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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

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In addition to a thriving career as a novelist, author Darin Gibby is also one of the country’s premiere patent attorneys and a partner at the prestigious firm of Kilpatrick Townsend (www.kilpatricktownsend.com). With over twenty years of experience in obtaining patents on hundreds of inventions from the latest drug delivery systems to life-saving cardiac equipment, he has built IP portfolios for numerous Fortune 500 companies. In addition to securing patents, Gibby helps clients enforce and license their patents around the world, and he has monetized patents on a range of products.

Darin’s first book, Why Has America Stopped Inventing?, explored the critical issue of America’s broken patent system.  His second book, The Vintage Club, tells the story of a group of the world’s wealthiest men who are chasing a legend about a wine that can make you live forever. His third book, Gil, is about a high school coach who discovers that he can pitch with deadly speed and is given an offer to play with the Rockies during a player’s strike. Gil soon discovers, however, that his unexpected gift is the result of a rare disease, and continuing to pitch may hasten his own death.

With a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering and a Master of Business Administration degree, he is highly regarded in Denver’s legal and business community as a patent strategist, business manager, and community leader. He is also a sought-after speaker on IP issues at businesses, colleges and technology forums, where he demonstrates the value of patents using simple lessons from working on products such as Crocs shoes, Izzo golf straps and Trek bicycles.

An avid traveler and accomplished triathlete, Darin also enjoys back country fly-fishing trips and skiing in the Rocky Mountains. He lives in Denver with his wife, Robin, and their four children.

His latest book is the thriller, Chasing Hindy.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK

About the Book:

 

ADDY’S DREAM AS a patent attorney is to help bring a ground breaking energy technology to the world. Addy’s hopes soar when she is wooed by Quinn, an entrepreneur, to join his company that has purportedly invented a car that can run on water using an innovative catalyst. After resigning her partnership to join Quinn, Addy discovers things aren’t as they seem. The patent office suppresses the company’s patent applications and her life is threatened by unknown assailants if she doesn’t resign.

When she is arrested for stealing US technology from the patent office she realizes Quinn has used her. Now, Addy must find a way to clear her name while salvaging her dream of propelling this technology to the world, all while powerful forces attempt to stop her.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Would you call yourself a born writer?

Not at all.  I went to engineering school in college, and you never have to write in those classes.  Going to law school taught me how to write, and that’s where I gained my passion for writing.

What was your inspiration for Chasing Hindy?

The genesis behind Chasing Hindy came from a surprising source—a hypnotist. When I was in high school, we had an assembly where a hypnotist put a group of volunteers under hypnosis. One of the questions he asked them was what would be the fuel of the future. What fuel would people pump into their tank? Almost without exception they all said, “water!” The hypnotist then told the audience that every time he asked that question he received the same answer.

That was several decades ago, but I’ve always wondered whether that could possibly be true—and why all these people thought we’d all be driving cars that used water. In the following years, I realized that a car wouldn’t run on water per se, but from hydrogen that is extracted from water. The question, of course, is that if we know how to produce hydrogen, why aren’t there hydrogen cars? The answer is quite simple. As an engineer and patent attorney I know the science behind extracting hydrogen from water. The problem is that it takes more energy to do this than to just run a car on gasoline, or even electricity.

But what if somebody invented a way to make it happen? That’s the germ of an idea that led to Chasing Hindy.

Then, of course, is finding an idea for a main character. For me, a good character is far more difficult than finding a story idea. Not only does the character need to make the story line happen, but the readers need to relate to what the character is experiencing. I struggled with such a character for years, and, in fact, rewrote the book several times with other characters that just didn’t seem to work.

What made the story finally click was my discovery of Addy—a patent attorney with a dream to change the world. I decided on a female character (who was also a patent attorney) for several reasons. Perhaps the main reason was that female patent attorneys are in short supply and I wanted to encourage women to enter the profession. So I created Addy to hopefully show what a difference one person can make, and through her experience more women would want to become patent attorneys. What I love about Addy is her determination to make the world a better place, no matter the cost.  But you’ll have to read the book to see what obstacles she must overcome.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

I like to take a character through a journey where her innermost beliefs are challenged, and even rocked to the core, in order to see how she will respond. Life is about journeys, and I think every book should take the reader on quest that changes the character and tells an important life lesson.  For example, my last book, Gil, is about transcending opposites and how opposition can be used to open your heart to compassion.

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

Chasing Hindy took me over 15 years and five rewrites.  The reason why is because I could never find a main character that I liked. That all changed when I came up with Addy, whose story I mention above.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

Sometimes too disciplined.  Since I am a full time patent attorney, I take every free minute to write.  It’s usually at five in the morning, on weekends or on a plane.  I love writing on airplanes because there is nobody who can interrupt your thought process.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

As I mentioned above, finding a main character was the most difficult.  But explaining how a car can actually run on water was also a challenge.

What do you love most about being an author?

Writing.  As Stephen King is fond of saying, as long as you can wake up and write, life is going to be okay.

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 went with a small press—Koehler Books. Koehler published my last two books, The Vintage Club and Gil, and we’ve had a great working relationship.  As such, I decided to use them for Chasing Hindy as well.

Where can we find you on the web?

I am at http://www.daringibby.com

 

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Sabotage banner 2

 

SabotageTitle: Sabotage
Author: Bryan Koepke
Publisher: Writers Cabin Press, Ltd.
Pages: 316
Genre: Thriller

Reece Culver and his friend Haisley Averton travel to Scotland with only one thing on their minds – fishing. After witnessing an automobile accident involving a freelance journalist they quickly realize that something far greater than a crash caused his SUV to sink into the frigid waters of the North Atlantic.

With increasing curiosity, Reece inserts himself into the complicated life of Marie Rhodes who is in the middle of her own crises as she watches her 20-year marriage crumble.

Realizing that they’ll never make it out fishing, Haisley uses his skills in computer forensics to find out who hacked into Karl Rhodes’ office computer at Draecon International and made it appear that he’d remotely accessed the dead journalists laptop. As Haisley combs through logs on the chief of strategy’s computer he stumbles upon an even bigger plot involving a secret drone factory somewhere in the United Kingdom, what looks like funds being embezzled out of Draecon International, and a plot that threatens the national security of the U.K.

Reece spends increasingly greater amounts of time with Marie Rhodes trying to learn what she knows and soon finds that he can’t resist the temptation of falling in love with the woman of his dreams. But as things heat up he questions her true motives.

When Karl Rhodes’ executive secretary is found dead Reece agrees to protect Marie’s soon to be ex-husband Karl. In a tricky game of cat and mouse Reece travels the globe as he tries to keep Marie, her husband, and Karl’s mistress out of harms way, and unknowingly puts himself directly into the crosshairs of a hired assassin.

For More Information

  • Sabotage is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Book Excerpt:

Saturday June 8, 2013

Julian had been told the target would be traveling south along the coastal road. With a practiced hand he pivoted the stock of the Russian-made sniper rifle on its black steel swivel mount atop the bipod legs and aimed toward the highway below. The SUV would be passing right through his sight . . . there. A chilly breeze blew through the tent, rippling the damp cotton shirt that lay molded to his back. He wasn’t nervous, but he did tend to sweat as the killing hour approached. He regarded the unpleasant sensation as just part of the job. It wasn’t like anyone would ever find out.

Peering through the custom-made rifle scope, he adjusted the magnification between his thumb and index finger, zooming in on the worn white strands of the highway’s center line several hundred yards below. As he rotated the knob back out, he spotted the farthest flag he’d placed in the branches of a nearby tree. The strip of white plastic barely fluttered, telling him the wind was calm.

His square unshaven chin pressed firmly against the cold black stock of the Dragunov SVD, and he pushed upward, seating the steel magazine that housed multiple 7N1 steel-core sniper rounds. With its 151-grain projectile and velocity of 830 meters per second, it was perfect for this type of work.

A rifle was the best—precise, anonymous, and decisive. He ran the shot through his mind one more time. Envision what you want to have happen. He’d read about that in an e-zine, and he adopted it as part of his preparations, even though it was supposed to be part of his ten-year life plan. He didn’t need any plan. In ten years he’d be rich and retired on a private island in the Caribbean.

The tracking device he’d stuck under the rear bumper would tell him when the SUV was near. It would approach on its way south toward the city of Talbert. He’d picked the perfect spot. The narrow Scottish road curved left around a large hill, and the vast expanse of the North Atlantic Ocean spread beyond the guardrail.

Confirm the license plate BV-061-EK, lead the target, and pan upward to the windshield. He’d draw a bead on the man’s head, squeeze the trigger, and watch as the windshield filled with a fine red mist. He’d envisioned the heavy vehicle veering sideways and crashing through the flimsy rusted guardrail before plunging into the depths of the sea. The driver would be dead before he realized how freezing cold that water was.

As the assassin waited patiently enduring the wet chill that reminded him of his home on Bainbridge Island, he monitored the moving red dot on his cell phone. A young woman with a yellow scarf drove past in her blue Volvo sedan. His stomach growled, and he remembered the bacon he’d had at the inn. The slabs were thick and cooked only in patches. Typical British cuisine.

The dot was rapidly approaching, and he shifted his attention to a silver Nissan Pathfinder rapidly making its way up the road. It carried two occupants. Damn it, he thought as a maroon BMW X5 came around the corner. The Pathfinder would pass in front just as the BMW entered his field of fire.

He could feel a drop of sweat rolling down the knobs of his spine. He zeroed in the rifle scope on the BMW windshield. The cross hairs remained steady as the SUV slowed to make the curve. He saw the Pathfinder pass through in a blur. He had a split second of clearance as he squeezed the trigger. The windshield misted red and flashed beyond his line of sight.

About the Author:

Bryan KoepkeBryan Koepke lives in the United States with his wife, and dog. He grew up in the midwest, settled in Arizona, and then twenty years ago made his way north to Colorado. He’s a private pilot, Electrical Engineering Technician, and since 2009 has been employed as a Financial Analyst. Bryan has always had an interest in writing. He wrote his first stories at the age of 7. He started writing thrillers in 2010, and published his first book in 2014.

He holds an FAA Airframe & Powerplant Mechanic’s license, Pilot’s license, and has a BS in Finance. He’s also taken multiple graduate level engineering classes. His many hobbies include hiking, fishing, skiing, and travel. He’s an avid reader and enjoys watching television shows like 24, Homeland, Breaking Bad, The Blacklist, and Ray Donovan.

His latest book is the thriller, Sabotage.

For More Information

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JOHN BENEDICTDr. John Benedict graduated cum laude from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and entered medical school at Penn State University College of Medicine.  While there, he also completed an internship, anesthesia residency and a cardiac anesthesia fellowship. He currently works as a physician/anesthesiologist in a busy private practice in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.

Dr. Benedict has been writing stories since high school, but his creative side was put on hold to pursue a medical education and start a family—he now has a wife and three sons.  Finally, after a 15-year pause, his love of writing was rekindled and his first novel, Adrenaline—a gritty medical thriller with a realism borne of actual experience—was born.

Besides creating scary stories, the hallmark of Dr. Benedict’s writing is genuine medical authenticity—something in short supply these days in thriller fiction.  He draws on his 25+ years of experience as a board-certified anesthesiologist to infuse his writing with a realism that renders it both vivid and frightening.  As one of only a handful of anesthesiologists throughout the country writing fiction, he gives readers a taste of what really goes on in the operating room, the human drama inherent in this high-stress, high stakes environment where lives are continually on the line.  Readers will find out what it’s like to hold a patient’s life in their hands, as the author provides an illuminating glimpse into the fascinating, but poorly understood realm of anesthesia.

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

A:   Adrenaline tells the story of veteran anesthesiologist, Doug Landry.  When patients start dying unexpectedly in the Mercy Hospital OR, Doug winds up being blamed.  Doug is confused at first and wonders if he screwed up somehow.  However, as he investigates further, he unearths evidence of greed and corruption in his department.  As he struggles to unravel the secrets of the mysterious deaths and clear his name, it quickly becomes apparent that someone will stop at nothing to keep him from revealing the devastating truth.  Doug becomes trapped in a race against time to prevent more deaths, including his own.

I am an anesthesiologist in real life and Adrenaline is a classic medical thriller told from the anesthesiologist’s viewpoint.  To illustrate the real inspiration behind this book, I will need to relate a true story from 20 years ago:

One day it struck me—at 2:00 in the morning in the midst of another grueling 24-hour shift. I had just finished interviewing a nice lady with an appendix about to burst—we’ll call her Linda. I had done my best not to yawn as I went through the routine questions that an anesthesiologist is obliged to ask. She appeared nervous, which soon gave way to tears. I did my best to comfort her, took her hand, told her I would take good care of her. That I would watch over her carefully in the operating room and see her through surgery. And be there when she woke up in the recovery room. She appeared to calm down a bit. I wrapped up my pre-op assessment and asked her to sign the anesthesia consent form, while assuring her the risks would be minimal. She raised her eyebrows at this and the fearful look returned. I wondered: What the hell does minimal mean when you’re talking about life and death? More tears. She told me of her two young daughters at home that desperately needed a mommy. I felt my own throat tighten. I quickly buried my emotions, tried not to think about my wife and three sons, and focused on the task at hand as we wheeled her litter back down the hall to the OR.

adrenalineAfter Linda was safely tucked in the recovery room, operation a success, anesthetic uncomplicated, I lay down in the call room to try to catch a couple of z’s. My mind wandered as I lay there. Rarely, I thought, does a person willingly surrender control of their mind and body to a virtual stranger. Yet, this is exactly what happens when the person is a patient being wheeled in for surgery and the stranger is their anesthesiologist, whom they have just met minutes beforehand. Talk about an extraordinary amount of trust. This degree of trust made a distinct impression on me that night, some twenty years ago.

Other thoughts followed soon thereafter. What if the trust Linda had exhibited earlier was ill-conceived and her doctor was actually bad? Not just incompetent or sleepy, but downright evil. Being an avid reader of thrillers, I thought this chilling concept would make for a good story. Too bad I wasn’t a writer. (Disclaimer time: I don’t want to scare people here. All the docs I have known in my 30 years of medical practice are highly competent professional people, who would never purposely hurt anyone.) But I still couldn’t shake the evil concept; it kept gnawing at me until eventually I had to put it down on paper—lack of writing experience be damned. So Adrenaline was birthed, my first medical thriller novel that explores this issue of absolute trust implicit in the anesthesiologist-patient relationship—specifically, what happens when that trust is abused and replaced by fear.  Adrenaline was finally published twelve years after my encounter with Linda.

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

A:  A good medical thriller must, first and foremost, be a gripping story usually in a medical setting.  It must also have memorable characters that people can identify with and care about what happens to them.  Finally, the medicine portrayed in the story should be authentic, adding to the realism.

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

A: I discovered a lot of it as I worked on the book.  I actually wrote the climax scenes first of Adrenaline and then tried to make the rest of the story fit into the climax.  I don’t really recommend this technique in retrospect, but I was basically flying by the seat of my pants.  In writing subsequent novels, I tried to have a better idea of the beginning, middle and end of the book.  This is much more time efficient.

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: My main character in my first two books is Doug Landry.  Coincidentally, he’s an anesthesiologist, like I am.  Just kidding—it wasn’t a coincidence.  A lot of me goes into Doug, so I didn’t have to interview anyone or make a character sketch.  I’m not sure this is the best approach. It’s certainly simplifies the character development but you’ll likely take some flak from your family and friends.

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: My villains tend to be petty evil because basically they’re doctors who are OK with murdering their patients.  So the trick is to humanize them to make them more believable, instead of just pure evil.  I would try to take parts of real people that I’ve run across—not enough to be recognizable—and blend them into a bad guy with some redeeming characteristics, like sometimes exhibiting a conscience or feeling remorseful for what they have done.

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

A: First, I love to do dialogue, always trying to add realism but also using it to highlight confrontations.  Second, I like to end chapters with a pique if possible to keep the reader guessing and needing to read more.  General foreshadowing is also a technique I employ to build tension.  One final note and this may be counter-intuitive but I’ve come to believe it is true. Rather than have a lot of action scenes, I think it builds tension more by putting off the actual action.  Instead, you continually set the stage for the final confrontation, so that everyone knows it’s coming, but they’re not sure when or how it will resolve.

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 books are generally set in a hospital or operating room or delivery room.  Because I am intimately familiar with these locations, I can describe them accurately and vividly.  This definitely lends a sense of realism to the stories, as readers can clearly envision the surroundings.  It certainly helps to be very familiar with your setting—real is better.

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 main theme in Adrenaline is the concept of some doctors being evil.  Patients implicitly trust their physicians with their lives routinely.  What if that trust is misplaced? What happens when the desires and goals of a bad doctor supersede the well-being of his patients?  Yes, this theme of doctors being evil is at the heart of all my medical thrillers.

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

A:  I feel like I create the story—this is the art part.  Good editing then helps the nuts and bolts of the writing—sentence structure, word choice, grammar and punctuation, and also addresses any inconsistencies in the story.  Good editing makes the story stronger and clearer.  Bad editing can destroy a story, if the editor tries to rewrite too much of the basic storyline.

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

A: 1) Creativity  2) ability to realistically depict characters, dialogue, setting and see the big picture of a story   3) perseverance/obsessiveness

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: In my mind, there’s no way to sugar-coat this: writing is hard work that demands obsessive attention to detail and an enormous expenditure of time.  It generally includes extreme delayed gratification and exposure to painful criticism and rejection along the way. It’s not for everyone.

Basically you must write to fulfill a need to tell stories—not because you expect anything in return.

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

A: I would recommend attending as many writers’ conferences as you can.  Here you can meet and interact with other authors to hear their stories and learn from their experience.  Also, it’s a chance to network with the all-important agents and editors.  Finally, after you finish your book, it’s a good idea to hire a professional editor to tune up your work—you can also learn a lot from observing what changes the editor might make.

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

A:  My advice for would-be novelists is fairly straightforward.  Nothing worthwhile in life is quick or easy.  Writing is no different.  Expect to spend a long time learning the craft and improving upon it.  Don’t expect to become famous overnight or make a lot of money easily.  The best advice I can give is this: You shouldn’t write because you want to make millions or become a household name—you’ll likely be disappointed.  Rather, you should write because you enjoy the process and feel the need to tell a story.  Let the results take care of themselves.

Other things I’ve learned along the way:  I’ve learned to believe in myself even when no one else seemed to.  I’ve also learned the power of perseverance and patience. The path to successful book publication is notoriously long and arduous for most. Developing a thick skin is also helpful to protect oneself against the many rejection letters and obligatory nasty reviews that will come your way.  Finally, I’ve learned that writing a good book is probably only half the battle.  Getting it published and successfully marketing it may be the most difficult part.  Good luck and keep writing!

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

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

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

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

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

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Title: Chickenhawk

Genre: Thriller

Author: Arnaldo Lopez Jr.

Publisher: Koehler Books/Café Con Leche books

Purchase on Amazon

About the Book:

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

arnaldo

About the Author:

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

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

Connect with Arnaldo Lopez Jr. on Facebook and Twitter.

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

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

Connect with Arnaldo Lopez Jr. on Facebook and Twitter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

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

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

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

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

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

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Title: Chickenhawk

Genre: Thriller

Author: Arnaldo Lopez Jr.

Publisher: Koehler Books/Café Con Leche books

Purchase on Amazon

About the Book:

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

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author pic

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

Connect with Gabriel Valjan on the web:

Blog: https://gabrielswharf.wordpress.com

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

Twitter: @GValjan

Website: www.gabrielvaljan.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A: Humility. Curiosity. Discipline.

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

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

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

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

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

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

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

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

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

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Title: Turning To Stone

Genre: Mystery, Suspense

Author: Gabriel Valjan

Website: http://wintergoosepublishing.com

Publisher: Winter Goose Publishing

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

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

Pinterest boards for the Roma Series books

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

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

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

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

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