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arnaldo 3I enjoy a good murder. Oh, not necessarily an actual murder, but the kind of murders that occur between the pages of a good book. People ask me all the time, “What made you write about such gruesome stuff?”  I rarely have a good enough answer for them and the person asking usually leaves somewhat disappointed. How do you explain to the casual observer, reader, or even fan that you are possessed of a mind filled with all sorts of criminality?

Writers of thrillers, crime fiction, mysteries, etc. dwell in worlds bathed in foggy nights and overcast days. Peaceful ponds and lakes are actually places where bodies rise to the surface, pristine winter snows hide the corpses of hitch-hikers, runaways, or promising college students. We who write about crime must lurk in these dark places, it is who we are. And as a consequence we must also rise squinting into the sun and seek justice for those who have been so wronged. We create doctors, lawyers, detectives, housewives, writers, and even vampires who are willing to use their knowledge, skills, instinct and need to bring the bad guy to justice; to solve the very crime or crimes that we previously have so painstakingly committed on paper. It’s like knitting a wonderfully intricate afghan and then carefully pulling it apart as soon as it’s done.

But, alas, it’s what we do. Oh, and don’t get it wrong. Sure we create great antagonists. Some are evil geniuses, some are sociopaths and some are complete pychopaths! We use words like unsub, perp, the suspect, and so on to describe them, but isn’t the blood actually dripping from our hands?

It takes a very special mindset to just be a writer in the first place: to tackle

head on that blank page and build a world in which you hope to immerse your reader. And it’s even more special when it’s a criminal mind.

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Title: Chickenhawk

Genre: Thriller

Author: Arnaldo Lopez Jr.

Publisher: Koehler Books/Café Con Leche books

Purchase on Amazon

About the Book:

Chickenhawk is an urban crime fiction novel that showcases New York City’s diversity, as well as the dark side of race relations, politics, sexuality, illness, madness, and infidelity. Eddie Ramos and Tommy Cucitti are Manhattan North Homicide detectives after a serial killer that manages to stay below their radar while the body count keeps climbing in a city that’s turning into a powder keg.

arnaldo

About the Author:

Arnaldo Lopez Jr. has been employed by New York City Transit for twenty-eight years and was formerly employed as a dispatcher with the NYPD.  Mr. Lopez is also a speaker and trainer, speaking on subjects as diverse as terrorism and customer service.  He created the civilian counter-terrorism training program currently in use by New York City Transit and many other major public transportation agencies around the country.

As well as writing, Mr. Lopez is an artist and photographer, having sold several of his works over the years.  As a writer he’s sold articles to Railway Age magazine, The Daily News magazine, Homeland Defense Journal, and Reptile & Amphibian magazine; scripts to Little Archie and Personality Comics; and short stories to Neo-Opsis magazine, Lost Souls e-zine, Nth Online magazine, Blood Moon magazine, and various other Sci-Fi and/or horror newsletters and fanzines.  He was also editor of Offworld, a small science fiction magazine that was once chosen as a “Best Bet” by Sci-Fi television.  Chickenhawk is his first novel.

Connect with Arnaldo Lopez Jr. on Facebook and Twitter.

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arnaldoArnaldo Lopez Jr. has been employed by New York City Transit  for twenty-eight years and was formerly employed as a dispatcher with the NYPD.  Mr. Lopez is also a speaker and trainer, speaking on subjects as diverse as terrorism and customer service.  He created the civilian counter-terrorism training program currently in use by New York City Transit and many other major public transportation agencies around the country.

As well as writing, Mr. Lopez is an artist and photographer, having sold several of his works over the years.  As a writer he’s sold articles to Railway Age magazine, The Daily News magazine, Homeland Defense Journal, and Reptile & Amphibian magazine; scripts to Little Archie and Personality Comics; and short stories to Neo-Opsis magazine, Lost Souls e-zine, Nth Online magazine, Blood Moon magazine, and various other Sci-Fi and/or horror newsletters and fanzines.  He was also editor of Offworld, a small science fiction magazine that was once chosen as a “Best Bet” by Sci-Fi television.  Chickenhawk is his first novel. 

Connect with Arnaldo Lopez Jr. on Facebook and Twitter.

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

A: Chickenhawk is an urban crime fiction novel that showcases New York City’s diversity, as well as the dark side of race relations, politics, sexuality, illness, madness, and infidelity.

Two NYC homicide cops are after a serial killer that manages to stay below their radar while murdering young, male prostitutes in a city that’s turning into a powder keg.

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

A: Yes, I believe that for brevity’s sake we can narrow it down to its three most important elements. 1. Have a good antagonist. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?) most people find the antagonist the most interesting character in a book. 2. Have a good protagonist. Even though the antagonist can often wind up stealing the show, he or she still needs a good protagonist to use as a foil. 3. Build a believeable, well-researched story in which your reader can become fully engaged.

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

A: Once I had a general idea of what I wanted my story to say and who the main characters were, I did character outlines of most of the characters and a general outline of the story itself. As I worked on the book, the characters often drove the story on and pretty much filled the blanks.

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: Yes, my main protagonist is actually a combination of my brother, father, and a former boss of mine. Since I know all of these men intimately, I just needed to observe and interview a couple of older police officers to completely flesh the character out.

arnaldo 2Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A: My antagonist is also a composite of several people that I’ve known over the years. I tell people that among other things a writer is a collector. He or she should be a collector of people – mannerisms, quirks, names, habits, dress – basically any and everything needed to create realistic and compelling characters.

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

A: Keep the prose and your characters moving – keep things lively by having the dialogue and interaction of your characters drive most of the story. Also try to end your chapters in such a way that the reader will want to know what happens next.

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: My setting is New York City and that setting in itself is so dynamic that little is needed to bring it to life. Still, I do describe lighting and weather conditions in spare detail to add to the atmosphere. I try not to be overly descriptive when it comes to describing the setting.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A: Oh yes, I was well aware of my novel’s theme(s) from the start – infidelity, madness, guilt, and police work being just a few. These and/or similar themes will find their way in subsequent works that will feature the same characters.

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

A: I believe that the initial draft of any writing is closer to art than craft. At this point you are writing from the gut, with craft coming into play during the editing process. Overzealous editing can, of course, damage an author’s creative vision, but all in all, proper editing can enhance that author’s vision.

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

A: 1. Finish what you start. 2. Research. 3. Editing.

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: It certainly can feel that way at times, but the exception is that this is homework you assigned to yourself and so ultimately there are no right or wrong answers.

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

A: Yes, the Writer’s Market, the Writer’s Market Guide to Literary Agents, the Writer’s Guide series of reference books, and Roget’s Thesaurus.

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

A: Yes. Tell your story first and foremost. Forget about dotting your I’s and crossing your T’s, you can always get to that later. Don’t get so bogged down with the writing that you forget to tell your story.

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Title: Chickenhawk

Genre: Thriller

Author: Arnaldo Lopez Jr.

Publisher: Koehler Books/Café Con Leche books

Purchase on Amazon

About the Book:

Chickenhawk is an urban crime fiction novel that showcases New York City’s diversity, as well as the dark side of race relations, politics, sexuality, illness, madness, and infidelity. Eddie Ramos and Tommy Cucitti are Manhattan North Homicide detectives after a serial killer that manages to stay below their radar while the body count keeps climbing in a city that’s turning into a powder keg.

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author pic

Gabriel Valjan is the author of the Roma Series from Winter Goose Publishing. His fourth book, Turning To Stone, came out 15 June 2015. Gabriel writes short stories, which are available online and in print. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts. In this interview, he talks about the secrets of writing compelling suspense.

Connect with Gabriel Valjan on the web:

Blog: https://gabrielswharf.wordpress.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Gabriel-Valjan/291400997547203

Twitter: @GValjan

Website: www.gabrielvaljan.com

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

A: Bianca is in Naples this time. Loki, her mysterious contact, is now giving her baffling anagrams. They seem to lead to a charismatic entrepreneur who has a plan to partner with organized crime to manipulate the euro and American dollar. Against a backdrop of gritty streets, financial speculation, and a group of female assassins on motorcycles, Bianca and her friends discover that Naples might just be the most dangerous city in Italy.

Roberto Saviano’s Gomorrah, his journalistic exposé on the Neapolitan Camorra, which sent him into exile with a price on his head, inspired Turning To Stone. The Fiscal Crisis of 2008 provides an undercurrent to the novel. I followed the fallout in the media as it related to Italy. Italy, in my opinion, became the first scapegoat, followed by Spain. Italy and Spain are the third and fourth biggest Eurozone economies, respectively. The American media pundits had insisted that the European welfare state is what caused the debt crisis in Europe; that it was European public debt that caused the fiasco, when in reality it was Wall Street’s speculation of American private debt on the international market that had been the true culprit. Italians are very prudent when it comes to their money; they have one of the highest savings rates among European nations and the household net wealth is more than five times their GDP, the highest rate among western European countries. Not once anywhere in the media here in the U.S. had those facts been discussed. Traditionally, Italians invest in government bonds and real estate, very rarely in stocks. Turning To Stone ventures the what-if scenario: what if someone tried to destabilize the world’s reference currency, the U.S. dollar. The thing to fear is fear itself and a stable Euro.

Italy may have its problems, but its welfare state is not one of them. Some glaring facts contradict the pundits’ portrait of a ‘weak Italy’, but I’ll mention only two of them, for the sake of space and time: 1) Italy is the least indebted of the EU economies (‘aggregate debt’ is public and private debt combined) and 2) Italian citizens own that public debt: the U.S. can’t say that about its debt, which the Chinese own. If there is a ‘message’, I would say that all my novels deal with relationships and trust, how friends navigate and negotiate a morally compromised world, uncertain of what is the truth or the lie and whether either of those two could get them killed.

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

A: Item 1: Present a reason WHY a reader should care about your main character. This is the personal connection. My Bianca is intelligent but flawed. She is something of an adrenaline addict who can’t resist a challenge. She ran away from her employer, Rendition, yet she remains intrigued when they seem to present challenges to her through Loki. As in life when you know your WHY, you acquire an attractive energy. The rest of the story is a matter of HOW. Bianca has specific talents, but she learns time and again that teamwork is how one overcomes obstacles.

TurningtoStone_FlatforeBooksItem 2: Present a WHAT: a situation in which the main character has to resolve some conflict, or there are consequences. This is the mystery part of your story. I summarized the plot in an earlier question. Throughout the Roma Series I want readers to wonder why Rendition, which is powerful, apparently international, and lethal has not silenced Bianca.

Item 3: Present a ticking TIME BOMB. This is the suspense part. Every decision has to have a consequence. Arriving at the wrong conclusion is misdirection. In Turning, I invite the reader to solve the anagrams. People, in my experience, can learn to deal with the consequences of their actions, but they think twice, reconsider the situation, when they know that their actions will affect someone close to them. The Time Bomb is also a metaphor to go beyond your own ego. Bianca has dear friends who have put themselves at risk for her; she can’t let them down.

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

A: Turning To Stone is unique in the Roma Series in that it is my most complex plot. Economics is an abstract subject and about as interesting to most people as clipping their toenails. It is 2015, yet the consequences of the Fiscal Crises of 2007 and 2008 are still playing themselves out here and abroad. I noticed a curious phenomenon within the news media: American news packaged the crises into neat sound bytes with very little analysis. The finger pointing was such that the pundits pointed at the moon, but had us staring at the finger. When Wall Street received some of the blame, the knee-jerk reaction was to blame it all on greed rather than explain how the bankers did it.

In plotting Turning I wanted to show that the criminal’s plan would affect national economies. We are all connected. Think about the farmer or trucker when you buy produce at the store? You are dependent on him for sustenance and his farm is dependent on your consumer loyalty. Turning is about considering those connections. The currency in your pocket means something because we all assign a value to it, so what if someone came along and redefined that value for you? That is exactly what happened in 2007 and 2008. In stark terms, one casualty of the Crises was home ownership, the symbol of the American Dream. Someone came along and said that your home is relatively worthless, but you still have to pay the mortgage and property taxes based on the original appraisal that no longer exists. In terms of consequences today, the news will talk about austerity measures, but won’t tell you about the suicides as a result of unemployment in Greece. Just this morning I was reading about a doctor in Greece who had worked a 12-hour shift, dealing with such suicides, only to end his shift seeing a body bag that contained the body of his son who had killed himself.

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 interviews, but Bianca is inside my head, figuratively speaking. As with all my characters in the Roma Series, they live and breathe, have their own personalities and quirks. Bianca began as a challenge from a work colleague. She jokingly teased me that a man couldn’t write a female character. She wanted to see what I could do. She was tired of reading about detectives, male or female, who cursed all the time, had a drinking problem and dysfunctional relationships with their family and peers. I think she was reading a lot of British and Icelandic noir at the time. I’m old enough to remember the primitive days of computing so that helped in bringing Bianca into existence. As a kid, I knew one of the world’s premiere hackers. Bianca is an amalgam of personalities I have met and known. She is no Lisabeth Salander but she has her own issues. The short story I had written for a friend morphed into the first book in the Roma Series: Roma, Underground.

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: Each Roma Series book has its own villain. Each novel has organized crime and Rendition as monolithic bad guys. I tried to avoid stereotypes. In my experience, the people who are very experienced at the not-so-nice things in this world are very quiet and unassuming; they don’t draw attention to themselves. Men who have seen and participated in combat, for example, don’t talk about it. Likewise, the individuals who are powerful in organized crime are not flashy, don’t have their names on a chart, or drive fancy cars and act like Tony Soprano; they are often milquetoast. John le Carré demonstrated countless times in his fiction that spy-work is hardly James Bond adventures; it is mind-numbing routine, analysis, and endless waiting until the opportunity presents itself. My bad guys are intelligent and well educated. What makes them deadly is they don’t make mistakes, which is why Bianca and her friends are heroic – they have to stop the baddies. In Turning, it so happens that the bad guy has allies, the Neapolitan mafia, the Camorra, along with the Calabrian and Sicilian mafias, the ’Ndrangheta and La Cosa Nostra.

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

A: Writing a mystery-suspense novel is like camera-work in filmmaking. A writer has to know when to cut the scene and guide the reader’s eyes to another scene. In shoptalk, I’m referring to pacing and subplot. The story arcs are zoom-in and tracking shots. If we were to dissect Turning, we’d start with an assassination and learn about a criminal conspiracy to commit forgery; our characters, particularly Bianca, struggle to put a stop to the violence while they field interference: bureaucratic and criminal. The subplots are always about the relationships in my books. Farrugia is undercover and at risk. He also has a love interest, Noelle. I introduce a new character who has a question mark over his head. Good or bad guy? In Turning, the ticking bomb is solving the anagrams that Loki gives Bianca.

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: Research and personal experience. I’ve been to Naples; it isn’t my favorite Italian city. Naples is very gritty and reminds me of New York’s Little Italy on the hottest, most humid day in the summer. Saviano’s Gomorrah, which I mentioned earlier, provided me with a sociological and psychological profile of Naples and the region, Campania. I read through blog posts done by ordinary citizens who are trying to fight the Camorra. What I found fascinating and disturbing is that organized crime is like a biological creature in that it has organ systems and a nervous system. The Sicilian mafia is hierarchical, patriarchal, and closed off. The Calabrian mafia is impenetrable to law enforcement, with an almost non-existent rate of penitents, those who ‘flip.’ The Camorra is the most flexible organization in that it will work with any ethnic group and it can ‘set up shop’ anywhere in the world. Readers will quickly discover in Turning To Stone that, like real life, women play a vital role in the Camorra. After reading Saviano, I concluded that Camorra would make the perfect corporation.

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: The recurrent theme to all the Roma novels is the evolving relationships between the main characters. These characters are team players with unique flaws and strengths. True friendship is worth fighting for in a troubled world. I hope that readers see an emotional arc in character development in each of my characters throughout the Series. The world is a scary place and governments are entities that will do what they have to do in order to survive. People are ultimately expendable. The only thing that any government needs from its citizens is their consent. I tend to know my plot before I start writing. Revision is for fine-tuning scenes and checking the logic of the plot.

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

A: That is a challenging question. Craft to me is technique, those things that you learn by example from reading other authors, or from study in the classroom. What can’t be taught is the idea for a story. Take Raymond Carver’s short story “Cathedral” as an example. The idea is simple yet profound: How do you explain a cathedral to a blind man? Nobody can teach the idea for a story. Stories from writers with an MFA come to my mind: technique is there, evident, and I feel the nudge and the wink, but often the story has no life; it does not ‘speak’ and feels clinical. Art — I make no claims to define it, but for me artistry exists in taking the mundane and making it extraordinary. I appreciate it when someone shows me a new way at looking at something, whether it is a flower or a garbage can.

Editing is complicated and the hardest part of writing. It amounts to murder – the ‘kill your darlings.’ I would say that editing dialog is tricky. In real life, people do not speak full sentences or display coherent thoughts, which the reader knows and for which he or she suspends belief, but if the writer holds steadfast to every grammar rule then the dialog wouldn’t sound realistic. People, for example, don’t subordinate in real life: ‘I think it’s unrealistic’ versus ‘I think that it is unrealistic.’ A writer needs an honest, caring editor who knows language and psychology.

Speaking for myself, I can’t proofread my own work because my eyes don’t see the missing words. I know the story too well, so I rely on others for structural editing. Ego has to be left outside the door. The writer is not there to say, “This is what I meant when I wrote this.” What is there on the page has to speak for itself without commentary.  A structural edit should find gaps in logic and continuity. Bianca came into the room with red heels; she shouldn’t exit wearing sandals. As to whether editing can kill the creative – I don’t think so, but no amount of judicious editing will save bad writing or an ill-conceived story.

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

A: Humility. Curiosity. Discipline.

Humility: The story is what matters. A reader cares about what is on the page, and not about who you are or what you look like, or if you are traditionally or self-published.

Curiosity: Remain open and as curious as a child. Lessons come from unexpected sources. It is all material..

Discipline: Time spent talking about it is time you could be doing it.

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: Homework sounds like a bad thing, as if it’s an unpleasant chore. Musicians appreciate good music regardless of their personal preference because they understand rhythm and melody. A cineaste will watch a film, know how it will end yet will find pleasure on the screen from start to finish. Writers are no different in that they appreciate a well-turned phrase, a clever image or a well-told story. Instead of homework I would say that when you enjoy what you do you don’t think of it as homework. You have to breathe and that isn’t homework. Writing is like breathing for some people.

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

A: Rennie Browne and Dave King’s Self-Editing for Fiction Writers and Carolyn Wheat’s How to Write Killer Fiction are two excellent books that provide numerous examples to substantiate their teaching points. Kristen Lamb’s blog We Are Not Alone offers both writing advice and social media strategies. Writer Unboxed is another blog that has daily articles of encouragement and advice for writers. Other than that, the greatest resource that any writer has is their library card.

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

A: Respect your reader, for their time is precious, and be grateful should they spend it with you. Respect yourself and write the best story that you can write today. Listen to the world around with all your senses, for it is all material. Learn from your mistakes and from others, and strive to be 1% better each day. You will not only be a better writer, but a better human being.

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Title: Turning To Stone

Genre: Mystery, Suspense

Author: Gabriel Valjan

Website: http://wintergoosepublishing.com

Publisher: Winter Goose Publishing

Purchase link: http://amzn.to/1N73WGy

Bianca is in Naples for Turning To Stone, the fourth book in the Roma Series from author Gabriel Valjan. Loki, her mysterious contact, is now giving Bianca baffling anagrams. They seem to lead to a charismatic entrepreneur who has a plan to partner with organized crime to manipulate the euro and American dollar. Against a backdrop of gritty streets, financial speculation, and a group of female assassins on motorcycles, Bianca and her friends discover that Naples might just be the most dangerous city in Italy.

Pinterest boards for the Roma Series books

Book 4: Turning To Stone | https://www.pinterest.com/gvaljan/turning-to-stone/

Book 3: Threading the Needle | https://www.pinterest.com/gvaljan/threading-the-needle/

Books 2: Wasp’s Nest  | https://www.pinterest.com/gvaljan/wasp-s-nest/

Book 1: Roma, Underground  | https://www.pinterest.com/gvaljan/roma

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Death-is-Always-a-Resident-Ecover_9781462124763_FULL (1)Jan Myers is a widowed mom and director of the Forest Hills Skilled Nursing Facility in Ohio. One day she receives an unexpected visit from Detective Pollander from the Columbus Police Department, asking unsettling questions about a Mr. Packard Nickle, who used to be a resident but had suffered a heart attack and died recently.

Jan and the staff are disturbed by the detective’s visit, especially after he begins interrogating the nurses and aides.

Soon the reason for the detective’s visit becomes obvious: there’s been either negligence or murderous intent surrounding Mr. Nickel’s death, and the whole facility is put under the microscope, especially Jan, who’s the director. It turns out the victim was a very difficult and demanding man, and most nurses and residents would have cheerfully strangled him. Jan won’t be able to get any job in Ohio when he’s through. The list of suspects begins to pile up, and it’s up to Jan to investigate the case, especially now that she’s also a suspect…and someone wants her dead.

Death Is Always a Resident is a well written cozy mystery that kept me turning pages and wondering who the killer was until the end. Jan Myers is a likable protagonist, a kind, hard-working woman with problems of her own, with a high sense of justice and integrity. Her mother and her daughter are secondary characters that add flavor to the story.

The setting was very real to me, making me think that the author either did her research well or has experience with nursing facilities. This is the type of tale where the police stay sort of in the background while the civilian protagonist investigates on her own. The pacing felt right for this cozy–not too quick like a suspense thriller, yet not too slow to drag. There’s also a sprinkle of romance for good measure. In short, it is a nicely written, well-structured and plotted little mystery. I look forward to reading more books from this debut novelist!

Purchase from Amazon.

My review originally appeared on Blogcritics

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LindaDiFruscio_29.1FLinda DeFruscio is the founder and president of A & A Laser, Electrolysis & Skin Care Associates in Newtonville, MA. In addition to Cornered, her memoir about her friendship with Richard Sharpe, she is currently writing a book on skin care and completing a book of profiles based on interviews with transgender people, many of whom are her clients. While Cornered is her first book, her skin care articles have been published in magazines for years. Connect with the author on Facebook and via her website.

About the Book

In the year 2000, Linda DeFruscio was forced to make an unthinkable decision. Someone whose genius she admired immensely, a business associate and dear friend, committed a terrible crime. In response, she could cut off their friendship and avoid the risk of losing friends, clients and her own peace of mind—or, she could trust her gut and try to save some aspect of her friend’s humanity.

Cornered is Linda DeFruscio’s story of her long and often complex association with Dr. Richard J. Sharpe, the millionaire dermatologist from Gloucester, MA who was convicted of killing his wife. Beautifully written and surprisingly tender, Cornered allows the reader an upfront view of the fragility of genius and the decline into madness, all while casting a second light on how one woman’s refusal to turn her back resulted in momentous changes in her own life.

Find out more on Amazon.

INTERVIEW

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Cornered: Dr. Richard J. Sharpe As I Knew Him. What was your inspiration for it?

A: Cornered is the story of my long and complicated association with Dr. Richard J. Sharpe, the millionaire dermatologist from Gloucester, MA who was convicted of killing his wife in 2000. He had been my friend and business mentor before his crime, and afterwards I had to decide whether I could continue to befriend him. It was not an easy decision to make. He was a troubled man who did a terrible thing. For nine years, from 2000 to 2009 when he died, the media couldn’t get enough of him. They covered every moment of his trial, his imprisonment, his various suicide attempts and finally his death. So did I, in a sense. As his friend and confidante, I achieved a better understanding of the inner workings of his mind than the jury or the journalists or the psychiatrists all told. I met most of the people who walked in and out of his life after his incarceration. I came to understand the motivations of the various women who offered him their support—and often a lot more—while he was in prison. Having written lots of magazine articles and being a lifelong note taker, I knew that I could turn my story of knowing Richard Sharpe into a compelling book.

Cornered_medQ: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist. 

A: Since Cornered is a memoir, I am the protagonist. Even though my book is written in the first person, I still had a sense of separation as I wrote it; there was the me writing the book and the me who was one of the players in the drama that unfolds in the book. That sense of separation allowed me to observe my motivations in a manner that wasn’t always available to me when I was actually living the drama. I can see clearly now how my protagonist grew and changed as a result of the things that happened to her.

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 take notes regularly, regarding just about everything. But my note taking regarding Richard Sharpe went to another level beginning with his trial in 2001. I wrote notes about him—and his interactions with me and a host of others—until he died in 2009, and then I wrote more notes about how is death affected me and others. Thereafter I began to assemble my notes into what would become my book. So, if you count the note taking, which I do, the book took about thirteen years to write.

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

A: Keeping things exciting may be a challenge for other books, but for this one, the subject matter was inherently compelling. Here you have a man who was a genius, a doctor who was as obsessed with finding a cure for cancer as he was with making the right picks on the stock market and, towards the end of his life, creating a business model that would function as an empire. But in spite of the fact that he had everything he wanted—millions of dollars, a loving wife and beautiful children, a gorgeous home, hundreds of business associates and people who admired his genius—underneath it all he was still a badly abused child, a needy, needy man who was probably mentally ill and prone to making terrible decisions in his personal life. As a character study alone, my book would be compelling. But the narration takes the reader through Richard Sharpe’s rise to power to his downfall and his unraveling. And because I was his friend, and not a biographer, I was privy to details of his life the reader won’t find anywhere else.

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

A: The anxiety that I experienced was more about having to relive my story as I was writing it than concern about the writing process itself. I did a lot of crying as I worked on Cornered. But I experienced a bit of the other kind of anxiety too, especially when I would remember something crucial to the story while I was at work or doing something else. I would have to keep it in my head until I could get somewhere to write it down.

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

A: I have my own business. I have an office and a secretary and several employees and lots of clients who count on me. Even without the writing, I have to make appointments to be able to spend time with family and friends. Scheduling dates with loved ones may sound cold, but in fact it works quite well. I feel that my life is well balanced between my work, my hobby (writing) and the quality time I get to spend with the people who mean the most to me.

Q: How do you define success?

A: Writing Cornered was an enormous project. I had to turn boxes and boxes of notes and newspaper clippings into a book. I accomplished that. That’s success right there. Hopefully more versions of success will follow.

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

A: If your spouse or partner doesn’t support your writing, try writing when they’re not around. You can take your laptop to a library or coffee shop. If they still have a problem with your writing, you may have to consider a separation or even a divorce. My ex-fiancé couldn’t stand that I worked past 4:30. He would never have been able to cope with me writing a book. My husband is just the opposite. He is not always happy about things I feel I need to do, but he is always willing to make a deal with me. For instance, there were times when I just didn’t feel up to going to the prison to visit Richard Sharpe by myself. My husband would come along, but then the following weekend I would have to accompany him to a movie that was not to my taste and to a seafood restaurant, even though I don’t like the smell of fish. As for the actually writing, my husband was not only supportive but he was helpful in providing insights and ideas to improve the prose.

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 didn’t feel that way about the writing process. There were times I felt emotionally weakened from having to call up some of the details of the story, but that was about relieving an experience, not about problems inherent in the procedure. I’m a very patient person; if I struggle with a sentence or a paragraph or a chapter, I put the project aside and come back to it. I don’t fret and throw things around or tell myself I have writer’s block.

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

A: Know what your goal is and stick to it. A lot of people give up and never finish what they set out to do. Don’t be one of them if you can help it.

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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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Ken Malovos photo

Ken Malovos is a mediator and arbitrator in Sacramento, CA . Previously, he was a trial lawyer, as a public defender for 12 years and a business litigator for 25 years. He is a graduate of Stanford University (philosophy) and UC Hastings College of the Law. Ken is a past president of the Sacramento County Bar Association and Legal Services of Northern California. He is a panel member for the American Arbitration Association, a fellow in the College of Commercial Arbitrators, a member of the National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals and a member of the California Academy of Distinguished Neutrals. This is his first novel. He lives in Sacramento with his wife. You can visit Ken Malovos’ website at www.malovoslaw.com.

About the book

Sacramento trial lawyer, Mike Zorich, is finally coming to grips with the death of his wife from cancer five years ago. There is a new woman in his life.  His son is making his way in the business world. His law practice is going well. And he has a new case that promises to be very demanding.  Members of the Darnoff wine family are at odds with each other, amidst a divorce and partnership dissolution.

Then things go wrong. Mike becomes the target of some unexplained personal attacks.  He is mugged on the bike trail and his house is ransacked. Is it someone connected to the Darnoff case?  Is it an old client from his years in the Public Defender’s Office?  Is it some disgruntled witness from a trial? To top it off, Mike is held in contempt of court and remanded to jail.  The attacks continue and only get worse. The authorities don’t have a clue. Can Mike figure it all out before someone is killed?

Purchase on Amazon.

Interview

Q: Would you call yourself a born writer? 

A: I have never seen myself as a born writer, but I can say that I love to write.  For most of my life I have written non-fiction, either writing essays in college or case summaries in law school.  As a lawyer, it was writing legal briefs and as an arbitrator, it is writing arbitration awards.  There was a creative aspect to all of this, in that I had to learn how to express myself so that someone else can understand it and, in some cases, be persuaded by it.

I have always loved writing and I promised myself that someday I would write a novel.  Of course, writing fiction is a whole different thing from what I had done in the past.  My interest in writing fiction started with reading a lot of novels and marveling at the stories that authors created.  I love trying to imagine events that have not occurred and to put them down on paper in a way that people will enjoy reading.  This is my first novel, so I am learning a lot in the process.

Q: What was your inspiration for Contempt of Court?

A: In thinking of a good story for my book, I thought of a case that that happened a few years ago, when a judge threatened to hold some of the attorneys in contempt of court for not turning over financial documents.  The attorneys stood up in court and told the judge that they would not obey his order because they were under another order from another judge not to turn over the documents.  The first judge was not deterred.  So, the question was how far does an attorney go in standing up in court and telling a judge that he or she is not going to obey the judge’s order?  Isn’t it just easier to give up and avoid the hassle? That was the start of this story.  It is not a common situation in the law, for sure.

Q: What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

A: I like to explore the themes that are common to trial lawyers, such as regret, justice and fairness.  Also, there is the theme of total frustration when a lawyer can do nothing to help someone in need.  I especially like to explore the theme of the personal impact on a lawyer of trying a case in court, whether it is elation, disappointment or failure. What is the impact on the lawyer’s family? I am familiar with all of these feelings, so exploring them seems natural.

I also like exploring ideas that are new to me such as how someone reacts when a loved one dies or how far someone will go to save a loved one in peril.   What does true friendship or love mean?   Another theme that I like to explore is how to handle a huge set back in life, something totally unexpected, maybe something embarrassing.

Q: How long did it take you to complete the novel? Contempt of Court cover

A: This novel took five years and ten revisions.  I did not work continuously on it, as I have an active law practice, working as a mediator and arbitrator.  So, I would find time on a weekly or monthly basis to work on the manuscript.  It was always in the back of my mind and I spent a huge number of hours just thinking about it, thinking of transitions or plot twists or ways to make the novel more exciting.  I wrote a lot of outlines and changed most of them.  I deleted a lot of writing out of a lot of earlier drafts when I realized that some portions just were not needed to advance the story.

Part of the reason why it took me so long was that I was learning how to write fiction at the same time.  I took some courses, both live and online, and I read quite a few books on writing.  I listened to CD’s from lectures by writers.  It was all inspiring but it usually meant that I saw something in my manuscript that needed to be changed, so that brought about a new revision.  I am sure that my next one will not take as long.

Q: Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

A: I am not disciplined.  In fact, I often look for ways to procrastinate.  Whenever I get back into a manuscript, it takes an effort because I cannot write every day, due to my day job.  The effort is to try to remember everything that has happened so far and to not repeat myself or change some fact.  I am getting better at this.  I need to consult my notes a lot, just to be sure that I am being consistent in my story and my character.

When I have a full day, which is not often, I start around 10 in the morning, after I have done my daily internet surfing and after playing a few games of solitaire.  I stop for lunch and go to about 3 in the afternoon, maybe later if I am really on fire.  I will think about what I write in the evening and make some notes about changes or plot lines that I will pursue.  I can think about my manuscript while I am reading other books, jogging, watching television or taking a shower.  It seems as if the story just sticks right in the center of my brain.

Q: What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

A: The biggest challenge for me was creating a believable and interesting story.  I started with something that I knew from personal experience and tried to enlarge it into a complete plot with likable characters.  I added sub-plots and details.  But it took time.

I always asked myself if a reader would be engaged in my manuscript, as I was writing.  Would they find it interesting?  Would they relate to the characters?  It was hard for me to be as objective as I wanted to be, although I think I got better the more I wrote.

Another challenge was making changes to a manuscript.  It is a whole lot harder than it would seem.  If you change something on page 32, you basically have to read the entire manuscript to be sure there are no inconsistencies in the other 250 or so pages.   The internal consistency and logic was a struggle.

Q: What do you love most about being an author?

A: I love most the pure ecstasy when I am alone, sitting in front of my computer and writing, especially when I have figured out exactly what I want to say.  It means that I have given a great deal of thought to the particular passage or chapter and have a clear plan for what will happen.  Even when I have not figured out exactly what to say, there are times when it just comes to me, as I write.  It is obvious and it feels right. There is pure joy in writing at those times.  I have started sometimes in this writing mode in the morning and all of sudden realized that it is 5 p.m., with no recognition of the passage of time.

I have to say that there are other times when it does not come so easily.  Then I have to grind it out.  But as long as I am making progress, it is still very exciting.  I am creating something out of nothing.

Q: Where can we find you on the web?

A: I am at www.malovoslaw.com.  However, most everything at this website is about my legal work.   It does tell you who I am and what I do.  And I have written about my novel and the writing process.   My book is available on amazon.com, in paperback and  kindle and at smashwords.com.

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