Bio: A lifelong freelancer, Phil Bowie earned his chops selling 300 articles and short stories to magazines. One article, about deaf Hollywood stunt woman Kitty O’neal, came out in The Saturday Evening Post and was reprinted in Reader’s Digest, reaching 26 million readers in 23 languages. Several of his short stories have won awards, including a first-place contest winner, “The Cat From Hell,” a yarn begun by Stephen King.
Phil began writing novels in the 2,000s. His debut, GUNS, about the world black-market weapons trade, earned Honorable Mention at the London Book Festival among 400 entries, and was endorsed by Lee Child, number one NY Times international best-selling author of the Jack Reacher series. (One hundred million copies sold to date.) Three more novels in Phil’s suspense series have followed: Diamondback, about a lost Great Smokies Cherokee gold mine, KLLRS, featuring a deadly outlaw motorcycle gang, and Deathsman, set against the illegal synthetic drugs trade.
Phil also has two stand-alone thrillers: Killing Ground, about African elephant poaching, and Dawn Light, starring a yacht delivery captain and his rebellious teenage mentee aboard a boat carrying a lethal secret in her belly.
Phil has been a pilot with his own Cessna, a Coast Guard-licensed boat captain, a draftsman, co-owner of a graphics business, a fiddler, an inventor, and a motorcycle rider. He lives with his partner, Naomi, and their cat, McKenzie, in a cottage he restored on a shore of the Neuse River.
Sherri: Welcome Phil, it’s great to have you on my virtual café. I wish it was a real place we could hang out and have a drink, talk books and writing but maybe someday that will happen. It sounds like you have had a fun and interesting life so far and I’m excited to learn more. In your bio you said you were a lifelong freelancer; did you make your living as a writer? How did you get started writing? Have you always written? Was there a point in your life when you said, this is what I’m going to do or did you just kind of fall into it?
Phil: Thanks for having me, Sherri. I like your café atmosphere.
It’s been a somewhat checkered life, some would say, but yes, fun and most interesting. I went to a rural high school in the Berkshire village of Williamsburg, Massachusetts. There were only 22 in my class, so we got spoiled. My English teacher, Lulu Smith, I guess saw a spark in me and offered lots of encouragement. My mother, Edith, an excellent newspaper reporter who once interviewed Eleanor Roosevelt, instilled in me the power and beauty of the language. At Clemson, I was fortunate to have a tough creative writing professor we called Flunking Felder, who got my first short story published in the college literary magazine, and I’ve been writing on and off since, most often as a sideline to a variety of bills-paying jobs.
Sherri: In your article about Kitty O’Neil, did you get to interview her? What is your process for writing articles and how does that differ from writing novels?
Phil: I’d long been interested in the World Land Speed Record, so in the late seventies, when I heard of an upcoming record attempt at Bonneville in a three-wheeled rocket vehicle, I raided my meager savings, grabbed my photo gear, and, on pure speculation, drove a borrowed tin-can Fiat 2,400 miles to cover it. I was the only journalist there, because historically most attempts had failed, and nobody else was going to cover it until it looked like a record might actually be broken as the hydrogen peroxide-powered rocket car built up speed in ever-faster trial runs over several days. Kitty was going for the female record and stunt man Hall Needham (who wrote the Smokey and the Bandit script), a buddy of actor Burt Reynolds, was driving for the male record.
Although she was deaf, Kitty had already been an Olympic diver and a motorcycle racer and had set several records like water skiing at 104 miles per hour. She’d stunted as Wonder Woman and in several other movies. She was part Cherokee, beautiful, and fearless, the first woman admitted into the Hollywood Stunts Unlimited organization. I interviewed and photographed her at length and wrote a piece for the Post, which was reprinted in Reader’s Digest. I like to think I gave her career a modest boost. No record was set during that attempt for technical reasons, but she did later set the female record at five hundred and twelve miles an hour on a dry lakebed in Oregon. They eventually did a movie about her called Silent Victory. She’s gone now, but it’s no coincidence that the love interest in my suspense series is beautiful, part Cherokee, and named Kitty.
All riveting fiction and non-fiction is based on conflict, and the more intense the conflict, the more interesting the story, real or imagined, will be, so the basic approach for either articles or stories has always been similar for me. I mostly look for subjects with an unusual aspect of adventure or danger or human endeavor against odds. In articles, I’ve covered everything from angling for blue marlin in the Gulf Stream, to a jet-powered show truck called Shockwave (which I took a 200 mph ride in at Cherry Point) to bottlenose porpoise communication research, to the last builder of wooden Chesapeake Bay sailing Skipjacks, to Dolly Parton and her Dollywood, to how to pilot a plane for skydiving. Short stories have varied widely in a variety of magazines, and a while back I put out a collection of 17 of them called Dagger and other tales.
Sherri: Your debut novel, GUNS, was endorsed by Lee Child? Now that’s impressive. Did you get the opportunity to meet Mr. Child? Do you feel his endorsement has helped your sales? How can an author set themselves up for such an endorsement or other opportunities that would aid in their marketing?
Phil: Yes, the Lee Child endorsement was a nice boost. He’d been an idol of mine, so I sent the raw manuscript to him through his agent. Lee read it, liked it, and got back to me. On their dime, my then-publisher, Medallion, sent me to the Sleuthfest conference in Fort Lauderdale to meet him. He was the guest of honor and keynote speaker for the 500 attendees. Like his protagonist, Jack Reacher, Lee is a big guy, six-five. He came up to me and shook my hand, which made my year. That night, we sat out by the Hilton pool talking about life and writing into the small hours.
I’d advise any budding writer to try for best-seller author endorsements through their publishers or literary agents. Nothing to lose by trying. I’ve garnered endorsements from best-sellers Ridley Pearson and Stephen Coonts (Flight of the Intruder) using the same approach. The top gun authors I’ve met at conferences like Killer Nashville and Bouchercon in Baltimore have been gracious and friendly. At that same Sleuthfest, for example, I had breakfast with the prolific and enchanting best-seller Heather Graham and her pleasant daughter.
Sherri: Do you read the reviews of your books, if so, do you learn from them, or do they affect your attitude? As creatives, it’s often difficult to separate ourselves from our work. On days I feel objective I can read my reviews and say, okay, I need to work on this, or I can see why they said that and it’s fine, it’s how I do things, but there are other days when they can be a boost or a devastation depending on the review.
Phil: Reviews from respected sources like Publishers Weekly, newspapers, magazines, and some of the online bloggers and critics are well worth soliciting, and they’ve certainly helped me by giving me a boost and occasionally by stinging me. A Publishers Weekly review of GUNS, for example, did both. While praising the book warmly overall, the reviewer berated me for including pages of lyrical material that did not advance the plot, so I hung my head and revised an updated version of the novel to tighten it up.
You’re always going to hear from those few who roam the Net putting everything and everybody down while never accomplishing much of anything themselves, so you can’t ever let those people get you down. You’re less likely to hear from those readers who’ve liked your work (except through respectable royalty figures), though it’s always nice to get an email or a website note from somebody who does like your stuff. I admit to keeping a file of those and it’s thick enough to be of some comfort on a dark winter night when doubts assail.
I’ve always just tried to concentrate on researching and writing the absolute best I can, and that seems to have paid off okay over the years.
Sherri: From some of your reviews one of the comments was your political bias showing in your stories, especially GUNS. We as writers often have a difficult time taking our own voice out of the story and letting the characters’ point of view shine. Do your characters represent or echo your own voice, or do they vary in their opinions? When choosing the characters, themes and topics for your novels, how much of real life enters into your work? What influences or inspires your stories?
Phil: You’re right that we should be invisible to readers. The story is always paramount, and the trick is to immerse readers in it thoroughly while staying behind the scenes, much like a movie director.
I suppose some of my political feelings have bled into my fiction at times, but it’s never a good idea to let that happen, because no matter what your views are, you’re going to make enemies.
I do firmly believe it’s important to write what you know, thus much of my work is themed on some conflict or other I’ve been somehow involved in or am at least familiar with, and I’ve drawn on my own sometimes crazy experiences—piloting, parachuting, riding motorcycles, and so on—to lend realism to plots and characters. The protagonist in my suspense series and in one of my stand-alone novels is a pilot, for example. An elderly couple in the series is based largely on my maternal stonemason grandfather (one of my enduring idols) and his good wife, and readers seem to especially like the couple. Other characters in any novel or short story may begin as ethereal figures, but they soon become as real to me as anybody I’ve known, and they can only perform on my stage as who and what I’ve molded them to be.
I also use story settings that I’ve either spent a lot of time in, like the Great Smokies, or that I’ve researched extensively enough to give me confidence, as in the novel about African elephant poaching.
Sherri: When you are writing, do you plan or plot your books ahead of time or do you just sit down and write? What is the most difficult part of writing and how do you overcome it? Where do your ideas come from?
Phil: Each short story or novel begins with a theme that I think has enough inherent conflict to build an engaging story on. GUNS, for example, is about the black-market trade in weapons. I had a friend who’d spent a career in naval intelligence, and he helped fill me in on that.
For a novel, I’ll spend weeks just digging and jotting the occasional plot idea. Copies of all my research materials go into a dedicated file box for easy reference. I’ll sketch out a rough plot longhand on a legal pad (old habit), and then launch into the story on the computer with some intense and vivid scene meant mostly to hook the reader. Then I’ll just forge on, letting my characters guide me. If I get stuck along the way, I’ll often take a long walk, which seems to break up the logjam. I rewrite and revise a lot as I go.
This is a tough, solitary business, as I’m sure you know. Weeks and months of sitting behind the screen trying to fill those blank pages with a hundred-thousand-word story that will engage and reach out and touch a reader. It’s at once a long, long slog and a wonderous and rewarding experience. I’m hopelessly hooked on it.
Sherri: I saw your publisher was listed as Bowker. Are you independently published or is this a small publishing company? What has publishing been like from the first book to the most recent? How have things changed? What do you wish you’d known in the beginning?
Phil: That’s an Amazon glitch I need to fix. Bowker was only the provider of that book’s bar code.
Over the years, much of my article and short story writing has been on pure speculation. I’d write something and then try to sell it. Early on, my work was rejected a lot, but accepted and paid for just enough to keep me plowing onward while learning and honing the craft. That led to working on assignment for several magazines at much better pay and without the marketing hassle.
If I had it to do over, I think I’d have a lot more confidence in myself and would be more aggressive.
Writing has changed in many ways since I began decades ago. I once had to research laboriously through libraries, write on a typewriter, and take photos on several kinds of expensive film with a whole heavy bag full of gear, never knowing what exactly I had until the transparencies came back from the lab. It’s so much easier now to research, write, edit, and correspond on a computer, and my digital Canon camera is amazing.
The advent of the Net, of course, has changed the whole business profoundly. Back in the day, editors filtered submissions, only buying and publishing those books they figured would earn their way. Now millions of books get published on Amazon, and it’s easy for your work to get buried in that constant avalanche. A whole generation of readers expect to get Kindle books dirt cheap or even free. Many out there are lost in Smartphoneland and don’t read books at all.
I sold my first three novels to Medallion Press under traditional advance/royalty contracts. They treated me well, but lack of distribution became an issue, so I finally asked for all rights back, added a fourth novel to the series, and self-published as Proud Eagle Publishing, which comprises me, my best friend, editor, incisive critic, and life companion, Naomi (who is also part Cherokee) and our cat, McKenzie. I write and edit, rewrite, create my own covers, put everything up on Amazon myself, promote myself, and sell through a number of indy stores I’ve set up. The six novels have sold more than 150,000 copies to date in print and Kindle, so people seem to like them.
As long as they do, I’ll keep on writing.
Sherri: Phil, it’s been a pleasure having you at Creekside Café. If you all enjoyed our interview you can learn more about Phil from his links below, order his books or come out to our Book Festival at the New Bern Farmers Market, Sunday, November 20th from 1 to 4 pm and meet him there. Remember, books make great holiday gifts, and they can even help you survive them. We hope to see you there.
Today I’d like to welcome fellow North Carolina author, Sandra Cox to my virtual café. Welcome Sandra to Creekside Café.
Sandra: Thanks, Sherri, I’m thrilled to be here.
Sherri: It is kind of funny that you and I met on Twitter through writer friends that live all over the country, some even out of the US and we’re both in North Carolina.
Sandra: I love it: It amazes me how many North Carolina writers are out there.
Sherri: I read your ebook Queen of Diamonds and I loved it. What a fantastic twist. Do all of your books have an element of suspense and romance?
Sandra: Yes. I like an action/suspense storyline with a romance woven through it.
Sherri: If I’ve counted correctly, you have 38 published books.
Sandra: I blush to admit, I’m not sure. I’ve retired quite a few and republished others.
Sherri: And your latest book is a western, is this your preferred genre?
Sandra: It is. Everything I write now from the old West to paranormal has a Western theme.
Sherri: Tell us about Keeper Tyree. Who is he? What is his code? How does he end up mixed up with this interesting cast of characters?
Sandra: Keeper is hard, no-nonsense and crusty, and believes a man’s word is his bond. But beneath the hardness, he’s got a soft spot for youngsters and respects women.
He can’t walk away from a woman or child in peril. Men are another matter. He’s a big believer in minding his own business. Cathleen has other ideas and when she digs in her heels, she usually manages to get her way.
Sherri: Who is your favorite character in Keeper Tyree? Who was the most fun to write and who created more of a challenge? Or are they the same?
Sandra: As far as my favorite character and fun to write, it was definitely Keeper. I enjoyed his discomfort as he falls hard for a ‘good woman’. So did his friends and traveling companions. My challenge was fleshing out Cathleen O’Donnell’s character. Keeper’s was larger than life and no problem to write. Cathleen was more withdrawn and kept parts of herself hidden.
Sherri: Have you always been a writer? When did you first start writing?
Sandra: I’ve been writing forever. I was first offered a contract in 2006 or 2007. Remember Ellora’s Cave? They had a sweet line called Cerridwen Press. They published THE CRYSTAL.
Sherri: Of all your books, is there one that still holds your heart?
Sandra: That’s a tough one. As far as holding my heart, I guess I’d have to say The Catarau Series. When I lost my twelve-year-old cat to cancer, I grieved and wanted him back. So, I wrote a fantasy story where he used one of his lives to come home.
Sherri: Who is your favorite all-time character in all of your books? Would you write another book with them in it?
Sandra: At the moment, Keeper. He’s a keeper after allI’m toying with writing a sequel that takes up where KEEPER TYREE leaves off.
Sherri: If you enjoyed this interview with multi-genre, multi-published author, Sandra Cox, come back June 23rd when I will be doing an interview with Keeper Tyree. Unfortunately, the gunman is a bit busy and won’t be able to make out to the café. No planes, trains or automobiles in the old west, so, I’ll be taking the old mare out and see if I can meet up with the man on the trail. Here’s wishing you all Happy Trails.
My friends have sent examples of fight scenes from their books. See the variety of fights and how they set them up. As you read them, I realize that they are out of context but see how they set them up, the emotions, the choreography of the fight. Study the scenes. When you read a book you love in the genre you want to write, see what works, what you’d do different. When you are editing your work, edit for pacing, for details and description, for emotion and for the payoff. What do you want this scene to do? Remember, even a fight scene must do something. It has to move the story along. Tell us something about the character, be a turning point or a black moment. It needs to fulfill a need in the reader as well as the character.
Red Shoes by Donna Steele
“Nikki? You okay?” The door hadn’t been locked. Micah knew she was growing more comfortable every day, but that was still not like her. He didn’t mind her caution. Now that he knew about Adrian, Micah knew she had every reason for it. (foreshadowing)
Something didn’t feel right. She had said she’d call him when she was through with her errands, but she hadn’t. And she hadn’t answered when he called her. That’s why he had shown up early. (Increasing anxiety)
What? Had he heard something? He headed for the kitchen and spotted her. What the . . . was that blood on her lip? And her eyes, one was swollen shut and bruises were beginning to show on her face and neck. (initial reaction/confusion)
Shit! He rushed toward her. It didn’t look as though she was restrained, but she sat unmoving on one of the kitchen chairs. Her hands were clamped around the seat at her sides. “Nikki?”
She didn’t speak, though she watched him. Tears filled her eyes, but none fell.
“Nikki, talk to me.”
She didn’t move, but her eyes shifted to behind him and fear filled them. It was all the warning he got. He shifted as the fireplace poker came down with what would have been deadly force had it hit his head. He felt and heard his collarbone break and his right arm went dead.
Adrian had found her. They were both in trouble. Micah’s right side might not be much use but he pivoted. What choice did he have? He rammed himself into the man with his left shoulder, knocking him to the floor. (action and reaction) *note how the author took into account his wound.
God that hurt.
Adrian wasn’t that big. Micah had visualized him much larger, but that had been from Nikki’s descriptions. He wasn’t as tall and not nearly as muscular as Micah. This was a man used to buying the strength he needed.
Micah kicked the poker farther away. “Get out of here, Nikki! Call 911!”
She didn’t move. He’d seen no ropes, no cuffs. He looked back at her, what had he missed? Adrian kicked out. Micah had an instant to thank God he hit the back of Micah’s knee instead of the front or side, but he still went down.
What the hell was he doing underestimating this man? Adrian had brutalized his wife for years, other women before that. The asshole couldn’t be a complete wuss.
“Victoria.” Adrian hissed at him. He seemed afraid to come too close. “Her name is Victoria and she belongs to me.”
“She belongs to herself.” Micah made it back to his feet, though he knew he wasn’t really in fighting shape right now. Hell, he’d practically gone down without a fight. The element of surprise worked well for Adrian. Micah’s leg was hurt, not as badly as his arm, but he needed to make this quick. Why was she still sitting there? Her knuckles were white where she gripped the chair.
“You’ll pay for touching her. She will too, but you first.”
Micah watched in horror as the smaller man aimed a police taser at him. No! Where had he gotten a weapon like that? They weren’t legal. Shit, he was thinking like a lawyer. He needed more time, but it didn’t exist. He charged Adrian hoping his size would intimidate the man. Adrian did fall back a step, but then he discharged the weapon.
Twin lightning bolts struck Micah’s chest and abdomen and he dropped into the blackness. (Donna used and economy of description to keep the pacing tight, the anxiety up and convey the sense of urgency but still managed to let the reader SEE what was happening. We experienced it right along with the character.)
Nooo! She didn’t scream, she couldn’t. It wasn’t allowed. Adrian was going to kill her. She’d accepted that hadn’t she? He’d never even be charged. No one knew who she was except Micah.
Micah loved her. He didn’t deserve this. She hadn’t been able to move and Adrian had killed him. So let him kill her, but she wasn’t going down without a fight. Micah had thought she was strong. (finding strength and courage even when all seems lost.)
Adrian wasn’t even worried about her. He had ordered her to sit in the chair and now he turned his back on her, to ensure that Micah was dead. Darkness threatened to cover her mind. Micah.
She released the chair, working blood back into her fingers. She was startled at how easy it was to do something for Micah. Adrian hadn’t noticed. He was confident in his power over her. That was a mistake, she had grown while out from under his rule.
Her hand closed over the forgotten fireplace poker and she lifted it.
Adrian pulled the twin stickers from Micah’s body and she saw his smile. God, had he always looked that evil? How blind had she been?
Some sound caused Adrian to start to turn toward her. What had Micah told her, clench up on the bat, swing with your whole body and visualize the ball going out of the park. Now. She swung the poker like that bat; her grip tight as Micah had shown her and she hit Adrian’s back solid and hard. She heard something crack and the air whooshed out of Adrian. His look of astonishment would have been funny in some other time or place. She saw and heard his head hit the brick fireplace as he seemed to sail across the room. (previous set-up, Micah taught her to swing a baseball bat.)
That couldn’t have been her strength. It was Micah’s, he was still helping her. Adrian lay still on the hearth as she raced to Micah’s side. Tears were now streaming down her face. Then Micah groaned. Alive? Micah was alive?
God, she needed help. She ran to the front door and threw it open. Then she screamed. It was loud and long and it felt so good, so powerful.
More than one door flew open around her. “Call 911!” Neighbors came running, some with phones in their hands. She saw Mr. Gregory from two doors down running her way with a baseball bat. Friends. She had friends!
Sheriff Haas arrived before the ambulance by less than a minute. “Miss Nikki? What’s going on? I got a dozen calls.”
“Micah’s hurt. Adrian tried to kill him.”
“Looks like he tried to kill you too. Who’s Adrian?”
She pointed toward the man face down on her floor. Micah had been covered with the afghan from her couch, Adrian was untouched. She didn’t even know or care if he was breathing.
“That the man Micah said you were scared of?” She nodded. “Had good reason to be.” He stepped aside as the EMTs entered.
“Micah’s first. Please make sure he’s okay.” Nikki said to the red-headed woman.
“We need to check them both.”
“The man over there is under arrest, Sara.” Sheriff Haas said.
She nodded and motioned for her partner to check him out as she knelt by Micah. “What happened?” Sara looked up at the sheriff, but it was Nikki that answered.
“Adrian hit Micah with the fireplace poker, I think his collar bone is broken and he kicked him in the knee, then he tasered him with that.” She pointed to the taser half under the couch where it had fallen when she’d struck Adrian.
Sheriff Haas knelt down and picked up the taser with a rubber glove. “Shit, this thing’s lethal. Sara?”
“His vitals are good, Sheriff. We need to transport, get some X-rays, but I think he’s gonna be fine. Barry?”
“This one’s out cold. Probably at least a concussion and his left lung is collapsed, broken ribs.”
Nikki’s eyes widened. “I broke his ribs?” (surprised by her own strength/underdog)
“Looks like you needed to. We’ll get it all sorted out. You need to be looked at too, you know. There’s a cut over your eye probably needs a couple of stitches. Let Sara look after you. I’ll handle this.”
“This guy’s the worse off,” Barry said, drawing attention back to Adrian.
“I’ll get them to dispatch another unit.” Sara was already on the radio. Sheriff Haas motioned for one of his deputies who’d just walked in to guard Adrian, though it was unnecessary at this point.
Nikki sat on the floor beside Micah, holding his hand and feeling safe.
Learning Trust by Donna Steele
They separated after Suzanne gave her arm a squeeze. Becca put her out of her mind for now. She had one priority and that was to get to Mitch. In a fair fight she might be able to take Wannamaker, but she had no intention of fighting fair. (preparing to fight)
She carefully crept up to the first house and looked in the nearest window. It was dark inside, and she could discern no movement. Her hand tightened on the poker in her right hand. He wouldn’t expect her to come after him. That was to her advantage.
Wait a minute, she was an idiot— it was back. She pressed her fingers against the windowsill, not relinquishing her hold on the weapon. Nothing, they weren’t here.
She crouched down and moved in the shadow of the house. Full darkness wasn’t far off, but her eyes were accustomed to the available light for now. She moved to the next house, for the first time wishing they were closer together like in the city. Beauty be damned right now.
Becca didn’t need to touch the window as she got closer to the second house. Mitch was in there. She had no doubt; he was injured, but alive.
Trying desperately for silence, she moved slowly to the door. Wannamaker had to be inside too, right? She couldn’t feel him, and thank goodness for that from one aspect. She tightened her grip on the poker and moved around the corner.
Too late she felt the presence, something slimy, filthy the same as at the tire tracks. Then she felt the blow to her arm, knocking the poker free as she heard the bone snap. The second blow knocked her to her back and then the insane eyes of the man she was tracking were above her. (notice the choreography, it’s not a step by step but still intense.)
“You felt him, didn’t you? That didn’t occur to me, but I guess there are a lot of things about being a physic I’m going to have to learn after I take what I need from you. I really would like a long conversation before then. I promise to be quick about it, so you won’t be in that much pain, but there are things you’re going to have to tell me first. Oh this is just wonderful. You came to me.”
The lunatic was talking to her. Wanting her help before transferring her powers? He sounded giddy as a little girl, as though he wanted to clap his hands in glee.
He kicked the poker away. “Now I’m going to help you to your feet, Rebekkah. This is over except for the final conveying of the power. You should know I’ve never talked to one of my experiments this way before, but then you’re almost as special in your own way as I am. Oh, I am just delighted to have this chance to talk first.”
Lord, he was going to clap. Becca stared up at him in disgusted wonder.
“Come now. We’ll be more comfortable inside. I don’t want to drug you, not and dampen any of that special brain, but I will have to bind you. A mere broken arm might not keep you from running away. Of course, there is the promise that I will kill your gas jockey if you try anything.” (are you feeling the menace)
She allowed him to take hold of her right shoulder, to help her sit up. It freed her left hand, trapped beneath her, and still holding the grilling fork.
He had no time to dodge. The look in his eye at the first blow was not of pain or fear, but shock and then outrage that she would do something like that. The second and third stabs brought the pain and the blood that was now trickling down his shirt caused the fear. The fourth blow was the one. Her aim grew better when he shoved himself away from her and began dabbing at the growing stains. Between the ribs, she put her full weight behind it and skewered his heart. (just when you thought all was lost…)
She felt it, the electricity of his body’s system short-circuiting and the expression of astonishment on his face almost made her laugh. He sank slowly to the ground and she thought of yanking the fork out once more, to use it again if he so much as twitched. It wasn’t necessary, she knew he was dead.
She stepped back and leaned against the house, suddenly wobbly. Her arm hurt now that the adrenaline was gone. Deep trembles were taking its place. (the after is just as important as what happens before, how did this fight affect the character?)
No, she didn’t have time for that. Mitch!
She forced herself into a run and burst through the front door, causing it to slam into the wall behind. “Mitch!”
There was no answer, but she was still moving. She flipped on every light. Suzanne would see that and come as fast as she could, with help. There, on the floor of the eating area, beside the blessed maple table, Mitch lay unconscious on the floor. His head was bleeding and he was still bound to the chair.
“I’m here, Mitch. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry you got caught up in this,” she babbled as she tried to release him with her one good hand. That’s when she realized, somewhere in the back of her mind, that she had left the fork sticking out of Wannamaker’s shriveled little heart.
Where was a phone? She staggered to her feet and spotted it on the kitchen wall. She dropped it the length of the cord and hit 911 then yanked it back up to her ear.
“911. What’s your emergency?”
“I need an ambulance and the sheriff. I don’t know the address but it’s on Lakeside.”
“I have it. Stay on the line, please.” How could the woman sound so calm? “Ma’am, we have vehicles already on the way to Lakeside. You should be hearing them—”
“I do. Thank you!” She hurried to the door and waved them into the driveway.
Lance jerked up quickly. I could see his face in the mirror, covered in a crimson cloud of rage. “That miserable son of a bitch kept one of the swords? That night on the dock, our dock, he told us he didn’t want to have anything to do with either one of us. He said we were meth-heads, that our brains were fried. He kicked us to the curb like we were garbage. He said we, we, were incompetent and stupid. And we were like brothers, Jimmy and me, like fucking brothers.”
I looked over at Drew again. His misery was absolute. He’d heard it. Jimmy and Lance were like brothers. Not Lance and Drew.
“Drew?” I quietly asked.
When he looked at me, there were tears trailing down his cheeks.
“Was it you who called the police and told them about the bodies in the Chadwick house?”
“I couldn’t stand knowing that they were all dead, that she was dead, and lying on the floor, just up the road from here.”
Lance’s left hand strengthened its grip on my shoulder and his right hand pressed the knife blade against my neck. “Now the only question that’s left, Miss Chase, is what are we going to do with you? You’re kind of a loose end.”
I could feel the cold steel of the knife against my carotid artery. These guys butchered six people. One more certainly wasn’t going to make any difference.
I worked hard to find a voice through my escalating terror. “If the police are talking to Jimmy, you know it won’t take long for him to give you up. The cops are probably on their way here now.” (notice the strong word choices)
“Maybe,” Lance mused, “but once they get here, it’s not going to help us if you’re here telling them our story.”
I was willing to try anything. “Take off now. Get a head start. Take my cell phone, disable my car. When the cops get here, I won’t say anything. They’ll already have Jimmy’s testimony. They won’t need mine.”
Lance was grinning in the mirror, looking at himself, admiring his own reflection. “Yeah, the reporter won’t say anything,” he repeated sarcastically. “I can make sure of that. We’re going to take a boat ride, Miss Chase.”
I involuntarily glanced at the dock where the powerboat was tied.
“Drew, come here, get around back, get her by the neck.”
The boy got up and moved fast, behind me. The steel blade of the knife vanished, replaced by the crook of Drew’s thick, muscular arm, pressed hard against my windpipe.
Lance stood in front of me, looking me up and down. “You’re pretty, Miss Chase. I think we’ll have some fun with you before you go for a swim.”
No. Gotta be a way out.
Lance turned and led the way, still holding the butcher knife.
Rain falling, we followed. I tried to walk, but my legs didn’t work right. Drew half-carried me by the neck across the yard to the dock.
Weapon, I need a weapon. (plan, emotion)
I tried kicking my feet against the ground.
I pulled at his arm.
We moved up the dock, got to where the boat was tied off. Lance hopped across onto the deck and turned. “Can you get her across okay, Drew?”
“I got her.”
He put his other arm around my waist and carried me onto the boat.
I tried kicking him. All I got was air. (attempted maneuver, not everything has to work, sometimes it’s more believable when it doesn’t.)
Lance ordered. “Get her below and into the master stateroom. Use one of the lines and tie her up if you have to. I’ll cast off.” Then he stared right at me and held up the knife. “It won’t take long to get those wet clothes off.”
Drew dragged, walked, carried me down the steps down to the lounge. The engines growled to life.
I glanced around. Teak walls, padded benches, TV on the counter, small stove, refrigerator.
Weapon, I need a goddamned weapon. (anxious/emotion, planning)
Drew carried me through the galley. The table was littered with paper plates, a pizza box, empty beer bottles, a pack of cards. (atmosphere/description)
The doorway ahead of us led to the bed inside the stateroom. Too big for the tiny room.
Desperate, I flailed out.
My hand found the neck of a beer bottle, smashed it down on the counter, rammed the jagged edge hard into Drew’s forearm. Hit bone.
Blood splattered my face.
Drew shouted, “Fuck!”
His grip tightened. I couldn’t breathe.
I stabbed the ragged glass into his arm, over and over. Every time, feeling it, hearing it hit bone.
He roared and let go.
I turned. Drew was between me and the steps up to the deck.
The vessel’s twin engines growled and we started to move.
Gotta get past Drew.
His head was down, inspecting blood draining out of his torn arm, dripping onto the deck.
Gotta get past Drew.
Panic-stricken, I leaped forward, screaming, slashing at his face. He held up his hands and I ripped the broken bottle into the palms of his hands. (choreography of fight/escape)
He grunted, twisted, and fell against the table, dropping onto a bench.
I dashed up the steps onto the deck and, without looking, hurled myself over the transom of the boat, throwing myself into the air, falling into the cold, bubbling wake of the twin engines.
When I surfaced, I saw we hadn’t gotten far from shore. A hundred feet from the dock.
Behind me, the boat was still moving away from me, nearly invisible now behind the gray curtain of rain. (descriptive but evokes emotion too)
I kicked off my shoes and swam for the dock.
The noise from the twin engines suddenly changed. I stole a look behind me again. Lance had throttled down. The boat was turning. Coming back for me.
I swam harder, adrenaline firing through my veins, swimming for my life.
The engines got louder, closer. Lance was accelerating. (As a reader, what are you feeling? What do you want your readers to feel?)
I reached out for the ladder of the dock and hoisted myself up, my heart pumping like a hammer against my chest, my lungs on fire, straining for oxygen. Running in bare feet down the dock.
I saw the boat drawing up to the dock. Drew stood on deck with a towel around his arm. His chest and shirt were covered in blood. Lance was tying off the lines.
Legs pumping, feet splashing, I sprinted across the yard, past the pool, up to the steps to the house, slid open the glass door to the kitchen.
The maid stood at the counter, mixing something in a bowl with a spoon. She stared at me with wide eyes.
Where was my phone? Where were my keys? In my bag, next to the table by the pool.
I turned and looked through the glass door. Lance and Drew trotted across the yard.
“What’s going on here?”
I whirled. Becky Elroy stood in the kitchen doorway.
“Call 911,” I screamed.
“What are you doing here?” She shouted back, mystified at seeing me standing there, soaked and muddy.
“Call 911.” My voice howled with desperation.
Suddenly the boys slid the glass door open, They were in the kitchen.
Becky, seeing the blood-soaked towel on her son’s arm and blood dripping from the palms of his hands, shrieked, “What’s happening?”
The boys glowered hard at me.
Where do I run?
“There’s a break-in at 32 Smuggler’s Road,” shouted the maid into her cell phone. “On Connor’s Landing. Yes, I’ll stay on the phone.”
Drew glared at me with unbridled hatred. Then he turned and mumbled at Lance. “Jesus Christ, what are we going to do?”
Lance narrowed his eyes, sizing me up. Then he glanced at his mother, at her horrified expression. “Let’s go, Drew.”
The two of them turned and marched out the open door, disappearing into the rain. Moments later, I heard the purr and then roar of a sports car as it accelerated down the driveway.
Suddenly my legs had no strength in them. I needed to sit down. But first I had to get my cell phone.
I looked at the two women. The maid still had her phone pressed to her ear, holding a meat cleaver with the other hand, watching me cautiously. Becky Elroy’s gaze moved from the blood spatters on her kitchen floor to my face.
“You’re the contractor’s wife,” she hissed.
Holding my hands out in front of me, I was amazed at how badly they were shaking. I found enough strength to walk to the doorway, still open, and down the steps and into the cold rain.
I staggered to the table under the awning by the pool house where Drew had left his laptop. Exhausted, I dropped into a metal chair. Water dripped from my hair and down my face.
What was I trying to do? Get a story? Get a confession so Mike Dillon wouldn’t have to make a deal with Jimmy Fitzgerald? Show how smart I was?
I’ve done some incredibly stupid things in my life, but most of them were fueled by too much alcohol.
This morning I was stone cold sober.
What about those two boys? They had every advantage, money, privilege, a good family. What went wrong? Drugs? A feeling of invulnerability? Pressure from their father? Undue influence from a bad seed like Jimmy Fitzgerald? A seductive teacher?
There was no good reason for those six people to be dead. They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I needed to call Mike Dillon. I reached down into my bag for my cell phone.
My hands were shaking so badly that it took three tries before I could punch the number onto the screen.
When he answered, I made an effort to calm my voice down so I wouldn’t sound hysterical. “Mike, it’s Drew and Lance Elroy.”
“It’s Drew and Lance Elroy. They’re the killers.”
“We know, Jimmy Fitzgerald told us. We just got the warrants. We’re on our way out there now to arrest them.”
“They just took off.” The words tumbled out much too quickly. “They’re driving a gray Nissan 370Z convertible.”
“Where are you?”
(Did you feel her intensity? Her fear?)
Nancy Lee Badger from contemporary romance With Every Kiss the 2nd book in my Opportunity Falls series. It is set outside a New Hampshire bar between my heroine, a local, and my hero, Mitch:
Karl blocked Abby’s way and said, “Can’t get this image out of my head. I drove by the Trumbull’s campground on my way to town the other day. Guess what I saw?”
Abby’s eyes widened at the lust-filled look he gave her. She stepped back, but Karl grabbed her wrist.
“The sun streamed in through my windshield and I had to blink. Then I did a double take. Perched atop a ladder were legs peeking from a pair of cut-offs. I swear I nearly drove into a ditch.”
“And your point is?”
“This woman’s sexy pony tail and long legs teased me. I had to turn my attention back to watch the road, but I think she was you.”
“Maybe.” Abby tried to slip her wrist free and head for her car, but he held tight and wouldn’t let go. Karl leaned in closer. (this doesn’t seem too bad at first but it rapidly escalates)
“I want to feel those legs wrapped—”
“Not another word.” She shoved him and shook free of his grip, but Karl snatched her around the waist. He pulled her into the shadows between two pickup trucks. Surrounded by his much larger body, she struggled.
When she opened her mouth to scream, Karl smothered her cry with his lips. Tasting stale beer and peanuts, the odor of smoke and sweat choked her. Alarm coursed through her. His arms crushed her in an intimate embrace, squeezing the very air from her lungs. A large hand cupped a breast, then pinched her nipple. Squirming, she lashed out with a well-placed knee jerk. (Nancy uses the character’s senses to add another layer to the scene)
Karl grunted, then loosened his grip. She took advantage of her hard-earned freedom and sucked in air.
“Let me go!” When he gripped her tighter, she bit him on the wrist.
“Bitch!” Karl pushed her to the ground.
Abby grunted when she hit the hard pavement. She rolled onto her back, then stared up at his fearsome features.
“That hurt,” he spat.
“Not compared to this.” A low growl rippled through the darkness. (A new combatant.)
Too stunned to stand, she rolled up onto her knees. A blur pushed past her, and the loud grunt of two bodies slamming together made her watch in stunned silence as they rolled between the trucks.
Pushing to her feet, she bolted toward the bright lights near the tavern door. Breathless, Abby pointed toward the flailing bodies. Several men ran toward the fight. Lynette appeared at her elbow.
“What happened to you? Your shirt is torn and your jeans are covered in dirt.”
Brushing dirt from her jeans as best she could, she pulled the ripped shirt together. The minor damage must have happened when she hit the ground. “Karl got a bit too friendly.”
“Karl has a lot of nerve. So, who’s he fighting?”
“Ouch. Careful.” Mitch cursed under his breath. Lynette tsked and pushed his hand away, then plopped a wet cloth on his left eye. He sat on a wooden bench on the tavern’s outside deck. The stitches on the back of his head itched, and his right shoulder ached.
Karl sat on the other side of the deck wiping blood from the corner of his mouth. He glared at Mitch, then spat blood on the ground. Mitch’s one good eye followed Abby as she paced nearby.
“Two words. Butt out,” Abby said.
When he realized she directed her comment his way, Mitch stared up at her. “Why are you chastising me? I saved your butt.”
“Who said I needed your help?” She crossed her arms and tapped a foot.
He cursed, again, stood, and threw the bloodied rag in the trash. “Forgive me, but I thought you needed help. When I see a person I care about shoved to the ground by someone much larger, I react.”
“I’ll press charges,” Karl said.
Mitch turned on him and stepped closer. “Go ahead. Sue me, but I hope your lawyer is better than me.”
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Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Locales and public names are sometimes used for atmospheric purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses, companies, events, institutions, or locales is completely coincidental.
Anna stood, turned to reach for the light switch, and collided with a strong body. As the assailant gripped her neck, she screamed. She dropped her weapon and grabbed the hands, trying to pry them away. Here, panic erased knowledge. Knowing how to break a choke hold was one of the first things they taught in the physical part of her self-defense class.
Like lightning, Xandar bolted into the room, barking and nipping at her attacker. This gave her relief from the choking as he turned his attention to removing the dog from his leg. Reacting quickly, she grabbed the bat and swung for the head. The impact vibrated her hands and forearms but she kept her grip.
Her attacker went down, Xandar still on top of him. Anna’s instincts returned to her. She shouted for the dog.
The two of them bolted for the front door. Anna fumbled with the locks, using one hand, checking over her shoulder for the assailant again and again. Xandar, still barking wildly, ran back and forth between the front door and the bedroom. Finally, Anna got the door open. She and Xandar escaped through the small front yard. Once again Anna’s feet were burning the pavement. She was fleeing, again. She was a victim, again.
When she arrived on the next block, bat clasped in hand, she slowed to a stop. She took a breath and an unsettling thought crept into her mind.
She needed to go back.
How long could she run? How long would she be trapped in her home? Her fortress even failed to keep her safe. She needed to do something. She didn’t have her cell phone, and what good would it do to call the police when her attacker might be gone before they got there? Again, he would be on the run and she would be unsafe.
Again, and again. (the repetition brings emotion/intensity to the situation)
Anna turned. Her condo stood as if nothing nefarious happened there moments ago. The front door hung ajar as she’d left it. The lights were out. All was quiet. Taking a deep breath, she ran back home.
She crept in and headed back to her bedroom, the bat held high above her head in a perfect batter’s stance. Everything was as she left it and, once she entered her bedroom, she saw the man lying in a heap on the floor. She flipped on the light.
Her eyes went to the back of his head and her mouth dropped open. She felt sure he’d been blond, but now she saw the brown locks. She placed her bat on the bed and knelt next to the body. Grunting and struggling, she planted her hands on the assailant and pushed until he lay on his back. The smooth, round baby face was not familiar to her. She pondered for a moment.
How could I have been so wrong about his appearance?
She leaned over and, using two fingers, opened his eyes. Blueish-green. Anna sighed with relief, then snapped to attention. She flipped him back over, and stood. Her eyes danced around the room until she spotted the alarm clock. She ran over and yanked the cord from the wall, then returned to the body.
He started to move.
Anna dropped to her knees and reached in to tie his hands together. Her hands were shaking and sweaty. It felt like only seconds elapsed when he started trying to remove his hands from her grip. Anna shrieked and hopped on his back. This only seemed to enliven him. He yanked and pulled against his restraints while Anna tried to tighten the slippery length of cord. One of his hands came loose and he snatched the other away from her grip. He lifted in a perfect plank and Anna rode on his back like an elevator.
“Get the fuck off me,” he growled.
Anna dove for her bat but fell face down onto the bed and he mounted her in a flash. Reaching around, he strangled her with one muscular arm. Again, Anna clawed at his arm instead of attempting to break the hold, but this time she remembered her training. To his surprise, Anna swung her elbow back and the pointy joint met his eye. He tried to keep his grip, but the pain of her strikes overwhelmed him. Although he released her neck, he tried to keep her pinned with his body.
Anna rolled away from him and landed on the floor. She crawled toward the nightstand. He grabbed her foot but she kicked back, dislodging his grip. Anna reached up, grabbed her bedside lamp, and swung it blindly.
The terra-cotta cracked over his head, like an egg for an omelet, and he hit the ground. This time Anna wasted no time tying the wrists and ankles of the strong and agile young man using the cord from her lamp and alarm clock. She kept her eyes on him while she called Officer Davis.
“I got the son of a bitch, or at least I think I do . . . ”
(Did you note the choreography? The word choices?)
From suspense novel Red Steel by S L Hollister
Phil watched from his computer as the two men pulled onto the side road. The low-light cameras he’d placed out by the river earlier were able to pick up some illumination from the lights surrounding the old bar. The bikers’ hangout wasn’t visible from the road, but the lights could be seen through the thinning winter foliage. With the added help from the streetlights across the river at the marina, Phil was able to see Elliot and Malcolm clearly. They parked their cars and stepped out between the headlights like something from an old movie. The glare camouflaged the men, hiding their faces in silhouette, but he’d already captured their images.
The full moon played peek-a-boo with the clouds, casting the scene into that of a horror movie. Phil thought the imagery was fitting. Two monsters meeting at midnight. He gave a wan smile. They’d chosen this place believing he’d not be able to do surveillance. They didn’t know how good he was at spying. When your life depended on information, you learned to hone your skills. He positioned his directional mics towards the men hoping to glean some of their conversation. Listening in through the headphones, he put the computer on record. It wouldn’t be perfect, but he should be able to filter out quite a bit of background noise using the computer’s program.
“What’s this all about?” Malcolm demanded.
“Don’t play games with me brother-in-law, what the hell did you do with my money?” Elliot demanded.
“I’ve not done anything with YOUR money.”
“My off-shore account has been hacked. I have received alerts that the transactions were generated from your accounts.”
Malcolm frowned. “But I’d have to know your codes, what bank, hell, I’d have to know what country.” He shook his head. “I don’t know any of that information.”
“No, but Phil would. Did you put my son up to it?” Elliot demanded.
“Phil is my son, damn it. I’m the one who rescued him from that crazy bitch.”
Elliot snorted. “You rescued him so you could use him. You don’t think I know about you and your boys.” Elliot poked Malcolm in the chest. “You look down your nose at me but I’ve seen what you’ve done too, brother dear.”
Phil waited until Elliot was poking Malcolm before deploying his drone. He’d only have a few minutes to drop his bombs and get everything put away before someone called 9-1-1. If his luck held, he’d rid the town of two of its monsters tonight.
Choosing the smaller of the two drones for stealth, he worried when the wind picked up. The men were still arguing but they wouldn’t stay out in the swamp for long. The drone took flight, hovering too low to the ground as it fought against the wind. Giving up on plan A, he decided he had no choice, he had to use the heavier drone. Another glance at the computer showed the men were still talking but it looked like they were ready to take their leave. Phil cursed silently and hurriedly changed the payload over to the bigger drone.
Flying the drone out over the water in the hope of masking his location. He brought it back to shore heading straight towards Malcolm and Elliot. Just as he feared, Elliot looked up, he’d heard the drone coming.
“Drone!” Cursing, the man hurried to get into his car, pushing Malcolm down in his haste to get away.
Using the camera on the drone, Phil brought the target into view and dropped the white phosphorus grenade. Elliot swerved and it explode on the ground beside him. It wasn’t a direct hit, but Phil could see his pants burning. The second bomb was more successful, it splattered across Elliot’s hip as he dove for cover inside the car. Phil could hear his dear old dad cursing as he tried to get the fire out. The fun thing about white phosphorus was even after being dunked in water, as soon as it has air, it’ll start burning all over again. Two more bombs left. Malcolm was already in his car. He spun tires as he turned around. He hit Elliot’s car knocking it back into the river. He didn’t stop to help him out of the car, he just kept driving. The dirt road was full of potholes and curves. Malcolm would not be able to go but so fast in his luxury sedan. Phil followed him with the drone but was only able to hit the trunk of the car. Unable to hit his target, he cursed his failure. Hearing Elliot coming out of the river screaming, Phil decided it was time to pack up and leave.
He drove at a sedate pace out of the dirt road. It wouldn’t do to draw too much attention to himself. His plan had failed, he needed to come up with something quick or Elliot would find a way to retaliate. Phil gripped the steering wheel. If only he’d been able to kill Elliot, he didn’t worry as much about Malcolm. Malcolm was a coward.
The explosion shattered the stillness. “What the fuck?” Phil didn’t dare stop. He needed to get as far away from this as he could before he was trapped on the narrow dirt road.
How does location affect your plan?
How does the weather affect your plan?
People don’t always behave the way you expect, what does your character do when things go wrong?
Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews, Narrated by Jeremy Bobb
Dominika Egorova must fight for her independence and salvation against the iron fist of the Russian bureaucracy when her dreams of being a ballerina are thwarted and she finds herself at the mercy of her uncle’s machinations.
Forced to become a Sparrow, one of the elite seductress spies, Dominika is sent to discover a mole. Pitted against the American Nathaniel Nash she becomes enamored of his kindness and honesty. Determined to live her life on her own terms, Dominika battles treachery on all sides. Only after learning to love and trust does she discover the freedom to make her own path.
This was an intense spy thriller with layers of emotion and character development. If you like action, political thrillers, and fantastic characters in a well-developed plot, you will love this story. It has it all. I will be looking for more books by this author.
Today I am happy to welcome a new writer friend, Terry Conrad to my Creekside Café on this rainy day. It is so good to have you here.
Terry: It’s good to be here. I loved living in the Raleigh area and have many fond memories of my time in NC.
Sherri: I’m on my way to Raleigh for the North Carolina Book Festival. Are you from North Carolina?
Terry: I’m originally from Cleveland, Ohio, but have moved around a bit since having left home for college. I lived in Florida while completing my undergraduate degree, then moved to Wake Forest, North Carolina while getting my first Master’s degree, and then moved to Atlanta when my wife’s job relocated her. We’ve been living here now for 18 years.
Sherri: I love Atlanta but it’s a little too busy for this country girl. I lived in Columbus, Georgia for a while but that was many years ago and I have a son who lives in Ohio now. I hope to visit soon.
Are you a full-time writer or do you have another occupation as well?
Terry: I’m a Senior Manager Accountant now, having recently switch careers from being an auditor for the State of Georgia. Prior to that I was a middle school guidance counselor and a high school Assistant Principal. When my days of working for the State are over, I will probably spend my retirement writing more.
Sherri: Now I find that interesting, you are analytical as well as creative. Your novels follow this path as well, do they not?
Terry: To a certain extent they do. I am a fan of and write suspense and/or action fiction, and the creative side of me comes out when I try to write stories that are as unique as possible. Nearly everything under the sun has probably been written at some point, but I try to put my unique twist on it, if it has. The analytical side of me is evident in the way I approach my writing, which is very structured in nature.
Sherri: Tell us about your books.
Terry: My third book, The Idealist, having just been released in January this year. It is a political thriller, which given all that is going on in politics these days, fits perfectly with what most Americans are thinking about at this time. It is about someone who figures out a way to remove corruption from government, only to find that those in power aren’t willing to give it up so easily.
My first book, Illusion of Grandeur, was published in 2011 and was a quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novelist Award (top 250 out of the original 10,000 entries). It is about a cult that is attempting to bring about the end of the world, and the PI and cult specialist that attempt to stop them.
My second book, Fugue, is a psychological thriller. A fugue state is similar to a mix between amnesia and multiple-personality disorder. Someone in a fugue state forgets who they are, and reinvents themselves as another person, usually moving to another place in the process. They live as a completely different person until they begin to remember who they really are. In my book, a person in a fugue state is believed to be a serial killer and is being chased by a rogue policeman and the father of the latest missing victim. Since he’s in a fugue state, he doesn’t think he is a serial killer, but as he begins to recover his memory, he begins to wonder whether or not he is who they think he is. It’s only at the end, when he fully recovers his memory, that the truth is revealed.
Sherri: All three sound like books I’d love to read. I’ll will have to check them out. I’m a suspense writer as well and find I like a faster paced, action-filled book more often than something that is more leisurely paced. Who do you like to read?
Terry: I have read quite a bit of James Patterson novels, and I am a big fan of Lee Child (Jack Reacher). Additionally, I’ve read the series that led to the TV show Dexter (by Jeff Lindsay) and the Stieg Larsson/David Lagercrantz novels (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, etc.).
Sherri: We have similar tastes in books and television shows.
Who or what has most influenced your own work?
Terry: My writing style is probably most influenced by James Patterson. My books are fast paced with lots of action/suspense, and generally have shorter chapters. I would also say that my editor and long-time friend, Jay Waitkus, has played a role in helping shape my writing as well. He is a journalist and a published author as well.
Sherri: Tell me about your writing journey. How did you get published? Are you traditionally published?
Terry: I have been published by Elizabeth River Press, a very small, up-and-coming indie publisher.
Like many aspiring writers, I wanted to be published by a traditional publishing company, and I wrote letters to various publishers in the Writer’s Market, a large volume with thousands of publishers listed in it. Unfortunately, none of them were interested in my first novel.
Eventually Elizabeth River Press came around, however, and it is a small publishing company that helps good writers get published. ERP decided to publish my first book and has published my other two books as well.
Probably the best feeling in the world came shortly after my second book was published. I was back in school getting another degree so I could change careers, and we had a class in Washington DC. I was able to go to the Library of Congress and confirm that both of my books were in there.
That’s when I realized that it didn’t really matter to me whether the big publishers had picked my book or not. I may never sell the amount of books that someone like James Patterson does, but my stories are out there just like his are, and that’s enough for me.
Sherri: I feel the same way, Terry. While I might want to be the next James Patterson or Nora Roberts, I’m okay with being Sherri Hollister and just having my books out there for people to read. I love to write and no matter how many books I sell I will continue to write.
So, tell me, what is one of your favorite things about being a writer?
Terry: For me, it’s about getting to express myself creatively. I don’t generally have many outlets for it, but with writing I do. There are lots of great book ideas floating around in my brain – it feels good to get them on paper and share them with others.
Sherri: Like any job, even one we love, there is always a downside, what is the worst thing about being a writer?
Terry: The editing process can at times be a bit grueling. It certainly was with my latest book and took a long time to get through for various reasons. I despise making mistakes/typos, but unfortunately sometimes they still happen no matter how careful you try to be in not making them. This does imitate life though – not everything will go perfectly, no matter how hard you may plan and work at it. It’s about doing the best you can and improving as you go.
Sherri: I agree, the editing can be rough and finding people you trust who will tell you the truth but not crush your spirit is important.
With that revelation, would you be willing to bare all and tell us your strengths and weaknesses as a writer. I know for me, when I read the authors I love, I think, oh they just sat down and wrote an amazing story. They didn’t have to do all of this learning and fixing I’ve had to do.
Terry: I’d say one of my strengths would be creating suspense and ending a chapter in such a way as to get the reader to want to read on. I’d like to hope I’m good at keeping my reader guessing about what is going to happen next as well. I’d say that my weakness might be character development. Since I write more of a commercial style of fiction, it is harder to do, but I am working on it.
Sherri: You mentioned your wife, how long have you two been together?
Terry: I’ve been married to my wife Dawn for 16+ years and we’ve been together for over 18 years. We live just outside of Atlanta with our dog Boomer.
Sherri: Does your wife support your writing? How long have you been writing?
Terry: Yes, she’s very supportive and is always the first person to read my book other than the editor and maybe publisher. She also helps me catch things that I or my editor may have missed.
Technically speaking, I’ve been writing since I was in the 5th grade, so about 36 years. Back then I was a fan of the Hardy Boys Mysteries, and my short 40-page books reflected that, with non-stop action. They were the Stephen Chase Mysteries. I took a long break though before writing again, as my focus became my academics. I started writing again as an adult about 10 years ago and have written when my busy schedule allows.
Sherri: How do you juggle work, writing and a social life?
Terry: I work a schedule that gives me every other Friday off, and that is generally when I will do my writing. Sometimes on the weekends I will as well, but it depends on whether I have other plans or not. Weekends are generally when we get together with friends, so I usually don’t write much on the weekends, but if I do it would be earlier in the day. It can be difficult to find time to write sometimes with my hectic schedule – more than half of the year I’m working close to 50-55 hours a week and don’t have time to write at all. It’s during the “slower time of year” that I try to plan and do my writing.
Sherri: Do you have any other hobbies or interests? Do these show up in your stories?
Terry: My main hobby/interest would be sports. I used to play soccer when I was a kid and as an adult, have refereed and coached it as well, and now I just attend and watch. I am a founding member and season-ticket holder of Atlanta United FC. To this point they haven’t showed up in any of my books, but possibly one day.
Sherri: What are your future writing plans?
Terry: Soon I will be starting on my fourth book, which is a sequel to the first book, Illusion of Grandeur. Tentatively, it is called, Numbers Game, and will involve the return of the cult and its numerologist leader as they work with a group of domestic terrorists to accomplish their plan of death and destruction.
Sherri: Terry, it has been so nice to meet you. I look forward to reading your books and to seeing what happens next in your career.
Thank you for joining me at Creekside Café and a special thank you to your publisher for suggesting we get together.
Check out Terry’s links below for his books and social media.
The newly wed Thomas Llewelyn and the still recovering Cyrus Barker are pulled
into international intrigue by the Prime Minister when a British spy is
murdered in the streets just a few blocks from their door.
from the continent, the spy brought back a holy relic that could change the
course of politics and religion if it ends up in the wrong hands.
investigate the murder of the spy, but ordered to act as courier to the relic,
Barker confounds everyone with his lack of interest in doing what the Prime
Minister has ordered.
once again finds himself attacked by the youths who murdered the spy in search
of the relic and shamed by one of the suspects, but in true Llewelyn fashion he
survives to fight again.
in this story is Thomas’ bride who proves she is not just a pretty face.
is an excellent story teller and Antony Ferguson the perfect voice to tell it.
Action, history, intrigue, drama, romance, and secret societies, what more
could a reader want. I adore this series and look forward to reading each one.
I belong to several on-line groups both on Facebook and Instagram, through these groups I’ve been exposed to new authors. Some authors’ books have been suggested by fellow members of the group and others are members of the groups themselves. I found Clara Winter while we were both participating in a writers’ loop. In the loop we follow each other, check out each other’s posts, social media, etc. I liked her posts and found myself intrigued by her books.
King of Kings is the third book in her Immortal
Kindred Series, and I know, starting a series with the third book can be
difficult at best and complete chaos at worst. Clara Winter did an excellent
job of making King of Kings stand on its own. While now I want to go
back and read the first two books, I didn’t feel as if I missed anything with
starting with this third book.
King of Kings was more than I thought it would be.
From the very beginning it was a very “sexy” book. Not sexual, but sensual. Even
before the sex/lovemaking begins, there is a sexiness to this book that pulls
you in. It starts with action, and while this action is in the past, it doesn’t
cause the story to lag. You get Alexandre’s backstory while being a part of it
in interesting glimpses and heart-pounding action.
Alexandre is difficult to like but I fell in love with him
from the beginning. He is a bit insolent but he’s deeper than he allows people
to see at first. When he is contacted by the very tough Irish woman, Bria, you
know that sparks are going to fly. While I didn’t see a romance blooming, I
definitely saw some fun moments of clashing wills and personalities.
The history, mythology, action, adventure and fantasy that
make up this book is worth the price of admission. I could see this as a movie.
I want to see it on the big screen!
If you haven’t discovered Clara Winter yet, you are missing
out. This book isn’t just about vampires, it’s a whole lot more. I cannot
believe this is only her third novel, she writes like she’s been doing this all
of her life. I am in awe and green with envy. Excellent book.
If you like action, adventure, monsters, mythology, history,
vampires, romance, relationships, strong characters, women who kick-a$$ and
take names, then check out this book. I’ve got to get a bigger book allowance!
Crucible by James Rollins, Narrated by Christian
Y’all know I’m
addicted to audiobooks and James Rollins books are great to listen to, they’re
like an action adventure movie without the picture.
I’m not sure
what I enjoy most, the Sigma Force story or the author’s notes at the end of the
book. James Rollins is one of the most interesting authors of our time. I don’t
want to give too much away but I will say this, what do you get when you add an
ancient book from the Spanish Inquisition and modern technology with a holy
religious relic and the possibilities of technology to come? What you get is James
their first Christmas as a couple and expecting their first child, Commander Gray
Pierce returns with his partner Monk to find the woman he loves missing along
with Monk’s daughters, and Monk’s wife, Kat near death on the kitchen floor.
At least two
separate factions are trying to get their hands on the new technology recently
demonstrated in Portugal. Technology someone was willing to kill for. Before
going offline, a distress signal was sent to Sigma.
goodbye to his wife, Monk promises to rescue their daughters. He joins Gray to
find out if the murders in Portugal are connected to the attack on Commander
from the Spanish Inquisition, Malleus
Maleficarium, the Hammer of Witches, two
religious orders on opposite ends of the faith, a snow witch rebuilding the
unit she inherited, and the promise of advanced technology the world isn’t
ready for yet.
another edge of your seat thriller as Christmas in Paris takes on new meaning. Gray
and Monk must work against the clock to save the ones they love and face the very
real facts that for some, it may already be too late.
just another Christmas story, but it is one I’d love to see made into a movie. Awesome
book, fantastic characters, James Rollins rocks.
Gunnie Rose is the lone survivor after her team is ambushed.
Alone, she manages to fulfill her duties and return home only to find one more
task waiting for her.
In a world where the US collapsed following the assignation
of FDR in 1930 and divided up between warring factions. Lizbeth Rose becomes a
hired gun in the western territory of Texoma.
When she is hired to be a guide and bodyguard to a couple of
Wizards from the Russian controlled west coast, she signs on, only to learn
more about why they are hunting Alex Karkarov. KarKarov is dead, Gunnie Rose
killed him. He raped her mother, fathering a child, when they the magicians
learn he is dead, they decide to look for his daughter, Lisbeth’s half-sister.
Trusting the wizards doesn’t come easy for Gunnie Rose,
especially with the history of her own conception but when bullets and magic
are flying, you have to trust someone. As their enemies’ numbers swell, it
seems none of them will make it out alive, but a sorcerer is no match for a
Is it magic or her skill with a gun that brings Lizbeth Rose
back to Texoma? Perhaps, she is her father’s daughter after all?
An excellent story of a woman who does what she has to do to
survive and takes her happiness where she can. Charlain Harris has a way of
creating a world we believe possible and characters who thrive there.
sherrilhollister.com/Suspense She Writes Bookstore Dismiss