Interview with Alicia Singleton author of suspense novel ‘Dark Side of Valor’

We have a great interview for you today!  Please welcome the lovely Alicia Singleton, author of the suspense novel, Dark Side of Valor!

Born and raised in Philadelphia, the Howard University graduate embraced the written word at an early age. She credits this to her loving, older sister whom, while they were youngsters, made the author eat lotion on a regular basis. Realizing the need to sound-out the ingredients on the lotion label, Alicia stopped the lotion-eating practice, but continued to read the labels of the concoctions her sister brought for her to try. This early necessity to read flowered to a passion; hence, a writer was born.

The award winning author resides in Maryland with her wonderful husband and son.  Still an avid reader, label or otherwise, Alicia is hard at work completing her next suspense novel.  Her latest book is the suspense novel, Dark Side of Valor.  Visit Alicia’s website at www.aliciasingleton.com.

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About Dark Side of Valor

Child advocate Lelia Freeman saves children for a living. As the director of ChildSafe Shelters, she ventures to abandoned squats and crackhouses to rescue teens from the hellish streets of Los Angeles. When she is summoned to Washington to serve on a committee that aids the children of a war-torn African nation, Lelia is kidnapped and becomes a political pawn in a sinister conspiracy. Oceans away from everything she knows, she must trust a mercenary to save her life, or die in the clutches of a psychopath.

Hunting, combat and staying alive are Elijah Dune’s specialties. Vengeance is his passion. Haunted by past demons, he’s travels to the Motherland to collect a debt. A debt that demands one payment. Death.

Caught in the crosshairs of a madman, Lelia and Elijah must survive the jungles of Zaire and the horrors of their pasts or be forever consumed by the DARK SIDE OF VALOR.

Watch the Trailer!

The Interview

Q: Thank you for this interview, Alicia. Can you tell us what your latest book, Dark Side of Valor, is all about?

Dark Side of Valor is about a former teen aged runaway, turned child advocate, Lelia Freeman.  When she is summoned to Washington to serve on a subcommittee that aids children of a war-torn African nation, she stumbles onto sinister political secrets.  She’s kidnapped oversees and must depend on a tall, dark handsome stranger to save her life.  But he has secrets of his own.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Lelia is a very strong, courageous, street-smart woman.  She grew up with an alcoholic mother and by the time she was 18, she’d run away from home and was living homeless on the streets of Los Angeles.

Elijah Dune is a mercenary by trade; hunting, combat and staying alive are his specialties.  What woman wouldn’t feel safe in his care?  Gasp and swoon, ladies.  Your dark knight has arrived.

My favorite characters in the book were Aunt Lou and Romeo Jones.  Aunt Lou grew up in the jungles of Zaire, but traveled the world as well.  She’s outrageous.  Bright yellow tee-shirts, neon orange basketball earrings, high top sneakers and a kente cloth skirt match her boisterous, outspoken personality.  Romeo Jones is a cab driver who loves himself very, very, very much.  Who doesn’t know a brother or sister who spends more time looking at themselves in the mirror then they spend breathing.  Both characters where extremely fun to write.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

To me, assessing real people, their traits, their flaws and their vulnerabilities then infusing those characteristics into characters makes the characters more authentic and empathetic.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

I am consciously aware of the plot prior to beginning a novel.  The plot may change slightly along the journey, but basically its set from the start.

Q: Your book is set in Los Angeles, Sudania(Sudan) and the jungles of the Congo.  Can you tell us why you chose these locations in particular?

Each location had a particular value or significance.  I chose Los Angeles because of the high population of runaways living in that area.  Sudania is fictitious, however, it was based on the Sudan.  The cruelty and injustice inflicted on the people of that region pulled at my heart.  Why the jungles of the Congo, you ask?  What a fabulous place to explore, hide from a mad man and be frightened out of your mind.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Oh yes!  Setting can add tension, a sense of happiness or doom to any storyline.  A creepy, hunted house, a sparkling lake, an avalanched, snow covered mountain top can all add conflict to a storyline.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

The heroine, Lelia Freeman, has come to an abandoned squat to save one of her runaway teens.  The girl bolts and Lelia is plagued, once again, with unresolved feelings of guilt from her past.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

Joella thought hell was missing her parents.  Cousin Daryl had other thoughts of hell. He shared them with her daily.  Open-handed cuffs across the face, kicks to the ribs.  The thrashings.  Still, no hell he executed terrorized her more than the darkness.  Cousin Daryl always locked her alone.

In the darkness.

Grandma Dell tried to stop him, but he hit her, too, forced her in her room.

Joella could still hear Grandma calling through her bedroom door, begging him to stop.  She still felt fire scorch her skull from his fingers clenched in her hair, still remembered half screeching, half choking on fear as he drug her to the barn. Taught her her lesson.

Sprawled on her stomach, her back ripped raw. Tears puddled mud under her cheek.  Dirt and sweat throbbed in her busted lip.  Blood and bile sullied her tongue. Unable to move, she lay in the blackness, hushed her sobs, scared he’d hear.  Scared he’d come back to teach her more lessons. Those were the times her safe burrows surrounded her, pressed insanity to the fringes of her mind.

One night she ran away from Cousin Daryl while he was sleeping off a high.  She’d helped Grandma Dell to Granddad’s old truck, and drove off.  Her feet barely reached the pedals. They hit a couple of ditches, but they’d made it.

A family friend in the next county took them in.  For a few weeks hell disappeared.

It resurfaced when Cousin Daryl tracked them down.

Joella took off, never looked back.

Some nights Cousin Daryl still found her, stole into her dreams, locked her in darkness. Memories of Daddy or Mama didn’t keep him from hurting her, remembering Grandma Dell’s kind words didn’t hold him at bay. Only Lelia’s soft voice broke through the death dream to save her.

Now Lelia needed saving.

Her friend knelt in front of the candlelit muffin.  Zombified, she stared at the burning wick.

Comfort was the only thing Joella could offer.  She shrugged the rough quilt off her shoulders, then wrapped them both in it.  She rocked like Grandma Dell used to do.  It felt like forever.  The hardwood dug into her knees, the candle burned, she kept rocking.

For once, Lelia needed her.  No matter what, she’d be Lelia’s light, ’cause no one should be left in the darkness.

Q: Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?

I have to say, yes.  One of my wonderful writing teachers, Robert McKee, teaches that writer’s block is a result of the writer not knowing the world he or she has created.   When the writer is an expert at their fictitious world, then writer’s block does not occur.  If I get stuck, I take his advice, go back and dig deeper into my characters, plotting, motives and conflicts to cure my writer’s block.

Q: What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?

I would save the extra hours until I had a month of extra hours then kidnap my husband and escape to a resort in Bora Bora or Namale in the Fiji Islands.

Q: Which already published book do you wish that you had written and why?

Although The Fall of the House of Usher isn’t a novel, its one short story I’d love to say I’ve written.  Indicative of Edgar Allan Poe’s works, it’s so lyrical. The beautiful, sensory-rich descriptions are brilliant and the suspense is nail-biting.

Q: What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors regarding getting their books out there?

Learn the craft of writing and learn it well.  Always seek ways to educate yourself on how to become a better writer.  Trauma surgeons, professional ballerinas, electrical engineers, classical pianists, Olympic gymnasts and architects don’t learn their crafts in a weekend.  Neither can great writers.  Again, educate yourself.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Alicia.  We wish you much success!

Click here to enter The Dark Side of Valor Contest for chance to win $125 in Visa Gift Cards!

Order Dark Side of Valor today at:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Indie Bound

or wherever books are sold.

Email Alicia at: alicia@aliciasingleton.com

Out of the Slush Pile and Out to the Readers by John L. Betcher

We’re happy to have John L. Betcher guest blogging with us today at As the Pages Turn. John is a University of Minnesota Law School graduate and has practiced law for more than twenty-five years in the Mississippi River community of Red Wing, Minnesota.  He possesses substantial first-hand knowledge of the Prairie River Nuclear Plant’s real world counterpart, as well as Red Wing’s airport and the flight rules around the nuke plant.

In addition to The 19th Element, he has published a second book in the “Beck” series entitled, The Missing Element, A James Becker Mystery.  The second book is available everywhere.

The author has also been a long-time supporter and coach of youth volleyball in and around Red Wing and has authored three feature articles for Coaching Volleyball, the journal of the American Volleyball Coaches Association.  His most recent article was the cover story for the April/May, 2009 Issue.

His book on volleyball coaching philosophies entitled The Little Black Book of Volleyball Coaching is available at www.johnbetcher.com and at amazon.com.

Out of the Slush Pile and Out to the Readers

by John L. Betcher

Since I am a self-published author, I have to deal with all the same challenges that other self- and indie-published authors must confront. Writing and editing my books. Designing interiors and exteriors. Finding a quality printer. And selecting distribution channels.

But I think the single greatest challenge self- and indie-publishers face is how to differentiate their books from the growing slush pile of unvetted publications inundating the publishing world.

Depending on whose numbers you believe, it appears that there will be more than a million new book titles published this year in the United States. About two-thirds to three-quarters of them will be self- or indie-published books.

Who’s in charge of determining the quality of all these publications?

Well . . . we would like to think that mainstream publishers still give their titles a thorough vetting – though some readers would claim the overall quality of traditionally-published books has declined a bit during the present upheaval in the publishing industry. And mainstream book reviewers still devote 99% of their attention to these traditionally published books. We should expect that their reviews are honest and useful to readers.

But just how does a self-published author make his or her book stand out from the other 700,000 or so new self-published titles flooding the book distribution systems?

The optimistic answer is that “the cream will rise to the top.” Although I am optimistic, I don’t personally see the opportunity for the cream to rise when the milk is spilled all over, as it is in today’s publishing world.

For example – If you are an avid reader of thrillers (the genre in which I write), how can you find my books in the “slush pile” without first knowing my name or the title of my book?

Here are some possibilities–

Why not search Amazon, or B&N for “thrillers”? Good idea.

Wow! Lots of thrillers out there. Don’t see mine anywhere near the top of the list. Maybe instead of sorting by “Relevance,” we should sort by “Average Customer Review Ratings.” Tried that, too. Lots of different books than the first search. But my thriller still isn’t in the first dozen pages, even though it has a 5.0 star rating from 10 Independent Reviewers (not friends or family).

Maybe if you go to the library and ask for thrillers by indie-authors? Reference Desk: “Sure. I can help with that. What’s the name of the author or the title of the book?”

Okay. That service is helpful once you and your books are already known. But what if the readers are still trying to find the “cream.” They don’t know of you yet. So they can’t ask for you by name. Rats!

There are several websites claiming to be the gatekeepers of quality independent publications. “We separate the wheat from the chaff so you don’t have to.” What about them? Are they the answer?

Reason tells me that no website can afford to hire enough people to give the 700,000 slush pile books a bona fide review. I have visited many of these sites. My conclusion is that nearly all are profit-driven – not really trying to provide a useful reference tool. (If there are bona fide sites out there, I apologize — and good luck to you. I haven’t found you yet.) Rats again.

So just how is the cream supposed to rise from the spilled milk?

As far as I can tell, there is currently no definitive way for a very marketable, high-quality, self-published book to reach its readers without the author employing diligence, hard work and lots of time. And even then, a substantial modicum of fortuity is required.

That’s right. I said you need to be lucky. Believe it!

How do you increase the chances of having good luck with your book?

Just because luck is required for success, that doesn’t mean authors should throw in the hat. Do actors quit because they can’t find good acting parts right away? Not the ones you know about. They didn’t quit. So don’t give up. No white flags allowed.

Instead, try the following:

1) Write well. If readers find your book and don’t like it, it will not be a success.

2) Market creatively, both online and in the real world. Just because there aren’t many really good marketing tools doesn’t mean there aren’t any! Get that website up. Get on Twitter. Maybe on LinkedIn or FaceBook, too. Join some author groups. Share ideas. Make connections.

3) Give free books to libraries. Libraries tend to have a lot of readers stopping in. (Surprise!) Maybe one or more will pick up your book on a whim – or because they like the cover, or the cover text.

4) Seek out Independent Reviewers. If someone happens to stumble upon your book, those reviews will give the reader/buyer greater confidence that your book is the kind of book they want to read.

5) Alert the media to your author activities. Let your local paper, radio station, TV station know when you have book-signings, speaking appearances, published reviews or interviews.

6) Keep writing. The more books you have available, the greater the chance that a reader will stumble upon one.

7) Be patient. Writing and selling books is a marathon endeavor – not a sprint.

8) Keep improving your own skills. This applies to writing, publishing and marketing. Learn from your mistakes. Learn from the successes and mistakes of others. Keep on learning and improving.

9) Undertake any legal means at your disposal to get the word out about you and your books.

Do I guarantee these things will make your “cream rise to the top”? Of course not. But we operate in the real world. There are no guarantees. Until some big player (like Amazon, Google, B&N, Independent Book Sellers of America) promulgates a useful way to discriminate between good indie books, and not so good ones, you will continue to swim upstream.

This is the hand you are dealt. Play it out to the last card! Be tough! Be an author! That’s what author’s do – at least the ones you’ve heard about.

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Interview with John Betcher, author of ‘The 19th Element: A James Becker Thriller’

We are honored to welcome John L. Betcher here today at As the Pages Turn!  John is on a virtual book tour throughout the months of November and December to talk about his new book, The 19th Element: A James Becker Thriller.  Enjoy the interview!

John L. Betcher is a University of Minnesota Law School graduate and has practiced law for more than twenty-five years in the Mississippi River community of Red Wing, Minnesota.  He possesses substantial first-hand knowledge of the Prairie River Nuclear Plant’s real world counterpart, as well as Red Wing’s airport and the flight rules around the nuke plant.

In addition to The 19th Element, he has published a second book in the “Beck” series entitled, The Missing Element, A James Becker Mystery.  The second book is available everywhere.

The author has also been a long-time supporter and coach of youth volleyball in and around Red Wing and has authored three feature articles for Coaching Volleyball, the journal of the American Volleyball Coaches Association.  His most recent article was the cover story for the April/May, 2009 Issue.

His book on volleyball coaching philosophies entitled The Little Black Book of Volleyball Coaching is available at www.johnbetcher.com and at amazon.com.


Q: Thank you for this interview, John. Can you tell us what your latest book, The 19th Element, A James Becker Thriller, is all about?

In The 19th Element, al Qaeda plans to attack Minnesota’s Prairie River Nuclear Power Plant as a means to return the down-trodden terrorist organization to international prominence.

In addition to their own devoted forces, the terrorists enlist two homegrown anarchists, and a Three Mile Island survivor with a pathological vendetta against the nuclear establishment, to assist in the assault.

James “Beck” Becker is a former elite U.S. government intelligence operative who has retired to his childhood hometown of Red Wing, Minnesota – just six miles down the Mississippi from the Prairie River nuclear facility.

Possessing wisdom born of experience, Beck suspects the terrorists’ intentions as soon as the body of a university professor turns up on the Mississippi shore – the clear victim of foul play. He recognizes connections between seemingly unrelated incidents – the murdered agronomy professor, a missing lab assistant, an international cell call, a stolen fertilizer truck – but can’t piece it together in enough detail to convince government authorities that a larger threat exists.  Only his American Indian friend, “Bull,” will help Beck defuse the threat.

So it’s Beck and Bull versus international terror.

May the better men win.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

The book’s main character is James “Beck” Becker, a native of the small Mississippi River town of Red Wing, Minnesota. He’s recently returned to his hometown following retirement from a twenty-year career in clandestine military operations. His cover job is as a small town attorney. But his real interest is in helping local law enforcement.

The book’s three main supporting characters are Beck’s wife, Beth, Ottawa County Chief Deputy Sheriff, Doug “Gunner” Gunderson, and Beck’s enigmatic American Indian friend, Bull.

Beth has been with Beck all through his time on the operations “Team.” In fact, they met one another in D.C. while she was employed as one of the CIA’s top encryption/decryption specialists. She supports Beck in all things – occasionally employing her code-cracking and computer talents in aid of Beck’s own considerable skill set.

Gunner has known Beck all his life. They went to high school together in Red Wing. Gunner is one of only a few people in Red Wing who know anything at all about Beck’s sub rosa government background. He and Beck bring different approaches to crime-fighting. Gunner operates strictly by the book. Beck . . . by his own rules. But they seem to be able to work together for the common good.

Bull is a full-blooded Mdewakanton Dakota American Indian. Born on the local Prairie River Reservation, he left his home and family at the age of sixteen to join the army. After departing the Rez to “be all that he could be,” Bull’s family and friends heard nothing from him for more than twenty years. Based on Bull’s behavior as a teen, they assumed he had been killed in a knife fight at some bar. Then one day he had shown up on the doorstep of his parents’ home on the Rez. Bull never told anyone where he had been for twenty years. And after a few altercations, folks quit asking.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

This book’s characters are entirely fictitious. But to an extent, they have composite characteristics of persons I have known and fictional characters I have read about. The backgrounds of the persons who inhabit The 19th Element are, for the most part, much more interesting than those of anyone I know in real life.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

I spend a lot of time researching subject areas before deciding which directions a novel’s plot might take. I select topics that interest me (such as terrorism, chemistry, nuclear power, or cyber-espionage). Then I speak with experts. I just keep asking them questions until a thriller plot presents itself.

Then I spend more time doing internet research and speaking to ancillary experts to flesh out the plot’s details and develop subplots and character-types.

But once I have finished the research and selected the plot, it typically doesn’t vary a great deal as I write the book.

Q: Your book is set in Red Wing, Minnesota.  Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

Red Wing has its own nuclear power plant, and an airport very near the plant, both very similar to the ones described in The 19th Element. I have also worked for Red Wing’s electric utility and possess personal knowledge the nuclear plant and it operations. The final factor that made Red Wing a no-brainer is the fact that I grew up there and have practiced law in Red Wing for the past twenty-five years.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Absolutely. The plot is all about a terrorist plan to create a “nuclear disaster” at the nuclear power plant. The nearby airport plays a part in the terrorist assault on the plant. And the proximity of the plant (and the town) to the Mississippi allows for not only a dramatic plot twist, but a taste of river culture as well.

In addition, Red Wing is a typical U.S. city – not a location where one normally expects international terror – which is exactly why we should expect the next big attack in just such a location.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

Beth is calling her husband – panic in her voice – to tell him that their college-student daughter seems to have a mysterious stalker. Beck departs his law office with haste to help Beth assess the potential threat.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

The best excerpts, in my opinion, would give away too much of the story’s climax. But here’s one that introduces one of the terror cell members.

CHAPTER 9

On March 28, 1979, an ‘incident’ occurred at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Metropolitan Edison owned the facility. But its design and operation were closely monitored, and to a large extent controlled, by the federal government through the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or NRC.

John Sigler knew the entire debacle was the government’s fault. The administration’s energy policy had not only driven entire coal mining communities out of work, but had also deposited the American public on the doorsteps of Hiroshima.

It was only a matter of time before something horrible happened. And in fact, it had taken a mere three months after TMI’s commissioning for the disaster to occur.

After the total melt-down of TMI Reactor Unit 2, the government and the utility had both assured neighboring residents that there was “no significant release of radiation.” Everything had been safely contained. Multiple government-sponsored “investigations” had concluded that, although the incident was extremely unfortunate, and TMI’s neighbors had suffered substantial psychological distress, the melt-down posed no physical health risks to surrounding communities. Eventually, the government even allowed TMI Unit 1 to resume nuclear operations, while Unit 2 remained a pile of rubble filling a hole in the ground where the “incident” had occurred.

But John Sigler knew the radiation leak had not been “insignificant.” He and his family lived just east of TMI, in the small community of Elizabethtown. When John turned twelve in June, 1979, just three months after the disaster, he had already seen some of the radiation’s hellish effects.

His mother was pregnant with his brother, Jacob, at the time. She had lost most of her hair and was frequently so weak she couldn’t get out of bed. The doctors assured the family that pregnancy hormones were the likely cause of her hair loss and weakness. She should remain bed-bound until delivery, just to be safe.

When Jacob arrived on July 4th, 1979, his family was in shock when the doctors sympathetically told them that Jacob had been born with an unusually small brain. Mental retardation was likely, they said. They were sorry, they said.

Less than three years after Jacob’s birth, both he and his mother were dead. Each had died of lung cancer, though no one in the Sigler family ever smoked. The doctors could offer no explanation for the coincidence. But fourteen-year-old John and his dad knew the reason. It didn’t take a genius to know that two-year-olds don’t die of lung cancer.

TMI was the cause.

A few years later, John’s father developed leukemia. Not common for a man his age, the doctors said. But it happens, they said.

The cancer progressed inexorably through his body. Evilly patient. Excruciatingly earnest. John had dropped out of school so he could remain by his father’s bedside as the cancer silently ravaged his organs. John’s father finally died, after months of agony, in October, 1985.

John was eighteen.

John wished he had died, too. Dying would have been easier than drowning in his family’s pain, gasping for a breath of relief.

Even after the shock of the nuclear assault on the Sigler family had subsided, there were the nagging questions. Pursuing him. Unrelenting. Why had he, alone, survived? For what purpose?

John never forgave the United States government for torturing and murdering his family. Ultimately, he concluded there was only one possible reason he had been spared – to take vengeance for his family’s suffering.

But John was no fool. He knew he couldn’t defeat, or even seriously damage, the nuclear juggernaut by himself – especially not as a boy of eighteen. He needed collaborators, others who hated the nuclear establishment as much as he.

For years he sought out anti-nuclear organizations to aid him in his mission, to feed his pathological need for revenge. He posted his contact information in chat rooms on the rapidly expanding internet. He joined in anti-nuke rallies and attended meetings.

But without exception, these nuclear opponents were far too passive. He wanted to send a serious message. He wanted clear retribution for the death of his family at TMI.

John was patient. John was pragmatic. While he searched for help, he also maneuvered. Years passed, then decades. He attended trade school, served an apprenticeship and eventually developed a high degree of skill as a metal worker and welder. He earned a good living.

But he never forgave. And he never forgot.

Finally, an opportunity arose for him to infiltrate the enemy. Willing to leave his hometown for this chance, he accepted a job as a Plant Engineering and Systems Repair Specialist at the Prairie River Nuclear Power Plant near Red Wing, Minnesota.

Initially, John was very excited about his new job. He had assumed that his employment with the utility would surely present chances for revenge. But he soon discovered that even his status as a nuclear insider did not afford him the opportunity he sought. The facility’s design included too many back-up systems, obstacles, counter-measures. For John by himself, assaulting the plant was still impossible. He needed to reach out farther, beyond his comfort zone. He still had to find a co-conspirator to lend him aid.

Then he suffered a devastating setback. Although at the time of the TMI incident John had appeared to suffer no serious radiation effects, he now learned that radiation damage can be subtle and sometimes slow to make itself apparent. At the age of forty-one, with his lust for revenge as great as ever and still unrequited, John was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma.

He first underwent radiation treatments and then chemotherapy. After twelve long months of treatment, his cancer was cured. The doctors declared it to be in remission.

But despite his apparent victory over the cancer, John knew his time to take retribution might be running out. He desperately needed to take action soon. The nuclear bastards had to pay!

Then one day, seemingly out of the blue, he had received a telephone call. By the man’s accent, John would have guessed the caller to be English, or possibly Australian. Although no one mentioned the organization by name, when the group the caller actually represented became clear, John was taken aback. He had always considered Al Qaeda the enemy. But in this case, his interests and theirs aligned perfectly.

What was the saying he had heard during the Gulf War? “The enemy of my enemy is my friend?” After some consideration, John decided he didn’t care if they were Al Qaeda, Nazis or Martians, so long as they would help him achieve his goal.

Al Qaeda had done its research on John before making contact. They knew his family background at TMI. They knew he wanted action, not passive protest. They assured him they had a plan – a plan that would devastate the nuclear industry. When he indicated an interest, they acted swiftly.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, John.  We wish you much success!

Thank you very much for your time. All the best!

‘The 19th Element’ John L. Betcher on virtual book tour November & December ’10

John BetcherJoin John L. Betcher, author of the suspense thriller, The 19th Element: A James Becker Thriller (Createspace), as he virtually tours the blogosphere November 1 – December 17‘10 on his first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book!

John L. Betcher is a University of Minnesota Law School graduate and has practiced law for more than twenty-five years in the Mississippi River community of Red Wing, Minnesota. He possesses substantial first-hand knowledge of the Prairie River Nuclear Plant’s real world counterpart, as well as Red Wing’s airport and the flight rules around the nuke plant.

In addition to The 19th Element, he has published a second book in the “Beck” series entitled, The Missing Element, A James Becker Mystery. The second book is available everywhere.

The author has also been a long-time supporter and coach of youth volleyball in and around Red Wing and has authored three feature articles for Coaching Volleyball, the journal of the American Volleyball Coaches Association. His most recent article was the cover story for the April/May, 2009 Issue.

His book on volleyball coaching philosophies entitled The Little Black Book of Volleyball Coaching is available at www.johnbetcher.com and at amazon.com.

The 19th ElementThe 19th Element‘s premise promises to have you on the edge of your seat. Al Qaeda plans to attack Minnesota’s Prairie River Nuclear Power Plant as a means to return the down-trodden terrorist organization to international prominence.

In addition to their own devoted forces, the terrorists enlist some homegrown anarchists, and a Three Mile Island survivor with a pathological vendetta against the nuclear establishment, to assist in the assault.

James “Beck” Becker is a former elite U.S. government intelligence operative who has retired to his childhood hometown of Red Wing, Minnesota – just six miles down the Mississippi from the Prairie River nuclear facility.

Possessing wisdom born of experience, Beck suspects the terrorists’ intentions as soon as the body of a university professor turns up on the Mississippi shore – the clear victim of foul play.

He recognizes connections between seemingly unrelated incidents – the murdered agronomy professor, a missing lab assistant, an international cell call, a stolen fertilizer truck – but can’t piece it together in enough detail to convince government authorities that a larger threat exists. Only his American Indian friend, “Bull,” will help Beck defuse the threat.

So it’s Beck and Bull versus international terror.

If you’d like to follow along with John as he tours the blogosphere in November and December, visit his official tour page at Pump Up Your Book. Lots of fun in store as you learn more about this gifted author as well as win prizes, too!

Join us for John L. Betcher’s The 19th Element Virtual Book Tour ‘10!

Pump Up Your Book is an innovative public relations agency specializing in virtual book tours. You can visit our website at www.pumpupyourbook.com.

Interview with Vincent Zandri, author of ‘The Remains’

The Remains author, Vincent Zandri, is an award-winning novelist, essayist and freelance photojournalist. His novel As Catch Can (Delacorte) was touted in two pre-publication articles by Publishers Weekly and was called “Brilliant” upon its publication by The New York Post. The Boston Herald attributed it as “The most arresting first crime novel to break into print this season.” Other novels include the bestselling, Moonlight Falls, Godchild (Bantam/Dell) and Permanence (NPI). Translated into several languages including Japanese and the Dutch, Zandri’s novels have also been sought out by numerous major movie producers, including Heyday Productions and DreamWorks. Presently he is the author of the blogs, Dangerous Dispatches and Embedded in Africa for Russia Today TV (RT). He also writes for other global publications, including Culture 11, Globalia and Globalspec. Zandri’s nonfiction has appeared in New York Newsday, Hudson Valley Magazine, Game and Fish Magazine and others, while his essays and short fiction have been featured in many journals including Fugue, Maryland Review and Orange Coast Magazine. He holds an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College and is a 2010 International Thriller Writer’s Awards panel judge. Zandri currently divides his time between New York and Europe. He is the drummer for the Albany-based punk band to Blisterz.

You can visit his website at www.vincentzandri.com or his blog at www.vincentzandri.blogspot.com.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Vincent. Can you tell us what your latest book, The Remains, is all about?

Thirty years ago, teenager Rebecca Underhill and her twin sister Molly were abducted by a man who lived in a house in the woods behind their upstate New York farm. They were held inside that house for three horrifying hours, until making their daring escape.

Vowing to keep their terrifying experience a secret in order to protect their mother and father, the girls tried to put the past behind them. And when their attacker was hunted down by police over a separate incident and sent to prison, they believed he was as good as dead.

Now, it’s 30 years later, and with Molly having passed away from cancer, Rebecca, a painter and art teacher, is left alone to bear the burden of a secret that has only gotten heavier and more painful with each passing year.

But when Rebecca begins receiving some strange anonymous text messages, she begins to realize that the monster who attacked her all those years ago is not dead after all. He’s back, and this time, he wants to do more than just haunt her. He wants her dead.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Rebecca Underhill is an art teacher and painter who might have become a great artist if not for the burden of the secret she shared with her sister, Molly. In a word, her life has always been haunted by the memory of the man who abducted her. Now, with the man released from prison, she has no choice but to confront him.

Her ex-husband and detective novelist, Michael, also plays a pivotal role in the novel. Even though the two are divorced they can’t get over the fact that they are soul mates, which means they are together all the time. Michael protects and helps Rebecca confront her worst fears. He also becomes her lover once more.

Also assisting her is an unlikely character by the name of Francis Scaramuzzi. A 48 year old autistic savant and painter, Francis is somehow able to channel into Rebecca’s nightmares. He warns her about the dangers that are about to confront her by creating a series of paintings, each of which represents one of the five senses.

The warnings aren’t limited to the living either. Despite the fact that Rebecca’s twin sister Molly has been dead these past nine years, she can still feel her presence. At times, she will borrow from her sister’s strength in order to stay alive. Molly might be dead, but she is very alive in The Remains.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

This novel originally began with Francis Scaramuzzi who was a real man from Albany, New York, and who worked as a janitor at my old high school, The Albany Academy. Not until close to his death was it discovered that the mentally challenged Francis was a very accomplished painter. It shocked the entire academic community, as well as the local arts community as well. Here was a man who lived extremely simply and anonymously, and who was assumed to barely be able to read. Yet inside his secret world, he was producing beautiful works of art. I’d been trying to wrap a novel around his extraordinary life for years.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

I try and work out some of the plot details prior to writing even a single word. I also write character sketches and a loose chapter by chapter outline. However, I never stick to the outline since a plot that seems to be moving along is a plot that is moving along organically. As a writer, you don’t want to get in the way of the natural course of events. In the end, my first draft is usually serves as an elaborate outline.

Q: Your book is set in Albany, New York.  Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

Albany is where I was born and bred. It’s the city I know the best and therefore I feel that I can write about it convincingly. Lots of my fan now have come to identify me as an Albany writer, even if I do end up writing lots of my books outside the country in Florence, Italy, for instance, where I stay every fall. One interesting note is that every year, a local alternative magazine runs a “Best of the Capital Region” reader’s poll. For the past three years, two authors have earned the two highest spots. Myself and another, far more well known, Albany, writer: William Kennedy. You might say I’m gaining on the old master!

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Naturally. Albany is a small city and everyone tends to know one another, or at least about one another’s business. Or if they don’t know, they are apt to make something up. Thus the tongue-and-cheek moniker, “Smalbany.” It’s a place of long hard winters and short, but hot summers. It also rains a lot, and the weather always plays a roll in my stories. The weather and the rugged surrounding countryside in The Remains, are as much villains as is Joseph William Whalen, the man who abducted Rebecca and her sister three decades ago.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

Rebecca is observing a painting that Francis created for her the day before. It resembles in almost every detail a recurring nightmare she’s been having. Yet she doesn’t want to believe something like that is possible. Still, the painting draws her in, almost obsessively.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

October 2, 2008
Albany, New York

In the deep night, a woman sits down at her writing table. Fingering a newly sharpened pencil, she focuses her eyes upon the blank paper, brings the black pencil tip to it.

She begins to write.

Dear Mol,

I’ve been dreaming about you again. I don’t think a night has gone by in the past few weeks when I haven’t seen your face. Our face, I should say. The face is always in my head; implanted in my memories. The dream is nothing new. It’s thirty years ago again. It’s October. I’m walking close behind you through the tall grass towards the woods. Your hair is loose and long. You’re wearing cut-offs, white Keds with the laces untied and a red T-shirt that says ‘Paul McCartney and Wings’ on the front. You’re walking ahead of me while I try to keep up; but afraid to keep up. Soon we come to the tree line, and while my heart beats in my throat, we walk into the trees. But then comes a noise—a snapping of twigs and branches. The gaunt face of a man appears. A man who lives in a house in the woods.

Then, just like that, the dream shifts and I see you kneeling beside me inside the dark empty basement. I hear the sound of your sniffles, smell the wormy raw earth, feel the cold touch of a man’s hand. You turn and you look at me with your solid steel eyes. And then I wake up.

We survived the house in the woods together, Mol, and we never told a soul. We just couldn’t risk it. Whelan would have come back for us. He would have found us. He would have found mom and dad. Even today, I know he surely would have. He would have killed them, Mol. He would have killed us. In just five days, thirty years will have passed. Three entire decades and I’m still convinced we did the right thing by keeping that afternoon in the woods our secret.

When I see you in my dreams it’s like looking in a mirror. The blue eyes, the thick lips, the dirty blond hair forever just touching the shoulders. My hair is finally showing signs of grey, Mol.

I wonder, do you get gray hair in heaven? I wonder if Whelan’s hair burned off in hell? I wonder if he suffers?

All my love,

Your twin sister,

Rebecca Rose Underhill

Exhaling, the woman folds the letter neatly into thirds, slips it into a blank stationary envelope, her initials RRU embossed on the label. Running the bitter sticky glue interior over her tongue, she seals the envelope, sets it back down onto the writing table. Once more she picks up the pencil, brings the now dulled tip to the envelope’s face. Addressing it she writes only a name:
Molly Rose Underhill

The job done, the woman smiles sadly. Opening the table drawer, she sets the letter inside, on top of a stack of nine identical letters-never-sent. One for every year her sister has been gone.

Closing the drawer she hears her cell phone begin to vibrate, then softly chime. Picking it up off the desktop, she opens the phone, sees that a new text has been forwarded to her electronic mailbox. Fingering the in-box, she retrieves the message.

Rebecca is all it says.

Punching the command that reveals the name and number of the sender she finds “Caller Unknown.” The sender’s number has been blocked. Closing the phone back up, she sets it down on the desk. That’s when the wind picks up, blows and whistles through the open window.

“Mol,” she says, staring out into the darkness. “Mol, is that you?”

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Vincent.  We wish you much success!

Thank you for having me.

The Remains by Vincent Zandri



Returning Injury: empowering women is suspense author Becky Due’s focus

Rebecca’s life just keeps getting better. With Jack away on business, she’s looking forward to four days alone to work on her new client’s PR campaign to help women take back their lives. But her past intrudes. Roy, the man who stalked and assaulted her years before, has been released from prison. Home alone in her big, beautiful house out in the country, Rebecca has to learn to take back her own life while facing her fears and regaining her strength. But will she be strong enough when she faces the ultimate test?

This is the premise of suspense author Becky Due’s new book, Returning Injury: A Suspense Celebrating Women’s Strength (Due Publications).

Becky, like the main characters of her novels, spent many years running from herself, looking for love, crying a little and laughing a lot along the journey of finding herself. Through writing, Due found her passion. She is the author of several books and is currently working on her next novel.

She has been a guest on national radio programs and has been the subject of numerous newspaper and national magazine articles for empowering women through her novels. She has served as a guest speaker at Women’s Resource Centers, Shelters, Colleges and High Schools within the United States. Becky has had extensive training at Victim Services, worked the 24-Hour Sexual Assault Crisis-Line and was a Victim’s Advocate where she offered one-on-one assistance and support to rape victims. In 2007, Becky started, Women Going Forward, the first national women’s telephone support group, which ran for almost two years. After receiving much recognition for her novels, Becky’s focus turned back to her writing and empowering women through her novels.

Becky will be on virtual book tour May 3 – June 25. Visit her official tour page at Pump Up Your Book to find out more about her exciting new release, Returning Injury: A Suspense Celebrating Women’s Strength.

Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.com are the best way to obtain your copies, although it will be available to order in bookstores soon. You can visit Becky’s website at www.BeckyDue.com for more information about the book.

Let’s Play Book Trivia with Suspense Fantasy Author Bruce Skye!

It’s time to play Book Trivia! Periodically, we scour the Internet for interesting authors who would like to play Book Trivia with us. By answering our book trivia questions, we get to learn things about the author no one else knows! So, let’s get ready…let’s play…

Today our guest author is Bruce Skye, author of the suspense fantasy novel Grayrider.

A former technical writer, detail is important to Bruce Skye. His research for the Deathsong Chronicles included medieval armor and fgrayriderortresses, as well as Celtic names and magic. “If you create a world, it must be consistent. And that’s what I strive for Grayrider’s world to be. I’ve built a database of material for each of the Deathsong Chronicles. Those databases aid me in keeping the world the same from book to book.

“When I wrote Grayrider, I followed the advice of Stephen King. I did not write the book following any sort of outline. I have no more idea than my readers do when I write a novel what will happen in the midst of the story. It makes it more exciting for both the readers and myself.”

You can visit his website at www.bruceskye.com.

Thank you for playing Book Trivia with us, Bruce! Here are your questions:

book710If Tom Hanks, in the movie Cast Away, unearthed a copy of Grayrider, how would that help Tom find a way off the island?

The Celtic magic described in the novel would help him send himself back to civilization.

book711Everyone knows rock star idol Brittany Spears is always in trouble with everything you can think of. In what way could your book help her and set her life back on track?

Grayrider would show her doing the right things, regardless of the odds against you, can lead to better times.

book712You have a chance to appear on the hit talent show for authors, American Book Idol, with judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson, and Kara DioGuardi determining whether your book will make it to Hollywood and become a big screenplay. What would impress them more – your book cover, an excerpt or your best review – and why?

I think an excerpt would be best. The reason I say that is, as one reviewer put it “Skye has a talent for vivid descriptions that will make you feel like you are in the middle of the story.”

book713Hulk Hogan, the famous wrestler and star of his own reality show, has invited you and your book to appear on his show. One catch. You have to read a passage out of it to convince him you are star material. What part would you read?

The opening section of the first chapter as given below:
A sentry on the north wall was the first to see him: a figure in a silver gray cloak mounted on an immense black warhorse. The cloak billowed in the blustering wind, revealing the stranger’s green tunic. He wore a sword belt with a sheathed long sword at his waist. Yet the hood of the cloak never moved, leaving the rider’s face in constant shadow. He was on the hill just north of the castle. Somehow, knowing he’d been seen, the horseman turned his mount and galloped down towards the keep.

“The Gray Rider,” the soldier muttered. He stood transfixed for a moment as he watched the horseman draw swiftly towards the fortress.

“Open the gates!” he yelled. “Tell the king the Gray Rider approaches!”

book714They’ve invented a board game using the theme of your book. What would the title of it be that would be different from your book and which retail store would they place it to make the most sales?

They would call it “Against All Odds.” They would place the game in The Sharper Image.

book715The Arbor Day Foundation has decided to pick one tree in your honor because of your writing brilliance. What kind of tree is it and why did they choose that tree in relation to your book?

They would choose a redwood tree because it is a strong classic, much as my novel is.

book716President Barack Obama has become the author of several books and he has requested your presence at a special hush hush meeting to discuss ways to promote it. Through luck of the draw, you were chosen. What would be the first thing you would tell Barack?

Get people skilled in book promotion to help him sell his works.

book717Finally, you just got word that your book has received the 2009 NY Times Bestselling Book Award and you have to attend the ceremony at the Four Seasons Hotel in Manhattan. Anyone who’s anyone will be there and it’s your shot for stardom. On stage, you must give an acceptance speech. What would you say and who would you thank?

I would thank those who had chosen my novel, first of all. Secondly, I would thank those who were members of my review committee who go over everything I write before I give it to my agent. It was their encouragement which motivated me to publish Grayrider.

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