Guest Author: Waheed Ibn-e-Musa

Johnny FractureI am thrilled to welcome award-winning author Waheed Ibn-e-MusaPakistan’s first international thriller author. His books are available on Amazon. His latest thriller, Johnny Fracture, is about the dark side of gold mining in Africa. It features conflicts, catastrophe, and a compelling story that will leave a deep impact on our hearts.

Book Description
“Amidst the crowd, tumbling like a stone, although lying on the roads, I’m but a life. However, if you still think string pulling fingers can’t pull the trigger, then try me!”

This is what an old street busker thinks and decides when catastrophe turns towards his dog, which is unaware of human discrimination and doesn’t know that man can go to such extremes due to his ego on petty issues.

They marooned him in a Godforsaken place – a place from where no one could ever have escaped.

The story sheds light on the dark side of illegal gold mining in Africa.

Conflicts between Italian mobsters and Mexican mafia, underground fights, blend of human love and animal affection, this compelling story will leave a deep impact on hearts.

Cosa Nostra says: “HELLAO!”

Profile PicAbout the author:
Leaving his construction business, he is fully devoted to his writing journey. Instead of making big, strong buildings, he finds happiness in making small houses of clay. A current resident of Lahore, Pakistan, Waheed Ibne Musa also paints and writes poetry, in addition to his stories. After making his debut with a stunning thriller, he became Pakistan’s first international thriller author.

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And here’s an excerpt from Johnny Fracture

Johnny Fracture1975
The bar door opened and Johnny entered, along with his two friends. Sammy was in his late 20s, like Johnny, while Frankie had just entered his early 20s. Upon seeing them, a man standing at the counter was bowled over. As soon as they came up to the counter, Frankie grabbed him by his collar.

“Are you gonna resist again or are we doing this the easy way?” he said, looking back at Sammy with a smile he returned.

The man gave them a disgusted look and, as soon as his hand reached under the counter, Frankie pulled him a little over the counter, took a knife out of his pants pocket, and poked his neck with it.

“Don’t try to be smart, Ricardo,” Johnny said in a somber tone, standing behind Frankie.

When the man’s hand returned from under the counter, it contained a packet, which he put on the counter. Johnny picked it up and tossed it, as if weighing it, and then threw it towards Sammy.

“Look how easy everything is done now, like water off a duck’s back! You shouldn’t have resisted last time. I felt bad when Johnny beat you black and blue, but it seems that you’ve learned your lesson well; you’re a fast learner,” Frankie said, patting him on his shoulder. After this, they walked to the door. While walking out, Frankie turned back and said, “See you soon!”

Outside on the road, a 1972 blue Buick Riviera was parked. After Frankie got in the back seat, Sammy sat on the driver’s seat next to Johnny.

“Did you see his nose?” Frankie asked.

“Yeah, it was twisted,” Sammy said, laughing while looking at him through the rear-view mirror.

“Last time, Johnny’s first punch hit him on his nose,” Frankie said and both laughed.

Looking out of the window, Johnny also smiled. Johnny “Fracture” Lorenzo, whose real name was

John Lorenzo, usually moved in a casual suit, but often managed with suspenders and a newsboy cap. He worked with two friends from his childhood for a notorious Italian mobster, Anthony Trapani, who was enamoured of fighting tournaments. Johnny was peerless in crushing people’s bones, not only in their racketeering activities, but also in underground fights. He was an extremely indomitable and unshakable champion of Anthony’s. Johnny was given his nickname after he had broken countless bones of his rival in a flash. He was unmatched in briskness and fastness. No one knew better than him where and how to damage the rival. He behaved as if his opponent was standing behind an x-ray machine. His worth strengthened further after he got a hold of weapons. Even if he took out his weapon later than his opponent, he could make a move before him.

CigarHis Italian parents died in a tragic road accident when he was only twelve. A search for shelter and hunger led him into the clutches of a lame, but ruthless, person who already has six more children under his thumb. Two of them were his sons. He had forced them into selling newspapers, but when they returned at night, they brought all the newspapers back, plus a lot of money. A week later, it dawned upon Johnny that he also had to pickpocket under the guise of a newspaper seller. After he had learnt this art, he became the quickest among the other six. When he pick-pocketed someone, the victim did not realise at all what had happened to him. The lame master named him “Butter Finger”. It caused his sons to become jealous of him, and they often bullied him, along with the other children, and always looked for a chance to trap him. They always came down on him like a ton of bricks on petty issues. Now, it had become their only aim to tell on him and get his hide tanned by their father, which was usually accompanied by depriving him of his supper. Early in the mornings, he used to put on a newsboy cap, take newspapers, and go out along with the other boys. After walking together for a certain distance, they used to part from one another and take their own paths, returning after the sunset.

On that day, if the wallet had not fallen from his hand, the policeman would never have known about it and nor would have he whistled. While trying t0 elude the police, he took shelter in a duct. The sound of the police whistle was striking his ears. Before he could wait for the whistles to dim and allow him to escape, he heard noises coming through the duct. He curiously crawled ahead and saw a little light sneaking through a hole. He fixed his eye to the hole and found several hands punching in the air. Some people were huddling around a stage in a state of frenzy and rage, where two men were whaling the tar out of each other. The silver bowls above the cameras were raining flickering flashlights upon them. He used to see such pictures in newspapers, but now he was beholding this all with his own eyes and felt excited about it. He always felt excitement to witness such things. The next day, he returned to the duct. It did not take him long to find the entrance gate to the building. After entering, he looked around with his eyes wide open. Looking at statues and pictures on the walls with excitement, he at last reached the spot he had seen through the hole, but now there was silence and only one African man, who was shining the floor with a broom. He stopped his work upon seeing him.

“Hey, what you looking for, kid?” he asked.

Then he smiled at Johnny’s innocent question and said, “This is a gymnasium. People come here to learn and train.” Then, pointing towards the canvas, he said, “This is a ring. Fighters fight here.” And what he had beheld the day before was a bout.

Upon his next innocent question, the man put the broom in an iron bucket and said, with a smile, “It takes a lot of hard work, devotion, good food, balanced diet, enough money, etcetera. Do you have any of them?”

With Johnny’s innocent desire and insistence, the man thought for a moment and then nodded his head in agreement.Johnny Fracture

Johnny kept pick-pocketing until noon and then went to the gymnasium. After he had hit the floor and shined it, the African allowed him to hit the punching bag. Johnny started visiting the gymnasium daily. The routine, though, had begun to effect his earning. Before, he used to return with fifteen wallets, and now he showed up with only five, most of them almost empty because he did not spend the time determining the best targets, such as an opulent person. Such earning caused him to get severely beaten at home, which, in turn, made the other boys overjoyed, but now he was not mindful of these things. He just wanted to become a fighter.

When the African perceived that he had the devotion to become a fighter and was determined to keep on with his pursuit, he made up his mind to teach him as much as he could. His name was Christopher Terry. He told him that he had been in the corner with fighters and had spent time with coaches. In the beginning, he taught him the jab, straight, hook, and uppercut and told him to practise the moves.

One day, when he was searching through the wallet of his recent target, he heard whistles. In the next moment, a panicked boy was running towards him. He was one of the master’s two sons. Before Johnny could understand what he was doing there, the boy fell down after stumbling into a sack of cement. Johnny, at once, threw away his newspapers and ran towards him. The boy had sprained his leg and was no longer able to run. Johnny gave him support and hid him in a sewerage pipe nearby. In order to divert the attention of the police, he took the wallet from him and made the police run after him, and, in no time, they circled around him. The next day, when the police sent for his lame master, he looked at Johnny and denied recognising him. So far, Johnny had been swallowing all of the harsh attitudes at the master’s hands, but such behaviour was incomprehensible to him, and he found it impossible to digest. After having served a few days of a light sentence, he came back home. The master gave him a warm hug, as if he was his missing real son that had been lost. The next morning, Johnny held newspapers along with the other boys and was ready to go to work. That day, he left and never came back.

Terry gave him a place in the store to reside in. During the day, he assisted Terry and, during the night, he practised. One day, when Terry found him raining punches on the bag, he stopped him.

“Balance, footwork, and punching power! Keep that in mind,” he said. “There are five components to punching power that must be there for a puncher to be considered truly powerful: lack of arm punching, proper weight shifting, stepping during a punch, pivoting with a punch, and using proper footwork, and this connection requires the development of a strong core. The core is perhaps the most important element in a powerful punch, since it connects the powerhouse of the legs to the delivery system of the arms. Now, you’re probably thinking what is core,” he said, smiling while looking at his confused face. Giving him a strong pat on his back, abdomen, and inner thighs, he said, “This! This group of muscles is where much of the body’s strength comes from.” He stood up and said, pointing towards a bench, “Lift it up and move it. It is a hindrance to your practice.”

Johnny held it up and placed it aside, and Terry went to the door.

“What is this glove doing there?” He turned back and pointed towards a glove lying on the floor. “Kick it here, so that I can put it back into its place.”

Johnny stepped ahead and kicked it and the glove reached Terry’s feet, bouncing.

Johnny FractureTerry picked it up and said, “You’ve brought your core strength into use in three ways and you didn’t even realise it. You use this strength to kick something and to lift a heavy thing.”

Before Johnny understood which third task he

performed, he said, “Yeah, yeah, I know, you also use it to stand up straight.” Then Terry left, smiling.

The next day, Terry trained him in an exercise of core strength. He made him lay on his back, put both of his hands behind his head, and draw his right elbow and left knee together, extending his right leg. Then, he switched and drew his left elbow and right knee together.

Like every new boxer, he desired to try his skill after only a few days practise. He soon got that opportunity, when he found some grown up boys standing in an alley, bullying a small kid. He called out to them and soon realised his mistake when one of them turned round, gnashing his teeth. Johnny drew back the extra-long sleeves of his loose coat and took out his small fists, as if he was hoping that they might realise that he was a boxer and would run away, but the boy looked at his fellows laughing and walked towards him. Various thoughts hovered around Johnny’s mind. “Should he take off his coat? And what if he takes off his cap, he may look older?” However, all of his schemes of defence did not prove out to be helpful, as a strong blow came out of nowhere and hit him on his head. When he came to, it was getting dark. Holding his head for a while, he ran towards the gymnasium.

The next morning, after hearing his account, Terry said, “If you don’t know what hit you, it must’ve been a kick.” In order to explain, he said, “Here, in this ring, we rely on arms, but if you get into a street fight, your opponent may use any part of his body. So, your strategy will be different there, and you’ll have to make use of your legs, as well as your hands, to gain an upper hand on your opponent.”

Upon his insistence, Terry said, “I’m unable to train you in this matter, but I can send you to a Korean friend of mine who lives in Texas. He can train you in this art.”

A few days later, he gave him some money, and Johnny left for Texas.

When he returned, he had become well-versed with the useful skills of martial art, such as Akemi, which targeted weak points like the solar plexus, fulcrum floating ribs, throat, groin or any of the major nerve clusters on the back of the calf, and the charley horsea little notch on the hip joint just above the bony protuberance that drastically reduced an opponent’s ability to stand, let alone attack. He, once again, put on gloves and began to practise boxing. With the passage of time, he started to spar with other boxers and then practise matches, as well. However, after doing all this, he would enter the store exhausted and loneliness caught hold of him, but his loneliness was not to last for long.

Sammy “Detector” Luca’s real name was Sam Luca. He wore a brown leather jacket. He had been given the name “Detector” because of his skill in metal detection. Sammy could tell how many weapons his opponent was armed with and whether it would be a knife or a revolver when his hand came out of his clothes. Through the expressions of his opponent, he used to know whether his opponent intended to surrender or try to reach for his weapon. Johnny took a great fancy to the acuteness of his senses. On one occasion, Johnny could not help but sing the praises of him when Sammy told him to fire at a person standing in front, because he was bluffing with an empty weapon. Johnny took him at his word and made a move, and when he examined the weapon of the dead person, it was indeed empty.

Sammy’s father was a blacksmith who remained as drunk as a lord and kept Sammy’s nose to the grindstone by making all kinds of work for him. It was his practice to tan Sammy’s hide for minor mistakes. One day, he told him to repair a brass bell and deliver it to its owner by himself. When the bell was repaired, Sammy went to deliver it to the gymnasium where Johnny worked. That day, he left and never came back.

Frankie “the Credit,” who was often called “the Priest,” always buttoned up his collar and was often laden with some sort of debt. Whenever Johnny came to know that his lenders had cornered him, he presented himself at the spot. He either paid them money or made bouts with them and settled scores with him. Even though Johnny went halves with them after every job, Frankie always kept himself loaded with debt from top to bottom, and it was beyond Johnny’s understanding. Whenever he asked him about it, he was given all sorts of reasonable and unreasonable excuses. However, Johnny always looked the other way because he felt more like a younger brother. Sammy often said that it was all because of Johnny’s flexible treatment and fondling that Frankie had been spoilt. But a person who had lost all of his dear ones in his childhood could bear with even more follies from his younger brother.

His name had been registered as Franklyn Nicolo in the Catholic orphanage, and he would never come to know who registered him there. Sister Martha found this name on the chit when someone had left him there in the basement of the orphanage. That’s why he abhorred this name and told others to call him Frank.

Although he was not a problem child, the Superior Mother always treated him as if he was. She had him, alone, in her bad books. Therefore, he was often made scapegoat of others’ mistakes. He had been bearing this for a long time. At last, he found himself at the end of his tether, and the time had come for the worm to turn. Even when Sister Martha told him to stitch his collar, he would take ill of it. He wanted to bid adieu to that place once and for all. One day, a boy named Johnny came there to donate money from a charity boxing match. On the very next day, Sister Martha found him trying to sneak out the window. At first, she stood there dumbfounded. Then, she said, after a moment, “Franklyn, stitch your collar,” and went away to offer confession. Frankie saw her go, with a smile dancing on his face, and left through the window. That day, he left and never came back.

Now Johnny was no longer alone. He kept them with him, with the permission of Terry. Both of them lent him a hand in the chores of the gymnasium. The little amount Johnny received as wages did not stand them in good stead. One day, his sparring partner told him that he was entering a street fight. Johnny knew that there were many fighters who engaged themselves with street fights for money. Hence, he decided to enter, too, and his partner carried him along.

It was an abandoned plaza, where many people were standing like a jam-packed crowd and were raising hue and cry. Only those who had lost money were standing with long faces. He had always heard about such fights, but it was the first time he was witnessing all this. About love, he did not know, but he could see that everything was fair in this war. They were doing eye-gouging, fish-hooking, and head-butting. Playing below the belt was all fair in this game. All kinds of actions were fair and square.

In ring, fighters wore gloves, but he was to fight here bare-knuckled. He was here to play a game with no rules, no referees, no cutman, no ice, no petroleum jelly, and not even the white towel.

In the ring, they gave a bow to the opponent for an honourable end, but here they were bowing only to make sure that the opponent had given up his ghost or just been crippled.

When it was his turn to fight, he discovered that his opponent was older than him. Johnny was eighteen, but the opponent’s age could not hold a candle to his agility and ability, and he was knocked down by just a single blow. Johnny was well-versed in how to serve his opponent with such a horrific and baleful punch that it proved to be a nail in his coffin. In order to add mass to his punch, he had moved hind body as a unit throughout the punch. Power was generated from the ground up, such that the force from the ankles was transferred to his knees, from the knees to the thighs, from the thighs to the core, from the core to the chest, from the chest to the shoulders, from the shoulders to the forearms, and, finally, the compounded force was transferred through his fist into the opponent.

He bought Sammy a shoeshine kit out of the money he won in the fight, and he started shining people’s shoes. He assigned Frankie to sell newspapers. During day, they worked out, and, at night, they slept in the store after having helped Johnny and Terry with gymnasium chores. And they accompanied Johnny to street fights twice a week. The more they grew up, the more their demands increased. Frankie used to insist that he take on long odds, but Johnny always responded to him that he fought only to fill a few in-betweens. However, one day, he at last rose to the bait and played a big game. He found Frankie, as pleased as punch at the winning amount, because he would not have to work for a few days because of that money. Then, he made up his mind to go for big games and told them to give up work, because, from now on, their job was to grab money from people and see to his wounds.

One day, after a bout, they were messing around with each other. When Frankie was trying to snatch money from them, Johnny noticed a cream-coloured Lincoln Continental at a small distance eyeing them. As soon as he took steps towards the car out of curiosity, the window raised up and the car went away. Although Johnny could not see who was inside, it was obvious that someone was stalking them.

When Terry discovered that Johnny was getting more and more involved in the street fights, he told him that many people would try to attract him towards themselves, but he needed to strike the right path and keep himself aloof from their alluring and misleading offers. Johnny was perturbed by these words, and, at long last, one day he asked Terry about it. Terry heaved a deep sigh and was obliged to tell him the bitter truth about his life, so that the mistake he had committed might not be repeated by Johnny. He told Johnny that he had been brought here by a dream to become a legendary boxer. He needed money to start learning about a professional career. That’s why he had begun to take part in street fights. His fame had gained the ears of people far and wide, and a man named Anthony offered him a chance to become an underground fighter. The offer was accompanied by the desired money, and he jumped at it without any other thought.

Matthew Arkin: In the Country of the Blind

In the Country of the BlindPlease welcome distinguished actor, teacher, and author Matthew Arkin, here to tell us about his highly-acclaimed novel, In the Country of the Blind.

ABOUT THE BOOK
“A dead body is a lousy way to end a first date.”

So begins In the Country of the Blind, a modern noir tale that takes readers into the world of former attorney-turned building superintendent Zach Brandis. When Zach abandoned his promising legal career, it confused everyone, including himself. Now, with no apparent purpose in life, he has time enough on his hands to get into some very hot water.

When Zach takes Cynthia Hull to dinner, murder and a confrontation with the cops are the last things on his mind. But when he walks her home, he finds himself face to face with New York’s finest, who are investigating the suspicious death of the actress’s roommate and friend, Alex Penworth. Maybe it’s because Cynthia is beautiful and vulnerable, or maybe it’s just because the cops rub him the wrong way, but Zach steps in to shield her from their persistent questions. In the days following, Zach finds himself increasingly tied up in knots over the case, and what starts as simple curiosity may end up putting the former attorney in grave danger.

Captivated by the puzzle of Alex’s death, Zach begins to play with the pieces. When Cynthia’s apartment is ransacked shortly the murder, it becomes clear that Alex was hiding something, something of value to someone. Looking into Alex’s mysterious activities in the weeks before his death, more questions begin to emerge: Why was Alex fired from his bartending job? Why is a beautiful undercover narc hanging around the bar where Alex worked, and trying to keep Zach away? Why do the cops seem uninterested in the inconsistencies in Alex’s autopsy report? As Zach puts the pieces in place, a picture of the victim begins to emerge: Alex, another lost soul, plagued by his past and the demons of the cult he escaped — a man who, like Zach, abandoned a promising career to struggle as a going-nowhere actor/bartender. Driven by his feeling of kinship with the victim, can Zach discover what ultimately led to Alex’s death, and still get himself out of harm’s way before it’s too late?

A dark and witty tale in the vein of John Sandford and Lawrence Block, In the Country of the Blind is a true page-turner, suspenseful from beginning to end. This character-driven thriller will have readers on the edge of their seats, compelled, like Zach, to uncover the secrets behind the gruesome murder.

Q&A WITH THE AUTHOR

Did your own life experiences figure into the plot of In the Country of the Blind? 

The seeds for this story came from several significant events in my own life. My experiences as a refugee from a controlling and dangerous cult figure heavily in the backstory of the victim. The period in my life when I had quit the practice of law in order to pursue acting again, and was struggling to make ends meet as a bartender are also reflected in the story. The victim’s separation from his family for a period is something that I struggled with myself for a time, and Zach struggles with it as well. It was in part trying to find a frame for those struggles, which all coincided, that inspired this story. It’s also part of what fuels Zach’s identification with the victim and drives his somewhat obsessive quest for the truth.

One of my moms, author Barbara Dana, (I use “mom” for both my biological mother who raised me until I was seven, and my step-mother who raised me after that), always told me “write what you know,” and that’s what I’ve done in this story. Part of the fun of writing fiction is that you get to jump into the combination playground/mad scientist laboratory in your head and run wild with your own past, mixing in your own imaginings and desired “what ifs” to make things turn out the way you’d like. In a way that is similar to my work as an actor, I get to explore alternative lives, but in writing, I have much more control over where those lives go.

Many people are dying to sit down and write a book, but it’s a daunting task. Tell us about the genesis of In the Country of the Blind and how you got it off the ground. 

In 1990, shortly after I quit the practice of law, a good friend introduced me to the work of Lawrence Block, and I started burning my way through his books. Then, in 1995, I was heading out on the national tour of a Neil Simon play, and wondering what I was going to be doing with my free days as we travelled the country, doing the show only at night. My then wife had been encouraging me to try my hand at tackling the genre I loved, but like you say, it’s daunting, and there can be a lot of voices in your head saying “You’ll never get this done. It won’t be any good.” But I remembered that my mom had written her first novel while on the first national tour of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe. At the same time, I had found Lawrence Block’s Spider, Spin Me a Web. So with free time, desire, a history of obsession with the form, I began. There have been hitches and restarts along the way, but it’s been a terrific journey.

I chose to write a detective series in the suspense/mystery/thriller genre because those books have been my passion since I was kid. To me, they allow for the most interesting exploration of the concept of justice. There is an inherent conflict between the individual, with his or her inner voice, and society at large, with its laws and social mores, and it’s fascinating to investigate how that conflict plays out in the execution of justice. That question started to interest me at age eleven, when I read To Kill a Mockingbird. My fascination with it continued through college, when I wrote my thesis on that book, together with The Ox Bow Incident and The Virginian, and it persists to this day. Now I’m using my own past as a lawyer, my quitting because I was disillusioned, my experiences as a victim of cult abuse, mixed in with many other events and themes, to explore that topic even further.

Do you have anything in common with your protagonist, Zach Brandis? 

There are a lot of obvious similarities between me and Zach. We were both born in New York City. Zach lived there his entire life, and I lived in and around the city for most of my mine. I’m in Los Angeles now, but I dream of returning, and still think I should be able to vote in the mayoral election, because I’m still a New Yorker. Zach and I both went to Fordham Law School, both practiced law for a time before becoming disillusioned and moving on. But while I had a passion that I returned to, Zach was lost and, at the beginning of In the Country of the Blind, he’s trying to find his way. Zach and I are both passionate about beer. We both brew our own when time allows, and we both enjoy cooking as a way to relax, or finding new, out of the way restaurants. We also both have a somewhat complicated relationship with our own spirituality, including our Judaism, and a discomfort with orthodoxy in all its forms.

Zach also comes up on the losing side of most physical confrontations. I’m glad this pattern has never been tested in my own life, but if I suspect if it were, the same would be true for me.

Why did you decide to self-publish? 

Initially I was following the traditional route to publication. I was signed with a prestigious agent in New York, who had made very clear statements to me about her love for certain themes and energies in the book. After a small number of houses had passed on the manuscript, one terrific house expressed serious interest, and wanted to see the pitch for the second book, which my agent also loved, because it takes Zach even further down the dark road that he begins in Blind. The publisher was disturbed by the dark themes, however, and wanted everything about the book lightened. My agent responded by saying to me, “Get to work.”

While I had already done some serious rewriting and revision, I had a big problem with gutting the heart and soul of the novel, and a bigger problem with my agents willingness to ask me to do that in order to make the sale, particularly when we were so early in the revision process. It seemed to me that we would do better to stick with what excited me as a writer, and what attracted her to my material in the first place. So we had a parting of the ways.

Shortly thereafter, a very good friend of mine who has worked in publishing for over 30 years suggested that I self-publish. Following his advice, I started researching the process, and learned a lot about how the publishing world has been turned upside down in the past several years. It has gone through the same kind of revolution that has occurred in other fields, such as music, film and television. Digital changed everything in the arts, and no one knows how everything is going to shake out, how the new markets are going to stabilize, if they ever do.

Many people said to me, with a lot of judgment, “Do you have any idea how many people actually make any real money in self-publishing?” My response is, “Do you have any idea how many people make any real money in traditional publishing?” These days, even if you are published by a major imprint, unless you’re one of the authors that they are really going to get behind, you’re going to have to do all of your publicity and marketing yourself. If you get into the chain bookstores, your book is going to sitting spine out on the shelves. It’s not going to be cover out, or sitting on a display table unless the publisher is willing to pay for that space, and that money might be coming out of your advance. Unless the publisher has already anointed you as an author that they are going to make into a success, you’ll do all the work yourself, for a much smaller royalty than you get when you self-publish. And you’ll give up a lot of control.

Some people say that the old model still has a place. That we need the agents and publishers as gatekeeper, ensuring the quality of the finished product, separating the wheat from the chaff. I don’t think that’s true. How many of the great books struggled and struggled to find a house? How many of them had no one that believed in them until after they were a success? Agents and publishers look backwards, at what succeeded last week, last month, last year, and try to echo it, recapture it. Artists, by their nature, look forward, listening to their own inner voices. I have a good story to tell, and I tell it well. I know there is a market for that, and I know that I’ll reach it.

Who are the authors that have influenced or inspired you? 

I have always been a fan of the detective series, whether the more traditional PI or cop, like Lucas Davenport, Spenser, and Archie Goodwin, or the non-traditional tarnished knight, such as Travis McGee or Jack Reacher, and from that list, you can probably surmise the authors who are my heroes in the genre. I’ve been making a study of the work of those authors, and others, such as Sue Grafton and Greg Rucka, my entire life. Although I’m sure that readers familiar with them will recognize their influences, I think that they have blended in a unique way in my own work.

Do you have another project in the works? 

With the release of In the Country of the Blind, I’m hard at work on the next Zach Brandis novel. The working title is Cherchez la Perp, but I’m not sure if I’m going to stay with that. At the end of Blind, Zach is in a pretty complicated personal space. He knows more about who he is, which is good, but he’s also become acquainted with some of his own darkness. That’s a good thing, in the long run, but it can also be a pretty scary and lonely place for a while. I guess you could say that if the only way out is through, he’s entered that tunnel that takes you through, and he doesn’t yet see the light at the other end. In the next book, that tunnel is going to get even darker as he continues to discover more about who he is at his core.

 

In the country_3DEXCERPT FROM IN THE COUNTRY OF THE BLIND

Three nights later, on Thursday, I had a late dinner with Leo. We went to a delicious, small, inexpensive Japanese place. It was right next door to a delicious, large, expensive Japanese place. The expensive place was always packed. The inexpensive place was always empty. Leo and I could never figure out why, or how it stayed in business. We speculated that the same people owned both and that somehow the losses from one helped with the taxes from the other. During dinner we drank Asahi, which is good as long as it’s ice cold. It was. I told Leo about the Penworths. After dinner we drank tea and Leo reminisced about his former student. Sometime after eleven o’clock we said goodnight and I grabbed the R train uptown.

The subway that night was strangely deserted, with only lone travelers preoccupied with books and magazines or simply staring at the floor. Times Square Station was close to empty. Two transit cops stood silently at the top of the stairs as I transferred to the uptown 1 train. They could have been statues, and didn’t glance at me or the other passersby as we moved through their field of vision. A lone flautist echoing from the far end of the downtown platform only increased my sense of isolation as I waited. After five minutes a local train arrived and I took it, needing to keep moving, not wanting to wait for the express. At Seventy-Second Street I got off and escaped up into the night air. Broadway, too, was uncharacteristically deserted, except for Gray’s Papaya on the corner to my right, teeming with life as always, models mingling with bums mixing with business men, eating the incomparable hotdogs twenty-four hours a day. I resisted the urge to run across the street and grab one, feel the snap of the skin on my teeth. The aroma of beef and fat was a siren song even on a full stomach. I cut north across Seventy-Second through Verdi Square and up the west side of Amsterdam.

At Seventy-Fifth I paused in front of Tempo, where Alex had tended bar until he was fired. I peered through one of the plate-glass windows. There was activity inside. Whatever was slowing down the rest of the city had no effect here, and I wondered what the allure was. I knew it was trendy, but I had never been in. The idea of trolling in bars for what passes as romance has never appealed to me. I find loneliness more bearable if I’m actually alone, rather than alone in the midst of a crowd of other lonely people.

Sometimes I’ll watch a movie with the sound turned off. It’s something I learned from Leo, an assignment he gives to his acting classes. He says you can judge the acting much better that way. Without the distractions of dialogue, music and foley, it’s easier to see the seamless work of the true artist, the false technique of the hack. Looking inside at the crowded bar was like working that exercise. I saw patrons engaged in animated conversation. Music was playing, and my fingertips could feel, faintly, the bass line through the plate glass. Some people were moving to the beat. Inside, I would hear the tinkling of silverware on plates, the clinking of glass on glass. But without the distraction of all of the noise, I could see loneliness on the faces, desperation in the eyes, the falseness of the smiles.

A limousine pulled to the curb behind me. The driver hopped out and ran around to open the rear curbside door. Two men in their early thirties emerged dressed in well-cut Italian suits, laughing lewdly, helping their dates out, two beautiful women in their early twenties, model thin, not dressed for the cold weather. Still laughing, they headed into Tempo. On a whim, I caught the door before it shut and followed them. There was the attractive hostess, wearing a short dress and ready smile. As the men requested a table, I caught her eye and inclined my head to the right, towards the barroom, questioning her with my eyebrows. She nodded almost imperceptibly before she turned the high beams of her graciousness back on the party of four. I squeezed past and headed for the bar, which took up the two back walls of the room that opened up to the right of the hostess station. It was crowded, and all of the stools at the three or four tall freestanding tables were taken. I managed to nab a lone seat at the bar near the end. The bartender approached. He was in his early thirties and had a ruddy face that looked like it leaned more toward easy embarrassment than quick anger.

“What can I get you?” he asked as he set a napkin down in front of me. It had the Tempo logo on it, a stylized martini glass/clock with two toothpick-speared olives forming the hands. They had Palate Wrecker from the Green Flash Brewing Company, so I ordered a pint. The best beers in the country, some of the best in the world, are coming from San Diego County right now, and I do love my hops. I turned on my stool to look past the hostess station to the large split-level dining room beyond. The lower level looked completely full. The upper level was only partially visible through archways in the wall, but I could see the wait staff from the shoulders up as they took orders and served drinks, so it must have been fairly full as well. Brisk business for a Monday night. The crowd was mostly mid thirties to late forties, dressed either very well or with the kind of studied casualness that can be very expensive. They ate, talked and laughed with forced gusto, as if they had been ordered to enjoy. I spotted a couple of minor celebrities at two of the tables in the main dining room, and a very famous film star standing beside a table of six. He finished a story, everyone laughed appropriately, and he strode back to his table in the more private dining area.

My beer arrived. I took a swallow and surveyed the barroom. This crowd was more frantic, more bent on reaching a good time, with more ground to cover to get there. A movement caught my eye, the turn of a head a little too quick, a woman talking to two men, her back to me. I took another sip of my beer and watched. From the looks on their faces, these guys were smitten. A burst of laughter erupted from the party to her left and somebody jostled her, forcing her to turn, giving me a glimpse of profile. She was stunning, and looked familiar, but I couldn’t figure out from where. Odd that I couldn’t place a woman that beautiful. I’m usually pretty good at remembering the truly important things. Then she glanced my way. Our eyes locked for a just a moment, and she quickly returned her attention to the two men. I stood, threw some bills on the bar and picked up my beer. As I threaded my way through the crowd, she glanced at me again and her eyes lit up.

“There you are!” she cried. She said something to the men and edged quickly my way. I still couldn’t place her. When she reached me, she stood on tiptoe, grabbed my face with both hands and pulled me in for a full, hard kiss with a delicious mouth. She squeezed the back of my neck hard as she whispered in my ear.

“Don’t say a fucking word.” She spun on her heel, pulling me behind her by the hand. We passed her companions and she let loose a peal of laughter.

“Sorry, fellas, but I haven’t seen this guy for ages, and we’ve got some catching up to do. I’ll see you around,” she said, and we were out the door. She still had hold of my hand, and I stopped to protest, but she grabbed my face for another hard kiss. It is unwise to object when kissed by a beautiful woman dressed to the nines, even if you don’t have any idea who the hell she is, so I began to reciprocate. She broke it off and spun me around, my back to the restaurant.

“Not here,” she said as she waved over my shoulder to the guys. She put her arm around my waist and pulled me quickly down the street. I followed, or rather, let her drag me to the corner, where she hauled me a few steps down Seventy-Sixth and pushed me into a dark alleyway where the only light was cast by a single bulb above an apartment building’s service entrance at the far end. She was backlit by a street lamp near the entrance to the alley and I couldn’t see her face.

“What the fuck were you doing in there?”
“Excuse me?” I said.
She stepped towards me. “I asked you what the fuck you were doing in there.” “Uh . . . having a drink?”
“Don’t get smart with me.” She straight-armed me farther into the alley. “If you’re

dicking around with this, you’re in big trouble.”
I was starting to be less amused. It’s one thing to be kissed and manhandled by a

beautiful, sexy stranger, and another to be threatened by her.
“I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”
“Don’t fuck with me,” she said, shoving me again. The tone of voice and her language

completely belied the refined image projected by the woman I had seen in the bar. “Excuse me,” I said, “but who the fuck are you?”
“What?”
“Who the fuck are you, and what the fuck are you talking about?”

She took another step forward. I wasn’t exactly afraid of her, but if I stood my ground and she pushed me again, I might have to give her a good one back. I didn’t want to do that, she was so small, so I took a quick step back. My foot landed on a piece of pipe, it skittered out from under me, and I went down as quickly as if I’d hit a patch of ice. I tried to arch my back to keep myself upright, and the first thing to hit the pavement was my head. I heard the crack, felt the dull penetrating vibration of the impact, and a sharp searing pain. A twin star revolved in the night sky, and two women loomed over me, speaking words I couldn’t understand, could barely hear. The twin star slowly resolved itself into the single bulb above the service entrance, and then one of the women was gone. I could hear the remaining one more clearly, speaking from the end of a long corrugated steel tunnel.

“Zach, are you all right?” “ngh.”
“Does your neck hurt?” “ngh.”

“Dammit. Just lie still for a minute.” She put a hand on my chest. “That must have knocked the wind out of you.”

“ngh.”

She kneeled over me, looking into my eyes. She raised one hand and blocked the light from the bulb, putting one of my eyes into shadow, then moved her hand and repeated this motion a few times with that eye, and then again with the other.

“Does your neck hurt?” “ngh-ngh.”
“Can you sit up?” “ngh-hah.”

“Okay, let’s try it, nice and easy.” She put one hand behind my head at the base of my skull and wrapped her other arm around me to support me from behind my shoulders. Her face was next to mine and I could smell her perfume, dark and spicy, as she pulled me up into a sitting position on the pavement. She sat back on her heels and held my neck, kneading, probing gently with her fingers. The light finally caught her face, and it hit me: the police station, before my meeting with Cynthia and the two homicide dicks.

She pulled her hand away from my neck and held it up in front of her. It was covered with blood.

“Shit,” she said.
“Is that mine?”
“It would appear so. It looks like you hit the remains of a beer bottle when you went

down. Goddammit. Now I’ve gotta fill out a shitload of reports.”
“Yeah. Not to mention dealing with IAB and a brutality investigation.”
“You’re kidding, right? That might be tough to pull off. I’ve got witnesses who saw us

smooching our way out of that restaurant and up the street.”
“Well, if there’s more smooching to look forward to, I might be persuaded to drop the charges.”

“Shut the fuck up,” she said. “Turn around. I wanna see how bad it is.”
I complied.
“Sally, right?” I asked as she probed the back of my head to get a good look. “Yeah. Good memory.”
“So, Sally. What do we do now?”
“We get you to the hospital for some stitches.”

“And then?” I asked, turning back to her.

She was digging in her shoulder bag. She pulled out some paper napkins and handed them to me. “And then you go home and forget this ever happened.”

matthew_arkinABOUT THE AUTHOR
Matthew Arkin is a critically acclaimed actor, an acting teacher, and a recovering attorney. He attributes his skill for crafting dialogue and creating characters to his more than forty-five years of experience on stage, television, and film, and to reading approximately one suspense thriller per week since he was a young child.

Following the advice of one of his moms, author Barbara Dana, to “write what you know,” Arkin has created Zach Brandis and the novel In the Country of the Blind. Like Zach, Arkin gave up a career as a lawyer. Like Zach, he was born and raised, went to law school and spent most of his life in and around New York City. His love affair with the city, his life as a former attorney, and his experiences as a victim of cult abuse allow him to approach Zach’s story with poignant, candid depth and realism.

In the Country of the Blind is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

More information on Matthew and his career is available at matthewarkin.com.

Guest Post, Jerome Dumont: So You Want to Translate Your Novel

I am thrilled to welcome author Jerome Dumont who tells us about the joys of translation.

Dangerous Games_600So you want to translate your novel

Even if it has never been so easy to spread anything worldwide, when it comes to self-publishing, most fellow indie authors stick to their domestic market. However, growing one’s readership is always interesting and a translation of your book may be a good way to help achieving this goal.

Before jumping in the process of a translation, you may ask yourself several questions:

Will my book interest a foreign audience?

I write thrillers and so far I have six books of my Rossetti & MacLane series live in the French market. The series has met some success and sells well in France (however the figures are way smaller than the English market).

The plots are either centered around actuality (Dangerous Games is about misuse of smartphone data collection, just think about geolocalization or users’ address books collected without consent in 2012), medically assisted procreation or ageless histories such as vanishing persons, mobsters or chasing a serial killer.

Obviously, the Dangerous Games plot could be of interest for English readers. Good point.

Now what about your characters?

Will Gabriel Rossetti, the French lawyer specialized in divorces be of interest? Will Amanda MacLane, successful Montreal startup CEO, having the world play her social games spark anything to readers? What about Robert Martinez, typical French with inheritance and manners from French-Algerian ‘pied noir’ or Angel, the old school Corsican gangster? Will the audience like them?

I strongly believe that readers are often looking for diversity, especially people who read indie authors. Avid readers don’t want to read the same book over and over again, do they?

No deal breaker here, however, you will have to find the right translator for the job.

Looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right

I’ve been living in Canada for eight years now, and I work in French as much as English, read in both languages and even achieved a small book’s translation (some kind of self-help book which doesn’t require the same skills as translating a novel).

I had no doubt that I couldn’t justice my book by doing it myself. So I needed to find the right translator. This is where things get a little picky. It’s common knowledge that you need a translator whose mother tongue is the target language.

I must admit I was lucky. Asking over my social networks, especially my Canadian English friends, I soon got a list of several translators. I got in touch with some of them and my main requirement was somebody who knew well the South of France typical people and manners. Lucky me! Robyn Jaquays was the one as she lived for ten years there.

She offered me a free sample and to say the least, I was impressed to re-discover my story in English! She got the main pictures, she saw the characters and could definitely relate to figures she must have met in real life. She got the mood, the rhythm: a perfect fit!

We’re living ‘only’ 300 kilometers away (which is almost a cake walk in Canada…) so I had the chance to meet her and to talk about my characters, my books. I got to know more about her French experience and I strongly recommend to arrange a meeting with your translator if you get the chance. I do love social networking, however, getting to know someone in real life is definitely irreplaceable!

We did work exchanging and reviewing back and forth, chapter after chapter. There’s an obvious point there: you have to be heavily involved in the process, as the author of course and as the first reader too. Thus, if you have absolutely no knowledge of the language you want to translate to, you won’t be able to do your part. In this case, you’ll need to trust even more your translator or find a first reader near you to comment and give you his/her opinion.

I thought Robyn may have difficulties with some tech related parts of the book, well, she hadn’t. Some specificities of French legal procedures did, although it was some slight details.

It took time. More than I was expected. Nevertheless she was the one I wanted for my translation so I took patience. The result is worthy. Definitely.

But… Wait? Even if I highly trust her, launching my book immediately after the final draft could be suicidal. Impatience is indie author’s best enemy, isn’t it?

The book had to be reviewed, proofread. As I said before, I couldn’t handle the translation and let’s be honest, neither a professional proofreading process. Of course I read a lot in English, but does that make me qualified to proofread my book. It’s not an excess of humility to admit that the answer is a no.

There I was, in the market for a proofreader.

Proofreader Needed

I do have a set of beta-readers for my French books and proficiency in French (although I’ve learned the hard way that it was far from perfect!). I definitely needed a professional proofreader.

Problem was: I knew no one at the moment. Thanks to Twitter and a wise use of hashtags, I found several results. Did my homework and consulted their website.

Reading blog posts from Julia Gibbs and testimonies about her work impressed me. I got in touch with her, she quickly and professionally replied, so we were in business.

As she lives in the UK, the question of US or UK English had to be addressed. US English seemed the best choice. She was ahead of her schedule and sent me the final draft two weeks before the deadline. Launch had never been so close, but… Wait?

What about my cover?

A tailor made professional cover

We all know that ‘you don’t judge a book by its cover’ (really ?), however it’s also commonsense that an image is worth a thousand words and that ‘you never have a second chance to make a first impression’.

Lots of big French publishers use pretty monacal covers: name of the book, author, publisher and that’s pretty much it!

As an indie author launching his first books in need to appeal French readers, I had a simple work on my covers (also, as it’s a series, they’re based on a similar template).

I knew from the beginning that it just couldn’t fit for English market, full of detailed and highly worked on covers. Thus I chose to have my cover done by Damonza.com. They did a beautiful job and I couldn’t recommend them enough. Right on time for the first proposals, two day edit. Their work is really worth the price.

Conclusion

Being an indie author cannot be improvised, even less when it comes to translation. Getting things done require to be helped by professionals.

Translating a book requires time and money. I was lucky enough to self-fund the process and I must admit that I didn’t think in ROI terms. More than a financial operation, translating my book is an opportunity to reach different readers, different cultures and meet lots of new people, as the indie author’s and readers community is quite supportive.

However, I’m aware that I’m diving in a huge sea after swimming in a lake. Shall you consider translating an English book to another language, let’s say French, be aware that the market is way smaller there.

Whatever happens, translating my work gave me a huge amount of pleasure, the opportunity to meet and work with wonderful people, that’s already worth the journey!

About the Author

I practiced law for nearly fifteen years in various countries such as Belgium (where I lived for 10 years), my native south of France and Quebec, where I’ve been living for more than eight years.

With the objective of confirming the adage, “the law opens many doors, provided you use one to leave” I made my escape from the legal world in 2008 into that of multimedia, namely the production of video games and mobile applications.

I had the pleasure to participate in the creation of a dozen games and to immerse myself in a crazy and creative environment where I could trade-in my suit for a pair of jeans!

I’ve been exposed to a mixture of cultures, influences and a variety of experiences that have all served, in turn, to satisfy and stimulate my curiosity.

My sense of humour and innate refusal to take myself too seriously also play a big role in how I see life: an attitude I credit to my grandmother, who instilled in me the love of a good turn of phrase and a play on words.

It was ultimately the accumulation of my life’s experience, both professionally and personally, that prompted me to get into novel writing….

However, although the desire was there, the inspiration was not – at least not at first.

Then, one special morning, the characters I’d had in mind for a while began to come to life and the Rossetti & MacLane novels were born!

Under the banner of technology, humour and suspense, we are privy to witness the birth of a new bond between two characters who could very well never have met and yet manage form a very dynamic duo.

 Dangerous Games 3D_600About the Book

Dangerous Games: A Rossetti & MacLane Novel

What starts out as an ordinary divorce procedure ultimately takes lawyer Gabriel Rossetti and his client Amanda Deschamps on a thrilling adventure into the world of on-line gaming and personal data piracy.

From Nice to Montreal, at an accelerating pace set by an ever changing landscape of new technology, Gabriel and Amanda are drawn into a whirlwind of unexpected twists and turns that leave them – and the reader – breathless.

Relying on Gabriel’s valuable contacts and Amanda’s computer know-how, the duo has to unravel a dangerous web to save Amanda’s start-up video game company from falling victim to malicious players who have illegally stolen personal data from millions of on-line gamers.

See the universe of technology and video games in a light you never thought possible!

You’ll never look at your smartphone the same way again…

Dangerous Games: A Rossetti & MacLane Novel is available on Amazon.

Follow me on Twitter : @jdumont06

Jerome DumontAbout the Author

I practiced law for nearly fifteen years in various countries such as Belgium (where I lived for 10 years), my native south of France and Quebec, where I’ve been living for more than eight years. With the objective of confirming the adage, “the law opens many doors, provided you use one to leave” I made my escape from the legal world in 2008 into that of multimedia, namely the production of video games and mobile applications.

I had the pleasure to participate in the creation of a dozen games and to immerse myself in a crazy and creative environment where I could trade-in my suit for a pair of jeans!

I’ve been exposed to a mixture of cultures, influences and a variety of experiences that have all served, in turn, to satisfy and stimulate my curiosity.

My sense of humour and innate refusal to take myself too seriously also play a big role in how I see life: an attitude I credit to my grandmother, who instilled in me the love of a good turn of phrase and a play on words. It was ultimately the accumulation of my life’s experience, both professionally and personally, that prompted me to get into novel writing….

However, although the desire was there, the inspiration was not – at least not at first. Then, one special morning, the characters I’d had in mind for a while began to come to life and the Rossetti & MacLane novels were born! Under the banner of technology, humour and suspense, we are privy to witness the birth of a new bond between two characters who could very well never have met and yet manage form a very dynamic duo.

Guest Author: D.W. Carver

NightmaresAndOtherTherapy_200x300_dpi72I am most happy to welcome D.W. Carver again, here to tell us about his thriller, Nightmares and Other Therapy, available on Amazon.

Blurb: Michael couldn’t understand the nightmares that made him violent on waking, mostly because he didn’t have the courage to think his problem through. Eventually, pressured into entering a mental hospital by his employers he thought that here he would find answers and a way to a better life. He was never more wrong.

Excerpt from Nightmares and Other Therapy

Chapter One

Friday March 4th 1960

Philip stepped back from the urinal as the groaning started.

He turned round fast. Only one of the stall doors was closed and he took a cautious step towards it. The noise came again but more

animal than human. The sound ran cold lines down his spine and he wanted to run but the pain in that cry held him there, and then it changed.

He asked, “Hello?”

The noise stopped.

Philip moved closer to the door. He could hear what sounded like snuffling, as if some large creature had its nose to the other side of this pitted wood.

He said, “Don’t mess about.”

The snuffling stopped and a human voice began to cry, one he recognized. Philip looked into the stall to his left, saw he could easily climb over the partition if he stood on the porcelain bowl then the paper holder but he had always wanted to kick a door in and there was never going to be a better opportunity. He stepped back, raised his right leg and slammed the sole of his shoe into the panel beside the slip-lock.

* * * *

Present day

Whenever Michael Porter needed to make purchases at a pharmacy, he looked for that brown bottle with the red and green label: his life changing cold remedy. He knew it to be a waste of time, they hadn’t made the brand in years and it never was popular but that didn’t stop him.

Finding a new one didn’t become important until three years after the event it represented in his mind. By then the original had disappeared although he did ask about it once when Smithson and Company let him into the building again. It wasn’t the easiest request he had ever made, knowing at least two security guards would be following him every inch of the way as he searched. Despite that, it felt worth the effort: rummaging among his dumped belongings in the storage cupboard, things so familiar he wanted to vomit, just to make sure his catalyst was beyond finding.

For many years he had used keepsakes as a memory aid: old toys, his first school cap, a sixpenny piece with a hole in it. Although he knew that he would need to buy in high voltage support to forget the weeks around his stay in Hadenley Hall, gripping that bottle or its twin always felt as if it might encourage those memories to be stronger or more accurate somehow. His eldest grandson, catching him one day, eyes closed in his favorite chair with a broken lead soldier held in both hands, had demanded a reason and Michael gave it. Later, the boy showed him a survey from the Internet, maintaining that his grandfather’s collection proved that he had serial killer tendencies. Michael acknowledged his interest with a crocodile smile and reminded him he had to sleep eventually.

Once the boy’s comment, even with a grin behind it, would have eaten away at him, ruined days or weeks but not anymore. If his grandson had known enough to ask, Michael could probably have given him the month, certainly the year, when thoughts of that kind ceased to be a problem.

They enjoyed their last dominance over his mind in the shag end of winter, nineteen-sixty: Dirty snow on the ground and a semi-permanent fog hanging round his family home in Upney, the lowest lying part of the borough. Not the best way to see his town as it clung, dull and crumbling, to the eastern borders of London, but the region had peaked fourteen hundred years earlier when Barking was the accepted capital of southern England and just surviving still, Michael thought, had to be worth something. Not that it mattered to him a great deal. He rarely looked further than his own self-obsessed thoughts in those days. Then, he still needed reasons and particular villains outside himself to blame for the disaster his life had become and in service of that near obsession, at the age of twenty, he considered two things pivotal.

The first happened at age five on a warm spring day or so his memory insisted. He couldn’t remember the exact events that lead to his torture, but it would certainly have been fuelled by the continuing problem with his father about being a “mummy’s boy”. It probably involved not wanting to get his hands dirty or close to worms in the garden, or refusing to go down to the allotment with his grandfather, or maybe to a football match. Any of these were guaranteed to produce anger and contempt in his father. Whatever the cause, his uncles were around at the time and their wives and girlfriends were not.

The new conscription laws had caught all of them in nineteen thirty-eight. They spent the following seven years in various armed services and had come out hard and unforgiving. Not much different to the way they went in according to Michael’s grandmother, just more casual about it. His father, saved from war service by working in a reserved occupation, was the worst of them although Michael didn’t know it then. They all admired “manliness”, which seemed to him at a later time to involve working long hours, smoking forty cigarettes a day, farting a lot and keeping their wives short of money and affection. At five, he was only aware of the cigarettes and farting. He had no idea these men felt uneasy with emotion or kindness and when he did grow old enough to be aware of this, still didn’t understand their reasons although it gave him the opportunity to despise them comfortably. Of this day, whatever the primer, he had one permanent, vivid memory: his father sitting in the big almost-leather armchair, unfiltered Players cigarette smouldering between brown fingers and laughing while his brothers squatted around Michael and destroyed his life, explaining in quiet voices what would happen to him at age eighteen just a few years ahead.

He never forgot the big faces and the smell of beer and tobacco or those words. The army would soon rip him from his home. The army hated mummy’s boys and would make a man of him. The army was going to take away everything that represented safety and send him back, years and years later, a real man like them. Michael had laughed from horror, and this was misunderstood and set their taunting up a notch. From the time they let him run away in tears, looking for comfort that he didn’t find, he started a countdown to age eighteen and didn’t experience another safe day in his childhood, or so he always told himself.

The second moment, with his other villain, occurred two or three years later. This time, a late summer afternoon edging towards sunset, he lay on his bed, shorts and underpants round his ankles, masturbating hard. There were vague memories about the badness of his “thing” at that time, shouted into him by his mother, but the need had become urgent and Michael succumbed. He didn’t hear the bedroom door open.

The first hint of trouble was his mother’s blotchy and furious face looming over him. She called him a “filthy little turd” and “another dirty fucker in the making” then snatched up his wooden hairbrush from the dressing table, flipped him over on to his stomach and started to thrash his buttocks. It went on and on with Michael begging her to stop and getting his knuckles skinned as he tried to protect his bare flesh. She gave up when he urinated on the eiderdown.

They never spoke about it afterwards as he had never spoken to his father about the conscription torture. At times of deep self-pity or especial whimsy as a teenager, he liked to dig deep into these episodes, pretend he looked forward to being free of his parents at eighteen but it never worked. Occasionally he chose to believe this meant he loved them deeply. At other times his always hovering fear of being unprotected while in their company showed that as a lie, but he could never face reality: their indifference to him.

A few months after the beating, Michael began to suffer from violent nightmares that found him, two or three times a week, screaming on the bedroom floor in a fight with his covers. A punch in the stomach that he couldn’t remember afterwards, stopped his mother coming in to calm him. A cut lip and a bloody nose four days later, again leaving no memory, brought the same result with his father. After that, left alone with his terrors, night became as frightening as day and the days were bad enough.

Scared and on guard, he staggered through his school years, including two in the sixth form and somewhere during that time sexual fears joined the other problems. Whenever he was “full”– the way Michael thought of his sexual needs as a teenager–and tried to relieve himself, huge anxiety scampered in as if it had been waiting for the invitation and killed his arousal. That wilting frightened him badly, opening his mind to fears about being different and he started to monitor his thoughts for signs of madness. Inevitably he found them.


photo (1)About The Author
D.W. Carver worked for several years as a community mental health counsellor in East London, England and much of his writing comes from those years, helping obsessional people and those suffering from anxiety disorders.

Excerpts from reviews of Nightmares and Other Therapy

“For starters I really enjoyed how this book was written. The tone and pace of the book made it all the more enjoyable…….Although this isn’t necessarily a happy book, I’d still recommend it. It’s well written and is very thought provoking….. The characters are a lot of fun….It was unique and the major plot point that separates this novel from the others on the shelf. The split persona between Michael and his imaginary friend is extremely well-done…..It was well written, with believable and realistic characters…..Fast paced thriller/chiller that kept me up late into the night. Very original story line…..Those who like a good thriller will enjoy Nightmares and Other Therapy.

Guest Author: Mark Victor Young

RISK cover FINAL_600I am thrilled to welcome author Mark Victor Young. Just in time for spooks on stoops, he’s here to tell us about his latest mystery, Risk.

They’re the most unlikely detectives…
Martin is a 38-year-old virgin marked for greatness by the insurance gods. In his professional life, he is paid to assess risk, but in his personal life he plays it safe. Experience has shown him that lonely is better than brokenhearted.

George is a wannabe architect with white man’s dreadlocks. He risks his neck on the streets of Toronto every day as a bike courier, but his job is unchallenging and he chooses apathy over the risk of failure at what he really wants to do.

When George tags along with Martin to investigate the scene of his latest claim, they stumble upon a burglary in process. Now they are being hunted by an unknown adversary who will stop at nothing to get what he’s after, forcing Martin and George into a dangerous game of cat and mouse in which they must risk everything.

IFAbout Mark Victor Young
Husband, father, writer. Happily married since 1992 and a father since 2003, Mark has been a writer for as long as he can remember. He was born in Toronto and grew up in London, Canada. He was the first winner of the Lillian Kroll Prize for Creative Writing at Western University, where he also completed a degree in English Literature. The manuscript for Risk was a semi-finalist in the Chapters Robertson Davies First Novel Contest. Mark has published novels, poetry, short fiction, feature articles, comic strips and book reviews in various media.

He lives in London with his wife and daughter, those to whom all his work and play is dedicated.

Connect with Mark – http://markvictoryoung.com/

Risk is available on AmazonKoboGoogle, and Smashwords.

Book page – http://markvictoryoung.com/risk/

This past summer, “Risk” was featured on the main page of Wattpad.com as of July 25th, and it reached the Top Ten for Mystery/Thriller which was very exciting. It has since garnered almost 50,000 reads.

Guest Author: John Spencer Yantiss

MBBFrontCoverKindleFinal_600I am delighted to welcome author John Spencer Yantiss who gives us a wonderful glimpse into his debut novel, Murder by Bequest.

Synopsis
On a frigid Friday afternoon in February, Eleanor Harkness shows up at the door of the “granite palace,” Sherrod Colsne’s New York townhouse.  Her unexpected yet incredibly timely appearance not only knocks Colsne’s normally unflappable assistant, Monty Weston, off stride, but takes both of them down a winding path of romance, past and present, and decades-old, bitter hatred.  Though only four days actually elapse in the telling, Murder by Bequest is a story spanning over twenty-five years, three continents, and two primary cultures, and surrounding America’s foremost family of wealth, and social and political position.  Bertrand Wellman Harkness, IV, director of the Harkness Foundation, and statesman serving three presidents, not quite two weeks before the “blizzard of 2006,” is brutally murdered, and grotesquely, sexually mutilated after the fact.

What follows is another murder, and another attempted, seemingly the inexorable assault of a bête noire.  Only Colsne’s genius is able to run the culprit to ground, but not before a final tragedy is enacted.  Deep-seated and long-nursed malice, from an emotionally dark woman, and another quite distant quarter, produced the terrible killing spree, bringing almost total dissolution to the Bertrand Wellman Harkness, IV family.

Murder by Bequest is available on Amazon.

An Excerpt from Murder by Bequest: Chapter 10

The doorbell rang.  Actually, we didn’t hear the doorbell itself.  As I noted earlier in this account, all the rooms in the granite palace are soundproofed, really soundproofed, not the quasi sort one finds in rooms or structures for which the claim is usually made.  What we heard was the doorbell sound, transmitted by a spiffy little, specially-made, mike-and-speaker system, installed just for that purpose, very faint and non-intrusive, but nonetheless audible; it transmits exactly what one hears in the entrance hall, only much more softly.  Colsne had the set of real chimes specially crafted, and set at a pitch that can be detected in all but the most raucous of exchanges.  In the months following, Colsne and I have discussed and argued whether or not there was any preceding noise, flash of light, shadow passing across the window, sign of any kind, that would account for the general reaction.  I say that there must have been something that escaped the normal register of our senses.  Colsne says that there was categorically no physical phenomenon, audible or visible, in the nanosecond just prior to and, or after the sound of the bell.

I have demanded that, if right, he explain why everyone, the William Harknesses, the Lighteners, I, and even he, froze, following the ding-dong of the doorbell; he cannot, at least to my satisfaction.  He says that there are psychic forces, seething and foaming, just under the surface of conscious and sensory reality, that bombard our minds with information and messages of all kinds, but which most of us are incapable of cognitively discerning.  He says that, once in a great while, he somehow manages to apprehend a flicker of movement on the edge of that realm, and that that is the true source of his genius; that those brief little moments, when he is granted a glimpse of, or otherwise able to access, “the vapours of Olympus,” give him the motivation to concentrate all of his temporal wits when and where he wishes.  He dismisses the incident with a vehement “Phawh!” and a brief, and peculiarly harsh, self-censuring exposition on why he should have caught the sign.

What followed was anything but non-intrusive.  Even with ninety-percent noise-reduction windows from Whyst, Inc., I knew what I heard: eight bursts from what sounded all too much like either a 9 mm automatic, or a .223 cal. assault rifle.  Either I was in some kind of dimensional warp, or each salvo was distinctly three shots.  That meant one of three things:  1) there were two shooters; 2) one gunman had a weapon in each hand; or 3) he was strong enough to hold and shoot a fully loaded 25- or 32-round magazine weapon, which could weigh as much as seven or more pounds, depending on the make and model.  These eithers and ors all came in slow-motion.  I am not at all proud of my performance during the firestorm, or in the sixty-plus seconds that followed.  I have heard enough gunfire, from all kinds of weapons—handguns, rifles, shotguns, and much more—that recognition doesn’t require prolonged thought.  However, at least in my memory, East 75th Street, more particularly our block, had never before been used as a shooting gallery.

Many people, with less familiarity, often mistake the misfiring of an internal combustion engine for a gunshot.  Though there have been several backfires in the neighborhood during my time at the granite palace, I know the difference all too well.  Bottom line, even though trained to expect the unexpected, I was not ready.  My only consolation was itself clearly a negative, for Colsne too was caught off guard.  A full four seconds elapsed while I sat, not like a lump on a log, but more like a field mouse, happily and intently chewing a favorite seed, suddenly hearing the well-known noise of an intruder, and frozen, just long enough for the owl to strike.  When my reflexes belatedly kicked in, I fairly catapulted out of my chair and to the hall door.  Before I had taken two running strides, I had my own semi-auto S&W .40 out and ready to return fire.  How he did it, I have not the slightest—considering the positioning and placement of our desks, he had eight feet more than I to cover—but Colsne was there and had the door open almost a half-second before me, his Colt .44 magnum Anaconda in his right hand.  He held the door wide for me, urged me on through, and over my shoulder I heard his voice, the crack of a bullwhip, command our guests.

No one leave this room.  Mr. Lightener, I charge you to see to it.”

I could clearly picture his face, black with stern foreboding, fire in his eyes.  As he raced to join me, four more distinct sounds came at us: the faintest of female groans, the sound of a large-block V8 revving, tires madly spinning on snow and ice, and the thud-crunch of metal on metal.  In the midst of the hubbub, we were met by Rivers tearing up from the basement—yes, he can still “tear”—also weapon in hand, a SIG P210.  Though we had been unable to hear it from the office, the savagery of the assault was immediately visible, as much of the inner door and walls of the vestibule, being glass, were shattered, and lying in every imaginable size shard on the tile floor of the hall.  The outer door, along with the window panels on either side, had to also have been fairly severely shot up in order for the inner destruction to have happened.  My hearing had been thoroughly wrong in assessing the weapon or weapons used; no 9 mm was capable of what confronted us.  It was the work of something on the order of the new .50 Beowulf by Alexander Arms, over 3.5 mm larger than what had been used on Bertrand Wellman IV and his son.  If that was what had done it, we were being confronted by a foe with not just incredible marksmanship, but strength as well.  The Beowulf was rated at 8.5 lbs. base weight, and though that does not, in and of itself, constitute a great heft, when coupled with all of the other forces involved in shooting a high-powered rifle, it takes muscle to fire it accurately.  If it was the same short and slight figure that Colsne had seen at the Chevalier, then we were dealing with a real athlete.

JSYHeadshotSuitBigSmileAbout the Author
John Spencer Yantiss was born in Louisville, KY to parents of Anglo-Scotch-Irish, and Lithuanian descent.  A musician and singer, he started piano lessons at age 5, and began writing poems and songs 8 years old.  While still in high school he began playing guitar professionally.  Over the years he shared the stage with such notable Southern Rock figures as Dickey Betts and Berry Oakley, and an evening of coffee and conversation with “Uncle Miltie,” well into the 1990s, internationally famous comedian and showman, Milton Berle.

His love of writing poems and lyrics continued on over the years, branched out into fiction, beginning with not a few attempts at fantasy, in a style not unlike Tolkien and Lewis.  In 1993 he began writing classic detective mysteries, based on the character Sherrod Reynard Colsne, in the transatlantic and cumulative tradition of Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe.  Murder by Bequest, his inaugural effort, first appeared in publication in 2012 through and on Amazon.com, as a Kindle e-book, and soon thereafter in paperback via Amazon’s CreateSpace vehicle.

There are several more in what is a growing casebook, with Code Name: Erelim, a nightmare novella threatening intelligence and national security agencies around the globe; The Weerwolf Problem (Dutch spelling) and The Golden Dart , both short stories filled with subtile horror and the grotesque, in Kindle and paperback, the latter two being in a combined volume under the collection name of Macabre2.  Coming are Sa Kainitan, based in The Philippines, and The Seiðr Affair, a bone chiller about a doomsday computer weapon.  Yantiss has also returned to classic, mythological fantasy, and Rylie Rabet Goes on an Adventure— A Tale of Magic and Thaumaturgy Amongst the Wee Forest Folk is forthcoming in late 2014 or early 2015.

Guest Author Steven F. Freeman

HAVOC_600Please welcome author Steven F. Freeman who exults in the publication of Havoc. And well he should: his books engage, compel, destroy humdrum, and I highly recommend them. Take a gander at the cover.

Here’s the synopsis.
When Cryptologist Alton Blackwell takes his girlfriend, FBI Agent Mallory Wilson, on a surprise trip to Italy, the couple expects the vacation of a lifetime, but their pleasure is short-lived. Intent on selling Vidulum Inc.’s proprietary technology to the highest bidder, a rogue employee of the high-tech company arranges a clandestine meeting at one of Rome’s most famous tourist attractions. Rather than collecting a huge payday, however, the company turncoat encounters a lethal surprise. When Alton and Mallory rush to assist the dying scientist, they find themselves pulled into the subsequent murder investigation.

Foreign and domestic agents, corporate spies, intellectual-property thieves, and shadowy underworld figures race to acquire the technical files stored on the dead employee’s missing cellphone and reap the billions of dollars and technological superiority now at stake.

Despite their efforts to leave the tragedy behind and continue their vacation, Alton and Mallory soon learn their own lives are in danger. They are left with no choice but to join forces with the Roman police in an effort to crack the case. While diving into the investigation, the discovery of another man in Mallory’s past disrupts Alton’s plan to move his relationship with her to a new level. As they encounter unexpected twists at a breakneck pace, Alton and Mallory must summon all their intellectual powers to reveal the truth behind the Vidulum employee’s death and track down the missing technological plans before a life-threatening end game can be set in motion.

Where to buy Havoc:
Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Goodreads

Steve FreemanAbout the Author
Author Steve Freeman is former member of the US Army’s Signal Corps, a twenty-six year employee of a large American technology company, and an avid traveler who has visited five continents. The novels of The Blackwell Files draw from his firsthand knowledge of military service, the tech industry, and the diverse cultures of our world.

He currently lives near Atlanta, Georgia with his wife and daughter.

Odd Facts about the Author

* Donated a kidney in November 2010

* Ran three marathons

* Enjoys Charles Dickens and Jane Austen

Steve’s Website