IT’S TELEVISION TUESDAY
Keeping It Clean With Post-Apocalyptic Fiction (The Self Publishing Show, episode 178)
Toby Neal was raised on Kauai in Hawaii. She wrote and illustrated her first story at age 5. After initially majoring in journalism, she eventually settled on mental health as a career and loves her work, saying, “I’m endlessly fascinated with people’s stories.”
Toby credits her counseling background in adding depth to her characters–from the villains to Lei Texeira, the courageous and vulnerable heroine in the Lei Crime Series, to the wounds and psychological implications of the heroes of the Scorch Series.
Want to write a crime-fiction story but not sure where to start? Are you between drafts and feeling stuck? Do you feel that you just don’t know enough about police work to write a believable police detective protagonist?
In this conversational and fact-filled handbook, veteran police detective Adam Richardson answers the criminal investigation questions most frequently asked by authors and screenwriters. Unlike many other writing guides about “the cop stuff,” the Writer’s Detective Handbook addresses police procedure and criminal investigation from the storyteller’s perspective.
The Writer’s Detective Handbook: Criminal Investigation for Authors and Screenwriters equips storytellers with the ability to tell a great story while keeping the police-work aspects believable. Reading this book will empower you to write the crime-fiction story you’ve been dying to tell!
Sam returns home from a business trip a day before his son’s thirteenth birthday and is looking forward to being with his family, when his world is cruelly shattered in one fell swoop. Initially he thinks he can cope with the loss, but finally seeks the help of Cynthia, an experienced therapist, to regain his equipoise. What he does not know is that Cynthia herself is trying to cope with a debilitating divorce and the sinister shadow of her ex-husband over her daughter…
What happens when doctor and patient find themselves in the same sinking boat? Moreover, when they are rowing in opposite directions–one clinging to the past, and the other unable to get rid of it! In the midst of it all is Lily, Cynthia’s daughter, who harbours a secret that has the power to explode the lives around her.
Dark Blossom. I love the title of this book. Was this your first fiction book? What’s the story behind it? (No pun intended)
Thanks! To be honest, the title appeared to me in a dream. And since I’m being honest, I must also admit that I fell into writing rather serendipitously as well. Dark Blossom is indeed my first work of fiction and both the story and the characters were more or less cleaved by an imagination that had run amok at a time when I was struggling with empathy in my life.
While the characters are all very different from me and the ordeals faced by them are exaggerations of what I was going through, my innate spirit wanted to describe their experiences and interactions in a way that was entertaining for readers. This duality of finding entertainment and perhaps even levity in daily strife exists in everyone including my characters and the title from my dream captured that essence. Here’s a snippet from my book launch on that topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iodpyiw4Z7Y&t=3s
What do you enjoy most about storytelling?
Given how and when I fell into storytelling, I soon found writing to be an unbridled expression of empathy. First, I needed it for my characters to allow them a full and vibrant range of expression and then, for my readers to help them partake of such expression in a riveting way. So writing afforded me a double dose of empathy if you will – and it helped fill that personal void in my life too.
In retrospect though, there is one other thing about writing and storytelling that I enjoyed as much. Call me a masochist, but I fell in love with playing around with language – its syntax, semantics, and subtleties, all of it! How a word here instead of there, a moved punctuation, or a replaced synonym can affect the way people understand intellectually and perceive viscerally is all very fascinating. As a life-long learner too, I think I have fallen in love with this process of reflection followed by articulation.
Which came first idea, theme, or character?
If I were to think about just the idea and the characters, I would have to say it’s a judicious mix. In order for a story to take place, not only must the idea be important to the characters but also they must have something important to say about it. Once this scaffolding is in place, then the idea might change less and the theme is driven by its interplay with the characters, but it’s the characters that really have to evolve the most. They have to – to fight increasing stakes, win small battles, and eventually come out on top at the end of the war!
What’s your method for character creation?
Good stories take place at the intersection of personal authenticity and people’s perceptions. Ergo, good characters must be borne from a place of sincerity. If that’s not the case, then it will be difficult to convince readers. Once I am able to make this genuine empathic connection with my characters, I follow a five-step process to give them substance – Read, Research, Reflect, Rest, and Repeat. First, I read and research a lot and this includes conversations with people who might provide inspiration. Then I let it percolate by backing off completely after a period of reflection, of course. Lastly, I find myself having to go back to the start of the loop at times when I get stuck.
What can you tell us about Sam?
Phew! Now that’s a toughie. Let me explain. Part of the inspiration behind the novel is my belief that the solution to a rapidly fracturing world lies in peeling enough layers to discover the similarities, rather than judging on mere superficialities. And Sam’s character is supposed to catalyze readers to reflect on how we judge the motives of those around us. In fact, I have even incentivized such reflection with a contest at www.WinTrip2NY.com.
So while Sam’s loss and his tribulations are real, his characterization has been somewhat abstract. Let it suffice to say that he is an immigrant who has assimilated well and is unsure about how to cope with a very deep loss.
Who is Cynthia and what role does she play in the story?
Cynthia is a psychologist and she finds herself alone with her patient and her daughter in a sinking boat. Moreover, they all seem to be rowing away from one another. While trying to heal from a debilitating divorce, Cynthia is helping her patient, Sam, who is struggling with the worst kind of loss there is. She is also trying to mend her relationship with her daughter, Lily, who is not only fighting her own demons but also holding on to a secret that has the power to explode the lives around her.
What was your experience writing the point of view?
From the very beginning, I wanted to narrate the story from Cynthia’s perspective. This was daunting since I am neither a woman psychologist nor do I share a cultural background with her. So I knew I was trying to fill shoes much larger than my own and I had to both step out of my comfort zone and dig deep. And I’d like to believe that I have grown much as a person because of it. So not only was the process personally gratifying but also her perspective turned out to be most relevant for the plot.
Was it easy writing about flawed characters?
Aren’t we all?! But yes, confronting these flaws, let alone embracing or articulating them, is never easy. Fortunately, I strongly believe that such duality exists in all of us and I’m quite comfortable with both my flaws and my struggles with them. Even though writing about these flaws in characters that are different from me wasn’t easy, the fact that I enjoyed this process helped me immensely. Now, as to whether or not I was able to do justice to such expression – I think I’ll let readers be the judge of that.
What’s next for you?
I have only recently started researching and outlining my next novel. It’s also going to be narrated from the perspective of a young woman, Abigail, who has just started her first job as a nanny at a prominent bureaucrat’s home. The story starts with her charge, six-year-old Stewart, fighting for his life in the pool. And Abigail soon discovers that June, the boy’s older sister, may have been the one who pushed him in.
Neel Mullick is the author of Dark Blossom. The Head of Product and Information Security at a Belgian family-office technology company, Mullick is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and INSEAD. He mentors female entrepreneurs through the Cherie Blaire Foundation for Women, is involved in raising a generation of digital and socially aware leaders with Nigeria’s Steering for Greatness Foundation, supports improvement in the quality of life of domestic workers through Peru’s Emprendedoras del Hogar, and works with IIMPACT in India to help break the cycle of illiteracy plaguing young girls from socially and economically impoverished communities. Dark Blossom is his first novel.
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?
Stop Looking to Others to Create a Life of Joy
by Renee Linnell,
Author of The Burn Zone: A Memoir
Originally published on Psych Central
I believe there is not enough dialogue out there about soul-sickness, especially among wealthy communities. We are taught to believe from a young age that once we have the perfect partner, house, car, children, and careers, we will be happy. And often times this is not the case; the happiness does not come. There is an insatiable need for more. Because there is no dialogue about this, most people think, I am the only one, something is wrong with me, or no one understands me. This leads to deep despair and usually a diagnosis of depression and medication.
I ruined my life searching for peace. I pushed away everyone and everything I loved. I allowed myself to be emotionally, psychologically, and sexually abused. I allowed myself to be brainwashed in seemingly unhealable ways. And what I finally discovered, after all of my searching, is that the peace and happiness for which I had been searching was inside of me all along. But, and this is a big but, I had to be shattered by life to find it. I had to be shattered to finally stop living a life that was not mine. I had to be shattered to finally decide that following my own heart and being true to myself and creating a life that brought me joy was more important than living a life to please other people. I had to be shattered to start questioning what the hell I had been doing and why the hell I had been doing it and to what point.
Why do we feel the need to say, “to death do us part” and bind ourselves to another person? Why do we ignore the intense fear that comes with this decision? How can we even know that this will be in our best interest or the other person’s for the rest of our lives? Many of us do it because everyone else does. Why do we forgo choosing work that we are born to do, work we are naturally skilled at doing, work we love, work that makes our hearts sing and instead choose a career we hate because it pays more? We do this because we are told to do it by our parents or our teachers, and because everyone else does. Why do we dress the way we dress and worship the way we worship and pick romantic partners the way we do? So often it is because we were told to do it this way, or because everyone else does. Often we don’t question any of this. I know I didn’t.
I believe the only way to true joy, to true bliss, to true freedom, is to begin the work of uncovering our real selves—to chip away at the parts of us that are false, the façade we created to please our families, the mask we built so the world would approve of us. Only when we are willing to stand tall in our own uniqueness, with our own idiosyncrasies, will we be able to do the work we came to do, to build the life we always dreamed of, to excel beyond our wildest dreams, and to live in true joy and abundance. When we finally tap into what we naturally are, we discover we already have the exact right skill set to become everything we have always secretly wanted to be.
We are all flawed, we are all damaged, and we are all beautiful. Each one of us is unique; there is no carbon copy. So how can we possibly follow what others are doing? How can what they are doing be right for us? We were born to blaze our own trails. We were all born with unique abilities and skill sets, with unique damage and unique wounds. I believe we are meant to use this combo to discover who we truly are and why we are truly here. Our wounds are not a mistake, they are given to us for a reason, they are Divine. In the healing of them we soften and we open, and we learn how to help others overcome similar damage. In our speaking about them and our owning of them, we encourage others to do the same and as more and more of us speak our Truth, we all eventually realize we are not alone. We have never been alone. We are surrounded by each other, our brother and sister humans, and we are here to support each other on this crazy amazing Earth Walk.
Yes, the decision to live this way is terrifying; but once we decide to do it, we feel the life force energy coursing through us again, we feel the blood pumping through our veins, we rediscover passion and the thrill of not knowing what tomorrow will bring. We are here for such a very short time; I simply cannot believe we were meant to spend that time in loveless relationships stressed about paying bills.
In my journey to wholeness I discovered that me just being me, dressing the way I want to dress, saying the things I want to say, doing the activities I love to do, putting myself first and making sure I am taken care of before I take care of others—living this way brought me so much joy that I began to radiate joy and light and love and kindness. I discovered a joyful me was a radiating me. A joyful me was a kind me. A joyful me was a patient and compassionate and forgiving me. After destroying myself and my life and all that I loved in order to become Enlightened, in order to become Saint-like, I finally realized that the key to my becoming Saint-like was just being me. When we create a life of joy we stop worrying about what others are doing or not doing. We stop pushing against. And instead we begin loving. And we add our light to the sum of light; we shift the consciousness of the planet from fear to love. What better use of our time here on earth than that?
About the Author:
Renee Linnell is the author of The Burn Zone: A Memoir (She Writes Press; October 2018). She is a serial entrepreneur who has founded and cofounded five companies and has an Executive Masters in Business Administration from New York University. Currently she is working on starting a publishing company to give people from diverse walks of life an opportunity to tell their stories. She divides her time between Colorado and Southern California. For more information, please visit https://reneelinnell.com and follow Renee on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Two young Vushla questioned what everyone knew about death. What should they do with the answer?
When the time comes for Vushla to die, they go into the ocean and are dissolved away. Or so Terrill has always believed, and still believes after taking part in his father’s final journey. But when he meets a young Vushlu who lives by the sea, Terrill must confront information that calls this fundamental belief into question. Will the two of them discover the truth? And what should they do with what they find?
*How did you come up with the title for this book? It sounds rather poetic.
–The idea came from a familiar phrase in the English Burial Service: “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”
*What exactly is a Vushla?
–The Vushla (plural — singular is Vushlu) are one of the sentient species on a planet humans haven’t found. They could be described as a cross between a centaur and a tortoise: their general body configuration is that of a centaur, and they are largely covered by many small plates of a hard substance they (and their neighbor species, the Weesah) refer to as armor. The armor is often moved as part of gestures and body language. I envision them as roughly human-sized.
*Tell us how the idea for this book came about.
–That was a first for me. The way Vushla typically meet death came to me as an image in a dream. My husband contributed a key plot twist.
*What is the connection between the Vushla, water, and death?
–As described in the Preface and in the book blurb, when a Vushlu knows it is dying (I use “it” for unidentified Vushla and Weesah, and he or she for individuals of known gender), it tries to get to the ocean, where it swims or wades into the surf to dissolve away. If it dies on the journey, the friends and relatives accompanying it on the funeral journey hire fisher folk (who have custom-made waterproof suits) to carry the body into the ocean.
Whether there are other connections . . . you’ll need to read the book to find out. 🙂
*Was your approach different in writing this book?
The origin — a dream, as I mentioned above — was different. Otherwise, I did what I usually do: wrote a (very) rough draft during National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo or NaNo; put it aside for a month or so; did multiple revisions and editing passes over the next nine months; sent it to beta readers and made more revisions based on their comments; did the final proofread/edits; and published it (as a preorder) on Amazon and Google Play and via Draft2Digital. (The paperback will, I hope, be ready by the release date of October 17th, at least on Amazon. B&N will take a little longer due to a cumbersome proofing process.)
*What comes first the idea or theme?
That’s an interesting question, especially this time around. What thematic concerns inspired that dream? I can’t say for sure. I certainly had both mortality and parent-child relationships on my mind, as my father died a little more than six months before NaNo began. (I don’t remember exactly when I had the dream, but I would guesstimate it was a month or so before NaNo.)
*What was your experience like writing Water to Water?
I can generally keep up with or stay slightly ahead of the pace NaNo requires (an average of 1,667 words per day), and this time was no exception. My confidence in the story fluctuated about as much as usual — which is to say, frequently but not to the point of either ecstatic certainty or profound gloom. I frequently consulted my general science adviser, aka my husband Paul Hager, on various aspects of world-building.
I approached cover design a little differently this time. I’ve most often collaborated with a particular designer, but that collaboration works best when I have some fairly definite starting ideas. This time, the one idea I had felt insufficient. I decided to spring boldly into the red, financially speaking, and invest in a cover from a designer (or rather, a group of designers) I’d long admired, Damonza. I am delighted with the result, which has gotten consistently favorable comment during the book’s Silver Dagger Book Tour (continuing through October 26th).
Karen A. Wyle is the author of multiple science fiction novels, including The Twin-Bred Series: Books 1-3; near-future novels Division, Playback Effect, and Who: a novel of the near future; and YA near-future novel The Link. Her one novel (so far) outside the SF category is afterlife fantasy/family drama Wander Home. She has also published one nonfiction work, Closest to the Fire: A Writer’s Guide to Law and Lawyers, a resource for authors or for anyone interested in understanding more about American law.
Wyle was born a Connecticut Yankee, but eventually settled in Bloomington, Indiana, home of Indiana University. She now considers herself a Hoosier. Wyle’s childhood ambition was to be the youngest ever published novelist. While writing her first novel at age 10, she was mortified to learn that some British upstart had beaten her to the goal at age 9.
Wyle is an appellate attorney, photographer, political junkie, and mother of two wildly creative daughters. Her voice is the product of almost five decades of reading both literary and genre fiction. It is no doubt also influenced, although she hopes not fatally tainted, by her years of law practice. Her personal history has led her to focus on often-intertwined themes of family, communication, the impossibility of controlling events, and the persistence of unfinished business.
Excerpted from Becoming Starlight: A Shared Death Journey from Darkness to Light by Sharon Prentice, PhD. Copyright © 2018 by Sharon Prentice. https://sharonprentice.com
Heaven. There are many different words for it in many different languages. And each day, it’s a “place” that’s referred to more than any other in the world. Why? Every single race, religion, ethnicity, and culture—members of each one believe in the concept of Heaven. Religious scholars and philosophers have debated, argued, and fought over the very nature of Heaven since time immemorial and they have written reams and reams of papers about it and stockpiled book after book on library shelves for millennia.
But it’s not the conversations or writings of the religious scholars or philosophers that touch the true nature of “that place.” It’s the conversations that take place in the hospices, hospitals, ICU’s and funerals of the world that take us into the soul of humanity and, therefore –into Heaven. It’s in times of great personal trauma that many of these discussions take place. And, sometimes, these private moments can become very heated due to the stress and fear that exist in the trying moments before the death of a loved one. Once the word “Heaven” is spoken out loud, the underlying, unacknowledged, unspoken word that goes with it is death. Fear that death is near–especially in the waiting rooms of the ICU–prompts exchanges that are not normally heard in everyday family life.
When “the end” is near, people shy away from using the word “death”; their conversation will, instead, turn to the “place” where their loved one “is going” and to each person’s individual interpretation of exactly what and where Heaven is–and everyone has their own “truth.” Listening to, and being part of these conversations, is both joyous and heart wrenching as families try to come to terms with exactly “where” their loved one will be after they die. This conversation is repeated countless times, every single day, all over the globe.
The conflict begins the very minute someone questions the interpretation of another. In these moments of great tragedy, having one’s viewpoint understood and accepted as truth–the only truth–is vitally important to each person’s peace of mind. Therein lies the problem. The discussion turns to debate–then to all-out disagreement.
I understand the conflict. Over the years, I have shared my SDE with many friends, colleagues, and mentors, and my explanations and descriptions have sometimes caused heated debate among them. I have spoken to individuals from all walks of life, from all the great religions of the world, from every background and school of thought, and every one of them had their own version of what “truth” should “be” or “is.” While all their “truths” were different, they did have a unifying thread–a belief in an afterlife. “Heaven” and “Hell” were central to every debate and the descriptions of these “places” were similar in both nature and belief.
In the course of these debates and conversations, I have been asked to explain “where” I was taken, what I meant by “I became Starlight,” and to describe exactly what “God” looked like. It is so very difficult to accurately relay my experience because I must rely on “words.” To use words such as “majestic, magnificent, purity defined, peaceful, still, home” dulls the experience because of the mere fact that labeling it–using words to describe the indescribable–just doesn’t do the SDE justice. To characterize the face of God, the touch of God, is tantamount to explaining perfection itself–how can it be done? How do you depict an emanation of love and joy combined with otherworldly purity? How do you describe an ethereal form that consists of pure light? The “how” lies in the experience itself as given to you by God Himself–His face, His thoughts, His Word engraved upon your heart–how do you give voice to that feeling?
The “how” lies hidden in the vision, the “feeling” of pure Spirit–the soul must feel its way through to see perfection without being polluted by the scripts we grew up identifying with and falling victim to. “God looked like love I have never experienced before” has always been my answer. There are some feelings and thoughts that can never be expressed–words don’t exist to describe them. Our own humanity puts locks on the words felt in the Soul. The physicality of God’s appearance—it simply wasn’t important. I felt absolutely no curiosity about it–His touch was just too all-consuming and comforting to think of anything else. Perhaps one day, someone will invent a word that accurately depicts “the pure light that is love” that will get us one step closer to seeing His perfection.
Once the head shaking stops from my lack of a physical description, the conversation turns to “where” was I? Most organized religion tells us that God is “separate” from us, that He lives somewhere “out there,” above the clouds in a place called Heaven. Religion teaches us that God is the creator and final arbiter of the rights and wrongs of living and that we all will surely answer to Him for all our wrong doings. And just as we’ve been told who and what God is, we’ve also been told what “heaven” is, in descriptive terms that everyone can visualize. Heaven is a specific place, the likes of which there is no equal. It is an “other” world, out there somewhere, filled with everything wonderful and beautiful, full of creature comforts that we only dream about. Mansions line golden streets encrusted with pearls and diamonds, and everyone has everything they ever wanted–and everyone who was the best “good little boy or girl” has even bigger and better things than those who weren’t quite as good in this life. We earn that mansion on that particular street in that particular neighborhood by the things we do or believe or by the things we don’t do or don’t believe while living on this earth. Sounds like a bigger and better version of life here, doesn’t it? I fully accepted that version, that description of Heaven given to me as a child. The innocence of childhood demands “pictures” we can understand. Adjectives that paint a picture of a human paradise comfort and console us when we think of death–ours or anyone else’s.
But that is not what I found in “that place” among my stars. Was there physicality, a form, a space–a specific place that could be described? I can’t say there was! What I found, and felt, instead, in the place where I was held, was magnificence itself: Pure Starlight–and God Himself. And the most amazing surprise of all–I found the “me” as God intended me to be from the moment He formed me in my mother’s womb–before this world got ahold of me and slapped labels on me that told me who to “be” and what to believe. But in “that place,” I found myself as a magnificent extension of God. My answer to the question, “What does God look like?” has always been the same: to describe God, I would be describing my own Soul. And to describe “that place” requires a complete letting go of everything that any logic and human reasoning would dictate.
The very essence of God, of Heaven, was in and of that Starlight. I discovered–no, I just knew–that there is nowhere that God is not. He is in and of everything that has ever existed. There is nothing that He is not. There is no place that He is not. If it exists, it is a part of Him–His thoughts created everything, including every one of us. We exist purely because he thought of each one of us. We are the physical forms of His thoughts. We are his creations–part of a whole that we can’t perceive. We are all intricately combined as one thought of God but gloriously separate as individuals for some reason unknown to us–but known to Him from the moment He gave each of us life.
About the Author:
Dr. Sharon Prentice is the author of Becoming Starlight: A Shared Death Journey from Darkness to Light. Soon after completing her graduate studies in psychology, Dr. Prentice longed to discover “the why’s” about her own intimate experience with death in the form of an SDE, and that of others who had experienced something “weird, unbelievable, odd” at the time of the death of a loved one. Dr. Prentice is in private practice as a Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor – Advanced Certification. She is also a Board Certified Spiritual Counselor (SC-C) and holds Board Certification in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Group Therapy, Integrated Marriage and Family Therapy, and Crisis and Abuse Therapy. She is also a Board Certified Temperament Counselor. Dr. Prentice is a Professional Member of the American Counselors Association, a Professional Clinical member of the National Christian Counselors Association, a Clinical member of the American Mental Health Counselors Association, and a Presidential member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. She is also a Commissioned Minister of Pastoral Care. For more information, please visit https://sharonprentice.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.
From the million-copy bestselling author, perfect for fans of Stieg Larsson, Anne Holt, and The Killing.
“Michael Ridpath is trouncing the Scandinavians on their home turf. This is international thriller writing at its best.” PETER JAMES
Iceland, 2017: When a young Italian tourist is found brutally murdered at a sacred church in northern Iceland, Magnus Jonson, newly returned to the Reykjavík police force, is called in to investigate. At the scene, he finds a stunned TV crew, there to film a documentary on the life of the legendary Viking, Gudrid the Wanderer.
Magnus quickly begins to suspect that there may be more links to the murdered woman than anyone in the film crew will acknowledge. As jealousies come to the surface, new tensions replace old friendships, and history begins to rewrite itself, a shocking second murder leads Magnus to question everything he thought he knew…
This book is definitely on my radar. First, there’s an amazing endorsement from mega-writer Peter James. Then the blurb kind of sucks you into it’s realm of suspense, intrigue, crime, setting and viking history. The Wanderer is the #5 book in the series so I’ll need to catch up fast!
He slips through the unlocked window. Creeps down the hall. A shadow standing in the bedroom doorway. Will you wake when death comes ripping?
A string of brutal home invasion murders terrifies Dade County Florida. The killer strikes in the dead of the night, savages innocent people in their beds, wipes out entire families.
Skewering them with his blade. Butchering them beyond recognition. Raw. Aggressive.
He attacks at random. Rich. Poor. Young. Old. No one is safe.
When the city sleeps, he comes alive. Stalks the night. Walks among us.
The investigation is hopeless. There’s little physical evidence to work with, and the killer’s chaotic behavior makes him as unpredictable as he is dangerous.
How can anyone make sense of such brutality?
The task force leading the investigation needs a profiler, and there’s only one man for the job.
Loshak. Special Agent Victor Loshak.
The 53 year-old likes his Dunkin’ Donuts coffee shaken, not stirred. And now, for the first time, he’s on his own.
In recent years, Loshak has slowed down some. He relies on more wit than grit these days, often playing a mentor role to his partner, Violet Darger. Until now, she always had more than enough grit for both of them.
But Darger isn’t around this time, and a killer this aggressive will push Loshak to his limits.
What drives someone to such violence? And how far will Loshak have to go to stop him?
Yeah, he’ll need to find that grit again… or die trying.
I’ve read this author and part of the Violet Darger FBI series before, so I know what I’m getting into before I read this. Agent Victor Loshak FBI profiler first makes his appearance in Dead End Girl: A Gripping Serial Killer Thriller (Violet Darger FBI Thriller Book 1). And that book was AMAZING. I wasn’t too impressed with the blurb itself though. Liked bits and pieces of it and disliked others. But the blurb is pointless because I’ve already got a great taste of the series and the lead character anyway. Can’t wait to tap into this puppy.
*In the beginning of your writing career you underlined the struggles you had, but in the end you said, “But I had a story to tell.” I love that! Can you tell us about this feeling?
The building that inspired The Dead Key haunted me for ten years before I really sat down to write the story. In that time, I changed jobs, I got married, and I had children, but no matter where life took me, the abandoned vault below the Euclid Avenue and its unclaimed safe deposit boxes followed. It nagged at me in daydreams and every time I picked up a novel. Whenever I talked about the vacant building with friends, I could tell they were intrigued. When I considered what treasures and secrets had been left buried in the basement of that old bank, my toes would curl up with anticipation. The story just wouldn’t leave me alone.
*How did the story about the torso killer emerge and made you want to tell it?
Another abandoned building in Cleveland inspired The Unclaimed Victim. I had no idea that the Torso Killer would become the focus of the story. I just began researching the empty Union Gospel Press building’s history, particularly its years as a religious mission in the 1920s and 1930s, and became fascinated with the nun-like “Sallies” that lived there and the city of Cleveland during the Great Depression. The labyrinthine factory cried out for a serial killer in the mold of H.H. Holmes (see Devil in the White City by Erik Larson), and the Torso Killer became an obvious, albeit daunting, choice. So much has been written about the Torso Murders, I was reluctant to take on these true crimes, but as I delved into the research, it became clear that not every story about the murders had been told.
*Describe how you came up with the title, The Unclaimed Victim.
With this book, I wanted to tell a serial killer story from the victims’ perspective. So many thrillers are told from the detective’s or the killer’s point of view, and the victims become more like objects than people. The fact that only three of the thirteen official Torso victims were ever identified or claimed by their families struck me as another injustice of these crimes. It was my intent to breathe life into the Torso Killer victims with the hope that one might just get away.
*What was your first reaction when you heard about the Torso killer?
First I was horrified, then morbidly fascinated, then ultimately skeptical of the official findings. The Torso Killer became a media sensation as one of the nation’s most notorious maniacs back in a time before the term “serial killer” even existed. The detectives and coroners that worked the case were certainly devoted and professional, but they had no concept of modern profiling or access to modern forensics. After looking at the facts, I couldn’t shake the feeling that some evidence and potential suspects slipped through the cracks. The killer was never officially identified.
*Describe your experience writing about him, the unclaimed victim, and the final conclusion (no spoilers of course!).
It took eight months of research and drafting to really find the story I wanted to tell and another several months to finish it. I don’t outline, so I usually don’t know the answer to the mystery until I write the ending. As a result, I’m on the edge of my seat as the final scenes unfold. The process of writing this book took me to some pretty dark places where I considered murder on an intimate level from many angles, and asked myself almost daily what it would take for me to kill someone. My kids gave me funny looks for a few weeks there.
*How does it feel knowing the success you have today versus the struggles you began with?
I feel unbelievably lucky that my books have found an audience and I am able to write full time right now. I try to be thankful each day I sit down to work. I am currently editing my fourth novel, and I’ve found that every book presents different struggles and challenges. I still try to write my first draft like nobody will ever read it. I still worry the literary police will take me away in handcuffs any day now for impersonating a writer.
*Do you like historical fiction?
I love historical fiction, but I generally prefer to write and read stories about the 20th century. Some of my favorites right now are The Paris Wife by Paula McClain, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, and The Stranger House by Reginald Hill.
*Are your stories always based upon true crime?
I like to use real history as a backdrop for my stories. The Dead Key wasn’t based on true crime as much as Cleveland’s history of political corruption and financial default. Similarly, The Buried Book was inspired by true events like the 1953 Flint-Beecher tornadoes and Detroit-area history. My third and fourth novels were inspired by true crimes from Cleveland’s past.
*What would you say to all the struggling writers out there?
Keep writing. Keep reading. Don’t fall in love with your words; just find and follow the story. Don’t be afraid to try and fail. Always be willing to re-write, rework, and re-examine. Don’t give up. I also recommend reading craft books including On Writing by Stephen King, No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty, and Save the Cat by Blake Snyder.
*What are you working on next?
My fourth book is a historical mystery about a hundred-year-old mansion in Shaker Heights, Ohio and the decades of secrets and lies hidden behind its facade.
Before becoming a full-time writer, D.M. Pulley worked as a Professional Engineer, rehabbing historic structures and conducting forensic investigations of building failures. Pulley’s structural survey of a vacant building in Cleveland inspired her debut novel, The Dead Key, the winner of the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. The disappearance of a family member formed the basis for her second historical mystery, The Buried Book. Pulley’s third novel, The Unclaimed Victim, delves into the dark history behind Cleveland’s Torso Killer and is due out November 14, 2017. She lives in northeast Ohio with her husband, her two children, and a dog named Hobo, and she is hard at work on her fourth book.
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