Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Anita Dickason: The IAN Interview

Anita Dickason
Award-winning author, Anita Dickason is a retired Dallas Police officer and served as a patrol officer, undercover narcotics officer, Dallas SWAT team/sniper, and advanced accident investigator.

As an author, her fictional works are suspense/thrillers. Characters with unexpected skills, that extra edge for overcoming danger and adversity, have always intrigued her. Adding an infatuation with ancient myths and legends of Native American Indians, and Scottish and Irish folklore creates the backdrop for her characters.

Anita has established a new business, Mystic Circle Books & Designs, LLC. As a publisher and consultant, she provides manuscript and graphic design services to assist other authors in publishing their novels.  

IAN: Please tell us about your latest book.
Anita Dickason: Sentinels of the Night and Going Gone! were both published this year.
Sentinels of the Night is the debut novel for a new FBI unit: Code Name—Trackers. Each agent has a special gift, one that defies reason and logic. Tracker Cat Morgan is pitted against a serial killer who plans to make her his ultimate sacrifice.
In Going Gone!, Tracker Ryan Barr, the unit profiler, and Kerry Branson, an ex-homicide detective turned private investigator are on the hunt for the kidnapped children of high-ranking politicians. They uncover a plot that has the drug cartels and terrorist cells lined up to cash in.
IAN: Is your book published in print, eBook or both?
Anita Dickason: The books are available in paperback, hardback, and eBook versions.
IAN: Where can we go to buy your books?

IAN: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Anita Dickason: After retiring, I started an accident reconstruction business. A California film company found my website and contacted me regarding a new reality TV series that dealt with unsolved mysteries. Lee Bowers was a witness to the Kennedy assassination and died in a car crash in 1966. Over the years, the conspiracy theorists have claimed he was killed because of what he saw the day Kennedy was shot.
The packet I received included a video of a Geraldo Rivera episode filmed in the middle 90’s on the same topic. A man stood in the southbound lane of a divided highway south of Dallas and pointed to a bridge where Bowers was killed. This location was the same one the film company intended to use. It only took a few seconds to realize everyone had the wrong bridge. It didn’t exist in 1966. In fact, the land for the highway expansion wasn’t purchased by the state until after Bowers was killed.
I found the right location in time for the film company to switch to the new site. In the process, I became so intrigued with the project; I decided to attempt a reconstruction of the accident. Talk about the ultimate cold case; this was it. Every single detail had to be evaluated by the standards and procedures that existed in 1966. I wrote a book, JFK Assassination Eyewitness: Rush to Conspiracy, that details my research and conclusions. The book jump-started a new career as an author and publisher.
IAN: What inspired you to write the book?
Anita Dickason: I wanted to entwine the mystique with what I know, crime and cops. What better way than to set up an FBI unit with paranormal abilities.
IAN: How are your books different from others in your genre?
Anita Dickason: The difficulty with genres is that sometimes a book just never seems to fit in one niche. I know mine doesn’t. My plots are a cross of thrillers and suspense with a dash of paranormal and light romance.
My background adds credibility to my novels. I know how cops think, act, and what it takes to run an investigation. Some of the reviews I have received agree with my assessment. I know how to make the plot believable. My paranormal elements have a unique twist, which adds another layer of intrigue. The combination makes for an unusual story.
IAN: How much of your books is realistic?
Anita Dickason: The plot, characters, and some of the locations are entirely fictional. What they do and how they do it is based on my law enforcement experience.
Early in my career, I crossed paths with a man convicted on multiple counts of murder. I have never forgotten the dead look in his eyes. That memory became the basis for the serial killer in Sentinels of the Night.
In the opening scene in Sentinels of the Night, FBI agents are chasing a suspect in a railroad yard. That happened, except I wasn’t chasing a serial killer. A thief had bailed out of a stolen vehicle and decided the railroad yard was a good place to ditch the cops who were chasing him.
In both, Sentinels of the Night, and Going Gone!, many of the scenes and events are based on my experiences.
IAN: How did you come up with the titles?
Anita Dickason: In my research, I came across a woman, Alice C. Fletcher (1838-1923) who was an ethnologist, anthropologist, and social scientist who studied and documented American Indian culture. Her background and experiences are remarkable. She translated many of the myths and chants used in ceremonial dances. The plot in Sentinels of the Night is based on one of her translations.
Excerpt: “The night season is mine. I wake when others sleep. I can see in the darkness and discern coming danger. I have power to help the people to be watchful against enemies while darkness is on the earth. I have power…(Alice C. Fletcher, 1900)
Owls are the guardians of the night and the messengers of death. Their screech is considered to be a signal of a violent death, even murder. When a person dies, they cross over the owl’s bridge. This became my paranormal element in the book. The owls are the Sentinels of the Night.
The title Going Gone! depicts the stark reality of child that has been kidnapped and alludes to the motive for the kidnappings.
IAN: Who designed the covers?
I designed the cover for each book. Sometimes, I am more proud of the cover than I am the book. I love working on a new design, whether it is a cover, bookmark, bookplate or any other promotional item for books. I can spend hours tweaking a design.
Multiple layers were used to create the colors of the sky for the Sentinels of the Night cover. The eyes of the owls’ link to Tracker Cat Morgan’s unusual paranormal ability. The two sets of eyes at the top of the cover and the owl in front of the moon connect to scenes described in the book. The moon sinking into a red sea relates to the dream sequences Cat experiences throughout the book. The cover truly depicts the plot.
In Going Gone!, I wanted to portray the agony over a missing child. The sole focus is a woman’s eye with a single tear. I kept the color to black and white to add to the sense of desolation. Time drives the plot. I overlaid a red digital clock on top of the pupil to heighten the intensity of the role time plays in the agents’ desperate search.
IAN: Do you use an outline or do you just wing the first draft?
When I started writing, I joined a couple of writing groups. An award-winning author was the guest speaker for one of the meetings. During her presentation, she stressed the importance of an outline before starting the book.

I had written about twenty or so pages for Sentinels of the Night. I thought, okay if I need an outline, I’ll write one before I go any further. OMG, what a disaster. I got so hung up on trying to stay with the outline that I lost track of my plot. Something would occur to me as I wrote a scene, but if it didn’t mesh with the outline, I had to revise it. It seemed I was spending more time on the outline than on the book.

So now, I just write. Even though I have a general idea of the plot, how it develops depends on how I set up the characters. It’s not unusual to change midstream, and add another section or go in another direction based on a character’s actions. For me, the process is similar to an investigation. When connecting the dots, you never know where they will lead.
IAN: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I use multiple POVs (point of view). The shifts are more than just between a couple of characters. While the Tracker novels are standalone, not a series, the entire team is involved. Part of the team is in the field, and the remaining agents are in Washington D.C. I started the technique in Sentinels of the Night and expanded on it as it seemed a natural extension of the investigation in Going Gone!

I like the depth the technique adds to the plot. It lets me bring in more of the personalities of the characters. It is, however, complicated and risky. With the give and take, the back and forth, who knew what and when creates many details to track. If I miss one, I know there will be an eagle-eyed reader out there who will spot it.

I keep a notepad by my computer and jot down notes as I type. I also use the navigation bar to help out. I’ll add notes at the beginning of a paragraph or the start of a chapter, and set it as a heading. I have found this is very useful to keep track of time or days.
IAN: What books have influenced your life most?
Growing up, I was an avid reader, mysteries, investigations, and sleuths. Without a doubt, Sir Conan Doyle was at the top of the list. I have read every Sherlock Holmes mystery he ever wrote. “Watson, the game is afoot.” As soon as you read those words, you knew. The story was headed into the depths of an improbable investigation with twists and turns designed to boggle the mind. Doyle was a master at the understated, subliminal hints and clues that Holmes always understood and left Watson in a muddle.

Along with the Holmes mysteries, I have to add Perry Mason and all of Agatha Christie’s works. Anyone see a trend here? The heroes were super sleuths, connecting the dots and solving the crime.

It’s not surprising that from an early age, I wanted to be a police officer. What I learned along the way is that police work is all about connecting the dots, much like my childhood super sleuths. 

IAN: How long did it take to write the book?

Sentinels of the Night took close to two years to complete. I took online courses in writing and submitted chapters to different websites for critique and evaluation. I joined a local writing group. The title even changed. The original was Blood Moon. I wrote, rewrote, and rewrote again. I lost track of the number of drafts. With each change, though, the book improved.

The trials, tribulations, and growing pains paid off when I wrote the next book, Going Gone! It took about ten months to complete. I am working on a third Tracker novel that I started three months ago. I am hoping to have it ready to publish by January/2018. 

IAN: Tell us about your next book or a work in progress. Is it a sequel or standalone?

Anita Dickason: I am the middle of writing the third Tracker novel. I use a popular technique that involves a group of characters. I like the continuity and the depth it brings to the plot. My books, however, are not a series, each one is a standalone novel. I don’t have a title for the new one yet. My titles come from a word or phrase in the story. So far, inspiration hasn’t struck. The setting is
Texas, and an ATF agent disappears. Tracker Adrian Dillard is sent to Laredo to investigate. What he finds will send shock waves through the law enforcement community and the White House. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

​Sweet Temptation: The Agony and the Ecstasy of Passion by Sarah Stuart

Romantic Suspense

Evie Taylor is a highly-paid detective who works all over the world. She has broken off contact with her family, who disapprove of her, and takes lovers who don’t expect commitment. Evie is not one of the “people who need people”. The only gap in the defences around her heart is a secret passion for a sexy superstar as unattainable as the moon, even though she does wear the gold bracelet he gave her and never, ever, removes it.

Michael Marsh, The Diamond Superstar, has retired from show business and is bored and lonely, and he hasn’t forgotten the girl who clinched the case against his beloved wife’s killer. He persuades Evie to move in with him, only to have an attack of conscience about the age gap and a young woman’s natural desire for children.

The stand-off ends when Evie is taken to hospital hovering between life and death and her mother doesn’t want to know. Michael loves Evie and will move heaven and earth to keep her, but if she recovers will she forgive the secrets of his past? Not all Michael’s offspring are what the media, and particularly a journalist known as The Spy, have been expected to believe.

Teenage Greta, jealous of the time her father spends at the hospital with Evie, joins an adult chatroom in search of a boyfriend. The contact she makes is a sex-trafficker, and he offers Greta independence, fame, fortune, and freedom from school bullies. A tempting cocktail of bait for a girl whose life is ruled by an over-protective father and his bodyguards.

“Michael Marsh and his unconventional family have long suffered the consequences of his disastrous relationship with his eldest daughter. Life is complicated further by Evie, Michael’s new love after two lonely years. When Evie falls desperately ill, he is left fighting a media troll who wishes to destroy him and his family, and an evil future mother-in-law, while trying to save the life of the women he loves.”

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Phil Stephens: The IAN Interview

Phil Stephens

Phil Stephens is an Indiana native and a graduate of the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, and of the Dale Carnegie Course. He spent many years working in Fortune 500 America. Raised in a solidly Catholic family, he attended Catholic grade schools in the 1960s and served as an Altar Boy. His writing has appeared in the local newspaper and Pen IT literary magazine. His passions include reading in his favorite genres—history and horror. He also enjoys cooking, exercising, and the environment. Stephens resides in beautiful Brown County in Southern Indiana with his wife Marie, and has an adopted granddaughter, Crystal Maiden, in the Philippines.

IAN: Please tell us about your latest book.

Phil StephensBlack-robed nuns, priests, bishops, the select fraternity of Altar Boys, and the ancient ceremonies of the Catholic Church. Music of the ’60s, boyhood shenanigans, Cootie doctors, and coming of age. Set in the socially and politically tumultuous period of the 1960s, The Altar Boy is the fictionalized memoir of Carl Sanders, a funny, sensitive kid, who’s caught in the middle when his family is fractured by the intrusions of a priest. We follow Carl's confusion and pain as he watches the pious fa├žade of the Church fall away to reveal unholy carte blanche, cover-ups, and collusion.

The book opens in the late 1980s. Carl and his brother down beer after beer at a favorite pub, trying to piece together their family’s chaotic past. The stakes are high—someone is about to return after a 20-year absence, threatening to re-ignite the family conflict. As the brothers’ painful recollections of their past become more traumatic, Carl drifts back in time to the era he tried for so many years to forget. 

The story is realistic, poignant, and at times very funny. Stephens shines a timely spotlight on the then-unquestioned power of the Church, while taking the reader back to the ’60s era of rock & roll, Catholic schools, social upheaval, and boyhood pranks.

IAN: Is The Altar Boy published in print, e-book or both?

Phil Stephens: It is currently published in print only.

IAN: Where can we go to buy The Altar Boy?

Phil Stephens: It is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

IAN: What inspired you to write The Altar Boy?

Phil Stephens: True events...and a story that needed to be told.

IAN: Did you use an outline or do you just wing the first draft?

Phil Stephens: Some chapters I outlined and some I winged.

IAN: How long did it take to write The Altar Boy?

Phil Stephens: Longer than I'm willing to admit.

IAN: How did you come up with the title? 

Phil Stephens: I wanted a title that conveyed the subject matter of the book and grabbed the reader.

IAN: How much The Altar Boy of is realistic?

Phil Stephens: Most all of it.

IAN: How is The Altar Boy different from others in your genre?

Phil Stephens: Very little has ever been written about this subject.

IAN: What books have most influenced your life most?

Phil Stephens: David Halberstam (The Reckoning), Sun Tzu (The Art of War) and Carl Sagan (Contact)

IAN: Do you see writing as a career?

Phil Stephens: Yes, if my first novel takes off.

IAN: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

Phil Stephens: It is one of the few things I have a talent for.

IAN: Who designed the cover?

Phil Stephens: I did.

IAN: What was the hardest part of writing your book? 

Phil Stephens: Finding the time to do it.

IAN: Do you have any advice for other writers?

Phil Stephens: First of all START the book and then FINISH it.  Don't give up.

IAN: Tell us about your next book or a work in progress. Is it a sequel or a stand-alone?

Phil Stephens: It is a stand-alone novel titled "On The Edge of the Stairs." A story of a young couple very much in love and planning their wedding but then the girl dies in a tragic accident.  As the woman lay dying she vows to the man she will reincarnate herself and come back to him.  And she does.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Lin Wilder: The IAN Interview

Lin Wilder holds a Doctorate in Public Health and has published extensively in fields like cardiac physiology, institutional ethics and hospital management. In 2005, she switched from non-fiction to fiction. Her series of medical thrillers include many references to the Texas Medical Center where Lin worked for over twenty-three years. Her latest book is A Price for Genius. Finding the Narrow Path was an unplanned return to non-fiction. All her books are available at Amazon.

IAN: Please tell us about your latest book.

Lin Wilder: In A Price for Genius Dr. Lindsey McCall's worst fears are realized. Not only have both drugs been stolen but two women have been kidnapped- one maybe dead. Lindsey had known Liisa Reardon's new drug was alchemy, only this time, the end product actually more precious than gold. The desperate call from Hank Reardon in Switzerland came late at night. 

·         Could Lindsey and Rich Jansen uncover who was behind the crimes? 
·         It was an inside job-could they figure out who had sold out the Reardons? 
·         All in time to save Reardon's daughter and her chief tech Ariana? 
·         Were they risking their lives as well?

The evil words smolder in her mind, the contents of the letter delivered to Hank Reardon: 

Hello Mr. Reardon,
By the time you get this letter, it will be too late. We'll already have her.
Here are the steps you must not take: 
·         Do not call the cops.
·         Do not contact Interpol.
·         Tell no one.
You must know Sir, there is a price for genius. We trust you will pay it if you want to see your daughter alive.

IAN: Is A Price for Genius published in print, e-book or both?

Lin Wilder: Both.
IAN: Where can we go to buy your book? 

IAN: What inspired you to write A Price for Genius?

Lin Wilder: In pondering why I write, I realized that the blurred lines between good and evil intrigue me. Each of us is a combination of both and our choices mostly determine just how good or evil is our life. However, there are extraordinary circumstances which can have such a profound impact that the goodness is all but extinguished.

Joe Cairns became my favorite character in A Price for Genius because we are forced to identify-mostly- with his stark combination of heroism and evil. But are there people who are wholly evil? I think yes.

On the other hand, Dr. Viktor Dragovik is evil. When pondering him, I realized that his loss of all that is good had to spring from somewhere. Since, in A Price of Genius, I had written that he was Serbian, that provided the necessary context: The terrible Bosnian War.

IAN: Do you use an outline or do you just wing the first draft?

Lin Wilder: Always when I write non-fiction, I use an outline. But learned that I am unable to use that very comforting tool with my fiction books. Is it winging? Perhaps. It feels more like keeping up with the pace of the story as the characters reveal themselves.

IAN: How long does it take you to write a book?

Lin Wilder: I’m about half-way and expect the 1st draft of Malthus to be complete by September 5th. So a year.

IAN: How do you come up with your book titles?

Lin Wilder: Malthus Revisited: The Cup of Wrath. Dragovik comes up with a way to decimate the population of the world. And justifies his decision with extensive reliance on people who have predicted that the population will outgrow the earth’s ability to sustain them- ergo the British minister who predicted the end through famine: Malthus. I added the Revisited because there are many who are convinced of a massive biologic extinction by the end of this century. And added The Cup of Wrath to add an apocalyptic dimension to the story.

IAN: What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your books?

Lin Wilder: After many years of allegiance to most ‘isms’ known to man, I became a Roman Catholic. It changed everything. My writing is grounded in the notion that our lives are battlegrounds. My main character Dr. Lindsey McCall and her husband Rich are Catholic. They believe that the choices they make on a daily basis can profoundly impact our world. There are allusions to religious visions and priests in this and in every book which can provoke readers to wonder. Fully understanding that my view is counter cultural, I hope readers come away with some questions, curiousity about themselves, their world and God.

IAN: How much of your books is realistic?

Lin Wilder: I’m a researcher by trade. The sections on the genocide in the Balkans are real. At the end of the book, I’ll list excellent resources for those interested in learning more about Yugoslavia and the Bosnian Wars. There are individuals loudly proclaiming the biologic extinction. Malthus’ Essay was written in the late 19th century and is a fascinating read. The sections on chemical warfare are derived from history-so a great deal of the information in Malthus is based in history.

IAN: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Lin Wilder: We write what we know. Since I spent a career in academic medicine, my characters and stories emanate from that source. The protagonist of all the stories, Dr. Lindsey McCall appeared in my head, literally, a number of years ago. I knew that writing was a gift I had used all of my life but it had always been through non-fiction. The idea to write a novel surprised me. I had long ago put that dream aside. But Lindsey stayed with me. And I began to wonder, what would it be like to be a woman who knew she could master anything? No matter how difficult the problem? Or how impossible?

IAN: Do you see writing as a career?

Lin Wilder: I do but when I speak about it in front of others I always advise them not to quit their day job.

IAN: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

Lin Wilder: As a kid English major in undergrad, I dreamed of writing the ‘great American novel.’ But believed that in order to do so, the writer had to sacrifice his joy. That only if one was miserable—Hemingway, Fittzgerald, Faulkner, Salinger, Plath---could the writing be any good. In my early 20’s, I began to write non-fiction in the fields of critical care medicine. I found that the best way I could understand what I believed and knew was to write about it.

IAN: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Lin Wilder: New characters require a great deal of patience. Research too but that’s the easy part. After the research, it always takes time for me to see the new character. Like the autistic young girl Morgan Gardner...I read 8 or 9 books on autism but it took time to really ‘get’ her. The same with Viktor Dravovik. It’s taken months to get a real sense of who this guy is.

IAN: Tell us about your next book or a work in progress. Is it a sequel or a stand-alone?

Lin Wilder: Each of the soon to be 4 books in the Dr. Lindsey McCall medical mystery books can be read as a stand-alone. Malthus Revisited-The Cup of Wrath highlights 3 characters who were introduced in A Price for Genius: Joe Cairns, Diedrich Braun and Dr. Viktor Dragovik. And, as always, introduces a new one. In this case, Morgan Gardner, an 18 yr old savant. This book adds a quasi-dystopian element to the series.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Tina Tamman: The IAN Interview

Tina Tamman was born in Estonia, which even today is a little-known country. Ever since embarking on her PhD at the University of Glasgow, she has been studying historical links between Estonia and Britain, the country where she’s been living now for 40 years and where for half of this time she worked for the BBC.

IAN: Please tell us about your latest book.

Tina Tamman: “Portrait of a Secret Agent” is a biography with an intelligence officer at its heart. His name is Brian Giffey, a man who has been a real discovery. Not a relation, a mystery man, a womaniser who fell in love with a girl half his age and, surprisingly, stayed true to her. So it is also a love story.

IAN: Is your book published in print, e-book or both?

Tina Tamman: Available as paperback and as e-book.

IAN: Where can we go to buy your book?

Tina Tamman: At Amazon.  

IAN: What inspired you to write Portrait of a Secret Agent

Tina Tamman: It was by accident that I stumbled across this man, Brian Giffey. The more I learnt about him, the more interesting he became. He’s a true eccentric.

IAN: How long did it take to write Portrait of a Secret Agent?

Tina Tamman: There was a lot of research involved, so it took me 2-3 years. Some of it was spent travelling: Giffey’s private papers, for example, are in Sweden. Also, securing photograph rights and getting copies done took time.

IAN: How did you come up with the title?

Tina Tamman: That was very difficult. I wanted something catchy but truthful as well, since it is a biography. There are so many spy thrillers around and I didn’t want my reader to expect more than I could deliver.

IAN: What do you hope your readers come away with after reading Portrait of a Secret Agent?

Tina Tamman: I hope they will think about secrets, even if briefly. We are all used to Freedom of Information requests but not everybody knows that our secret service is outside the system and no questions of any description are allowed. And so the reader remains in the dark as to why Brian Giffey has not been named in intelligence history even though he died in 1967 and has no living relatives. Is he linked to a scandal that has to be kept secret?

IAN: How much of the book is realistic?

Tina Tamman: It is all based on fact; there are also numerous photographs to illustrate the story.

IAN: How is your book different from others in your genre?

Tina Tamman: Secret agent biographies are not that numerous, although there are a great number of biographies of well-known traitors. What sets my book apart is Brian Giffey’s loyalty to the Crown. There is no reason why the public focus should fall solely on those individuals who betrayed work colleagues. Men like Brian Giffey deserve to be known as well.

IAN: What book are you reading now?

Tina Tamman: Very appropriately I’m reading “The Secret Agent” by Joseph Conrad. Cleverly and beautifully written, it is not really a book about the secret service - it’s a police story.

IAN: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in Portrait of a Secret Agent?
Tina Tamman: I would allow myself to add some imaginary scenes, blend in a little fiction. I also think the title needs changing.

IAN: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Tina Tamman: Having no access to intelligence sources is very frustrating. It limits the field. While a fiction writer can invent, a biographer is not at liberty to do so. However, I cannot see MI6 opening its archives to researchers in my lifetime.

IAN: Did you have to travel much concerning Portrait of a Secret Agent?

Tina Tamman: Travel is an inevitable part of research because archives are dotted all over the place and private papers can be in people’s homes, either in the UK or abroad. Such travel allows thoughts to develop and new questions to arise. All very stimulating.

IAN: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Tina Tamman: Most people have heard of James Bond but the world of intelligence is much more complex, also much more interesting than Bond. The more you know, the more you want to know.

IAN: Tell us about your next book or a work in progress. Is it a sequel or a stand-alone?

Tina Tamman: It will be a venture into fiction. A stand-alone novel, it will be about inheritance. And once again both Estonia and England will come into play, as will history.