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Read a Chapter: Concrete Pearl by Vincent Zandri

Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at Beyond the Books! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring Concrete Pearl by Vincent Zandri. Ordering information follows. Enjoy!

Ava “Spike” Harrison might be a beautiful, classically schooled woman, but the single, 38 year old construction business owner is also plenty ballsy. Her late father taught her long ago how to handle the rough boys in an industry that’s almost entirely filled with hard-boiled men on the make. But now, with “the business dad built” from the ground up failing due to an unusual series of job-site injuries and just plain bad luck, Spike has no choice but to take on one last project she believes can pull the fledgling commercial firm from the depths of almost certain bankruptcy and family shame: The Renovation of Albany PS 20.

Problem is, Spike had no choice but to take the job on the cheap or, what’s known in the industry as, “at cost.” To make matters worse, she’s not only hired an asbestos removal contractor who, unbeknownst to her, low-balled his price, but she’s advanced him $10Gs from her own dwindling cash account as a “good faith” incentive to beat the project deadline.

Now, when that same asbestos contractor goes missing and it’s discovered by OSHA officials that he’s cheated on the project exposing more than 300 students to deadly asbestos fibers for months, the ever responsible Spike takes matters into her own callused hands and goes in search of him. What she discovers along the way however, is a path paved with deception, greed, murder, and eventually, her own ultimate demise.

Chapter 1

How does a headstrong girl like me learn to survive in a man’s construction racket? You learn to survive by taking your old man’s advice, even if it does come to you from six feet under.

After all these years I can still hear the proud baritone pouring out the mouth of the late great John Harrison. He used to say that a building erected by the Harrison Construction Company wasn’t meant to last for two or even three hundred years. Like the great Egyptian pyramids, it was meant to last forever.

I can see the short but sturdy man standing on the edge of a high-rise jobsite, concrete foundations already poured and cured, structural steel newly erected, a big American flag perched high above us off the top most section of rust-colored I-beam.

“You want a tower to last, A.J.?” he’d say, taking my small hand in his, callused fingers squeezing me tight. “You don’t skimp for nobody…You build it right the first time. No matter the cost.”

But I guess even he had to admit that there were those times when a perfectly executed construct might begin to fall apart for no apparent reason. Nothing apparent to the naked eye anyway. Maybe a tack-welded roof joist works itself loose. Or maybe a crack forms in a concrete foundation and over time expands its way up the length of a twenty-story bearing wall. In both cases the destruction is so slow and subtle you might not take notice until it’s too late.

Life is like that too.

Destruction isn’t always something that hits you over the head like a claw hammer. Instead it’s something that’s been building up for a long time, more like the rain that seeps into a brick wall and freezes during the winter months. The ice expands, cracks and eventually destroys the mortar.

Case and point: my own personal Jericho came crashing down on me on Monday, June 15th, barely a half hour into a hot and humid workday. Call it woman’s intuition or a sharply honed, built-in crap detector, but I knew something wasn’t right from the moment my Blackberry started vibrating against my hip.

I’d been trying to expedite the demolition of the Albany Public School 20 basement utility room, using my equalizer (an old 22 ounce grizzly bear-clawed framing hammer) to rip down the old plywood utility panel backer-board. But even with those four inch claws wedged in between the old, dry plywood and the brick wall, the bitch just wouldn’t budge. Which might explain why I barked into my Blackberry instead of answering it with good old, lady-like professionalism.

“What!”

“Yeah and good morning to you too, chief,” said my assistant and former Harrison mason laborer, Tommy Moleski. “Sorry to interrupt, but we’ve got a bit of an emergency up here. One which requires your ah…utmost undivided attention.”

I pictured the sixty-something, blond-haired, blue-eyed Vietnam vet with the trailer phone pressed to his ear, a lit Marlboro Red balanced precariously between his lips.

“A drop everything kind of emergency, Tommy?” I said. “Or an it-can-wait-until- coffee-break emergency?”

“Need you front-and-freaking-center-now emergency, chief.”

“Meet you in the trailer…and don’t call me, chief.”

Pocketing the Blackberry, I grumbled something about how much Monday mornings sucked, even when you got to be your own boss. Then I grabbed hold of the equalizer’s rubber grip and pulled like nobody’s business.

The old board tore away from the wall and crashed down at my Durango cowboy-booted feet. But then so did half the plaster ceiling. Guess this old broad didn’t know her own strength after all.

Leaving the mess for later, I high-tailed it out of the room and up the concrete stairs. As usual, I had a fire to put out.

– Book excerpt from Concrete Pearl. Purchase your copy at Amazon for only 99 cents by clicking here!

Interview with ‘Dying Memories’ Dave Zeltserman

Dave Zeltserman won the 2010 Shamus Award for ‘Julius Katz’ and is the acclaimed author of the ‘man out of prison’ crime trilogy: Small Crimes, Pariah and Killer, where Small Crimes was picked by NPR as one of the five best crime and mystery novels of 2008, and Small Crimes and Pariah (2009) were both picked by the Washington Post as best books of the year. His recent The Caretaker of Lorne Field received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, calling it a ’superb mix of humor and horror’, and has been shortlisted by ALA for best horror novel of 2010. Outsourced (2011) has already been called ‘a small gem of crime fiction’ by Booklist and has been optioned by Impact Pictures and Constantin Film.

His latest book is Dying Memories (StoneGate Ink).

You can visit Dave’s website at www.davezeltserman.com. Connect with him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/people/Dave-Zeltserman/1434849193.

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Dave.  Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

I’ve had a number of short stories published in magazines and anthologies, and 11 novels published. My books have also been translated so far into French, German, Italian, Dutch and Lithuanian.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

The first piece of fiction of mine that was published was a short story in New Mystery Magazine back in 1992. I self-published my first novel in 2002, which was a crime noir novel titled In His Shadow. I did this because nobody would buy it, but I thought I’d get enough blurbs from it to help me sell my second book, Bad Thoughts. This led to an Italian deal for In His Shadow and selling the book to a small press with the new title, Fast Lane.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

I’ll talk about my third novel, Small Crimes, which I sold to Serpent’s Tail, who while an independent publisher still has enough push to get books visibility, and have published several Nobel Prize winners.

I agreed to the deal in January, 2006. We signed the contract in May of that year, the book was published in the UK in January 2008 and in the US in October 2008. Oh yeah, every US publisher rejected Small Crimes for being too dark or not formulaic enough, and the book ended up being picked by NPR as one of the 5 best crime and mystery novels of the year, and also by the Washington Post as one of the best books of the year.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

It was a great feeling selling my first story. I was paid $35 for it. Since then I’ve won awards, had my books picked as best of the year by prestigious organizations, been reviewed in major newspapers around the world, been translated in other languages, and have had my books optioned for film, but nothing has beaten the high that I felt when I sold that story.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

When I self-published In His Shadow, I was out beating the bushes trying to get reviews and blurbs. With Small Crimes, I mostly left everything to my publicist, but I did arrange some book events and also contacted some book reviewers, which led to Small Crimes being reviewed in The Boston Globe and The Sun-Sentinel.

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

When I look back at Fast Lane, there’s some very high energy writing in it, but also some very rough writing that makes me cringe a bit. My writing is smoother now. I know from the start what I need to do, and there’s almost no need for rewriting, although there’s always some polishing.  I feel confident now in writing in almost any genre—from dark crime noir to charming traditional mysteries to horror to thrillers.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

When I first started writing, I looked at the major publishers as gatekeepers; that they’d be the ones to tell be whether my writing is good enough. Over the last few years I’ve learned it’s only a business—that the idea of the large publishers being any sort of gatekeeper is only a myth. There might have been a time when they cared about the books they published, but now it’s only business, and they’re looking to buy what they consider the lowest risk books they can without any interest as to  how good or bad they are. The independent publishers have a different attitude—with them they look at it as a matter of survival to publish the best books they can.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

Spending my days doing what I love most, which is writing.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

Enjoy the journey. As a writer it’s easy to get sidetracked on all the things you haven’t accomplished yet instead of appreciating what you have.

 Click on banner to see Dave Zeltserman’s official tour page!

Interview with Allan Leverone, author of ‘Final Vector’

Allan Leverone is a three-time Derringer Award Finalist whose short fiction has been featured in Needle: A Magazine of Noir, Shroud Magazine, Twisted Dreams, Mysterical-E and many other venues, both print and online. His debut thriller, titled FINAL VECTOR, is available February 2011 from Medallion Press. For details, please visit www.allanleverone.com or his blog at www.allanleverone.blogspot.com.  Don’t forget to join him at Pump Up Your Book’s March 2011 Authors on Tour Facebook Party on March 25.  Visit his virtual book tour page at http://www.pumpupyourbook.com/2011/01/16/final-vector-virtual-bookk-tour-february-march-2011/ for more information!

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Allan.  Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

Final Vector is my first novel to see the light of day. I’ve had a couple of dozen short stories published, both online and in print magazines and anthologies, but I’m both nervous and excited to join the ranks of professional novelists.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

My journey to publication included a total of 134 rejections of my three manuscripts from agents and publishers, 51 of which were for Final Vector, before Medallion Press showed enthusiastic interest in my thriller about an air traffic controller who gets caught up in a plot to assassinate U.S. President Robert Cartwright by blowing up Air Force One. Medallion is a small Indie publisher, but I believe one of the biggest and best of the Indies.

I had always sworn, during the years when it seemed I was making no progress, that I wasn’t so desperate to see my name on the cover of a novel that I would resort to self-publishing. I figured if my book wasn’t of sufficient quality to get picked up by a traditional publisher I didn’t want it out there. But now, things are changing so fast in the world of publishing that I would seriously consider releasing a book myself.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

Not quite fourteen months. I signed my contract with Medallion in late-December, 2009 and Final Vector was officially released February 11, 2011.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

I’ll never forget the night I got the offer of publication from Medallion. I had to read the email over three times before it really sunk in that, yes, they actually wanted my book! Then I had to examine it to ensure I wasn’t the victim of some cruel practical joke. Knowing I was about to become a professional novelist was a feeling that can’t really be described. It was like drinking a whole bottle of champagne without having to worry about puking it up later or dealing with a headache the next day.

Q: What was the first thing you did as far as promotion when you were published for the first time?

Within days of signing the contract for Final Vector, I had contracted with Xuni.com for a complete redesign of my website, www.allanleverone.com. I had designed and maintained the original myself and it wasn’t up to the professional standard I wanted to project. Then I began aggressively expanding my social networking presence, hoping it would help get the word out when it was closer to my release date. Finally, I contracted with COS Productions for development of a video book trailer and signed with Pump Up Your Book Virtual Tours for a two-month blog tour in support of the release.

It sounds like a lot, but as an unknown debut novelist, my challenge is to put my name and my book in front of as many potential readers as possible. Final Vector could be the best thriller ever written, but if no one knows about it, no one’s going to buy it.

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

I like to think I would continue to grow as a writer regardless of my publishing situation. I started writing fiction in earnest less than five years ago, so I had—and still have—a lot to learn about the craft. I hope never to stop learning.

There are two things I ask myself every day; one to keep growing as a writer and one to give myself the best possible chance to sell Final Vector and whatever may come next:

1)     Is what I wrote today better than what I wrote yesterday? And

2)     Did I do at least one thing today to promote my work?

If the answer to either of these questions is “no,” I try to do something to rectify that as soon as I can.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

How slowly things happen within the industry while things are changing so fast for it as a whole. The idea that it could take almost fourteen months to turn a completed manuscript into a new release amazed me when I signed my contract, and it amazes me now. Fourteen months is an eternity the way things are happening in the publishing industry right now, but this is a business that ran basically the same way for five hundred years until the advent of electronic publishing. Now the publishing industry is undergoing a sea change, and traditional publishers are struggling to keep up.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

That’s an easy question for me to answer. The most rewarding thing, by far, is the knowledge that my work might be entertaining a reader in Boise, Idaho or Sacramento, California or Fairbanks, Alaska right now. Or tomorrow or next week or next month. It’s humbling and rewarding at the same time.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

Make sure your work is as polished and as high-quality as it can be, because if it’s riddled with typos or grammar flaws or plot holes it will get passed up in favor of a more polished book, even if it’s a better story. Once your work is the absolute best it can be, turn into a bulldog and never give up. JA Konrath says the difference between a published author and an unpublished author is persistence and I couldn’t agree more.

Eight Things I Learned While Writing ‘The 19th Element’ by John L. Betcher

We have a special guest today! John L. Betcher, author of The 19th Element: A James Becker Thriller , is here to tell us more about his exciting new book!

Eight Things I Learned While Writing The 19th Element
by John L. Betcher

One of my favorite things about writing thrillers is the amazing facts I learn through in-person research. While researching my latest thriller, The 19th Element, I discovered all sorts of intriguing information by chatting with a chemist, a nuclear physicist, a city cop and a small plane pilot. I’m going to share five interesting tidbits with you today.

1) It is perfectly legal to fly your airplane directly above a nuclear power plant, provided you remain at least 500 feet above all structures. This one blew me away. Even if an airplane is traveling as slowly as 140 knots, it would take that plane only three second to transform from legal flight to nuclear menace. I don’t know about you . . . but I’d like to see the planes a little bit higher when they’re above such a tempting terrorist target.

2) Potassium is the 8th most common element on earth, yet it cannot be found in its pure elemental form anywhere in nature. Elemental potassium – the 19th element on the Periodic Table of Elements – is a light-weight metal substance which is solid at room temperature. The reason potassium cannot be found anywhere in its elemental form is that it bonds readily with many other elements to form compounds — which are no longer pure potassium. It is commonly found in mineral fertilizers such as potash. It is possible for chemists to isolate pure potassium in a laboratory. When pure elemental potassium metal is introduced into water, the explosive effects are spectacular – and under the right circumstances – can be devastating.

3) Approximately 90% of the potential energy inside a nuclear fuel rod remains there, even after the rod is considered “spent.” Nuclear power plants swap out approximately one-third of the fuel assemblies in their reactor every year-and-a-half for fresh fuel assemblies. The “spent” assemblies are stored on the plant site in “spent fuel storage pools.” At the time the assemblies are placed in the pools, the fuel retains approximately 90% of its potential to generate heat – which is its main job while inside the reactor. In the U.S., we do not recycle “spent” fuel. We try to figure out where to put it instead.

4) Most airports are “left-handed.” This means that airplanes approach the airports by circling in a counter-clockwise direction – to the left, if you are sitting at the controls. Occasionally, it is unsafe or inconvenient for airplanes to make their final approach passes in a counter-clockwise direction. Those airports are then made into “right-handed” airports. As an aside, many smaller airports have no tower, no traffic control and no personnel who are onsite 24/7. Departures and landings at these airports are accomplished through radio communications between pilots flying in the area of the airport.

5) Security for nuclear power plants is typically a joint operation between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, and onsite security teams. Representatives from the various groups meet regularly to review safety and security issues relating to their particular nuclear plant. Tribal police are often included in such meetings when a reservation is located nearby. The NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) bears the responsibility for ensuring that the utility company operating the nuclear plant does so in strict compliance with numerous and complex safety regulations. Nuclear plant security strategies and capabilities are classified as Top Secret, and most are not visible to the public.

6) Nuclear radiation comes in three flavors – Alpha, Beta and Gamma. A nuclear chemist once told me that all flavors are safe if you do the right things with them. Eat one. Put one in your pocket. And throw one away.

Alpha emitters like Polonium 210 give off particles of radiation that are large but extremely low energy. They can’t even penetrate four inches of air, or the thickness of human skin. But if you eat Polonium 210, it is more toxic than cyanide by 250,000 times. The most famous case of Polonium poisoning was the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian dissident, in 2006. Put your Polonium in your pocket and you’ll be safe.

Tritium is a beta emitter. Beta particles are more energetic than alphas – but they are tiny, and will not penetrate any solid object (like a human cell). Go ahead and eat some. The treatment for Tritium consumption is drinking ten pints of fluids to flush your system. Since many men have trouble drinking ten pints of water, they are often advised to drink beer instead.

Uranium 235 and Plutonium 240 emit potent gamma particles. Gamma particles are both highly energetic and massive (on a sub-atomic scale). They will rip right through your body’s cells without slowing down. They leave devastated tissue in their wake. Throw away your nuclear fuel please.

7) If you were to stand directly outside the fence of a U.S. nuclear power plant, you would receive a negligible amount of radiation beyond that already present in a normal earth environment. Nuclear plants are so well insulated from release of radiation, that you would get as much “extra” radiation flying in a commercial plane from New York to Los Angeles as you would standing outside that nuclear plant for a whole year. The extra radiation on the plane ride comes from the sun. At 30,000 feet of altitude, the atmosphere shields us much less than at ground level.

8) Most nuclear spent fuel storage pools have concrete walls and bottoms five feet thick and are constructed entirely above ground. The above-ground concept was intended to allow technicians to monitor the pools for leakage. Unfortunately, this design feature also makes the pools susceptible to sabotage by a crate of dynamite, or a professionally-placed chunk of C4.

You can visit John’s website at www.johnbetcher.com.

When an Aging, Gray-Haired Mystery Writer Becomes a 25-year-old Female Schizophrenic

We have a wonderful guest post for you today by James Hayman, author of the new thriller novel, The Chill of Night.  Visit James on the web at www.jameshaymanthrillers.com.

When an Aging, Gray-Haired Mystery Writer Becomes a 25 year-old Female Schizophrenic

by James Hayman

Did you hear the one about the bearded, gray-haired male geezer who somehow managed to turn himself into a twenty-five female schizophrenic?  No?  Believe me it happened. It happened to me. And it wasn’t the first time I became somebody else.

Living inside the heads of different kinds of characters is something good writers have to do all the time. Writers of mysteries and thrillers as well as writers of so-called literary fiction.

But creating the character of Abby Quinn, the young schizophrenic woman who is a central character in my newest Mike McCabe thriller, The Chill of Night, was one of the most challenging and most fascinating experiences of my writing life.

Abby, for those of you who haven’t read the book yet, is a young woman with a history of mental illness. She hears Voices that aren’t there. She sees visions that aren’t there. When she’s good about taking her anti-psychotic medication, these things are pretty much under control.  But when she goes off her meds or runs into something majorly traumatic, all bets are off.

And one freezing night on an island in Maine that’s exactly what happens.  Abby sees a murder.  She’s sure she’s seen it.  Or is she?  She runs to the local police station and tells the cop on duty what she has seen.  Or thinks she has seen.

The cop knows Abby’s history and assumes she’s hallucinating.  He doesn’t even bother reporting what she has told him.  But then a body turns up and McCabe realizes the actual details of the crime match Abby’s story so precisely that what she must really have seen what she says she saw. But by then she’s gone. And a murderer is trying to find her.

I wrote a good portion of The Chill of Night in Abby’s voice, from Abby’s point of view. To be able to do that, to get the voice right, I had to really get into Abby’s head. To see what she sees, and to hear the Voices she hears.  To become in a very real sense, Abby Quinn.

To help me get it right, I read personal memoirs written by a number young schizophrenic women.  Two in particular helped me.  The Quiet Room:A Journey Out of the Torment of Madness by Lori Schiller and Amanda Bennett and The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness by Elyn Saks.

These allowed me to get into the head of Abby Quinn. To experience, as I wrote, exactly what a young woman in her condition might experience under similar circumstances. It was sometimes frightening.  But it was also very revealing and very rewarding.  In the end, I think Abby became my favorite character of all those I’ve ever created.  In a very real sense, she and I have become one.

Book Excerpt: Moonlight Falls by Vincent Zandri

Title: Moonlight Falls
Author: Vincent Zandri
Genre: Thriller
Paperback: 328 pages
Publisher: R.J. Buckley Publishing (Dec 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0758229208
ISBN-13: 978-0758229205

Moonlight Falls is the Albany, New York-based paranoid tale (in the Hitchcock tradition) of former APD Detective turned Private Investigator/Massage Therapist, Richard “Dick” Moonlight, who believes he might be responsible for the brutal slaying by knife of his illicit lover, the beautiful Scarlet Montana. The situation is made all the worse since Scarlet is the wife of Moonlight’s boss, Chief of Detectives Jake Montana.

Why does Moonlight believe he might be responsible?

He’s got a small fragment of a .22 hollow point round buried inside his brain, lodge directly up against his cerebral cortex. The result of a botched suicide attempt four years prior to the novel’s start, an operation to remove the bullt frag would be too dangerous.

But the bullet causes Moonlight lots of problems, the least of which are the occasional memory loss and his rational ability to tell right from wrong. The bullet frag also might shift at any moment, making coma and/or sudden death, a very real possibility.

Still, Moonlight has been trying to get his life together as of late.

But when Scarlet begs him to make the trip over to her house late one rainy Sunday night to issue one of his “massages,” he makes a big mistake by sleeping with her. Later, having passed out in her bed, he will be rudely awakened by a garage door opening and Jake’s unexpected and very drunken homecoming. Making his impromptu escape out a top floor window, Moonlight will seek the safety of his home.

Two hours later however, he will receive another unexpected visit from Jake Montana. This time the big Captain has sobering news to report. He’s discovered his wife’s mutilated body in her own bed. She’s been murdered and now he needs the P.I. to investigate it in association with Albany ’s “overtaxed” Special Independent Unit before I.A. pokes their nose into the affair. Moonlight takes a big step back. Is it possible he made a second trip to the Montana home-sweet-home and just has no recollection of it? Once there, did he perform a heinous crime on his part-time lover? Or is this some kind of set up by his former boss? Is it really Jake who is responsible for Scarlet’s death? Does he wish for Moonlight to cover up his involvement, seal the case before Internal Affairs starts poking their nose into the situation?

There’s another problem too.

Covering Moonlight’s palms and the pads of his fingers are numerous scratches and cuts. Are these defensive wounds? Wounds he received when Scarlet put up a struggle? Or are they offensive wounds? Wounds he couldn’t avoid when making his attack on Scarlet with a blade? The answer is not so simple since Moonlight has no idea where he acquired the wounds.

Having no choice but to take on the mission (if only to cover his own ass), Moonlight can only hope the answers to his many questions point to his former boss and not himself.

Excerpt:

Albany, New York
140 miles northeast of New York City

I’m escorted into a four-walled basement room by two suited
agents—one tall, slim and bearded, the other shorter, stockier, cleanshaven.
The space we occupy contains a one-way mirror which I know
from experience hides a tripod-mounted video camera, a sound man and several FBI agents, the identities of whom are concealed. There’s no
furniture in the room, other than a long metal table and four metal chairs. No wallpaper, no soft lamp light, no piped-in music. Just harsh white overhead light, concrete and a funny worm smell.

As I enter the room for the first time, the tall agent tells me to take a seat at the table.

“We appreciate your cooperation,” the stocky agent jumps in.

Out of the corner of my eye, I catch my reflection in the mirror.

I’m of medium height. Not tall, not short. Not too badly put together for having reached the big four-zero thanks to the cross-training routine I put myself on not long after my hospital release. Nowadays, my head is shaved. There’s a small button-sized scar behind my right earlobe in the place where the fragment of .22 caliber hollow-point penetrated
the skull. I wear a black leather jacket over black jeans and lace-up combat boots left over from my military service during the first Gulf War. My eyeglasses are rectangular and retrofitted from a pair of cheap sunglasses I picked up at a Penn Station kiosk. They make my stubblecovered face seem slightly wider than it really is. So people have told me.
Having been led to my chair, I am then asked to focus my gaze directly onto the mirror so that the video man or woman stationed on the opposite side of the glass can adjust the shooting angle and focus.

“Please say something,” requests Stocky Agent while removing his suit jacket, setting it over the back of an empty chair.

“There once was a cop from Nantucket ,” I say to break the ice.

But no one laughs.

“You get that?” the taller agent barks out to no one in particular.

“Okay to go,” comes a tinny, hidden speaker voice. “You gonna finish that poem, Mr. Moonlight?”

“Knock it off,” Stocky Agent orders. Then turns back to me.

“Before we get started, can we get you a coffee? A cappuccino? You can get one right out of the new machine upstairs.”

“Mind if I burn one?”

Tall Bearded Agent purses his lips, cocks his head in the direction of a plastic No Smoking placard to the wall.

Stocky Agent makes a sour face, shakes his head, rolls up the sleeves on his thick arms. He reaches across the heavy wood table, grabs an ashtray, and clunks it down in front of me as if it were a bedpan.

“The rule doesn’t apply down here,” he says. Then, in this deep affected voice, he adds, “Let’s get started, Mr. Moonlight. You already know the routine. For now we just want to get to the bottom of the who, what, wheres and hows of this train wreck.”

“You forgot the why,” I say, firing up a Marlboro Light. “You need to know the why to establish an entire familiarity with any given case.”

Stocky Agent does a double take, smiles. Like he knows I’m fucking with him.

“Don’t be a dick, Dick,” he says.

I guess it’s important not to take life too seriously. He laughs. I laugh. We all laugh. Ice officially broken. I exhale some smoke, sit back in my chair.

They’re right, of course. I know the drill. I know it’s the truth they’re after. The truth and almost nothing but the truth. But what they also want is my perspective—my take on the entire Scarlet Montana affair, from soup to peanuts. They want me to leave nothing out. I’ll start with my on-again/off-again love affair with my boss’s wife. Maybe from
there I’ll move on to the dead bodies, my cut-up hands, the Saratoga
Springs Russians, the Psychic Fair, the heroin, the illegal organ harvesting
operation, the exhumations, the attempts on my life, the lies, deceptions
and fuck-overs galore.

As a former fulltime Albany detective, I know that nobody sees the same thing through the same set of eyeballs. What’s important to one person might appear insignificant or useless to another. What those federal agents want right now inside the basement interview room is my most reliable version of the truth—an accurate, objective truth that
separates fact from fantasy.

Theoretically speaking.

“Ask away,” I say, just as the buzzing starts up in the core of my head.

“Just start at the beginning,” Stocky Agent requests. “We have all night.”

Sitting up straight, I feel my right arm beginning to go numb on me. So numb I drop the lit cigarette onto the table. The inside of my head chimes like a belfry. Stocky Agent is staring at me from across the table with these wide bug eyes like my skull and brains are about to pull a JFK all over him.

But then, just as soon as it all starts, the chiming and the paralysis subsides.

With a trembling hand, I manage to pick up the partially smoked cigarette, exhale a very resigned, now smokeless breath and stamp the cancer stick out.

“Everything you wanna know,” I whisper. “You want me to tell
you everything.”
“Everything you remember,” Tall Agent smiles. “If that’s at all possible.”

Stocky Agent pulls a stick of gum from a pack in his pants pocket, carefully unwraps the tin foil and folds the gum before stuffing it into his mouth.

Juicy Fruit. I can smell it from all the way across the table.

By all indicators, it’s going to be a long night.

“I think I’ll take that cappuccino after all,” I say.

For the first time since entering the interview room, I feel the
muscles in my face constricting. I know without looking that my
expression has turned into something miles away from shiny happy. I’m
dead serious.

If you would like to pick up your copy of Moonlight Falls, click here.

Insomnia and The Fine Art of Writing Murder Mysteries by James Hayman

Insomnia and The Fine Art of Writing Murder Mysteries

by James Hayman, author of THE CUTTING

Did you ever wonder what it takes to write a successful murder mystery? Or a series of murder mysteries or suspense thrillers featuring the likes of  Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch, Tess Gerritsen’s Jane Rizzoli or Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski?  One answer is not sleeping. Ms. Paretsky once noted the secret to her success as a writer (or at least one secret) was the inability to sleep.  And the longer I ply this particular trade the more I think she’s right.

Every time I come to a point in one of my books where I can’t figure out what’s going to happen next, I find the best way to come up with an answer is by lying awake in the dark when I “should” be sleeping and obsessing about it.  I do this a lot. And it always seems to lead to something that works better than anything I thought of during my normal waking or working hours. When this happens, I know full well that if I just lie there and eventually fall sleep, I’ll have forgotten the idea by morning.

The secret to a writer’s success is the inability to sleep.

I know some writers keep a notebook and pencil by their beds for just such occasions. However, I happen to share a bed with a woman who gets grumpy when she’s woken by me turning on a light to write something at three in the morning. So I get out of bed, be it two or three AM or four AM, and trundle into my writing room where I wake up my sleeping laptop and write out the idea in some detail. I hate it but it works. It helped in the writing of The Cutting and it helped in the  writing of the second McCabe thriller, The Chill of Night, which St. Martin’s/Minotaur will be bringing out later this year.

Right now, I’m trying to work out the basics of the plot for my third McCabe thriller (as yet untitled).  In this book, McCabe’s daughter Casey has grown into a drop-dead gorgeous sixteen-year-old who boasts her mother’s good looks, her father’s stubborness and a brand new driver’s license.

In the new book, Casey falls for a really hot nineteen-year-old who’s definitely the wrong kind of guy.  And it gets her into trouble (No, not that kind of trouble) and, for the past week or so, I’ve been unable to figure out how to get her out of it.

A few nights ago at three-eighteen in the morning the answer came to me.  Thankful for this gift from the gods or the muses or whoever they are, I got up and went to work, beating most of the local farmers, fishermen and lobstermen to the grindstone by a good forty minutes.

James Hayman is the author of the thriller, The Cutting.  You can visit his website at www.jameshaymanthrillers.com.

Vincent Zandri to give away thriller novel MOONLIGHT FALLS

Vincent Zandri, author of the thriller novel MOONLIGHT FALLS, will be stopping off today at Pump Up Your Book to answer any questions you might have about him or his book!

Leave a comment between now and Feb. 19 to become eligible.

The winner will be selected on Feb. 22 and announced on the main blog.

To enter, click here: http://tinyurl. com/yf5u7m9!

Interview with Moonlight Falls’ Author Vincent Zandri

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

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Vincent.  Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

Moonlight Falls is my 4th published novel. I’ve written about twice that many. I’m also a fulltime photojournalist.

Q: What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?

I actually forget most of the circumstances, because this is going back some 20 years. The novel bore the curious title of “The Life and Death of Mike Sullivan” or something horrific like that. It didn’t get published because it was really bad.

Q: For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?

Not many rejections. My agent at the time, Jimmy Vines, sold it in two weeks. Several publishers tried to buy it and it went up for auction.

Q: How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?

No one likes rejection. I worked harder. And drank a lot of beer.

Q: When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?

Delacorte. They chose me.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

I felt vindicated and of course, high as a kite. How did I celebrate? By engaging in a year long party! I don’t recall a whole lot from that period.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

Interviews for the local print and TV media. The general rule of thumb is, start in your hometown and branch out from there.

Q: If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?

No, traditional publishing is the only way I will go, be it small, indy, and/or commercial press. That’s why it’s been eight years between books. For now anyway, I believe that publishers and writers should be separate entities. There’s a reason why the system works like that. I’m not knocking self-published authors. I’ve actually blurbed quite a few of them, deservedly. But for me, the only way I would self-publish is if I’ve already achieved a major bestseller that’s been reviewed well, sold the movie right, etc.

Moonlight Falls by Vincent Zandri (click on cover to purchase at Amazon)

Q: Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?

I’ve grown up, I guess. I was terribly immature when As Catch Can was published. I didn’t quite know how to deal with the success and I went through a bit of a crack-up period. I partied too much, got divorced, got married again, got divorced again, made a whole bunch of bad decisions that need not be repeated here. In any case, being published taught me that I should never have given up being a journalist since there is never any guarantee that your next book is going to generate any real cash. So I’ve returned to serious journalism while writing fiction. Plus I’m not nearly the party animal I once was. ‘d be dead now if that was the case! What’s replaced all that is traveling, travel writing, exploration.

Q: Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up?  What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?

Well, strange question…But if I had to answer truthfully and I will, I’d say, Don’t get married, don’t have kids, don’t buy a house, don’t buy a brand new car, don’t get into debt, don’t do anything that keeps you from having the freedom to write and travel. Full-time jobs get in the way! LOL! However, life gets in the way also, so who knows what the true answer to your question is.

Q: What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?

It isn’t PC, and sometimes it isn’t pretty, but I realize now that before all else, I’m a writer. I love my family and I provide for them, but they can’t compete with what lies beneath-the undying insatiable need to quiet my mind and get it out….I’ve moved through a drought period that would break most people…I had the rock star life…I had the locked in a room with nothing but blank paper and silent keys…I’ve had heartbreak, divorces, lost friendships, and more. But I’ve moved on through it all to where I am now…published with perspective…

Q: If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?

Archeologist or Punk Rock Drummer!

Q: Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?

Yah, I have. You can check out my other word at http://www.myspace.com/theblisterz

However, no I would not give up being an author for being a Blister!

Q: How do you see yourself in ten years?

Rolling out of bed while it’s still dark, cool and quiet, making the coffee, and heading into my writing studio…In the South of France.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

Write and don’t let anyone or anything discourage you from succeeding.

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