Favorite Quotes on Books and Reading

"A book is a gift you can open again and again." Garrison Keillor

Literature is a textually transmitted disease, normally contracted in childhood.” Jane Yolen

"It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it." Oscar Wilde

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Book Showcase: DROP DEAD PUNK by Rich Zahradnik

Drop Dead Punk

by Rich Zahradnik

on Tour July 2015


coverColeridge Taylor is searching for his next scoop on the police beat. The Messenger-Telegram reporter has a lot to choose from on the crime-ridden streets of New York City in 1975. One story outside his beat is grabbing all the front page glory: New York teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, and President Ford just told the city, as the Daily News so aptly puts it, "Drop Dead." Taylor's situation is nearly as desperate. His home is a borrowed dry-docked houseboat, his newspaper may also be on the way out, and his drunk father keeps getting arrested.

A source sends Taylor down to Alphabet City, hang-out of the punks who gravitate to the rock club CBGB. There he finds the bloody fallout from a mugging. Two dead bodies: a punk named Johnny Mort and a cop named Robert Dodd. Each looks too messed up to have killed the other. Taylor starts asking around. The punk was a good kid, the peace-loving guardian angel of the neighborhood's stray dogs. What led him to mug a woman at gunpoint? And why is Officer Samantha Callahan being accused of leaving her partner to die, even though she insists the police radio misled her? It's hard enough being a female in the NYPD only five years after women were assigned to patrol. Now the department wants to throw her to the wolves. That's not going to happen, not if Taylor can help it. As he falls for Samantha--a beautiful, dedicated second-generation cop--he realizes he's too close to his story. Officer Callahan is a target, and Taylor's standing between her and some mighty big guns.

Drop Dead Punk is book 2 in the Coleridge Taylor Mystery series.

Book Details:

Genre:  Mystery

Series: Book 2 in the Coleridge Taylor Mystery series.

Published by:   Camel Press, 

Publication Date: ~ Aug. 15, 2015

Number of Pages: 254 

ISBN: 978-1603812092  

Purchase Links: Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Goodreads

Read an excerpt:


The great headlines of other newspapers were always to be despised. Not today.
The three ancient copy editors were on their feet, with Copydesk Chief Milt Corman in the middle. Taylor stopped his walk through the newsroom to find out why. If someone had made a mistake, it must be a colossal one to get those fat asses out of their seats. He looked over Corman’s shoulder. The copy chief held the Daily News. It was that day’s edition, Oct. 30, 1975. The 144-point front-page headline screamed up from the page.

Corman rattled the paper violently. “That’s a work of art. Tells the whole story in five words. He gave the city the finger yesterday.”
Jack Miller, one of the other old farts, moved back to his seat. You could only expect him to stand for so long. He settled into 
his chair for another day of slashing copy. “What do you expect from our unelected president? Veepee to Nixon. Goddamned pardoned Robert E. Lee two months ago.”
“Didn’t pardon him. Gave him back his citizenship.”
“Same thing. The barbarians are running the country and now they’re at our gates. We’re the biggest, most important city on the planet, and he’s going to leave us hanging to get himself actually elected to the job.”
Corman flipped open the paper to the Ford speech story across pages four and five. “Just listen to this bullshit. ‘I am prepared to veto any bill that has as its purpose a Federal bailout of New York City to prevent a default.’ He blathers on about using the uniform bankruptcy laws. On and on and on. How do you police the streets and pick up garbage under the uniform bankruptcy laws? A Federal judge trying to run the whole damn city? Chaos.”
“Ford’s from Grand Rapids.” Miller shook his big round head. “He doesn’t know from anything about this place. He’s talking to all the flatlanders—a nation that hates us.”
“Will you listen to this at the end? ‘If we go on spending more than we have, providing more benefits and more services than we can pay for, then a day of reckoning will come to Washington and the whole country just as it has to New York City. When that day of reckoning comes, who will bail out the United States of America?’ He’ll kill this city to keep his job.” Corman looked from the paper to Taylor. “You’re the crime reporter. Why don’t you go after this? Write the story about the man who murdered New York.”
Taylor laughed. “You can’t kill New York.”
“Rome fell.”
“Rome wasn’t New York. You know this is the same political bullshit. Made up numbers and budget magic and threats from Washington. New York will still be here long after. It’s a great headline, though. You guys should try writing ’em like that.”
He left the horseshoe copy desk before they could protest that wasn’t the style of the New York Messenger-Telegram. He knew all too well the three of them would kill to be headline writers at the Daily News. That paper wasn’t perpetually on the verge of failing like the MT.
Taylor gave New York’s financial crisis about thirty seconds more thought as he wound his way around the maze of the newsroom. To him, the crisis was background noise. The city had become a dark place since the Sixties decided to end early, round about 1968. Crime lurked in the darkness, and he covered crime. He was too busy with New York’s growth industry to pay attention to the mayor’s budget problems.
Heroin everywhere.
Corruption in the police department.
Buildings in the South Bronx torched by the block.
Those were the stories he went after, not failed bond sales and blabbering politicos. Problem was the damn financial story had pushed everything else off the MT’s front page. Taylor hadn’t had a decent story out there in three weeks. He needed the quick hit of a page one byline, needed it particularly bad this morning. The cops had called him at home last night. Not about a story this time. They’d arrested his father, reeling drunk in his underwear outside his apartment building. Taylor had been up until three a.m. dealing with that mess. A good story—a good story that actually got decent play—and a few beers after to celebrate. Now that would pick him up. For a day or two at least.
Make the calls. Someone’s got to have something. Now that Ford’s had his say, there must be room on page one.
He’d almost slipped past the city desk when Worth called out his name. Taylor tried to pretend he hadn’t heard and kept going, but Worth raised his high-pitched voice and just about yelled. Taylor turned and went back to the pristine maple-topped desk of City Editor Bradford J. Worth, Jr.
“I’ve got an assignment for you.”
That was always bad news. “Haven’t made my calls yet.”
“Doesn’t matter. Need you down at City Hall.”
Taylor brightened. Crime at City Hall. A murder? That would be big.
“What’s the story?” He sounded enthusiastic. He shouldn’t have.
“You’re to go to the pressroom and wait for announcements. Glockman called in sick.”
“C’mon, Worth. Not babysitting. You’ve got three other City Hall reporters.” Who’ve owned the front page for weeks.
“They’re all very busy pursuing the most important story in this city’s history. Your job is to sit at our desk in the pressroom and wait for the mayor to issue a statement on Ford’s speech. Or the deputy mayor. Or a sanitation worker. Or a cleaning lady. Anybody says anything, you phone it in. Rumor is they’re working on using city pension funds.”
Worth’s phone rang, and he picked up. “Yeah, I’m sending Taylor down. No, he’ll do for now.” He set the receiver lightly on its hook. “You’ve been down in the dumps since your friend Laura left us. Was it her going or the fact she got a job at the New York Times? Because you’ll never get there, not with the way you dodge the biggest stories.”
“Hey, you and I are both still here.”
Worth frowned. Ambition rose off the man like an odor as strong as the cologne he wore. He’d made city editor at thirty without ever working as a reporter. Everyone knew he wanted more, and to him, more meant the New York Times. He’d almost been as upset as Taylor when Laura Wheeler announced she had the gig, and Worth wasn’t the one in love with Laura. He had been sure he was leaving next.
“Both here, but I’m the one doing his job. Now get to City Hall.”
“You have to be able to find someone else.” Exasperation through grit teeth. “Crime is big for this paper.”
“I decide what’s big.” He picked up the phone, dialed an inside extension, and showed Taylor his back.
Sitting at City Hall waiting for a press release was the perfect way to ruin Taylor’s day, something the city editor liked doing so much it had become a bad habit.
Taylor arrived at his own desk to find the other police reporters gone, probably making their rounds.
The desk that had been Laura’s reminded him of her—of her dark brown eyes, her black hair, her beautiful face. She’d left an aching emptiness inside him. They’d lasted a month after she’d moved to the New York Times, and then she’d broken it off. She said she realized the only thing they had in common was the MT. She hadn’t been mean about it. And she wasn’t wrong. The paper had been their life during the day and their conversation at night. He wondered if it also had to do with his age, 34, and where he was—or wasn’t—in life. He pushed his hand through his short brown hair. He’d even found himself considering his thin, angular face, something he’d never done before. Was that it? Laura was beautiful. Taylor couldn’t think of a word for what he was.
He recently heard she’d started dating a guy on the foreign staff, Derek something. He wondered how old Derek was. Late twenties and optimistic, he guessed, unbowed by life. From a good family too, probably. It was always going to end. So why did it hurt like this?
Truth was Taylor had been living with emptiness for years before he met her. Over that time, he’d gotten used to it, let the job fill his life. Only, having her and losing her made him understand how much he disliked this lonely hole inside.
Really should leave right away.
The black phone in front of him was too much temptation. Worth couldn’t see Taylor from the city desk. He picked up the receiver, pushed the clear plastic button for an outside line, and dialed the number for Sidney Greene at 1 Police Plaza. Greene was perhaps the most discontented, dyspeptic minor civil servant Taylor had ever encountered. He leaked stories not to expose injustice or right a wrong, but to screw his bosses. He simply loved watching them deal with the chaos he created by tipping off Taylor.
“Anything up?”
“Oh, a real shit show. Officer down.”
Taylor flipped open a notebook. Even in the midst of this dark age of drugs, muggings, and homicides, a police officer murdered was still a big story. A page one story. “Where and when?”
“Avenue B and East Eighth, just in from Tompkins Square Park.”
“What happened?”
“That’s all I can do for you. They’re doing the headless chicken dance down here. You’ll be ahead of the others if you get to the scene quick. Not by much, though.”
Taylor left the newsroom for the Lower Eastside. He’d check for press releases at City Hall after visiting the scene of the cop’s murder. Worthless would have his head if he missed even one minor announcement. Screw it. Taylor couldn’t ignore a big story. A real story.
He hustled from the subway across the blocks to the crime scene. The day offered near perfect New York fall weather, with the air crisp and clear, tingling with energy. He unwrapped a stick of Teaberry gum and stuck it in his mouth. The temperature had dropped from yesterday’s high of 70 and would only make it into the mid-fifties today. Jacket weather—Taylor’s favorite. Not so hot he broke into a sweat on a good walk, and cool but not cold—he wasn’t fighting the brutal winds of winter that blasted down the avenues. Easy weather put New Yorkers at ease. He could sense it as he walked. More smiles. Sidewalk trees even showed off muted reds and gold. Taylor knew it was nothing like the color upstate but it would do.
Taylor’s press pass got him inside the cluster of patrol cars guarding the ambulance. A couple of fire engines had also rolled to the scene, which was a dilapidated brownstone with half its windows boarded, a missing door, and a huge hole in the roof. The place was a true Lower Eastside wreck in a neighborhood where hard luck meant you were doing pretty well for yourself.
Taylor climbed the cracked front steps. A “Condemned Building” sign was nailed to the open door. The first floor had few interior walls, only piles of rubble from when the roof had come down, bringing chunks of the next three floors with it. The smell of must mingled with the stink of garbage. Two uniformed and four plainclothes police stood around a uniformed body sprawled across a pile of plaster chunks and wood slats in the middle of what was once probably a living room. Off to the right in the front corner was a second body, guarded by no one.
Seeing an opportunity, Taylor moved closer to the body in the corner. The man, young and apparently startled by death, had taken one shot to the chest and one in the leg. Blood soaked a black T-shirt printed with big white letters Taylor couldn’t read unless he adjusted the man’s leather jacket, which was also covered in blood. The man’s heart must have pumped his life’s blood out in minutes. Faster maybe. His right hand was on his stomach and clutched a green leather purse with a gold chain strap. Taylor knew better than to touch anything. Instead, he leaned in and was met by the iron and musk odor of blood. The top of the man’s hand was tattooed with a spiral pattern, an eye at its center. The fingers were inked with the bones of a skeleton, like an X-ray of what lay beneath the dead man’s skin.
The face was young—twenties, probably early twenties— bony and pale, with a tattoo of a spider web that started below the shirt line and crept up his neck to his chin and right ear. His hair was short and spiky, in the punk style—as was his whole look. Many of them had recently moved into this neighborhood to be near the punk rock club CBGB and the other bars that were the heart of the punk rock scene. Many were squatters.
“Don’t touch nothin’.” A short chunky cop with a gold badge in his belt walked over.
“I’d never do that, Detective.” Taylor rose from his crouch.
“I’m very sorry about the loss of an officer.”
“Yeah, thanks. And who the fuck are you?”
“Taylor with the Messenger-Telegram.” Taylor tapped the laminated pass.
“The Empty, huh? Read it sometimes. At least you’re not the fucking Times. I hate those pricks.”
Five years since the New York Times interviewed Serpico and broke the story of massive corruption in the NYPD, and the paper was still on every cop’s shit list. At the time, Taylor had gone crazy trying to follow the Times’ scoops. He’d admired what the Times had done and hated being behind on such a big story. He didn’t need to tell the detective that, though. It was fine with him if the man liked the Messenger-Telegram. Taylor himself liked cops, the honest kind at least. When he’d started at the paper, police reporters were almost cops themselves. Or adjuncts, at least. They helped the police, publicizing successes, ignoring failures and drinking in the same places. Not anymore. Trust had been lost, and it wasn’t going to be won back anytime soon.
What happened?”
“This jamoke holds up a woman for her purse when she comes up from the subway at Astor Place. Officer Robert Dodd and his partner give chase. The mugger runs across St. Mark’s Place, through the park and into this hole. They exchange shots. Both are killed. At least that’s what we can figure so far.”
“Dodd’s partner?”
“Couldn’t keep up. Poor Dodd was stuck with a meter maid. When little Samantha Callahan gets here, they’re both dead. What’s the point of having broads patrolling if they can’t back you up?” Lights flashed across the detective’s jowly face. He looked out the glassless window at the car pulling up. “Assistant chief. I’ve got to make sense of this for him.”
Taylor jotted down the name on the detective’s plate, R. Trunk. He dug out a business card and handed it to the detective. “Anything more comes up, call me. We take care of cops at the MT.” Laying it on thick never hurt. “Dodd’s a hero. His story should be told right.”
“Yeah, we’ll see. Your paper may not be awful. Doesn’t mean I trust you. Now get out of here. We got work to do.”
Trunk turned as another plainclothesman walked up. “Still haven’t got the kid’s gun.”
Well, find the fucking thing. Assistant chief ’s going to be on us like stink on shit.”
That was odd. If Dodd took out the mugger, the man’s gun would be right here somewhere. It couldn’t have walked away on its own. Taylor put that detail in his notebook. Anything odd always went in the notebook. He walked a wide arc toward the door to get a quick view of the dead officer. Dodd was a complete mess. He had to have been shot in the face. Taylor couldn’t make out the nose, the eyes, anything in the gore and blood. That meant he had to have shot the mugger first.

Author Bio:

authorRich Zahradnik is the author of the Coleridge Taylor Mystery series from Camel Press. Last Words is the first novel in the series and was published Oct. 1, 2014. Drop Dead Punk will come out Aug. 15.

He was a journalist for 30-plus years, working as a reporter and editor in all major news media, including online, newspaper, broadcast, magazine and wire services. He held editorial positions at CNN, Bloomberg News, Fox Business Network, AOL and The Hollywood Reporter, often writing news stories and analysis about the journalism business, broadcasting, film production, publishing and the online industry.

In January 2012, he was one of 20 writers selected for the inaugural class of the Crime Fiction Academy, a first-of-its-kind program run by New Yorks Center for Fiction.

He has been a media entrepreneur throughout his career. He was the founding executive producer of CNNfn.com, a leading financial news website and a Webby winner; managing editor of Netscape.com, and a partner in the soccer-news website company Goal Networks. Zahradnik also co-founded the weekly newspaper The Peekskill Herald at the age of 25, leading it to seven state press association awards in its first three years.

Zahradnik was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, and received his B.A. in journalism and political science from George Washington University. He lives with his wife Sheri and son Patrick in Pelham, New York, where he writes fiction and teaches elementary school kids how to publish the online and print newspaper the Colonial Times.

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Sunday, June 21, 2015

2015 Book 175: WORTHY by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Worthy by Catherine Ryan Hyde
ISBN: 9781477830130 (paperback)
ASIN: B00QQYZYOQ (Kindle edition)
Publication date: June 2, 2015
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

They might've been a family.
Virginia finally had the chance to explore a relationship with Aaron when he asked her on a date. She had been waiting, hoping that the widower and his young son, Buddy, would welcome her into their lives. But a terrible tragedy strikes on the night of their first kiss, crushing their hopes for a future together.
Nineteen years later, Virginia is engaged, though she has not forgotten Aaron or Buddy. When her dog goes missing and it comes to light that her fiancĂ© set him loose, a distraught Virginia breaks off the engagement and is alone once again. A shy young man has found the missing pet, and although he's bonded with the animal, he answers his conscience and returns the dog. Before long, Virginia and the young man discover a connection from their pasts that will help them let go of painful memories and change their lives forever. 

Buddy was only a baby when his mother died and four years old when his father died in a horrible accident. His maternal grandparents relocated him to Florida to live with them and start a new life. Virginia had fallen in love and was looking forward to life with Aaron and his son. Their relationship had barely progressed from a light flirtation when it tragically ended with Aaron's death. Catherine Ryan Hyde presents a story that asks what makes any of us worthy of love in her newest book Worthy.

Virginia has struggled to build a new life for herself, but she has never forgotten Aaron and his son. Just when it seems as if her life is looking up, her dog disappears and her fiance is the reason why. As Virginia struggles to pick up the pieces of her life after her broken engagement, she must also struggle with the dilemma of what to do with her dog. Jody Schiller is considered a shy and sensitive young man. He leads a relatively reclusive life in a rural cabin with his grandfather. Jody knows he isn't quite "normal," but he deals the best way he knows how. After witnessing a man abandoning a dog in the freezing cold and snow, Jody rescues the dog and finds his first friend. This dog quickly becomes his lifeline in more ways than one when his grandfather dies. But Jody's lifeline may be clipped when the dog's owner comes to get her dog back. 

Worthy isn't just a feel-good story about a man, a woman, and a dog. It is a story about self-worth, a search for happiness, and a search for a sense of family and belonging. Jody and Virginia love and are loved by their jointly-owned dog, and it is that love (along with more tragedy and trauma) that bring them together. I found Worthy to be an extremely fast read. I found the characters to be believable and relatable. If you're looking for a feel-good, hopeful-ever-after read, then you'll definitely want to add Worthy to your TBR list. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes via BookSparks. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

2015 Book 162: FOR YOUR LOVE Review

For Your Love (Blessings #6) by Beverly Jenkins
ISBN: 9780062207999 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780062208002 (ebook)
ASIN: B00QQMNINM (Kindle edition)
Publication date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow & Company

Return to Henry Adams, Kansas--an unforgettable place anyone would want to call home. . . .
Mayor Trent July and his wife, Lily, are enjoying life as newlyweds and embracing the challenges and joys that come with being adoptive parents to two wonderful boys. But fatherhood has inevitably forced Trent to think about his own birth mother.
Raised by his grandmother Tamar--and, in many ways, the good people of Henry Adams--Trent was blessed with a childhood full of love. But he can't help wondering what happened to the scared teenage girl who gave birth to him. And questions that he's never voiced are now begging to be answered: Who was she? Is she still alive? Why didn't she want him?
Trent has always believed that no good comes from dwelling on the past, especially when you have a loving family, a strong community, and folks who depend on you. But when the past comes to Henry Adams, Trent has no choice but to face it--and the woman who left him behind. The truth will shake his very being and everything he thought he knew about life, love, and the bonds that hold families together . . . but can also tear them apart. 

Imagine a contemporary small, rural town filled with loving, caring people. Imagine a town with little, if any, unemployment. Imagine a town where everyone works together for the betterment of that town and its inhabitants. Now imagine this town was founded by Black Americans in the mid-1800s and that multiple generations of descendants of the founding families have continued to reside there and raise their families. This mythic town is the town of Henry Adams, Kansas and is the setting for the Blessings series of stories by Beverly Jenkins. For Your Love isn't just the story of this town or one family, but multiple families and their search for more.

The first person we're introduced to is Rita Lynn Babcock in California and the only thing we know is that she's received a letter from her deceased mother revealing a shocking secret from her past. Next we're introduced to Trent July. His family is one of the founding families of Henry Adams. Trent is on his third marriage and has two adopted sons, Amari, and Devon. Trent's father, Malachi July, is a trained veterinarian and owner/operator of the Dog and Cow restaurant in town. Trent is a trained architectural engineer and is currently working as the mayor of Henry Adams. Trent's only regret in life is that he doesn't know his birth mother. Just when you think you know where this story is going, the reader is whisked to Dallas, Texas and introduced to nineteen-year-old Bobby Douglas, his nineteen-year-old girlfriend Kelly "Kiki" Page, and their eleven-month-old twins, Tiara and Bobby Jr. Bobby and Kelley are struggling to provide for their young family when they are asked to relocate to Henry Adams, Kansas. What follows is a story of a town offering a foundation to a young family, affording them respite from abject poverty and the chance to be a part of something bigger.

Over the course of this story, Trent reconnects with his birth-mother, Rita. And Bobby and Kelly realize that there are good people willing to offer a helping hand to those in need. Needless to say, there is a lot more going on than just the story of Trent, Rita, Bobby, and Kelly. The reader is introduced to the older generation of Henry Adams, as well as the youngsters (trust me when I say you'll want to read about Devon and his swagalicious wardrobe). Are there problems to be faced in Henry Adams? Of course there are, and one of the bigger problems is dealing with a loss of support services from a neighboring town. Throughout all the ups-and-downs, this tiny community bands together to ensure that no one is fighting a battle alone.

For Your Love is actually the first story I've read by Ms. Jenkins. At first I was a little lost since there was obviously quite a bit of backstory to this town and its residents that I didn't know. However, once I got into the story it didn't really seem to matter about what came before (although I'm adding all of the previous titles in this series to my TBR list just so I can catch up). Ms. Jenkins has crafted a wonderful story about a town and community anyone would want to live in. Not all of the people in this town are wealthy financially, but they have a wealth of friendship, love, and support that can't be measured. There's family drama, old jealousies and hurts, greed and avarice, and more. If you enjoy stories featuring families and communities dealing with realistic problems, then you'll want to add this HEA (happy/hopeful-ever-after) story to your TBR list. I look forward to catching up on the Blessings series and reading more from Ms. Jenkins in the future.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes via TLC Book Tours. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

About the Author

Beverly Jenkins is the author of thirty historical and contemporary novels, including five previous books in her beloved Blessings series. She has been featured in many national publications, including the Wall Street Journal, People, the Dallas Morning News, Vibe, and many other publications.

Find out more about Beverly at her website and connect with her on Facebook.

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Sunday, June 7, 2015

Guest Post: Author K. J. Larsen

It's always a pleasure when an author agrees to visit The Book Diva's Reads. Today I'm pleased to host a visit from K. J. Larsen, author of Bye, Bye Love, the latest in the Cat DeLuca Mystery series. Ms. Larsen will be discussing the lessons learns from characters.

Five Things Your Characters Can Teach You 

We're all familiar with the expression: You can pick your friends but you can't pick your family. It's something you say when your bat-shit crazy sister is on the local news again. 

The coolest thing about being a writer is that you really can pick your family. You can pick their friends and a cat that doesn't scratch furniture. You get to pick every character's secrets and the closets they hide them in. And you can create a crazy switched-at-birth sister, but you have to pretend she's not the real one everyone sees on TV. You might want to throw in a hunky guy or two because eye-candy is good for the soul. But whatever you do, pick your family wisely. Create people you want to spend time with. You'll see a lot more of this family than the one the Universe dumped on you. And you know the Universe is still laughing. 

Here are five things our characters taught us. 

1) Characters need you to love them. If you love them well, your readers will love them too. They'll cheer and laugh and grieve for your characters. They'll send you emails encouraging you to write faster. And if you’re lucky, your characters will become their family too. 

2) Be patient and allow your characters to come to life. Resist the conventional advice that tells writers to chart each character's stats and history before beginning to pen the first page. Don't bully your characters. Honor their voices. Everyone has a story and each character is the hero of their own. If you get out of their way, they'll tell you theirs. 

3) Let your characters surprise you. Spend time with them. Walk in their world. Note how they move and speak and smell. If they make you laugh, chances are they'll make your readers laugh too. When we sisters wrote our first book, Liar, Liar, I got up each morning and had coffee with our protagonist, Cat DeLuca. Sometimes I had lunch with Cat's crooked Uncle Joey or her interfering, Italian Mama. I spent as much time as I could with our characters. But I only took the two hunky guys to the shower with me. 

4) You can't always save your characters. When we sisters were plotting our third book, Some Like It Hot, we created Billy Bonham, a funny, quirky guy that I adored. We had big plans for the guy. He was to become a permanent player in the Cat DeLuca Mysteries. Billy was a goofy gumshoe and we set him up in a cheesy low rent office on Chicago's south side. 

When we sisters write, we divvy up the scenes between us. I offered to do the first scenes and Billy Bonham had me in stitches. He was working undercover, disguised as Santa Claus, and he was hilarious. And then, unexpectedly, a few pages later someone shot him. It just happened and I couldn't save him. My sisters read what I'd written and agreed. We changed course. That's how you honor a character's voice. It was Billy's story and I let him tell it. 

5) Developing characters is an intuitive process. Know you have everything you need within you to create something fresh and uniquely yours. Connect with your creative source and write something amazing. 

Author Bio:

One day three sisters, linked by a voracious love of mysteries, set off to write their own. Hunched over a mojito and bucket of steamer clams, the Pants On Fire Detective Agency was born. Julianne, Kristen and Kari Larsen, (horse trainer, minister and irreverent baker) deliver a sizzling read and easy smile. Liar Liar is the first book in the Cat DeLuca mysteries. The sisters live in the Pacific Northwest and Chicago area and are currently at work on Cat’s next, most fabulous adventure.

Connect with the author:     Facebook      |     Website 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Guest Post: John Raab, CEO & Publisher of SUSPENSE Magazine

As many of you know by now, I love reading mysteries, suspense, and suspense thrillers. Needless to say, I am excited to host a visit by John Raab, CEO and Publisher of Suspense Magazine. As I said, I love mysteries, suspense and more, Mr. Raab loves villains and today he'll discuss some of his favorite villains. 

One thing I like to do is sit down and think of a question and then try to answer it. Does that sound strange? I mean sitting around thinking of stuff and then answering it to myself? I guess if you really think about it, yea it's pretty strange. But anyway that's how my mind works when I don't have some Captain Crunch cereal to occupy mind.

Well the question I pondered over this time was "Why do I like villains so much?" To me it's the villain that draws me into the story. In most cases the hero will always survive, so when I watch a movie or read a book and see that the hero is in trouble in the first ten minutes, I just think to myself "It's not like he's going to die right now, so what is the point of this?"

One thing you rarely ever see if the villain in a life threating situation so early on in a story. I mean can you sit back and think when was the last time a villain was put into that kind of situation? I can't. Most of the time you see the villain being, well a very, very bad guy or girl. They cause some pain to someone, steal the jewels, or show off their power to the reader or watcher, early on so you hate them right from the start.

Now sometimes you will see the back story of their life, giving you the sense why they grew up the way they did and even in some cases they started off good and ended up being bad, example Darth Vader.

Ok I'm getting off topic. I decided to talk about some of my favorite villains and why I love them so much. They are in no particular order.

Jaws – What I love about him is that he thinks. You might not think of Jaws thinking, but even Quint says "he's either very smart of very dumb." To this day people are still afraid to get into the water because of Jaws. He never said a word. He let that damn creepy music do all his talking.

Darth Vader – I mentioned him earlier because he is a very complex character. He started out being good but was seduced into darkness. He was ruthless. He made sure anyone around him knew he was in charge. If you didn't like it, tough he would simply use the force and strangle you. Randall Flagg / The man in black – Flagg was Stephen King's most used villain. He was written in several books with several different personalities. "The Stand", "The Dark Tower Series", "The Eyes of the Dragon", I could go on and on. What made Flagg so special was the fact that he was several different people and had several different personalities. You might think Pennywise was worse in "IT" but Flagg would look at Pennywise and laugh. Dr. Hannibal Lecter – To several top authors he is the best villain ever created in novels. Lecter was a villain that could have you over for dinner, making you the main course, but also had a side that was soft (the end of Silence of the Lambs). He was calculated. He was precise. He was highly intelligent. He was everything that you would want in a man, except for the fact he might eat you for dessert. Moriarty – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did such a wonderful job writing one of the best characters ever in literature with Sherlock Holmes, I would say he did an equally superb job in creating Moriarty. Cunning, intelligent, ruthless, and driven, would be some of the words used to describe him. Although readers might pick up a Sherlock Holmes book because of Sherlock, when Moriarty was involved it would elevate the story that much more.

Now I've given you only five. We could go on for days talking about villains, but that would be a very long post. I will say that all the villains listed do have one thing in common, something that I think is the most important feature for any villain. They all knew they weren't perfect. No matter how many people they would kill, or how many millions they would steal, they always knew that one day they would face someone that would catch them or kill them. However, that didn't bother them and in most cases didn't stop them from doing what they loved to do. Being bad is much more complex than just being a petty thug. Showing a full range of emotions and being able to feel pain from the inside, shows they are human (well except the shark but if you remember in Jaws 2 this fish was getting revenge so it did have emotions). Anyway, let me know your thoughts and some of your favorite villains. After all the hero will pretty much always survive, but what will happen to the villain?

John Raab
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