Chris Eberle, Author of “Family Ties”

What is your book about?

Family Ties is a first person mystery told by college student, John Seraph. John’s asked by a former classmate to see if anyone in John’s family might have knowledge of the disappearance of the classmate’s sister, Dana Tillis. The problem is John hasn’t been in touch with his family for over three years due to his moral differences with his father and brothers. John’s father is Stefano Angelo, Boss of the Angelo Crime Family. As John begins to investigate he learns among those who had possible motives is New York State Senator Kingsley Addar and John’s brother Michael.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

I got the idea for the original concept from the Chandra Levy disappearance & murder. I closely followed the case for almost the whole year, until the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001 because the media focused its attention on the attacks. What gnawed at me is how a woman could enter Rock Creek Park, and then vanish without a trace. Levy’s case became a mild obsession for me and I tried playing ‘Armchair Detective’ and figure the case out what happened. Without knowing all the facts it’s nearly impossible to discover the truth. After I got the idea I actually I had the idea to try and convince Sue Grafton to co-write the story using one of her supporting characters, who I always liked. Not my best move, admittedly. She thanked me, through her assistant. But I felt the idea was too good to drop, so I hung on to it for a long while, and finally took a serious look at again in 2009 and began working on Family Ties, and had a first draft done in less than six months. Now it’ll be published in February, 2013 through Melange Publishing.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it? (searching Internet, magazines, other books, etc.)

The amount of research I did was staggering, but research is something I’m good at and enjoy. I figured out all the subjects that come across in my story & learn all I can. In this case I researched enough topics to cover three years worth of college papers. Like anyone I started with going online, but the internet being what it is I either went to multiple sources for information. Some of these included official state & federal sites re: NYS gun laws, and Senatorial Committees, information about various sex drugs, organized crime in Buffalo, NY, and two & half months in researching the perfect handgun for my protagonist. I also bought books on various topics, which I know I’d need long term. Some of these books include; The Complete Idiot’s Guide to The Mafia, The Encyclopedia of Handheld Weapons, and Causes of Death, Malicious Intent, and books from The Howdunit Series.

Any information I got online that I knew I’d need to retain, I printed out & saved in a binder because I knew I’d need the information for the Seraph Series. I’m always keeping an open for books, magazine articles, internet articles, etc… re: topics that I know I’ll eventually be writing about. For example; I’ll be soon researching the Japanese Yakuza for my forth Seraph Mystery; Family Friend.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

One technique that’s I adopted, was taken from Janet Evanovich. I start a story by charting what happens each day. Evanovich wrote about this in How I Write. When plotting the story I write down the day and a sentence about everything that happens. (Ex; Monday: John wakes up and get a call from Aldrich; John goes to school/work and speaks to Professor Smith about murder, confronts Smith with her own motives; That night Bobbi comes to see John and some shoots at one of them through his living room window.) It’s kind of like building a house, and this Daily Chart, as I call it, is the equivalent of putting up a foundation & a house frame. Up goes the wooden frame, then you worry about the walls, décor, and furniture.

Another technique I use is keeping a list of primary & supporting characters for the story I’m writing. Friends, suspects, victim(s), etc… with a brief sentence about them & keep it with the daily chart. Having such a large supporting cast, it helps keep the players straight.

How has your background influenced your writing?

I once heard “Write what you know”, and I believe that the best writers do just that. I live in South Buffalo, NY neighborhood I write about, so in its own way the area has become a character of its own.

Also being adopted, this has become a major influence in my writing, and not just my Seraph Mystery Series. My protagonists are adopted in someway. Ex: although John Seraph’s parents are alive, he’s cut them out of his life and had been ‘adopted’ by his store owners/ neighbors Charles & Dixie Baxter.

Other factors are my love of mysteries, comic-books, & movies, but the two biggest factors are poetry & music. In a world like ours, these are two pillars that help keep my sanity in check. Some turn to the Bible or the Torah for hope & inspiration, for me I turn to Frost, Tennyson, and Shakespeare, and these emerge in my stories.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

I come from a the blue collar, working class Irish neighborhood of South Buffalo and this has given me a strong, work ethic, which makes me determined to finish what I start and always do the best job I can, no matter what. I may fail from time-to-time, but I’ll keep trying.

The way my parents raised me taught me of what makes a man, and I think I can sum it up in the following: A man keeps his word no matter what, A man will stand up for his family & friends always, A man won’t say yes, then do no, A man stands up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

These factors all come into my stories, as character traits for John Seraph.

What are you working on right now?

Currently I’m polishing my following mystery, Family Plots, begun writing the third Seraph Mystery, Family Education, and am plotting the fourth Family Friend. On top of which I’m toying around with a few other story ideas, outside the mystery genre & one that combines the genres of mysteries & superhero comic books.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

No not in the traditional sense. When I was a kid/teenager I was a decent artist and wanted to become an illustrator for DC or Marvel Comics, then in 1987 I got the idea to become pro-wrestler, not my best idea. A year later I finally got the first taste for writing in late ’87 & I bopped around with a few ideas, but never got really serious about writing until 1994, when I began writing my first book, The Rainbow Warrior Saga: Genesis.

At what age did you discover writing?

In reality I discovered writing when I was about 5-6 years old, and I wrote & drew my own little comic books based off my favorite comic book back then, Worlds’ Finest. I drew them with ballpoint pens & sheet paper in my basement, & developed five or six titles back then.

When where you first published? How were you discovered?

My first book The Rainbow Warrior Saga: Genesis was published in 2004 through Publish America. I contacted them after I read an article in The Buffalo News. One of the authors had contacted P.A. and got herself published, so I figured “Why Not?” I queried them, was accepted & signed in late 2003. Then in 2006 I was published a second time with P.A., with The Era of Heroes. It was a good learning experience, but there were plenty of pros & cons in working with P.A. and I’m looking for more with my next publisher, Melange.

What’s been the most surprising part of being a writer?

What surprises me most is the way people react when they learn I’ve been published. It’s almost as if they see me in a different light. It strikes me funny because I’m the same person I’ve always been. I’m no smarter, wittier, richer, or anything else. I’m still me. They treat me as if I’m a returning Jeopardy champion, or a leader of the community or a company.

The other thing is how many people say to me “Oh, I’d love to write.” Or “How’d you get published?” and my favorite, “I wish I had time to write.” I understand folks get busy and have priorities; home, family, work, school, children and I’m not faulting any of that, but if something’s important to you, you find the time.

Do you have mental list or a computer file or a spiral notebook with the ideas for or outlines of stories that you have not written but intend to one day?

I keep my story ideas (past-present-future) saved on my laptop, but also keep a printed copy in my binder w/ the story I’m polishing/critiquing, because if/when I get fresh ideas for a new story or how to re-work some story ideas I can save it right away.
Currently I’ve also a vampire/monster story, a super hero/ murder mystery, and a book on philosophy based on the ideas/teachings I got from a movie series. And that’s all on top of the nearly thirty-plus John Seraph Mysteries ideas I’ve in my head.

What do you like to read? What is your favorite genre?

Without a doubt my favorite genre is mystery. I read Robert B. Parker, Janet Evanovich, and Sue Grafton as my primary influences and who I consider to be my biggest inspirations I draw upon. On top of the aforementioned authors, I read Thomas Harris, and Dan Brown. I just recently finished Angels & Demons, am in the middle of The Da Vinci Code, and plan on reading The Lost Symbol next.

Where do you get the names for your characters?

I use a Dictionary of First Names, to select name my characters. I’m able to choose first and last names, and seeing the meanings, helps me when I have specific traits, tendencies, characteristics in mind. It can take me hours or days to find the right combination for a good name for characters. Seeing the meanings and comparing them to the traits takes time but is worth it.

If you could have lunch with one person, real or fictitious, who would it be?

This is a tough question to answer because there are a number of real & fictional personalities I’d love to meet; Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Sherlock Holmes, Hannibal Letcher, John Wayne, Robert B. Parker, Spenser & Hawk, but there is one couple I have to pick above all others; Wyatt & Josie Earp.

Besides loving mysteries, I’m an Old West historian, amateur of course, and I’ve read a number of books, watched documentaries, and of course the movies. Now all this, plus the legends of the Old West have left me a bit ‘star struck’. I’ve adopted some of Earp’s beliefs re; family, justice, life, and love, and I’d hope to learn what was true and what was legend from the Earps.

Who designed your cover?

Family Ties is currently slated for a February 2013 release date, but readers who curious can go to my new website The Amateur Detective where I post all the latest news that occurs, on top of which a blog, run contests, share samples of the books. Currently a teaser of Family Ties is up there right now. I also share photos of Buffalo, NY, (my hometown and where John Seraph lives). And folks can sign my guest book, leave comments, and sign up for my mailing lists, to be notified of latest news, release dates, & book signings when they start.

http://cavillier1970.wix.com/theamateurdetective#!

Also Melange Books will have information re: Family Ties as time draws closer to the release date.

http://www.melange-books.com/index.html

Polly Iyer, Author of “Hooked”

What is your book about?

Hooked is about Tawny Dell, a high-priced call girl with a PhD in art history who decides to give up the life. Unfortunately, while the FBI was looking into overseas accounts of a mob boss, one of Tawny’s ex-clients, her hidden account came up. Enter the NYPD sex crimes investigator, Lincoln Walsh, who received a call from a now-dead prostitute who mentioned Benny Cooper. Benny is an ex-Wall Street tycoon who runs a high-class bordello. Linc offers Tawny a deal: Go undercover at Benny’s brothel to find out if he’s the murderer and Tawny will avoid going to jail for cheating Uncle Sam. But the best laid plans don’t always work out.

What inspired the story?

The Eliot Spitzer scandal. When a man who busted up prostitution rings gets caught in a sting with a prostitute, it’s news. You wonder how such a smart guy could fall into his own trap. Then I thought about the young woman who serviced him. How did she get into the life? Why?

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?

Though the book is full of interesting characters, I’d have to say Tawny is my favorite. She’s smart, bold, and knows who she is. She makes no excuses for her choices in life. It’s a challenge to write such a character and make her likeable. After all, she’s in an illegal profession. How does she justify what she does, and can I make her sympathetic?

Who is your most unusual/most likeable character?

Benny is a jerk, trapped by his own sexual desires, but I couldn’t help liking him. I don’t know if others will like him. He’s rather a buffoon, but, like Spitzer, he’s smart if misguided. I love Linc. I have to fall in love with the love interest. If I don’t love him, how can my heroine? Linc is tough and soft at the same time. He has a history that should make him stay as far away as possible from his chosen profession, but it’s also what makes him good at what he does.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it? (searching Internet, magazines, other books, etc.)

You’d be surprised how many upscale women write about their adventures as a call girl. Like Tawny, these are smart women who think why not get paid for something they’re giving away free. The top women go places with exciting, rich men and make big bucks to do it. Just click on Google, and there they are, telling all.

How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

My characters come fully formed. I try to make each one distinctive with their own characteristics and tic, if you will. Once I have them in my mind, I see them and hear them.

What is your goal for the book, ie: what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?

My goal is a good read. I always have issues in my books; otherwise, they wouldn’t interest me. I like to dig deep in my characters’ pasts in order to explain why they’re the way they are. Sometimes, in doing that, I get into some heavy subjects, but that’s okay.

What challenges did you face as you wrote this book?

As I mentioned, making a call girl likeable was a challenge. I hope I pulled it off. Also, Benny and the mob boss aren’t basically likeable, but I believe the antagonists should have redeeming characteristics in order for them to work.

What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?

I write all the time. I try for a certain amount of words when I’m writing a new story, but much of writing is rewriting. That’s when I go hoarse reading aloud to see if the dialogue works or if sentences sound strained.

Do you have any rituals that you follow before sitting down to write?

First I read all my emails and lists and writer’s loops while I have my coffee. I might do a Sudoku puzzle to clear my morning brain, then it’s on to the writing.

Do you have a favorite snack food or favorite beverage that you enjoy while you write?

I’m hooked on potato chips, though since four pairs of winter slacks didn’t fit, I’m giving them up.

What are you working on right now?

I’m putting my third book on Kindle, then I’m going back to some of my other books and get them ready to do the same thing. I do have a backlist, but some need updating.

What was the first story you remember writing?

A book called Threads. I never thought I could write a book, but there was a time when life needed a diversion, and I sat down at the computer and started typing. Threads is one of the stories that needs updating, but it was my first one and will always hold a place in my heart.

What is the most difficult part of the whole writing process?

Getting the story to gel. I’m not an outliner or plotter. I write by the seat of my pants and never really know where the story is going. I know where I want to wind up, but getting there is an experience. I love it.

What is the easiest part of the writing process?

I don’t know if it’s the easiest, but it’s the part I like the best, so I guess that makes it easIER. The characters. It all starts with the characters. Sometimes at night, I talk in bed. I also talk in the car. The best thing about mobile phones with separate mics is now I don’t look like a total whackjob talking to myself in the car.

Does writing come easy for you?

I don’t think the writing comes easily, but the ideas do. Almost everything gives me an idea for a story. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough hours in the day to make them all come to fruition.

Have you ever had difficulty “killing off” a character in your story because she or he was so intriguing and full of possibility for you, his or her creator?

I have killed off someone, and every time I read the scene, I cry. It’s ridiculous because I know what happens, but I still cry. It’s because I love the character, but I knew his end right from the beginning.

What do you like to read?

I like to read anything that keeps me turning the pages.

What writer influenced you the most?

That’s tough. I have to be careful about that one because writers have a tendency to let the influence seep into their work, and it’s unlikely they can do what the writers they most admire do. You can only come off second best.

What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you’d written yourself?

Mystic River

What advice you would give to an aspiring author?

You’ve heard it before. Keep at it. Period.

How have you marketed and promoted your work?

That’s the hardest part for me. My mother always said if you’re good at something, you shouldn’t have to toot your own horn. She obviously didn’t know about publishing. I dislike promoting my books, but I do on Facebook and Twitter and some of the loops I’m on. It’s a necessary evil. For me anyway.

Have you written any other books?

Yes, about eight and a few more half finished. I plan to get them ready to indie publish.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself or your books?

Writing is my fourth profession. I started out as an illustrator, which I still use in designing my own covers. Then I was an importer of art goods and a home-furnishings store owner. Writing is my favorite. Why? Because it’s always a challenge. You can never be perfect, but you are always striving with that in mind.

Where can we learn more about your books?

At my website http://pollyiyer.com/, and you can find my books at:  Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/7secr4s and Barnes&Noble http://tinyurl.com/6qa3jg8

Click here for an: Excerpt From “Hooked” by Polly Iyer

John Klawitter, Author of “Foul”

Welcome, John. What is your book about?

FOUL is a murder mystery that centers around an old professional football scandal. It is a literary quest into the automatic negativity of much of society to victims of brain disorders. The protagonist, Brando Mahr, had a major mental meltdown as the result of a violent impact that left him aphasiac and epileptic.

How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?

About thirty years. I’d begun reading about brain disorders because I myself had lost use of the muscles in half of my face, a form of polio I suffered as a child. I learned to control the right side of my facial muscles from the left side.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

I myself had been in military intelligence in Vietnam, and was interested in the plight of soldiers who return from war changed for life, different forever, and yet unbroken in spirit.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

Well, I was violently impacted, and since the incident have felt not the same as before. Doctors have confirmed this with a brain scan, a dangerous tangle of veins and cells in my frontal lobe. They would like to operate, but that’s not going to happen.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it? (searching Internet, magazines, other books, etc.)

The idea for the story line came from research I was doing when I wrote HEADSLAP: The Life & Times of Deacon Jones. I uncovered one very important play-off game that certainly looked like it could have been fixed. The outcome smelled so badly that sports writers of the time were outraged and made accusations that were largely passed off as partisan ranting at the time. But to me, looking back with somewhat calmer reflection, it still looked like one team had actually thrown the game. Enormous amounts of money are bet on professional sports. I started to think about how and why that outcome could have happened, and to wonder if anyone would commit murder to cover it up.

How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

It certainly wasn’t hard with my protagonist. He speaks in 17th century London street slang and falls over with spasms when he should be moving into action.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

I outline extensively. As a Hollywood writer, I tend to see my stories as three act screenplays…in fact, I generally adapt them to screenplays and pitch them around town. I’ve sold a few options around town, but so far no brass ring.

Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?

I’m generally an entertainer, not an educator or enlightener. But with FOUL, I had (for me) a rare sense of empathy with my character. It was almost as if he was me in a parallel universe. It’s not that I feel sorry for him (me). I’m proud of what he (I) have accomplished, even though I’ve never hit it big in Tinseltown.

Do you have any rituals that you follow before sitting down to write?

I think I am more hesitant to take on a project than once I was. Ideas are everywhere and they only take a minute to think up…but for a serious person, it’s six months to a year to develop that first draft.

Do you prefer to write at a particular time of day?

I like four in the morning, like now.

Do you have a favorite snack food or favorite beverage that you enjoy while you write?

Milk with a little coffee and an Oatmeal-To-Go bar.

What are you working on right now?

I’m doing a weekly radio show called Dark Landing. It’s a one hour weekly show, featuring sci-fi, horror and fantasy short stories that tend to the dark side. I thread the show with a running narrative and commentary and we have commercials, other authors pay me to promo their work. It’s on internet radio, has run here and there in the usual places, and you can find it for real after the 1st of the year. Just google Dark Landing.

Do you have mental list or a computer file or a spiral notebook with the ideas for or outlines of stories that you have not written but intend to one day?

I have ideas everywhere in bits and scraps of paper, in old notebooks, on the backs of napkins and even toilet paper.

How many stories do you currently have swirling around in your head?

Too, too many.

What do you like to read?

Dick Francis. Flannery O’Conner. John Grisham. Tom Perry.

What writer influenced you the most?

Hemingway

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your books?

FOUL and my more recent books are mostly published by Double Dragon as trade paperbacks and e-books. They are all available from the usual suspects…Amazon, B&N, Kindle and the like. Except for THE FREIGHT TRAIN OF LOVE. That one is a bit more serious, a sort of murder-mystery, romance, war story, thriller. I didn’t think it was right for Double Dragon so went through the CreateSpace trauma. A lot of extra work, but still, all’s well that ends well. You can find out more about me at my website: http://johnklawitter.com/

Brando Mahr, Hero of “Foul” by John Klawitter

What is your story?
Hello, Pat. My “story”, such as it is,  is the murder mystery novel FOUL by John Klawitter, which is a bit of an 18th century dreadnaught, something of a penny novel and a picaresque, to boot. I’m a struggling Hollywood producer. The year particulates as 1984 and I venture in my mid-30’s. I have long hair and flowing mustachios. Strangers do not trust me, a brief appraisal and swiftly their cool side, a situation I will detail further on. My story is that I have been accused of murdering the pretty blond wife of football ex-great Ripper Brown.

Who are you?
I am called Brando Mahr.

Where do you live?
I pay monthly fee on a bungalow in the west end of the San Fernando Valley.

Are you the hero of your own story?
I am slapdogging to survive it.

What is your problem in the story?
Communication. My verbal skills, while extensive, are not effective. I have not snapped off the life of Ripper’s wife, though she was fetching and indeed (so I have heard) a somewhat ready dutchess.

Do you have a problem that wasn’t mentioned in the story?
Yes. I am an aphasiac-epileptic, the result of close proximity with a massive explosive device. As such, after nearly a decade in the Veteran’s hospital in West Los Angeles, I took my exit, found employ in the bowels of the UCLA library and retaught myself English. Unfortunately the books I read were novels from two centuries ago…that, coupled with my slow conclusion to words, finds me vastly misunderstood.

Do you embrace conflict?
Dear Pat, no one embraces conflict. I am, however, more effective with violent conflict than I seem. In fact, in my old LURP unit I was ticked Earman & The Hands of Death. Earman? Well, my near-death experience left me with hearing beyond excellent, nearly beyond believability.

Do you run from conflict?
My doctor tells me I should run, but it never seems right at the occasion.

How do your enemies see you?
Weird. Slow-witted.

How does the author see you?
The author is my brother-at-arms. I would die for him.

Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?
He has no choice. Oddly enough, he failed for three years before he found a way to tell my story. Sad cull, that: he actually tried to tell it 1st person narration. And mine self an aphasiac epileptic! Sometimes I felt sorry for him, but he finally did get it right.

What do you think of yourself?
Not long for this world, the sawbones and medicinates inform me. So I try to make every day, every minute count.

Do you have a goal?
I want to be a name in Hollywood. I cognate this may seem impossible to you, but with the writing skills of my Ninja nun pals, and my production experience and strangely effective effect as a film director, I think I have a shot at it.

What are your achievements?
I have directed a batch of commercials. I have held lower rung jobs at several major film factories. AND –Praise be to Plut!- I have just lucked into the assignment of a lifetime, to produce a docu-drama on the life of the greatest of the great, football hall of famer Ripper Brown!

Do you have any special weaknesses?
Alas, the irony. I am a Jacksonian epileptic, meaning that an excess of adrenaline brings on an episode, a seizure, a catastrophe. I have ways to forestall the grim reaper, but they are unpleasant and potentially self-destructive.

Do you have any skills?
I have the attribute of tenacity, though those who do not accumulate joy in my presence deem it stubbornness and a vice.

What do you want?
To prove myself innocent. To find who did her dirty. To find out why.

What do you need?
Just a little more time to follow the clues that nobody else thinks are important. To stay alive…oh, yes, somebody is now trying to dingbat me, and I don’t have a dither perchance.

What do you want to be?
Alive. Successful. Appreciated. Loved.

What do you believe?
I believe ordinary cods and their culls are basically good. Except for the few mundungus bumfiddles of the world. Watch out for the foul fiddles, mate.

What makes you happy?
Being with my fubsy wench, even though I cognate her affection is about as deep as ale swill in the bottom of the glass.

What are you afraid of?
Dying in shame, convicted of a crime I didn’t commit.

What is your most closely guarded secret?
That I need people and want to be loved.

What is your most prized possession?
What is left of my mind.

Name five items in your purse, briefcase, or pockets.
Swiss Army Knife. Toothpicks. A lock pick My wallet artifactual. My wallet regularus. My spare wad of dinero. And I have a sack of widow’s guns in the rear of my motor vehicle, a dreamobile I have named Fifi la Fiat.

How do you envision your future?
Brief, but exciting.