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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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RMCARTMEL_GARDENBorn into a military family, R.M. Cartmel was educated at Sherborne School in the South West of England and at Oxford.  Cartmel served as a practicing doctor for over three and a half decades. As a novelist Cartmel combines two of his lifelong loves—writing and traveling throughout France’s exquisite Burgundy region.

Connect with the author on the web:

WebFacebook / Twitter / Blog

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, The Charlemagne Connection What was your inspiration for it?

A: It is the second book in a series of books set in the famous wine making part of France called Burgundy. Originally when I retired I was looking for a novel set there, and when I couldn’t find one I decided to write one. That was The Richebourg Affair, which was set in the spring in Burgundy. The second book, The Charlemagne Connection is set in high summer of the same year, and the third of the trilogy, which I am writing at the moment, is set during the vintage.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.

A: He is a small middle-aged rather tatty policeman, who is obviously very capable at his job, as he has reached the rank of Commandant [translated as Commander] in the French National Police. He has been married but it never worked out.

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: Having finished Richebourg, it was just the right time to go to Nuits Saint Georges to experience the flowering of the vines, so I set off to do the first piece of research, in France. I also needed to discuss the legal issues in the book, and the forensics. It took round 6 months to create the first draft, including finding out that some of the forensic detail I had got wrong, and that needed a rewrite. But as I had not actually finished the first draft when I hit that glitch, it wasn’t enormously difficult to write round it.

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

A: I have no idea, it happens. Charlemagne pretty much wrote itself, so the plot I found exciting as I went along.

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

A: No. None of the process causes anxiety. I may not always be able to produce text that I like, but it is not a cause for anxiety. That of course may happen when I start to get behind a deadline, which is a place, so far I have never been.

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

A: There is no other work outside writing. My son lives in my house but he too has a job so we meet when we meet.

Q: How do you define success?

A: Someone I know from the past telling me that they loved my book and when’s the next one out?

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

A: If you want to write, and your consort doesn’t want you to write, then you either have to not write or change your consort. I can’t help thinking that if the conflict is irreconcilable, then don’t try. What a horrible place for someone to be. Is that idea copyright, there may be a novel there?

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: Obviously not! If I did I wouldn’t be a writer.

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

A: Never ever think you can do it all alone. Write the first draft of book, and then be prepared to let it fly. Send it to an editor to polish it.

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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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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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ThreadingtheNeedle_FlatAn action packed political thriller.

Isidore Farrugia is a cop, brought up during the Years of Lead, a horrific period in Italian history, a time of terror and killing, his childhood memories, scarred forever by the brutal death of his mother. Nevertheless, he is a good man, loyal and protective of his friends and colleagues.

This is why although off duty and out of jurisdiction, when his friend Bianca arranges a meeting with her informant, Charles Brooks, he insists on coming too. However, soon his onlooker role changes, when the young 23-year-old American, Bianca came to meet is killed, and so are his assassins.
Then another murder takes place, and the Italian police investigators find themselves unearthing a web of political intrigue.
Bianca has a secret though, she knows, she must uncover the truth behind the information she has been entrusted with, despite warnings from her mysterious online contact Loki, to stay away. Adastra, a weapons manufacturer is hiding something… But what?
I found myself hooked, right from the start of this brilliant, action packed, political crime thriller, which is set in Milan.
For those, like myself, who are interested in history, the Afterword about the Years of Lead by Claudio Ferrara was very interesting.
This is actually the third book in the ‘Roma’ series, by this talented author, and there is a tantalising glimpse at the end into his fourth book, ’Turning to Stone.’

Threading the Needle is available in Paperback from Amazon.

Review by Susan Keefe

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Michael Bigham photo

Raised in the mill town of Prineville in Central Oregon beneath blue skies and rimrocks, Michael Bigham attended the University of Oregon and during his collegiate summers, fought range fires on the Oregon high desert for the Bureau of Land Management. He worked as a police officer with the Port of Portland and after leaving police work, obtained an MFA degree in Creative Writing from Vermont College. Michael lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and daughter. Harkness is his first novel.

Would you call yourself a born writer? 

I’d call myself a born reader. I’ve always had a yen for books and have been known to read just about anywhere. I carry a book of short stories in the back of my car just in case I have time to kill. Since I read so much, I think that fired up my yen to write.

What was your inspiration for Harkness?

Nothing too original, I fear. Harkness is the name of my central character. Although it’s a mystery, the book is about Matthew Harkness’ perilous journey through life, how he reacts to murder in his county and tragedy in his own life.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

In Harkness, I take a shot at a couple of serious themes: discrimination because of sexual preference and race in rural America. In the early 50s, many small towns from Ohio westward to the Pacific coast and down into the southeast had ‘sundown’ laws. These laws stated that no person of color could reside within a town’s city limits from sundown to sunrise. I wondered what would happen if a black man stumbled into one of these towns just after the murder of a young white girl. Also, I wondered about how two gay men, lovers and pillars of the community, would live their lives within such a straight-laced community. Both men are married, but have to hide their sexuality. Gays and lesbians weren’t accepted back then.

How long did it take you to complete the novel? Harkness cover

Longer than it should have, several years. I spent a lot of time spinning my wheels trying the traditional route of finding an agent and mainstream publisher. Fortunately, the publishing industry is changing and writers are able to self-publish or work with small boutique publishers to get their books out.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

Discipline comes and goes for me. Right now, I’m working hard on the next book in this series, Thunderhead: A High Desert Mystery, and writing on a regular basis. I usually head off to a coffee shop in the late morning or early afternoon and try to work on my manuscript for a couple of hours. I don’t have a set goal for the number of words per day, because some days I’ll spend revising and rewriting a scene that I’ve worked on previously.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

Just keeping engaged. I have an 11-year-old daughter and I’m a member of the City of Portland’s Citizen Review Board, which is the community watchdog for Portland Police. Sometimes life can sap your creative energy.

What do you love most about being an author?

I love being creative, thinking about plotting and characters, pushing my mind in new directions. I also find it important to connect with other writers. Writing is a lonely art and we need to connect and get feedback on our efforts.

Where can we find you on the web?

My website is michaelbigham.com and I have a twitter address: @wassir

Thanks for taking the time to interview me. I appreciate it.

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