Friday, May 19, 2017

Interview with Mystery Author, Bill Dezell

Today I'm honored to be interviewing Bill Dezell, 
author of the Raymond Jaye Series:

Cue the Sac
'Til Death
It's the Little Things You Miss

Glad to have you with us, Bill.

Who are some of your favourite authors?
Rex Stout
Raymond Chandler
Rhys Bowen
Jim Butcher

What motivated you to become a writer and at what age?
As a little kid, around 1974-75, I woke up early to watch Scooby Doo with every intention of solving the mystery. Part of that was coming up with my own ideas to fit the clues. I was about 5 then, but some of those altered endings have stuck with me to this day.

When Captain Caveman aired in 1977, there were two episodes that made me think I'd like to make up a story using those ideas. I've since heard one of those used in two different radio shows from around 1952.

Re-imagining the paths other stories might take continues to this day.

My handwriting is shameful, so I didn't toy with actually writing until I finally got a computer back in 1991 or so. What I did write, I kept to myself,

The next step was writing up the back stories of characters for an online computer game about super-heroes which I started playing in 2005. My group sponsored a contest, and I ended up placing second in one category and winning another, and the overall. Another story led off the second of two issues of the game's official fan magazine, and no one on the forums went out of their way to shred it. That made me think I might write well enough to try it for real.

I used a fan-fiction site for the game as a practice ground and got some good initial feedback, then took the plunge into the real world.

What 3 words describe you as a person?

What 3 words describe you as a writer?
Vacillatious (How is this not a word?)

When not writing, how do you spend your time? Hobbies?
Watching TV (For inspiration, you understand.)
Reading/listening to books, old radio shows, and music.
I'm sort of learning to paint.

Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Not specifically. I started reading very young, but non-fiction. The first thing I remember was an Encyclopedia Brown collection. I'd already been a mystery fan for years at that point, so it just set the hook.

Describe your desk.
I do most of my writing at work, where I sit alone in a room and wait for a phone, which seldom rings, to break the silence. The desk is a large, office cubicle-style one with three tables and two walls. I use a blanket for a tablecloth. There are no windows, but I do have the feeds from four security cameras so I can watch the semi-feral parking lot cats, or the skunks and raccoons who share the lot with us.

At home, my cave is too small to lie down in. The desk is in the corner of the room and often has a cat on it. The floor is covered with small dogs or their toys.

Who is the main character in your series?
Raymond Jaye – Former Detroit Police detective who fell back to private investigation following an explosion that took his left hand.

What’s his story?
In Ray’s first story, Cue the Sax, we learn Ray’s grandfather managed to build a huge library of old radio shows. As a kid, Ray listened to them more than he watched TV, and they had an effect on him. When he was older, he joined the Detroit Police Department. After fourteen years on the job, he lost his left hand when he picked up a pipe bomb hidden in a beer bottle.

With his career and life at a turning point, he moved to Los Angeles to become a private investigator. That didn’t go well for reasons he’s not allowed to discuss due to a Non-Disclosure Agreement he signed to get his one paying job. He left LA and moved to what he thought would be the more morally acceptable Salt Lake City, Utah.

These facts came out during the interview with Detective Ortega following the death of a woman who Ray claimed knocked on his door, passed out in his arms, then woke up and jumped from his third-floor balcony. Ray eventually discovers the truth about her death.

In Til Death, we learn more about his past, including the fact that he was nearly killed when he stumbled upon a serial rapist in Detroit. His first day back to work ended with a second chance encounter, and the death of the rapist, at Ray’s hand.

News archives of those events led to his being drawn into a case in Salt Lake City many years later.A woman named confessed to her big, but dim, husband, Ernie, that she’d been having an affair. She named Ray as her partner, much to Ray’s (eventual) surprise. The men first met when Ernie attacked Ray, and their first talk came at gunpoint. When Ray suggested they go speak to Ernie’s wife to clear it all up, Ernie agreed. They found her dead on the kitchen floor.

During the investigation, Ray met two more people who will become involved in his life to some extent. The first is Charlie Watt, another private investigator. The second is Nancy, a waitress at Vickie’s Kitchen. Nancy will become a friend and advisor to Ray as time goes on.

It’s the Little Things You Miss refers to both the small details often overlooked, and the small traits of those who have left this world before us. For Ray, the latter brings back memories of a woman he knew back in Detroit, as he searches for Eric Tanner.

Future stories will expand on his history, as well as see Ray finally deal with the loss of his hand, find an office, make friends and allies, and even (possibly) find a family. Of course, not all changes will be in his favor.

Where/when does the story take place?
Ray lives and works in the modern world, in Wasatch Hills, which is a fictional city on the East Bench of the Salt Lake Valley. On a real map, it would exist between I-215 and 9400 South, and east of 700 East all the way to the mountains.

How did the story come to you?
This one came slowly, with many changes and versions. The main idea evolved from another story I wrote, where a minor character hid a message using the order of the CD's on a shelf. The idea being that anyone searching for a message would destroy it when they rifled through the discs. That eventually led to the idea that nearly everything around us could be a message in some form or another, but we never think to look for them. The story shows several examples of this.

Who is your target audience?
Anyone with an interest in the old radio shows, detective stories, or someone who just likes a guy who's tough without pushing the boundary of super-heroic.
What makes your book different from other similar ones?
Most private eyes are established and experienced. Ray is not. He's a good investigator, but he still thinks like a police detective. In some ways, that makes his an ‘origin’ story as he learns the tricks of the trade.

What do your fans mean to you?
The existence of fans means I've met my first goal. I've written something that people, who feel no sense of obligation toward me, don’t hate. In turn, that instills me with a sense of gratitude, and puts the pressure on to make sure the next one is at least as good.

Where do you get the inspirations for your book(s)?
Inspiration comes from everywhere. It might be a passing phrase overheard in a restaurant. It might be the way I think a movie will turn out based on the first three minutes. Old radio shows play a role in the style and flow.

For other stories, it's a more direct approach where I think, I'd like to do a story about X, then power though until I have one.

Still others come to me while I'm daydreaming about something else. Most of these happen in the shower.

Any advice for new writers just beginning this trek through the wonderful world of publishing?
Don't be afraid to suck. Rejection is part of the process, and precious few people are good at anything complex right out of the gate.
1.         If you start a story, finish it.
2.         If it's finished, send it out.
3.         If it comes back, figure out why.
4.         Fix it.
5.         It's finished again, go to 2.

Thank you for your time, Bill. 

 Book 3 from his series, It's the Little Things You Miss, is now available at a super deal.

Raymond Jaye figured fourteen years as a cop prepared him for anything he could encounter as a private eye. He was wrong.

Eric Tanner was missing. That much was true. But was he really in danger, or just nuts?

Erica Tanner, Eric’s headstrong twin sister, begins her search by hiring some help. All Ray has to do is watch her back while she follows Eric’s trail of cryptic notes all over town. A trail that crosses paths with a killer.

Is Eric imagining things, or is he hiding because he saw the murder?

Once the gunfire starts, Ray falls back to what he knows and sets off to get one step ahead of a desperate man.

He should have tried for two. 

Available at:

The Story Behind Isle of Savages by T. Briar

Have you heard the story behind Isle of Savages 
by T. Briar?

Hi, there. My name is T. Briar, the author of Isle of Savages. Thanks for taking time out your busy day to drop by the MuseItUp blog to visit with me. I really appreciate it.

Now I have a few confessions to make… Isle of Savages isn’t my first published book. As a matter of fact, I’ve published twelve other books in a different genre.

You see, I never really had any aspirations of becoming a thriller writer even though I’ve always loved the adrenaline rush the genre provides. Yep, survival tales rank especially high on my reading list. 

You probably know the kind of tale I’m talking about. It’s always set in some sort of dark and foreboding environment where the threat of imminent death looms around each unexpected twist in the story. And you just know that with one accidental misstep the hero’s and heroine’s lives will end in bloodshed. Without a doubt, those are my absolute favorite kind of thrillers to read.

But still, I never thought the genre was for me as a writer. I mean, when I first started writing, life sort of pushed me in the other direction. And, after many years of dedication to learning the craft of writing, I finally got a book published. Other books followed the first. One of them even became an Amazon Bestseller.

So how in the world did I ever come to write Isle of Savages since I’m adamant that I never thought I’d write something so different from my usual genre?

Well, it’s not that complicated an answer. I simply saw Eric in my mind’s eye, lying face-down in wave-wash, coughing and sputtering, simply trying to live.

At the time, my first thought was: What in the world happened to you, buddy?

When he didn’t answer right away, I decided to take a closer look to see what was going on with him. Yeah, just call me a Good Samaritan because I couldn’t let him or his story die on that beach, all alone in the dark. 

To my immense surprise, by the third page, I was completely hooked on the story. I quickly discovered that Eric was only seventeen years old and had shipwrecked along with a group of students on a seemingly deserted island. That he was desperate to reconnect with his only friends amongst the students, Mia and Keri. But the girls are nowhere to be seen.

 To make matters even worse, the despicable captain and his watchdog of a first mate have survived also. Those two villains have sinister plans for Eric, Mia, and Keri, as well as the other students if they can only catch them. 

The hair-raising chills and thrills that followed were especially exciting to write.  On one hand, the captain and first mate are treacherous adversaries for the trio. On the other hand, the subhuman inhabitants proved themselves even more treacherous as they start collecting what the storm has delivered. No one was ever really safe and it was a race to the finish to see who would live and who would die. And yes, people did die on the island. Some even died badly.

To be totally honest, once I’d finished writing it, I reread it and thought it a pulse-pounding story, full of unexpected twists and turns, and adrenaline-filled to the very end. 

But what was I ultimately going to do with it? I wasn’t a thriller writer. I’d always written in that other genre.

As it turned out, I agonized for over two weeks before sending it in. I finally decided I couldn’t not send it in. Lea Schizas, my publisher and editor, said she’d take it on and here we are. Only a little over a year later and it’s releasing on June 13th

Now you know the story behind the story. 

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. One last confession to go. In that other genre, I go by the name of Thomas Briar. 

Thanks again for visiting with me today!
T. Briar’s Bio
Always striving for pulse-pounding action, sitting-on-the-edge-of-your-seat suspense, and hair-raising thrills, T. Briar’s mainstream thriller writing places courageous heroes and heroines in the fight of their lives against the elements, hostile surroundings, morally bankrupt villains, and any other obstacles T. can think of. 

But be warned, once the wheels are set into motion with the first sentence, it’s a twisting, turning journey to the end to see who lives and who dies. And make no mistake, someone’s going to die. Some will even die badly. That’s just the way it is when fighting for survival under perilous conditions. 

T. Briar’s target audience is New Adults who boldly step up to meet life’s challenges with the confidence of youth urging them on.

Please checkout T. Briar’s page at to find out more about T. and his thriller writings.

releasing June 13

Date: July 20, 20—
General Location: Pacific Ocean
Definitive Longitude and Latitude: Unknown

Through strangled, sputtering coughs, Eric Kovac’s eyelids flickered open to stark darkness. He lay face down in receding wave-wash, naked except for a pair of board shorts, drenched to the bone. A tortuous grittiness seared the tender linings of his mouth, nose, and throat; pain wracked his body, inside and out. As he struggled to make sense of his peril, the sound of crashing waves thundered. A sudden rush of warm saltwater buried him underwater.

Choking and coughing violently, he forced himself up onto his hands and knees, stomach clenching in excruciating spasms as he vomited up great bouts of saltwater. Although the purging left him weak—on the verge of blacking out—it cleared the irritating sand from his breathing passages. Survival instinct, more than cognizant reasoning, sent him crawling further up the shoreline. After only a few feet, his battered body could go no further and he collapsed onto wet sand while his feet and legs still lay in the incoming tide.
The sound of crashing waves slowly returned, and with it, the recognition of something new. Wind buffeted his body from all directions…storm-washed, freshly cleansed wind. Beneath the dizziness threatening to overwhelm him, he had only one coherent thought.

What happened to me?

For the life of him, he couldn’t remember how he’d come to be on this beach, hurting and possibly grievously injured. Despite the horrendous pain, he rolled over onto his side to lift himself on an elbow and scan the darkness for clues.
In the edge of the surf, a dark silhouette resembling the shape of a human body floated, the incoming and outgoing surf pushing and pulling at it. It was a tossup as to which would win the tug of war.

Instantly, the memory of the ship’s boom careening into his forehead materialized out of nowhere. In something akin to shock, distorted memories of the chain of events leading up to the blow that had laid him low flitted through his mind…
The storm had come out of the northwest late yesterday evening, the leading edge blue-black and roiling. It’d chased after them relentlessly, finally howling down on their sixty-foot blue water cruiser in the middle of the night, crackling long streaks of lightning that were blinding in their frequency and intensity. Fierce winds and towering waves tossed the yacht to and fro as if it were a toy. Deafening claps of thunder reverberated through the vessel to drown out the terrified shrieks of the sixteen students cowering below deck. Then, without warning, when only the tiniest tendril of hope remained, the yacht ran into something, cementing their fate—

That’s right! We’d run from the storm well into the night, hoping to angle out of its path to safety. But we hit something…

Snapshots flashed through his mind, one after the other in quick succession: the sickening crunch of fiberglass shattering; the non-stop rush of water breaching the hull; the ear-splitting cries of his classmates’ despair; the captain ordering everyone from below deck to abandon ship; the screeching wind and stinging rain above deck merciless; brilliant veins of lightening illuminating the pitch blackness to reveal the shoreline of an island; so much water in the air, breathing seemed almost impossible; a boy and a girl at the very end of the line of joined hands snatched up like kites and flung out into darkness; the terrifying fear that the rest of the line would quickly follow; the glassy, shock-stricken stares of his classmates waiting their turn to be helped over the side into the life raft; the white boom breaking loose from its mooring and whipping toward him; trying to duck and almost making it; total blackness…

Eric, trembling in the aftershock of surviving the impossible and being grateful simply to be alive, remembered something else…there had been a girl he was intent upon saving…and one of her friends. He’d helped them into the raft right before his accident. But what were their names? Who were they to him?

He concentrated on summoning their faces, unable to shake the feeling they had been his close friends, or perhaps, one of them had been more than a friend.

Slowly, like gooey fluid forced through a half-clogged strainer, the image of a dark-haired girl—seventeen years old and of Asian-American descent—with a beautiful oval face, olive skin, and dark eyes took form in his mind’s eye. The face of a pretty, blue-eyed blonde with curly, shoulder-length hair quickly followed.

Mia! I was trying to save Mia Miller! And her best friend, Keri Shaw!

Peering at the floating body again, a burst of adrenaline coursed through his veins, energizing him into action. The sickening hollowness in his stomach and the aches in his body disappeared. He flipped back over onto hands and knees to scramble toward the dark silhouette in the white surf. As of yet, he couldn’t tell if the body was male or female.

Please don’t let it be Mia. Please, anyone but her.

His eyes made out what he thought looked like the muscled back and arms of a young man and his fear receded…somewhat. Grasping the corpse by the hair of its head, he lifted the face out of the water to ascertain that it wasn’t Mia—instead was Charles Darry, a Low Country kid from South Carolina. He’d been the only other Southern student on their cruise of horrors, which had given Eric and him something singularly in common, although they had never become what one would call friends. He released Charles, frantically glancing around the darkness.

“Mia!” he attempted to yell, but the name came out strangled and weak. He tried again and it came out clearer and louder this time.

“Eric!” answered a frightened, high-pitched voice. “I’m over here!”

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Monday, April 24, 2017

The Realities of Writing Fantasy

The Realities of Writing Fantasy

The best thing about fantasy is magic and its ability to transport the reader (and writer, naturally) to a different world where anything can happen, right? Well, yes and no.

Anything can happen—within limits. Although you shouldn’t restrain your imagination when you create that make-believe universe, you should exert control over the fictional elements that make up your fantasy novel or short story. As with other genres, plot, characterization, pacing, and dialogue all play key roles. But fantasy fiction introduces two other elements: magic and world-building. The following guidelines for writing fantasy should help make your job easier – and your story more compelling.

Who Gets the Magic

Even in magic, there are rules. A wizard’s staff does not guarantee the ability to perform magic, and only in rare instances can a mage or wizard or enchantress do “everything.” In J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels, for example, the wizards (young and old) can perform many feats that are within their ability and skills, but not to the same degree. Young wizards learn the skills of potion making, defense against the dark arts, and on, over seven years of intense study.

So, while Harry is a whiz at flying his broomstick from the first moment he sets eyes on his new vehicle, Hermione Granger has a lot of trouble trying to work the spell. But Hermione is a master of almost every other spell she learns – and a good thing, too, since she’s often rescuing the other two hooligans or helping them solve their dilemmas.

In some fantasy worlds, wizardry bears a heavy price for its use, such as physical weariness, depletion of power, or some other detriment. Or it may have a bonus, such as long life. Think about how many centuries Gandalf and Saruman dwelled in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Other aspects of magery limit the wizard to specific skills—healing, telepathy between wizards, telepathy with dragons, control of fire, and so on—whatever the writer’s imagination desires.

Magic Is Magic Is Magic … Well, Not Really

Magic requires a structure, no matter how informal. Within that framework, magic must be consistent to be believable. If the mage’s apprentice learns how to change a pig into a cow in Chapter 1, she can’t unlearn that ability in the next chapter—unless, of course, an evil sorcerer cast a spell and took her power away.

With consistency comes another key aspect of fiction writing – in any genre. It is important to show (the magic), not just tell the reader about it. Weave examples not only in the dramatic climax between good and evil but also throughout the storyline in everyday occurrences. Make it real, and make it visible.

Finally, magic needs a place in the society you create, whether it’s a political role (advisor to the queen), a benevolent social role (the country witch who conjures love potions), or perhaps a hermit’s role (who is mysterious in his or her own right).

Lions and Tigers and Wizards, Oh My…

It’s easy to get so caught up in creating a magical system that you forget to develop credible characters. Even if those characters happen to be dragons or elves, they need to involve the reader in their struggles. Although the players deal with a make-believe world and setting, their emotions and problems should still touch the reader in some compelling way.

Your characters have relationships; they have dilemmas; they have emotions—or they should. As in any good novel, characterization is an essential component that prompts the reader to stay up past midnight and read another chapter, then another, and another.

Look at what Tolkien did in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Hobbits aren’t just adorable little creatures with fury feet. They exist. They think about food all day long. They face danger with stunning courage and grace in the face of dark, life-threatening obstacles. And you, the reader (or movie viewer) care about them; in fact, you care so much that you’re compelled to read all three volumes. In the Harry Potter series, those children are alive and enchanting, showing age-appropriate behavior as they progress through the hallowed halls of Hogwarts. Why else would children and adults alike devour those voluminous novels?

The Links That Bind

Although they are not mandatory in the fantasy genre, trilogies are very popular, just as private-eye or cop series are popular in mysteries. Trilogies generally come in one of two formats:

·       Stand-alone novels within a trilogy relate a complete story with hints of what could be developed in Books 2 and 3. If necessary, you could read them independently and still feel satisfied. Although Harry Potter is not a trilogy but seven books in a series, each one can stand alone. (But can you imagine reading only one?)
·       Dependent novels within a trilogy keep you in suspense because the story is incomplete without the other two books, as in the Lord of the Rings. The fellowships forms and shatters in the first book, alliances come together and chess pieces are placed on the board in the second book, and the final clash between good and evil and the completion of the ring quest occurs in Book 3.

And speaking of quests, although they appear in many fantasies, they’re not mandatory either. But if a quest doesn’t drive the plot forward, the author must devise tension from an internal or external conflict as well as a satisfying resolution, with a well-developed storyline. The heroine must find the courage, the princess rescued, the evil sorcerer defeated, and the dragon’s treasure stolen.

Along with strong plot lines, character development, and a magical framework, the links among the books of a trilogy are the underlying themes. Readers who are unfamiliar with fantasy often don’t realize how they can relate to our own lives. Most tales deal with courage, honor, loyalty, friendship, self-doubt, and a hundred other significant matters.

In my Crownmage Trilogy, one of the themes focuses on forgiveness: My protagonist, Alex Keltie, struggles with the need to forgive not only her friends (who were pushing her to do something she didn’t want to do in reclaiming her magic), but also her father (who had abandoned her when she was an infant). In varying degrees, these points carry through the rest of the trilogy as Alex finds her own way through the maze of trouble in which she’s caught.

Building a World Blueprint

When you’re envisioning your fantasy world, the sky isn’t the limit. But whatever universe you create, be sure it has a firm foundation to explain the oddities that are sure to appear. Consider the whole setting – climate, social structures, government, religion, technology, and all the aspects of life as you would imagine them. But don’t design a really bizarre world simply to be different. If readers don’t believe your world is “real,” it won’t work. They have to be transported elsewhere.

Here are some world-building tips:

  • If you invent words or language to fit your world and society, don’t overuse them (a bad habit of mine, unfortunately).
  • When you create character and place names, don’t make them too outrageous or so much work that the reader gets disgusted because they’re too confusing. (A character list is always helpful, but not required.)
  • Keep the 21st century out of your world. Remember, inkwells, not inkjet printers, unless, of course, your fantasy characters interact with the present world as in “urban” fantasy.
  • Draw a map to help you know (and your reader envision) where your characters are going when they start traveling on their quest through your make-believe world. You’d be surprised how often you’ll refer to it!

It’s Your World

Above all, remember that writing fantasy should be fun. Mix a good story with engaging characters, and let your imagination roam free. Picture a world in which you might like to live. For inspiration, or to get in the mood, snuggle up with your favorite elves, dragons, wizards, kings, and queens. Then put them aside, jump on your broomstick, and set off on your own adventure.

Virginia G. McMorrow, an editor/writer for 25+ years, has

 worked for business publishers on books, journals, and 

newsletters and is the author of six fantasy novels published

by MuseItUp (Mage Confusion, Mage Resolution, Mage

Evolution, Firewing’s Journey, Firewing’s Shadow, 

Firewing’s Hunt). As a playwright, she has had many

 one-acts and one full-length play produced off-off 

Broadway in a NYC blackbox theater.