Friday, November 30, 2012

TBR welcomes Stephen L. Brayton

TBR: Welcome to TBR, Stephen. Will you share a little bit about yourself?
Stephen: I was born in Antarctica, abandoned by my parents and raised by penguins.
I survived on fish, all the while plotting my revenge upon the civilized world...

Yeah, a little rip-off of the Oswald Cobblepot story, isn't it? Actually, I grew up in southeast Iowa, graduated from the oldest college west of the Mississippi (bonus points if you know which one), and have occupied positions in radio, printing, trucking, and hospitality. In 1991, I started attending taekwondo classes and in 2007 earned my Fifth Degree Black Belt.

TBR: Tell us about ALPHA and where it's available.
Stephen: My third book is entitled Alpha. It's available at:

TBR: Please tantalize us with a story blurb or excerpt.
Stephen: On a rainy October mroning, Mallory Petersen, private detective and martial artist, discovers the corpse of her boyfriend, Bobby Furillo, in front of her office in Des Moines. Bucking police authority and continually attacked by unknown adversaries, Mallory uncovers Bobby's devastating secrets. Each new revelation puts Mallory in deeper peril from powerful and dangerous people. And just what are those enigmatic RSVP cards that keep showing up in Mallory's mail?

TBR: What inspired you to write about the theme?
Stephen: I began martial arts in 1991. I earned my black belt in 1993 and my Fifth Degree Black belt in 2007. I have attended numerous tournaments, seminars, classes, training workouts, and instructor camps. I have admired all of the wonderful women in my organization. They inspired the Mallory Petersen character and I even went so far as to use one of the instructor in a book trailer. I wanted Mallory to be emotional, funny, caring, and have her cases affect her deeply.

TBR: How do you develop your characters?
Stephen: I wanted Mallory to be emotional, funny, caring, and have her cases affect her deeply. So I try to put her in circumstances where she's is constantly challenged mentally and physically. She has a habit of bottling up her feelings and when they do come out, they are very strong and Mallory takes a long time to recover. Many of the minor characters I've based off of real people, their attitudes toward me, their quirks and personalities.

TBR: Any tips or tricks for world building youd care to share?
Stephen: Stay real. I envy the late Ed McBain, who created an entire city for his 8th Precinct novels. I enjoy driving to the locations I want to use to be able to describe the area better and to be inspired to write a better scene. I've encountered interesting people and situations I've included in the stories.

TBR: Which of your characters would you most/least like to invite to dinner, and why?
Stephen: I'd love to dine with Mallory. She's hot, gorgeous, funny, intelligent, and I'd enjoy sharing taekwondo adventures with her. I do not want to dine with Edward Brougham. He's a drug dealer. 'Nuff said.

TBR: What's next for you?
Stephen: I'm working on the sequel to my first book, Night Shadows, as well as the next Mallory Petersen novel. I am also do the first rewrite on a stand alone novel featuring another private detective.

TBR: Any other published works?
Stephen: My first book, Night Shadows, and Mallory's first book, Beta, are both available in eBook format from Amazon, Barnes and and

TBR: Where can readers find you on the web?
Stephen: I have a blog at:
My book review blog is at: Friend request me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @SLBrayton.

TBR: Is there anything youd like to ask our readers?
Stephen: Well, I thank you for buying my books. If you like them, please recommend them to others. If you don't, please recommend them to someone who might and let me know why you didn't like them. Don't worry, I won't cry. Much.

TBR: Readers, Stephen will give away a copy of Beta to one lucky commenter. Since we're nearing the Christmas holiday, please let him know what present you'd give to Mallory. (Keep the presents decent, please.) He'll pick a winner on December 15, 2012 and announce the winner here. Be sure to leave your email address so he can contact you.

Thanks for visiting TBR, Stephen. Best of luck to you.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

TBR welcomes William Doonan

TBR: Welcome to TBR, William. Will you share a little bit about yourself?
William: Thanks for talking with me today.  My name is William Doonan.  I’m an archaeologist, a college professor, and a mystery writer.  I live in Sacramento, California with my wife Carmen, and my two little boys Will and Huey.  In my spare time, I’m learning to speak Irish.  I’ve been at it for about two years, and I now speak nearly as well as a six-month old Irish baby.

TBR: Tell us about American Caliphate and where it's available.
William: My archaeological mystery American Caliphate digs into the past to unearth clues at a pyramid complex in northern Peru.  These clues suggest an illegal and clandestine expedition by Spanish Moors in 1542, intent on bringing Islam to the New World.

It’s available from the publisher, Oak Tree Press,
or from any of the larger archaeology-themed bookstores near you.

TBR: Please tantalize us with a story blurb or excerpt.
Archaeologists Jila Wells and Ben Juarez are not thrilled at the prospect of returning to Peru; the ambush that nearly cost Jila her life still haunts her.  But the ruined pyramids at Santiago de Paz hide an important document that would shock the Islamic world.  Professor Sandy Beckham is assembling a distinguished team to dig quickly through the pyramid complex, following clues found in the diary of a wealthy Muslim woman who lived in Spain five centuries ago. 
In the diary are details of an illegal expedition to Spanish Peru in three well-armed ships.  Convinced that Spain was forever lost to Islam, Diego Ibanez intended to bring the word of Allah to the pagan Americans.  Landing on Peru’s north coast, he learned that the fires of the Inquisition burned even hotter there than they did in Spain.
As the archaeologists brace for the ravaging storms of El Niño, Jila and Ben hurry to complete their excavations.  But they’re not the only ones interested in this project.  Other forces are determined that the document remain hidden.  Should it be discovered, a challenge could be made under Islamic testamentary law to the throne of Saudi Arabia.  And the House of Saud has no interest in sharing power with an American caliphate that might now awaken from a five hundred year slumber.

TBR: What inspired you to write about the theme?
William: Well, there’s that old nugget of advice – write what you know.  And I know about archaeology.  I’ve spent years working on excavations in Central And South America, trying to add to an understanding of our shared human past.  But now and again, the evidence just doesn’t lead cleanly or clearly to a conclusion, so we have to admit that sometimes, our data do not support our anticipated outcome.

And that’s just part of being a scientist –- making a commitment to remain true to the evidence.  But part of a being a novelist entails the freedom to transcend the evidence.  I have some pretty strong ideas about what happened at certain moments in time, in the past, and I wanted to weave those ideas into a story.

TBR: Do you have a favorite quote you’d like to share?
William: Yes, an old Irish saying – “Is maith an scealai an aimsir.” – Time is a good storyteller.

TBR: While creating your books, what was one of the most surprising things you learned?
William: I suspect the most surprising thing I’ve leaned is that my characters start standing up for themselves in my own mind.  Here’s what I mean – one of the antagonists in American Caliphate is a smuggler named Walter Ibanez.  He’s not a nice guy, but he has his own standards and values.  At one point, as I was writing the book, I had Walter hiding behind a couch eavesdropping on a conversation that Jila, the main character, was having.  And halfway through the scene, I could hear Walter’s voice in the back of my mind saying “I don’t think so.  I’m not getting down on my knees to hide.  I’m not that kind of man.”  And he was right.  He’d have too much pride.  He’d get the information he needed some other way.  And ultimately he did.

TBR: Tease us with one little thing about your fictional world that makes it different from others.
William: My fictional world is a veneer overlaying the real world.  But I’m fortunate to have some knowledge of a part of the real world that many people don’t.  Archaeologists peel away layers of the past, moving back in time.  That’s fascinating to me.  It’s why I became an archaeologist in the first place.  And it informs my writing because I can populate all those layers with characters tuned to each place and time.

TBR: Any other published works?
William: Yes, thank you for asking.  I’ve spent a number of summers lecturing aboard cruise ships.  I talk about the archaeology, art history, and history of the places the ship will be visiting.  And after about a decade of this, I realized I had learned quite a bit about cruise ship culture.

Cruises are among the very safest places you can be.  Realistically, there’s little chance of a pirate attack, and even less chance of capsizing (although of course both have been known to happen).  That being said, crimes do happen on board.  It’s extremely rare, but thefts occur, assaults, even murder.  And because ships are self-contained entities, there’s little chance of calling the police.  Instead, onboard security has to respond to crimes or threats. 

And a ship at sea in international waters is kind of on its own.  Jurisdiction at sea is a tricky issue.  That’s where I felt I had a niche.  I would write a mystery series about detective who investigates crimes on cruise ships.  His name is Henry Grave, and he’s eighty-five years old, so he fits right  in!

12 million people take a cruise each year.
Most have fun.
Some die.
Henry Grave investigates.

Grave Passage was published in 2009, Mediterranean Grave in 2011, and Grave Indulgence in 2012.  Currently, I’m halfway through the first draft of Aleutian Grave.

TBR: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Most rewarding?
William: I have two little boys, ages 6 and 5.  For me, the most challenging aspect of being a writer is finding time to actually do any of it.  And the most rewarding aspect is the bewildered look on their little faces when I tell them what I’ve been writing about.  One day it will make sense to them!

TBR: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your books?
William: Michael Orenduff, author of The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras, among other great books, called American Caliphate “Indiana Jones and The DaVinci Code rolled into one.”  I thought that was pretty great.

TBR: Where can readers find you on the web?
William:  Please stop by my website to visit –
I blog about cannibalistic sixteenth-century conquistador mummies at
If you’d like to get in contact with me, or if you read one of my books, let me know how you liked it.  You can find me at

TBR: Readers, William will give away a copy of one of his books to one lucky commenter. He'll pick a winner next week and announce the winner here. Be sure to leave your email address so he can contact you.

Thanks for visiting TBR, William. All the best to you.

Monday, November 26, 2012

TBR welcomes Terry Ambrose

TBR: Welcome to TBR, Terry. Will you share a little bit about yourself?
Terry: Thanks, I'm delighted to be here. I've been writing for many years, but only recently decided that it was time to publish. So, I released my first novel, Photo Finish, back in July. My second novel, License to Lie, will be out in mid December from Oak Tree Press.

TBR: Tell us about Photo Finish and where it's available.
Terry: In Photo Finish, a former skip tracer crosses paths with a beautiful con artist in Honolulu and finds trouble almost too hot to handle. The book is available on as well as the major sites in e-book and softcover.

TBR: Please tantalize us with a story blurb or excerpt.
Wilson McKenna’s newest tenant is hot, gives great hugs, and just saw a dead body being thrown from a plane. McKenna’s not one to get involved in other people’s problems, especially those of a woman half his age, but before he knows it, he’s volunteered to track down the plane and its owner. In no time, McKenna has uncovered an island drug ring, pissed off a sociopath, and set himself up as the victim in a beautiful woman’s con that could cost him his life.
Trouble? Oh, yeah. McKenna’s found it. If only trouble didn’t have such great legs.

TBR: What inspired you to write about the theme?
Terry: The idea for Photo Finish came about while we were on Kauai. I'd written several short stories about the hero in the book, but never considered him for a novel. We were in the midst of our vacation when I walked into the living room of our condo, looked through the blinds, which were tilted up just a bit to block out a little of the afternoon sun, and thought, “Aha, an island mystery! That's what I'm supposed to write next.” At that point, it only made sense to use McKenna as the hero and to create a mystery that was both funny and that brought “island style” front and center.

TBR: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Terry: I'm actually a bit of both. I'll start with an outline because I want to have a good idea of where the story is going to go. But, once I begin writing and the characters start to come onstage, the plot may change. For instance, in my current WIP, I had a character that I thought was going to be a minor walk-on, the next thing I knew, one of my story lines had been hijacked by a 12-year-old girl. So, I revised my plot with the midcourse corrections and moved on. I should also note that I'm always writing toward an outcome. For every scene in a book, I ask myself several questions. What's the major stimulus for the scene? What's the main character's response? What's the goal for the scene, the conflict in that scene, and the disaster at the end? Until I know the answers to those questions, nothing gets written.

TBR: How do you develop your characters?
Terry: My characters begin with a stimulus and a response. Then, I'll start thinking about what they look like, act like, how they talk, etc. For instance, in the case of the 12-year-old, the stimulus was that my protagonist needed to be distracted from what she was doing and the most effective way to do that was to put her into the position of having to rescue this girl. Next came the girl's clothing, which included a baseball cap to hide the fact that she was a girl. Her talk, street-smart, slightly rough. It's much like peeling an onion and slowly working toward the center.

TBR: Do you have a favorite quote you’d like to share?
Terry: My favorite quotes change from time to time, but recently I was reminded of an Elmore Leonard quote about how he wrote page-turner novels. He said, “I try to leave out the parts people skip.” Duh. How simple, yet important—and hard to do.

TBR: Did any music inspire your book? Do you have a playlist?
Terry: For Photo Finish, I listened to lots of Hawaiian music including Iz, a group named Pali, and more. And, to get the emotion the Photo Finish encompasses, the most influential song would probably be Iz's “Hawai'i '78.” With that said, when I really need to get down into an emotion like obsession, there's no one like Melissa Etheridge.

TBR: Tease us with one little thing about your fictional world that makes it different from others.
Terry: I show two Hawaii's in Photo Finish. One is the picture-perfect image of the tropical island vacation, the other is the one that the Chamber of Commerce probably wants to hide. The dark side of Hawaii, that place the tourists don't see, is filled with crime, drugs, and greed just like everywhere else. This is by no means a dark novel, in fact it's a funny mystery, but it also doesn't deny the reality of life in the islands.

TBR: What's next for you?
Terry: In mid December, Oak Tree Press will release my suspense novel, License to Lie. It's about a criminologist and a con artist who must work together and are forced to question every lesson they ever learned even as they learn the harshest lesson of all: never trust a soul...even your own.

TBR: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Most rewarding?
Terry: The most challenging aspect of writing Photo Finish was making it consistently funny. Humor is one of the most difficult things to write because it's so easy screw it up. However, given the reviews and comments I've received, I'd say I got it right. The most rewarding part is having someone tell me how much they love the characters and that they want to read more about them. License to Lie was easier to write in some respects because it's more suspense, less humor.

TBR: Who are some of your favorite authors and books? What are you reading now?
Terry: I think Greg Isles is a master of creating a narrative that simply compels the reader to keep going. Each paragraph ends with a mini-cliffhanger that forces the reader to read the next. As I'm working on my next suspense novel, I'm finding him particularly inspiring.

TBR: Where can readers find you on the web?
Terry:  My website is at and my Facebook author page is under the user name suspense.writer.

TBR: Readers, Terry will give away a copy of Photo Finish or his soon-to-be released novel, License to Lie, to one lucky commenter in the format of your choice. He'll pick a winner on Friday, November 30 and announce the winner here. Be sure to leave your email address so he can contact you.
Please note that if you choose License to Lie, the book will not be available until the actual release date, which should occur in mid December.
Thanks for visiting TBR, Terry. All the best to you.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Coming up this week on TBR...

Two fantastic authors are confirmed:

M - 26 - Terry Ambrose
W- 28 - William Doonan
It's the last week to visit with the November Featured Author, Roseanne Dowell - don't miss out!
Thanks to the writers who shared their blurbs for the Historical BlurbFest. If you haven't yet shared your historical blurb, there's still time - simply enter it today in the comments section of the post below. As of 10:00 a.m., TBR had 67 unique visitors for the blurb fest weekend. I hope some readers added your work to their TBR lists!
Next month, both blurb fests will celebrate the holidays - whichever one you celebrate - so get your blurbs ready to share. :)

Thanks, as always, for your support,