This Saturday and Sunday my short story, The Study, will be free on Amazon for Kindle and Kindle PC. Even though it is a short story, it's still over ten thousand words. It is a suspenseful tale of a medical study gone wrong. There are some funny moments, a passionate moment, and sorrowful heartbreak.
Hey, it's what I know.
So this weekend take a chance on a little piece of something that is close to my heart. You'll be glad you did.
Throughout the years I've been writing, I've often been asked why my stories tend to be dark and brooding, why I put my characters through so many trials, and why things don't always turn out blissfully happy in the end.
My response - that's reality.
Some of the things in my stories tend toward the fantastical, but there is always an element of reality to bring it all back down to earth. Stop to listen to each other long enough and most will tell of difficulties, extreme heartache, deep struggle, and dark days at points in their lives. These are the things I highlight in my writing.
So many times we want to skip over the painful experiences and just focus on the pleasant memories. It's hard to go back and relive hurtful times at the hands of others or hurts we have inflicted. But I've found that when we allow ourselves to go there, to reflect on those moments of shadowed memories, we can learn from the past, find healing, and help others who may be struggling.
It also helps us to see the pains of others. Those who have hurt us have usually been hurt by someone too. Even the most seemingly evil person has some redemptive quality somewhere in their life. No one is beyond help if they only choose to admit their fault and accept the assistance offered - before it is too late.
Those who are perceived as good may not be all they are cracked up to be when you get below the surface. Some who are truly good may make some bad choices that have terrible and life-altering consequences. Then those perceived as bad may not be completely so upon closer inspection.
That's what makes my characters so rich (in my mind) because they contain elements of good and bad, elements based in reality. They are mostly good people who make some bad choices and pay the consequences.
There's my joy in writing - getting to see behind the scenes of what makes each character tick. It's the place where fantasy and reality meet. And sometimes reality can be stranger than any fiction.
We are on the interview bandwagon of late! Next up we have Gary L.Cummings joining us, author of his first novel, BREAKING IN. I've had the luxury of reading this humor-fest detective novel and have to say that I love the bumbling nature of the protagonist, Kyle. Therefore, I'm so pleased to have Gary with us today - welcome!
DAB: So Gary, where do you come up with ideas for your novels?
GLC: BREAKING IN is the first novel I've written. I'd had some success with other forms of writing, but I approached writing a novel tentatively. Could I construct a story with an interesting plot, compelling characters, and good dialogue, which together could hold a reader's interest? I wasn't sure, but I was sure I wanted to be a novelist. So I wrote.
Film Noir and the first person narrative of private eyes had always fascinated me. I didn't want to have to travel to the East or West Coast to research traditional "noir" settings or study the 1940's or 50's in order to glean a sense of that time period (although I love history), so I set my novel in present day Wichita, Kansas, where I live. About one page into my homage to Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe, I realized my protagonist was neither hard-boiled nor jaded. He looked for the humor in difficult situations and wasn't afraid to wise crack when confronted by a bad guy. His personality drove me toward most of the ideas I came up for in BREAKING IN.
DAB: Do you come up with a character template, backgrounds, likes and dislikes, and all that, or do you let the characters come to you while writing?
GLC: Many people use a character template, and I can see advantages in it. However, I like to drop my protagonist into the situation where I want him to find himself and then imagine the people he'd meet. When the scene is over, after he has conversed, or at least interacted with someone, I construct a plausible history of the new characters. That is, if the scene works and the character is interesting. If the scene doesn't work, I kill the new character, making him or her suffer a slow, painful death as a warning to other characters in my mind to be INTERESTING or be DEAD.
DAB: What author has been your biggest influence?
GLC: Over the years, I've read and enjoyed these authors: James Mitchener, Joseph Wambaugh, Arthur Hailey, Dean Koontz, Jack Higgins, Nora Lofts, and Clive Cussler, among others. If Ihad to fall under the influence of someone, these writers would be a good group to start with.
DAB: From BREAKING IN, I've heard through the grapevine about something known as a "Kyleism". Can you give our audience a little description?
GLC: A "Kyleism" is an observation on an absurd or difficult situation in which Kyle finds himself. One that comes to mind is in a scene where he has been punched in the face and is holding a block of blue ice against his cheek to control the swelling. A policeman enters the room, recognizes Kyle as a fugutive from the law, draws his gun and demands that Kyle raise his hands. Kyle puts both hands over his head, still holding the ice. "He's got something in his hand," the officer shouts. "Drop it, or I'll shoot." Kyle internalizes, Don't shoot, I'm packing ice, not heat. Kyle has these thoughts as a way of keeping calm in a tense situation. If I may finish the scene I've started, Kyle drops the ice and it falls hard on the toe of the pretty EMS attendant who Kyle's been trying to woo.
DAB: Do you identify with any of your characters in BREAKING IN?
GLC: I try to understand my characters. Kyle is opposite of me in many ways. He's very tall, I'm not. He's quite outgoing while I'm less so. He's unhappily divorced compare to me being happily married. I think some of the same thoughts he might, but think and say things completely opposite of Kyle in other situations. You have to be into all of your character's heads, at least the major characters, to give them life-like qualities that keep the reader's interest. Having never killed anyone, other than a few boring characters in my mind, I'm forced to think about the motives and thoughts of such people who do kill. I don't identify with them, but I understand them.
DAB: There's a question I like to ask in almost every interview - do you write via an outline or no outline?
GLC: I use a rough outline, but I like to let the characters have a free run without the outline. One process I've adhered to in writing is creating a balance between the Editor and the Muse in my head. My Editor likes outlines, my Muse doesn't. My Editor tends to say, "Don't play with guns," while my Muse says, "Take plenty of ammunition because you're going to need it." When there's trouble, my Editor says, "Get out of danger, then call 911," while my Muse says, "Shoot at the first sign of trouble." My Editor says, "SVO: subject, verb, and object." My Muse says, "Just get the words out as long as they're descriptive, or funny or shocking."
My rough outline keeps the characters within my approved geographical boundaries. It limits my protagonist to solving the problems I've laid out for him to encounter. As long as these restrictions are adhered to, I seriously consider all action and dialogue my characters suggest to me. My second and third drafts are the courts of last resort for both Editor and Muse.
DAB: Have there ever been times when you've struggled to write a character of the opposite sex, and are there ladies in your life that make it easier?
GLC: I belong to a small critique group made up of men and women of differing interests and backgrounds. Having another few pair of eyes examine your work is helpful in many ways. I trust and rely on these friends for their input. Since my protagonist is male and I tell the story in first person past, female characters in my novel are revealed through his perspective. One of the more interesting traits of my protagonist is his tone deafness to women since his divorce. When there is a situation where he must "read" a woman's motive, he misreads it nearly every time. Of course, this still wouldn't let me off the hook as a writer if I assigned reactions or feelings totally incompatible to what a woman would have. In those situations, I would be open to help from my wife and women in my critique group.
DAB: Do you write every day and have specific rituals to assist in getting the juices flowing?
GLC: Since I finished BREAKING IN I have taken a break (no pun or shameless promotion intended) to write a humorous short story and some poetry. The characters in my novel have been calling out to me of late, and I plan on beginning the sequel within a few days.
I edit the previous day's work early in the morning. After this, if the weather is hospitable, I go for a run and then eat breakfast. I own a home and there is always some yard work needing done, and I usually do it after breakfast. During my cool-down after running and also while mowing the lawn, I'm surprised how many times I come up with different directions my novel can go or little bits of dialogue. Word games on the computer are next and maybe a taped episode of Jeopardy with my wife before I start writing for the day. I have no set word count or time limit when I begin writing. Some days are productive and some are less so, and having a goal to reach just doesn't work with my personality.
DAB: Are there some writing tips you care to share with our audience?
GLC: I use writing prompts to get my brain fired up before beginning a writing session. Sometimes I chose a subject, other times I just go with the stream-of-thought. The idea is to write for fifteen minutes, typing as fast as my fingers can go, with anything that pops into my head until the time is up. Most times what I've written isn't worth saving. These writing prompts usually end up having a humorous bent and once in a while provide a line or thought I'm able to use in my novel.
A second tip I'd like to share is one I'd read that Kurt Vonnegut passed along. He urged writers to have every character in every scene you write want something different than the others, even if it's only a glass of water. Think of the last time someone related what they thought was an interesting story to two or more acquaintances in your presence. I bet one person in the group was in a hurry to get back to work or go home, another person might not be on the best of terms with the storyteller and wished the blowhard would hurry up and finish his boring story. Maybe you were looking around to see if the boss was taking note of your little group wasting time. Vonnegut's point was that everyone wants something a little different than everyone else, even if they're on the same team or in the same family or belong to the same political party. Conveying those differences help define life-like characters and make writing realistic.
I have a third tip to pass along, if I may. As I near the end of my writing session, I leave one or two ideas unwritten, so I have a good starting point for the next day. This eliminates the blank page/blinking cursor syndrome that can happen when first sitting down to write on a new day. Be sure to make notes on those ideas before ending the session so as to have the full sense of how they fit into the story when beginning anew the next day.
DAB: Thanks again, Gary, for stopping by my blog. As your finale, please share a plug for BREAKING IN.
GLC: As private detective, Kyle Roach, flees the scene of a house explosion, his tattered shirt resembling Miss Kentucky's sash, he suspects his beautiful client has been less than truthful. During the next four days, Kyle will use a licorice rope to drive off a would-be assassin, crash his beloved pickup into a motel room and steal four vehicles. His unorthodox tactics prompt his rich, spoiled client, Stella, to fire him. In turn, Kyle kidnaps her "for her own good." And this is Kyle's first case.
It's not as if Kyle's life needs turmoil. His week ended with the employer at his day job announcing Kyle's pension had become a victim of cost cutting. He struggles daily with the loneliness of being divorced. The memory of his late father's suicide lingers, and he wrestles with his own fleeting suicidal thoughts. Kyle fights on, surrounding himself with friends and immersing himself in sports, alcohol and a study of great thinkers from the past.
Stella and Kyle settle into an uneasy alliance as they hurtle across the Midwest, running from hired killers as well as the police. The clash of wealthy versus middle class, East Coast versus Middle America and cool sex appeal versus wanton wanting punctuate their flight. Stella's demands and arrogance drive Kyle to the point of abandoning her, but his conscience demands that he fulfill his obligation to protect his high maintenance client. But Stella's evasiveness about why people are trying to kill her hinder Kyle's protective efforts.
"Is your husband trying to kill you?" he asks.
"No," she says. "Maybe."
The true reason behind the threats is bizarre, yet deadly, none-the-less.
Thanks again, Gary, for visiting the blog! As one who has read this novel, if you want a good belly-laugh that will tone and tighten your abs better than any machine or trainer, pick up a copy of BREAKING IN today at Amazon.
Today I have the honor and pleasure of hosting a one of a kind canine. Please join me in welcoming Jazzy Brass from Gordon A. Kessler's KNIGHT'S RANSOM.
DAB: Welcome Jazzy Brass - Do you prefer Jazzy, JB, or good doggie?
JB: Okay, so you want fact and fiction - Jazzy Brass is actually my story name - stage name, if you will. My agent (GK) calls me Jazzy, but my real name is Jazmin. I've been called Jazzy Blues, Jazzy Boots, Jazbo, sweetie, honey, hon, sweetheart and baby. I don't care WHAT you call me, just call me - and have a treat in your hand if you really want to make points.
In "The E Z Knight Reports" series, E Z just calls me Jazzy or Jazzy Brass.
DAB: Jazzy it is - what is your favorite kibble?
JB: For real: anything GK is eating. For dog food, he used to give me Blue Buffalo, but now he gives me some pretty tasty Beneful, and I always get a spoonful or two of pumpkin every day. He says it gives me fiber. I lo-ove it! Don't tell anyone, but on special nights we go to Starbucks and GK gets me a Puppy Latte (a dash of whipped cream in a cup) - yum!
In character: pretty much the same thing. Living with E Z on a sailboat - we eat a lot of fish. But when we eat out, I love chicken nuggets - and yes, Puppy Lattes, as well.
DAB: So tell us a few interesting morsels about your master.
JB: For real: he's more of an agent/caretaker/confidant than a master. He's kind of weird. He likes to play ball, go to the dog park, go for walks and that sort of thing, but he loses focus very easily, and before I know it, he's back at his laptop, working on his latest novel. That really gets boring. He keeps telling me, "I gotta pay the bills, you know? You do want to eat next week, right?" I think we'd be better off if we just moved over to the dog park. Bring my dog sofa, pitch a tent, and we'd be fixed - er, uh, set (I hate the word "fixed").
In character: E Z has done and seen about everything. But as he gets older, he's not into the excitement and adventure as much. He's become somewhat of a loner - which I don't mind a bit. That means he and I spend more time together. But his past and the people around him keep drawing him into the fray. He's really a simple guy. He likes sailing, snow skiing, and SCUBA. He loves nature. He likes Jimmy Buffet and Darius Rucker - he even plays the guitar and sings their songs. He's really good. I join in once in a while with a howl or two.
DAB: How did the two of you meet and what prompted the meeting?
JB: For real: It's hard to remember those early days - after all, that was when I was ten-weeks old; over a year ago! I guess I could be subconsciously blocking it out. GK tells me that it was more of a rescue than an adoption. He paid $300 for the honor (I think that's pretty cheap for a girl like me). The couple who had me and my bros and sisters was smellier than any of us, and they had more fleas. GK says he thinks they were living out of their crew-cab pickup with three other puppies besides me. GK answered an ad in the paper about "golden retriever pups for sale" and met these folks about fifty miles away at a rural Casey's Junction convenience store. The man actually gave us our shots while GK and his lady friend held us.
GK says when he saw me, it was love at first sight. When I saw him, I saw a ticket out. But I grew to love him pretty fast.
When he got me home, it took two baths to get rid of the fleas and the smell.
In character: you'll find out how we met in the next novel, KNIGHT'S BIG EASY - a prequel to KNIGHT'S RANSOM, due out at the end of April. Without spoiling it, I'll tell you that's my debut. Like many other folks, E Z saves my life.
DAB: Who would you say is your master's favorite human in his first caper, KNIGHT'S RANSOM?
JB: For real: of course KNIGHT'S RANSOM wasn't the first caper GK wrote. He's written about authorities tracking down criminals before. JEZEBEL involves an animal control director solving a crime that takes the lives of dozens of people and even more dogs - spooky, if you ask me. DEAD RECKONING involves a female NCIS agent (was written before the TV show - even before its predecessor, JAG) who goes undercover aboard a war ship to stop terrorists from killing thousands of Americans (yes, even written before 9/11, as well).
With KNIGHT'S RANSOM, GK's favorite has to be the protagonist, E Z Knight. He easily identifies with E Z, because of similar backgrounds and interests. Many of the character's experiences are actually drawn from GK's own (most of them embellished to the point of being supercharged, of course).
In character: E Z is really taken with Smokey Smith. She's a widow as well as the lovely thirty-something proprietor of Smokey's Marina. She and her son rabbit watch over me when E Z's out giving bad guys their comeuppances. One little caveat here: E Z is easily "taken" with many women, especially the beautiful ones. His relationship with Smokey is platonic, and with E Z being the man he is, he has to find an outlet somewhere.... In KNIGHT'S RANSOM, E Z becomes very attracted to the young Russian beauty, Zoya, who's really smitten with him as well. They go "off to the races" in more ways than one.
DAB: Conversely then, who would you say is your master's least favorite human in this caper and why?
JB: For real: this being mostly a first-person narrative, GK wasn't able to get inside the antagonists heads, like he normally would. That's fun stuff, he tells me. But he loves all of his characters, even his bad ones.
In character: E Z sees the bad guys for their deeds: bastards and sons-of-bitches (excuse my doggy language). He'd probably tell you his least favorites are the Russian assassin, Karl (a.k.a. Kirill Diakov), as well as a former comrade gone really bad, Ramon Pena. You'll find out more when you read KNIGHT'S RANSOM. Of course there are a few despicable recurring characters in the series as well as some one-time-jerks in each of the episodes.
DAB: Have you both ever been in a situation where you feared for your life or your human's?
JB: For real: not since I've been around him. But he tells me a number of situations when his life was at risk. He did a lot of crazy things, years ago - he's way calmed down now. But in his younger days as a reckless teenager, a Recon Marine and member of Marine "Super Squad," parachuting, SCUBA diving, etc., etc., he sought more of life's risky adventures than its comforts. He tells me about rescuing a friend from a cliff in Sardinia, parachute malfunctions, swimming with a shark, firing missiles, flame thrower mishaps, machine gun fire over his head, bar fights, and on and on.
In character: with E Z, it's pretty much the same, but ten times more. There are whole weeks that go by when I'm concerned for his safety. In KNIGHT'S RANSOM, our friends are attacked by some very bad people when E Z isn't there. I try...well, you'll find out more when...yeah, you read the story.
Also, GK has fixed me up with my own four-page blog on his website at http://gordonkessler.com/Jazzy/. There's a special subpage where you can actually view "Jazzy Brass's Missing Scenes" from the different episodes. You'll find what was going on with me, in my point of view, while the storyline was following E Z in the novel. It's going to be fun.
DAB: With everything happening around your human, why do you stay with him?
JB: For real: Not much happens around ol' GK anymore - boring! I guess I feel sorry for him. I mean really...look at him - a face only a dog could love. Any joking aside, he's my buddy.
In character: Are you kidding? I'm as big of an adventure hound as E Z ever was. E Z says he wants to lead a relaxed life and be left alone. But you can tell when the dog poo hits the propeller; he's ready for action and enjoys kicking bad guys' tails! Me too!
DAB: Will we get to see the two of you together again?
JB: For real: all the dang time! And I love it.
In character: I'm hoping to make it in at least a minor role in all of the series episodes. Besides those, GK is considering a Noir spinoff with E Z's great grandfather, as well as a Western spinoff with E Z's direct ancestor five generations back. I'm guessing both will have a dog - but golden retrievers weren't around in the Old West, so - I might have to play a bloodhound relative of mine...I don't know.
DAB: Tell us one last thing about this first caper you find yourself in with your human.
JB: In character: this is one of the most action-packed, fast reads you'll find. What starts out as a little story ends up at the Academy Awards on Oscar night. The twists and turns will surprise you and yank you along one heck of a doggone thrill ride! Have fun reading KNIGHT'S RANSOM, and please give me a whistle on my blog sometime!
For E Z Knight, when it rains, it pours - and it seldom tastes anything like water.
In this first episode of "The E Z Knight Reports" a series, E Z has a million-dollar contract on his head and a whole boatload of hit men after his ass. Even worse, a young Russian beauty has just handed him a photo of his six-year-old goddaughter wearing a vest wired with enough plastic explosives to bring down the Golden Gate Bridge.
Nowadays, all E Z wants is to be left alone. He seeks an uncomplicated and safe life, living with his golden retriever, Jazzy Brass, on a sailboat in Southern California. But his past won't cooperate. When, only two minutes before his neighbor's sailboat blows up in front of him, he's handed a picture of his best friend's kidnapped daughter strapped with Semtex, he knows there'll be no peace today. He's stared down death more times than he can remember, but death hasn't come to harvest someone this close to him since his wife was murdered six years ago.
E Z's former best friend, Jason Ryder, is up for an Oscar, and the man's newly divorced wife, actress Stella Hutchins, is E Z's very hot ex-girlfriend. With their little girl in jeopardy, they must put on a facade of normalcy on the biggest night of their lives - that also could be their last.
A walk down the Academy Awards' Red Carpet is a new experience for an old Leatherneck, but former US Force Recon Marine, E Z Knight isn't shy. He'd do anything to get his goddaughter back safely - be it by bullet or by bedroom - and he must have a little of both to get to the bottom of this one.
Teaming up with a spicy little Russian who carries a Mach 10, an old woman who flips him the bird every morning, and a couple of his old comrades-in-arms, E Z's bound to track down little Sophie Ryder's abductors, rescue her and get her home unharmed, and do away with some very nasty bastards, all in short order. But, in the hours to come, a deadly old nemesis returns, and a new team of very lethal assassins strikes at his heart.
E Z never liked killing, but he's good at it, and the next forty-eight hours are bound to be murder.