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Title: THE DESIRE CARD
Author: Lee Matthew Goldberg
Publisher: Fahrenheit Press
Genre: Crime/Suspense

BOOK BLURB:

Any wish fulfilled for the right price. That’s the promise the Desire Card gives to its elite clients. But if the Card doesn’t feel like they’ve been justly compensated, the “price” will be more menacing than the clients could ever imagine.

Harrison Stockton learns this lesson all too well. Harrison has lived an adult life of privilege and excess: a high-powered job on Wall Street along with a fondness for alcohol and pills, and a family he adores, yet has no time for. All of this comes crashing to a halt when he loses his executive job and discovers he has liver cirrhosis with mere months left to live.

After finding himself far down on the donor list, Harrison takes matters into his own hands. This decision sparks a gritty and gripping quest that takes him to the slums of Mumbai in search of a black market organ and forces him under the Desire Card’s thumb. When his moral descent threatens his wife and children, Harrison must decide whether to save himself at any cost, or do what’s right and put a stop to the Card.

THE DESIRE CARD is a taut international thriller that explores what a man will do to survive when money isn’t always enough to get everything he desires. It’s the first book in a series followed by PREY NO MORE that focuses on other people indebted to this sinister organization, where the actual price is the cost of one’s soul.

PRAISE:

“Careful what you wish for, especially from a nefarious shadow organization, in this gripping start to Lee Matthew Goldberg’s fast-paced, highly compelling, buzz worthy new series. If you love characters morally compromised, richly drawn, and constantly surprising, you’ll love THE DESIRE CARD. I burned through the first book and can’t wait to get my hands on PREY NO MORE to see where this endlessly exciting story takes me next! Loved it!” – Daniel Palmer, critically acclaimed suspense author

ORDER YOUR COPY:

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Chapter 1

HARRISON SAT OUTSIDE THE OFFICE OF THE MANAGING DIRECTOR AWAITING HIS FATE. The end of the month meant slash and burn time, but he had successfully avoided the axe for twelve months now. Something told him this wasn’t going to be lucky number thirteen. After almost twenty years of dedication, he swore he wouldn’t beg, wouldn’t give that fucker Thom Bartlett any satisfaction in letting him go. Thom, with his faux British accent even though he lived in the U.S. since he was two, his nose up the CEO’s ass at every chance, his chastising of Harrison’s “extracurricular activities,” even though Thom was just as guilty of similar vices. Harrison stared at this fucker’s door, as if by monitoring he could will it to stay closed and ensure that he’d forever remain a part of Sanford & Co.’s Mergers and Acquisitions team.

A sharp pain in his abdomen caused him to pitch forward. His stomach churned as a flood of bile crept up his throat. Thom’s door now appeared so out of focus that for a second Harrison forgot where he was.

“Bad lunch?” his buddy Whit whispered, from a nearby seat.

Thom’s ancient secretary glanced up at them from her fury of typing and went back to punishing the keys.

Harrison clutched his stomach and let out a stifled belch. The air now smelled like he’d been dining on garbage. His chronic halitosis had only been getting worse. He could barely recall the last time he’d kissed Helene like when they were young with an appetite to devour. At most he received a peck while she held her breath. It’s not like her body hadn’t also changed, and yet he still found her a knockout: whip-smart and sophisticated, alluring whenever she was in deep thought and chewed on the earpiece of her reading glasses. Only once had he participated in a particular “extracurricular activity” outside of their marriage. It was something he instantly regretted—but she had been treating him like a pariah in the bedroom for almost a year, and he found himself in the arms of another. So now he let her give those little digs about his hygiene, one of the small pleasures she seemed to have during the scant few hours a day when he was home.

Whit seemed to inch his chair away from Harrison’s death burp and occupied himself with the new Breitling hanging from his wrist. Here the two were about to be sliced up and gutted and Whit had spent last weekend dropping $10K on a watch. Sure Harrison indulged in more luxuries than most and hated his old Tag enough to go splurging, but unlike Whit, he had two kids in uptown private schools to worry about.

“Drinks at Mobeley’s later tonight?” Whit asked, placing his hand on Harrison’s shoulder. “Whatever the outcome of this summons might be?”

Harrison nodded with tired eyes.

“You’re a VP here, Harry. Higher up on the rung than me. You’ve got a better chance of surviving.”

Whit’s hand still massaged Harrison’s shoulder, but his encouragement was not convincing. He had probably expected a similar consoling reply, except the room was spinning too much for Harrison to care.

“You’re not looking well,” Whit said. Thom’s secretary seemed to glance up from her typing again to nod in agreement. The two of them caught each other’s eye, as if they were conspiring against him. Well, we couldn’t all look like Whit. Just a few years younger but still with a full head of thick black hair only slightly graying at the temples, something that made him appear even more distinguished. Pecs and abs that he never shut up about. A terror on the racquetball courts who slaughtered Harrison every time. The son of a well-known surgeon at N.Y.U Medical with a hot Japanese wife barely out of her twenties whose goal in life was to be at his beck and call. Whit had been made an Associate two years earlier than Harrison and was able to maintain a rapport with the higher ups that Harrison could never manage: calling the CEO Dougie to his face instead of Mr. Sanford and still having a job the next day.

The secretary picked up the phone on her desk while still typing away.

“Certainly, Mr. Bartlett,” she chirped into the receiver, and then turned her disapproving gaze to Harrison. “Mr. Bartlett will see you now, Mr. Stockton.”

Harrison gathered up his briefcase and overcoat. He had to hold onto the seat as he stood, his feet pivoting and almost sending him to the ground.

“Gotta watch those martini lunches,” Whit said, slapping Harrison on the back and pushing him toward his doom.

Harrison put one foot in front of the other slowly, avoiding Thom’s inevitable decision for as long as possible.

Even if he wound up getting let go today, an outsider looking in might assume that his life was still going well: two decades of marriage, healthy kids, and a fantastic New York apartment; but he felt like he’d just been going through the motions for too long. A major chunk had been missing, a spark of excitement, adventure, and meaning. He couldn’t put his finger on what it was, just that he desperately longed for it to exist.

As he put his hand on the doorknob and turned, he tried to think of what would make him happy, something he wanted more than anything that would cause him to shoot out of bed every morning with a smile.

He squeezed his eyes shut, willing this desired vision to appear, but all he saw was darkness.

Who in their right mind didn’t covet Thom Bartlett’s office? High floor with downtown skyline views, fluffy clouds outside of the windows, a wet bar that Harrison eyed. Some good Scotch had already been opened. Harrison had forced himself to keep sober during a gobbled lunch of an Italian sub without his trusty flask to chase it down. Now his hands trembled at the thought of that Scotch burning his throat.

“Can I offer you something?” Thom asked, indicating the bar with a grand sweep of his arm, as if to say, yes, I have a bar in my office, which you, dear sir, never had here and regrettably never will.

“I might as well,” Harrison coughed, scooting over and pouring two shots worth into a glass. He sat across from Thom and put the comforting drink to his lips.

Thom fiddled with a stack of papers in a folder on his desk. He looked up at Harrison through the thick frames he kept low on his sloping nose, almost touching his top lip.

“So Sanford & Co. has become swollen lately. We’re too big for our own good right now and need to restructure–”

“Just spit it out,” Harrison said, knocking back half the glass of Scotch.

“I’m sorry, Harrison. We’re going to have to let you go, effective today.”

Thom delivered this news while fixing his Windsor knot, which Harrison figured had taken him numerous tries that morning to perfect. Harrison wanted to grab him by that knot and choke his tiny little bird head until it popped off.

“I’ve given practically twenty years to this firm,” he said, running his hands through his thinning hair. “I sleep here, I eat here. I barely exist at home anymore.”

“It’s the same for all of us, mate.”

“I’m not your fucking mate,” Harrison said, finishing the rest of the Scotch and starting to sway.

“Old boy, I am not the villain here. Every firm on the Street has been feeling this strain since the economy collapsed. Now we are offering you a solid severance package, which I think is more than generous. I’ll also save you the spectacle of having security escort you out.”

“What was Sanford’s reason?” Harrison asked quietly, not wanting to hear the answer but knowing that he’d be unable to leave without one.

Thom had already started pushing the folder across the desk, shutting Harrison up, getting this over with. His face looked exhausted from delivering executions.

“We’ve heard from some clients,” he said, taking off his glasses and pinching the bridge of his nose.

“Heard what…?”

“Have you looked at yourself in the mirror lately, huh, Harry?” he asked, his voice rising to the level of an uncomfortable squeal. “Your skin, mate…sorry, but you’re looking rather yellow, and your eyes, well there’s this permanent creaminess to them… I’m just using the client’s words–”

“Which client?”

“Which one hasn’t mentioned this is more like it.”

Harrison went to respond but now Thom was on a roll.

“As a VP, this is a face-to-face business. I go for manicures, mate, you think I like it–it’s a requirement. Maybe if you cut back on the drink….”

“I’ve advised some huge mergers here over the years.” Harrison pointed at Thom with his empty glass. “I didn’t realize this was only a pretty boys game.”

“You’ve let some messy pitchbooks slide through recently, as well.”

“Shouldn’t the analysts be blamed for creating them?”

“Don’t think they haven’t been dealt with, too.”

“So maybe I’ve gotten lax with a couple of pitchbooks for smaller clients, but never any of the big ones.”

“When…was the last time you’ve been to a doctor, Harry?”

“Doctors,” Harrison said, brushing them all away with a flick of his wrist. He had always believed that no matter what, doctors tried to find something wrong with you so you’d give them more business. And yeah, his skin had developed a yellowish hue as of late and sometimes his gut felt like it was rotting. Varicose veins had multiplied along his thighs and there were moments when he’d lose balance and have to go and dry heave in an empty stall once no one else was around, but he was a professional drinker just like his dad had been, and that son-of-a-bitch had put back a liter of gin and a pack of smokes a day up until the ripe old age of eighty-eight. Hell, who needed to live longer than that anyway? Life could be brutal, and if some booze, some smokes and some pills provided a relief from the banality of it all, then screw any doctor who’d tell him otherwise.

Thom tapped on the folder to indicate that it was time to wrap this up.

“I have to make sure that you understand what’s in the package,” he said, pushing it closer to Harrison until it practically fell off the desk.

Harrison opened it up and flipped through: six months pay, benefits as well, blah, blah, blah. He closed it shut and went to throw it in his briefcase.

“Tut tut,” Thom said, wagging his finger. “There’s something you missed that Mr. Sanford wanted to make sure you saw.”

Harrison re-opened the folder and spied a card clipped to the first page.

[]

“What the hell is a Desire Card?”

Thom reached over and un-clipped the card.

“You have been a valued employee here. Mr. Sanford wanted to make sure you understood that we’re not parting on bad terms. This is what’s best for everyone.”

Thom handed him the card. Harrison turned it over and over with his stubby fingers.

“It’s like…a phone or something too?”

“Of sorts, just to keep their network as secure and exclusive as possible. We didn’t include this in everyone’s package, so you know. This is an organization that Mr. Sanford has a long history with, very hush-hush obviously, very elite. If you want something…anything…they have the power to make it happen.”

“Can they get me my job back?”

“Cute, Harrison, don’t ever lose that charm.”

Thom reached over to take the empty glass away.

“So tonight, Harry, instead of drowning your sorrows in a bottle, give the Card a try and have them ring you up a girl I guarantee you’ll enjoy. Or whatever else you wish. We promise we’ll give a glowing report to any future job prospects so consider this the start of a paid vacation.”

Thom stuck out his hand to shake, the nails manicured, no rogue cuticles to speak of; but the hand was delicate and unassuming, not someone with the power to hold Harrison’s life in his palm, just a meager messenger. Harrison slipped the Desire Card in his pocket and shook Thom’s hand, squeezing hard as Thom grimaced.

“And see a doctor,” Thom replied, giddy now that this ordeal was over.

“Watch out, you’ll be gutted next,” Harrison said, rising and feeling his legs give out. He collapsed back into the chair as Thom let out a spurt of a laugh.

“You all right there, mate?”

“Piss on England.”

Harrison gave standing up another try. He gripped Thom’s desk for support. Thom looked worried that Harrison might take the whole desk down with him, but Harrison was doing his best to maintain even though it felt like he was viewing Thom through the wrong end of a telescope.

“You can go ahead and send Mr. Carmichael in,” Thom said, fixing his Windsor knot again that had become slightly askew. “Best to Helene and the children.”

Harrison slung his coat over his arm and gripped his briefcase as he headed for the door. After a few steps, his vision became cloudier and he could feel the creamy tears falling from his eyes. They stung his cheeks as he grappled with the doorknob and lurched into the hallway.

In the front office, Whit was leaning over the secretary’s desk; the two engaged in hushed words that stopped once Harrison emerged. Harrison ran his finger from one side of his neck to the other. Whit gave him a solemn nod back, but Harrison couldn’t hold it in any longer and puked up the barely digested Scotch.

“Oh my!” he heard the secretary say.

He stared at his sickness bubbling on the floor, a mix of half-chewed capicola and salami in an amber soup with specks of dark red blood throughout, the clots of blood so dark they looked like tar. He wiped his mouth and trudged past all the onlookers toward the elevators outside, glad that a part of him would remain embedded in Sanford & Co.’s carpet.

As the elevator arrived and he stepped inside, he wished for the undoing of everyone involved in his termination, knowing that only their collective downfall could get him to shoot out of bed with a smile.

 

Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author of SLOW DOWN and THE MENTOR (St. Martin’s Press), which was acquired by Macmillan Entertainment with the film in development. He has been published in multiple languages and nominated for the 2018 Prix du Polar. The first two books in a thriller series, THE DESIRE CARD and PREY NO MORE, are forthcoming from Fahrenheit Press in winter 2019. His pilots and screenplays have been finalists in Script Pipeline, Stage 32, We Screenplay, the New York Screenplay, Screencraft, and the Hollywood Screenplay contests. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his writing has also appeared in the anthology DIRTY BOULEVARD, The Millions, The Montreal Review, The Adirondack Review, Essays & Fictions, The New Plains Review, and others. He is the co-curator of The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series (guerrillalit.wordpress.com). He lives in New York City. Follow him at www.leematthewgoldberg.com and @LeeMatthewG.

 

 

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Robert Parker is a new exciting voice, a married father of two, who lives in a village close to Manchester, UK. He has both a law degree and a degree in film and media production, and has worked in numerous employment positions, ranging from solicitor’s agent (essentially a courtroom gun for hire), to a van driver, to a warehouse order picker, to a commercial video director. He currently writes full time, while also making time to encourage new young readers and authors through readings and workshops at local schools and bookstores. In his spare time he adores pretty much all sport, boxing regularly for charity, loves fiction across all mediums, and his glass is always half full.

His latest book is the crime/thriller, A WANTED MAN.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK

Would you call yourself a born writer?

No, I wouldn’t at all. I’d say I was a fairly imaginative kid that was exposed to lots of fun stories when he was young, and all I ever wanted to do from then was the same thing.

What was your inspiration for A WANTED MAN?

All sorts of things, in truth! Eighties action movies, fatherhood, the futility of war, disillusionment with government, crime stories, my home city of Manchester, mob movies. It started as a terrible action movie screenplay when I was 16, and I went back to it when I was 30 and thought ‘hey, I can do something with this finally!’.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

The ordinary smashing up against the fantastic. The real versus the outlandish. Normal splashed with amazing. Anything that surprises and satisfies in equal measure. Aside from that, I find myself writing about fatherhood a lot, but with two young kids and a third imminent, I suppose being a dad is never far from my daily thoughts!

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

Well, after I picked it back up as a screenplay out of the drawer, and started a first draft, it was 6-7 weeks. Then after that a further three years of rewrites, so that draft 46 is the one you have in your hands.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

I try to be as strict with myself as I can, but I love the fact that being a writer lets be spend a lot of time with my kids, and they always come first. But usually, I’ll be up early doors with the sprogs, they’ll go off to school, then it’s coffee and writing the rest of the day, breaking for lunch, the gym and errands. Family time again 5 until 7pm, then if we’ve got a quiet evening planned, I’m straight back at it until my eyes fuzz.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

The patience I suppose. I’m fit to burst with my next book, and the next and the next, so that when I kept having to rewrite (and then because it’s actually a book and it takes a fair bit of time to read) it felt like it took longer and longer to get there. But now I’m so glad it did, because the book is literally the best I could make it, thanks to all the time it took me to get it here.

What do you love most about being an author?

The ability to create everyday, and the joy and freedom that comes with that. That and the fact that it lets me spend a lot of time with my family, which is a complete blessing I know how lucky I am to have.

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 self-published originally, until I hooked up with my agent, then we went hunting a publisher. Then it was a question of taking the best offer. I’d have got nowhere if I didn’t self-publish though, and would recommend it to anyone who is struggling to find an audience like I was. I loved that process, and I really enjoyed the thrill of self-publishing – people look down on it, but I know it was how I got started. I’ll always be grateful to it.

Where can we find you on the web?

All over!

https://www.facebook.com/robertparkerauthor/

https://twitter.com/RobertRParker45

www.robertparkerauthor.com

https://www.instagram.com/robertparkerauthor/

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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.

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

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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