Magic, mystery garner Jean Rabe honors

Jean Rabe may not be a household name, but it should be. Chances are, if you are into gaming, if you are into fantasy, if you are into mysteries, you’ve encountered her byline atop a story or two. Check your bookshelf, and you just may find her stories or novels in your collection. Her latest novel, The Dead of Jerusalem Ridge, has just hit bookstores, while the author was just named a grandmaster by theInternational Media Tie-In Writers. Jean was gracious enough to speak with Story By about the award and her career, as well as share some timeless writing tips.

Congrats on being named a grandmaster by the International Media Tie-in Writers. What an accomplishment! You posted on Facebook and in your newsletter that you were “dancing” over the news. Has it sunk in yet? What does this achievement mean to you?

Jean Rabe 4

Jean Rabe, International Media Tie-in Writers Grandmaster

I never expected to win an award like this; there is no higher honor a tie-in writer can achieve. I still don’t consider myself in the same league as a Grandmaster. I’ve been on the USA Today Bestseller list several times, but I never hit New York Times. I’ve been published in lots of languages in lots of countries. I’ve been in the game lots of years. I’ve just never considered myself a “big deal.” The award is typically presented at the San Diego Comic-Con, a huge venue with well more than a hundred thousand attendees. Despite my fear of crowds, I would have braved it to get the Faust. So maybe it wasn’t a bad thing, the virtual presentation, kept my knees from knocking too much. I am so incredibly honored to have been handed the Faust, an award for doing something I’ve loved and enjoyed. I still am in disbelief.

When did you get the writing bug and how did you get your start? Who are some of your influences, past and present?

I started writing fiction in second grade. I always loved stories, sf in particular when I was a kid. I told my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Burleson, I wanted to be a paperback writer—she’d asked everyone what they wanted to do when they “grew up.” She said my plan wasn’t practical and that maybe I should consider being a nurse or a teacher. I won some writing contests in grade school and high school and got a bachelor of science in journalism. So I’ve been writing a lot of years … newspaper reporter, game designer, and editor, and now a full-time novelist. Maybe I’ve always had the bug; I can’t imagine doing anything else. Mrs. Burleson was wrong.

My influences. Hmmmmmmm. Mark Twain, love reading his stuff. Byron and Shelley and Keats, really like the English old masters. Louis L’Amour. Also: Elmore Leonard, Gene Wolfe (who was a very good friend of mine), Andre Norton (a very good friend and co-author), Ed McBain, Joe Haldeman, James Lee Burke, and W.P. Kinsella, to name some. I’m influenced by a lot of people; I think all writers are.

How did all of that lead to you writing media tie-ins?

DragonlanceAfter writing for three newspapers (and deciding I wanted to do something else), I took a job at TSR, Inc., the then-producers of the Dungeons & Dragons game. I worked as the head of the RPGA Network (Role Playing Games Association), and later as an editor and a designer. TSR published game-related fiction and occasionally had open tryouts. I submitted ideas, outlines, and sample chapters and finally one year I scored! It took me three rewrites … it was my first novel, after all … and Red Magic came out in 1991. It’s a Forgotten Realms tale set in the land of the Red Wizards of Thay, a creepy and powerful bunch. After that I wrote a couple of choose-your-adventure books…which are tough to write, then I managed to land in Krynn with Dragonlance, where I fit the best. Three standalones there, and three trilogies, several landing on the USA Today Bestseller list. After leaving TSR I still wrote Dragonlance, but I added a few Shadowrun titles, and I got to play with Rogue Angel for quite a few books. As for tie-in short stories Twilight Zone, Transformers, Metamorphosis Alpha, Pathfinder … I even got to write a Star Wars tale.

What are some of the challenges of writing characters and places in someone else’s world? Are there certain restrictions or guidelines you have to play by with each series? How do you keep it all straight and maintain the tone of each series?

There are a lot of restrictions and guidelines. You have to respect the property and its characters and stay true to what already exists. People read tie-ins because they are fans of the property—be it a TV show, roleplaying game, computer game, movie, comic book, etc., and they want more of a particular world. You have to honor the “sandbox” you are playing in, and treat it with care. There is a lot of competition to land a tie-in, and many authors were New York Times Bestsellers before they landed their tie-in gigs. If a tie-in author doesn’t stay true to the subject, he won’t get another chance … too much competition out there. Some properties help their writers, handing over “bibles” and world books. A good tie-in author reads other books in the line for flavor and background. One of the things I did with Dragonlance was to create a spreadsheet containing the characters I used. I filled in the details for canon characters, then I added the characters I was creating from whole cloth. I was fortunate with my Dragonlance trilogies that I got to craft the main characters for the sagas and sprinkle in the veteran heroes and villains as the plot merited.

What is your favorite story or novel you’ve written among all of your media tie-ins and why? What is your favorite series to write in and why?

My favorite character is Dhamon Grimwulf, who I took through two Dragonlance trilogies and a standalone. I tortured the poor soul, but he came out a hero in the end. I have two favorite media tie-in projects: my goblin trilogy—Goblin Nation. I love writing characters who are other than human, and I had a boatload of them to craft. The goblins and hobgoblins were born from whole cloth, and I based some of them on dogs I’d had through the years. Because the goblins were a slave race I gave them an odd speech pattern: they didn’t use “I and me” because they didn’t have a real sense of identity, they were property. Tough to write the dialog, and frustrating when a copyeditor at the last minute threw in some “I and me” here and there and I couldn’t do anything about it. Anyway, I liked taking my cadre of goblins from slaves to the masters of their own destiny and setting up their nation. Made me feel all fuzzy inside. My other favorite tie-in was a Shadowrun novel called Shadows Down Under, which I set around Canberra, Australia, where I visited many years back. I’d made notes when I was there, saved postcards, and subsequently sent the characters to the nifty places I’d traipsed through, and past some questionable spots, too.

A few years ago you began writing your own mystery series of novels. Your fourth novel in the Piper Blackwell series has just been released. What were some of the challenges of making the transition to your own original works?

The Dead of Jerusalem RidgeSo many of my tie-ins were original works, set in established worlds. The real transition for me was in swapping genres. I’d been writing fantasy and science fiction, and I wanted to jump to a new spot on the shelf—mysteries. I’d been reading mysteries for a lot of years and just wanted to try my hand at writing them. A former news reporter, I’d covered courts, crime, plane crashes, assorted things, so I had a good background for mysteries. And I’d written a true crime novel with F. Lee Bailey, When the Husband is the Suspect. The problem was being in a new pond. I didn’t know editors in the genre, so I had to start from scratch. Then agents told me they liked my writing, but that my books were cozy police procedurals and they’d have a tough time selling them. So I formed Boone Street Press, and I hire an editor, copyeditor, layout guru, cover artist, and publicist … all the things a traditional publisher does. It lets me write my cozy police procedurals, or uncozy-cozies as some call them. And I don’t have to wait years from when I send it off until it might show up on a shelf. Indie publishing fits me fine.

Which do you like best? Writing tie-ins or your own original stories? Will you continue to write media tie-ins?

I love to write … so both! Lately, my tie-in work has been short stories for fantasy roleplaying games, going back to my roots. I adore writing short stories, as they are a lovely break from long fiction. But the original stories I’m writing now are my property, and that’s a big thing to me. I own them. And I’m responsible for them, producing, promoting … my babies. I have two originals outlined and I’m partway into writing both. I need to pick one and crank on it. And I need to start outlining a fifth Piper Blackwell book—I already have some idea nuggets.

Now that you have been named a grandmaster, what’s your next big goal as a writer? A Shamus, maybe?

The Bone ShroudHa! I wasn’t expecting the Grandmaster nod, that oh-so-coveted Faust. I certainly don’t expect any more awards. This past fall I took first place in the Illinois Author Project adult division for The Bone Shroud, a standalone thriller I set in Italy. I didn’t expect that one either. Awards are just surprises to be treasured. Icing on my writing cake.

What advice would you have for new writers, regardless of age, trying to break in?

I could expound on that question for days. I used to manage the Gen Con Game Fair’s writing track and so scheduled many topics on that question, but I’ll take a quick stab here.

There are more than one million books published a year. Most of that because self-publishing is an option now, offering an alternative to the big houses. So you’re competing in a huge market. Make sure your book is clean—well edited, has no wasted scenes, and is filled with memorable characters. To that end, take advantage of writing programs available on the internet—blogs, classes, online workshops all designed to help hone the writing craft. I have more than forty novels and more than one hundred published short stories to my credit. And I still read writing advice blogs and books and take classes. Never stop learning. Never stop trying to improve.

Make sure your shelf has some essentials: Strunk & White, Chicago Manual of Style or the AP Stylebook, a good dictionary, thesaurus, and maybe a dictionary of word origins. Why physical books? So you don’t have to shift screens to consult an online reference book. Curl up with a dictionary some night and just read it. Highlight words that sing to you and that you want to put in your writing.

Follow posts about which agents are looking for clients and what type of books they specialize in. Read blogs about which publishers are buying, or educate yourself on all aspects of self-publishing. Consider attending a writing-focused convention: World Fantasy, World Horror, Killer Nashville; there are a lot out there … many doing virtual seminars because of the pandemic.

Write every day … even if you have something you’d rather do. And read each day, too, even if it is just a chapter; it keeps you thinking about stories and words.

My biggie: Always carry a notebook. Buy one of those small chunky ones at the Dollar Store, a size that’ll fit in your pocket. And take it everywhere. I see abandoned buildings during my travels that I want to describe; people—how they are dressed, walking, talking; cars; all manner of things. I fill my notebook with stuff I want to sprinkle in my fiction. And a notebook is handy for jotting down plot ideas. Always carry a notebook.

Follow Jean at:

American Hero: Remembering John Lewis

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Congressman John Lewis, 1940-2020

Note: With the loss of civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis on Friday, I thought it would be appropriate to honor with him with an article I wrote for BookPage in 2016.

By G. Robert Frazier

It is appropriate as we enter Thanksgiving week to express our gratitude to the people who have influenced our lives in one way or another or who have made sacrifices on our behalf so that we may live better.

This past Saturday, I was fortunate to be among hundreds of Nashville-area residents able to give thanks to an American icon, Georgia Congressman John Lewis. (More than a hundred others were unable to get into the packed auditorium at Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet School.)

A graduate of American Baptist College and Fisk University, both in Nashville, Rep. Lewis was a leader in the Nashville student-led, nonviolent sit-in movement and the Freedom Rides in the early 1960s. He was the youngest speaker at the 1963 March on Washington and helped lead the Selma to Montgomery March as part of the voting rights movement in 1965.

His account of the events make up the pages of a historical comic book trilogy, March, co-written by Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell. March: Book One is the citywide Nashville Reads pick for 2017. The third volume in the series just won the National Book Award for young people’s literature and garnered him honors as the Nashville Public Library Foundation’s Literary Award winner for 2016.

Regardless of age, it is a story everyone should read.

“When people tell me nothing has changed, I say come and walk in my shoes,” he told the racially diverse crowd, which greeted him with a standing ovation. “Martin Luther King would be very proud of this audience. You look like the makings of a beloved community.”

Lewis recounted the challenges and incidents of the civil rights movement, including many of his 45 arrests for civil disobedience along the way.

“I didn’t like segregation,” Lewis said. “I didn’t like racial discrimination. I didn’t like riding the broken-down buses to school.”

As a child, he grew up listening to the message of civil rights pioneers like Rosa Parks and King, whom he would eventually meet. “They inspired me to find a way to get in the way, and I got in the way. . . . By sitting down, we were standing up,” he said.

Lewis still sits down when necessary. This past summer he inspired a sit-in on the floor of Congress itself.

“We still have a distance to travel,” he said.

He implored today’s youth to carry on the fight for equality and justice when needed.

“When you see something that is not right, not just, you have a moral obligation to stand up,” he said.

But most importantly, he said, “We must come together as one people. Not just as an American house, but as a world house. . . .  Just love everybody. Love is a better way. Be kind. Never hate. Keep the faith. Never, ever give up.”

He stressed a need to set a path to citizenship, adding that “Pope Francis said we are all immigrants. We all come from some other place.”

Following his lecture, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry presented him with a collection of recently discovered photos and images of his first arrest records in Nashville from 1961, 1962 and 1963.

“I hope these photos remind you of what you have done and the legacy you have left us,” Barry told him, adding, “I thank you for your message of peace, I thank you for your message of love, but most of all I thank you for your message of kindness.”

The photos will go on display in the Civil Rights Room at the Nashville Public Library.

“It’s here in this wonderful city where I really grew up,” Lewis said of his return to Nashville. “The first time I got arrested in this city, I felt free. I owe it all to this city. I feel more than lucky—I feel honored and blessed. I came to say thank you.”

No, sir, it is we who are honored and blessed. It is we who say, “Thank you.”

Author Interview: Tremblay uses empathy to build trust with readers

By G. Robert Frazier

Praised by horrormaster Stephen King, Paul Tremblay’s shocking new novel, The Cabin at the End of the World, is an often graphic account of one family’s ordeal when their vacation is shattered in a cult-like home invasion. We asked Tremblay about the book’s origins, its dark path and his inner fears that helped forge the novel.

Paul Tremblay

Paul Tremblay

How does it feel to receive a compliment from a literary horror master like King?
I was a mathematics major in college and about to go off to a graduate program for two years, and Lisa (my wife) gave me The Stand for my 22nd birthday. It would be a cliché to say that book changed my life, but it did. I haven’t stopped reading King since. I became a reader—never mind a writer—because of Stephen King. That Stephen now reads my books and enjoys them is one of the highlights of my career.

Your previous novel, A Head Full of Ghosts, was a Stoker Award winner for best horror novel in 2015. What is it like to follow up a book that’s been so well received? Did it change your writing process at all?
The response to A Head Full of Ghosts has been amazing and thrilling. I’d be lying if I said I don’t feel a little extra pressure trying to follow it up. Some of that OK, what the heck are you going write now? is natural and healthy. Letting it take over and paralyze the process is not healthy.

Aside from worrying if what I’m working on was as good as AHFoG or not, my writing process hasn’t been changed. Cabin is my seventh novel, and while I still have to push through plenty of doubt and anxiety, I’ve earned a little bit of confidence. I’ve been to the finish line with those other novels, so it’s a bit easier to believe I can get there again with the next one.

A few years ago I was in the midst of gnashing my teeth while working on my novel Disappearance at Devil’s Rock. I sent friend/mentor/genius Stewart O’Nan an email telling him I was worried the book wasn’t as good as the last novel and didn’t know how people would react to it, blah blah blah.

He said, “Eh, not everything you’re going to write is going to be great.” I laughed out loud when I read the email, and it was exactly what I needed to here. I still find his pithy quote oddly comforting, reaffirming and inspiring. Maybe I should put it on a T-shirt.

“Most horror stories feature the reveal of a horrible truth (or potential truth) or some terrible event, ambiguous or not. My favorite stories then focus on the aftermath and on what the characters are going to do next. What decisions are they going to make?”

There are some shocking developments in store for each of the characters in Cabin. Did you ever pause midstream during writing those scenes to ask, “Did I just go too far?”
I never thought or asked that question during the writing of Cabin. But that doesn’t mean there’s not a pause when it comes to the use of violence.

In Cabin the cast is so small and the violence is up close and personal, so my pause was about making sure to take the proper amount of time to figure out how the violence was to be portrayed and how it affected the characters. I did not want those scenes to simply be about titillation or shock, although there’s no denying there are elements of both whenever violence is used in entertainment/art. I hope those scenes are super disturbing in Cabin, and I hope I’m successful in treating the experiences of both the victim and perpetrator(s) of the violent act with authenticity. There are great and terrible consequences to any act of violence, and they reverberate beyond the act itself. The survivors and witnesses are fundamentally changed by what they experienced. There’s no going back for anyone after the horror and transgression of violence.

This story is powerful both emotionally and viscerally. How do you balance the two for the benefit of the reader?
Thank you! I think if you treat all of your characters, even the odious ones, with empathy (not sympathy; there’s a difference), the reader will be willing to follow you into dark places. When you use empathy as a base—the want to understand a character, why she does what she does, says what she says—I think it’s easier to build trust with the reader, particularly in a horror/suspense story. That’s not to say bad things won’t happen or there won’t be surprises, but the reader’s emotional investment is rewarded because that investment was grounded in empathy.

Most horror stories feature the reveal of a horrible truth (or potential truth) or some terrible event, ambiguous or not. My favorite stories then focus on the aftermath and on what the characters are going to do next. What decisions are they going to make? How are they going to live through this? And by proxy, we readers ask, how are we going to live through this?

There are great and terrible consequences to any act of violence, and they reverberate beyond the act itself.”

Where did the genesis for this novel come from? Is there some inner fear that you have that you’ve incorporated here?
I was on a plane scribbling in one of my notebooks, looking for a new novel/story idea, and I looked down to find I’d randomly drawn a cabin. (An artist I am not, by the way.) I looked at the cabin and drew a few stick figures (again, not an artist) outside the cabin, and I got to thinking about the home-invasion subgenre of horror. It’s a subgenre that I really don’t enjoy all that much. There are some books/films that I like (Wait Until Dark, Ils (Them), Hush), but generally, too many of those stories are mean-spirited, cynical and at times sadistic. With all that in mind, I was excited by the challenge of writing a home-invasion story that I would want to read. So why not a home-invasion-maybe-the-apocalypse-is-happening-too story? Very early in the process, the book became an allegory for our current socio-political predicament, which was another hook for me.

Home-invasion stories scare me for sure, but I think one of my biggest metaphysical fears is represented in the novel, but I can’t really talk about it with spoiling the whole thing. Sorry!

Many writers believe they are their own harshest critic. Is that the case with you as well, and if so, what do you do to silence that inner critic?
I’m harsh on myself. But let’s be honest, I’m not as harsh as the online one-star critic who says, “This book is boring and stupid and smells like poo.” The smell part is the most hurtful.

As much as a pain in the butt as he is, I don’t want to totally silence my inner critic. Generally he’s helpful. When the inner critic’s voice gets too loud, I promise him I’ll deal with him and his concerns, but later, and not until after I write my 500 new words for the day.

What are you working on next?
I just finished a draft of my short story collection Growing Things and Other Stories. It’s due to be published summer 2019. The collection features a few stories that have connections to my novels, including one story that features adult Merry from A Head Full of Ghosts after her tell-all book was published. I’m working on a short screenplay for a secret project, and I need to get off my duff and start the next novel. That, and working on helping my kid visit and apply to colleges. Send help.

The above article initially appeared at BookPage.

Michael Ondaatje discusses the clues that lead to stories

The mindset of a writer—from the relationship between character and author to the process of creating a literary work—is an exploration that fascinates many readers. Michael Ondaatje, the author of several critically acclaimed literary novels, including The English Patient, considers himself an archaeologist. Not the kind that roots around in the dirt for prehistoric skeletons, but the kind that extracts memories and transcribes them to the written page.
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Michael Ondaatje discusses his novel, Warlight, at Parnassus in Nashville.

“Many of my books—many writers—are in an archaeological situation of unearthing story, of unraveling clues and events to find out what really happened, who was the patient and so on,” Ondaatje explained during a recent visit to Parnassus Books in Nashville to promote his newest novel, Warlight.

Like an archaeologist who may discover a tiny fragment of a bone prior to exposing a larger find, Ondaatje’s books tend to begin with something very minimal, “almost like a clue,” which in turn leads to a more encompassing narrative. In The English Patient, it is a nurse speaking with a patient in bed. “I don’t know who he is, I don’t know who she is,” Ondaatje said. But as he wrote further, he began the process of discovering who they are, how they got to this particular point in time and how each feels in this moment that gives rise to their fascinating story and relationship.

“A lot of novelists know where they are going to go, which is just terrific for them. I just don’t,” he said.

In Warlight, the author (born in Sri Lanka but now a Canadian resident) had only an image for the first sentence: “In 1945 our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals.”

“Right away I had the possibility of not just the parents and the children who invade their lives,” Ondaatje said. “They kind of take over the story and govern what happens to Rachel and Nathaniel in the story. So I could kind of go anywhere with that.”

The first line immediately evokes the possibility of adventure, whether ominous or joyous or both. The narrative ultimately follows Nathaniel into adulthood, where Ondaatje adds another perspective as Nathaniel is able to reflect on his memories of his childhood.

The process of discovering his characters through their memories and interpretations of events—rather than simply listing events as they happen—adds authenticity and richness. “In The Cat’s Table—some people think of it as a memoir, but it’s a novel—it was supposed to be a story about an 11-year-old boy [coincidentally also named Michael] on a ship and his journey,” Ondaatje said. (The author took a similar trip in his childhood from Sri Lanka to England.) “But there came a group of people getting involved with the boys on the ship, so it became a story not just from the point of view of the boy.” Like the characters in Warlight, Michael also offers his interpretation of events from that of an adult looking back on his journey.

As with a spelunker of fossils, Ondaatje’s process is one of patience and intuition. He writes the first three or four drafts by hand (“I don’t think I could write on a computer or typewriter. I need to see the scratches and doodle. It makes me feel closer to the story.”) and avoids thinking about sentences as he’s writing them (“I just try to see what’s happening as clearly as I can, not just physically but mentally, about how people are thinking about what’s happening.”).

It’s a lesson in trusting the process, and it allows readers to act as archaeologists, too. “In a poem, you don’t say everything. You suggest. The reader is a participant. In prose, I want to keep that.”

This article originally appeared on BookPage.

Karen Robards surprises readers with action-thriller for fifty-second book

By G. Robert Frazier

I didn’t discover Karen Robards until she’d written her fifty-second book.

Well, why would I? She writes historical romance novels. Not exactly my thing. I like my novels more hard-boiled: crime, mystery, suspense, action-thriller, that sort of thing. Horror and sci-fi are also favorites.

The UltimatumBut with book No. 52, The Ultimatum, Robards muscled in on my book reading radar. (Of course, her recent appearance at Parnassus Books in Nashville also helped draw my attention.)

The Ultimatum is Robards’ first foray into the realm of the action-thriller novel and features her feistiest, and perhaps sexiest, heroine to date, Bianca St. Ives. Part con artist, part savvy businesswoman, Bianca is all-action. The first hundred pages find Bianca in a bit of a bind: first as a $2 million heist goes horribly awry and, second, as she must use her cunning and expert fighting skills to escape capture. Unfortunately, her father, Richard St. Ives, isn’t as fortunate and is killed in an explosion.

With her father’s loss weighing heavy on her, Bianca tries to put her life back together and keep her security consultant business afloat. But when the U.S. government comes calling, claiming that her father is still alive, she is thrust back into the thick of things as bait to lure him out of hiding. With her life on the line, Bianca discovers a secret conspiracy involving genetically enhanced super soldiers and the truth about who she really is in an action-packed finale in the mountains of Austria.

“If you’ve ever wondered where the equivalent of Jack Reacher was for women, the answer is, in this page-turning global crime novel,” Robards said in a tweet about the book.

As Robards writes late in the novel, “It’s all fun and games until the Glocks come out.”

Persistence Pays Off

After 52 novels, it seems Robards is doing something right.

Karen Robards“You have to stick with it. It’s a really hard profession,” she says. “I’ve written 52 books; they’re all two-book contracts, so you have no job security beyond that. It’s a very solitary profession. It’s kind of draining. The last month of a book is misery, but it’s a good kind of misery. It hurts so good.”

Robards initially went to law school. She didn’t even think about writing books until her professor assigned the class to write “something publishable.”

“I didn’t know what was publishable,” she admits. “So, I went to the bookstore and historical romance was really, really hot. I bought a bunch of those books, went home and read them. They were great. I thought, I can do this. I sat down and wrote fifty pages of what I called The Pirate’s Woman. It had lots of action, lots of dialogue, and lots of sex.”

The rest of the class all wanted to write the Great American Novel.

“They had themes and symbolism, but I was good with what I wrote. Until the professor said we’re going to read what you wrote aloud. If I had known I was going to have to read it, I would never have written it.”

When Robards finished reading and looked up, she thought she had really wowed them.

“And then they laughed and laughed. My professor got up and said, ‘Karen, you’re a really a good writer, but we’ve got to do something about your choice of reading material.’”

Robards was naturally demoralized.

“I was embarrassed, my feelings were hurt. I was angry,” she says. “On the other hand, I thought what I had written was good. It wasn’t great literature, but it was a good entertaining fifty pages. I just thought, no, I’m not going to let them limit me in that way. I wanted that more than anything.”

Robards dropped out of law school, took a job in an orthodontist’s office, and wrote on a legal pad during her lunch hour while squirreled away in the rest room. The rest, as they say, is history as her book eventually sold and a new writing career was born.

The most important lesson she’s learned along the way is to have the commitment to write every day.

“Writing is a marathon, not a sprint,” she says. “I can’t have a bad day. You always have to be the very best you can be. You have to be able to concentrate and write that book and make it as good as all the other books, no matter what’s going on around you.”

Even when her son had cancer, Robards recalled how she had her notebook in hand.

The Ultimatum was recently named one of BookList’s Top Ten Romance Novels for 2017. But don’t let that fool you: this “romance” novel packs plenty of punch for any action fan.

“I’ve written 52 books and Bianca is one of my favorite heroines. I really, really like her and I enjoyed the process of writing her,” Robards says, adding that another adventure with Bianca is already in the works.

Online:

  • KarenRobards.com
  • Facebook: @AuthorKarenRobards
  • Twitter: @TheKarenRobards

 

Nothing You Can Do but enjoy these tales of murder, mayhem from Ed Kurtz

by G. Robert Frazier

Nothing You Can DoAs author Ed Kurtz so eloquently puts it, “Sometimes people kill for profit, sometimes revenge, and sometimes they do it just for the fun of it.”

In his new anthology NOTHING YOU CAN DO: STORIES (Down & Out Books), he demonstrates the theme with seventeen tales of crime, murder, and vengeance.

“I hope these stories entertain more than anything else,” Kurtz says, “but if the dubious morality of the characters in this collection doesn’t serve as something like a mirror the reader isn’t too keen to look into, I’d be a bit disappointed.”

Read my full interview with Ed Kurtz here.

Jerry Kennealy still mastering his craft after 22 books

by G. Robert Frazier

Polo's Long ShotAfter 11 novels featuring private eye Nick Polo—the latest being POLO’S LONGSHOT—and 22 books overall, you might think Jerry Kennealy has this author thing licked. He’d be the first to tell you otherwise.

“I’ll never get it licked, but this was a fun book to write: expensive wine, glider crashes, and interesting characters,” Kennealy said. “And, as in all of my books, it never would have been written without the help of my Shirley, my beautiful wife and in-house editor. She’s a very detail-minded person. I’m not.  So, I ramble along and she will come up with some interesting findings, like, ‘Jer. The character Polo is talking to on page 223, died on page 110.’ Oops.”

This time around, Polo is enlisted by billionaire Paul Bernier to find a kukri, a priceless golden jewel-encrusted 14th century dagger, designed by the Emperor of India. The dagger has a long, bloody history, passing between warlords throughout the ages, including Saddam Hussain. The search has Polo bumping heads with Bernier’s vindictive stepdaughter, his eccentric household staff, a Miami con man, a crooked private investigator, a drug dealing nightclub owner, a New York Mafia Don, and two vicious murderers.

Read my full interview with Jerry Kennealy here.

Things get personal for Susie Steiner’s protagonist in Persons Unknown

By G. Robert Frazier

Persons UnknownEven as the excitement over Susie Steiner’s first crime novel, Missing, Presumed, is reaching new peaks, the author’s second book in the series featuring Detective Manon Bradshaw, PERSONS UNKNOWN, hits stores this month.  Missing, Presumed was recently shortlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, one of the UK’s most prestigious awards for crime fiction.

If anything, however, the new book ramps up the stakes for Steiner’s protagonist, with those she loves among the suspects in a high-profile murder case. Add to that a detective who is five months pregnant while trying to be a good mother to her two children, and the complications multiply.

“The story is based on a real miscarriage of justice, which took place following a stabbing in London in 2011,” Steiner says. “I heard the story—or the remarkable ‘twist’ in the story—from a lawyer friend of mine over dinner. I then contacted the barrister in the case, and interviewed him, then the solicitor, and got a copy of the pathology report. So the spine of my story took place in real life.”

Read my full interview with Susie Steiner here.

Author Interview: Armand Rosamilia

by G. Robert Frazier

dirty_deeds_3Armand Rosamilia has a lot going on in his head. At any given moment, he could be writing a crime thriller, a zombie novel, an over-the-top humor book, or a paranormal thriller. With more than 150 stories published—from shorts to novellas to novels—the only time he’s not writing is when he’s sleeping.

I keep it all in my head,” the New Jersey boy and Florida transplant says. “I usually write three to five projects at once. I’m not sure how I do it. I just do it. “

Rosamilia’s latest, DIRTY DEEDS 3, continues a crime thriller series starring main character James Gaffney. This time around he’s called upon to give testimony against The Family, a branch of the New Jersey mob operating in Philadelphia. The Philly crew takes exception to Gaffney’s impending testimony and attempts to eliminate him.

Read the full interview in the April issue of The Big Thrill.

Author interview: Danny Gardner

 by G. Robert Frazier

A Negro and an OfayDanny Gardner first made a name for himself as a stand-up comedian on HBO’s Def Comedy Jam. So, what’s he doing scribing dark, gritty tales of crime in 1950s Chicago? Turns out the author of A NEGRO AND AN OFAY (Down and Out Books) has also toiled in scriptwriting, acting, and directing—a real Renaissance Man of the literary arts.

When you take them separately, it seems like a lot,” he says. “But be it stand-up, or screenwriting, or acting, it all comes from my deep, spiritual love for words. First, comedy and acting gave me a career and, eventually, a small place in pop-culture. Now that I’m a published novelist, it’s the ultimate expression of that love. I’m always going to write, be it the next Elliot Caprice novel, or just doing improv on stage for ten minutes. That’s who I am. That’s how I love myself the most.”

Read the full interview with Danny Gardner in the May issue of The Big Thrill.

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