Blog Funkhauser is thrilled to welcome back fellow northerner Susanne Matthews. As usual, the prolific author has been busy releasing THE WHITE IRIS, her third in the HARVESTER SERIES. Congratulations mon amie!
About The White Iris
Time’s running out for Special Agent Trevor Clark and his FBI task force. They’re no closer to uncovering the identity of the Prophet, a dangerous serial killer who has been murdering new mothers and vanishing with their infants. If Trevor can’t unlock the clues, the killer’s threats to unleash what the FBI suspects is biological warfare could mean death for all of them. His only recourse is to swallow his pride and reach out to his former fiancée, the CDC’s renowned virologist, Dr. Julie Swift.
Two years ago, Julie ended their engagement after Trevor abandoned her when she needed him most. Now, faced with the possibility of the greatest epidemic since the Spanish flu, she has to put her faith and her safety, as well as that of countless others, into the hands of a man she doesn’t trust. Can they set aside their differences to stop the Prophet, and in doing so, will they find the love they lost?
From the streets of Boston to the wilds of Alaska, this thrilling conclusion to the Harvester Series takes several turns you won’t see coming!
Trevor ran his hand through his hair, frustrated by his inability to find the answers he so desperately needed. Here it was, two-thirds of the way through September, and despite the man-hours involved and the stack of bodies piled up by that madman and his henchmen, he was no closer to stopping the Prophet today than he’d been when he’d started. Sure, they’d made some inroads—hurt him, taken away the people he wanted—but it wasn’t enough. The Prophet and God alone knew how many followers were still out there, watching and waiting, and the task force, half of whom were now on the injured list, was powerless to stop him. No one would be safe until they could neutralize that son of a bitch, but how the hell did you prevent someone from doing something when you had no idea who he was, exactly what he planned, or where and when he’d do it? To make matters worse, the sick bastard still seemed to be one step ahead of them.
The Prophet, furious about losing the women and children in the successful New Hampshire raid in July, had targeted the task force, threatening to unleash ten plagues—another biblical event Trevor could do without—unless his people were freed and returned to him. The first, based on the premise of turning water into blood, had been a pipe bomb three weeks ago in a pub frequented by Boston police officers and the task force members. He’d lost one man and another was crippled and might never walk again. In addition, two innocent people had been killed and several others injured.
While the fact that the deadline for the second plague had come and gone without any new bodies dropped in his lap should please Trevor, knowing that each day that went by without any action on their part gave the Prophet time to perfect his biological weapon did not. The people whom his nemesis had requested, the brethren captured in July, had recanted their beliefs and were in Australia, safely out of the maniac’s reach, living on Evergreen, Jacob Andrews’s fruit farm in the Northern Territory. The Australian millionaire, an undercover police officer who frequently worked with Interpol, was currently seconded to the FBI. Jacob had grown up in the New Horizon commune before it had morphed into the sick cult it was now. He’d provided priceless insight into the commune as well as his uncle, the Prophet.
James Colchester’s children, Jacob’s nieces and nephews, the objectives of Garett Pierce’s one-man killing and kidnapping spree in early September, were also in Australia, some at Evergreen with the “settlers,” as the former members of the commune called themselves, others with their mothers in Melbourne, where Jacob; Lilith Munroe, Trevor’s cult expert and BAU analyst; and Rob Halliday were recuperating from injuries sustained in the fight two weeks ago with Pierce, the FBI agent who turned out to be their mole and the Prophet’s right-hand man.
What had Julie said? Call me if you get a credible threat. They had proof the Prophet’s henchmen could build bombs and that he had an army of angry, disenchanted teens ready to do anything for him, but they still didn’t know exactly what he planned to do or how he’d do it.
Thanks to Jacob, they’d narrowed it down to a biological weapon, but what? A poisonous gas? A nerve agent? Some kind of super flu? All three? Jacob said the Prophet had referred to dengue fever as causing a great burning inside, a cleansing, but how would he distribute something like that?
Trevor wished he could call Julie, talk to her about which virus might be the most devastating, but now wasn’t the time. She might still be in Colorado. He should’ve gone to Ellie’s memorial service in Atlanta, but … Would Julie have wanted him there? As she’d clearly demonstrated in July, he meant nothing to her now. He’d burned that bridge, pylons and all, two years ago. His presence would just have complicated matters for them both, dredging up memories of the first funeral he’d failed to attend.
Keep telling yourself that.
Avoiding difficult personal situations was a time-honored Clark family tradition.
The White Iris is the third book and final book in the Harvester Series
Book One, The White Carnation, begins the hunt for a serial killer kidnapping pregnant women, murdering them, and then vanishing with the newborn infants. But there is much more to the crime than the detectives on the case can possibly imagine.
Book Two, The White Lily, continues the hunt, but the Harvester is angry, determined to reclaim what he sees as his, not caring how many have to die for him to achieve his goal.
About the author:
A former high school teacher, Susanne Matthews lives in Ontario, Canada, with her husband, the inspiration for all her heroes. When she’s not writing, she enjoys camping in summer and romantic getaways in winter. Find Susanne Matthews at:www.mhsusannematthews.ca/, on Facebook, and on Twitter @jandsmatt.
Welcome to Day Ten. Rounding out the line up is Solstice Shadows author Mel Massey, whose penchant for things otherworldly is proved once again. Her latest, SERVANT OF THE BLOOD, is exceptional. If the play is the thing, then the creature is the écoulment.
The Servant of the Blood, Allatu, will always come when called and has for generations. She will fulfill wishes – for a price. Set in Tunisia, an ancient creature is called to do her master’s bidding but nothing comes without a price.
Two covered figures, one bent with age and the other a child, quietly made their way from the main house into the night. The older of the two pulled the smaller one along in the dark by the hand as they walked further and further into the shadows.
This was the night of the new moon. It was the perfect chance to see the deed done. If what her son, Samir, told her was true, this would be the last chance she would have. She could not let her son and his family fall to ruin. She would not allow it. They thought her an old and feeble woman. True, the years have taken their toll on her body – but not her mind. Her mind was as keen as it ever was.
She remembered many things. Many lost and forgotten things handed down to her by her own grandmother. For many years, she had forgotten them all. Her marriage, her duties as a wife, and then motherhood whisked those tales away as if a hawk swooped down and carried them off. Only as she lay in her birthing bed, laboring to bring her sons into the world, did pieces of the tales return. They gave her strength. She was a wife, mother, and now a grandmother – but once she was Luja who knew the family’s secrets.
Now, after so many years had passed, she turned once again to those memories of her grandmother. The new moon was when one did this sort of thing, she remembered. Her granddaughter, Hala, was her ever-present shadow and she meant to share this thing with her. She pulled the sleepy child along in the dark, headed for the farthest corner of the gardens.
“I’m tired, Grandmother.” Hala whispered.
“Hush, child. We have things to do, you and I.” She looked once more over her shoulder and pushed on, past the unkempt and dying gardens to the farthest corner beside the stone wall. “I think this will do.”
She handed Hala a small bundle wrapped in cloth before kneeling on the ground. She felt around until she found a stick big enough to suit her needs. With more force than she knew she still possessed, the old woman began to dig a hole beneath the olive tree. Her arthritic hands ached, but her spirit soared. She would see this thing done. It had to be done. No one else knew what she did. She would save her family.
Hala sat heavily on the ground, her head resting in her hands as she watched her grandmother dig. That was good. Let her see each step. Let her understand there are ways beyond those of the modern world to get what one needs. Tonight, she was herself again. She imagined herself the young and beautiful Luja who had a wild spirit and a quick temper. In the morning, she would be Grandmother again… but not yet.
Satisfied with the size of the hole, Luja reached for the bundle in Hala’s arms. She snatched it from her and anxiously unwrapped the contents. The girl’s curiosity roused her from her fatigue. She leaned forward to see the objects of the bundle laid out in the dirt. A precious bowl of honey and two figs sat beside another, longer item.
Luja carefully began unwrapping linen from around it. It was sacred to her family, her grandmother told her. It was only to be used in the direst of circumstances. How to use it was only taught to the daughters of the family, for men were not permitted to touch such things.
“What is that, Grandmother?” Hala whispered.
“Our salvation, sweet girl.” From the folds of aged linen, a statue emerged. It was carefully made. The age, Luja did not know. She knew it was delicate and priceless. It was made from clay but held together by a thin layer of gold. It was the image of a woman, naked but for carvings on the body. She did not know what they meant but she showed Hala the statue reverently. It was as shiny as the day Luja’s own grandmother showed it to her. She remembered her voice shook as she told Luja of the power in the statue and how it worked. Luja asked her grandmother if she would ever use it. “I would not dare,” she told her. Well, Luja dared.
“Who is it? Why is she naked?”
“She is the one who will help our family.” Luja told her.
“How? Papa says we have no money and soon we’ll be living on the streets. Are we going to sell this, Grandmother? Sell it to pay the money Papa owes?” Hala’s words drove a knife into her heart. No child should know of the woes of her parents. Samir was foolish and selfish to say such things where the children could hear. But his foolish and selfish ways were the reason they were in such dire straights. He gambled what they had and risked everything on dreams that never came true.
“No, my child. We will not sell her. She is priceless and too powerful to sell, but she can help us in other ways. Give me your hand,” Luja carefully placed the golden statue in the hole and reached for Hala. “It will only hurt for a moment.” Before the child could understand, Luja pulled a knife from the folds of her dress and made a small cut in the palm of her hand.
“Ouch, Grandmother!” Hala tried to pull her hand back but Luja kept it firmly grasped over the gold statue.
“She only requires a little blood, child. When you come of age, you will bleed every month. Blood is nothing to women. Men like to think they know of blood and pain but we are the ones who truly know. Now, you know the power of your blood. It is precious because you are a virgin, unspoiled by men. Mine would not do for this. There,” she released her grip on the girl’s hand and watched as the crimson droplets painted the gold surface. “That is enough.”
“Who is she?” Hala asked, holding her injured hand close to her chest.
“She is the servant of the blood. She is the giver of desires and the force of the Mother. I do not know her name. She is what she has always been to our family – our salvation and our curse.”
“What do we do now?”
“We bury her, Hala. Then leave the offerings. If they are pleasing, if we are pleasing, she will hear them and come to answer our prayers.”
“Is it right what we are doing, Grandmother? I’m not sure Papa will approve,” Hala said as she stood.
“Certainly, he wouldn’t. If he did, I should question my actions.”
“I don’t understand–”
“Never you mind, my dear. Come, help me cover her and set these offerings to right.”
“How will we know? How will we know if she will help us or not, Grandmother?” Hala asked as she scooped dirt back into the hole.
“I am not certain. We women must do what we can to save those we love. Here, hand me that bowl.” Luja placed the bowl of honey directly above the buried statue. “There, we have done what we can. It is out of our hands now.”
Luja and Hala covered their heads once again and silently made their way back through the garden toward the house. The girl still held her injured hand close to her chest and her grandmother pulled her along in the dark. It had been years since Luja felt so alive. She committed a great sin tonight. This sin was one she would not apologize for. She was a woman and women must do what they can in the shadows to see their families prosper in the light of day.
“No one has ever walked out of Red. Once the Soul Catchers get you they don’t let you go.” Denny’s words scare me but I have no choice. If Will is in Red that’s where I have to go.
I’ve never really thought what it was like when you died. I’m only 16, too young to worry about that. At least I thought I was. I’ve heard about Heaven and Hell, of course, but it doesn’t look like I’m in either of them. All I know is that Will is here too and I need to find him. I can’t face spending eternity without him.
Friend and fellow author Karen King talks soul trekking in her new YA Sapphire Blue. Even better, as at press time, Karen had great news to share: She has racked up an award for cover design. Take a look:
Sapphire Blue reads like a quest journey; a YA novel that takes the protagonist through Hell in search of her Will, like Dante searching for Beatrice in the Inferno. What inspired you to follow this path in YA?
I’ve always believed that we live on after we die, that our souls go back to the place we came from, join our friends and family and carry on with our journey. I was talking about this to someone one day and they said that they hoped they didn’t forget life on Earth, when they died that they still had their memories. That started me thinking about what it would be like. If you loved someone would your love still survive in the afterlife? Does everyone go to the same place? It was from this that the idea of Sapphire Blue was born.
In our fast-paced, social media driven culture here in North America, how do you account for the exploding popularity of YA literature?
People still like to lose themselves in a good book, kids, teens and adults alike, and there’s some amazing YA stories published at the moment. YA deals with things that teens (and adults) worry about, living, loving, dying, fitting in, the world ending. It’s imaginative introducing new worlds, magic, strong characters and above all it usually encompasses Hope. And that’s the thing I think people want to hold onto most in these uncertain times. Hope that you’ll survive, win through, that things will get better.
What and who did you read as a teen and young adult? Which one(s) stayed with you?
Agatha Christie and The Saint books by Lesley Charteris. I loved trying to solve the mysteries in the Agatha Christie books and the nonchalant way The Saint dealt with the situations he was in.
Let’s backtrack for our readers: Give us your elevator pitch for Sapphire Blue.
Sapphire Blue is a YA with a difference in that it’s set in the afterlife. It’s a story of love, bravery, drama, mystery, horror but above all Hope.
5. Your cover is in the running for an award. Tell us about it.
I’ve got my fingers crossed for them both but there are some great covers in the finals so I’m just happy they’ve got this far.
6. What’s next?
Accent Book has just signed me up for three contemporary novels so I’m working on the second one of those – the first one is finished. After that, I’ve been asked by a couple of readers to write a follow up to Sapphire Blue so maybe I will.
Our first drive together. Later, I’ll take photos of wherever it is we’re going, save a leaflet, a ticket, or receipt. Today deserves a whole page in our scrapbook.
Will’s a good driver. His eyes constantly dart to the mirrors to check what’s behind him, around him, in front of him, and he keeps his speed steady. I feel safe with him.
I look out of the passenger window, trying to guess where we’re going. As soon as we join the dual carriageway I know. Mawlish Cove. Where we went for our very first proper date. It’s our special place, the one we go to when we want to celebrate something, but usually we have to cycle there. I think of all the places we can go now that Will can drive, to the coast a few miles away, a sightseeing tour of the local villages, maybe even drive to Wales to see my cousin, Gemma. I’ll be seventeen in a few months and maybe I can pass my test too, then we can go away for weekend, share the driving. I glance at Will and smile. I’m so proud of him.
“I love you,” I say.
“Love you too,” he replies. Then he starts singing.
I do love you,
Forever you!” I join in the chorus, bubbles of happiness fizzing through me.
Will wrote the song for me last Christmas, calling it Sapphire ‘Blue’ after the color of my eyes—he said. He knew his folks were buying him the guitar he’d been begging for all year, so had secretly written the song to surprise me. It was the first thing he played. I remember how he picked up the guitar, slowly strumming the strings, then he’d walked over to me, sat down beside me and gazing into my eyes he’d started singing. It was only a short song, one verse, nothing special, I guess, but it summed us up. Me and Will, together forever. A warm surge of love spreads through me. I reach out and touch his hand. He turns to me and our eyes meet.
Just for a couple of seconds. An eye blink. Hardly any time at all.
But long enough for us to not notice the container fall off the back of the lorry in front. When we do notice, it’s in the middle of the road, blocking our path. A shard of ice slithers down my spine.
“Stop! Will, stop! We’re going to crash!”
Even as I shriek the words I know that there isn’t enough time to stop. I’m frozen to my seat, my eyes fixed in terror on the huge metal box just meters away.
“Hold tight!” Will jerks the steering wheel to the left in an attempt to avoid it, but he loses control of the car, and we’re skidding off the road. OMG, now we’re heading for a huge tree. It’s looming in front of us, solid and immovable. Its long, leafy branches swaying in the wind like scaly, green arms reaching out to grab us.
“Shit!” Will’s almost standing on the brakes in an effort to stop the car. My body shoots forward, then is pulled back by the seatbelt. My head slams against the back of the seat. The tires screech as the car starts to slow down but not quick enough for us to avoid the tree. I shut my eyes, not wanting to see the inevitable, horrific moment of impact. I can hear Will shouting, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I love you!” I want to tell him that I love him too, but I can’t speak, can’t move, my body’s turned into a block of granite.
I’m dimly aware that someone is screaming as if their soul is being ripped from their body. It is a few seconds before I realize that the screams are mine.
We’re going to die.
An explosion shatters in my head.
Karen King has had over one hundred children’s books published. She’s written for many children’s magazines too including Sindy, Barbie, Winnie the Pooh and Thomas the Tank Engine. She writes for all ages and in all genres; story books, picture books, plays, joke books and non-fiction. Sapphire Blue is her second YA novel. She also writes romance novels under the name of Kay Harborne.
Author Simone Salmon’s unbridled enthusiasm for EVERYTHING leaps off the page. Whether in her debut novel CAMILLE AND THE BEARS OF BEISA-DRAFNEL or in a simple print interview, she goes, grows and thinks OUT LOUD. See for yourself!
CAMILLE AND THE BEARS OF BEISA-DRAFNEL
Sometimes running away is the best decision for self-preservation.
Sometimes unlearning the truth reveals centuries of lies.
Sometimes the shadows in the periphery simplify complex realities.
Sometimes love is an expansive concept riddled with explosive diversions.
Years of deception and suppressed trauma do not prevent secrets from unraveling when parallel worlds clash, intertwining families and exposing hidden agendas. An unwanted romance mirrored in an alternate universe has devastating consequences for an unsuspecting young woman and a mysterious stranger.
On their own, the teasers for Drafnel promise so much: lovers divided, literal magic, parallel worlds and lives spinning out of control. How would you classify your work?
Hi AB, first thank you so much for this interview and for having me on your blog. In response to your first question, my original intent was to write a ghost story so perhaps my initial thoughts were for a thriller. However, it became apparent that the more the story unfolded genre-specificity became less important. I just went where the characters took me and they wanted to cross the boundaries of many genres. The result is an entanglement of science fiction, paranormal thriller, time travel, folkloric fantasy and romance all blended into one cohesive genre-bending whole.
Diversity in literature is close to your heart and your work. Can you offer us some insights into how best to achieve the goal and how you did so in Drafnel?
This is a difficult question for me because in writing this story diversity was never part of my conscious thought process. I’m not sure if this is a result of my previous naïveté regarding the controversy over the lack of diverse characters represented in SFF or that in the quest to express my creativity the characters just reflected people who are most familiar to me. I cannot offer any advice other than to do some research if the subject matter is unfamiliar, which in a sense feels hypocritical because I did no research for anything unfamiliar in Drafnel. Truly, I feel that once you’re connected to creative energy all of the information needed is provided. Creativity is subjective and I am hesitant to provide instruction on how to include diversity in anyone’s story. In a sense, my feeling is that advice would somehow taint the creative process and inject an impartial influence thereby limiting individual inspiration. Diversity in any art form should always be an individual’s unique and very personal interpretation independent of society’s restrictive conformity to whatever is considered the norm or acceptable.
The world we live in constantly heaves and changes. What inspirations did you take from our world and bring to Drafnel?
This concept of time, how it is viewed and used is a very integral part of the novel. The story operates in many locations and across parallel universes all within the same timeframe. My hope is to convey that time is relative and ultimately a man-made concept which has been used as a form of control in all aspects of our lives. Most of us feel the need to work regimented schedules such as a 9 to 5 job or we feel that we are running out of time when we reach a certain age. Once we are able to remove ourselves from that limiting construct of existence, that time is linear and absolute, we can achieve far more satisfying accomplishments with less effort, anxiety or energy. Time should be removed from all of our internal equations and messaging for optimum quality life experiences.
Are you a Tolkein fan?
Yeaaasss! Who isn’t? Now let me first confess that I read The Lord of the Rings as a pre-teen. Although I marveled at the imagery and suspension of belief which is pure Tolkien mastery, it wasn’t until seeing the story on the big screen that my appreciation for his genius was truly sealed. He was a marvelous storyteller. I admire anyone who possesses the ability to tell a story in such a way that it inspires or motivates or sparks an emotional connection and appreciation of things unknown or known. I hope that Drafnel invokes those same feelings for readers.
Tell us how you got started? What is your method, dear writer?
Truthfully, I was able to write this book because I decided to hire a writing coach. Deborah Rigas, who passed away from cancer, kept me focused. Her passing fueled the completion of the first draft. As far as method, I cannot admit to any. I did not do any character mappings, or plan out plots or research any scientific data for Drafnel. Outlines have proven uninspiring and disastrous for me. Deborah told me “a writer writes” and that became my mantra. I find that true writing, the type that is engaging and surprising, is a mystical experience. For me it is a connection to the unseen energy that creates something out of nothing. The art form, whether it is a painting, novel, song, etc., starts out with a modicum of familiarity rooted in this physical world, but then evolves into the channeling of something unknown and unidentifiable which we choose to label as “imagination”.
Ed. My condolences, friend. Her legacy: your legacy. Beautiful.
I’m in the process of writing the next book in the Camille and the Bear of Beisa series. It will be based on Catherine’s brother, Caleb, who we learn a little about in Drafnel. I am also working on a non-fiction book which discusses following intuition and higher guidance. That book will detail my own spiritual journey, including my realization of psychic phenomena. I’m hoping to complete both over the next six to twelve months.
I love the cover. Who designed it?
Thank you so much for saying that. The cover was a very personal undertaking and looks amazing in the print copy. One day I had the urge to paint. I didn’t know how to, but a few YouTube videos later, decided to take a stab at trying. The background, on the cover, is one of my paintings which was actually, in my mind, unfinished. I really did not know what it was missing or why it felt unfinished, but it remained that way for a couple of years. When I completed the book, my friend, Leo, suggested that I use one of my paintings for the book’s cover. I decided that the unfinished piece would be ideal. In my hunt for the perfect cover designer, I discovered a talented artist, Cat Castleman, in a Facebook writing group. She designed the character illustrations which were added to the painting. That was my painting’s purpose I guess – to be the background on the book’s cover. Now it feels finished.
Your guilty pleasure? (person, place or thing).
I love candy, especially toffee and milk chocolate and of course ice-cream, specifically of the caramel sea-salt variety. It’s a terrible obsession and wicked on my hips and behind, but I cannot resist. I am also learning to appreciate the freedom to just be and do absolutely nothing. I used to feel guilty whenever I found myself unproductive, but hell I’ve been multi-tasking and working multiple jobs for most of my life. Now I relish those moments when I’m doing nothing at all, just existing and taking in the wonders and miracles of life.
Happy endings: for or against?
Hmmm, I’m not a big fan of happy endings, mostly because my belief is that, if art does indeed imitate life, then, for me, most endings should be flawed or unexpected. And if there is happiness then there should be a tinge of something disastrous or unsettling just beyond the horizon awaiting the right impetus for activation. That’s not to say there aren’t happy endings. My feeling is that they are short-lived or appear to be rare, in my world anyway, unless the people involved are spiritually evolved or are on the path toward spiritual realization, but that’s a whole other discussion.
Ed. Count on it!
The day you got your contract: care to share an anecdote?
OMG! I read that thing over and over in disbelief which then became unbelievable joy. This entire experience of finally realizing my childhood dream continues to feel very surreal. It’s sort of like when you awake from a deep sleep where you’re having an intense dream and you’re unsure if you’re awake or still dreaming. When you realize you are awake you try to remember everything that happened in the dream, but can only grasp little splices. Then you take those splices under continuous analysis trying to figure out the meaning or significant correspondence in your life. That’s how this all feels. Like a dream. And I keep analyzing every moment along the journey wondering if there is deeper meaning or what will happen next.
Simone Salmon, a Jamaican born New Yorker, is the mother of two sons and a Jack Russell terrier. Her debut novel, Camille and the Bears of Beisa – Drafnel was released on August 28th, 2015 and has been receiving stellar reviews from bloggers and readers alike. She is a graduate of Bronx High School of Science and attended Barnard College.
Simone was raised by her father’s mother in Kingston, Jamaica until the age of eleven. She, along with her two brothers and sister, began living full-time with their parents in 1977.
Simone hosted the MiracleMindFest teleseminars in the summer of 2013 which spotlighted twenty-one spiritual teachers, including Vincent Genna, Mas Sajady, Howard Martin, Davidji, Julie Geigle, Jean Slatter, Roland Comtois, Sunny Dawn Johnston and Elizabeth Harper, just to name a few. She credits the series with catapulting her own spiritual journey, including her discovery of mediumship and a now trusted practice of following higher guidance. She is also a spiritual truth seeker who appreciates psychic phenomena and timelessness.
Simone is still working on her exit strategy from corporate America where she currently manages a word processing department in a law firm. She continues to write novels, poetry and expand her multisensory perceptions.
Music of all kinds, warm weather, lounging on the beach, and experiencing the unknown are just a few of her most favorite things.
Blog Funkhauser is delighted to welcome versatile author Howard Gleichenhaus to Day Five of a ten day extravaganza that spotlights writers of various genres and formats. Howard’s latest THE SUBTERFUGE CONSPIRACY takes the reader on a wild ride from the shores of Lake Ontario to the backstreets of Paris and beyond with protagonist Ted Lansing who is currently evolving in an as yet untitled follow up to Subterfuge. Welcome Howard!
THE SUBTERFUGE CONSPIRACY
The murder of a young prostitute followed by a police shootout on a cold, deserted beach on the eastern shore of Lake Ontario draws FBI Special Agent Ted Lansing into the most deadly case of his career,
Lansing and his partner, Jennifer Fallana, have three months to lay bare the Subterfuge Conspiracy, recover a shipment of stolen radioactive cesium pellets smuggled into the country across Lake Ontario and thwart the detonation of a dirty bomb set for New Year’s Eve on the National Mall in Washington D.C.
From New York to Paris, to Yemen, and back to Washington D.C., Fargo Blake, ex military, cold and deadly, is tasked by the true conspirators to eliminate their Arab coconspirators and lay blame for the attack squarely their shoulders —The perfect subterfuge terrorist plot.
Backed by a cabal of politically powerful men tied to the highest echelons of the United States government, the conspiracy reaches all the way into the halls of the U.S. Senate. The plotter’s endgame: discredit the first elected Hispanic president’s credibility on global terrorism, bring down his administration, deny him a second term and elect their hand picked successor, a radical, right wing United States Senator.
The Subterfuge Conspiracy reminds me very fondly of Frederick Forsyth’s Day of the Jackal: international locales, multiple POVs and high stakes intrigue. What is the genesis of Subterfuge?
First, allow me to say thank-you for the Forsyth comparison. It is always flattering (and hopefully deserved) to have a novel you’ve written fondly compared to one of the literary giants of the genre.
Some writers plot out their story before hand and stick to the outline. For me that just doesn’t work. I prefer to allow my characters to react to the situations I place them into and ask myself what would he/she do. I dope out at least two scenarios and write them both. Subterfuge began as a standard terrorist plot with a hard-boiled FBI agent in pursuit. During one particular meeting of my weekly critiquing group The Delray Beach Public Library Writer’s Studio (I am the group moderator) an off hand comment was made by one member of the group. I doubt he even remembers making it now. “What if the plotters weren’t who the reader thinks they are?”
I made a note in the margin of my manuscript. At some point I was struck by the usual temporary writer’s block that happens every so often. Going back through early drafts I saw the margin notes I’d made weeks before. Not a bad way to go, I thought. I knew I couldn’t just drop that bomb from out of nowhere so I went back into what I had already written and began to plant foreshadows. Once the co conspirators were firm in my mind the story began to flow again.
As a Canadian, my interest piques at the mention of Lake Ontario. What dictated your choice of location for the jump-start of the plot?
That is an interesting question. My youngest son went to college at SUNY Oswego, which is on the eastern shore of Lake Ontario. Over the years I visited Oswego many times. I was familiar with the lakeshore beachfront and how desolate it looked in winter. Researching Canadian nuclear facilities I discovered that Canada had a facility close to the lake, a short boat ride from the US side. It made the perfect route to smuggle nuclear materials. What started as a rather short narrative, “telling” the reader about smuggled material I rewrote the novel’s beginning to “show” rather than tell and draw the reader in with a non stop thrilling police confrontation, totally misunderstood as a simple drug interdiction. I now had my “usual” suspects in country. I then allowed by protagonist (Ted Lansing) to uncover the plot one slow page at a time, always ending a chapter with a cliffhanger to bring the reader along.
Let’s backtrack for the readers: Can you give us your elevator pitch?
Hours, moments and seconds tick away, with millions of lives hanging in the balance. Could the unthinkable really happen, a dirty bomb, armed with stolen cesium from a Canadian Reactor site, is set to detonate on New Year’s Eve on the National Mall in Washington DC. FBI Special Agent Ted Lansing tries to make sense of who the real enemy is in one of the most diabolical plots ever conceived to subvert the United States government.
Who can Lansing trust? Are Middle Eastern Jihadists really behind the plot, or is it far more sinister. Could his one time friend, CIA Paris section chief, Colin Mills. be involved? Is Mills tied to a white supremacist army led by a disgraced ex military man, an avowed racist, Lt. Colonel Kyle Nugent and his right hand, Fargo Blake? Also ex military, Blake is a stone-cold killer who strikes without conscience, until a beautiful Parisian flight attendant makes him believe that a different life is possible — But Blake is trapped, he cannot get out. High-ranking members of the United States Senate are plotting to overthrow a duly elected president. Unthinkable, that is until small inconsistencies appear sending Lansing on a nonstop coaster ride from New York City to the Adirondack wilderness in upstate New York to the National Mall in Washington on New Year’s Eve. Lansing pursues Blake, and Mills into snow covered Virginia’s countryside to a clandestine CIA training facility. Two old friends facing off in one last confrontation from which only one will emerge alive.
Espionage (is there a better descriptor?) fiction is a favorite of mine though I lack the mental courage to ever tackle such a genre. As a writer, what goes into a work like The Subterfuge Conspiracy? What is your method?
I don’t know if it’s mental courage, but I certainly wasn’t sure when I began to write Subterfuge if I could pull it off. There were so many unanswered questions. I knew I was going to take my readers to locations I had never visited. Sure I’d been to Paris, for example, but tourist Paris. What was a typical Paris street like, not the Champs-Élysées visitors see. No more typical than portraying Times Square as a typical New Yorker’s day of fun I need to “be” in the Paris of working Parisians. For my writer colleagues, here is a secret. A Google search of Paris neighborhoods followed by Google Earth puts you on the street in front of your location and the ability to move up and down the street. You can see cars parked in front; does the bistro have a window facing the street? What is on the menu and how are the tables arranged? It may all sound like unnecessary minutia but in my writing I create authenticity in my visuals. Readers who may have been there say “Yes, exactly how I remember it.” I believe these details enhance the plot and breathe life into the characters.
Chicken or egg? What came first: plot or character(s)?
For me it is the plot, at least in this book. My latest project, almost 100,000 words (now in first draft) will be the other way around because Ted Lansing is my protagonist, but the book is not a sequel. Since his character qualities, warts and all, were developed in Subterfuge, I have a better framework to get him in and out of situations. That being said, I always keep in mind the fact that most readers are meeting him for the first time and I cannot assume facts not in evidence. Admittedly, my first drafts lack much foreshadowing of plot line because I tend to write a linear story in that first draft. In second draft copies, knowing where I am going, I move entire chapters, add foreshadowing, and clean up plot holes my critique group uncovered. Once plot and character are finalized (reconciled?) a third rewrite readies the manuscript for the editor. A side note for my fellow writers still trying to get published: Do not skimp on professional editing. Editors are worth their weight in gold. They can take a good manuscript and transform it into a smooth professional book.
Care to share a publishing anecdote?
I have one that is a cautionary tale for would be writers. My first attempt at getting published, back when I knew nothing about it, was to scour the Internet for an agent. I found an intriguing ad from an agency, since discredited, that made it sound so easy. I sent my query and waited. In a month came the response that I was so good they wanted me as a client and thought my book would sell. New to writing and gullible I thought them reasonable when they asked for a moderate sum ($65) to send email blasts to publishers. A month later they told me I was “this” close and another $65 would do it. Only then did I search the web for other authors who used that agency. If I had done it sooner I might have saved the $65. Fellow writers, if they ask for money, be skeptical.
What was the first thing you thought of after typing “THE END”?
That’s an easy question. What did I leave out and how can I fix it. There is always doubt. Even now when I reread portions of Subterfuge I ask myself why I did it that way when I could have improved on it by doing it another way. There is an adage from the Pennsylvanian Dutch, Too soon old…too late smart.
My third novel, still untitled, has Ted Lansing with a new partner, an African American, Washington DC Metro detective named Arlen Drew. Lansing now lives in Washington and has remarried his ex wife, FBI Assistant Director, Felicia Albreda. In what begins as the murder of a Russian forensic archeologist at the Smithsonian, Lansing is drawn into a case of international intrigue taking him to Israel and the Sinai Peninsula in search of the Ten Commandments. Readers, who have read Subterfuge, will recognize the changes in Lansing, the developing new relationship with his wife and the renewed relationship with his son, now a junior at MIT and there in Israel to receive a prestigious award for a paper he wrote on drone technology.
Do you ever think outside your genre? Do you have the courage to tackle romance? (This question is very tongue and cheek)
Maybe not so tongue and cheek. My first published novel, Whisper in the Pines-Secrets of the Heart is so different from Subterfuge that a reader may not recognize it as my work until they see my name on the cover. It is an unabashed love story/mystery set in 1938, in Moultrie Georgia, about a once wealthy southern aristocrat, Reggie Laverneaux, who is trying to rebuild his life after losing everything in the Great Depression. His errant wife has returned to town followed by a sociopath she ripped off while on the run from her old life. Whispering Pines, Reggie’s decaying antebellum house in Moultrie is the setting. Long forgotten family secrets are unearthed when a stranger, an elderly Jewish businessman from New York, arrives in Moultrie with answers and a promise, hope for Reggie to rebuild his life
Your favorite all time spy (again, is there a better descriptor) movie is….?
If I had to name one character (spy) (counterspy) from literature and film it would be Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan. Sometimes I write traits I admire in Jack Ryan into Ted Lansing’s character. Ryan is fiercely loyal with a tenacity that will not quit even under extreme duress. Lansing is often down and counted out, only to prevail in the end through sheer guts. Like Ryan, Lansing can go from dealing with violence to tenderness in a heartbeat. Unlike jack Ryan, Lansing does all of this while dealing with the demon that neatly destroyed his life.
Howard Gleichenhaus was born in Philadelphia, PA and grew up in the Bronx, NYC and Spring Valley, New York. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Southern Connecticut State College, and a pair of Master’s degrees from Fairleigh Dickinson University; one in Biology and a second in Psychology.
After a short career in neuro-biochemical research at Rockland
Psychiatric Institute, he taught high school biology for thirty-four years in the Clarkstown Central School District, Rockland County NY. During that time, he also operated his own portrait/wedding photography business. Self-taught in Photoshop, he keeps his hand in the portrait business and still does restoration of heirloom photographs and portrait retouching. Now retired from teaching, he and his wife Fredda now live in Delray Beach, Florida. They have two married sons, and three grandchildren.
He is currently Chairman of the Board of the Institute for Learning in Retirement in Boca Raton and moderator of the Writer’s Studio of the Delray Beach Library.
Writing fiction began after his retirement from teaching in 2001, with a couple of successful short stories published before he turned his full attention to writing novels.
AUTHOR’S PHOTO GALLERY
When he isn’t writing, author Howard Gleichenhaus captures memories…and escapes run-ins with the guarded and famous!
Thank you so much for sharing your means and methods, Howard. There’s a lot of great advice here. Be sure and pay us a visit again when Ted Lansing’s next exploit hits the presses.
“There are no laws for the novel. There never have been, nor can there ever be.”
Spotlight science fiction author Jim Cronin and his latest HEGIRA.
Today is a HUGE day for author Maighread MacKay: 5-4-3-2-1
That’s right! It’s LAUNCH DAY for her adult-themed paranormal novel STONE COTTAGE, and she has chosen this blog to be among the first to tell EVERYBODY.
This author/blogger is honored. Not only do we share the same publisher (Solstice) but we also share a penchant for book trailer making. (That’s another story.)
Today is your day Maighread. Let’s jump in with STONE COTTAGE followed by a tasty interview (keep reading)…
Victoria Anne McBride is dead, mourned and buried. Unfortunately, she doesn’t see it that way and refuses to move on. There’s something she needs to tell her husband, Will. Until she does, she will wait for his return to their home, Stone Cottage. For as long as it takes, she will wait…wait…wait.
Rebecca Wainwright is a 21st century woman. Her world is perfectly controlled. Just the way she likes it. Tragedy strikes and she descends into chaos. Trying to heal, she searches for a sanctuary…a place of her own, away from the burdensome concern of her family and best friend. A place where she can lick her wounds without anyone watching. She stumbles across a lovely stone home located off the beaten path and feels completely at home, as if she’d been there before. Why is she so drawn to this place? How can it help her to heal?
Perhaps, Annie can help.
Maighread, Stone Cottage has so many things going for it: paranormal, romance, and a journey of self discovery to name a few. How would you classify this work?
I often ponder the meaning of life and had read a book Your Soul’s Plan by Robert Schwartz that presents a different paradigm from what I had been taught to believe. Wondering how his concepts would play out in everyday life, I wrote Stone Cottage. I am hoping that the readers will love the story as much as I do, but I’m also hoping that maybe it will also cause some of them to go ‘hmmm-never thought of life that way’. That said, I would classify the story as one soul’s journey to discover meaning in her life, while being presented with paranormal concepts that challenge her firmly held concepts. There is tragedy, but also hope. It does have a ‘happily ever after’ ending, along the lines of Ghost Whisperer.
You’ve published three children’s books already. What made you switch to adult fiction?
Actually, I’ve always written adult fiction and non-fiction. The children’s books were written for my grandchildren as their legacy from me. I wanted my descendants to know who I was through my writing.
Your love of the past (history) is apparent. That you weave it seamlessly into a contemporary parallel plot is a testament to your skill. To which time frame did you identify most as you were crafting Stone Cottage?
Ah, yes, I do love history. I love Regency romances, historical fiction, and I am the genealogist in my family. I really did identify with the Victorian era when I wrote the book. I love all of our modern conveniences, but sometimes they are very intrusive. Also, I am the youngest in my family and my Father was the youngest in his family, so a lot of my relatives were born in the Victorian era and I grew up under their influence and am comfortable with the language and customs of that time period.
Without introducing spoilers, I’ll suggest that one of the characters starts out in a not entirely sympathetic vein. Was this done on purpose, or did she merely lead the way?
Yes, it was done on purpose. I am hoping that readers will learn that sometimes people we meet have a reason for the way they react to things. The old adage of ‘be careful how you treat people. Everyone carries a burden that you may know nothing about’ applies here. It doesn’t excuse the behaviour but it can explain it and bring understanding instead of judgement.
Plotter or pantser?
A combination of both. Probably more of a panster. I have the main plot in my head, and think about it all the time. The characters live with me while I’m writing and they are always showing me new aspects of themselves that end up changing the parts of the plot.
I’m so happy to be spotlighting you on today of all days: book launch day! Where can we buy your book?
It can be purchased through Amazon.com and Amazon.ca., through my publisher Solstice Publishing, and through myself.
Whet our appetites: What is your elevator pitch?
Victoria Anne McBride is dead, mourned and buried. Unfortunately, she doesn’t see it that way and refuses to move on. There’s something she needs to tell her husband, Will. Until she does, she will wait for his return to their home, Stone Cottage. She’s been waiting a long time.
Rebecca Wainwright is a 21st century woman. Her world is perfectly controlled. Just the way she likes it. Tragedy strikes and she descends into chaos. Trying to heal, she searches for a sanctuary…a place of her own, away from the burdensome concern of her family and best friend. A place where she can lick her wounds without anyone watching. She stumbles across a lovely stone home located off the beaten path and feels completely at home, as if she’d been there before. Why is she so drawn to this place? How can it help her to heal?
It’s a story of second chances. How our lives intertwine like the weave of a tapestry to help us grow and become the people we are. It presents a different way of looking at life that will be new to some readers.
I continue to write short stories, poems and such. My big work in progress is another novel with the working title – Friday: Dinner at Mother’s. I’m just at the very beginning stages of it, so I’m not sure where it wants to take me, although I can tell you that it deals with family dynamics and murder. I’m also doing a Twitter chat with Mel Massey of Solstice Publishing at 6 pm EDT on Monday, the 14th and I’m so excited about that! But there’s more: author Marie Lavender is interviewing Victoria Anne on her blog on September 11th.
Ed. — More details on these events later today!
A lot of writers find promotions daunting. What will you be doing in the next few months to get the word out on Stone Cottage?
Yes, promotion can be very daunting. I will be doing more blogs, putting the word out on FB and Twitter, plus I have a book signing on October 11th at our local Chapters store in Oshawa and will be at Bookapalooza in November at Durham College.
I’m not letting you go without a word on Chicken Soup for the Soul. You have a story in the next one. Deets, please.
Some of you may not know that I’m extremely fortunate to be married to the guy in the red suit that visits at Christmas. Yup, Santa! When I heard that Chicken Soup for the Soul was looking for stories regarding Christmas, I decided to submit a manuscript entitled “Being Santa” for the 2015 Christmas edition. It gives you a small glimpse of what it’s like to be Santa at other times of the year. I was fortunate that they loved the story and it will be coming out in the Chicken Soup for the Soul: Merry Christmas 2015 edition. The book will be available on October 20th. That will be so much fun. I’m really looking forward to it.
Thank you Maighread for the share. Here’s what we can all look forward to in STONE COTTAGE:
In the aftermath of the blinding flash, the darkness shimmered like liquid ebony. The wind ripped the leaves from the trees and tossed them aside. The rain slashed the windows of the isolated aged stone house.
Inside the dwelling, all was silent except for the ticking of the longcase clock in the foyer. The parlour to the right of the front door held a sofa placed in the centre of the room facing a large fireplace made of fieldstone. Two tall windows looked onto the lawn at the front of the house. Comfortable chairs flanked the fireside. A small table holding a glass lamp was located beside one of the chairs. A handmade throw rug covered the highly polished wooden floor in front of the hearth. An old dog lay asleep on the mat. With the shelves filled with books, the soft glow of the fire and gas lamp, and the comfortable chairs, the parlour had been warm and cozy in the gloomy night.
Victoria Anne McBride, the solitary human occupant of the room was curled up in one of the chairs, a blanket covering her and a book on her lap.
A sonic boom of thunder shook the house and ricocheted around the room breaking the spell of silence. Startled, she surged from the chair, the eiderdown and tome cascading to the floor. She had been feeling warm and drowsy under the quilt but now realized there was nothing but cold ash left in the fireplace. The gas lamp on the table had burned out and the room was freezing. How long had she been there? She listened as the rain scratched the window glass like the long nails of a ghostly hand pleading to be let in out of the cold. Bringing her awareness back to the moment, she tried to remember why she was here in the parlour.
Please join me in welcoming Solstice Author Heidi Mason, whose debut novel INVESTIGATING THE HEART looks there and beyond…
INVESTIGATING THE HEART
After the death of her husband in a plane crash, Emma McCoy, a single mom of three, has given up on love. When she meets Liam O’Reilly, an FBI agent who is new in town, the chemistry is immediate. Emma tries to keep her distance, but Liam is determined to win her over. As the two navigate their feelings, Emma’s resolve begins to crumble. What Emma doesn’t know is that Liam is connected to her past in a way that she could never have imagined, and this connection could put their future in jeopardy. In the small town of Beckland, Ohio, danger is the last thing that Emma expects. However, since Liam’s arrival, it seems like peril is waiting around every corner. See below for a taste…
Heidi Renee Mason always knew she would be an author. Heidi is passionate about writing with a flare
for fiction, as well as poetry. In her spare time, Heidi enjoys music, genealogy, all things Celtic, and chick flicks. A native of the Midwest, Heidi now resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and three daughters. Investigating the Heart is Heidi’s debut novel.
In the spirit of our times, the author opens up about her new novel and the novel things that drive her…
The blurb for Investigating the Heart is jam-packed with intrigue and peril, yet it hints at romance not
unlike that shared by the famous Rick and Elsa from Casablanca. Are you a noire fan?
I am definitely a fan of Casablanca. As a matter of fact, there is a scene in my book where Emma is watching that movie. I honestly tend to lean more toward your traditional sappy romances. But, I am a sucker for a love story in any form.
What inspired you to go down the romance, suspense path?
Investigating the Heart didn’t start as a suspense novel. I was planning a pretty traditional love story, but things took an unexpected turn pretty quickly. I just do what the characters tell me to do, so that’s the road we all went down. It was actually pretty fun to cross over to the “dark side” for awhile.
Are you a big time reader? Who are your hero’s, mentor’s and fave’s?
I am definitely a reader. I have been from the time I learned how to string words together to make sentences. As a young girl, my mother would actually ground me from reading when I got into trouble. She said it was the only thing that had a significant impact on me…and she was right. I love Nicholas Sparks. The way he can craft a love story is really like no one else that I’ve read. He draws you in and makes you care about his characters. I don’t think I have ever read one of his books that didn’t make me cry at some point. As an author, that’s really the goal, right? To make your readers feel something. I also have a special place in my heart for the Anne of Green Gables series. Those books were defining for me as a young girl. I love chick lit, and adore Elin Hilderbrand and Jodi Picoult. I love historical novels as well, and enjoyed the Pillars of the Earth books by Ken Follett. It’s really hard for me to choose. Books are pretty much my escape from life, and always have been.
Do you find value in any other mediums such as HBO?
I don’t watch HBO, mostly because I don’t subscribe to it on cable. I do enjoy TV and movies, though. I love the Outlander series on Starz. I am a little bit obsessed with it. While I like a good movie or television show, though, I always prefer a book.
What sense do you rely on most when framing a scene?
I would have to say I’m a visual person. I need to be able to see the scene playing out in my head while I write it. My goal is to craft the story in a way that my readers can see it as well.
When did you start writing?
I really began to enjoy expressing myself with words when I was a teenager. I found that it was easier for me to put my emotions onto paper than to speak them. I wrote for the high school newspaper, then I worked for a time as a Staff Writer for a local newspaper after I graduated high school. Then, I began having children and I put it on the back burner for awhile. Anyone with small children knows that some days it is difficult to form a cohesive thought, let alone write something. As the girls got older, I gradually began writing again, then earlier this year, I decided it was time to write my book. So I did…in four months. I tend to be very focused on things, and once I start something I feel an intense need to finish it.
Is it a Gift? Torture? Or Calling?
Yes, all of the above! I feel like it is all of those things, depending on the day. When the words are in there and don’t want to come out, it is torture. Most of the time, though, I feel like it really is my gift and calling. I feel very blessed that I get to do something that I love so much, and that people seem to enjoy what I write.
Many writers thrill to that first draft: the rush of creating something new. Others love going back and layering in details and devices through the editing process. What’s your fave thing about this thing we do called writing?
My favorite part of writing is being able to take the story out of my head and put it into words. I love the way that the characters speak to me and tell me how it is all going to go. I am not in control, really, and I enjoy the surprise. I enjoy the act of creating something that will entertain, transport, and hopefully touch readers in some way.
I belong to a group that says “writing need not be a solitary act”. Do you write in seclusion, or do you belong to a critiquing group?
I don’t belong to a critique group, but I’m definitely not opposed to it. I write alone, mostly because I don’t have a set time or writing schedule. I just write as I can fit it in. I would say that I write in seclusion, but I really don’t. I write in the middle of the chaos of my house, and that’s how I work best. I have three daughters, and we home school, so it is always a delicate balance of being there for them, but finding the time to write, too.
Happy endings: For? Or Against?
Most definitely FOR! I love happy endings. I am indeed a fan of them. However, happy endings don’t always have to be the expected outcome. Sometimes, the best happy endings are the ones you don’t expect.
Moving as quickly as a woman seven months pregnant was capable of, Emma McCoy headed to the front door of her house. The loud knocking had awakened her from her afternoon nap. Emma yawned, trying to appear awake. She didn’t remember being this exhausted during her other pregnancies. This time, she could barely stay awake during the day. “I’ll be right there!” She called toward the general direction of the front door. She wondered to herself who it could be. Her best friend, Sadie, never knocked, and her husband, Jacob, was out of town on business. Mom and Dad wouldn’t have bothered knocking. They would have known she would probably be napping while the girls napped. Opening the front door, she saw the two policemen. Fear immediately crept up inside of her chest. Her first thought upon seeing the officers was that something was wrong with her parents. Had they been hurt? Emma prayed the policemen were at the wrong address, but she had a feeling deep inside of her gut that they were not. “Can I help you?” her heart raced inside of her chest. She willed herself to stay calm. “Mrs. McCoy,” said the male officer. “Can we come inside, please?” “Of course.” Emma led them through the dining room and into her living room. She offered the officers a seat, but instead of sitting herself, she paced the living room floor, panic rising in spite of her best efforts to keep it in check. “Someone please tell me what’s going on. Has there been some kind of accident? Is someone hurt?” “Mrs. McCoy, please sit down,” said the female officer. “We need you to stay calm. Since you’re pregnant, we can’t have you getting too upset.” Emma sat down awkwardly in the rocking chair.
The antique rocker had been in her family for generations. Her parents had given it to her as a gift when she gave birth to her oldest daughter. She ran her hands across the aged wood, thinking absently of her children, who were upstairs napping. She was aware that her palms were sweating and her heart was racing. She tried to slow her breathing, but she felt like she might throw up. “Someone please tell me what’s wrong. I know something is wrong,” she said impatiently, looking directly at the officers for answers. “Is it my parents?” “Mrs. McCoy, there has been an accident. Your husband’s plane went down while it was descending into Canada. They searched, but there were no survivors,” said the female officer as she looked intently at Emma. “I am so sorry to bring you this news.” “What do you mean? There must be some mistake. Jacob’s plane wasn’t even flying to Canada. He was going to California on business.” Emma was momentarily thankful realizing the officers must be mistaken. “I know this is a shock, Mrs. McCoy, but it has been confirmed. The passenger on the plane to Canada was definitely your husband. We have copies of his plane ticket and his passport. We have him on the airport video surveillance. He boarded the plane with another passenger, a woman named Veronica Smith. I believe you might know her as well,” said the policeman. “Veronica is our neighbor. I thought she was going to Pennsylvania to visit her family. That’s what she told me last week. Why were Jacob and Veronica on a plane together? Jacob was supposed to be going to California, not Canada. I don’t understand! Why was he with Veronica?” Emma demanded as a million questions filled her mind. She sat for a moment trying to wrap her brain around the information. The small voice which she had ignored for the past year spoke loudly in her head now. She had been suspicious of Jacob and Veronica, but told herself she was just being paranoid. Jacob had told her she was just emotional because of the pregnancy. Emma had agreed that he was probably right, and had pushed aside the nagging suspicion she felt. Images she had ignored because she didn’t want to believe them now paraded through her mind. There had been many times she had accused her husband of being friendlier with their neighbor than he should be. Jacob always got angry with her and blamed her for being paranoid. Emma always backed off, not wanting to fight with him. In that instant, Emma’s denial came crashing down on her. She saw Jacob helping the beautiful and mysterious Veronica trim the hedge between the houses. She saw them laughing together at something Jacob had said. She heard Jacob’s insistence that he was “just being neighborly.” Emma remembered the morning she had seen Jacob and Veronica talking quietly on the sidewalk, their familiarity with each other making her jealous. Emma had chosen to ignore all of these things, but they could not be ignored now. The room began to spin. She felt faint. Jacob had been having an affair with Veronica, and now they were both dead. What was she going to do? She was alone, with two little girls and another on the way. Emma tried to stand, but her legs wouldn’t support her. The two officers rushed over and caught Emma as she slipped into oblivion.
“If you are inclined to being featured on my website, bandied about the blogsphere and / or sent out amongst the adventurous and brave in the Twitterverse…oh…and you’ve read the book and are kinda excited about it, then please send me your selfies.”
Visitors to the blog know that I’ve put about a dozen author colleagues under the magnifying glass with a Proustian-like questionnaire penned by yours truly. Designed to go behind the words and into the writer’s mind, the questionnaire was embraced with thoughtful answers as the amazing end result.
What is a Proustian questionnaire? Well, Wikipedia and on-line dictionaries define Proustian as anything remotely to do with Marcel Proust, a “French novelist whose long novel À la Recherche du Temps Perdu (1913–27) deals with the relationship of the narrator to themes such as art, time, memory, and society.”
Yep. So anything to do with what surrounds you is…Proustian. I think.
What are your thoughts on muses and do you have one?
Muses are mythical, compelling creatures credited with facilitating masterworks that otherwise would have never been. Alma Mahler and Helga Testorf come to mind along with that whole thing George Sand and Chopin had going on. I have to say that the Heuer character is richer because of a couple of guy buddies who endured my pestering to look over scenes and dialogue for male “authenticity”. They had plenty to say: “guys don’t think like that” “guys don’t care about that” etc. I took about half of their suggestions; the rest is creative license. Heuer is complicated, so the reactions he got from my muses told me that I had something very interesting.
Your characters have a great capacity to love, yet they’re starved. Why do you think this happens in fiction and in real life?
Hmmm. Heuer is a child of the Cold War and a baby boomer, which means his views are very out of step with the current times. In the Eighties, he obsessively reads Ayn Rand, votes Republican and walks around wearing a button that says “Cruise On” in support of cruise missile testing. He does this not out of any enduring belief, but out of a need to enrage. He is rocking his own version of what a “bad guy” is. And it works: women are curious about him, but don’t venture near very often, and he’s fine with that. He sees ‘love’ as a commodity that can be traded up or down. And he can leave relationships behind as long as he has a photo trophy or two to mull over. It’s baggage, I guess. That’s what empties the glass.
Without giving spoilers, would you say you’re a “happy ending” writer?
I certainly like definitive conclusions. Cliff hangers and Whaaa Happened? doesn’t really do it for me and so I wouldn’t want to do that to anyone good enough to read my stuff. So I’m in the business of delivering endings that hopefully make the reader happy, even if, by pure definition, the plot circumstance is not.
What would you like to be remembered for?
Epithets? Wow. I want to be remembered for being kind. It’s a quality that doesn’t always come easily, but I consciously work at it and am getting better for it.
If you could dine with any historical figure living or dead, who would it be and why?
The Real Thing
This changes year to year. Currently, I’d have to go with John Graves Simcoe, first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, and scourge of Long Island during the Revolutionary War. I love AMC and their current historical drama TURN: Washington’s Spies. It’s a potboiler. Simcoe is not only bad, he’s vile; yet he’s staunchly committed. A Royalist defending his country against republican marauders, he puts everything second to that first. He’s a bad, bad guy, and I can’t take my eyes off of him. I’d love to know how he lives with himself and then probably give him a good kick in the a**.
Past, present or future? Where does your mind dwell?
When I was young, I fell victim to the romantic past. I came of age in the Eighties, so naturally I believed that the Sixties had to be the be all and end all. Like Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris protagonist, I believed that satisfaction rested in what had already passed. Now at the half century (gawd that sounds old) I have fully come to my senses. The Eighties hold a lot of fond memories for me, but I have no desire to revisit them. The best time of my life is NOW and the next thing coming…whatever that is.
What informs your writing most?
Music! Music affects me a lot. I have the radio going morning till night and I’ll listen to anything from alt to classical to jazz to rock to pop to hip hop. I’ll actually pick my music depending on where I am in the story. If it’s an angry point, I might put on Slipknot or Rammstein.
Growing up in the Seventies, school kids were encouraged to think globally and act locally. Have you ever flirted with this philosophy?
Sure. I try to keep current and it amazes me how major issues disappear when someone in Hollywood gets married or divorced. But that’s always been a condition of pop culture. I mull things. I try to be thoughtful. Some of it actually makes it into the mouths of my characters which is great. If there’s to be controversy, let it come from them.
Guilty pleasures: we all have them. What is yours?
Frat boy comedies. DUDE, WHERE’S MY CAR is a favorite along with ANIMAL HOUSE and anything coming from camp Apatow.
Your greatest victory?
Going back to school at age 39 and graduating third in the class. *yah!*
Tell us about the one that got away. Person, place or thing.
It was a car. A real beauty and a classic. But I didn’t have the money to buy her, so I made her a character instead.
What are some of the overriding themes in your work? Do you have a favorite?
I’m always rocking nostalgia, but not in the way some might expect. I like memories as much as anyone else, but I don’t live in them, so a number one theme in Heuer is that nostalgia hurts more than it helps. Another one, and this really is a pet peeve, is that prying into someone’s business really is a lousy thing to do. The business of suspicious spouses cum private eyes appears routinely in advice columns where they ask permission from the columnist to break into their loved ones email. I can’t abide that. As far as I know it’s still a punishable offense to read someone’s snail mail, so why should electronic communications be any different? The mortician character Enid wrestles with this in HEUER LOST AND FOUND. She doesn’t break into his computer, but she does go through his things, and she feels terrible about it. Which brings me to my final theme: some questions don’t need answers. Enid is committed to finding out what happened to him, but does she really need to know in order to love him? That one has to be my all time fave.
Who do you admire and why?
Anyone who can take on a task and finish it. That’s commitment. That’s saying something about what a person is and what they can be.
Are writers fully formed works of art or works in progress?
THE FUNKHAUSER ROADSHOW CONTINUES MAY 14 WITH SHYLA WOLFF’S THOUGHTS
Last month, I had the privilege of answering interview questions for Eclipse Reviews, a cool blogspot for paranormal, romance, sci fi and fantasy writers. Still early into the blog tour, I didn’t know what to expect and so it was refreshing to field questions about my background not just in writing but in the workplace. When I put everything side by side — looked at all the things I have done and muse on the things I’ve yet to do — I found myself saying: “Well done” and “No wonder you’re always tired.” Lol. It’s a good kind of tired. Here’s the interview:
Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
Writing never crossed my mind even though the bulk of my early work years focused on correspondence, press releases and even speech writing. (laughs) I guess I was prepping for this and didn’t know it. When I was young, I wanted to marry Prince Andrew, command armies or become the Prime Minister of Canada. After graduating school, I took my place behind a reception desk—the first of many.
When did you first consider yourself a “writer”?
When I gave my first reading at an open mic nite. It was in a bar and the audience was full of authors, many already published. When they laughed at the right moments and for the right reasons, that told me that I was on to something. That’s when I felt ‘real.’
How long did it take to get your first book published?
Not long. Fate kinda intervened. I had four manuscripts under my belt and that’s when a friend put me on to #pitmad on Twitter. I got hits right away, and through these initial contacts I was compelled to hone my synopsis, elevator pitch and query letter. By the third pitch party, I had over thirty tags and log lines. Solstice Publishing found me soon after.
Do you do another job except for writing and can you tell us more about it?
I’m a licensed funeral director which means I arrange and take out funerals. I’m an embalmer as well. Two years ago, with the support of my family, I took a break from full-time work to concentrate on my writing. That really paid off. I maintain my license and am on call.
What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it in less than 20 words what would you say?
HEUER LOST AND FOUND is my debut and is the first in a six volume series. The elevator pitch is as follows: Dead cooze hound lawyer trapped in a funeral parlor relies on boozy undertaker and wise cracking spirit guide to set him free.
Who is your publisher? Or do you self-publish?
I’m with Summer Solstice, a division of Solstice Publishing out of Farmington, Missouri.
How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
The first book took thirty years. That is to say it’s the sum total of life experience and a ton of observations. The writing, learning, editing, honing took five years and is on going. For the subsequent three manuscripts, it took about a year for each of them to get to a cogent first draft. I really have my groove on, you might say.
What can we expect from you in the future? ie More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
My tastes range from campy to philosophical to romantic to paranormal. I also have a taste for classic cars so it’s not unusual to find a car character or two in my work, and it’s amazing how technical jargon can be adapted to comedy. My next three years will be devoted to readying the following three manuscripts in the series: SCOOTER NATION, THE HEUER EFFECT, and POOR UNDERTAKER. Each on its own is meritoriously direct in conveying a number of my favorite themes all within the framework of the funeral parlor, which changes hands as the decades pass and in one instance, actually becomes a Euro style resto bar and grille. The cool thing for me as the writer is that there’s some overlapping which I really love. A character that dies at the end of book three is born on page two of book four. For that, I have Quentin Tarantino to thank: PULP FICTION taught me that I don’t have to stay linear.
What genre would you place your books into?
I describe them as adult, paranormal, contemporary fiction with a hint of gonzo. Amazon has placed HEUER under Occult, Horror and Humorous Fiction which also works.
What made you decide to write that genre of book?
I like to blame it on the characters, but in truth, I think the comedic elements were a response to a need to give the reader a break from some of the tougher scenes. The protagonists coming to grips with their life situations, I’m told, could be quite visceral and I must have felt that while I was writing it. Death and mourning are serious subjects, but I didn’t want the story to weigh the reader down with every chapter. There had to be a lightness to it to let the reader know that something was going to give.
Do you have a favorite character from your books? And why are they your favorite?
I love them all, but my villains seem to demand the bulk of my attention. One, for example, got her own book because the beta readers insisted on it. Why is she this way? What happened to her to make her such? It was amazing the through this exploration, she went from a cartoon to a flesh and blood human being capable of commanding sympathy and understanding.
How long have you been writing?, and who or what inspired you to write?
I’ve been writing fiction for a little over five years now and I have to give the credit for inspiration to trial and error and having the courage to put a foot out the door every day. I’ve failed at many things, but I’ve had a few successes too. The best way to make sense of it was to put it into words and have those words spoken through the mouths of fictional characters. I’m grateful to them for that!
Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? ie You listen to music, sit in a certain chair?
I can work practically anywhere, but what I do is dictated by the time of year. Since breaking from full time work, I treat writing like a day job. I have two teenagers, so once they’re out the door in the morning, I’m at my desk. A work day runs from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. with breaks (dentist appointments, cutting the grass) Monday to Friday. Whether I’m blogging, tweeting, editing, promoting myself or others, I’m always writing. Summer months and NaNoWriMo are dedicated to NEW projects.
Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?
Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
Title comes first. It usually appears during edits on the previous work. Next come pop scenes and a lot of mulling before I lay down the first draft during NaNo.
How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?
I apply the theory of good band names: take two unrelated things and put them together; or I’ll grab from a character trait. For example, a character who reads classical literature is bound to wind up with a name from that historical era – Jocasta, Socrates, Hephaestion are good ones.
Are character names and place names decided after their creation? Or do you pick a character/place name and then invent them?
After. They name themselves.
Do you decide on character traits (ie shy, quiet, tomboy girl) before writing the whole book or as you go along?
As I go along. They evolve, just as we do as flesh and blood human beings.
Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books? (Morals as in like Aesops Fables type of “The moral of this story is..”)
Absolutely. There’s a point to everything.
Which format of book do you prefer, eBook, hardback, or paperback?
No preference. A book’s a book.
What is your favorite book and Why? Have you read it more than once?
God Bless You Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut. I never laughed so hard at irony in my whole life.
Do you think books transfer to movies well? Which is you favorite/worst book to movie transfer?
It depends on the director, casting, and SCRIPT. I thought The English Patient was an absolute marvel.