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Author Email List And Newsletter Tips With Tammi Labrecque & Joanna Penn
About Tammi Labrecque
Janice Cantore is a police officer turned writer. She retired from the Long Beach (California) Police Department after twenty-two years—sixteen in uniform, six as a noncareer employee. She is currently writing romantic suspense for Tyndale House, and her newest release, Lethal Target, second in the Line of Duty series, following Crisis Shot, is set in a small town in Oregon.
Police Chief Tess O’Rourke thought she’d taken care of her small town’s drug problem last year. But now Rogue’s Hollow residents are up in arms over a contentious vote on legalizing the sale of marijuana within city limits. And when an eighteen-year-old is found dead of a possible overdose, Tess wonders if the local pot farms might be involved and begins to fear that a new, deadlier drug supply chain has cropped up. As tempers flare and emotions boil over, Tess faces the possibility of losing the town’s support.
With her relationship to Sergeant Steve Logan on shaky ground, Tess could really use a friend, and she feels drawn to Pastor Oliver Macpherson’s quiet presence. But the anger she holds over her father’s death prevents her from embracing his faith and finding peace.
Battling storms within and without, Tess is shocked when a familiar face from her past shows up in town to stir up more trouble. And his threats against Tess may prove lethal.
What led you to apply to the police department?
I had just earned a degree in physical education and I was looking for a career that would challenge me. I didn’t want to teach, and I didn’t want to be locked inside. I do like to help people, so law enforcement seemed a good choice.
*Where did you develop your sense of justice, and did that play a role in your applying for law enforcement?
My stories are always faith based, and so I would have to say that my sense of justice comes from my faith. I don’t like to see the weak or the innocent exploited or hurt. When I was a police officer, the best part of the job was stopping a bad person from hurting an innocent person.
*Did you ever think you’d be author one day?
When I was a kid I wrote horse books, and I did want to be writer. But my father didn’t think I could make a living at it, so I chose a different career path in college. The desire to write never went away. After working the Rodney King riots, which truly impacted me, I started to write about experiences at work. That led to my imagination taking over, I started asking the “what if” question and novels were born.
*How would you define justice?
Fairness, accountability, bad people being punished for doing bad things, and the innocent and weaker individuals being protected.
*In the Line of Duty, Cold Case, and Pacific Justice series, is there a certain underlying theme?
In Pacific Coast Justice, the theme that wove through all the books was forgiveness. Woven through the series was the story of Carly and Nick, the restoration of their marriage as Carly learned to forgive. In the Cold Case series, it was justice, catching the killer that had evaded the law for years. Abby’s parent’s killer had gone free for thirty years. And in Line of Duty, after Tess’s shooting, it was about recognizing that God is sovereign and trusting him even when things go terribly wrong.
*Who is Tess O’Rourke and what motivates her?
Tess is the daughter of a police officer who was killed in the line of duty. She has the goal of becoming the first female chief of police in Long Beach. But when she is involved in a controversial shooting, her life is turned upside down. The story becomes one of redemption, faith, and community. Tess is motivated by justice, doing what is right and being the best officer she can be to honor her father’s memory.
*What’s your experience like writing the Line of duty series versus the others you’ve written?
The writing process for me is the same, asking the “what if” questions. But Line of Duty is set in a very rural area, in stark contrast to where I worked in Long Beach. I made up my own town and police department. It was great fun. I really wanted to develop a small town and the sense of community.
*Your newest book is Lethal Target. Name the most challenging things during the writing process.
The most challenging part of any novel is the writing the end. I always have a hard time writing the end, making sure it’s plausible and satisfying for the reader.
*What’s next for you?
There comes a time when couples decide to create and raise tiny helpless human beings, hoping they one day become non-tiny and less helpless.
This is one family’s journey through ten months of pregnancy (isn’t it supposed to be nine months?), the first years of parental cluelessness, the terrible twos, threenagers, and the few years that follow when they begin to learn about a world that’s even crazier than they are.
Join the author and his wife as they navigate those ten months, from the always romantic conception, to her water breaking in the most unique way possible. Then watch them attempt parenthood, from the seemingly simple routine of dressing their kids for school, to the complex experience of teaching them to use public bathrooms.
It’s mostly a breeze…
No it isn’t. Pre and postnatal complications; battles with their own mental health; and those rapidly growing and irrational miniature versions of themselves. Some of it is devastating. Much of it is overwhelming. All of it challenges them to maintain their sense of humor.
And when they attempted to go on an airplane as a family… that was a sh*tshow.
An interview with Brett Grayson
author of What Could Go Wrong? My Mostly Comedic Journey Through Marriage, Parenting and Depression
Why did you decide to write What Could Go Wrong?
Well, deep down it’s probably because I’m a narcissist. Anyone who writes about their life and expects others to care has to be a little self-absorbed and potentially delusional.
On a practical level, I am a person who struggles to get out of bed each morning unless there’s something for me to shoot for. This book gave me a purpose that was lacking in my life for so many years.
The book is full of hilarious parenting anecdotes. Can you share your favorite story?
That’s like picking my favorite dog. I should be reticent to do so, but unlike with my kids, my dogs don’t understand it anyway, so I have no problem choosing a favorite.
And speaking of dogs, my favorite story from the book is probably the night my wife Lauren’s water broke in a bizarre way which related to my dogs. So I used to cook our dogs their dinner because when you don’t have children yet, you have too much time on your hands and do insane things like cook for your dogs. Well, one night I made salmon and the smell permeated the air in our tiny apartment and led to Lauren getting nauseous and facilitated her water breaking.
You are very honest in describing the good, the bad, and the ugly of parenthood, including tough times your family has had. How does your wife, Lauren, and the other people in your life feel about this honesty? Has writing the book changed any of your relationships?
With Lauren, no. The book wouldn’t have been possible without her being on board from the start. She knew it would be revealing and signed off on it, which is freaking amazing as she’s more naked in the book than I am. (Figuratively naked, I mean. It’s not a porn book.) I’m not sure I’m a secure enough person that I would have been as understanding if she were the one writing it. But that’s why I married her. She’s better than me.
My parents have been a mixed bag as they’re from a generation where you don’t share your secrets, especially anything about mental health. Slowly though, as I’ve revealed a lot through my blog, and people have responded so positively, they’ve come around.
They were also rightly concerned about my career as a lawyer being compromised by the mental health revelations. That was the driving force behind me using a pen name for the book. I can keep the two careers separate.
In the book you talk about your struggles with depression and anxiety, as well as Lauren’s postpartum depression. What has been the biggest challenge in relation to your mental health and your role as a parent?
I think being present and active in their lives is a daily challenge. On one hand, I’m better around them because they don’t know about my struggles and also because being with them gives me meaning and forces me to be present. On the other hand, they are difficult to handle for long periods of time. They always require attention and sometimes I have a hard time taking care of others when I’m so caught in my own head. They also don’t listen and require patience, which I don’t always have.
It’s hard to admit, but at times I fight the urge to want to get away from them, and at night to rush them to bed. Life is easier to handle when you don’t have to care for others. But paradoxically life is also meaningless if you’re not helping others. And I know this and love them so much and try to remind myself to appreciate my time with them rather than rush through it.
How has becoming a parent changed your relationship with Lauren?
I go into this a lot in the book and I hope my honesty on it will be relatable. Because I’m not sure that becoming parents has necessarily been a good thing for my marriage. Yes, it creates meaning and gives you motivation to work through your problems for the sake of the kids. But kids are also a burden on a marriage in many ways. You don’t get to spend a lot of quality time alone, which is something I miss and has caused us to drift apart at times. Kids also have led to a lot of fighting for us on the issue of how to raise them. Lauren and I just disagree a lot about parenting decisions.
In the book you talk about your son’s diagnosis of CLOVES syndrome. How has this diagnosis impacted your family, and how is he doing today?
He has a big surgery coming up in the first half of 2019. It’s the first big one, though likely not the last. At four-years-old, he’s still in the dark about all of it. Which is both good and bad. On a social level, we’re worried about how he’s going to do once other kids start commenting on his different appearance. But we’re not there yet.
In terms of its effect on us as a family, it’s actually brought Lauren and I closer together. While we have our challenges as I’ve elaborated in the prior answer, experiencing this with our son together is a great emotional equalizer for us. Now I’d rather find a different equalizer, but I can’t make that trade. So experiencing all this with Lauren-the trips to Boston, the dozens of doctors’ appointments-are an experience that we share and few others can understand.
What advice would you give new fathers and fathers-to-be?
how you intend to parent. And write it down. For example, Are you going to let your baby cry or are you going to run into their room the second they cry? It seems unimportant until that moment when you start disagreeing while it’s happening.
What’s next for you?
I intend to keep writing about the absurdities and meaningful parts of my experience as a parent. I’m not sure I have another book in me for a while on this topic, as this book covered a six-year period in our lives. I’m sure I’ll be sharing my story in some form, though.
I’d also like to write a bit more about mental health and continue to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of anxiety and depression. It’s just so prevalent in our society. I’m not sure I really understood the extent of it until I started blogging about my own struggles. More than anything I’ve written about, my blogs on mental health have garnered the biggest response.
Where can we learn more about What Could Go Wrong?
Go to Amazon and buy the book. Half the money is going to support a charity for our son’s condition (CLOVES Syndrome). So you’re being a good person regardless.
And I think you’ll enjoy the book. Worst case scenario – it winds up on that place on the back of your toilet that I don’t know the name of.
*Your dream from a young age has been to put your imagination into words. Is it as easy as you thought it would be?
Dreaming? Definitely! Putting them into words? Not so much, hahaha. I have stories enough (they are piling up like a TBR list on my laptop), and simply not enough time to write them (yet). I still have a full-time job, so I write, do marketing, editing, and everything else book related after hours and weekends. It is like having a second and third job… but I love every moment of it.
This year I will be branching out into dystopian fantasy, as well as starting a new dragon series. I will also release another one of my Elemental short stories, and partake in an Anthology. My word target for this year is just over half a million words. This is about 3-4 books, plus the short story and anthology. Once I can write full-time, and have someone that can handle more of the marketing for me, I will aim for a word target of one million words, just to catch up with the number of books that are already outlined and ready to write on my laptop.
Otherwise, I may still be writing by the time I turn 100!
*Describe the decision to follow your dream after being diagnosed with Rheumatoid arthritis.
The first thing the doctors do when someone is diagnosed with an incurable disease is, prescribe anti-depressants. I took them for a whole 3 days and then took them back to my doctor. I thought there must be something more to life than pills. My family saw me through that very tough first year and it was because of them that I had the courage to say, hey, let’s try something new. Being unable to function like a healthy person; and deteriorating steadily; makes you think about the future a lot. I do not want to be a burden to my husband and children by the time I am unable to go to work any more. So, what is it that I love almost as much as my family? BOOKS! One day I just picked up a pen and a notepad and I started writing. All those stories and dreams I had had from when I was young just poured out and Elemental Rising happened. It felt liberating.
*What makes a great fantasy book?
Benjamin, that is a terribly broad question, lol. In my eyes… DRAGONS! But, no, there are a number of things that can drive a good fantasy story. A fantasy book can be character driven, or plot driven, or even both. Either way, for me, what makes a good fantasy book is how involved you become when you read the story. Do the characters, or does the plot, draw you in? Are you invested in their actions? I do like the dragons and strange creatures of fantasy, but if the characters and the plot leave me cold, then the book soon ends up on DNF (did not finish) pile.
*How do you approach writing? Structure, pantsing, or both?
Hmm… that is a very difficult question to answer because I think I may be neither. I thought I was a plotter (structure) but then caught myself pantsing, until Sian B. Claven (we work together) pointed out that what I was doing wasn’t really pantsing either. I do A LOT of research before I start writing. Often even while I am writing. I make notes on all the research, character names, character description, setting, animals, and so forth. Then, I usually do a “word vomit”. This is where I write the entire story out in short sentences over a space of 2-6 A4 pages. By hand usually. This will then form the skeleton, or the backbone, of my story.
From this backbone, I devise a rough timeline. (This is especially important for me as I write on a large scale and I have seasonal changes that I need to take into account, as well as numerous plot lines that need to tie up at various points of the story.)
And then, I write. I write slowly and methodically. I put in paragraph breaks. Dot my i’s, cross my t’s. I pretty much edit as I write. As I write it, it usually goes straight to my editor without me having to do rewrites. It is a slower writing process but takes less editing time.
I have yet to meet someone else that write like I do, lol.
*Who is Maia,
Elf princess of Elveron, and why does she want to become a Prime Elemental?
When I first dreamed up Maia, I was still very young. I wanted to be just like her. Young, strong, beautiful, powerful, yet humble, protective, and innocent. It turned out to be quite difficult to write a character that is that strong and has that much power to be humble as well. And, Maia does not want to be a Prime. She was born a Prime. But, you know the saying: With great power comes great responsibility? So, a Prime isn’t given her power all at once. She has to learn to wield it first and as she grows stronger, the more magic grows within her. She meets another Prime during the telling of the trilogy. Primes are rare and it usually spells disaster when two meet. She is Life, he is Death. He is fully trained, she is not. The power struggle is real, so is the threat. Maia has to look deep within herself to unlock the magic to save them all.
*How do you craft and develop your characters?
People have history. They are shaped, made into what they are today, by what has happened to them in the past. If you know their history, you know them as a person. So first, I try to set up their past. It usually goes hand in hand with world building. Let’s say I create a city. Within the city, there are 1000 households. I then make a list of all the professions that make an appearance in my novel… princess, servant, blacksmith, hunter, etc. … and then create a family for each of these, giving them a background and history. Then, when I write, the character has depth, and isn’t simply a name and placeholder. (In the Elemental Trilogy, there are close to 70 professions)
*What have you learned from creating settings for your books?
Don’t. Forget. To. Write. The. Book!
I absolutely LOVE world building. I could spend hours on just setting up the perfect mountainside hideaway, with a cabin, a lake, tall pine, a waterfall, … see, lost already. But, saying that, settings do set the tone. You can have wonderful characters and a great plot, but if they hover in this constant grey cloud of nothingness, the story will eventually get boring. I have learned that finding a happy medium between overwhelming the reader with information, and not telling him anything is pretty much where you want to be. I like to show the reader my world but leave just enough for the imagination for the reader to make the world his own.
*If we were to travel to Elveron what would it be like?
All 11 Life Planets of the Milky Way have similarities to Earth. Some more so than others but, they all have an atmosphere, water, landmasses, people, and animals. Elveron is slightly smaller than Earth. It has no oceans, only lakes. Three of these lakes are salt lakes. The climate is similar to Earth, but the vegetation, the people, and the animals are all slightly different. The people, for instance, differ from Humans by 1 chromosome or so, making them Elves. I started with the story about Maia and Elveron because it is the place where I would like to live. It is pure, untouched by pollution, industry, overpopulation, and all the things that we are making Earth endure.
*What bearing does the nation of Grildor have on the story?
Maia is still very young, only 122 years old. Due to some misunderstandings early in her life, she assumed that it was expected of her to become a Prime as soon as possible. (The average age for the initiation ceremony is 250 years old). So, when she returns from her final test, she takes her ceremony to become a Prime. But, young and inexperienced as she is, when they are suddenly threatened her angst is overwhelming. She believes she is not strong enough, not good enough, not powerful enough. Only the love for her people, the nation of Grildor, drives her forward. Through all her trials and tribulations, it is what keeps her going time and again.
*What’s are the hardest things about writing fantasy?
You got me there… I think it must be answering interview questions, hahaha.
I don’t know, Benjamin. I love writing fantasy. Love every aspect of it. With every book I write, I get better at it. I cannot see myself doing anything else.
*Name some good fantasy books you’ve read recently.
Bentwhistle the Dragon – by Paul Cude
Requiem: Song of Dragons – by Daniel Arenson
The Rain Wild Chronicles – by Robin Hobb
The Rhenwars Saga – by M.L. Spencer
*What’s next for you?
2019 – on paper, it looks to be an exciting year.
Up next: LUKE – book 4 of the Elemental short stories
Then: The submission to the anthology (cannot say much about it yet… shhh)
And: DRAGONLORE: MASTER OF LEGENDS – book 1
Followed by: RESILIENT – my first dystopian fantasy novel
After that, we will see how much there is left of the year. I will either release another of the Elemental short stories, another Dragonlore, or, if time lets me, the first book of my new Trilogy set in the Milky Way – this time on the planet Pud.
Born in Germany in 1976, Toni Cox moved to South Africa in 1991. Although she has spent much of her working career in the timber wholesale business, she is also an accomplished horse rider, has a diploma in project management, photography, and nutrition, and has a passion for books and all things fantasy.
From a young age, her dream had always been to put her imagination into words – give the stories life. When she was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in 2013, she decided life is too short not to follow her dream. So, with the support of her husband and three children, she began writing book 1 of the Elemental Trilogy in January 2015.
Toni Cox writes: Epic Fantasy – The Milky Way Chronicles (including The Elemental Trilogy), Young Adult Fantasy – (including The Elemental Short Stories), Sci-Fi Fantasy – The Andromeda Saga, Fantasy – The Dragonlore Series, Dystopian Fantasy – these are set on Earth, the first one (Resilient) will be released in 2019.
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