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Posts Tagged ‘psychological suspense’

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00070]“I met Ethan on the day that I killed Karoline.”

Thus begins this psychological mystery. One has to admit, it is a great hooky first line for a book!

What if, in a moment of thoughtless anger, you were to wish your best friend’s demise, then, soon after, that friend ended up dead?

This is the story of our smart, beautiful, psychologically fragile protagonist Anna Williams who, tortured by feelings of shame and guilt after Karoline’s death, suffers an emotional breakdown.

Yet…did Anne really kill Karoline? I couldn’t help but wonder as I turned the pages, asking myself, “Is she a psychopath?” I kept having the unsettling sensation that what I was reading wasn’t what it appeared to be. In this sense, this is a deliciously engaging novel.

Through Anna’s twisted perspective, and with the help of brief and somewhat odd journal entries, author Catherine Astolfo explores the complex relationship between the two friends. The reader will get a glimpse of Anne’s inner journey as she uncovers painful childhood events and discovers a family history filled with unexpected crimes and betrayals.

Sweet Karoline is an exploration into the dark corners of a young woman’s psyche as she falls into a vortex of greed, lies, and deceit.

I enjoyed reading this novel. It was different from many other books I’ve read recently. Written in a stream-of-consciousness manner that well suits the complicated mind of the protagonist, this multi-layered, well-paced story could be considered literary mystery. Astolfo pays a lot of attention to language and her prose, drily witty at times, is eloquent and fluid. What leads people to harm others? What prompts a good person to commit evil acts? These are just some of the questions explored in this dark tale of suspense.

If you enjoy a good psychological mystery, you should try this one out. Recommended.

Purchase on Amazon. Visit the author’s website. Read my interview with the author on Blogcritics.

This review first appeared on Blogcritics and was given in exchange for a review copy provided by the publisher, Imajin Books.

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IMG_2453aaCatherine Astolfo retired in 2002 after a very successful 34 years in education. She can recall writing fantasy stories for her classmates in Grade Three, so she started finishing her books the day after her retirement became official. Her short stories and poems have been published in a number of Canadian literary presses. Her story, “What Kelly Did”, won the prestigious Arthur Ellis Award for Best Short Crime Story in 2012.

In the fall of 2011, she was thrilled to be awarded a four-book contract by Imajin Books for her Emily Taylor Mystery series (previously self-published), and has never been happier with this burgeoning second career!

Catherine’s books are gritty, yet portray gorgeous surroundings; they deal with sensitive social issues, but always include love and hope. They’re not thrillers, but rather literary mysteries with loads of character and setting. And justice always prevails.

Website: www.catherineastolfo.com

FB: http://tinyurl.com/kc4n5xw

Twitter: www.twitter.com/cathyastolfo

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, SWEET KAROLINE. What was your inspiration for it?

A: Thank-you! Sweet Karoline explores the mindset of a psychologically fragile character throughout a journey of self-discovery that involves universal themes of beauty, racism, love, treachery, family history, and crime. There were several points of inspiration for Sweet Karoline. The first one is a theme that runs through all my books. I am fascinated by evil, by the psychopathology that leads people to harm others. How is a monster created? Are they born or developed? How can we recognize them? For Sweet Karoline, I explored that theme through the complicated relationship between two women. My second inspiration, which I have to admit also runs through my other books, is my children’s background. They are a combination of white, black and native ancestry. I find the history unique and intriguing, in particular the family’s undocumented connection to Joseph Brant. As for Anne, the main character, she was very strong and inserted her personality into the book right from the beginning.  In addition, one of my children and his wife live in Los Angeles, so I am somewhat familiar with that area and was inspired to place Anne in the film industry, as my children are filmmakers.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.

A: In the first sentence of the book, my protagonist tells use that she killed her best friend. But did she physically murder her? Or is she just feeling guilty about Karoline’s suicide? Anne is a very beautiful woman. She’s part native, white and black. She’s so gorgeous that the attention is actually a problem for her. She builds protective walls around herself. Her world shrinks to two best friends whom she trusts implicitly. She’s very complicated. Sometimes she calls herself the “Ice Queen” because she has a mean side to her; sometimes she’s sweet and loving. I don’t think Anne’s much different from most of us, but she endures some traumatic events that threaten to send her far off course.

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?

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00070]A: The hardest part of writing Sweet Karoline was choosing a path for Anne, my main character. She kept resisting the storylines I gave her! Not surprising, since she’s a complicated, feisty, intelligent woman who is undergoing an enormous trauma. She has an emotional breakdown after the death of her best friend. Anne falls in love for the first time. She discovers a trail of manipulation and betrayal that would send anyone into shock. Naturally she was a little taciturn and resistant to her writer. As a result Sweet Karoline went through several permutations.

The creative process for this one taught me a lot about patience. The novel developed very slowly in comparison to my other four, taking almost three years to complete. It was like the taciturn child after giving birth to several placid babies. I learned to let go. Follow my subconscious muse that was directing me away from the ordinary. When I finally gave in to that mode, it was exhilarating. I believe it has changed my writing forever.

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

A: Part of what I do is to give out sections of the novel to my daughter as it evolves. She’s a producer/casting director and has a terrific visual sensibility. If the narrative is not exciting, she’ll let me know, but she will also give me some suggestions on how to keep it going. As well, I read parts of it aloud, either to myself or to my critique groups. Reading aloud gives an entirely different dimension to the writing. You can hear the mistakes, as well as the cadence of words that are beautifully arranged.

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

A: I don’t usually feel anxious until I’m part way through the novel. The anxiety sets in when I’m afraid it’s not good or I won’t have the inspiration to keep going. I try very hard to soothe my tension by rereading particularly good sections. Sometimes I even allow myself to edit. Lots of my writer colleagues tell me that editing causes their anxiety, but for me, the process often alleviates it.

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

A: I don’t have a set schedule, though I try to set a goal of 500 words a day. Some days I’ll get a lot more than 500 completed and the next day, maybe none. I write when and where I can, whether I’m sitting in a waiting room, out in my backyard or in my office. That’s why I love the freedom of the laptop! Bless you, little MAC. In some ways, I’m fortunate because I didn’t start writing until I retired from my career as an educator. My time is very much my own, so I can build in family and other work without too much trouble. I wasn’t able to write much when I was younger and juggled children and a job. But waiting ‘til now means I’m a little older than many authors.

Q: How do you define success?

A: I equate success with joy. To me, joy is a state of satisfaction, peace and love. In my writing career, success is having a reader like my books. Just one reader who really understands my vision can make my day a success.

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

A: Oh my. I could cruelly say that you have the wrong partner. However, if someone is determined enough to keep the relationship as well as pursue the art, s/he must find a way to make compromises in order to fulfill both partners’ needs. Get up very early in the morning, when everyone else is asleep, to write. No one’s time is being intruded upon.  Or keep a diary in the bathroom.

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 don’t, actually. I’m a pretty selfish person and probably wouldn’t keep doing something that was horrible or like a painful illness. I LOVE writing. I can’t wait to sit down at my laptop and create. I miss it terribly if I’m unable to write for a while, so I’ll even cook scenes in my head. Now that I’m retired, I experience joy pretty much every day because I can imagine I’m standing on a mountain or cuddling a baby all while sitting at my desk.

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

A: Since one of the greatest joys for a writer is feedback, I encourage your readers to write reviews for their favorite authors. As a writer, I’m interested in your reaction to my novel. This is your opportunity to write two or three sentences giving your opinion. You are not bound by the old rules of book reviews that you might have learned in school. You are relieved of the summary task! You don’t have to prove any expert literary skill to anyone, although you may want to demonstrate correct spelling and grammar to be taken seriously. Your only goal is to tell other readers what you thought of, reacted to or how you felt about this particular book. I’d also love emails from my fans! My email address is cathy@catherineastolfo.com.

Catherine Astolfo’s Bibliography

The Emily Taylor Mystery Series:

The Bridgeman. Imajin Books, October, 2011

Victim. Imajin Books, November, 2011

Legacy. Imajin Books, April, 2012

Seventh Fire. Imajin Books, July 2012

Awards:

Winner, Arthur Ellis Best Crime Short Story Award, 2012

Winner, Derrick Murdoch Award, 2012

Winner, Bony Pete Short Story Award, First Prize, 2010

Winner, Bony Pete Short Story Award, Second Prize, 2009

Winner, Brampton Arts Acclaim Award, 2005

Winner, Dufferin-Peel Catholic Elementary Principal of the Year, 2002, the Catholic Principals Council of Ontario.

Winner, Elementary Dufferin-Peel OECTA Award for Outstanding Service, 1998

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R. Barri Flowers is an award winning criminologist and internationally bestselling author of more than sixty books–including thriller and suspense fiction, relationship fiction, young adult mysteries, true crime, and criminology titles.

Bestselling mystery and thriller fiction, including SEDUCED TO KILL IN KAUAI, MURDER IN MAUI, MURDER IN HONOLULU, KILLER IN THE WOODS, DARK STREETS OF WHITECHAPEL, STATE’S EVIDENCE, PERSUASIVE EVIDENCE, and JUSTICE SERVED.

Author Photo R Barri FlowersOther novels by the author include the bestselling relationship novel, FOREVER SWEETHEARTS, and young adult novels, COUNT DRACULA’S TEENAGE DAUGHTER, GHOST GIRL IN SHADOW BAY, and DANGER IN TIME.

Flowers has also written a number of bestselling true crime books, including THE SEX SLAVE MURDERS, THE PICKAXE KILLERS, SERIAL KILLER COUPLES and MASS MURDER IN THE SKY. He was editor as well of the bestselling anthology, MASTERS OF TRUE CRIME.

The author has been interviewed on the Biography Channel and Investigation Discovery.

Official Website: http://www.rbarriflowers.com/

Q: Tell us why readers should buy BEFORE HE KILLS AGAIN: A Veronica Vasquez Thriller.

A: BEFORE HE KILLS AGAIN is a crime thriller written by an award winning criminologist and bestselling author of such true crime books as THE SEX SLAVE MURDERS and thriller fiction, including MURDER IN MAUI and DARK STREETS OF WHITECHAPEL.

This book is about an FBI profiler and criminal psychologist who returns to her hometown of Portland, Oregon, to assist the police in tracking down a serial killer, who murders beautiful women in pairs.

As someone who has written extensively about real life serial killers, BEFORE HE KILLS AGAIN brings verisimilitude to the perpetrator and his psyche as he pushes the boundaries in handpicking his victims.

For readers who love thriller fiction where the villain is a frightening serial killer who matches wits with the beautiful protagonist and homicide detectives on the case—or are fans of TV series such as Criminal Minds, Dexter, and Hannibal-– this is a novel you are sure to enjoy.

Q: What makes a good thriller novel?

A: A good thriller novel is one in which there is a constant sense of danger and a suspenseful whodunit, with three dimensional characters who bring you along for the ride as they converge for a heart pounding conclusion.

Within this regard, the thriller should also convey a strong plot with smart twists and turns and deft pacing that will allow the story to play itself out while keeping the reader thoroughly engaged.

Some great thrillers that come to mind include Robert Ludlum’s The Aquitaine Progression and John Grisham’s The Pelican Brief. I believe that BEFORE HE STRIKES AGAIN also fits in this category.

Q: What is a regular writing day like for you?

A: A regular writing day for me involves getting up at 6 a.m. and heading to my computer at 7 a.m. (after an hour of working out and having breakfast)—where I spend the next five hours writing and rewriting my latest book.

After a noontime lunch and chores, I am back at it by 1 p.m., where I go at it on computer till 5 p.m. (sometimes 6 p.m., if really on a roll), typing away in faithfully sticking to the plot in my head.

I call it quits for the night after that and am back in the grind the next day.

This is a routine I follow seven days a week. I am the type of writer who is not easily distracted by other things—understanding that I get out as much as I put in as an author.

Q: What do you find most rewarding about being an author?

A:  What is most rewarding to me as an author is being able to successfully write in multiple genres (thriller, true crime, young adult mysteries, and criminology). As such, I have fans in these different genes, giving me a good reason to try and keep up with them in bringing out fresh material they can take pleasure in reading.

Aside from that, I enjoy the camaraderie with other authors, having found some great friends over the years to seek advice and words of wisdom from while returning in kind.

Q: What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received that you’d like to pass to other authors?

A: That’s a great question. Hmm… I’d have to say that the best writing advice I’ve ever received and have passed along to other authors came from a bestselling crime writer who told me when I first got started: “The thing that separates serious writers from those who aren’t in it for the long haul is the ability to shake off rejections and look at as constructive criticism rather than personal attacks—making yourself a better writer in the process with each rejection letter.”

Definitely words to live by for any writer willing to work at it to hone your craft till you get where you’re going in finding success in the business.

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Before He Kills Again_Cover

Book Description:

From R. Barri Flowers, award winning crime writer and international bestselling author of Dark Streets of Whitechapel and Killer in The Woods, comes a gripping new psychological thriller, Before He Kills Again: A Veronica Vasquez Thriller.

FBI psychologist and criminal profiler Veronica Vasquez returns to her hometown of Portland, Oregon to assist police in apprehending a ruthless serial killer dubbed “The Rose Killer,” who kills beautiful women in pairs, leaving a rose on top of each corpse.

Heading the investigation is homicide Detective Sergeant Bryan Waldicott. Veronica must win him over, along with the entire task force, and prove herself worthy of the job. Since losing her husband three years ago, Veronica had been focused on her work to escape the pain of loneliness and separation. A romance with Waldicott, who has issues of his own, complicates things for them both as they try to stop a serial murderer before he kills again.

When she begins to suspect that the new husband of her estranged sister Alexandra could be the killer, Veronica pursues that delicate angle and, in the process, becomes a target herself.

Before He Kills Again is tense thriller that will keep readers on edge till the very end.

 Purchase:

Amazon Trade Paperback / Kindle /Kindle UK / Kindle CA / Barnes and Noble Nook eBook / Smashwords / Kobo

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Before He Kills Again_CoverBook Description:

From R. Barri Flowers, award winning crime writer and international bestselling author of Dark Streets of Whitechapel and Killer in The Woods, comes a gripping new psychological thriller, Before He Kills Again: A Veronica Vasquez Thriller.

FBI psychologist and criminal profiler Veronica Vasquez returns to her hometown of Portland, Oregon to assist police in apprehending a ruthless serial killer dubbed “The Rose Killer,” who kills beautiful women in pairs, leaving a rose on top of each corpse.

Heading the investigation is homicide Detective Sergeant Bryan Waldicott. Veronica must win him over, along with the entire task force, and prove herself worthy of the job. Since losing her husband three years ago, Veronica had been focused on her work to escape the pain of loneliness and separation. A romance with Waldicott, who has issues of his own, complicates things for them both as they try to stop a serial murderer before he kills again.

When she begins to suspect that the new husband of her estranged sister Alexandra could be the killer, Veronica pursues that delicate angle and, in the process, becomes a target herself.

Before He Kills Again is tense thriller that will keep readers on edge till the very end.

My thoughts:

Before He Kills Again is indeed  a very entertaining read, one of those suspense thrillers that will keep you turning pages late into the night. At least, this was my case. I finished it in 2-3 days, as I couldn’t put it down. The heroine, criminal psychologist and FBI profiler Veronica Vasquez, is a sympathetic character, smart and independent but with a gentle side. I found all the information about serial killers fascinating, and thoroughly enjoyed all the setups, twists and red herrings devised by the author. Just when you think you know who the killer is, something happens to deter you from suspecting. The love story between Veronica and Homicide detective Bryan Waldicott  adds some spice without getting in the way of the mystery. The novel does have some graphic violent scenes, so if you’re squeamish about this sort of thing, be warned.

If you’re a fan of thrillers about serial killers, you should pick this one up!

Purchase:

Amazon Trade Paperback / Kindle /Kindle UK / Kindle CA / Barnes and Noble Nook eBook / Smashwords / Kobo

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I’ve been asked why I write about the darker side of life, involving subjects like drugs, personality disorders, abuse, neglect, and violence. My work is fiction but it’s based on a lot of things I have personally experienced, and the characters in “Vida Nocturna” come from vampires I have known.

I wrote “Vida Nocturna” in a two-year graduate workshop at the University of Chicago, where people from the industry sometimes visited to show us how publishing worked. It became clear to me that books weren’t getting published because they were good. They were getting published because they were predictable sales and the publishing companies could go back to their stockholders to report that they’d placed safe bets, which very often meant that they closely resembled earlier work. Books were chasing the market in a death spiral of creativity.

My daughter was reading “Twilight” at the time, and this, to me, was a prime example of what was happening in publishing. Vampires sell, and romances are half of the fiction market, so it wasn’t surprising that publishers were climbing all over each other trying to put out the next series about vampires in love. Meanwhile, the book my daughter was reading seemed to be telling her to date the spookiest, creepiest guy she could find.

My book, “Vida Nocturna,” is a response to that. Sara’s narcissistic father and borderline personality disordered mother left her helpless, drained and afraid, turning to horror and fantasy stories to escape her real life. In college she fantasizes that her spooky new boyfriend is a vampire because he’s pale and slender and stays up all night with a strange dark energy. By the time she realizes he’s a cocaine addict, she’s been “bitten” by the drug and become addicted, herself.

Sara has always escaped her real-world fears by reading fantasy and horror stories. Now, as a social-phobic college freshman, she enters a dark world where horror is not supernatural and fantasy is a trap.

Evil is contagious. Victims become predators, and every predator was once just like Sara. Imagining she’d be different was her first step toward them. Now, draped in the decadent ‘80s subculture, she’s rendered helpless by powers she never imagined.


Mark D. Diehl has lived and worked in five countries. He met his wife Jennifer in South Korea and was chased out of the country by her powerful family and the police, and together they were stranded in Hong Kong with no income and no way home. (Read about this in the “Our Story” section of his blog at http://www.markddiehl.com.) Eventually he became a trial lawyer at a multinational law firm in Chicago, escaped that pitiful existence by attending a fiction writing program at the University of Chicago, and now lives and writes in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. 

http://www.markddiehl.com

http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/1463554060/ref=sib_dp_pt#reader-link

http://www.amazon.com/Vida-Nocturna-Mark-D-Diehl/dp/1463554060/ref=la_B008XKQ1NO_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1346174233&sr=1-1

More videos of author reading in Freeport, ME, with 40 attending:
ttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNsUP-MqehU&feature=plcp

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWgboqL0KP0&feature=plcp

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