Books by Melissa Bowersock

Friday, October 21, 2016

New Release: The Man in the Black Hat

I'm realizing that I love time travel. I always have, I just never wrote it until this year, but now that I've gotten started, I can't seem to stop. After my two Travis books (Finding Travis, Being Travis), I switched gears a little. My new novel, The Man in the Black Hat, is very different, but just as fun. Here's the blurb:

Clay Bauer, at the age of 38, is a second-rate actor in Hollywood. He’s too mean-looking to get leading man roles in movies, so he’s resigned himself to playing only villains. While filming a low-budget Western in the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona, he hears about the vortices there — places of power where people claim to have strange experiences, even traveling to other dimensions. He doesn't believe any of it — until he accidentally passes through a vortex and is transported more than 100 years into the past. Suddenly he’s faced with playing the most important role of his life. Only this time, it’s for real.

If you love time travel, if you've ever been to Sedona and seen the splendor of the red rocks and heard the stories of the vortices, I think you'll enjoy this book. And for this week only, Oct 21-30, 2016, I'm putting the e-book on sale for just 99 cents. Get it while it's hot. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Author Interview: E.J. “Russ” McDevitt

Today I am sitting down with my good buddy E.J. “Russ” McDevitt, author of a growing series of thriller novels about Danny Quigley, a retired Special Forces agent who, even as a civilian, offers his services when the need arises—which it always does.

Russ, I understand that your character, Danny Quigley, is based on a real person. Tell us how you met this person, and what it was about him that inspired you to write Danny.

McDevitt:  Melissa, I was training sales people for a Life Insurance company in the UK, where a class came in on a Monday morning and I worked with them for a number of days or even two weeks. One of the people who came in one morning was ex Special Forces, known as the SAS , and obviously suffering from some sort of post traumatic stress. He kept failing exams and I had to counsel him. He looked like he could have reached across and torn my throat out. However, as I was ex Canadian Military, he gradually relaxed and I was able to help him. He also started to share some incredible combat stories of operations he’d been on in the Special Forces which, under ‘The Official Secrets Act’ he wasn’t supposed to reveal to anyone whatsoever.

Danny Quigley was born right then, and when I started writing some years later, I just couldn’t get that man out of my mind! Go figure: he was probably killing people the week before he came in for training…..  then wanted to sell Life Insurance!

Pretty amazing. I’m not sure I’d want to let that guy into my house on a cold call, but on the other hand, he probably didn’t have too many prospective customers saying no to him! Can you give us a brief overview of the series? What has Danny accomplished so far?

McDevitt:  Not surprisingly, the first novel, The Quigley Alchemy, was about a guy who gets out of the UK Special Forces and tries to earn a living by selling life insurance, (sound familiar?). Initially he fails, but hears about some super salesman who broke all records and then disappeared. He decides to track him down. This leads him across to Ireland, but MI5, the UK’s Domestic Intelligence Service, want him back to carry out a political assassination. They won’t take ‘NO’ for an answer and kidnap his wife to make sure he does the job.

Subsequent novels are black ops that he carries out for MI5, MI6 and the CIA in various countries. Oh, yes, he has some interesting, and in some cases, ’kick-ass’ ladies on his team. (The odd steamy love scenes as well)… ‘NO’ not 50 shades of anything. (Danny IS British after all!)

Sounds like he’s had some pretty interesting adventures, and the stories have something for everyone. Now what’s up for Danny in your latest book, The Jihadists’ Return?

McDevitt:  Highly-trained, hate-filled Jihadists are returning to the UK to create mayham. Britain has a major problem in that literally thousands have left Britain and joined up with ISIS and Al Qaeda overseas, and are returning with instructions to create a 9/11 attack on the UK.

Danny is tasked by MI5 to carry out surveillance on some of the groups, try to target their contacts, and discover their operational plans. In the meantime a Pashtun from Afghanistan wants revenge on Danny for killing his cousin, and unleashes attacks on Danny and his family. To add to this situation, a former female colleague in California begs him to come and help find her husband, a member of the elite Seals, who has disappeared.

Later in the novel Danny is kidnapped by the Jihadists who intend to behead him on video to launch the UK’s 9/11 attack.

Whoa! That’s a lot on Danny’s plate. We can see that your stories circle the globe and take Danny into all sorts of tricky situations. How much research do you do for your books?

McDevitt:  Lots… obviously Google is a tremendous support and I use it quite a bit. Melissa, you have urged potential authors to read a lot and I’m a prolific reader of my genre: action novels. I even saw someone recently correct the guru Chris Ryan, with a scribble in his Special Forces books over something quite miniscule, so readers want the genuine thing and ideally from personal experience.

As an author I feel I can provide real credibility to my portrayal of action, having travelled as a young man in Australia in a boxing and wrestling troupe for 3 years, taking on all comers.

You were also a military policeman in Canada for six years; how much of your training and experience play into the Quigley books?

McDevitt: Yes, I served 6 years in the Canadian Military, 3 of them with the NATO Brigade in Europe. You can bet that I use this knowledge quite a lot in my stories, particularly where weapons are concerned. When the recruiting Sergeant found out about my unique experiences in Aussieland he immediately processed me into the Military Police. (I wonder why?)

You’re right; my experience is certainly reflected in the Quigley books.  In those days, when it comes to unarmed combat, the Canadian MPs never carried a pistol or a club (apart from in action zones overseas), and so they handled themselves pretty well.

What’s next for Danny Quigley? Do you already have a new book started, or are the ideas still simmering?

McDevitt: I have some thoughts spiraling around in my head. Too early to share, and I wouldn’t want some eager beaver author to beat me to a story! Watch this space…

I know the feeling. Have to let the ideas percolate until they take the brain hostage and insist on being written down. Have you ever veered off in a different direction, written in a different genre or with a different main character?

McDevitt:  I have written a Personal Development Journal that I updated recently which is basically a blueprint for those people who want to create a more fulfilling life for themselves.

However Danny Quigley is such an interesting character and hard to let go. I was also amazed and delighted to discover how many women loved my books. I didn’t figure on this initially.
One woman volunteered that Danny Quigley is what men used to be like: the genuine article, that the world needs more of.

Perhaps Danny is moving into the long-vacated space occupied by James Bond, who definitely had an appeal to women. Danny stays pretty busy, and his life makes most of the rest of us look tame. What do you do for excitement? For relaxation?

McDevitt: I’m a member of Toastmasters. Some years back I won the Irish and British titles.

I exercise just about every day, Tai Chi, Che Gong, the local gym, and some martial arts. I read a lot and am a carer for my wife Marie who is disabled with arthritis. I have 6 grown up kids who live all over the world, so I travel whenever writing activities allow.

Sounds like a full life, and very satisfying. Thanks so much for sharing it with us today, Russ. Now, if readers want more information, how can they find you?

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Pacing…in Writing…Is Everything

Pacing in writing is essential. It can make a story or break it. Good pacing can tune a good story into a masterpiece, or bad pacing can reduce it to caterwauls.
Some months back, I read a new book by an author I like. I expected good things. Unfortunately, the pacing of the story left me frustrated and just anxious to get the durn thing over with. The protagonist, an investigator, was frequently approached by a mystery woman who may have had information he needed. The meetings usually consisted of her appearing suddenly, saying she needed to tell him something, then leading him to a small café or down a deserted alley. She spoke cryptically; he asked questions which she danced around, they both became angry and she rushed off. Over and over.
The author may have thought the emotionally-fraught meetings were adding tension to the story, but they added little else. They added no additional information. They did not move the story forward. Their only purpose, that I could see, was to frustrate me and make me less inclined to care if I finished the book or not.
Our job, as story-tellers, is to parcel out bits and pieces of the story line all along the length of the story. We do this not only to let the story build in an evolving, suspenseful way, but also to reward our readers. Sure, we don’t want to give away too much too soon, but we need to give the readers something as they go along. That book I was talking about was giving me nothing. I felt like I was doing the hard work of sticking with it to try to figure out the mystery, but I was getting nothing in return. It didn’t feel like a fair deal.
Just recently, I picked up a crime thriller that was free on a promo. I don’t normally gravitate to crime stories, but this one sounded interesting and had a ton of good reviews, so I tried it. I’m glad I did. The story began a trifle slowly, primarily because there were a lot of characters to be introduced to, but then quickly ramped up. I was almost halfway into it when I realized that I was really getting anxious about the turn of events. I suddenly realized that the author had completely pulled me in, and had moved me forward with rewards of revelations as the story unfolded. The story is told not only from the point of view of the investigator, but also from the POV of the bad guy, giving me inside knowledge about the crime and how it’s being carried out. That inside information, while not revealing too much about motive, still gave me more kernels of story than the investigator was getting, so while the police side was being stymied, the story was still moving forward fully and inexorably. The author was a master at turning the screws minutely but continuously. Once the police caught a break and began to put the pieces together, the story became two vectors moving rapidly toward a point of intersection. And I wasn’t going anywhere except along with them.
Right on the tail of this book, I picked up another free promo, a paranormal, which I love. It was about a medium in 1800s London and the male ghost she connected with as they tried to contain a demon, and it was great. The pacing of the story was perfect and the relationship tension built at a rate that pulled me happily along. As with the crime thriller, I was anxious to see how it all played out.
Unfortunately, it didn’t. When I reached the end, one story line was resolved, but the relationship issue was not. That was going to continue into the next book. I was rather disappointed in this, but dutifully bought the next book in the series. That’s when things began to go downhill in a hurry.
The new story line was fine, but the push-pull of the relationship issue was getting tiresome. How many times can characters move toward each other, have second thoughts, and move away? How many times can they almost succumb to the overwhelming love they feel, give in to the doubts that fill their heads and back off? I quickly realized that the pacing of this dance was perfect in the first book, but had become contrived and overdone in the second. Rather than being fed a few tasty crumbs to keep me going, I felt like I was being tempted by a yummy cookie that was unceremoniously yanked away whenever I got too close. Because in the first book the couple had come about as close as they possibly could to consummating their relationship, they had already progressed from point A to point Y and only Z was left. There was no place to build to except full intimacy, and in order to maintain the tension of the story, that promise of resolution was never being kept. Again, it felt like a raw deal. I knew I wasn’t going to get the cookie until I got to the end of the book (maybe—there might be a third book!), but there were no crumbs left for me in the meantime. If the author had added the second book on as an afterthought, she had not taken pacing into account. If she had planned the series from the get-go, she still had not taken the pacing into account. As a writer, I found it interesting that a first book could be almost flawless, yet the second book was, in my mind, a total toss-off. And it was all because of the pacing.
So what is pacing? It’s rationing out bits of information a little at a time to move the story forward. It’s developing the characters so their personalities and relationships evolve in an ever-expanding way. And it’s rewarding the reader with “ah-ha” nuggets that keep them interested. Failing to find the correct pace in any of these areas can make the difference between compelling and contemptible, between fascination and frustration. And obviously, even the best authors can find the right pace … or not.

Originally published by Indies Unlimited on September 16, 2014.