Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Visiting From the Heartland - Daniel Sink

Live from America's Heartland we have another author in the interview chair.  Join me today in welcoming Daniel Sink to the blog to talk about his latest release Code Black, the tale of a paramedic who commits the unthinkable - murder.  Welcome Daniel!

DAB:  Was there a point in your life that prompted your desire to write or have you always wanted to be an author?

DS:      I always loved to write, but writing was never the macho thing to do.  My father was a state prison guard, so I grew up with tough love.  

DAB:  Where do you come up with ideas for your novels?

DS:      Some of my ideas are from life experiences.  Others I come up with while I'm spacing off.  

DAB:  What was the catalyst for this novel’s premise?

DS:      I got the idea one day at work.  Code Black is about a paramedic who makes a mistake and kills a patient.  This is one of your biggest fears as a healthcare worker.  The old saying goes, "You're not a real paramedic until you've killed somebody."  There is some truth to this, but then I thought about the consequences.  Chances are you lose your license, lose your job, and maybe go jail.  My main character has a lot to lose, so losing everything isn't an option for him.  

DAB:  Do you have a character(s) in your novel with whom you closely identify?

DS:      Most of my characters are a part of me.  I try to throw myself into a hypothetical situation and then figure out how I would get out of it.  There are some challenges though.  Writing from a woman's point of view is a challenge.  Any man that says he knows how a woman thinks is probably wrong.  

DAB:  Were there any characters you found difficult to write?

DS:      I'm working on a project right now that is challenging.  My main character is a homosexual fireman who deals with work-place discrimination, which eventually leads to a lawsuit.  Putting myself in his shoes is a real challenge.  

DAB:  Do you ever have difficulty writing from the point-of-view of a member of the opposite sex?

DS:      Yes, it reminds me of the movie As Good as it Gets.  Jack Nicholson is a romance writer and one of his fans asks him, "How is it that you get inside a woman's mind so well?"  He replies, "I think of a man, then take away reason and accountability."  I'm not sure if this is true, but it's damn funny.  

DAB:  Who is your favorite character in your novel, and why?

DS:      I'm a big fan of Bruce Thomas, the sly detective that is investigating my main character.  He's like a modern day Sherlock with an alcohol problem.  

DAB:  How long did it take for you to craft this novel?

DS:      It took me three months from start to finish, not including editing.  

DAB:  Tell us about the moment you received your first real fan correspondence.

DS:      Wait...I have fans?  It was after my first book signing here in Kansas City.  A fan said, "I just couldn't put it down!"  I asked why.  

DAB:  Tell us about a typical day in your writing world.

DS:      My three-year-old son always comes first, so most of my writing happens after my wife and son are in bed.  My creative hours are between nine pm and two am.  When I'm really deep into the story I walk around like a zombie, writing in my head.

DAB:  Do you write full-time or part-time?  If full-time, tell us about the journey to full-time.  If part-time, share with us about your “day” job.

DS:      I write part-time.  If I'm working at the fire station, I wait until my crew is in bed and stay up late writing.  That is, if I'm not called out to run any medical calls.

DAB:  What kind of research practices do you utilize for writing?

DS:      There is a ton of information on the web.  It's right there at your fingertips. I also read a lot.  That's the best research money can buy, and it only costs a few bucks in late fees from your local library.  

DAB:  How long did your novel take to put to bed?

DS:      Five months if you include editing.

DAB:  Have you ever experienced writer's block?

DS:      Not yet.  I've got about five more novels in my arsenal.

DAB:  When I write, I have particular composers and music that gets me in the mood for certain scenes and characters.  Have you ever written to music?

DS:      I haven't.  I'm easily distracted, and writing in complete silence is better for me.  

DAB:  There's the eternal debate whether to outline or not.  What is your preference?

DS:      My first novel was sitting on my mental bookshelf for about three years.  I'd sit down and write and then get lost.  I stumbled upon Randy Ingermanson's Snow Flake Method of Writing.  It helps you organize your characters and plot.  It includes outlining, which I highly recommend.  Organize your outline by chapters.  I always change the outline half-way through, but it gets me started.  

DAB:  Do you belong to a critique group?  If so, tell us a bit about it.

DS:      No critique group here.  I'm a busy person.

DAB:  How do you handle negative feedback about your novel(s)?

DS:      I suck it up and learn.  You can't please everyone, but your fans are your best teachers.  Your writing should always get better.  Even though it got good reviews, I read my first novel and cringe.  My mistakes jump out of the page and hit me in the chin.  

DAB:  Of all your novels, which one is your favorite, and why?

DS:      So far Code Black is my favorite.  Stovepipe was somewhat predictable, which was a lesson for me.  I had four possible endings and I chose the most unpredictable for Code Black.  Readers like to be shocked.  They may hate you in the end, but at least they shed a few tears first.

DAB:  Usually authors are also avid readers - what are you currently reading?

DS:      I'm currently reading the Jack Reacher series.  

DAB:  What are some things you’ve done to get the word out about your novel(s)?

DS:      Contact bloggers, Facebook, Twitter, and press releases. 

DAB:  Do you have any writing pointers for the authors in our audience?

DS:      I've heard authors say that you should try to write a thousand words every day.  I'm a big advocate for quality over quantity.  Writing should come from deep within.  Don't force it.

DAB:  Care to tell us what is next on your writing horizon?

DS:      My fans are dying for a sequel to Stovepipe.  I'm getting ready to start the outlining process for that.

DAB:  Now’s your chance – give us the final plug for your novel.

DS:      If you're interested in a dark suspense that dives into the life of a paramedic who commits murder, then read Code Black.  

Thanks for stopping by, Daniel.  Check out this recently released novel at Amazon.  

Daniel Sink was raised in Ottawa, KS, which is a small city of about 12,000 people.  He never considered himself a good student, and his grades reflected that.  He would often get bored in class and write action-adventure stories.  Daniel loved to write, but was anxious to leave his small town, so at seventeen years old he joined the Navy.  Daniel served as an Intelligence Specialist on board the USS John F Kennedy.  Two years in, his father had a disabling stroke and Daniel was discharged so he could take care of him.  Eventually, Daniel went to paramedic school and then attended the fire academy in Kansas City.  He currently works full time in Kansas City, KS.  

Working 24 hour shifts as a firefighter gave Daniel the chance to return to his writing.  He just finished his second novel, Code Black, which will be released Memorial Day 2014.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Bend It Like...Mark Eric

Hello again, dear readers!  For the next few weeks, I'll be posting mostly interviews with fellow authors as I attempt to spend some time working on Rising from the Darkness for release late 2014.

So today let's get down to business with author Mark Eric to find out what he's been up to with his latest release Benders.

DAB:   Was there a point in your life that prompted your desire to write or have you always wanted to be an author?

ME:      Several years ago, I walked into a large chain bookstore, strolled to the new fiction section, and realized there weren’t any Black authors featured. I’d written stories since I was a child, but it was at that moment that I took it upon myself to change that lack of Black authors.

DAB:   Where do you come up with ideas for your novels?

ME:      Some ideas I have been cultivating for years. But most form out of the ether. They strike like lightning on the subway, on the bus, walking to the store, listening to music, in the middle of conversations. When the lightening strikes hard, the entire story flashes in my head from beginning to end. Right now I have a queue of more than 50 concepts that I’m prioritizing and molding.

DAB:   What was the catalyst for this novel’s premise?

ME:      I was outside waiting for the bus in Queens on my morning commute.  It was winter, and it was frigid. I’m not a winter-kind-of-guy. New York City winters simply don’t have the scenic glamour or playful fun of slopes, sleds, and snowmen in the lawn that other areas of the country have, and because of snow, ice, and bad driving, the buses in NYC can run a little slow. (Or it could just seem that way to a man that fervently wishes he were in the Southern Hemisphere during those months.) 

As I waited braving the wind chill, I watched this young woman drive by in the warm, dry confines of her car.  I thought, Stop and take me to work.  Of course, she didn’t, but that moment and thought kick-started my imagination for Benders.

DAB:   Do you have a character(s) in your novel with whom you closely identify?

ME:      I think every author does since we write most often what we know. Pieces of me definitely fall into many of my characters. There are some I identify with more than others, but none are a complete reflection of me by any means.

DAB:   Who is your favorite character in your novel, and why?

ME:      I love everything about Monty or Mieko and their dynamic. They are playful, heartfelt, and sincere. There is no subterfuge between them or game. They are true to heart, and they call each other out when they feel the other needs to hear the truth.

DAB:   How long did your novel take to put to bed?

ME:      It took me a few years to complete Benders, as it was originally a side project to another novel I was working on at the time. Over the last year, Benders became a full-time endeavor.  Once I completed the manuscript, with the help of my editor/copywriter, we went through several rounds of edits and took about five months to put Benders to bed and publish.

DAB:   Have you ever experienced writer's block?

ME:      No, and I’m extremely fortunate in that I don’t understand the concept of “writer’s block.” I can understand not wanting to write definitely. I have plenty of those days, but my stories are always right there in my mind simply waiting for me to chose one and write the words.

DAB:   When I write, I have particular composers and music that gets me in the mood for certain scenes and characters.  Have you ever written to music?

ME:      Music was actually my first love. I devour music, and it is my constant companion as I write. Music helps me focus, but it has to be instrumental pieces, nothing with lyrics because lyrics tend to distract me. While I have eclectic taste overall, if I’m writing I listen primarily to epic, bombastic orchestral pieces, and classical music. John Williams, Hans Zimmer, and Vivaldi usually rule the roost depending on the scene I’m laying out. I’ve actually included a Benders playlist on the website for readers to listen to as they read based on some of the tracks I used to help center a scene.

DAB:   There's the eternal debate whether to outline or not.  What is your preference?

ME:      I wrote Benders without an outline, which allowed me a tremendous amount of flexibility but at times felt like riding a roller coaster without a safety harness. With my second novel, Charlie, I’ve mapped out the sequence of milestones because the story’s complexities demanded that kind of organization. I’ll be able to say which approach I prefer when I’m done with Charlie. I will say though that the roadmap has sped up my writing process greatly and allowed me to better concentrate on the scene at hand rather than worry about where I’m going next.

DAB:   Usually authors are also avid readers - what are you currently reading?

ME:      John Grisham’s Sycamore Row, Dan Brown’s Inferno, and Walter Mosley’s Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned

DAB:   Care to tell us what is next on your writing horizon?

ME:      I am nearly finished my second novel, Charlie, which revolves around a teenager as he makes a dramatic and difficult transition from boy to manhood while caught between the expectations of several key men in his life. Charlie has a much different feel than Benders and is proving to be an exciting challenge for me. It’s grittier and considerably dark at times.  In 2014 there will also be Verses, a collection of poetry, as well as a short story entitled The Creed. Two more novels are in the works for 2015, so you could definitely say it is very, very busy around here.

DAB:   Now’s your chance – give us the final plug for your novel.

ME:      Escape into a different kind of story. Benders is an exciting, contemporary, science fiction thriller
tossed with supernatural powers and a heart-warming romance.
An easy-going young man, Monty has spent his life at a distance from those around him as he hides his unique talent to bend people’s thoughts to do anything he desires. Unaware that these abilities are being monitored, Monty exposes himself with a reckless act and puts himself in the crosshairs of Hazelton, a power-hungry uber-patriot who hunts down each bender for execution to ensure his attempt at seizing global power comes to fruition.

Mieko, Monty’s fiery lover, partners with his oldest friend in a race to find and rescue the best man she’s ever met and the only one powerful enough to save the world from Hazelton's insane plan. Those that know Monty are willing to risk it all for him. Pick up Benders and find out if they have what it takes to accomplish their mission, or if their sacrifices will be in vain.  Learn more at

A big thank you to Mark for allowing us a peek into his world and writing processes.  You can pick up his novel or connect with him through his website at


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Down Under with Chris Pearce

Let's take a trip down under to the land of prawns and koala bears.  Visiting today is Australian author, Chris Pearce as he takes on a bit of history in his novel A Weaver's Web.  With reviews piling up, he graciously agreed to an interview.  Join me in welcoming him to the blog! 

DAB:  Was there a point in your life that prompted your desire to write or have you always wanted to be an author? 

CP:      Writing is something that has always been with me. In Grade 1, when the rest of the kids were sitting on the floor listening to the teacher read a story, I would sit at my desk and write. By Grade 3 or 4, we’d be told to write a one page story; I would write six pages, finishing it at home. I started about four novels between the ages of 11 and 14 but didn’t get more than about a third of the way with any of them.

I told Mum I wanted to be an author but she said I needed to get a proper job. I got into accountancy, same as Dad, and lasted four years. Most of my jobs over the years have involved a lot of writing, so I’ve been lucky in that regard. But I was busy with work, study and life in general, and rarely thought about writing a book.

That changed in the late 1980s. I read a history book on the state of Queensland (Australia), where I had recently moved to. There were a couple of paragraphs on a convict and castaway who would change the course of history in this part of the world. No full length book had been written on this person, so I researched and wrote one, Through the Eyes of Thomas Pamphlett: Convict and Castaway.

DAB:  Where do you come up with ideas for your novels?

CP:      The idea for my novel A Weaver’s Web came from my non-fiction book on the convict. Pamphlett grew up in Manchester in the early 19th century. So I had done quite a bit of research into Manchester in those early Industrial Revolution years and the atrocious living and working conditions of virtually all of its inhabitants. This became the setting for the novel.

My next novel will be a look at life about eighty years into the future. The idea for this one came about because of my interest in a wide range of social issues and problems and thinking through possible improvements or solutions to them.

DAB:  Were there any characters you found difficult to write?

CP:      I would have to say that my character Henry Wakefield in A Weaver’s Web presented some difficulties. He is such a complex person, always having the best interests of his family in mind, but so often his actions have the opposite effect. We see this in the early chapters where Henry won’t let family members work in the new factories, with the result that they remain in abject poverty, and son Albert runs away to make his fortune.

Later when Henry’s love of money overrides his hatred of factories and starts one of his own, the Wakefields become quite wealthy but Henry holds the purse strings. Albert is caught stealing from an associate of Henry’s and is transported to New South Wales. Henry’s wife Sarah suffers due to her baby’s death, the unknown fate of Albert, and the pressure of society parties that Henry insists are necessary for business. She hears voices and is taken to the lunatic asylum.

DAB:  Who is your favorite character in your novel, and why?

CP:      Sarah Wakefield would be my favourite character. She suffers endlessly at the hands of Henry but still bounces back and does all she can to look after her family. Her hospitality is shown in the first chapter when Henry wants to send a factory agent on his way but Sarah wants to let him shelter from the rain and to give him lunch (potatoes) even though there is hardly enough to go round the family.

Later in the book, Sarah wants to work in Henry’s factory, because they have a maid and a cook at home and she wants something to do. He refuses, telling her that she is lady of the house and as such cannot be seen to be working in a factory. Sarah rebels and starts up her own business at the market selling shoes, unbeknown to Henry.

DAB:  Do you write full-time or part-time?  If full-time, tell us about the journey to full-time.  If part-time, share with us about your “day” job.

CP:      These days I write on a full-time basis. I wrote on a part-time basis for many years and was busy with work and other things. That all changed in 2012. I had been in the state public service here in Queensland for 18 years when a new Liberal National Party government decided that 14,000 public servants would go. I drew one of the short straws in that lottery.

I quite liked my job. It was at a place called the Office of Economic and Statistical Research, part of Queensland Treasury. I edited reports and publications, researched various issues and sorted out statistical things. I probably would have stayed till 65 or so (2017).

Ironically, about two weeks after I finished, I was asked to edit the new government’s 1000 page Commission of Audit report into government finances and programs, the economy, etc.

DAB:  What kind of research practices do you utilize for writing?

CP:      These days I search the internet for most of my information. I usually like to read about half a dozen sites or web pages on any particular issue as this will generally give me different perspectives. I don’t mind using the likes of Wikipedia. It often provides the best overall summary of many historical topics and is a good starting point.

My research for the convict book was done before the web. It involved sifting through dusty old records in libraries and archives office. I always found it important to note full details of the source of any information at the time of finding things rather than later on during the actual writing process.

DAB:  There's the eternal debate whether to outline or not.  What is your preference?

CP:      I think it depends on the writer and what you are writing. Some fiction genres might lend themselves more to pure creativity and the writer might prefer to just write and see where it goes. For most historical fiction, I think you need a plan, and you also need to be careful that you are not just giving an account of some historical event.

For me, I prefer to have some sort of plan in place before I write. But I like the plan to be flexible enough to make changes as I go. For A Weaver’s Web, I put together an overall plan of a couple of pages where I thought the story might go. Then for each chapter or two or three, I had a more detailed plan. I made quite a few changes to the overall plan and many to the various chapter plans. The whole thing kind of evolved.

DAB:  How do you handle negative feedback about your novel(s)?

CP:      I take it on board. A professional appraiser for A Weaver’s Web made various comments and I made a lot of changes at that stage. A few literary agents out of well over 100 that I contacted had negative comments, but I don’t think the same comment ever came up twice. Perhaps it shows how subjective fiction writing can be. I made no significant changes to the novel during this period.

The other day, I got my first three star rating. That’s fine. As I said, fiction writing in very subjective and whatever you write, not everyone is going to love it. If I kept getting mainly five star reviews and a few four star reviews and nothing else (as I have), people might think I’m getting family and friends to write great reviews.

I haven’t approached the person who gave the novel three stars and don’t intend to. If I ever did respond to negative or less than excellent feedback, I would do it privately. I wouldn’t write stuff on my blog or any other public site disagreeing with a rating or review.

DAB:  What are some things you’ve done to get the word out about your novel(s)?

CP:      Basically, I have aimed to give it as much publicity as possible. This includes doing interviews like this one; this is my third. I got my publisher, Australian eBook Publisher, to distribute it to a large number of sites. It’s on about a dozen Amazon sites of different countries, as well as Google Play, Kobo, and Apple iTunes.

I have started a blog, where I post various things relating to my novel and other writing. I have joined Goodreads, Shelfari and Librarything. I find the self-serve ads at Goodreads are a good way to generate publicity. I have also approached a number of people who review books and post those reviews on their blogs and often Amazon, Goodreads, etc. I have sent details to sites that promote books. I have sent details to the Manchester Evening News and hope to get a review there. I have increased my presence on Facebook.

DAB:  Do you have any writing pointers for the authors in our audience?

CP:      I think you have to write because you love doing it rather than have thoughts of becoming rich and famous or even making a living from it. Write the best story you can with good characters and a lot happening. Do plenty of rewriting, editing and proofreading. Go right through your manuscript perhaps 5-10 times. Get a professional appraiser to have a look at it.

Don’t be discouraged by rejections. It happens to everyone. There are some stories about major prize winning authors having their work sent to literary agents and publishers as an experiment and their work was rejected by all or virtually all of them. J. K. Rowling was rejected by 12 publishers. When she finally found one, they advised her to get a day job as there wouldn’t be a huge market for her writing.

I would still start off seeking traditional publication, sending a fiction manuscript to literary agents and a non-fiction one to publishers. If a writer gets a couple of dozen rejections, I would start thinking about an ebook.

DAB:  Care to tell us what is next on your writing horizon?

CP:      I’m going to publish Through the Eyes of Thomas Pamphlett: Convict and Castaway as an ebook later in 2014. The print version has been out quite a while. I have written about a quarter of a book on the history of daylight saving time and intend to finish this and publish it as an ebook late in 2015. I also have some notes and thoughts on a novel set about eighty years into the future.

DAB:  Now’s your chance – give us the final plug for your novel.

CP:      A Weaver’s Web is about poor handloom weaver Henry Wakefield and his family in the Manchester
area of the UK in the early years of the Industrial Revolution. He hates the new factories and clashes with family and everyone else. In desperation to make a living, he starts his own cotton mill. They become rich, but family members suffer because of Henry, with one transported to New South Wales, another committed to the asylum and yet another rebelling and forming a relationship with an orphan girl. Finally, they seek revenge.

The novel has a star average of 4.7 at Amazon and I don’t know any of the reviewers. It has been compared to the writing of Dickens, Steinbeck, Fitzgerald and Dos Passos. One reviewer named it as their book of the year.

My inspiration for writing A Weaver's Web came out of a postgraduate creative writing course I topped from 30 students back in the 1990's.  I pursued traditional publication for a long time.  But when a UK literary agent compared my novel to John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath (which appears in several lists of top 10 novels of last century) and still couldn't take it, I figured it was time to go the indie route and publish it as an ebook.

Once again, a big thank you to Chris Pearce for taking time away from his writing to peruse the pages of the blog with us.  You can find information about him and his novels here at his website and Facebook or to purchase click here on Amazon.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Forthcoming Release from Best-Selling Author

It is with great honor that I bring to you today a New York Times best-selling author.  Her novels are known as 'thrillers with heart' and really get the blood pumping.  The latest upcoming release deals with something I know all too well - insomnia.  Most of us, at one time or another, have probably dealt with periods of insomnia, so it is quite relatable in that regard.  But what if insomnia became more than just a difficult period without sleep?  What if it grew into a rapidly deteriorating disease for which there is no cure?

That's what author CJ Lyons explores in Farewell to Dreams: A Novel of Fatal Insomnia. 

Book Blurb:
Fatal. Insomnia.

In the chaos of the ER, functioning without sleep is a prized skill. But even Dr. Angela Rossi will admit that five months is far too long, especially when accompanied by other worrisome symptoms: night sweats, tremors, muscle spasms, fevers. Then a dead nun speaks to her while Angela is holding the nun’s heart in her hand.

“Find the girl,” the nun commands—although no one else in the trauma room can hear, the words drilling directly into Angela’s brain. “Save the girl.”

Falling into catatonic states where she freezes in the middle of a resuscitation and hears dead nuns talking to her? Not good. Maybe she should check herself into her own hospital…except a lost girl’s life depends on Angela.

Because the girl IS real. The threat to her is deadly.

Aided by a police detective fallen from grace, Angela searches the midnight catacombs beneath the city, facing down a ruthless gangleader and stumbling onto a serial killer’s lair. Her desperate quest to save the girl leads her to the one thing she least expected to find: a last chance for love.

As her symptoms escalate in bizarre and disturbing ways, Angie realizes exactly how serious her illness is.  She might be dying, but she's finally choosing how to live... 

My Review:
Dr. Angela Rossi is an ER doctor and leads Good Samaritan’s victim’s advocacy unit with a steadfast commitment to her patients – but she carries a secret that could end her career in a heartbeat.

The fugue states, as she calls them, recently started with the death of a nun at nearby St. Timothy’s.  In a desperate attempt to save the saintly woman, Dr. Rossi slices through the sternum to access the heart – and suddenly she is frozen in a moment of time as Rossi relives the nun’s final moments and hears a voice swimming through her skull with a dire message:  Save the girl!

Detective Matthew Ryder has been demoted for standing up for what’s right, which makes him a perfect liaison with the Good Samaritan’s advocacy center.  He just didn’t imagine his first meeting with Dr. Rossi would be as her patient.  But good thing they’re together when all hell rains down on the neighborhood.  The need for each other’s strength is the only chance they have of finding the little girl who holds a key to the terrors surrounding the Tower.

The Tower holds secrets.  Too many secrets.  And no one is talking.  Once a high-rise dream of real estate mogul Daniel Kingston, the Tower has devolved into a haven of poor families and single mothers with their children under the watchful control of Tyree’s gang.  But Kingston continues to control Tyree’s strings and those of the Tower’s residents while warming his hands in the pockets of city government and it’s infrastructure – all to soon pass on the legacy to his psychopath son.  That is, until Dr. Rossi and Detective Ryder’s interference threatens his carefully constructed kingdom.  And Devon Price returns to town.

Old rivalries and ghosts of the past collide in the catacombs beneath the Tower – and no life is sacred.

I stayed up far too late into the morning hours to read Farewell to Dreams.  It was riveting, heartbreaking, and redemptive all wrapped in a shroud of impending death.  Dr. Rossi was highly relatable in her quest to right wrongs and save lives, while the fugue states and tremors filled her with the fear her career is at an end.  Ryder initially had a bit of a chip on his shoulder, but soon I realized it was a refreshing manner where he calls the world as he sees it – regardless of the consequences to himself.  Even though he’s seen the worst sides of humanity, Ryder still retains a tenuous faith in man and God.  Rossi lost faith in everything years before when her father died – and carries the weight of self-condemnation as well as the condemnation of her family as a result.  Through her involvement with Ryder she begins to see a light in the midst of the surrounding darkness.

And comes to accept the fact that she cannot escape encroaching death.

Writing structure was clean with good point-of-view usage and characters with depth to their past, providing motivation for their present actions.  As a reader, I experienced the action and story as it happened, with explosive pacing that propelled the story like an out-of-control freight train at times.  Loved that!!!  Solid editing left nothing to be questioned.

I was glad the budding chemistry between Rossi and Ryder didn’t devolve into sappy, drippy romance.  A deeper romantic element would not have fit with the gritty nature of this novel.  The hint of their mutual attraction remained realistic and controlled, only coming up for a periodic breath like a long-distance swimmer  – and I really, really appreciated that.

There were only a couple of characters and situations where I’d have liked just a bit more, namely Father Marcus, the former Tower gang member turned St. Timothy’s priest, and interaction with Dr. Rossi’s extended family.  The blame the family laid at her feet didn’t come through and needed more exploration in my mind.  Certain aspects of the turf war didn’t feel fully explained either – or maybe it’s just that I don’t have a firm enough grasp of the gang mentality.  If this is planned as a series, perhaps these explorations and explanations will come in subsequent releases.  I would definitely read more!  My fingers are crossed.

Farewell to Dreams was a fabulous read.  My only cautions would be to be aware of rough language (though it fits the story's nature and isn't gratuitous) and the kidnapping and abuse of children (mainly alluded to).  I give this novel four-and-a-half bright and shining stars.

Pre-purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and all other book retailers.  Official release is May 18th!

Author Bio: 
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-one novels, former pediatric ER doctor CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge Thrillers with Heart.

Winner of International Thriller Writers' prestigious Thriller Award, CJ has been called a "master within the genre" (Pittsburgh Magazine) and her work has been praised as "breathtakingly fast-paced" and "riveting" (Publishers Weekly) with "characters with beating hearts and three dimensions" (Newsday).

Learn more about CJ's Thrillers with Heart at 

Monday, May 5, 2014

An Interview with Rebecca Demarest

Two months ago, I had the distinct pleasure of reading Rebecca Demarest's debut novel Undeliverable for review.  The story was filled with heartache, yet also contained tendrils of hope in the midst of a parent's worst nightmare.  I was pleased when she agreed to allow for an interview as well, so I could pick her brain over how this amazing story transpired.  Please join me in welcoming Rebecca back to the blog. 

DAB:   Was there a point in your life that prompted your desire to write or have you always wanted to be an author?

RAD:   I wrote my first story pretty much as soon as I learned to write, (Its called How the Butterfly got its Colors and I still have it. Thanks, mom.) so you could say I always had the bug. But I went through periods in my childhood where I was determined I would have a range of careers, including sculptress, veterinarian, anthropologist, and forensic psychologist. However, in college, as I was taking my psychology courses, I slipped in a creative writing course and it really showed me that I didn’t want to do anything but write, and hang the monetary consequences. The satisfaction of getting the words on the paper just right and then getting to share them with others was far better than the thought of spending the rest of my life in unending meetings or dealing with other people’s problems. If I was going to deal with problems, I’d rather it be my characters problems, where I had the virtue of both causing them and knowing exactly how to solve them

DAB:   I understand about causing characters problems/solving them - I had one character in my last release for whose life I caused endless complication. But don't you find that's real life? You know, the old "when it rains, it pours" construct?

RAD:   Dear, lord, yes. When one thing goes wrong, everything possible tends to follow suit. My job as a writer is to set it up so that so much goes wrong that went the character stubs their toe, it the final straw, and they either break down or take matters into their own hands.

DAB:   Tell us about a typical day in your world.

RAD:   My day job is a basic 9-5, working as a technical illustrator for O’Reilly Media, drawing flowcharts of programming and networking. Its actually rather fun and not only provides a steady paycheck and benefits, but it is also a fairly creative endeavor. But before and after work, my life belongs to the written word. I’m constantly reading, on breaks at work, before work, before bed, and the rest of my time is filled with my writing. Right now, this rotates between the book reviews for my blog (, the sequel to Undeliverable, the sequel to Thea of Oz, editing the first of my Mark of the Storyteller series, my column for The Tandem Region Times, a series of sci-fi novellas called Ask Corporate, or curating content for my new website, The Speculative Craft ( Basically, I work on whatever either grabs me that evening, or has a deadline looming.

DAB:   What does your desk look like?

RAD:   Most of my writing actually happens on the couch with my laptop, but I do have a standing desk. Its got a small profile, since I live in a fairly small apartment in Boston, but its got a lot of levels. Two shelves hold my computer body, my printer, my files, etc, then the desktop has a jury-rigged shelf on it to allow my monitor to sit at eye level and leave room underneath for lots of little drawers of bits. Right over the monitor is my whiteboard calendar so I don’t forget to many things, a separate whiteboard keeping track of my writing projects and what stage they are in, and a picture of my great-great aunt, a rather formidable old woman who was a writer in her own right. She keeps me on track whenever I am tempted to slip a deadline.

DAB:   What was the catalyst that first germinated Undeliverable?

RAD:   At some point in 2008, I read a news article about the Lost Letters Office of the United States Postal Service, and was immediately enthralled. I knew I had to write something about this place, but I didn’t yet know what. So I set about doing as much research about the facility, now known as the Lost Letters Office. As I was doing my research, the character of Ben was slowly forming at the back of my brain. I wrote the first chapter for a workshop at Emerson in 2009, and from there it was all downhill.

DAB:   Yes - that Lost Letters facility was a fascinating part of your novel. I'd never heard of it and simply had to know if it was authentic when I finished reading. What was it about the facility that enthralled you?

RAD:   What caught me was the sheer magnitude of the amount of mail that never makes it to its intended recipient. It was an image of such loneliness, but also hope. Because it means that even when something is lost, there is someone there to find it, and that just struck me as poignant and needed to be explored.

DAB:   You write about some pretty difficult material in your novel.  Tell us what the process was like to bring Undeliverable to fruition?

RAD:   It was really painful at times. I had this character that I had put into a horrible situation and then steadily made it worse until he broke. I hate seeing people in pain, so intentionally setting up my character for so much heartbreak was really hard. I cried writing a few of the chapters, let me tell you. The hardest though was the decision as to whether or not he would find his son by the end of the book. The choices were: he finds his son, he finds his son’s body, or he still doesn’t know what has happened to him. I spent a good year trying to decide what the outcome was going to be, talking it over repeatedly with my (now ex) boyfriend. In the end, I think I chose the option that allowed him the most growth as a character, regardless of how hard it was for him. Of course, now that I’ve put this character through such a wringer, it should be easy to do this to all my others...right?

DAB:   I found myself crying right along with you. We've read some dramatic rescue stories the last couple of years of missing children (now adults) who were found. What are the statistics generally of finding or even finding out what happens to abducted children?

RAD:   The last time someone did a comprehensive, national survey looking at missing children was back in 1999. During that year, approximately 800,000 children, under 18, were reported missing. They know that 200,000 of those were abducted by family members, 58,000 by non-family members, but only 115 of those were your typical "stranger danger" abductions, and only 100 of abductions result in the death of the child. The national center says that in 1990, only 62% of children were recovered. But, with their help, the recovery rate is up to 97%.

DAB:   Do you identify with any specific character(s) in your novel?

RAD:   There are parts of myself in each of the characters, but I am not wholly one or the other. Ben’s obsessive nature in regards to research, Sylvia’s penchant for taking care of lost critters and her art, even Ms. Biun’s dedication to doing the job just right; all of these are aspects I pulled out of my own psychology. Of course, these are just small parts of the characters. I pulled a lot of their aspects from friends, families, and enemies of mine as well; for example, young Benny is almost entirely my brother at that age (he still has an affinity for Star Wars, I’m the Trekkie in the family).

DAB:   When you start a writing project, do you outline first or do you allow the story to progress organically?

RAD:   I can’t write without an outline, though outline is a bit of a strong word. I have a scaffolding, a set course of benchmarks I know my characters need to hit, and essentially how I’m going to get them there, and what emotional depths I need to drive them to, to get them to take the actions I want them to take, but I don’t map out all the small details of each section before I start writing. Those I let come naturally and I’m happy to adjust my outline or character concept if something fun comes up. For instance, I was writing along in a scene in Undeliverable when all of a sudden Sylvia starts getting really angry at Ben for something he said and I had to sit back and ask my subconscious what in heck it thought it was doing. It turns out I had been working on an even stronger back story for Sylvia than I had even realized, so I made a few adjustments to the plot to account for it and it made her character even stronger.

DAB:   I'm so glad you did! Sylvia was such a wonderful character that added snapshots of humor and incredible insight at just the right moments. Will Sylvia's presence grace us again between your pages?

RAD:   You bet your bottom dollar, she will. She has a pretty significant role in the sequel, which will focus on Ben, Jr.  and his story.

DAB:   How did you go about developing a relationship with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children?

RAD:   I asked. Its amazing the amount of people who are happy to work with you on a mutually beneficial project if you just ask. Its something I learned as a Girl Scout and was organizing service projects and events. The worst thing that can happen is someone will say no, but if you’ve already planned on what you’ll do if they do say no, when they say yes, its incredible. I was persistent with the Center (they tend to be pretty busy) but after a time I was able to connect with them. Their research and publications were incredibly useful to me while I was writing Undeliverable, and I felt it was only right to give back to the population that the story talks about, so I broached the subject of using my book as a fundraiser for them, which they were happy to approve. In fact, I’ll be running a fundraiser later this month that if you make any kind of donation to the center, you’ll get a digital copy of my book for free!

DAB:   Can you give us an update so we can participate?

RAD:   Absolutely! I'll send along the link with the giveaway as soon as its live!

DAB:   Did you ever experience any sort of writer's block while crafting Undeliverable?

RAD:   Not in the traditional sense. I was about half-way through the first draft when I all of a sudden just couldn’t write anymore, on anything. I got really worried that I had fallen out of love with the story, or I was failing as a writer, when, SURPRISE! I was diagnosed with mono. I cannot begin to tell you how relieved I was. The nurse was a bit disconcerted when she told me I had mono and I started laughing, but it meant that all I needed to do was give myself a break for a month of two while I kicked the virus. That’s when I really learned to cut myself a break when it comes to being blocked in regards to my writing. If I just set it aside for a little bit, whatever is causing the blockage will get niggled loose, be it a looming cold, pressures at work, or a problem with one of my characters that I don’t yet realize is a problem. Once you’ve learned to stop treating writer’s block like a problem and treat it like an opportunity to address a problem you may not have realized was there, it actually becomes a very useful tool.

DAB:   Author's are usually avid readers.  What are you reading at present?

RAD:   Right at this moment, I’m waiting on a bunch of books from the library, so I’m re-reading some of my all-time favorites: the Phule series by Robert Asprin. Incredibly quick science fiction reads from the ‘90s that are absolutely hilarious.

DAB:   Care to tell us what is next on your writing horizon?

RAD:   Well, I have a column premiering on The Tandem Region Times in the next little bit where I play an “unspecified undead” lady of some repute offering advice on etiquette to serial killers and stalkers. Besides that, I’ve got a short story coming out in Far Off Places in the next couple months that was just dramatized in Edinburgh for a charity show, another coming out in Fantasy Scroll Magazine, and my novella, Thea of Oz is going on sale in the fall. I should also let you know that the sequel to Undeliverable will be out next spring, since I know that’s the first question anyone asks after they finish the book.

DAB:   Now's your chance - give us the final plug for Undeliverable.

RAD: When Benjamin Grant's son disappeared a year ago, he felt it was his duty as a father to do everything in his power to find his son, and he tried. He threw himself into the search, but his obsession left him without a home, wife, or job. Now, he's managed to find work at the United States Postal Service's Mail Recovery Center, which he hopes will prove an invaluable tool in his search. With the help of Sylvia - a kleptomaniac artist - Ben learns the ins and outs of a warehouse full of lost mail and explores every lead in his son's case. But when that investigation leads him to Leonard Moscovich, Ben fears the worst.

Thanks, Rebecca!  And now I'm pleased to also let you know that the fundraiser opportunity Rebecca mentioned in her interview is now live.  Click the Rafflecopter widget below for more details or visit

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Journey Back in Time to "Timbuctoo"

I love treasure hunts!  Growing up, my sisters and I would hide the "treasure" (a bottle of soda, a candy bar, a favorite toy, etc.) and then create a series of riddles and clues to lead the "hunter" to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Anytime there was a Jacques Cousteau special on TV, my eyes were glued to it.  To this day I devour articles on sunken ships and the treasures waiting to be discovered.  The Titanic exhibit at the St. Petersburg museum was fascinating in its horrifying sadness (but don't ask me what I thought of the stupid movie - oops).

Some of my favorite movies involve that 'X marks the spot' moment: Indiana Jones, National Treasure (I'm dying for them to finish the script for #3) etc.  Even though Fools Gold was rather idiotic, I still liked the hunt overall.  The element of mystery and intrigue makes the culmination of a treasure hunt story that much more pleasurable when character efforts produce results, especially when the story is wrapped around elements of real-life history.

So when presented with the opportunity to review Tahir Shah's Timbuctoo, I couldn't wait!

Book Blurb:
For centuries, the greatest explorers of their age were dispatched from the power-houses of Europe — London, Paris and Berlin — on a quest unlike any other: To be the first white Christian to visit, and then to sack, the fabled metropolis of Timbuctoo.

Most of them never returned alive.

At the height of the Timbuctoo Mania, two hundred years ago, it was widely believed that the elusive Saharan city was fashioned in entirety from the purest gold — everything from the buildings to the cobble-stones, from the buckets to the bedsteads were said to be made from it.

One winter night in 1815, a young illiterate American seaman named Robert Adams was discovered half-naked and starving on the snow-bound streets of London. His skin seared from years in the African desert, he claimed to have been a guest of the King of Timbuctoo.

At a time when anything American was less than popular, the loss of the colony still fresh in British minds, the thought of an American claiming anything — let alone the greatest prize in exploration — was abhorrent in the extreme.

Closing ranks against their unwelcome American guest, the British Establishment lampooned his tale, and began a campaign of discrediting him, one that continues even today.

An astonishing tale based on true-life endurance, Timbuctoo brilliantly recreates the obsessions of the time, as a backdrop for one of the greatest love stories ever told.

My Review:
Timbuctoo is written in the tradition and carries the tone and address of the classics such as Charles Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby.  Many characters are presented throughout.  Seemingly unconnected events are touted on the pages.  It requires your brain to retain scads of information and trust that the author has a point where all will be laid bare.

I love it when a novel engages my gray matter!

Sir Geoffrey Caldecott, a blithering bull and chairman of the Royal African Committee, has sent Major Peddie on a quest to discover the African El Dorado, the purported city of gold known as Timbuctoo.  The committee seeks investors to finance the expedition and is not discerning in the least who wishes to invest - ridiculously wealthy or those of the lowly working class.  He'll take it all - in gold please - and will do with it as he pleases.  After all, they'll soon be swimming in more precious metal than can be measured.

Or will they?

Viscount Richard Fortescue rushes home on one of the bitterest evenings London has seen for so early in the season.  When the driver sharply brakes the carriage, Fortescue confronts the vagrant, only to discover the man is no ordinary panhandler when he is addressed in the Arabic tongue - all wrapped around an American accent.  The Consul at Mogador, Joseph Dupuis, had written only a month prior to inform him of a Mr. Robert Adams who had accomplished what none other had in recent memory.

Reached and returned alive from the depths of the Sahara - and the golden city of Timbuctoo.

Thus Mr. Adams is thrust into the care of the Royal African Committee's secretary, Simon Cochran, to transcribe the entirety of the tale.  The daily verbal delivery soon becomes the talk of London, who flock to the committee's library to listen in rapt attention to Mr. Adams' woes and triumphs - first only a trickle, then by the hundreds jockeying for a seat like it was a sold-out theatre production.

But something notorious is at play - and Caldecott is not about to let the attention on Timbuctoo wane as his coffers fill to bursting.  What is the true purpose of the chairman's schemes?  And to what level will he stoop to attain said purpose?

There are so many layers to Timbuctoo it would take me a book to explain (ha!).  I found the weaving of the tale to be thoroughly enjoyable in that it reminded me of the writings of yesteryear.  I really do love the classics.  

However, in today's world there will probably be many who would not wish to or be able to stick with the story to it's final culmination.  It requires full engagement of your faculties - one which modern novels typically do not require of modern readers, which I find sad.  I believe the educational system should require more of Dickens, Austen, and yes, Shah.  But who am I that they should listen?

The story is rich in history and vast in scope.  Characters and their motivations become clear the further into the novel you read - and at well over five hundred pages, that's going to take a major investment of a reader's time.  Great latitude is taken in constructing side stories around an actual, historical account.  Being a history buff, I was afraid that would bother me (like the aforementioned Titanic anyone?) but found the veil between reality and fiction so expertly blurred that I became immersed in the story, seeing it mostly in a fictional context.

Chapters were very short, which helped tremendously in moving the story along and avoided bogging down with any particular character situation.  However, at the beginning of each "act" there was a very brief description of the story details coming in the following section.  I did not like this, as it gave away all of the key points of what I had yet to read.  Didn't like that at all and subsequently I avoided reading those pages when I would come upon them.

Point-of-view periodically jumped around within a scene, which is always a bit off-putting to me.  But considering the manner in which this story is written, POV follows along the same constructs as classic literature.  As a reader of classic literature, once I wrapped my mind around treating Timbuctoo as such, this became a minor annoyance.

If you have a mind for the classics, you will find Timbuctoo to be a solid addition to your collection.  I give it four stars.

Purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and all other major eReader outlets. 

Author Bio: 
Tahir Shah is the author of fifteen books, many of which chronicle a wide range of outlandish journeys through Africa, Asia and the Americas. For him, there's nothing so important as deciphering the hidden underbelly of the lands through which he travels. Shunning well-trodden tourist paths, he avoids celebrated landmarks, preferring instead to position himself on a busy street corner or in a dusty cafe and observe life go by. Insisting that we can all be explorers, he says there's wonderment to be found wherever we are - it's just a matter of seeing the world with fresh eyes.
Shah's forthcoming novel, TIMBUCTOO, is inspired by a true life tale from two centuries ago. The story of the first Christian to venture to Timbuctoo and back - a young illiterate American sailor - it has been an obsession since Shah discovered it in the bowels of the London Library twenty years ago.

He recently published a collection of his entitled TRAVELS WITH MYSELF, a body of work as varied and as any, with reportage pieces as diverse as the women on America's Death Row, to the trials and tribulations of his encounter in a Pakistani torture jail.

Another recent work, IN ARABIAN NIGHTS, looks at how stories are used in cultures such as Morocco, as a matrix by which information, values and ideas are passed on from one generation to the next. That book follows on the heels of the celebrated CALIPH'S HOUSE: A Year in Casablanca, lauded as one of Time Magazine's Top 10 Books of the year.

His other works include an epic quest through Peru's cloud forest for the greatest lost city of the Incas (HOUSE OF THE TIGER KING), as well as a journey through Ethiopia in search of the source of King Solomon's gold (IN SEARCH OF KING SOLOMON'S MINES). Previous to that, Shah published an account of a journey through the Amazon on the trail of the Birdmen of the Amazon (TRAIL OF FEATHERS), as well as a book of his experiences in India, as a godman's pupil (SORCERER'S APPRENTICE).

Tahir Shah's books have appeared in thirty languages and in more than seventy editions. They are celebrated for their original viewpoint, and for combining hardship with vivid description.

He also makes documentary films, which are shown worldwide on National Geographical Television, and The History Channel. The latest, LOST TREASURE OF AFGHANISTAN, has been screened on British TV and shown worldwide. While researching the programme Shah was arrested along with his film crew and incarcerated in a Pakistani torture jail, where they spent sixteen terrifying days and nights.

His other documentaries include: HOUSE OF THE TIGER KING, SEARCH FOR THE LOST CITY OF GOLD, and THE SEARCH FOR KING SOLOMON'S MINES. And, in addition to documentaries, Shah writes for the big screen. His best known work in this genre is the award-winning Imax feature JOURNEY TO MECCA, telling the tale of the fourteenth century Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta's first pilgrimage to Mecca.

Tahir Shah lives at Dar Khalifa, a sprawling mansion set squarely in the middle of a Casablanca Shantytown.  He's married to the graphic designer, Rachana Shah, and has two children, Ariane and Timur.  His father was the Sufi writer, Idries Shah.

Visit his website at