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My Brain is Out of Control

 

Publication Date: September 2016
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Formats: Ebook
Pages: 76
Genre: Biography/Autobiography

Although Dr. Patrick Mbaya’s illness caused a lot distress and nearly took his life, the emotional symptoms of the depression he developed helped him understand and empathize with patients and how they feel when they become ill. In My Brain is Out of Control, Mbaya, fifty-five and at the peak of his career, shares a personal story of how he suffered from a brain infection in 2010 that caused loss of speech, right-sided weakness, and subsequent depression. He tells how he also dealt with the antibiotics complications of low white cell count and hepatitis. He narrates his experiences as a patient, the neurological and psychiatric complications he encountered, how he coped, and his journey to recovery. Presenting a personal perspective of Mbaya’s illness from the other side of the bed, My Brain is Out of Control, offers profound insight into battling a serious illness.

BOOK REVIEW:

Do doctors make good patients? Have you ever seen a doctor and wondered? I know I have. This book delves into one doctors experience as a patient, and this isn’t just some minor illness.

Dr. Mbaya had a bustling career and a good personal life when a brain infection turned his whole world upside down. This book is a detailed account of what he went through both physically and mentally and how he overcame them all.  Going through it all he learned how to better relate to his patients and how to be a better person overall.

This book is a great read and gives insights not normally seen. I highly recommend it!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Dr. Patrick Mbaya is a medical doctor specializing in psychiatry. He is a consultant psychiatrist and honorary clinical lecturer in psychiatry at the University of Manchester, United Kingdom. He has a special interest in mood and addiction disorders.

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Title: Home Coming

Author: Charles Lansford and Irene Nickerson

Publisher: XLibrisUS

Genre: Coming of Age

Format: Ebook

Homecoming is that surreal feeling that a soldier has when he has returned home. For our heroes, each is facing new challenges, hopes, and fears. Ti is worried about what the shape-shifter major told him. He wonders what other secrets might be hiding in the shadows and what dangers they might hold for his family. Beary and Crew have returned home to build a new warship to face the growing threat to the Bearilian Federation. It is one that is pointed directly at his family like a dagger to his throat. Angelina and Octavious have discovered that old enemies have joined in the vendetta against their family. Old secrets may surface. Old threats may appear. All the pieces are now in place. It has been a month since everyone has returned.


 

 

 



Title: 2D Surgical Hospital

Author: Lorna Griess

Publisher: XLibrisUS

Genre: Military Biography

Format: Ebook

This book is about living and working in a mobile army surgical hospital (MASH) in South Vietnam. It talks about the hospital itself, the setting, how we lived, how we coped with less-than-good circumstances, the type of patients we received, the equipment we worked with, and the emotional highs and lows that were part of every day. The stories are true. Some of the dates and numbers of things may be off a little; that was a long time ago. Names have not been used to protect the wonderful, dedicated people with whom I worked and lived with.
Lorna Griess made the Army Nurse Corps her career after her tour in Vietnam. She served in hospitals worldwide for almost thirty years. She retired as a full colonel and chief nurse at Letterman Army Medical Center on the Presidio in San Francisco (now closed). Fully retired from nursing, she joined the Military Officers Association of America, California Council of Chapters, and became their legislative liaison. She serves as a veterans’ advocate in the California State Legislature. She is a member of several other veterans’ organizations including Vietnam Veterans, AMVETS, and VFW. She writes articles, reporting on current legislation for local newsletters. For relaxation, she has become an artist. Her oil paintings have been on display at several galleries around Sacramento, including the Crocker Art Gallery.

 

Title: NADYA’S WAR
Author: C.S. Taylor
Publisher: Tiny Fox Press
Pages: 300
Genre: Historical Fiction

BOOK BLURB:

Nadezdah “Little Boar” Buzina, a young pilot with the Red Army’s 586th all-female fighter regiment, dreams of becoming an ace. Those dreams shatter when a dogfight leaves her severely burned and the sole survivor from her flight.

For the latter half of 1942, she struggles against crack Luftwaffe pilots, a vengeful political commissar, and a new addiction to morphine, all the while questioning her worth and purpose in a world beyond her control. It’s not until the Soviet counter-offensive at Stalingrad that she finds her unlikely answers, and they only come after she’s saved the life of her mortal enemy and fallen in love with the one who nearly kills her.

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Chapter One

13 August 1942

Anisovka, Saratovskaya Oblast

When I climbed into my single-engine, low-wing fighter, praying to get my first kill, I never thought I’d fall in love with someone who’d have me shot.

I flew through my pre-flight checklist as fast as I could, verifying every setting and gauge in the cockpit. I was a last-minute substitution for a patrol near the Don River, and the added pressure of having to scramble put a tremor in my hands. I feared I would miss something that would prove deadly. A single overlooked item could be the difference between coming home in one piece and not coming home at all. And I had promised my little brother a game of cards when the war was over. I didn’t want to go to my grave knowing a fourteen year old had cleaned me out the last time we played.

“Nadya! Slow down!” Klara Rudneva shouted as she hopped on my plane’s wing. Her short stature and oversized male, khaki uniform made her look childish, but her face looked anything but. She reminded me of the famous operetta star, Anastasia Vyaltseva, as they both had the same lively smile, sparkling dark eyes, and angelic beauty. Despite the urgency in Klara’s voice, she gently slid a pair of goggles over my leather cap. “You’ll want to have these, Little Boar.”

I groaned as I set the trim and flaps to neutral in preparation for takeoff. “I wish you wouldn’t call me that. I’m not a boar.”

Klara was a mechanic at the airfield and had seen me off for all seven combat sorties I’d been on. She’d called me Little Boar since I’d arrived at the 586th Fighter Aviation Regiment regardless of my constant objection. She gave the gritty harness that held my parachute on my back one solid tug before tightening my lap belt. “Little boars are hot headed and charge fearlessly at their enemy.”

“Boars are mean and ugly.”

“You are far from ugly, Nadya,” she said with a longing in her tone. “Not with those gorgeous cheek bones and golden locks of yours.”

“And fat head,” I tacked on. “You forgot to mention that, and you do think I’m mean.”

“Only when someone teases you about your Cossack heritage,” she replied, referring to an incident that had happened two days ago involving me and our commanding officer, and ended with me scrubbing floors for eight hours straight. “But if you are mean, be mean to the Germans. Be mean and deadly as my Little Boar should be.”

The roar of two engines firing up on the airfield drew both our attentions. That was the start of the other Yak-1 fighters on this mission’s flight. In moments, we’d all be in the air, eagerly looking to pick a fight with the German Luftwaffe. The time Klara and I had was short, despite my wishes to the contrary.

Klara leaned into the cramped cockpit and gave me a one-armed hug. She smelled of sweat and oil, and grease transferred from her face to mine. I didn’t mind. “Come back to me safe, Nadya.”

“I will,” I replied. This brief exchange had become a ritual between us since our first pairing, twelve days ago. It was a moment in time I’d come to relish. It was our little space where nothing could harm us. Not Hitler nor his army looking to conquer. Not Stalin nor his fanatics looking to purge. It was a place where two friends could savor a moment before being thrust into the chaos of the Great Patriotic War.

“Now go and get your first kill,” she said, squeezing me one last time before jumping off the wing.

Once she waved she was clear of the propeller, I gave her a light-hearted salute and started my plane’s engine. I watched the needle on the oil pressure gauge climb and tried to calm my nerves. The Luftwaffe had dominated the air since the start of the war. Today would be no different, and I wondered how many more planes and pilots we would lose in defense of the homeland. My muscles tightened in my back, and I blew out a simple, hushed prayer. “God be with me.”

As comforting as those words were, I hated whispering them, but over the last twelve years I’d learned to keep prayers to myself after seeing those who didn’t be shot or sent to labor camps. I told myself I was being pragmatic, surviving, even if official persecution had been called off. Some nights when I tried to sleep, however, I considered it was more cowardice than anything.

I used the two wheels on my right to open the water and oil radiators, and then started taxiing the plane into position on the runway. I leaned out of the cockpit to see where I was going since the plane’s nose blocked my view. The cool afternoon breeze carried with it hints of petrol.

The radio sprang to life. Martyona Gelman, my wing leader, spoke with calm authority. “Form on me after takeoff, five hundred meters. One circle of the airfield and we’re going.”

I slid my canopy over my head and locked both it and the tail wheel into place. The roar of the engine softened by about a third, but I felt as if its vibrations in the stick and the foot pedals were three times what they were. I soon became aware that the engine wasn’t causing my controls to shake. I was.

“Easy, Nadya. You can do this.” I told myself, double-checking the gun sight. Focusing on the crosshairs felt reassuring, as if I had control over my destiny. All I had to do was put my enemy in them and down he’d go. I could make a difference in this flight, in this war. A great difference. More so than any of the other girls? No. As far as I was concerned, each one of us in this all-female regiment would leave our mark in history.

“Red Eight, this is tower. You’re clear for takeoff.”

I pushed the throttle forward, and my fighter started down the runway. It built speed like a wild horse cut free from the pens, and I was along for the ride. I used the left rudder pedal to counter the plane’s innate desire to hook right, lest I crash before leaving the ground. God, how embarrassing would that be?

Once the plane hit one hundred and seventy kilometers per hour, with both vehicles and buildings zipping by on the ground, I eased the stick back. My Yak-1 leapt into the air as if it were as eager to reach the sky as I was. An overwhelming sense of freedom washed over me, and I smiled while slipping into a V-formation with the two other girls. Flying was still as magical as I’d dreamed it would be when I had been a little girl watching hawks sail overhead.

I took my position flying wing for Martyona. I was off her right side by a dozen meters, and another girl, Kareliya Malkova, flew on Martyona’s left. In the short time I’d known Kareliya, I had learned two things. First, she was as reserved as they come, and second, she had a vicious streak that hungered for her first victory against a German pilot like none I’d ever seen. I wondered if she’d beat me to it and secretly prayed she wouldn’t.

Our flight should have been four, a pair of wing leaders and wingmen, but another girl’s plane needed last-minute work on the landing gear, and even a dullard knew taking off with only one wheel ended badly. Normally, we would have waited on the repair, but the Germans had reached the town of Kalach-on-the-Don a couple of days ago and were now less than seventy kilometers from Stalingrad. We couldn’t afford to let them reach that mighty city, and thus were forced to go up one pilot short. Our CO said we’d be fine. I dared to believe her.

Our trio headed south. On most flights we’d protect high-value targets from the Luftwaffe, such as railways, bridges, and depots, but with the pressure on Stalingrad, we were being sent to patrol a swath of area northwest of the city. Despite the Red Army Air’s high losses, I was glad we were headed closer to the front as it let me be proud of my service and reinforced the notion we were all doing something important. That and guard duty was about as exciting as hours of pot scrubbing.

The Volga River flowed off to my left. I enjoyed the view of it from above as it reminded me that even in war, nature was beautiful. I also loved seeing the ships come and go from port—they looked so free—and enjoyed wondering what the little girls in the nearby fields thought when they looked up and saw us fly by.

“Everyone tighten up,” Martyona ordered. There was a bite to her tone, not painful, but threatening, like a straight razor pressed against the skin. “Sloppy girls are dead girls.”

I stiffened in my seat. Kareliya was in formation, but I had drifted off and dropped altitude, putting me outside and low of my slot by fifty meters. I slipped back into position with a combination of throttle, elevator, and rudder so we once again made a perfect V.

For the next fifteen minutes we flew in silence, and I was embarrassed at my rookie mistake. I was a Cossack, proud and true, and from a long line of warriors whose skill was only rivaled by our dedication. Thankfully, Father hadn’t been witness to it.

I wondered when we’d encounter German fighters on the prowl. At our current speed, we’d reach their lines in about twelve minutes. As such, I kept a constant watch over the bright blue skies and the rears of the other girls’ planes as best I could and trusted they did the same for me. Though rear visibility wasn’t as bad as I heard it was with German fighters, our Yaks still had a blind spot.

I saw no planes other than the two dark green Yak-1 fighters to my left, and nothing shared the sky with us other than the late afternoon sun. That scared me more than anything. Ever since I’d come to Anisovka, Martyona had told me time and again most pilots were shot down by enemies they never saw. German aces came from unseen places, like monsters in the night every child fears. Luftwaffe pilots, however, were real and more lethal than any imagination.

The radio crackled, and our wing leader spoke. “I can see the Don. Change course to two-three-zero and look sharp. The fascists want to tear into us as much as we want to tear into them.”

Her plane climbed with a gentle bank, and Kareliya and I followed suit. My mouth dried, and goosebumps rose on my skin. The past seemed to fade away, and thoughts of the future fell as well. All that existed was the moment.

I flipped the safeties to both the nose-mounted cannon and the pair of machine guns in the cowl. They should have been ready to fire after takeoff, but I’d developed the habit of waiting later in flight to do so. I was fearful of an accidental discharge, and the last thing I wanted was to be responsible for damaging—let alone destroying—another girl’s plane.

“Stay with me and Kareliya, Nadya. I haven’t lost a girl in almost twenty-four hours,” Martyona said.

I chuckled nervously, her joke doing little for my nerves. Still, I tried to keep the air light and confident. “Don’t worry. I’m not going to ruin your new record.”

Kareliya didn’t chime in on the conversation. She couldn’t, as only a few planes in our regiment had RSI-3 Eagle radio transmitters installed. All Kareliya had was the RSI-3 Hawk receiver, thanks to some genius who thought the ability to talk during a dogfight was unnecessary. After all, who in her right mind would want to lug around a few extra kilos for the ability to say, “Check your six!” or, “I need help!” Idiots probably thought we’d talk about hair and makeup the entire flight, as if that’s all us girls were capable of. They did promise us we’d all have two-way capabilities in the future, but I wasn’t expecting that day to be anytime soon.

The Don River passed beneath us. I bit my lip in eager anticipation of a fight and the chance to prove myself. At the same time a knot formed in my stomach. I checked and rechecked everything. Water temperature. Clear tail. Oil temperature. Oil pressure. Clear tail. Fuel pressure. Manifold pressure. Clear tail. Gun sights. Fuel level. Clear tail. I did this entire routine four times before running my fingers over my leather cap and wondering what I was missing.

“I’ve got eyes on Luftwaffe, one o’clock low,” Martyona said. “Four He-111s along with two 109 fighter escorts. Five kilometers away. Headed east.”

I easily spotted the flight. He-111s were medium-sized, twin-engine bombers, and a staple of Hitler’s war machine. Their lumbering bodies flew in a tight formation and bristled with machine guns to cover one another. Their green paint jobs blended well with the terrain, but their bulk made them stand out. The bright yellow noses of their Bf-109 escorts were even easier to see.

Martyona’s plane accelerated, and my engine’s pitch grew louder and higher as we followed her higher into the sky. The enemy planes stayed on course, apparently unaware of our presence. Even as a green pilot, I understood why Martyona didn’t charge in. She wanted to have the advantage in altitude. Altitude could be traded for speed, and speed meant life. The only thing flying a low and slow plane would grant you in a dogfight was a condolence letter to your next of kin. The only letter I wanted written was to Father, telling him how his little girl scored her first aerial victory. I’m sure he’d celebrate for a week straight once he got that news.

“Stay fast and hit them hard,” Martyona said. “Hit them for the Motherland. Hit them for all you’re worth!”

The ferocity of her words ignited a fire in my soul. I narrowed my eyes and turned my anxiety into hate, hate for those who bombed our cities and razed our villages. I rolled my plane to the left and followed Martyona in a diving attack, vowing to make the fascists pay for flying half asleep over Soviet soil and thinking we’d been so beaten they were safe from our air force. Their audacity fueled the burning in my chest.

Though I was flying to cover my wing leader, I placed the last of the German bombers in my sights. I’d be able to make at least one firing pass on it while keeping Martyona clear of escorts. Once we shot by, we could reassess, maybe even engage the 109s if no one took damage from the tail gunners. Three on two were good odds as far as I was concerned.

Time stretched, and I measured each second by the heavy thumps of heartbeats. I used the gun sight to gauge the distance to my target. Once the bomber’s wings filled the diameter of the sight, it would be about two hundred meters away.

The bomber drew near. Six hundred meters. Five. Four. I don’t know if it was sheer luck or an angelic whisper that tore me away from my target to peek over my shoulder, but when I did, I gasped. Four German Bf-109 fighters bore down on us from out of the sun, their yellow noses filled with guns and cannons promising swift and certain death.

“Break! Break! Break!” I yelled.

Martyona snap rolled her plane and reversed direction with an inverted dive. I followed her as best I could, flipping my fighter and pulling back on the stick. The hard maneuver pressed me against my seat. My arms felt as if they had large bags of lead attached to them. I strained under the G’s, gritting my teeth. My head grew light, and the world muted. I prayed I didn’t black out under the maneuver, and I prayed it had been fast enough that the Germans couldn’t follow.

<< End Ch 1 Sample, Hypable has an exclusive from this point on>>

About the Author

C.S. Taylor is a former Marine and avid fencer (saber for the most part, foil and epee are tolerable). He enjoys all things WWII, especially perfecting his dogfighting skills inside virtual cockpits, and will gladly accept any P-38 Lightnings anyone might wish to bestow upon him. He’s also been known to run a kayak through whitewater now and again, as well give people a run for their money in trap and skeet.

His latest book is the historical fiction, Nadya’s War.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

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National best-selling author Daryl Wood Gerber delivers an irresistible tale in A Deadly Éclair. Brimming with the ingredients of a winning recipe—a to-die-for setting, a captivating cast of characters, fabulous French bistro fare, and sumptuous suspense—A Deadly Éclair marks the advent of a mouthwatering new mystery series.
About  A Deadly Éclair:  It’s always been Mimi Rousseau’s dream to open her own bistro, but it seems beyond her grasp since she’s been chased back home to Nouvelle Vie in Napa Valley by her late husband’s tremendous debt. But when Mimi’s best friend Jorianne James introduces her to Bryan Baker, an entrepreneur who invests in promising prospects, Mimi’s dream becomes a reality and Bistro Rousseau is born. Now, working the bistro and inn until she’s able to pay it off and call it her own, Mimi is throwing the inn’s first wedding ever.

This wedding will be the talk of the town, as celebrity talk show host Angelica Edmonton, daughter of Bryan’s half-brother, Edison, has chosen the inn as the perfect venue for her extravagant nuptials. Anxious, Mimi is sure things are going to turn south—especially when Edison gets drunk and rowdy at the out-of-towners’ dinner—but by the evening, things begin to look up again. That is until morning rolls around, and Bryan is found dead at the bistro with an éclair stuffed in his mouth. And the fingers point at Mimi, whose entire loan is forgiven if Bryan dies.

Now it’s up to Mimi to clear her name and get to the bottom of things before the killer turns up the heat again. Murder, after all, is not a good addition to any menu….
A fresh, fun, and fantastic French Bistro tale, A Deadly Éclair is peppered with charm, wit, and swoon-worthy recipes.  This clever culinary cozy will delight with its tantalizing twists and turns, sizzling storyline, and masterful plotting.  A delicious, decadent and delectable new mystery, A Deadly Éclair is resplendent with flavor, spice, and zest. Written by a true master of the cozy mystery, A Deadly Éclair is a tale to be devoured.  
Find out more on Amazon!
 Agatha Award-winning Daryl Wood Gerber is best known for her nationally bestselling Cookbook Nook Mysteries as well as the Cheese Shop Mysteries, which she pens as Avery Aames. Daryl has also penned two stand-alone suspense novels, Day of Secrets and Girl on the Run. Fun tidbit: as an actress, Daryl appeared in “Murder, She Wrote.” She loves to cook, and she has a frisky Goldendoodle named Sparky who keeps her in line. Visit Daryl Wood Gerber online at: www.darylwoodgerber.com

sheila-uscLike her fictional character Claudia Rose, Sheila Lowe is a real-life forensic handwriting expert who testifies in court cases. Mom to a tattoo artist and a former rock star, she lives in Ventura with Lexie the Very Bad Cat, where she writes the award-winning Forensic Handwriting mystery series. Despite sharing living space with a cat, however, Sheila’s books are decidedly non-cozy.

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

A: In the dead of winter, handwriting expert Claudia Rose journeys to Maine to retrieve a manuscript about convicted female serial killer, Roxanne Becker. In her search for the manuscript, written by Professor Madeleine Maynard, who was, herself, brutally murdered, Claudia stumbles upon a shocking secret: explosive research about a group of mentally unstable grad students, selected for a special project, and dubbed “Maynard’s Maniacs.” Was Madeleine conducting research that was at best, unprofessional—and at worst, downright harmful, and potentially dangerous? Could that unorthodox research have turned deadly?

Swept up in the mystery of Madeleine’s life—and death—Claudia soon realizes that Madeleine left behind more questions than answers, and no shortage of suspects. Seems the professor’s personal life yields a number of persons who might have wanted her dead—and her academic success and personal fortune clearly made her the envy of fellow faculty members. The University anticipates being the beneficiary of Madeline’s estate—but that seems in question when a charming stranger, claiming to be Madeleine’s nephew, turns up brandishing a new will.

The local police chief prevails upon Claudia to travel into town to examine the newly produced, handwritten will. Rushing back to Madeleine’s isolated house to escape an impending storm, Claudia becomes trapped in a blizzard. With a killer.

Written Off_Sheila Lowe Cover Final

Q: What do you think makes a good psychological suspense/mystery?

A: I’ve heard it said that there are three rules to mystery writing, but nobody knows what they are. Still, there are certain conventions a mystery/psychological suspense writer is supposed to follow. Unlike thrillers, which are plot-driven, the genre in which I write is more character-driven, so character development is one of the three most important elements. Your reader has to form a bond with your characters, even the villain, to understand what motivates them to do what they do. Plotting, of course, is just as important. The rule is to start as far into the story as possible. Don’t let back story, which can be sprinkled throughout, bog you down and lose the reader’s interest early on. Third, tension on every page keeps things moving, but doesn’t have to be huge drama. There are numerous ways to ratchet up the tension, including conflict between characters, raising the stakes—I once attended a seminar given by well-known agent, Donald Maas, who basically told us, make the situation as bad as you can for your protagonist. Then make it worse. Then make it even worse. Then make it as bad as it can possibly be. For me, that’s a bit more tension than I want to feel, but you get the idea.

Q: How did you go about plotting your story?

A: I’ve tried working without an outline before and ended up meandering around until I realized my deadline was looming and I only had five chapters done. Panicked, I sat down and wrote the outline and it got moving. Good thing I did, as I discovered in the middle of the book that what I had planned for the ending needed to happen right then. I had to find a new ending. With Written Off, I spent a lot of time thinking about it, made some notes, explored the new characters’ backgrounds quite thoroughly, and then outlined each scene before I started the actual writing. I liked doing it that way, as I really got to know the characters in a deeper way.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. A: I started writing my series in 1997, but the first book, Poison Pen, was not published until 2007. Obviously, I was a lot younger then, and so was my protagonist, Claudia Rose. She’s still in her early forties, while I have ‘progressed.’ I did write a detailed character sketch for all of the main characters, including Claudia, Joel Jovanic, the homicide detective who becomes her romantic partner (now fiancé), and her two close friends, family law attorney Kelly Brennan, and psychologist Dr. Zebediah Gold.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain?

A: Over the seven books I’ve written in the series, I’ve always tried to pay as close attention to the antagonist as the good guys. In Written Off, there is quite a large pool of suspects, and as mentioned above, I got to know them well before beginning to write. As a handwriting analyst, understanding personality is my career, and part of that is being familiar with different personality typologies. I particularly like the Enneagram, so I figured out which Ennea-type each character was, which immediately gave me a lot of information about them.

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

A: I may have already answered that to some degree when I wrote about tension on every page. Giving some (or all) characters a secret they need to protect, putting the protagonist in jeopardy, but making sure that every situation is plausible. Unfortunately, there are some real-life situations that, if we read them in a book, we would say, “that would never happen!” There’s a careful balance between what a reader will accept and what is real. Having said all that, it’s important to give the reader something to dig into early on. Because my stories are psychological suspense, which means they unwind over the course of the book, I sometimes use a prologue that shows the crime at the beginning and promises the reader a whodunit to solve. One other thing—sometimes there are coincidences in life. We can rarely get away with them in fiction.

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases, it becomes like a character itself.

A: Written Off takes place in Maine, which is a place I would love to visit, but so far have not. I do have friends who live there, though, who were helpful in answering my questions. I also found some great youtube videos of Maine in a blizzard, and even though I couldn’t feel the freezing air or the biting wind, watching them helped me imagine the sensations. In my work as a forensic handwriting expert I have visited two prisons, one being the Chowchilla Women’s facility, so for the scene that takes place in a prison I had an idea of the flavor. However, every facility is different. I am grateful for the contact made with Amanda Woolford, director of the Women’s Center at the Maine prison facility. She not only answered all my questions, she sent me photos of the interior and the women inmates in their uniforms (which were different from what I imagined). She kindly read the book after it was finished, to ensure I’d got it all right.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start?

A: Not from the start, but as I got close to the end of Written Off, I realized that this time, the theme had to do with what happens to children who had a bad start. This is loosely related to an overall theme that an interviewer pointed out to me in my last book: mothers and daughters. This makes perfect sense because, due to her religious beliefs, I have no relationship with own mother, and have to not seen her since 2000 when she surprised me by attending my daughter’s funeral. That’s the other half of the equation. My daughter was the victim in a murder-suicide. I had not realized that these experiences had seeped through into my mystery series.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin?

A: Dashiell Hammett once said that he could edit a book down to one line if given the opportunity. Editing is the part of writing that I love the best. For me, that’s when I get to fill out the story and the characters, expand on dialogue and ruthlessly prune away the stuff people don’t read (to paraphrase another famous mystery writer, Elmore Leonard). I edit in two ways: the first thing is to go over what I wrote in my last session, editing until I’m satisfied before moving forward. I do that over and over and over throughout the book. When it’s finished, I send it off to the publisher for a first read, with the caveat that while the editor is reading it, I will continue tweaking, tweaking, and tweaking some more. After I get the editorial comments and comments from a couple of beta readers, I edit the whole thing again. Then my publisher reads it again and hopefully, will be happy with it. I would keep editing until it went to press if she would let me. And, btw, before I send it to the publisher, I first work with an independent editor at my own expense, to make sure that substantively, it makes sense.

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

A: That’s a hard question to answer. A lot of it is luck and who you know. There are some successful novelists whose books I have read and wonder…why?! And there are some writers who have not been published, but whose books should be required reading. So, the answer is, I don’t know. You asked my opinion: First learn your craft. I started out not knowing what I was doing, which is why I wasn’t getting published. I started working with a friend who had successfully published a bunch of novels with Random House, and that helped a lot. I also read about forty books on writing, some specifically on mystery writing, publishing, and marketing. I then retained an editor who came highly recommended and was proficient in mystery. And with every rejection, I worked harder. Note, I had seven different agents, none of whom sold any of my books. But that’s another story.

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

A: I think it’s true. If you’re a writer, you’re a researcher, and that the fun in it.

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

A: Too many to name. One of my favorite books is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Rennie Brown. It’s important to join organizations such as Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and/or Sisters in Crime if you’re writing in the mystery genre, and Romance Writers of America if you’re a romance writer. There are at least fifteen conventions a year where you’ll not only learn better writing skills, you’ll meet good agents and publicists who are looking for clients. You will also get to network with people just like you, who can commiserate and celebrate about whatever level you have achieved.

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

A: Getting published can be a heartbreaking business, but if you’re a writer, you have to write. It’s one thing if you write just for fun, as one of my good friends does. He doesn’t care how many books he sells, he just enjoys the process. But if you want to be published and succeed, it takes a strong commitment, not only to writing the book, but to getting it published, whether you have a publisher or you do it yourself, and then marketing it. In my experience doing it both ways, even the big publishing houses do little-to-almost-no marketing for midlist authors—most of the money goes into promoting the big names. So, be prepared to put time, effort, and some money into publicizing your work. And of course, first make sure your work is ready for publication, which means working with an independent editor. That’s an investment and not a small one, but I believe it is vital to your success.

When Marguerite Ashton was in her twenties, she took up acting but realized she preferred to work behind the camera, writing crime fiction. A few years later, she married an IT Geek and settled down with her role as wife, mom, and writer. Five kids later, she founded the Crime Writer’s Panel and began working with former law enforcement investigators to create; Criminal Lines Blog, an online library for crime writers who need help with their book research.

She’s a workaholic who hides in her writer’s attic, plotting out her next book and stalking Pinterest for the next avocado recipe.

A member of Sisters in Crime, Marguerite grew up in Colorado, but is now happily living in Wisconsin and playing as much golf as possible.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

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About the Book:

 

Speaking second-hand truths can be deadly …

Detective Lily Blanchette will stop at nothing to solve a murder. Her current case involves the killing of an undercover cop working to bring down the mob for prostitution and drugs.

But Lily’s usual laser-like focus on the case has been disrupted.

Two weeks earlier, she learned she was pregnant by her murderous husband whom she’d killed in self-defense. Unsure whether to keep her baby or place the child of this cruel man up for adoption, Lily keeps the pregnancy a secret from her colleagues.

Under mounting pressure to solve the case, Lily arranges a sit-down with a local mob boss only to find out her suspect is also wanted by them. But before Lily can warn her team, she and her new partner, Jeremiah, are shot at, and another body is found.

When she discovers Jeremiah has a connection with the underworld, she is pulled into a conflict that swirls around the boss’s son who’s hell-bent on revenge.

To add to the complexity of the situation, Lily learns that her victim might still be alive if it wasn’t for opportunistic Assistant District Attorney, Ibee Walters, who has a twisted vision of justice.

As Lily gets closer to finding the killer, she unravels ugly secrets that point to Ibee and Jeremiah – placing Lily’s life and her unborn child in danger.

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Would you call yourself a born writer?

I’m not sure. All I know is that I have to write. If I don’t, I get cranky. It’s important for me to get ideas on paper and see where it takes me.

What was your inspiration for Her Final Watch?

I came up with the idea to write Her Final Watch as I finished the ending for Promised Lies.  It went through several rewrites until I was happy that this book would again, force Lily out of her comfort zone.

Her Final Watch starts two weeks later. When we meet Lily, we see a strong woman and a cop who prides herself in balancing work and family. But underneath she’s hiding a lot of emotional pain. On top of everything else, Lily’s learned that she’s pregnant by her husband whom she’d killed in self-defense. So, what’s supposed to be a joyous occasion has turned into a stressful situation. Now, Lily has a decision to make. Does she keep her baby or place the child up for adoption?

Then there’s the case involving the murder of an undercover cop. That’s when everything hits home for Lily. She’s the lead investigator. Her victim is a colleague and a mother.

At this point, there’s no turning back. Lily has to find her killer.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

Betrayal

Justice

Deception

Family

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

About a year and a half.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

Yes. I write for seven hours six days a week. And occasionally, I’ll take a Sunday off. Although, I’m trying to make it more of a permanent day off.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

Writing Her Final Watch was tricky. I had to find a way to work Lily’s pregnancy in the story and allow her to work in the field. That’s when I turned to my friends in law enforcement. They helped me understand what my heroine, could and couldn’t do. After I did my research, I put myself in Lily’s shoes and focused on what would be important to her. No matter how much she loved her job, her motherly instincts would kick in. And I think I’ve managed to find a balance between the two.

What do you love most about being an author?

Rewrites: I love taking my messy first draft and polishing it. Also, I love entertaining readers. If they can laugh, cry or find something in my book that they could identify with, then I’ve done my job.

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

I chose Endeavour Press, an independent publisher.

The publishing process has been a smooth one. Once they were done with their editorial queries, I went through the manuscript once more. They’ve been very helpful.

I appreciate Endeavour making the time to respond to my emails and helping me promote my books. I look forward to working with them again.

Where can we find you on the web?

You can find me at http://www.margueriteashton.net

 

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