Tag-Archive for » storytelling «

Interview with Author, Joe English

I admire a writer who, for his first  novel, writes a saga of 500+ pages. A Place Called Schugara is such a book and took Joe thirty years to write. (Review coming later.)  I love Joe’s answer:  What can one do?  Submit! “  That’s what all of us writers have to do, willingly or not.  I think my readers will really enjoy this unique interview. 

 

Q.  Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing?   Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.  

 JE.   I write at my desk, on my laptop.  Nothing sexy.  I have my desk positioned so that it faces a wall, not a window.    

Q.  Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)  

JE.   Other than the manacles I place on my wrists and the chains I lash on my feet, nothing. 

Q.  Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know? 

JE.   I worked on A PLACE CALLED SCHUGARA for 30 years, rewriting, rewriting, rewriting.   People kept reading—to the last word, so I kept at it.  After 1,100 + rejections from agents and publishers, a courageous woman, Amanda Rotach Lamkin, owner of Line by Lion Publishing (Louisville, Kentucky), a small, independent (not vanity/subsidy/participation) press sent me a contract. 

 Q.  Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write? 

JE.   Preferably mornings.   The first draft—30 years ago—took a year and a half.  With incredibly few exceptions, I woke at 3 a.m. and wrote to 6 a.m., spending the rest of the day in a daze as my mind was not on my job but on the goings-on in my story, the characters, the  dilemmas. 

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

JE.  Force yourself to sit at your desk, your laptop, your writing surface.  Stare at the page.   Scribble some words.   Erase.  Scribble others.   Sooner or later, generally later, the pump will be primed.   When you are not at your desk, carry a small notebook to write down inspirations/thoughts/observations/ideas/phrases.  

Q.  Where/when do you first discover your characters?  

 JE  For the most part (Luigi Pirandello), they discover me.  “Here I am,” each says.  “You must tell my story.”  At the onset of A PLACE CALLED SCHUGARA, I had no idea that a character by the name of Albert Sidney McNab, would insist on being so prominent.   What can one do?  Submit! 

Q. What first inspired you to write?    

JE.  The most important rule of writing is having something to say.  I have felt for many years that our overstressed, capitalistic, materialist culture is life-deadening.  What would it be like to chuck it all?   To disappear?  To start over?  So I came up with an “everyman” figure, Travers Landeman (name intended to suggest his trapped life), who is trapped in a loveless marriage, is harassed by government bureaucrats, whose business is failing, who fakes his own death on “Mabouhey,” an unknown Caribbean island.   Will he get away with it? 

Q. Being a new fiction writer, how did it happen that your first effort was an ambitious 500+ saga?  
 
A.  The story is all.  The writer becomes captive to his/her characters, who rule.  I had no idea whatsoever that SCHUGARA would turn into such a saga.  But there you have it and here it is.  I have read and reread SCHUGARA, at least 75 times in the past two years, with a view towards paring it down.   Here and there I was able to jettison a word, phrase, or paragraph.   But, for better, I hope, the story is what the story is.  To amputate solely for the sake of brevity would be as sinful as fluffing for the sake of heft. 

Q. What came first to you?  The Characters or the Situation?   

JE.   The situation.   Then, one by one, the characters arrived. 

Don’t Miss Part Two of this Interview November 16th
To purchase A Place Called Schugara
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb.  October: Alretha Thomas. November: Joe English. December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss and in early 2019  Patrick Canning.
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Motivational Moments — Dust off a book you’ve written…

…and put out a new ‘edition’. I wrote Book #1 of my true crime series, Art of Murder, back in 2011.  Circumstances (I fired my publisher) led me to review and rewrite this book. Adding a new dynamic cover, new title  (Brush with Murder) and added 6000 new words. A love interest walked into Ben’s life and I pulled that thread. 

Most indie publishing platforms allow you to change the ‘interior files’ post-publish and change the cover when you’ve rewritten the book. In my case, since I was also changing the title, I issued the book as a new ‘revised’ edition. The new cover, by my illustrator, David White, is sexy and hot! He does such terrific work for me.

I recommend to all writers to review things you’ve written and even published. Only good things can happen! 

Now available!  Brush with Murder and Shadow of Murder 

Coming Soon!  Book #9, Triad of Murder

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 Coming Soon in Audio-Books:
(Beneath the) Bridge of Murder
Video of Murder
Shadow of Murder 

 

 MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb.  October: Alretha Thomas. November: Joe English. December: Molly Gloss. Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick) and Patrick Canning.
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Interview with Author, Playwright, Alretha Thomas (part 2)

Part 2: 

Q. What comes first? The situation or the characters.

AT. The situation comes first.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

AT. I become completely immersed in my writing. I get so lost in the world I’ve created, I forget where I am, and hours fly by. It’s really a high!

Q. Do you have a new book coming out soon? If so tell us about it.

AT.My latest work was released August 7, 2018. It’s the first book in my new Dancing Hills Mystery Series. It’s called “The Women on Retford Drive.” It’s about a mother and stepdaughter who have endured abuse at the hands of their husband and father respectively. The day they shape plans to leave him, he goes missing. The women, afraid the police are going to name them as suspects, try to find out what happened to him. Did one of them kill him or is there another agenda at play unbeknownst to the women and the police far more sinister?

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

AT. I began my first serious work in 1999. I wrote a novel loosely based on my dysfunctional childhood called “Daughter Denied.” I had no idea what I was doing. However, readers fell in love with the ten-year-old protagonist Renee.

Q. How long after that were you published?

AT. It was fifteen years later before I received a publishing deal. Thank goodness we can’t see the future. If I had known it would have taken over a decade, I might have given up. Lol!

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

AT. Yes!!!! There was a time when I couldn’t imagine reading a book on a computer, but now my Kindle library is filled with books. I do, however, still enjoy reading a paper book. I like seeing them on the bookshelves in my library. However, electronic books are so easy to manage, especially at the gym.

Q. What makes a writer great?

AT. Someone who has studied their craft and that has a passion for storytelling. You must be open and free to write what you know and what’s in your heart, not the latest trend.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

AT. It starts with an idea. I turn that idea into an outline. I determine the end of the story. I decide what my plot twists will be. Then I get into the characters. I create bios for all my characters. I determine what the main characters want, what their obstacles will be. I complete a first draft. I have beta readers go over my work. I complete more drafts. Then when I have the final draft, I send it to my developmental editor. After she goes through it, and I address all her concerns, I complete another draft. Once that is final, I send it to my editor who also proofs the book. Then I’m good to go! It’s about a six-month process.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

AT. I’ve had an interesting life. My childhood at times was harrowing. I lost my mother when I was 14 and she was only 36. God got me through. My twenties were crazy, due to my childhood and my own bad choices. I began to grow up in my thirties and from there, my life has been fabulous. Not perfect, but amazing. Nineteen years ago, I met the love of my life. We had a beautiful wedding. In 2000 we went to Africa together. In 2001 we bought a home. In 2012 my husband retired and in 2016 I retired and am writing and acting full time. Because of all my experiences, I feel deeply. I’m passionate. I can relate to pain, disappointment, hurt, exhilaration, joy, all the things you’ll find in a good book. I believe my life enables me to write books that move and inspire readers.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

AT. I started writing women’s fiction. In my Cass and Nick series, it dawned on me that in all four books someone dies and that there is an element of suspense in each book. In 2015, I made a foray into writing murder mysteries and I’ve never looked back.

Q. Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

AT. Don’t ever cry too hard over the person, job or material object you wanted and couldn’t have, because God has something so much better in store for you.

Did you miss Part I of this wonderful Interview? Click here
To see more of Alretha’s books: click here
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Interview with Playwright, Author, Alretha Thomas

  Shortly after graduating from USC with a degree in journalism, this prolific writer soon realized her interest in her major was not heartfelt. Instead of writing news stories, she wanted to write plays and books. Several years later, her church gave her an outlet to fulfill her writing desires through their Liturgical Fine Arts Department wherein Alretha penned twelve theatre pieces—the community response was overwhelming.  In between plays, Alretha’s first novel Daughter Denied was launched in 2008 and has received glowing reviews from readers and book clubs across the country.  Alretha was awarded the Jessie Redmon Fauset Literary Award for her indie novel Four Ladies Only. Alretha returned to acting and is now writing and acting full time. 

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing?  Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

AT. I write in the family dining room/hang out room. My computer is up against a wall and it’s my special place.
Whenever my husband wants to get my attention, he’ll leave a note on my keyboard knowing it won’t be missed! He calls it my home within the home. Lol! My husband and I often talk about buying a bigger home, if, and when we get a windfall. My dream workspace would have a view of the Pacific Ocean.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

AT. I have to be very comfortable when I write. Thus, I write in very loose-fitting clothing. Usually my blue sundress my husband bought me or my ripped up blue robe. I guess it’s something about blue.  I also must have my desk fan blasting. I have about a half dozen little stuff animals and toys that I keep to the right of me. I think they’re my good luck charms.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

AT. I volunteer every Tuesday at a nursing home not too far from my home. There are about six people there that I feel very close to. I paint nails for the ladies, tell stories and most times just listen. The residents have no idea how much they do for me mentally, emotionally and spiritually. They are wonderful people who for one reason or another are in the nursing home. It makes me grateful and it makes me appreciate being able to get around right now. No one knows what the future holds.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

AT. I love writing at night after my husband has gone to bed and it’s quiet in the house and the neighborhood. I just love it. I feel like a little girl in a sandbox. No matter what I’m doing during the day, I get excited when I think about the fact that later that night I’ll be writing. So many ideas about what my characters are going to say and do flood my head during the day. It’s wonderful when I can put it on paper.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

AT. Just do it! I’ve never had a problem with writer’s block or procrastination. Thank goodness. If anything, you have to pull me away from the computer!

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

AT. I believe my characters discover me. They enter my subconscious and take over my being. They slowly began to evolve. Case in point are the main characters in my latest mystery novel, “The Women on Retford Drive.” I’ve never met anyone like my protagonist Julia Pritchard or her stepdaughter Blythe Pritchard. One day I just had this feeling about writing about a mother and step daughter being abused and working together to escape their plight. From there, the story just took off.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

AT. My fifth-grade teacher inspired me to write. She gave the class a short story assignment. I got an idea to write a story about a bag boy in a supermarket who falls in love with a young customer. I guess you could say that was my first romance story. The following day our teacher congratulated the entire class on our work. However, she said there was one story that stood out. And that story was mine. I nearly fell out of my chair. I couldn’t believe it. She read it aloud and the class was riveted. While I was watching the expressions on the faces of my peers, I knew in that moment I wanted to be a writer for life.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

Join Us with Part Two of this fascinating Interview on October 26th
To Purchase Alretha’s books, click here 
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb.  October: Alretha Thomas. November: Joe English. December: Molly Gloss. Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick) and Patrick Canning.

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Book Review ~~ Mistletoe Miracles by Jodi Thomas

 

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reviews, authors, writing

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5 out of 5 quills ~~ A Review

I didn’t want this one to end. 

Jodi Thomas weaves three stories into one. Three sets of lovers finding each other, getting lost again, and finding each other for keeps.
The lovers are diverse with really only one common thread, that being a tiny town, Crossroads, Texas. An arranged marriage, a wounded warrior, and mistaken identity all meld into a wonderful trilogy within one book. I loved it!

There’s never a misplaced word when this writer tells a story. The characters capture the reader within the first few pages. The story line (in this case three) is interesting and believable.
You won’t get a spoiler from this reviewer. For me it’s all about the writing and this author writes like a dream. Interesting settings, great, colorful characters richly drawn and wonderful dialog. 

To Purchase Mistletoe Miracles Click Here 

Did you miss my Interview with Jodi Thomas?

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb.  October: Alretha Thomas. November: Joe English. December: Molly Gloss. Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick) and Patrick Canning.

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Interview with Jonathan Rabb, Writer (conclusion)

TS.  This has been a terrific Interview. All writers achieve the same goals using different paths to get there. 

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

JR. Muscle memory. That’s where it is now. I can’t imagine not having a book I’m working on. In other words, I have to be working on something. So, in some sense, I never fully enjoy “finished book” because I’m always at least thinking about the next one. In the same way, I never feel I’m in “no book” territory.

You don’t get a lot of resolution in your creative life if you’re a novelist (at least I don’t). It’s probably why I do crossword puzzles. Resolution is immediate.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

JR. How can they not? When I first started writing, I was in NY and single. Now, I’m in Savannah, married with two kids, and a professor of writing. Save for that first novel, I don’t borrow from my own life as the foundation of a novel. Yes, my characters grapple with the same anxieties I grapple with, but they aren’t me in a fictional guise. But as the challenges have changed in my life, I think they’ve changed for my characters as well. And my interests have shifted. Five years ago I would never have thought about a book in Mexico. Now, I can’t imagine not writing it.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

JR. I’ve been accused of bucking genres. My first two books were clearly thrillers, based around historical documents. Then I dove into historical fiction entirely with three books in Germany and Spain in 1919, 1927 and 1936. Yes, there was a mystery in each of those, but the mystery was always less important than the political and social anxieties that the characters were dealing with. Some reviewers called them historical fiction, others literary fiction, still others mysteries. And then I jumped to my last book, which is Savannah 1947 – a much more intimate novel, less about the historical backdrop and more about one man’s struggle. And now I’m doing contemporary Mexico in one book, and 1606 Venice in another

So, I don’t really think in terms of genres. I just write what excites me. So far I’ve been lucky enough that my publishers let me do that.

Q. Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

JR. Writing is hard, maybe harder than anything else in the arts for the simple reason that everyone thinks they have access to language. Very few people walk around thinking, Yes, I can design a dress or produce a self-portrait. But everyone thinks, Hey, I can write. Just look at me on Facebook….

But that’s not true, which makes writing even harder if you really want to take a stab at it.

So, the lesson I’ve learned is: do whatever you can to make writing easier while you’re writing. Take the pressure off and just try and get a single sentence down that you don’t hate. Some days, that one sentence is enough. It paves the way for the days when you write 5,000 words and you can’t imagine how you did it.

Give yourself a break. Writing is hard. Don’t make it harder than it has to be.

Did you miss Part 1 or 2 of this fine Interview? Click here
To Purchase books
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb.  October: Alretha Thomas. November: Joe English. December: Molly Gloss. Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick) and Patrick Canning.

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Book Review ~~ The Colonel and the Bee by Patrick Canning

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing  5 out of 5 quills

 

A Review ~~ The Colonel and the Bee

There is one thing that delights me above all else and that is to discover a writer who can write. One who weaves words with charm and skill. Patrick Canning does this in spades! I have been reading for 55+ years and I have never come across  a Fantasy/Adventure such as this. It really doesn’t fall into any particular genre. You could read it with your kids (with a tiny bit redacted) or adults can read it. Like Spearmint gum, Double your pleasure, Double your fun!

My favorite character in The Colonel and the Bee is the ‘Ox’.  The Oxford Starladder (so aptly named) is a kind of hot air balloon.  But where we picture a simple woven basket large enough to hold two or three people, the ‘Ox’ is a four story wicker house that has a kitchen, staircases, bedrooms, library, and nursery (plants). In fact the Colonel grows rattan bamboo that ends up growing into the structure of the house as a constant form of repair. Genius! 

There is a well known epigram: ‘it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” For me this book is ALL about the journey. The Colonel and his new-found friend, Beatrix flying above the earth in the ‘Ox’ picking up and dropping off people, having adventures along the way. I don’t know if spending all that time up there is why the  Colonel has such a lovely perspective on life and people but I wish I were one of his friends. 

My readers know me well. I don’t write spoilers or story synopses in my reviews. In my case, it’s always a review of the writing. The writing in this case is superb.  “The tick of the clock still speaks our pace.”  Word magic abounds in this book. 

I loved  the characters, the locations, and the story. Whimsical, captivating, and bewitching. The story could happen. It could be true and if it isn’t the reader so wants it to be possible. I read the end of this story twice when Bee arrives at the Hearth. It was a surprise and left the door cracked for a sequel. From my lips to God’s ear. 
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb.  October: Alretha Thomas. November: Joe English. December: Molly Gloss. Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)

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Book Review ~~ Colorblind by Reed Coleman Farr (Robert B. Parker)

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing5 out of 5 quills    A Review  ~~ Colorblind

I have been wandering the streets of Paradise, Massachusetts with Jesse Stone for over 15 years and {over two decades with Spenser in Boston}. Following Jesse as he tries to make his little town a little safer. We all loved the creator of these wonderful mysteries, Robert B. Parker. After his death, Reed Farrel Coleman and Ace Atkins took over these series, helping the Parker estate to keep them alive. 

The latest offering is Colorblind. Whether by intent or coincidence, it’s a timely story of racism, bigotry and tribalism. The plot is complex while remaining very entertaining and keeps readers on their toes.  And if you’re a series fan of any writer, as I am, it’s always fun to meet back up with recurring characters, such as Molly Crane, Luther ‘Suitcase’ Simpson, and Healy. 

I am constantly amazed at the writer who can speak in another writer’s voice. Reed Farrel Coleman does this flawlessly. Giving the fans of Robert B. Parker years more of his stories, even though he is gone. I’ve never been one to write spoilers in my reviews. It’s all about the writing for me. The story. The Characters.  But I will tell you, there is a huge surprise in Jesse Stone’s story line. I mean HUGE! 

Another winner and I highly recommend it. 

Did you miss my Interview with Reed Farrel Coleman?
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb.  Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)

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Interview with Professor of Writing, Jonathan Rabb (part 2)

Q. Do you have a new book coming out soon? If so tell us about it.

JR. The paperback of my last one came out a few months ago, and I’m at work on two very different projects right now. One is contemporary in Mexico; the other is 1606 Venice. I’ve never written two at once, but it’s proving to be exciting, even if it is more challenging. We’ll see how it works out.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

JR. I was 28 or 29. I decided that political theory wasn’t for me, and I got the idea for that first book, The Overseer. There was no pressure, so I don’t know if I really thought about it as “serious” writing (there’s the old chestnut: you have a lifetime to write your first book, about a year to write your second). But somewhere in there I began to think, “Maybe this is what I’m meant to do.” I got lucky and have been allowed to do it ever since.

Q. How long after that were you published?

JR. I started The Overseer in late 1993 or early 1994. I finished the first draft (a very economical 750 pages) in July of 1996. By happenstance, I was working a translating job and someone else on the job heard I’d written a manuscript and said he had a friend in Lectures at William Morris. He said he’d be happy to show the first chapter to the woman at WM. I sent it to him, he sent it to her, and three days later, the woman called and said she had sent it on to someone in Literary. Three days later, the agent in Literary called and said he needed to see the rest of the manuscript. I sent it over and, two weeks later, I signed with WM. My agent had been an editor, so he helped me trim the manuscript down to 525 pages. We sent it out, got rejected, sent it out again, and then Holt, Crown and Harpers all came in with offers. We went with Crown in June of 1997, and the hardcover came out in June of 1998.

Q. What makes a writer great?

JR. I don’t know. I think you have to find whatever it is that makes writing a need for you, and that’s purely idiosyncratic. And then commit yourself to it. Writing a novel is like any long-term relationship. There’s the infatuation at the beginning, but then the feelings mature. And it can be hard. But it’s the best kind of hard you’ll ever experience if you keep your focus.

I also think taste plays a large role in any of the arts. I suppose we can all look at a select group and say, Yes, those are great writers, but even then, I don’t know. I’d be hard-pressed not to include Graham Greene on that list or Ivo Andric or Joan Didion, and some folks can’t stand any of them. Is there something that ties all the greats together? Maybe it’s that, if they ever wavered, they never gave up entirely. Even Kafka. If Kafka (by my lights in the top three of all time) could muscle through it, then anyone can.

Did you miss Part 1? Click here

Part 3 of this Interview will return on September 28th.
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb.  October: Alretha Thomas. November: Joe English. December: Molly Gloss. Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)

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Book Review ~~ Shadow of Murder by Trisha Sugarek

D. Donovan, Midwest Book Review      ‘Book 8 in the ‘World of Murder’ series more than does justice to its companions as it creates both a stand-alone read that requires no prior familiarity with the series, yet dovetails nicely with the emotion-packed approaches and mystery themes of its predecessors.

Homicide Detective Stella Garcia and her partner Sergeant Detective Jack O’Roarke are again challenged by murder, with Jack’s new marriage serving as a quiet opening success to events which quickly turn into hair-raising circumstances based on a true crime.A deadly and gruesome mass shooting of Indian women and children in a family-run store, the killer’s desire to destroy a lovely young woman who neither wanted nor knew him. Unrequited love steeps the story line with a passion and drive that makes it feel true to life and hard to put down.

Forensic profiling has done a good job of identifying the pattern of the deaths; but now it’s up to Garcia and O’Roarke to put together the pieces in a case that leads them to not only identify the perp, but understand what happened and why. The latter charge is what readers are also tasked with in a story line that moves back and forth across time and events to build its case for how events arrived at such a shocking crescendo of violence.

What keeps Shadow of Murder thought-provoking and absorbing is not the ‘whodunnit’ piece; but the ‘why’, which goes into revealing detail about the psychology of a killer’s motivations and psyche. Readers looking for a gripping short murder story which is more psychologically charged than most will appreciate this murder mystery, which pairs a gripping saga with insights that compel reflection long after the case is solved.’
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   August: Mega best selling author, Susan Mallery. September: Jonathan Rabb.  Coming this winter: Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)

To receive my posts sign up for my   On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks! 

 

To Purchase