks/

http://www.ellenbutler.net/contact-ellen/

https://twitter.com/EButlerBooks

Book Excerpt:

Chapter One

Into the Night

February 1945

Germany

Was ist sein Name?” What is his name? The SS officer’s backlit shadow loomed over his victim as he yelled into the face of the shrinking man on the third-story balcony. “We know you’ve been passing messages. Tell us, who is your contact?” he continued in German.

Lenz’s gray-haired head shook like a frightened mouse. With his back to me, I was too far away to hear the mumbled response or the Nazi’s next question. I pulled my dark wool coat tighter and sank deeper into the shadow of the apartment building’s doorway across the street from where my contact underwent interrogation. The pounding of my heart pulsated in my ears, and I held my breath as I strained to listen to the conversation. In front of Lenz’s building stood a black Mercedes-Benz with its running lights aglow, no doubt the vehicle that brought the SS troops. None of the neighboring buildings showed any light, as residents cowered behind locked doors praying the SS wouldn’t come knocking. This was a working-class neighborhood, and everyone knew it was best to keep your mouth shut and not stick your nose in the business of the Schutzstaffel.

Their presence at Lenz’s home explained why my contact at the bakery was absent from our assignation earlier today. I dreaded to imagine what they had done to Otto for him to give up Lenz’s name … or worse, mine. Even though I’d never told Otto my name, a description of me could easily lead the SS to their target.

Lügner!” Liar!

I flinched as the officer’s ringing accusation bounced off the brick buildings. A young SS Stormtrooper stepped out onto the balcony and requested his superior look at something in his hand. I should have taken their distraction to slip away into the darkness and run; instead I stayed, anxiously listening, to hear if Lenz would break under the SS grilling and reveal my identity. Clearly, they suspected he was involved in spying and would take him away. They probably also knew he had information to spill and would eventually torture it out of him, which was the only reason he hadn’t been shot on sight. It was only a matter of time before he gave me away. My friends in the French Resistance had been directed to hold out for two days before releasing names to allow the spies to disband and disappear. I wasn’t sure if the German network applied the same rules, so I remained to see if he would break before they took him.

“Where did you find this?” the officer asked.

The trooper indicated inside the apartment.

Zeig es mir.” Show me. He followed his subordinate through the doorway into the building.

Lenz turned and braced himself against the balcony. I watched in horror as he climbed atop the railing.

Halt!” a bellow from inside rang out.

Lenz didn’t hesitate, and I averted my eyes, biting down hard on my cold knuckles, as he took his final moments out of the hands of the Nazis. Sounds of shattering glass and buckling metal ripped through the darkness as his body slammed into the SS vehicle. In my periphery, a neighboring blackout curtain shifted.

Scheisse!” the SS officer swore as he and his subordinate leaned over the railing to see Lenz’s body sprawled across their car. “Search the apartment. Tear it apart!”

The moment they crossed the threshold, I sprinted into the night.

My breath puffed out in small plumes of smoke as I dodged through alleys, in and out of darkened doorways, moving on the balls of my feet. Silently, I cursed the cloudless sky as the moonlight bounced off the cobblestones, its brightness clear enough to land a plane. Unless waiting at midnight at a drop zone for needed supplies, a spy preferred the inky blackness of cloudy skies. Especially when escaping the enemy.

A few kilometers from Lenz’s apartment, I paused behind the brick rubble of a bombed-out building. My gaze searched the area for any sign of movement. Standing alert, I held my breath, attuning my senses to the nighttime sounds, and listened for the whisper of cloth, the click of a boot heel, or heaven forbid, the cock of a gun. The thundering of my heartbeat slowed, and I balled my fists to stop my shaking hands. All seemed quiet … for the moment.

My fingers curled around the tiny film cartridge, filled with information vital to the Allied cause, nestled in my coat pocket. Dropping down to one knee, I slipped the heel of my right boot aside and tucked it into the hidden cavity. The coded message I’d planned to pass to Lenz would have to be burned, but I couldn’t take the chance of lighting a fire right now. It would have to wait until morning.

About the Author

ellen-butler

Ellen Butler is a novelist writing critically acclaimed suspense thrillers, and award winning romance. The Brass Compass was inspired by the brave women who served in the OSS, British Special Operations Executive and French Resistance. Ellen is a member of The OSS Society and her fascination with WWII history originally piqued when her grandfather revealed his role as a cryptographer during the war. Ellen holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and Policy, and her history includes a long list of writing for dry, but illuminating, professional newsletters and windy papers on public policy. She lives in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK

barbcaffrey_authorpixBarb Caffrey is a writer, editor, and musician who holds two degrees in Music.
She has a particular fondness for the clarinet, lived in Nebraska for the better part of three years, and appreciated the ability to combine both her loves with the writing of Changing Faces.

Her other books are An Elfy on the Loose and A Little Elfy in Big Trouble (otherwise known as the Elfy duology), while her short stories have appeared in a number of places (most recently in Realms of Darkover). She’s also the co-writer of the Joey Maverick series of stories (with late husband Michael B. Caffrey), so the next story you might see from her could be military science fiction—or better yet, military science fiction with romance.

She lives in Wisconsin.

Barb Caffrey’s Elfyverse: https://elfyverse.wordpress.com

Link to book: http://www.twilighttimesbooks.com/ChangingFaces_ch1.html

Amazon (US): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N3CQKWJ

INTERVIEW:

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Changing Faces. To begin with, can you give us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?
A: Thanks for having me! I appreciate it.

Changing Faces is about the importance of love regardless of form, and takes place in present-day Nebraska. Clarinetists and graduate students Allen Bridgeway and Elaine Foster love each other deeply and passionately, but Elaine is hiding a big secret. From early life, she has identified as transgender, and has a great deal of gender-fluidity in her makeup, besides. Allen only knows that Elaine is bisexual, not this other stuff, and when it comes out, it throws him for a loop. He’s willing to keep trying with her; he just doesn’t understand why Elaine, who is a feminist scholar who will always see herself as female whether she becomes male outwardly or not – she admits this to him, even – wants to become a man. And when things come to head, she decides to leave him rather than talk it out.

You’d think this is it, right? (Well, not if you’ve read many romances of whatever type, but I digress.) But it’s not. There are two angels involved also, who want Allen and Elaine to be happy together. And they only way they see toward doing this is changing Allen and Elaine’s faces…which happens because Allen prays, “I will do anything, absolutely anything, if Elaine doesn’t leave me.” And the angels take Allen at his word.

portrait in gardenNow, Allen is in Elaine’s body, unable to tell anyone he’s Allen. And Elaine is in his, in a coma, talking with one of the angels. If she can just wake up, they’ll have a second chance at love…but it’s not going to be easy, and poor Allen in particular is going to get put through the wringer.

Q: What do you think makes a good fantasy-romance? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?
A: I think honesty is important. A story that matters is also important. And a willingness to explore that story wherever it goes is also important.

Ultimately, it’s these three things that make – or break – any book, but most especially a fantasy-romance, in my opinion.

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?
A: The story came to me over fifteen years ago. I knew that Allen and Elaine were in a car accident and that she ended up in his body, talking to an angel about what went wrong and why she needs to be with Allen again, even if they’re both in the wrong bodies.

At the time, I had no idea what gender-fluidity was about, though I did know something about transgender issues because I had a few transgender friends. Elaine insisting she was always female regardless of her outward body threw me, at first, but I kept after it, and after five major revisions (including a late-round revision just last year in 2016), CHANGING FACES is finally ready.

So I guess it’s half and half. I knew right away what the story was on Elaine’s side, but I discovered Allen’s as I wrote it.

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: There are two protagonists here, but I’ll choose Allen for ease of reference. Allen has always been confident in his body. He’s not handsome, knows it, but is centered, down-to-Earth, and is desperately in love with Elaine. But he did not realize what his prayer was going to do to him; all of a sudden, he wakes up in Elaine’s body – the body of a beautiful woman – and doesn’t know what to do.

As for how I developed Allen? I understood him right away. Here’s a guy who will always be male, but is in a female body and no one else realizes it but him. (As Elaine is still in a coma at this point, and can’t help him.) So it was more a matter of putting Allen in situations where he’d be confronted by his own assumptions as a male, and then see how someone ostensibly female was treated.

I didn’t do any character interviews with Allen, mind. I did do a few, down the line, with Elaine, as she was far more complex than Allen in certain respects and I wanted to do justice to her complexity.

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: In this case, the villain is Elaine herself (in a way). She’s going to sacrifice everything because she’s so uncomfortable with admitting who she is.

But the reason she’s uncomfortable – and it’s why I said “in a way,” above – is because she was gang-raped at fifteen. So the villains who made her uncomfortable in her own body were those five rapists. And we do see a little of them in this novel, and how she manages to overcome that to form a good love-relationship with the only person who’s ever truly mattered to her, that being Allen.

As for making the villainy realistic? People sabotage themselves all the time, sometimes for what seems like good reasons. That’s what is realistic about what Elaine does.

In addition, I don’t know how anyone would deal with being gang-raped when you already know you’re transgender at the tender age of fifteen. So for Elaine to still be confused years later is not altogether a surprise.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?
A: I wish I knew how to give practical, specific tips. The only thing I can tell you is that both Allen and Elaine had to confront a lot of deep, dark things – most of them being in Elaine’s past – to get to be able to have that second chance. And to accept the fact that the second chance would not be easy, would entail them both being in the wrong bodies for the rest of their lives, was also not an easy thing for either one of them.

The only practical tip I’ve ever seen that worked for me, as stated by renowned author Lois McMaster Bujold in various places, is this: “What’s the worst thing I can do this guy? Then do it.”

I think that’s what happened here, at least with regards to Allen. (And Elaine’s journey is far from easy, either, as you’ll see.)

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?
A: I lived in Nebraska for three years when I went to graduate school. I felt the heat, I saw the vivid colors of the sunsets and sunrises, I felt the scorching cold, and I knew exactly how to describe it.

It’s hard to explain, otherwise, but I’ll do my best.

If you’ve experienced something, that helps you to describe it. And I experienced Nebraska. I even met some LGBT people in Lincoln, when I lived there; there weren’t many, but there were some, and most of them, at the time (this being the late 1990s/early 2000s) did not want to call attention to themselves. The goal at that point was for civil unions to be accepted in various churches, and there were many disagreements about this.

So, it was important to me to set this story in Nebraska. These are two people who could live anywhere. They have talent in music, they are creative, they are honest, they love each other. But one of them is transgender and gender-fluid, and yet their love is like anyone else’s, and their communication problems are like anyone else’s, too.

It’s important that society as a whole comes to realize that people are people, and regardless of gender expression or sexuality, they are deserving of love and happiness and care. Whatever form that love and happiness takes (providing it’s consensual, preferably monogamous, and with people who are adult so they can make their own choices and take their own risks) ultimately does not matter.

Only the love matters. And that’s why I set this story in Nebraska in the first place, because it showcases just how much times have changed…and yet, remained the same.

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: Oh, I knew the themes right away. Could I describe them right away, though? No, probably not. I just saw that the Allen and Elaine were good people, and that their outsides were not important. What was important were their souls, and how they loved each other, and how they were going to go on despite this radical change in their outward circumstances.

And no, this is not a recurrent theme in my work, at least not in this way. In my two previous novels, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE and A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE, my main characters Bruno the Elfy and Sarah, his mostly-human girlfriend, are also in love and have a cross-species romance. But they are both straight. So it’s not as hard in some respects for them, though in others it probably isn’t easy because Bruno doesn’t come from this Earth at all.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?
A: I think editing helps authors. There are sometimes mismatches between editors and authors, sure. But a good editor helps you clarify your thoughts. I was very fortunate that I had Katharine Eliska Kimbriel on my side as my editor for CHANGING FACES, because she helped me enormously. I also had a good copy-editor, Janne Kafka, who gave some late suggestions that I implemented. Without them, CHANGING FACES wouldn’t be half as good.

As far as craft and art goes? I think we have to put in many hours of thought and effort to do good work. Whether someone sees it as craft or art is up to the eye of the beholder; I won’t make that decision for them. But do I want them to see it as an interesting work of art and craft, both? Yes, I do. (Does that answer your question? It’s a tough one!)

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?
A: Persistence, hard work, and a willingness to tell your story no matter where it leads.

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. Thoughts?
A: In a way, that’s true. Authors do research settings, we do think a great deal about what we’re doing, and we spend an inordinate amount of time on our work.

But I like to think of it as an expression of my own creativity as much as it is “homework,” because thinking of it as homework takes some of the fun out of it. (Picture my big, evil grin here.)

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?
A: Yes, there are a number of them.

First, the Forward Motion Writers Group online is an incredibly valuable resource. They talk craft, they talk about marketing sometimes, they have writing prompts, and the community of writers there is second to none.

Second, I recommend Anne Lamott’s BIRD BY BIRD and Ralph Keyes’ THE COURAGE TO WRITE as helpful books when you get stalled. Lamont’s book reminded me that other authors also struggle through various revisions, while Keyes’ book told me that we all struggle to be honest and give our best effort as writers. I find them both useful references.

Third, if you want to share your work as a new writer but are worried it’s not that great and need critiques that will help you, I recommend Critters.org along with the Forward Motion community (as notated above). Note that you will get some very strong and pungent critiques there, so you had best have a thick skin…but you will get help if you are willing to work at it and can check your ego at the door.

And finally, I strongly recommend the group Marketing for Romance Writers. Like Forward Motion, like Critters, Marketing for Romance Writers is absolutely free of charge, and there are many wonderful writers there; you do not have to be a romance writer to become a member, either.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?
A: Just tell your stories. No one else’s. That’s all you can do. Be honest, tell stories that matter to you, and readers will respond to that.

Keep trying, keep working, do not give up, and continue to believe that what you are doing matters whether anyone else sees it or not. That’s the only way to succeed in this business.

Anything else is just window dressing, in my not-so-humble opinion.

 

Inside the Book:

Title: Nursing is Caring
Author: Beverly Wheeler, MSN, RN, ACNS-BC
Publisher: iUniverse
Genre: Medical
Format: Ebook

Nurses work long hours, deal with difficult patients, and their job gets messy. So why do so many men and women enter the profession?

That question is answered in Nursing Is Caring, which highlights the experiences of Beverly Wheeler’s former students at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, Texas School of Nursing.

The students were asked to write a short paper about a patient they had taken care of since entering nursing school who had inspired them and made them realize they were in the right profession.

Their essays show that while people enter the profession for numerous reasons, they all want to care for people—and not just patients. Nurses play a critical role in helping families start the healing process.

Whether it is holding a patient’s hand, talking to a patient, or being a shoulder to cry on, nurses do much more than take blood or carry out a doctor’s instructions.

Whether you’re thinking about becoming a nurse, questioning why you entered the field or simply seeking more information about the profession, you’ll be inspired by the personal accounts in this tribute to the profession.

About the Author

Beverly Wheeler, MSN, RN, ACNS-BC, is a clinical assistant professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, Texas School of Nursing. She was formerly a clinical nurse specialist at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, and an adjunct clinical instructor at Marymount University, Arlington, Virginia. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia.Melissa Maschke received her Associate Degree in Art from the San Antonio College and has been accepted in to bachelor degree program at the Southwest School of Art, San Antonio

Giveaway

Beverly is giving away a $25 Gift Card!

 

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Gift Certificate to the e-retailer of your choice
  • This giveaway begins February 27 and ends on March 10.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on March 11.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!

ENTER TO WIN!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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.

 

 

 

 

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