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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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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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Silk HighRes (2)Title: Silk

Genre: Thriller

Author: Chris Karlsen

Website: www.chriskarlsen.com

Publisher: Books to Go Now

Purchase on Amazon

Any reader who enjoys a good mystery with a good dose of sex added will find Silk a tale they will want to read. While some scenes are more explicit than others, they do not detract from the mystery. The plot contains many facets and the reader must pay attention as they read to follow the story as it develops.
Talented author Chris Karlsen has crafted a story that shows how a self-centered wealthy man of the Victorian English era entangles himself in a habit that has disastrous consequences for many others as well. Verging on middle age and fearful of losing his youth he becomes interested in a strange formula he finds hidden in a book. To learn the secret, one must read the book.
The characters move through well described scenes, leading the reader on a twisting path into the hidden recesses of human nature where secrets await discovery by the reader.  These glimpses into human nature show realism at its best, lifting the characters into a lifelike status as they try to find satisfaction in life.
The reader will find Inspector Rudyard Bloodstone to their liking as he and his associate attempt to solve more than one murder case. Along the way, he allows the reader to see his humanity.
Silk will have readers looking for more adventures of Inspector Bloodstone by this imaginative author.  Recommended as an interesting, fun read for any mystery fan who likes that touch of Silk. Enjoy. I did.
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Anne K. Edwards, author & guest reviewer

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StolenDreams_med-193x300I can’t believe this is the last book in the Cassie Scot new adult paranormal mystery series! I really have enjoyed this series a lot.

If you’re new to the series, I advise you to pick up the books in order:

Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective  
Secrets and Lies (Cassie Scot #2) 
Mind Games (Cassie Scot #3)
Stolen Dreams (Cassie Scot #4)

In this the final installment, talented author Christine Amsden brings the infamous Scot vs. Blackwood family feud to a close, but not without filling her story with enough intrigue, mystery, twists and surprises to keep you thinking about the characters for a long time.

And this is, really, the biggest draw in these stories, the characters, especially Cassie and Evan. Cassie has been such a likable protagonist throughout the series, smart and strong and opinionated, yet caring and warm-hearted. Evan –yes, arrogant, condescending and overprotective Evan — has also been the perfect hero. They were school sweethearts…until Evan’s father stole her powers from her and gave them to Evan, thus starting a conflict between them that brought them to the depths of despair, especially for Cassie.

There are many subplots in this book, but the main problem happens when Cassie’s father is killed and she and her family think that Evan’s dad is the one responsible. The primary storyline has to do with finding out if this is true or not and, if not, then who, in fact, is responsible.

There are many surprises in Stolen Dreams, and I enjoyed all of them. Fans of romance will especially enjoy the focus on Cassie and Evan’s relationship. I loved the ending. In sum, this was a wonderful series, and the author delivered a satisfying closure. I wonder what she will come up next? I’m certainly going to be on the lookout for her future books.

My review was previously published in Blogcritics Magazine. 

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knowndevil-cover

Known Devil is the third instalment in Gustainis’ Occult Crime Unit urban fantasy series. Though I had not read the first two books, this one was completely stand-alone and didn’t make me feel I was missing anything. I have, however, read other books from Gustainis in the past (Evil WaysBlack Magic Woman and Sympathy for the Devil), and thoroughly enjoyed them. He is a fabulous writer.

In this exciting new series, Detective Sergeant Stanley Markowski of the Scranton PD’s Occult Crimes Unit,  and his partner, vampire detective Karl Renfer, try to keep law and order in a world where supernaturals — or supes — have come out of the closet and walk the streets with humans. Markowski’s daughter, a vampire witch, is eager to help and offer her expertise, especially because she’s attracted to Karl.

A new drug has hit the streets, Haemoglobin Plus — better known as Slide — the first drug that addicts supes, and as a result, a new wave of crimes has risen in Scranton. Stan and Karl are right on the case, interrogating both humans and supes alike, trying to find out who is behind the new drug: Pietro Calabrese, the Godfather of the local vampire family? Wizard Victor Castle, the unofficial head of the city’s whole supernatural community?  The Delatasso family? Or the new Patriot Party, who has  declared supes “abominations before the Lord?”

If you love urban fantasy a la crime noir, you’ll love this book. Gustainis is smart, gritty, snarky. I just love his sharp, witty descriptions. Take a look at a few:

“He had salt-and-pepper hair, wide-set brown eyes, and a thin moustache in the middle of a face that was no harder than your average concrete wall.”

“He stared at me with eyes that had probably looked dead even before he became a vampire.”

“The terrace outside the front door is open in warmer weather, for those who like sharing their food with the local bugs. I prefer to eat inside, where the only insects I’m likely to encounter have two legs.”

“I saw a puzzled look on his face — maybe because Karl’s grip, like every vampire’s, is colder than a banker’s heart.”

Gustainis is also a master at providing comic relief. I laughed out loud at times. Stan is a likable, sympathetic character, tough yet kind when needed. The world building, the setting, and all the supernatural details come through in a genuine, realistic way. I also enjoyed all the police procedural, showing once more, as in his other books, that Gustainis has done his research well.

The story moves at a fairly quick pace, propelled by entertaining dialogue and lots of action scenes. Particularly interesting is the dynamics between humans and supernaturals now that they have to co-exist side by side. But best of all, is the author’s gifted prose, a pleasure to read. Highly recommended for fans of detective urban fantasy!

Visit the author’s website.

Find out more on Amazon.

My review as originally published in Blogcritics.

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Secrets and Lies is the second installment in the Cassie Scot new adult paranormal mystery series. Though there’s a bit of backstory in this novel, it’s preferable to read the books in order, if only to find out from the beginning who Cassie is, how she got started as a detective and, especially, how her romance with Evan evolved. Also to understand the animosity between their families.

In Secrets and Lies, two girls have gone missing from a summer camp and although the local police have already started investigating, Cassie is hired by a family member of the girls to help in the case. Evan, always wanting to protect Cassie, joins her in the investigation.

Because Evan saved Cassie’s life in book 1, Cassie believes she owes him and finds it difficult to deny him what he wants.  This makes life both frustrating and thrilling for Cassie, who is not only an independent, smart, 21-year old sleuth, but she’s also powerfully attracted to him and prone to succumb to his charms…but who can resist a charismatic, handsome warlock?

As the two begin to investigate, it becomes increasingly obvious that magic is involved, and that the girls might still be alive. At the same time, there seems to be a “ghost” or “invisible person” robbing banks in town. Are the robberies and the girls’ disappearance connected in some way? Adding further tension to the mystery is the ongoing war between Cassie and her parents, who betrayed and disowned her in book 1, as well as the unending feud between Cassie’s and Evan’s families, who totally loath each other. This, of course, puts pressure on the young couple, who are not only in lust but also in love.

As Cassie closes in on the villains, tormenting issues about her mother resurface. On her mother’s deathbed, Cassie must make a decision that could forever distance her from her mother or could possibly reunite them — or at least ease some of the tension in the family and improve their relationship. The book isn’t titled Secrets and Lies for nothing, as there are plenty of these in the story, not to mention enough twists and turns to keep readers guessing.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining read. First of all, what I love most about Cassie is her voice. She is very likable and sympathetic, with just the right amount of good qualities and flaws. She’s smart, independent, witty, sensitive, and has a good heart. Amsden does an excellent job with her character’s interiority.

The second aspect of this novel I enjoyed the most is the romance between Cassie and Evan. It’s just the right amount, without veering the plot away from the mystery. It also has its fair share of tension, as we never know how it’s going to end up for these two. The author keeps us guessing in this roller-coaster of a love story.

The pace flows fairly quickly, as this author doesn’t use too much exposition or description. Action and dialogue propel the story forward. The paranormal aspect adds fun and spice to the story without getting overwhelming, and I enjoyed all the magic 101.

The ending left me breathless with a mega-revelation that will have a major impact on the relationship between Cassie and Evan. Having read both books in the series, this is my favorite, and I can’t wait to see what Amsden will come up with in her next installment, soon to come out in 2014. Fans of paranormal mysteries will relish this one!

Find out more on Amazon and B&N.

Visit Christine Amsden’s website.

Originally published in Blogcritics

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Spirit Shapes CoverQuestion: Deputy, what can you tell me about the murder in the so-called haunted house?

Deputy Crabtree: Not a whole lot at this point. A murder victim, a male in his late teens, was discovered in the upstairs of an abandoned house.

Question: Who made the discovery?

Deputy Crabtree: Ghost hunters.

Question: That leads me to the question, did you find any ghosts?

Deputy Crabtree: The house is full of ghosts and evil spirits. Whether you believe in such things or not, in this case I can assure you they are very real.

Question: Fascinating, so how can you be so sure? Does the ability come with being a Native American?

Deputy Crabtree: Not necessarily, but since I once successfully called back the dead in order to find out the truth about a murder and suicide, I’ve been extremely sensitive to the presence of spiritual beings. 

Question: What about your husband? I know he is a preacher, does he share this ability?

Deputy Crabtree: No, and for his sake, I’m glad. It’s not a pleasant experience, and in the case of this particular haunted house, it is almost painful.

Question: Goodness, I certainly didn’t expect that answer. In what way is it painful?

Deputy Crabtree: The house is not only inhabited by ghosts, but also evil spirits. I’m afraid it’s hard to explain and I hope you never have to experience it. 

Question: Are you on your way to solving the case?

Deputy Crabtree: I certainly hope so, though at this point there is nothing more I can tell you except that I have been doing all the things the detectives in charge of the case have asked me. 

Question: One more thing, please. Will you be able to rid the house of whatever is haunting it?

Deputy Crabtree: That is not my job, however, if I can find out anything about the ghosts that might help them move on, I will.

Question: Thank you for your time, Deputy, and good luck.

Deputy Crabtree: I’ll need something much stronger than luck.

About Spirit Shapes:

Ghost hunters stumble upon a murdered teen in a haunted house. Deputy Tempe Crabtree’s investigation pulls her into a whirlwind of restless spirits, good and evil, intertwined with the past and the present, and demons and angels at war.

Marilyn at MayhemBio:

Marilyn Meredith is the author of over thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series. She borrows a lot from where she lives in the Southern Sierra for the town of Bear Creek and the surrounding area, including the nearby Tule River Indian Reservation. She does like to remind everyone that she is writing fiction. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at http://fictionforyou.com and follow her blog at http://marilymeredith.blogspot.com/ 

Contest: 

The person who comments on the most blogs on this blog tour will have the opportunity to have a character named after him or her in the next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery.

Tomorrow I’ll be visiting here: http://marywelk.com/

 

 

 

 

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