Interview with Paco Chierici author of Lions of the Sky

 

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Interview with Paco Chierici author of Lions of the Sky

 

What motivated you to write a novel? 

I have always aspired to write a novel, ever since I was a child.  As a first timer I had a sense of how difficult it would be, and still I underestimated by a lot.  Lions of the Sky was motivated by my desire to share the inherent drama of naval aviation while telling a thrilling story.  It’s such a fantastic world, filled with wildly interesting people and daily craziness. And when you add the peril of actual military action to the mix, it elevates the stakes even further.

 

 

In learning how to write fiction what helped you the most?

I love reading fiction.  I’m a voracious consumer of books.  I took note of how my favorite authors crafted their stories and did my best to write with purpose.  I love characters, so I took great care to create fully developed, real people who would react in a natural manner to the circumstances I threw them into.  I also love the details of flying jets from aircraft carriers and wanted to share the intricacies with the reader in a manner that pulled them into the cockpit as a participant without overwhelming them with minutia.  Lastly, I have always enjoyed explaining how the high level global maneuvering of governments affect the individuals at the pointy end of the spear. When you read the news about “The Chinese” aggressively building up their military presence in the South China Sea, and “The Americans” sending ships to sail through the islands asserting freedom of navigation, there are actual humans representing those nations who are put at risk.  I tell stories where the global tensions build on a macro scale, but the reader gets to focus on how those tensions affect the individuals at the points of contact.

 

 

How did you come up with the title Lions of the Sky?

I must say that coming up with a good title was almost as challenging as writing the book itself.  I was in the Blacklions squadron myself, so I am partial to that squadron name. My characters end up in the Blacklions as well, once the trials of their training are complete, and are then sent to face the threat in the South China Sea.  I liked the simplicity and allusion of Lions of the Sky.  

 

 

How competitive are fighter pilots?

The short answer is, massively competitive.  Every aspect of being a fighter pilot is a competition.  From the moment we decide we aspire to be fighter pilots we are put into a pool of applicants that far exceeds the number required.  I don’t know the exact numbers, but say thousands per year for just a couple hundred slots at the far end of the funnel. Every academic test, every flight, every physical fitness test, every medical exam, is an opportunity to fail and be removed.  Over the course of our 18 months of flight training we fly hundreds of flights, each graded. If one fails too many flights, you are washed out. Once we finish flight school and get to the Fleet the competition changes gears. Each aircraft carrier landing is graded and all the grades are posted in each squadron’s Ready Room for all to see.  

It is such a competitive environment that when we dogfight against each other, before each flight we recite the Training Rules in an almost religious manner.  They are strict guidelines designed to reign in our natural desire to win every fight so that we preserve a measure of safety while practicing aerial combat.  

So yes, fighter pilots are extremely competitive.

 

 

As the instructor what role does Sam Richardson play in shaping the younger pilots?

Sam’s role is to make sure that the students he greets at their arrival to the F/A-18 training squadron are transformed from excited young bucks eager to play with their new toy into men and women who are prepared to go into combat the day after they graduate nine months later.  He sets the tone with his example and experience but he’s also approachable in that he’s only four years older than his students.  

 

 

What drives Keely Silvers to achieve her lifelong dream? 

Keely is driven by the belief that the cockpit of a fighter is absolutely where she belongs. She is surprised at first that there would be any opposition to her becoming a fighter pilot based on her gender, then annoyed, then angry at constantly having to defend herself.  Her crisis of confidence is especially powerful because it seems to validate the external beliefs she has been battling. And its resolution is particularly poignant as well, not to give away too much. 

 

 

Does Lions of the Sky employ any themes?

Lions explores a number of classic themes including love, war, death, survival, prejudice, and in a manner particular to being a fighter pilot, coming of age. 

 

 

Who are your favorite authors?

My current favorites are Daniel Silva (Gabriel Allon series) and Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch series).  They both write character-centric thrillers and are masters at building tension while still writing beautifully. I aspire to their level of craftsmanship. 

I have always loved Hemingway, Le Carré, and Elmore Leonard for much the same reason. They have the ability to tell beautiful stories that have a tremendous amount of tension and fantastic, rich characters. 

 

Are you excited about the new Top Gun movie?

I am.  The first was such a cultural event that has had amazing staying power.  I have some friends still in the Navy that worked on the new film as liaisons and they assure me it’s going to be a good movie.  I’m hopeful that the new movie will be just as fun and fix some of the cheesier parts.  

 

What’s next for you?

I’m four chapters into the sequel to Lions, titled The Dragon.  We join Slammer Richardson on his next adventure, which is completely different from Lions.  It’s Slammer, this time, who is in crisis.  Shot down, stuck behind enemy lines, rescued and captured.  He’s got to find a way to make it back to the carrier so he can save the woman who helped him and stop an imminent war based on false pretenses. 

 

 

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In the world of fighter pilots, the most alpha of the alpha, competition is everything and the stakes are impossibly high. A Top Gun for the new millennium, LIONS OF THE SKY propels us into a realm in which friendship, loyalty, and skill are tested, battles won and lost in an instant, and lives irrevocably changed in the time it takes to plug in your afterburners.

 

AmazonGoodreads | Website

 

 

 

Fighter Jet Head-On View

 

 

 

About the Author

 

During his active duty career in the U.S. Navy, Francesco “Paco” Chierici flew A-6E Intruders and F-14A Tomcats, deployed to conflict zones from Somalia to Iraq and was stationed aboard carriers including the USS Ranger, Nimitz and Kitty Hawk. Unable to give up dogfighting, he flew the F-5 Tiger II for a further ten years as a Bandit. Throughout his military career, Paco accumulated 3,000 tactical hours, 400 carrier landings, a Southwest Asia Service Medal with Bronze Star and three Strike/Flight Air Medals.

Prior to writing Lions in the Sky, Paco published extensively in Aviation Classics Magazine, AOPA Magazine, and Fighter Sweep, as well as creating and producing the award winning naval aviation documentary Speed and Angels.

Currently a 737 captain, Paco can often be found in the skies above California flying a Yak-50 with a group of likeminded G-hounds to get his dogfighting fix. A graduate of Boston University, Paco lives in Northern California with his wife Hillary, and two children.

 

www.lionsofthesky.com

 

 

 

 

Mike Papantonio Discusses His New Legal Thriller Law and Addiction

 

 

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Author Interview 

 

*What’s the connection between Jake Rutledge and Nicholas “Deke” Deketomis?

Jake is a brand-new lawyer, a recent law school graduate.  His brother has just died of on opioid overdose, and when Jake returns to his West Virginia hometown of Oakley, he discovers that opioid addiction has devastated the community.  This is what drives him to take on the country’s pharmaceutical companies – to hold them accountable for this widespread opioid abuse. Jake realizes that if he wants to succeed, he needs a seasoned pro — like Nicholas “Deke” Deketomis – on his side.  Deke is a partner at one of the country’s most powerful law firms, and is well-known for his winning tactics against corporate wrong-doers.  Jake coaxes Deke to visit Oakley to see first-hand why the once thriving town is now called Zombieland. Deke is overwhelmed by the devastation and agrees to join forces with Jake.

 

 

 

 

 

*Why is Deke reluctant to take the case from Jake?

Deke has more work than he can handle, but Jake reminds him of what it was like to be a young trial lawyer on a mission.  Deke has gone up against Big Tobacco, and nothing since has motivated him as much as this opioid case. It the same kind of life-and-death consequences.

 

*What’s Jake’s initial strategy against the Big Pharma companies?

Initially, Jake wanted to bring a case in state court on behalf of the individuals addicted to opioids.

 

 

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*What can you tell us about Deke’s legal strategy against Big Pharma?

Deke’s strategy is to represent counties that have suffered financial losses due to opioid addiction.  He personalized the deaths, beyond the numbers, by displaying photographs of 117 people who died in a single day because of opioids.  And he presents a series of maps, beginning in 1999 showing drug poisoning mortality data in the country, with death rate going from dark blue to dark red.  With each passing year, the complexion of the map changes, with more and more red popping up – as if the graphics were bleeding out for all to see. Deke then demonstrates precisely how Big Pharma brought about this massive abuse of opioids.

 

 

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*What interesting facts did you learn while researching for Law & Addiction?

When I was first approached about representing plaintiffs in an action against the major corporate opioid distributors, I knew little about the opioid epidemic.  As I write these words, somewhere in America an individual is dying of a drug overdose. During the next twenty-four hours, there will be at least 115 deaths from the same cause. In 2017, more than 72,000 people in the United States died of a drug overdose. To put that in perspective, during our seventeen-year involvement in the Vietnam War, there was a total of 58,220 American casualties.

The more I discovered, the more outraged I became. The opioid crisis didn’t occur as some kind of happenstance, but as a direct result of corporate greed. My legal team has documented these claims . . . and more. We have roomfuls of paperwork showing that these distributors knowingly and willfully opened Pandora’s Box, and the evils and misery that sprang out of that box are still plaguing our society.

My hope in writing this fictional account was to both edify and entertain. I wanted to provide readers with a front-row account of this epidemic, but not bludgeon them in the process. While I didn’t try to gloss over the human suffering, I still remain a believer in the power of the human spirit to prevail. At the same time, I am hopeful about getting meaningful justice out of this terrible and sad epidemic caused by corporate greed. I hope this novel does spark outrage in readers. As a nation, we need to be outraged.

 

 

 

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One week before Jake Rutledge is scheduled to graduate from law school, he receives the devastating news of the death of his fraternal twin, Blake. What makes this death even more terrible for Jake is that his brother died of a drug overdose. Until hearing of his death, Jake had no idea his brother was even using drugs.

When Jake returns home to Oakley, West Virginia, he takes a hard look at the circumstances of his brother’s death. In the five years Jake has been away for his schooling, his hometown has drastically changed. Because of the opioid epidemic, and the blight it has brought, many now call Oakley Zombieland. Jake can see how his town’s demise parallels his brother’s.

Undeterred, the newly minted lawyer takes on the entrenched powers by filing two lawsuits. Jake quickly learns what happens when you upset a hornet’s nest. The young attorney might be wet behind the ears, but is sure there is no lawyer that could help him more than Nick Deke Deketomis and his law firm of Bergman/Deketomis. Deke is a legendary lawyer. When he was Jake’s age he was making his name fighting Big Tobacco. Against all odds, Jake gets Nick and his firm to sign on to his case before it’s too late.

 

Amazon | Goodreads | B&N | Audible

 

 

Publishers Weekly Book Review: Law and Addiction by Mike Papantonio

Kirkus Book Reviews: Law and Addiction by Mike Papantonio

 

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Mike Papantonio is a senior partner of Levin Papantonio, one of the largest plaintiffs’ law firms in America, that has handled thousands of cases throughout the nation involving pharmaceutical drug litigation, Florida tobacco litigation, litigation for asbestos-related health damage, securities fraud actions, and other mass tort cases. “Pap” has received dozens of multimillion dollar verdicts on behalf of victims of corporate corruption.

Papantonio is one of the youngest attorneys to have been inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. In 2012 Papantonio became President of the National Trial Lawyers Association, one of the largest trial lawyer organizations in America. For his trial work on behalf of consumers, Papantonio has received some of the most prestigious awards reserved by the Public Justice Foundation, The American Association for Justice, and the National Trial Lawyers Association.

Papantonio is an author of four motivational books for lawyers. He is also co-author of Air America: The Playbook, a New York Times Political Best Seller.

Papantonio is the host of the nationally syndicated radio show “Ring of Fire” along with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and Sam Seder. Papantonio has conducted hundreds of recorded interviews with guests, including Dan Rather, Helen Thomas, Howard Zinn, Arianna Huffington, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Bernie Sanders, David Crosby, Merle Haggard, Morgan Spurlock, John Edwards, Bill Moyers, Rickie Lee Jones, Alanis Morissette, Pete Seeger, Jackson Browne, Chuck D from Public Enemy, Henry Rollins, Ted Sorensen, and Elizabeth Kucinich. His role on “Ring of Fire” is featured in the movie, “Jesus Camp,” which was nominated for the 2007 Academy Award for Documentary Feature.

Papantonio is also a political commentator who frequently appears on MSNBC, Free Speech TV, RT America Network, and Fox News.

Papantonio is married and has one daughter. He is an avid scuba diver and often dives on the Emerald Coast.

 

www.mikepapantonio.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing, Rewriting, and Craft by Elena Hartwell

 

Elena Hartwell author photo with horse

 

 

Writing, Rewriting, and Craft

By Elena Hartwell

 

As a novelist and playwright, I’m often asked where I get my ideas. Almost every writer I know gets this question, and I think we all feel the same. Ideas are never the problem. That’s the easy part. Ideas are a dime a dozen. The hard part, the magic part, is turning the idea into a polished, final manuscript.

The writing process varies wildly from author to author. Some write extensive, detailed outlines. Others sit down with an idea and write scenes on the fly. A number of writers fall somewhere in between, while they may not outline, neither do they sit down and write completely organically. They might write a synopsis or outline a chapter in advance.

The various combinations of these methods all work, depending on the writer and the project. There is no “wrong” way to write a novel. The “how” a writer works isn’t why their manuscript sells or doesn’t sell. The primary reason an author’s work has not yet sold is a lack of craft.

People who lack craft skills rarely sit down to write a novel. Or if they do, they can start, but never finish. Or if they do finish, they don’t rewrite. Or if they do rewrite, they quit after a single pass. Or, if they do continue to rewrite, they aren’t aware enough of craft to recognize the flaws in their own work. You get the picture. The problem is the writer stops too soon.

As a writing coach—I do one-on-one manuscript critiques as well as teaching workshops—there are some fundamental issues I see repeated in early drafts, over and over. These same issues show up in my own work, and probably on some level, in the early drafts of every writer out there. So the first thing aspiring writers can do to increase their chances of writing a successful manuscript, is learn how to identify these problems.

 

 

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The first is a lack of clear objectives, obstacles, and stakes. It’s not enough to have a dead body to write a mystery. Someone has to investigate the murder. The person investigating the murder has to need to solve the crime. If they don’t need to solve the crime (objective) there’s no tension about the investigation. If the solution doesn’t matter to the investigator, it won’t matter to the reader.

The sleuth also can’t solve the crime easily, that’s not dramatic. Various impediments (obstacles) have to appear, one after the other, to prevent the protagonist from catching the killer. The more the investigator has to overcome, the more satisfying to the reader when they do.

Lastly, it has to matter (stakes). For example, the protagonist with an internal struggle, coinciding with their investigation, is far more interesting than someone who simply goes through the motions of solving a crime.

The more important solving the case is to the protagonist, the more dangerous or difficult the journey, and the greater the importance to find the guilty party, the more invested a reader will be. That’s what keeps a reader turning pages.

Complex protagonists will also have personal objectives, obstacles, and stakes to go along with their investigation. For example, a crumbling marriage, a child in danger, or overcoming an addiction are common tropes within the genre. When we know an investigator has to choose between catching a killer and saving their marriage, the stakes are high and we breathlessly turn each page waiting to see what the character chooses.

 

 

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Another common error I find is a lack of structure. All stories have an underpinning structure. While there are variations to that structure, for the most part, especially in crime fiction, we start with the world as we know it, which is disrupted by a specific event, followed by rising action, where events pile one on top the other, each more important than the one that went before. This ends with a climactic scene, with the maximum danger to our hero or heroine, followed by a glimpse into the new world order for our characters.

If any of these parts are missing, the story can feel unfinished. For example, if we don’t have some sense of what the character’s life was before the intrusion, we don’t know what they are putting at risk. The “world before” can often be well hidden, it might not appear in the first chapter, but later in reflections the character makes as the story progresses, but usually a reader can identify it if they look for it.

The middle of a manuscript might falter if a lot of exciting things happen at the beginning, then nothing exciting follows. Rising action is important, because it builds dramatic tension, making it impossible to put the book down.

Lastly, an ending can feel unsatisfying if we have no sense of the outcome. Readers don’t need everything tied up in a bow, but they do want the primary threads to be resolved enough to know what the character’s lives will be like after they read “the end.”

 

 

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Dialogue can also be difficult to master. One of the most common problems I see is when authors have their characters say exactly what they feel and exactly what they mean. That doesn’t ring true. People lie all the time. We lie because it’s expedient, it benefits us in some way, it keeps us from hurting others, or we don’t want to get in trouble. We rarely say what we mean, we obfuscate, we dither, we agree out loud when disagreeing feels like a mistake. Dialogue works best when each character speaks distinctly from the others, through word choice, sentence length, grammatical accuracy, and the use of slang.

If a writer can identify just these specific problem areas in their own writing, their next draft will be a much tighter, more polished manuscript. It can feel overwhelming to try to identify and fix all the issues I’ve outlined at one time. My recommendation for writers is to choose one aspect and rewrite just for that. Heighten the stakes in one rewrite. Focus solely on dialogue for the next. Breaking down the process into smaller chunks can make each rewrite a more successful venture. This will help the writer get through a series of rewrites rather than attempting one and feeling like the mountain is too high to climb. My final piece of advice. Don’t give up. That’s the only difference between a published author and an unpublished one.

 

 

Giveaway Colorful Stripes

 

 

One dead two to go imageTwo heads are deader than one imageThree strikes your dead

 

 

 I’d be happy to do a giveaway! Copies of my Eddie Shoes Mystery Series will be available to the first 3 people that sign up for my newsletter win! Send me a PM with your email! More info on the series here:  www.elenahartwell.com

 

 

 

Elena Hartwell author photo with horse

 

 

Elena Hartwell started out her storytelling career in the theater. She worked for several years as a playwright, director, designer, technician, and educator before becoming a novelist.

Elena has more than twenty years of teaching experience and now works one-on-one with writers as a manuscript consultant and writing coach.

She lives in North Bend, Washington, with her husband, two cats, and the greatest dog in the world. When she’s not writing, teaching writing, or talking about writing, she can be found at a nearby stables, playing with her horses.

For more information about Elena, please visit www.elenahartwell.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Christine Carbo Author of the Glacier Park Mysteries

 

 

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A SHARP SOLITUDE – A GLACIER PARK MYSTERY

Interview for Benjamin Thomas


 

What’s your creative approach to writing a book?

I usually get my ideas from small things that spark my interest: an interesting article, a unique person, a story I’ve heard in the past that sticks with me, a line from a poem or a song…. If that thing of interest stays with me, I know I have the seed of an idea I’m willing sit with during the time it takes to write a novel. Once I have that idea, I will take some notes and brainstorm more ideas around the topic or character, but I’m not much of an outliner. I often simply end up diving in and writing as far as the headlights. Sometimes I’m at a loss for what should come next, get frustrated, and force myself to outline, but I rarely end up writing what I outline anyway, so it always comes out differently than I imagine it will. I also have no set writing schedule. I fit it in whenever it makes sense, sometimes in the morning, sometimes over the weekends, sometimes later in the day after my other job. I realize this is different from many other authors, but it has worked for me so far. I always think, someday I will create and stick to a writing schedule, but so far it hasn’t happened. Ha, I’m reminded of the saying: someday is no day.


 

Creativity

 

 

 

You write great characters in the Glacier Park mysteries. What’s the first thing you begin with? How do you develop them and bring out their flaws?

I often begin by thinking about a character’s childhood. So much of a character’s makeup depends on their upbringing: some important family dynamic (or even the lack of a family), a relationship with a parent, a traumatic event that may have happened. Our upbringings so often shape how we deal with circumstances that pop up later in life. Sometimes they prepare us well or sometimes our pasts leave us ill-equipped to deal with various situations and we end up making them so much worse than we want because of our own baggage. I find it interesting when a certain case or criminal situation that my detective or sleuth finds themselves embroiled in brings up unexpected emotions that have not been fully dealt with because of things that have occurred in their pasts.

For example, in my my first book, The Wild Inside, my main character is a lead detective – a Series 1811 – for the Department of the Interior who is called to the federal land of Glacier National Park to investigate a murder that occurs there. However, Glacier is the last place he wants to be because when he was young, something very traumatic occurred while he was camping there with his father. Right from the get-go, I know my character will be haunted by not only the place but by the crime he’s investigating. In my fourth book, A Sharp Solitude, my main character is a local, resident FBI agent in northwest Montana. She is also a single mom of a daughter she fiercely wants to protect and shield from having the type of childhood she had because when she was young, her father was not present and was even in prison for some time. She does not want her daughter to experience the lack of a father and makes sure she is able to spend plenty of time with her dad. However, he ends being a prime suspect in a local case, and my main character gets tangled up professionally because she is driven to protect her daughter. She gets involved in the case in spite of the professional conflict of interest. So, essentially, the things we throw at our characters can often resonate more deeply if they somehow brush up against past experiences of their lives.



 

 

Welcome to Glacier National Park

 

 

 

What’s the relationship like between Reeve Landon and FBI investigator Ali Paige?

Reeve is someone Ali actually respects. She admires his steady, persistent drive to go into the woods and do the work he does, which is part of the University of Montana’s canine detection program in which dogs are trained to help find the scat of certain wild animals for biologists to study. She does not view him as a deadbeat dad, like she saw her own father, yet, she does get irritated with him for putting his work first at times. Plus, in general, she does not understand how they can make a relationship work because, in fact, she sees him as being a little too much like herself. At one point, she thinks: “We both seemed to be followed by a certain darkness like a stray dog you can’t convince to go away. It was if we were always reminding each other that people never rid themselves of lonesomeness even in the company of a partner.” And of course, they both feel this way because of things that occurred in their lives when they were younger.



 

“We both seemed to be followed by a certain darkness like a stray dog you can’t convince to go away. It was if we were always reminding each other that people never rid themselves of lonesomeness even in the company of a partner.”

 

 

 

The settings are woven perfectly into your books. How important is it in your writing?

Setting is very important to me, but I like to point out that setting does not always have to be an entire area or town, or even nature. A strong setting can be a well-described trailer park, a busy, concrete-laden city, a popular bar, an old Victorian home, a cold cell in a jail, a small house not far from a refinery where the windows need to be shut when the wind is blowing in the wrong direction….

So, for me, the question is less about a particular setting, and more about the entire place that is the larger backdrop, or locale, for my stories which are made up of specific scenes in specific places. I don’t dwell on how to weave it in because I think that occurs naturally for the most part, but I do believe describing place is essential to creating good characters and stories because people are shaped by the places they reside, just as they are by their past experiences. And even past experiences took place somewhere, and that area will often inform how that experience played out and the character’s memories of what happened.

Because I reside in northwest Montana – where the landscape is such a huge part of our lives, where its grandness is obvious, I tend to weave geography and nature into my stories. I think many writers from the northwest and the west in general are well-aware of the area’s exceptionalism and therefore, incorporate it into their stories. I’m only about a half-hour drive from Glacier National Park, and at my house, where I usually write, I often see deer, elk, bear and sometimes a stray moose meander through my yard. Already this spring, I’ve seen a herd of up to seventy or eighty elk pass through about three times a week. It tends to inform our existence when every time we look out a window, we see something wild or dramatic, even if it’s simply the jutting mountains in the distance. When we drive to the store, we see fields with eagles perched on telephone poles looking for prey, reminding us that we’re never far from the wilderness. When I walk my dogs, I wouldn’t think of going into the woods without bear spray when the grizzlies are out of hibernation since I live close enough to fairly undeveloped areas, and even the developed ones have bears that meander through.

Also, Glacier brings millions of tourists to see its grandness, and I love Glacier, so it’s fun to set some of my stories in it or near it. I try not to preach in any of my novels, but I do keep in mind that nature is not something separate from us. And although Glacier is, in essence, an island of undeveloped, unmined, unlogged land – a place of unfettered beauty which is sometimes experienced by people like it’s an amusement park to be enjoyed briefly and then departed to return home where nature is not so obvious – I know that we are all a part of nature, even if we’re surrounded by concrete. I’m thrilled that we have conserved certain areas as we have, and I hope that people understand that these places should not simply be islands for enjoyment for a few weeks out of their lives and then left for their homes that might be viewed as less natural. No matter where we live, we are not separate from nature, and although concrete can create the illusion that we are, it’s important to understand how we are a part of it, even when we’re in the center of a city.

Because I carry these personal beliefs about the natural world, and because I’ve mainly written about characters living in northwest Montana, I tend to make characters that are acutely aware of their natural surroundings. I believe I would do this no matter where my book was taking place, even if not among the wilderness of my state. Over-description can definitely bore a reader, but a little attention to the clouds above and the trees on the sidewalk –even if they’re dying – and how characters notice these things or even the lack of them and how they treat them goes a long way to seat a story in geography, in place, and thereby create atmosphere. I do think that’s essential to a good story with deep characters.


 

 

Grunge state of Montana flag map

 

 

 

Have you been to a lot of sites you write about?

Yes, I’ve been to most of them, but every once in a while I make a place up: a landmark, a restaurant or a bar, a house, a campground….  In A Sharp Solitude, I have a scene about a shooting range near Tallahassee, Florida, and I made it up entirely because I have not been to a shooting range in Florida. Of course, even when making up a place, I still try to pay attention to the details that I imagine make that place unique.

 

In A Sharp Solitude, who is officially on the case of Anne Marie Johnson?

The county sheriff’s office has jurisdiction over the case since her body was found on county land, not far from Glacier National Park. She wasn’t found within the park; if she had been, the case would fall primarily under federal jurisdiction. Nor was she discovered in the city limits, so the police department is not involved either. In some instances, the county might ask for help from the city police department or from the resident FBI agents. However, I did not have my county characters corroborating with other agencies in A Sharp Solitude. The county runs the investigation on their own with two Flathead County deputies working for the detective division who are leading the investigation. The police department and the local FBI resident agents, however, would be well-aware of the crime and have access to its developments, which allowed me to have Ali, a resident agent, nudge up closely – too closely – to the investigation in spite of having a conflict of interest. When I was doing my research for the novel, I had called the lead detective from the county, and I asked her, would it be plausible for one of the local resident agents to just pop in to the county building while a detective from the county is interrogating a person of interest for a local crime without any reason other than to see how things are going? I had thought I was stretching things a little too far, but to my delight, she said that it happens all the time and that they all work closely together – that’s it’s not uncommon for the local resident agents to check in and see what’s going on and that they wouldn’t think twice of it. Sometimes, she said, the county asks for their opinion, their advice or for their help.

 

 

 

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What has helped your writing craft over the years?

Lots of reading, hanging around with other writers, going to workshops and learning to trust my own intuitions about my work. At times, especially when I first began writing, I have been insecure – as all writers tend to be at one point or another – and I have learned that insecurities can be helpful. So often, we think of the feelings of insecurity as awful and unwanted, but insecurities can actually provide fuel to get it right. They helped to keep me wanting to learn more, to never quit trying to do better, and to take advice.

On the other hand, I’m a little bull-headed too, which is also a useful trait in the world of writing. If you’re always taking advice from readers and critique groups, you can revise forever, especially if you can’t parse the good from the bad. It’s important to trust when you think you have it right and to stick to your guns when you do. Knowing when to listen to the critiques and when to shut them out can be a tricky balance. In other words, you need to know when it’s time to fully go with your story and trust in it, and that does take a certain amount of confidence. So, in other words, I’ve learned to use both my insecurities and my bull-headedness to my advantage, which has ultimately led me to be more confident in the process. But, it’s definitely a fluctuating process and some projects go more easily than others.


 

What are you working on next?

I am working on my fifth novel – one that has been a bit of a challenge for me (speaking of projects that go more easily than others). I have heard that sometimes a manuscript will resist us, no matter how much we love a subject, and this is my first experience with that. It doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be written. Quite the contrary – it means we’re onto something that is worth working harder on to get right. It just means we struggle a little more. In this novel, the main character has a very unusual job that not many people are aware of. She is a death-row mitigation specialist, which means she helps research, understand and interpret the dark case histories of criminals destined for death row to present recommendations to judges and jurors with the goal of mitigating their sentence. Only, she is currently taking a break from that job because she has had a crisis of conviction that has compelled her to retreat to a cabin in northwest Montana. A crime occurs in her neck of the woods that draws her back into that world which now haunts her, and she is forced to reckon with who she believes she is as a person.

 

Thanks so much, Benjamin, for asking such great questions!

All best, Christine

 

 

 

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Christine Carbo is the author of The Wild Inside, Mortal Fall, The Weight of Night, and A Sharp Solitude (all from Atria Books/Simon and Schuster) and a recipient of the Womens’ National Book Association Pinckley Prize, the Silver Falchion Award and the High Plains Book Award. After earning a pilot’s license, pursuing various adventures in Norway, and working a brief stint as a flight attendant, she got an MA in English and linguistics and taught college-level courses. She still teaches, in a vastly different realm, as the owner of a Pilates studio. A Florida native, she and her family live in Whitefish, Montana. Find out more at ChristineCarbo.com.

 

 

www.ChristineCarbo.com

 

 

 

 

Inspiration by Andrew Cairns

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Black Magic Inspiration

The continent of Africa abounds with stories of black magic and witchcraft. Unlike in Western culture where witch stories have mostly been shelved along with fairy-stories or history, in Africa such tales remain an integral part of the various cultures and belief-systems.

I found my inspiration for writing The Witch’s List Trilogy through travels in Africa, meeting people who still have strong beliefs in witchcraft and black magic, and listening to some of their incredible stories. I also try to draw from some of my own experiences and use my imagination to think about how things might have worked out differently, if I’d made different decisions at certain points in my life.

I first encountered black magic on a visit to the Ivory Coast, where I was introduced to the notion of a mysterious list maintained by a witch of obscure identity: if your name is on the list, so they believe, it means you’re going to die. As a sceptic European, I was rather surprised how seriously people took this witch’s list, even Ivorians like my wife at the time, who’d lived most of her life in France. When someone fell ill in the village people would whisper, “Perhaps she’s on the witch’s list?” Fingers were pointed at this person or that, suspected of being in league with the witch, of adding someone’s name to the list or even of being the witch. If someone received some unexpected money or success, they might be accused of having obtained such good fortune by being in league with the witch.

So that was my main inspiration for writing the first novel, and when I began writing it, I thought it would be interesting to integrate a coming-of-age tale about a naive young Scot who gets drawn into this web of black magic. Ideas for writing the trilogy came to me: to use three phases in the main character’s life as parts in the trilogy – adolescence / the beginnings of adulthood; adulthood / marriage; and children / growing old. I also wanted to look at some of the traditions and belief-systems in different geographical regions: West Africa in the first part, North Africa in the second part, and as for the third part, well… I don’t want to give too much away yet! I’m also attempting to show how the character’s conscience and morals evolve over time, basing the three different parts on the concept of nafs in Islam, which translates as the self or the ego. The three main stages of the nafs are: the inciting nafs, where lower basic instincts dominate; the self-accusing nafs, where the conscience is awaked and some sense of right and wrong develops; and finally the nafs at peace where the soul becomes tranquil and one’s faith and resolve to do good are resolute.

Other sources of inspiration include authors such as Tahir Shah, Iain Banks, Paul Auster, Douglas Kennedy, and William Boyd; not forgetting – since the trilogy falls loosely in the horror / supernatural genre – horror greats like H. P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, Dean R. Koontz, and Dan Simmons.

I would also like to recommend a new author I discovered recently, Eowyn Ivey. Her two novels are based in 19th century Alaska. The first one, The Snow Child, is based on a Russian folk tale about a girl made out of snow coming alive. The second is a story of exploration and adventure in the unforgiving climate of Alaska, with myths and supernatural elements an integral part of the tale.

 

 

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Andrew Cairns is the author of the Witch’s List, a witchcraft themed novel released in June, 2016. The novel follows sceptic Sandy Beech, who marries an exotic Ivorian woman, and drawn into her world, finds himself subject to mystefying and dangerous black magic. He is forced to confront his deepest beliefs as he attempts to extricate himself from these events before they kill him.

His second novel, One More Arabian Night: Book II in the Witch’s List trilogy, takes Sandy on a new adventure to Morocco, where he hopes to wed the beautiful Hurriya, a medical student whom he met in Paris. He must come to grips with the local customs and superstitions: miraculous water, djinns, polygamy… and once again witchcraft!

 

 

 

Host Hank Garner Interviews Linda Fairstein on the Author Stories podcast

Blood Oath Linda Fairstein

 

 

New York Times bestselling author Linda Fairstein explores the depths of Manhattan’s secretive Rockefeller University in this timely, captivating thriller about the deep—and often deadly—reverberations of past sins.

Assistant DA Alexandra Cooper of the Manhattan Sex Crimes Unit is finally back at work following a leave of absence, and not a moment too soon. With more women feeling empowered to name their abusers, Alex is eager to return to the courtroom to do what she does best. But even she can’t anticipate the complexity of her first case when she meets Lucy, a young woman who testified years earlier at a landmark federal trial…and now reveals that she was sexually assaulted by a prominent official during that time.

Yet Lucy’s isn’t the only secret Alex must uncover, with rumors swirling about one colleague’s abusive conduct behind closed doors and another’s violent, mysterious collapse. As the seemingly disparate cases of her client, adversary, and friend start to intertwine, Alex, along with NYPD detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace, finds herself in uncharted territory within Manhattan’s Rockefeller University, a premier research institute, hospital, and cornerstone of higher learning. But not even the greatest minds in the city can help her when unearthed secrets begin to collide in dangerous ways…and unless she can uncover the truth, the life-saving facility just may become her grave.

 

 

Host Hank Garner Interviews Linda Fairstein on the Author Stories podcast

 

 

 

 

This podcast originally appears on hankgarner.com March 27, 2019. Duration: 35 min.

 

Blood Oath is now available

(Alexandra Cooper #20)

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Linda Fairstein (born 1947) is one of America’s foremost legal experts on crimes of violence against women and children. She served as head of the sex crimes unit of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office from 1976 until 2002 and is the author of a series of novels featuring Manhattan prosecutor Alexandra Cooper.

Like Fairstein, Alex (‘Coop’) Cooper is in charge of the Special Victims Unit of the Office. She works closely with NYPD detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace. The 17th book in her best-selling series – DEVIL’S BRIDGE – launches in paperback in June, 2016. The 18th novel – KILLER LOOK – debuts on July 26th.

This year, Fairstein will debut a new series for Middle Grade readers – 8-12 years old. Her kid sleuth, Devlin Quick, appears in INTO THE LION’S DEN in November, 2016. The series is an homage to Nancy Drew, whose books inspired Linda’s two careers – in crime fiction and in the law.

Ms. Fairstein is an honors graduate of Vassar College (1969) and the University of Virginia School of Law (1972). She joined the Manhattan District Attorney’s office in 1972 as an Assistant District Attorney. She was promoted to the head of the sex crimes unit in 1976. During her tenure, she prosecuted several highly publicized cases, including the “Preppy Murder” case against Robert Chambers in 1986.

Linda Fairstein left the District Attorney’s office in 2002, and has continued to consult, write, lecture and serve as a sex crimes expert for a wide variety of print and television media outlets, including the major networks, CNN, MSNBC among others. Ms. Fairstein is often called to provide her opinion on high profile prosecutions including: Michael Jackson’s molestation charges in 2004, Kobe Bryant’s sexual assault charges, and Scott Peterson’s trial. She is also a frequent speaker on issues surrounding domestic abuse.

Ms. Fairstein lives in Manhattan and on Martha’s Vineyard with her husband, Michael Goldberg. Her novels draw on Ms. Fairstein’s legal expertise as well as her knowledge of and affection for the rich history of the city of New York.

 

www.lindafairstein.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing with Author S.W. Frontz

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Interview with S.W. Frontz

 

 

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S.W. Frontz is the author of the Land’s End Series. When The Morning Comes, Don’t Look Back, Closer Than Yesterday, and Sins of the Father are books one, two, three, and four respectively, and all are available in both paperback and kindle on Amazon.

Frontz won the grand prize in the 2017 Top Female Author for Don’t Look Back, which was also a semi finalist in the Golden Quill Awards and a finalist in the fiction category of the Books Excellence Awards. Frontz was also one of fifty winners in both 2017 and 2018 “50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading” contest. When the Morning Comes was nominated in the 2018 Top Female Author Awards and Closer Than Yesterday was a finalist in the 2018 Golden Books awards.

 

www.swfrontzauthor.com

 

 

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How do you approach writing a book, outlining or intuitively?

Intuitively.  Ideas float around in my head, and I write sections out of order.  What really helps is when I have a cover and a title in mind.

 

What comes first, plot or character?  

I usually know before I finish the previous book which character I’m going to write about in the next.

 

 

 

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What was your process in creating Robin Drexel?  

Robin went through a couple of personality changes before she became the Robin in Sins of the Fathers.  I kept changing her until I found the one I liked.

 

 

Describe a typical writing day.  

I have no typical writing days. Depends on my mood.

 

 

Why did you choose Sins of the Fathers for your book title?

The storyline and title changed twice before it became Sins of the Fathers.  I was visiting family and I saw this old church in Gloucester, Va, and knew immediately it would be on the cover, which led to a title, which led to the plot that became Sins of the Fathers.

 

 

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What did you learn from your research?  

I learned about different statutes of limitations of crimes in different states, and the penalties for them.

 

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

Always the hardest part-making myself sit down and write, then the editing.

 

What would you say to a struggling writer?  

Not to give up. My first novel took 3 years to write.  Sins of the Fathers took a year and a half. Books 2 and 3 were easy-six months for each.

 

 

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Book Review: What I’ve Done by Melinda Leigh

What I've Done

 

 

Morgan Dane’s new client has blood on her hands—and no recollection of what happened—as the #1 Amazon Charts bestselling series continues.

 

Haley Powell wakes up covered in blood, with no memory of the night before. When she sees a man lying in the backyard, stabbed to death, she has only one terrified thought: What have I done?

Agreeing to take the case as a favor to her PI friend Lincoln Sharp, Morgan must scale a mountain of damning circumstantial and forensic evidence to prove her client innocent. Haley couldn’t appear more guilty: her bloodstained fingerprints are on the murder weapon, and she has no alibi. But Morgan can’t shake the feeling that this shocked young woman has been framed.

Someone out there is hell-bent on sabotaging her defense, targeting Morgan, her partner, and especially Haley. Someone who will stop at nothing—and whose next move will be deadly.

 

Amazon | Goodreads | Audible

 

 

 

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Morgan Dane rocks. I always enjoy reading this series.
Criminal defense attorney Morgan Dane’s new client Haley Powell will prove to be an extremely challenging case. Private investigators Lincoln Sharpe and Lance will have their hands full with this one. Melinda Leigh deliver’s once again with a great story full of twists and turns. Never a dull moment, action packed, full of suspense, and keeps you on your toes. Great series and I’d recommend it to anyone.

 

 

 

 

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Morgan Dane book #5 is now available!

 

 

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The #1 Amazon Charts bestselling series continues as Morgan Dane and PI Lance Kruger fight for the innocence of a young murder suspect—if only they could find him.

When a retired sheriff’s deputy is shot to death in his home, his troubled teenage stepson, Evan, becomes the prime suspect. Even more incriminating, the boy disappeared from the scene of the crime.

Desperate to find her son, Evan’s mother begs PI Lance Kruger for help. She knows her son is innocent. Kruger and defense attorney Morgan Dane want to believe that too, but the evidence against the boy is damning. Just as the trail goes cold, another deputy vanishes. His shocking connection to Evan’s stepfather throws the investigation into chaos as Lance and Morgan fear the worst…that Evan is the killer’s new target.

With so many secrets to unravel, will Lance and Morgan find him before it’s too late?

 

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Storytelling with Steven James & Lynn Constantine

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Bestselling author Steven James hosts Lynn Constantine on the Story Blender Podcast

 

 

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This podcast originally appears on thestoryblender.com Feb. 19, 2019. Duration: 55 min.

 

Lynne Constantine is a coffee-drinking, Twitter-addicted fiction author always working on her next book. She is the international bestselling co-author of THE LAST MRS. PARRISH written under the pen name Liv Constantine. Her next book, THE LAST TIME I SAW YOU, comes out on May 7th.

 

 

 

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The internationally bestselling author of The Last Mrs. Parrishfollows that success with an addictive novel filled with shocking twists about the aftermath of a brutal high-society murder.

Dr. Kate English has it all. Not only is she the heiress to a large fortune; she has a gorgeous husband and daughter, a high-flying career, and a beautiful home anyone would envy.

But all that changes the night Kate’s mother, Lily, is found dead, brutally murdered in her own home. Heartbroken and distraught, Kate reaches out to her estranged best friend, Blaire Barrington, who rushes to her side for the funeral, where the years of distance between them are forgotten in a moment.

That evening, Kate’s grief turns to horror when she receives an anonymous text: You think you’re sad now, just wait. By the time I’m finished with you, you’ll wish you had been buried today. More than ever, Kate needs her old friend’s help.

Once Blaire decides to take the investigation into her own hands, it becomes clear that all is not as it seems in Baltimore high society. As infidelity, lies, and betrayals come to light, and tensions rise to a boiling point, she begins to alienate Kate’s friends and relatives with her relentless, accusatory questions, as she tries to find Lily’s killer. The murderer could be anyone—friend, neighbor, loved one. But whoever it is, it’s clear that Kate is next on their list. . .

In The Last Time I Saw You, Liv Constantine takes the lightning pace of The Last Mrs. Parrish and raises the stakes, creating an exquisitely tension-filled and absorbing tale of psychological suspense in which innocent lives—and one woman’s sanity—hang in the balance.

 

Amazon | Goodreads | Website

 

 

 

Liv Constantine authors

 

Liv Constantine is the pen name of USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and international bestselling authors and sisters Lynne Constantine and Valerie Constantine, co-authors of the Reese Witherspoon book club pick, THE LAST MRS. PARRISH. Separated by three states, they spend hours plotting via FaceTime and burning up each other’s emails. They attribute their ability to concoct dark story lines to the hours they spent listening to tales handed down by their Greek grandmother. Their next book, THE LAST TIME I SAW YOU, will be released on May 7, 2019.

 

 

livconstantine.com

 

stevenjames.net

 

thestoryblender.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

William L. Myers Jr. Discusses the Killer’s Alibi

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For attorney Mick McFarland, the evidence is damning. And so are the family secrets in this twisty legal thriller from the Amazon Charts bestselling author of A Criminal Defense.

When crime lord Jimmy Nunzio is caught, knife in hand, over the body of his daughter’s lover and his own archenemy, he turns to Mick McFarland to take up his defense. Usually the courtroom puppeteer, McFarland quickly finds himself at the end of Nunzio’s strings. Struggling to find grounds for a not-guilty verdict on behalf of a well-known killer, Mick is hamstrung by Nunzio’s refusal to tell him what really happened.

On the other side of the law, Mick’s wife, Piper, is working to free Darlene Dowd, a young woman sentenced to life in prison for her sexually abusive father’s violent death. But the jury that convicted Darlene heard only part of the truth, and Piper will do anything to reveal the rest and prove Darlene’s innocence.

As Mick finds himself in the middle of a mob war, Piper delves deeper into Darlene’s past. Both will discover dark secrets that link these fathers and daughters–some that protect, some that destroy, and some that can’t stay hidden forever. No matter the risk.

 

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William L. Myers Jr. discusses the third installment of the Philadelphia Legal series, A Killer’s Alibi.

 

 

*What kind of person is attorney Mick McFarland that made him your protagonist?

            In crafting Mick, I set out to build a character who is basically a good guy, who wants right to prevail over wrong, but who, in the pursuit of right, will do whatever is necessary, including things that are wrong. As an attorney, Mick is a thinker, a planner, and very Machiavellian. He enjoys the “game” and excels at it.

 

 

*What can you tell us about the kind of case Mick is undertaking?

            Mick is in an interesting situation. His client is Philly crime lord Jimmy Nunzio—a man used to calling the shots. A Machiavellian manipulator. A man like Mick himself in many ways. What this means for Mick is that he isn’t the alpha dog as he is with most of his clients, and he finds himself having to dance with Jimmy Nunzio, for control of the case.

 

 

 

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*What is your method of creating characters and how do you bring out their flaws?

            I create characters by outlining them only in very general terms and then placing them into the story—putting them under stress–and watching how their flaws appear. I remember reading once that stress and conflict reveal character; you only find out core character by putting someone to the test. So, I make sure that my protagonists, and my antagonists, too, are under real threat.

 

 

 

*Tell us about Mick’s wife, Piper.

            Piper’s evolution is an interesting one. When I wrote, “A Criminal Defense,” the first book in “The Philadelphia Legal Series,” I started out with the plan simply to make a two-dimensional “wife” character for the main protagonist, Mick. But whenever I wrote Piper into a scene, she asked for more, she told me “I have more to contribute here.” By the end of the book, Piper was a fully-formed character with her own agenda, secrets and fears. In “A Killer’s Alibi,” Piper plays an even more important role—as a driving force behind one of the two main plot lines. She really comes into her own. (And, spoiler alert, in the fourth book, which I’m finishing now (in which Mick is imprisoned on charges or murder), Piper becomes THE driving force in Mick’s defense team.

 

 

 

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*Is the innocence project she’s involved with commonplace in law firms today? Would her official position be an investigative attorney?

            Most law firms which do innocence project work do so under the auspices of, for example, the Pennsylvania Innocence Project. Larger law firms do have pro bono practices and some have attorneys devoted solely to pro bono work.

 

 

 

*What can you tell us about the kind of case Piper is taking?

            Piper is leading the charge on behalf of Darlene Dowd, a young woman who was convicted of killing her sexually abusive father fifteen years earlier. Piper learns there is exculpatory evidence the jury never heard and she has to go on a hunting expedition to find the woman who has that evidence. But the woman has secrets of her own, and has been in hiding for years. It takes all of Piper’s will and resourcefulness to win the woman over and see that Darlene gets a fair hearing in court. But nothing is black and white in my books and Piper has to pay a price.

 

 

 

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*Now for one of my favorite questions. What is justice?

            Justice is like pornography: difficult to define but you know it when you see it.  When something happens to a character (good or bad) and it feels right to you, that’s justice.  The character, of course, may disagree with you— fictional characters, like real people, believe they are good guys, whether they are or aren’t. Along these lines, a word to the wise: if someday you find yourself standing before St. Peter, the one thing you should never say is I want what’s coming to me.

 

 

 

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William L. Myers, Jr. is the No. 6 best-selling author for Amazon Kindle in 2017 for his debut novel, A Criminal Defense. That was the first in what has become the Philadelphia Legal Series. The third book in that series, A Killers Alibi debuts February 19, 2019.
A Killer’s Alibi has had rave early reviews including New York Times Bestselling author, Bill Lasher—

“William Myers’ riveting new novel is not just a crackerjack legal thriller, it is a wrenching portrayal of a whole range of farther-daughter relations, showing how they can damage, how they can nourish, how they go dangerously off track. A story not to be missed.”

Born in 1958 into a blue-collar family, Mr. Myers inherited a work-ethic that propelled him through college and into the Ivy League at The University of Pennsylvania School of Law. From there, Mr. Myers started his legal career in a Philadelphia-based mega defense firm. After ten years defending corporate America, he realized his heart wasn’t in it. So, with his career on the fast track to success–he gave it all up and started his own firm. It was time to start fighting for the common guy.

That was twenty-five years ago and since then, he has focused on representing railroad employees and other honest, hard-working people who have been injured by others. He has represented thousands of clients in his tenure and has become a highly-regarded litigation attorney up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

 

 

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