Wednesday, October 24, 2012

THE SHARK LIVES: A peek inside the mind of a (fictional) serial killer-- A guest post by author M. K. GILROY


THE SHARK LIVES

In the first Detective Kristen Conner suspense thriller, Cuts Like a Knife, she came face to face with a serial killer that the Chicago press dubbed, The Cutter Shark. In a breathtaking and ferocious closing scene it took every ounce of Conner’s hand-to-hand combat training – a near obsession with her—and her incredible pain tolerance and love of family to stay alive and do something the Shark didn’t think possible—beat him into submission.

The Shark is now a resident of the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago where he remains silent. He is on the 27th floor, which houses the most dangerous criminals. His cell has a slit window that is 5 inches wide and 7 feet high.

Conner has moved on to another high profile murder case in Every Breath You Take, but the Cutter Shark’s thoughts remain on Kristen.

***

When will the FBI profiler realize I will never talk to her? Dr. Leslie Van Guten is one of those women that love to prove she is smartest person in the room. But not my room. She thought she was going to be rich and famous analyzing me. She may be cold, arrogant, and persistent, but it is no going to happen. She is on my list.

***

Such a clumsy setup. Show some respect and at least try to be clever. My guards were way too cheerful taking me to the break room to watch TV. It was local news. And surprise, surprise, it was an interview with Detective Conner by her sister Klarissa. I was much too merciful to Klarissa. The mark I left on her face didn’t even show up on HDTV. No matter. She’s on my list too.

***

So Kristen solves another case. He was a big deal in Chicago, a member of the 1% of the 1% Club, but still so much less interesting than me. The press continues to tell my story. Poorly. But despite their deficiencies, my legend grows. My immortality is secured. It is only marred by her. Her awkwardness only serves to charm the media. Her refusal to put herself in the spotlight adds to her allure. I underestimated her. The only god I believe in is me. But perhaps the world is filled with magic. If so, she received more than her share. But it will be no match for me.

***

My brother always tried to look out for me. But he was mistaken in one regard. He thought it was me that was lost, when all along it was he. I should talk to him and comfort him.  But in the end he betrayed me. That is the unpardonable sin in my theology of me.

***

Detective Conner. Dear Kristen. I confess I underestimated you. My only mistake in seven years of living life in full. I wrote and directed all of my encounters—until you. That is why you are on my most special list. I am saving you for last. Not until you see those you love die at my hand will I grant you escape from the world I create for you.

***

To think I had a glimmer of romantic feelings for her. Had life unfurled differently, she might be mine. Oh, she will be mine, just not in that way. My brother tells me she appears to have a love interest. He was already on my list, but he now holds a higher spot in my hierarchy of death.

***

She is the sweet little church girl. Loves her family and believes in God. Will your faith save you, Kristen? It didn’t save your dad. I will see to it that it doesn’t save you.

***

I continue to heal. My face will never be the pleasing visage that my victims could not resist, but my strength was always from within. And I grow stronger every day. They think they have seen the last of me—Kristen, the FBI agent that stole her from my brother, the press, those who both idolize and loathe me—but they shouldn’t be so sure. I know I still haunt dreams. As I watch and wait and plan, I am confident I shall be the author of my own story once again.

___________________________________________
Mark Gilroy is a 30-year veteran of the publishing industry. His first two novels, Cuts Like a Knife and Every Breath You Take, have been met with critical acclaim.


Thanks, Mark, for creeping us out by letting us revisit the mind of your serial killer, The Cutter Shark. *shivers*

Readers, check out MY REVIEW of Cuts Like A Knife and watch for my review of EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE, coming soon! 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Review: TRINITY by Ronie Kendig

Trinity is the first novel in Ronie Kendig's A Breed Apart, her new series about military dogs and their handlers. I loved this book, as you can probably tell from MY INTERVIEW with Ronie, which I did a few months ago. Here's the sitch, as it appears in the book description at www.amazon.com (image from www.barnesandnoble.com):

A year ago in Afghanistan, Green Beret Heath Daniel’s career was destroyed. Along with his faith. Now he and his military war dog, Trinity, train other dogs and their handlers. Though his passion is to be back in action, the medical discharge has forced Heath—and Trinity—to the sidelines. Military intelligence officer Darci Kintz is captured while secretly tracking the Taliban. Only one dog can handle the extreme conditions to save her. Trinity. Only one man can handle Trinity. Time is running out on the greatest—and most dangerous—mission of their lives.

Sounds good, right?

I'm a dog lover to the point of being goofy. And yes, I enjoyed this novel and easily fell in love with Trinity (and, uh, maybe Heath, her handler, too. Yum.) But I didn't appreciate their story with the sort of depth I should have until recently. At an event I attended, I unexpectedly had the pleasure of meeting a Gulf War vet and her dog. Over dinner one night, I heard her story and realized that sitting right before me was one of those "discarded heroes" Ronie Kendig writes about.

Suddenly, Trinity meant so much more to me than just another great book I'd discovered. In that instant, my respect for Ronie and her calling to honor our heroes through fiction really grew. In fact, the next morning I emailed Ronie and shared my experience. And, gracious lady that she is, she shared my tears.

I'd been touched by Ronie's stories in the past, but they remained fiction to me; those more emotional aspects of her characters' struggles compartmentalized into the "what a good story" part of my brain--but they never quite leaked across into my experience. After all, I never served in the military and, other than my dad serving in The National Guard in the early 70s, I don't have any close family members who've lived the military life. But to meet this lovely woman and her dog in person, to hear her story and her ongoing battle with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) after serving in the Middle East, and to learn how the American government has pretty much abandoned her after she gave them years of service in a very dangerous time and place, touched me at my core.

I've "supported our military" in those apple-pie, acceptably distanced ways since I was a senior in high school and President Bush (the 1st) announced Operation Desert Storm. But after all these years, it finally became real to me because of a discarded hero and her dog and... Trinity: Military War dog. I certainly will never read one of Ronie's books  the same way again.

If you haven't read one of Ronie's books yet, check out her website, my interview, and, of course, TRINITY. You won't regret it. Also on her website are various organizations who serve our military personnel (including the dogs.) Contemporary and full of action and romance, Ronie's "rapid fire fiction" is sure to get your pulse pounding and your imagination engaged... as well as your heart.

And while you're at it, say a prayer for our discarded heroes and pray, also, that whoever is elected in a couple of weeks takes these heroes' struggles to heart and comes to believe that our military personnel deserve better when they get home than what they're getting.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Writing Tip Wedesday: Courtesy of author Cathy Bryant


Recovering perfectionist Cathy Bryant is the author of the Miller’s Creek Novels—Texas Roads, A Path Less Traveled, and The Way of Grace. Her desire is to write heart-stirring stories about God’s life-changing grace. Though Texas-born, she currently resides in the beautiful Ozark mountains of northwest Arkansas with her husband of thirty years and near the world’s cutest grandson. You can learn more about her and her books at http://www.CatBryant.com and http://WordVessel.blogspot.com.

*make sure you check out the giveaway deets at the end of the post!*

ARE YOUR CHARACTERS TOO PERFECT?
By Cathy Bryant, ©2012

Know any perfectionists? Hmmm, maybe I should phrase it this way: Know any perfectionists who ever attain their goal by their own efforts? (Don’t you just love rhetorical questions?)

The truth is that in spite of our attempts to be good or reach perfection, it’s humanly impossible. Even the nicest people have “issues.” Not one of us homo sapiens are (or ever will be, in this earthly life) perfect. As famous playwright, Eugene O’Neill, once said: “Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue.”

If none of us are perfect, then why are we so timid about—or even afraid of—creating less-than-perfect characters? Could it be that we’re fearful our personal sin will come under the microscope? The reason we Christian writers write is to show how our gracious God can redeem even the most broken among us. When we shy away from creating “flawed” characters, we lessen the story and sell God short—almost shouting out our lack of faith in His ability.

And if you still can’t bring yourself to create a less-than-perfect character, think about it this way: real characters with real problems keep readers turning pages. Without the conflict and tension of imperfect people trying to make it through the struggles of life, our stories are about as exciting to read as the phone book.

King David was called “a man after God’s own heart,” yet committed adultery and murder. If you look at the life of Jesus, you see Him reaching out to imperfect people and calling us to do the same. He hung out with sinners and tax collectors and touched “unclean” people. He came to give good news to the poor, bind up broken hearts, bring freedom to those in chains, and replace darkness with light (Isaiah 61:1).

We’re scribes of the Most High God and ambassadors for Christ. With our words we have the power and privilege of bearing good news, binding broken hearts, releasing prisoners to freedom, and bringing light and healing to a dark and broken world. How can we attain that lofty goal if we pretend our characters are perfect?

As a former art teacher and musician, I’ve learned that white is made whiter in contrast to black. Lush chords are all the more beautiful when juxtaposed with dissonance. The same is true of our stories. Our character’s sin and flaws only serve to reveal Light and bring it into sharper focus. Or as one of the greatest Christian writers of all time phrased it: "…where sin increased, grace increased all the more..." (Romans 5:20b)


The Way of Grace by Cathy Bryant
(Book 3 in the Miller’s Creek novels)

In pursuit of justice, in need of grace . . .

A justice-seeking perfectionist pursues her dream of a perfect life in her hometown of Miller’s Creek, Texas. Sidetracked by the desire to be a prosecuting attorney, Grace Soldano launches into uncharted waters, making herself over to please her boss and mentor. Then a disheveled free spirit turns her perfectly ordered world upside down, challenging the concept of personal goodness. A fall from perfection leaves Grace teetering between vengeance and grace, caught in a deadly crossfire that leaves her dreams in a heap of ashes. Can she learn to joyfully accept the life God has given her–far from perfect–but one completely immersed in His grace?


Thanks for sharing this tip with us, Cathy!

ATTENTION READERS! GIVEAWAY!!! 
Leave a comment below and I will choose one name using www.random.org to win a digital copy of Cathy's book! Giveaway will run through October 22, 2012. Digital copy, courtesy of the author.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Guest Post: Character/Character Interview by Heather Burch


We sent out some feelers this fall asking some of our favorite authors to allow characters from their books to interview... other characters from their books! YA Author Heather Burch was the first author to accept our challenge, but I'm happy to report that there has been a fairly enthusiastic response to this idea and there are more character/character interviews to come!

CHARACTER/CHARACTER INTERVIEW
a new feature from Edgy Inspirational Romance
Today's guests come to us from Heather Burch's Halflings series: 
GUARDIAN,
book 2 in the Halfling series,
released October 9th!
I've read it. I loved it.
I can't wait for the next one!
~Serena

Interviewer: 
Zero

Subjects:
Mace, Raven, & Vine

Topic: 
HOW TO WIN A GIRL'S HEART

Zero: (introducing self) So, the first thing you need to know about me is … I AM NOT INTO THIS! I lost a bet, okay? I’m going to do this interview thing, but I don’t like it. Don’t expect me to be cute or witty. Don’t expect to walk away from this with some sick, demented idea that I’m really a romantic at heart, because I’m not.

Mace: Come on Zero. You know you have it bad for Vegan.

Zero: Uh, let’s just think about the logic of that statement. I have it (what?) bad for Vegan. Bad. Do you see the problem, here? If love was so great would we be saying ‘You’ve got it bad?’ I don’t think so.

Raven: It’s a good kind of misery.

Zero: Oh. Well, that makes perfect sense doesn’t it?

Raven: Lost a bet, huh?

Zero: Yeah, Vegan said she could break the code on Omega Corporation’s newest file I obtained faster than me.

Mace: And she did it?

Zero: I’m not really sure how, but I think I might have been sucked into some kind of time warp.

Raven: Dude. You lost. Deal with it.

Zero: Can we move on? Answer the question.

Mace: What question?

Zero: Aaaaahhhhh!

Raven: Sorry, Zero. But you need to tell us the question before we can answer it.

Zero: You. Already. Know. The. Question.

Raven: I just think we need to hear you say it. You know, so we’re clear. What do you think, Mace?

Mace: Absolutely.

Zero: Fine. How do you win a girl’s heart?

Mace: See, that wasn’t so hard, was it? Oh, hey Vine.

Vine: What’s going on?

Raven: You tell him, Zero.

Zero: (silence)

Mace: Zero is asking us how to win a girl’s heart.

Zero: (groaning)

Vine: That’s easy. Candy. Lots and lots of candy.

Zero: Okay, all of you need to shut up. This is why I prefer electronics. They don’t have opinions. Mace, you’re the one with leadership skill set and Raven you’re the loner. So, do the two of you agree on what it takes to win a girl’s heart?

Mace: I doubt Raven and I will agree on anything. In my opinion, girls want someone who is interested in what they’re interested in. Someone who they can talk to about the things they care about.

Raven: Blah, blah, blah. I didn’t think you could sound any sappier, but you’ve hit a new low. Girls don’t care about that stuff. They want adventure. Someone who can show them places they’ve never seen and try stuff they’ve never done. Someone who isn’t afraid of danger.

Zero: So that’s it? That’s all you two have for me?

Vine: I don’t think that’s it. I mean, maybe some girls care about those things, but don’t they really want more? Think about it, humans weren’t created to be alone, so until you find your match, you’re sort of only half existing, right? If half of my heart was gone, I guess I’d experience things only halfway. But if I found that piece of my heart, wouldn’t it make everything more alive, more vivid. More complete? I guess what I’m saying is, I think the way to a girl’s heart is finding the girl you complete. And never letting her go.

Zero: Okay. Vine wasn’t even invited to this interview and his answer killed both of yours.

Mace: Way to go, Vine. Zero, why do you think Vegan wanted you to do this?

Zero: To torture me.

Mace: Has it occurred to you that maybe you complete her?

Zero: That’s all the time we have today. Thanks to everyone who stopped by and if you ever want to see another interview given by me, don’t hold your breath. If you’re looking for adventure, go Team Raven. If you’re looking for conversation, Team Mace. If you want to be complete, Team Vine. And if all you really want is to be left alone with your humming PC and your silence, Team Zero.

Book 1 MY REVIEW


Special thanks to Heather Burch for gathering her 1/2-angel boys together so they could grill each other on luhuuuuv for our entertainment. 





BOOK 2



Guardian, book 2 in the Halflings series, is available now wherever awesome books with cute angel boys, mysteriously determined girls, and lots of action are sold.

Make sure to visit Heather's website for more info!


A big shout out to Rel of Relz Reviewz whose Character Spotlights inspired Joy and I to do a mash-up of her original, awesome concept. 

Image credit (sign): <a href='http://www.123rf.com/photo_6628783_a-road-sign-with-question-marks-and-arrows-pointing-left-and-right.html'>iqoncept / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Guest Post: from author Cathy Bryant


THE ILLUSION OF PERFECTION
By Cathy Bryant, © 2012

Picture-perfect images stare back at us from the glossy pages of magazines. Television commercials glamorize flawless skin, bodies, and hair. Every advertisement promises perfection of some sort. The messages from our culture range from “pull yourself up by the boot straps” to “be all you can be.” No wonder we’re a stressed-out and sleepless society. The chase for perfection seems to invade every aspect of our lives.

"Lookin' good!"
Everywhere we turn in our world, we’re prompted to do better, to be better, and I think this is especially true for women. I’m reminded of the joke where the middle-aged woman looks in the mirror and stresses out over her appearance. “I need a better haircut. I have a new wrinkle. I need to lose ten more pounds.” Then the middle-aged man looks in the mirror, slaps his pot belly, and says: “Looking good!”

All joking aside, why do we have the tendency to feel better about ourselves by keeping some semblance of the perfect plan we’ve had tucked in our brains since we were little girls? Somewhere along the way our plans for the perfect wedding, perfect house, perfect spouse, perfect marriage, perfect children, and perfect career take on a life of their own. And even though reality may be a far cry from our perfect ideal, we do all we can to keep the image alive.

Sadly, the illusion of perfection slithers into our spiritual life as well. We become good little rules-keepers, as if spiritual success is something we achieve through our own efforts. Without warning, we one day wake up and realize our perfect world consists of little more than plastic people living plastic lives.

What a waste of grace! In our futile pursuit of perfection, we miss so much. We miss the peace that comes from resting in who God made us to be and not some Stepford-wife version we think everyone else expects. We miss the joy of seeing ourselves and others—flaws and all—as the unique Creation of God we are. We miss the blessing of realizing grace is a gift, based not on our performance or appearance, but on God’s everlasting love.

Though it’s taken me half a century to arrive here, I’m delighted to report that this perfectionist is on the road to recovery. For the rest of my days, I’m unshackling myself from the illusion of earthly perfection, secure in the knowledge that close communion with Christ is the only chance I have of reaching true perfection. Wanna join me?

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. -2 Corinthians 3:18 (NASB)


Recovering perfectionist Cathy Bryant is the author of the Miller’s Creek Novels—Texas Roads, A Path Less Traveled, and The Way of Grace. Her desire is to write heart-stirring stories about God’s life-changing grace. Though Texas-born, she currently resides in the beautiful Ozark mountains of northwest Arkansas with her husband of thirty years and near the world’s cutest grandson. You can learn more about her and her books at http://www.CatBryant.com and http://WordVessel.blogspot.com.


The Way of Grace by Cathy Bryant
(Book 3 in the Miller’s Creek novels)

In pursuit of justice, in need of grace . . .

A justice-seeking perfectionist pursues her dream of a perfect life in her hometown of Miller’s Creek, Texas. Sidetracked by the desire to be a prosecuting attorney, Grace Soldano launches into uncharted waters, making herself over to please her boss and mentor. Then a disheveled free spirit turns her perfectly ordered world upside down, challenging the concept of personal goodness. A fall from perfection leaves Grace teetering between vengeance and grace, caught in a deadly crossfire that leaves her dreams in a heap of ashes. Can she learn to joyfully accept the life God has given her–far from perfect–but one completely immersed in His grace?


Thanks, Cathy, for sharing your heart with us today!
"large fitness man" Image credit: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/photo_10943702_large-fitness-man-with-measuring-tape-isolated-in-white.html'>luislouro / 123RF Stock Photo</a> All other images courtesy of Cathy Bryant

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Review: LIKE MOONLIGHT AT LOW TIDE by Nicole Quigley


What it's about: (Description condensed from the author's website.) When high school junior Melissa Keiser returns to her hometown of Anna Maria Island, Fla., she has one goal: hide from the bullies who had convinced her she was the ugliest girl in school.
Something is different now that Melissa is 16, and the guys and popular girls who once made her life miserable have taken notice. Just as Melissa seems to achieve everything she ever wanted, she loses a loved one to suicide. Melissa must not only grieve for her loss, she must find the truth about the three boys who loved her and discover that joy sometimes comes from the most unexpected place of all.
Why you should read it: Although a John Hughes-esque cast does appear in one guise or another, this is not a "teen angst" novel. This story reveals tough, real-life issues such as bullying, suicide, sex, drugs and faith decisions through the point of view of a once-bullied girl who has unknowingly blossomed.
Melissa Keiser is brought to life with tender, authentic and poetic prose. Her fear of being noticed (and therefore bullied) feeds both her desire to be invisible and her longing to be truly known. Sam, the object of Melissa's desire since seventh grade, does come across as a typical teenage "it" boy, but he never becomes a stereotypical villain or hero. And Josh, Melissa's neighbor (and the third member of Melissa's could-it-be-a-love-triangle with Sam) is morally wise, but still retains just enough "relationally-clueless teen boy" to keep his good heart from being too perfect to believe.
Although readers may feel a little misled by the beginning when they reach the end, this award-winning debut is a darkly poignant inspirational romance that will linger in the mind well after reading it. Due to content that could be too real or mature for a younger reader to fully process, I would recommend this novel to YA readers ages 15 and up.

(This review originally appeared at USA Today's romance fiction blog, Happy Ever After.)

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Pamela Binnings Ewen Interview, Part 2 + GIVEAWAY!!!


Welcome to Part 2 of my (unabridged) interview with the fascinating Pamela Binnings Ewen!


Serena:  Chasing the Wind is equal parts legal thriller, women’s fiction, and romance, yet you don’t glamorize a young female associate’s busy-work responsibilities in making that big deal come through. Are you ever irritated or amused by the way young attorneys are portrayed in books or on film?

Pamela:  Not really. I’m so used to those shark and lawyer jokes that anything else looks good. 

Serena:  I’d never heard of “D.B. Cooper”, the 1971 airline hijacker (who may or may not be a character in your novel) who was never apprehended, until I read your book. Of course, I wasn’t born until a year after that hijacking took place! When did this historical mystery first capture your attention?

Pamela: Whew! The D.B. Cooper story caught my attention right out of the box. People just went crazy. One rainy night in 1971 when the moon was on the wane and the sky was unusually dark, a man who called himself D.B. Cooper hijacked a Northwest Orient Flight out of Portland Oregon on Thanksgiving eve. It was a Boeing 727 jet. Ten minutes into the flight he announced that he had a bomb. Ransom demanded: $200,000 and parachutes. The plane landed and he released the passengers, who later said he seemed very nice, but he kept the crew. When the money arrived with the parachutes, the plane took off. He apparently knew what he was doing. At 10,000 feet—which he’d required—he jumped, money and all, and has never been seen since. He should have died, experts said, but there’s no evidence of that. What a story. FBI, local police, and thousands of people combed the woods where they thought he’d have landed, but he was gone. For a long time there were D.B. Cooper parties held on Thanksgiving eve around the country. Several Cooper sightings have been reported over the years—false alarms. Someone claimed to have unraveled the mystery just a few months ago and it was in the news, but turned out to be wrong. Now D.B. Cooper has reached legend status, so I had lots of fun with that in the story.

Serena: All the while Amalise is doing research I was thinking, “How did we survive before Google searches?”  In your 25 years as an attorney, what was the best improvement you saw, technologically, to the area of legal research? And how has that transferred over to your new profession now that you’re writing full time?

Pamela:  Here’s the way it was in the 1970’s and early 1980’s: You are a young associate. Say you’re on a conference call with numerous people on the phone and an agreement is being negotiated and you’re the one designated to get the revised draft out to the group as quickly as possible when the call is concluded, many hours later. You make notes on your copy as everyone talks, and other lawyers in the room with you do too. When the conference call is over hours later, you gather everyone’s notes, harmonize them into one draft, then write the changes to be made by hand, sometimes having to cut and paste. This takes many hours. You then give this thing of beauty and joy forever to your justifiably irritable secretary, who types it. Back again and you proof this copy, and if, as there inevitably are in this system, corrections, you repeat the process again. When everything is fine, the typed draft goes next to proofreaders, who sit in a big office and manually underline each change in the revised agreement that you’ve created. Once you receive the final product, it then goes to ‘reproduction’—which then, was a Xerox machine, and they made copies. Now. Say you have an agreement 100 pages long (not unusual) and fifteen people need to see the revised draft right away. That’s 1,500 sheets of paper. You and your secretary get the copies back around one or two a.m., and then you check each set to make certain it’s complete, staple them together, and call Federal Express. By the time Fed Ex arrives and picks up the packages—you don’t go home until you’re certain they are out—it’s morning.

Here’s the way it is today: You make notes on your computer while the conference call’s going on. You do have to add notes from others in the room to your draft after the call is over. Once you type the changes on the computer draft, you activate the proof-reading application (tracking) and instantly the document blacklines the revisions, showing prior language too if you desire. You email this document to the distribution list on your computer, punch a button, and go home. Voila! About 15 hours saved, I’d say. And a lot of trees.

As for writing, I do all my work on a computer. My first book, Faith on Trial, was published in 1999, and at that time I was already using a PC. The research is another story though. I do a lot of research when I write, whether fiction or non-fiction. But I love the research, and even though Google research is just amazing and saves much time, I still go the library and look at old newspapers to get the feel of the time and place, and I do a lot of reading on the subject. But now-days, often I use Google.

Serena:  A big theme in Chasing the Wind is the idea that “we are responsible not only for the things we do, but also for the things that we don’t.” If there was one call to action that might result from someone reading your novel, what would you hope it would be?

Pamela:  We all have to make tough choices from time to time in life. But today we’re constantly hit with barrages of bad news and frightening predictions, and sometimes it’s not easy to see through the flack. But even with all of this, one person can sometimes change many lives by choosing to act. Listen to this story a friend told to me: She was watching a television show about an earthquake in Central America one morning. This was one of the big, national morning shows, years ago. A film clip showed children from an orphanage that had been damaged by the earthquake; they were playing outside in the rain. They were little and couldn’t be cooped up in the cramped quarters all day, the reporter said. It was cold and the children were wrapped in blankets. But the reporter said the problem was the children had to sleep every night in these wet blankets. Miserable. So my friend called the show and asked if there was a fund set up for the children so she could contribute. The person answering the phone said no, that she was the only caller. But she gave the woman the name of a nun in charge of the orphanage and the address. The woman sent fifty dollars to the nun, and that was that. Except, three months later she received a letter. The nun thanked her and told her that the fifty dollars had been used to purchase a dryer! Now each child could sleep under a dry blanket at night.

Fifty dollars! So, you might not think your small act will matter, but as Amalise learned, sometimes it makes a big, big difference.  I believe that God moves us in these ways.  

Serena:  Your nonfiction book Faith on Trial was used as one of the texts for a course at Yale Law School in 2000. Do you foresee writing any more nonfiction, or have you found your “home” in fiction?

Pamela: A second edition of Faith on Trial will be issued in the fall of 2013 by my publisher, B&H Publishing Group. The new edition will contain a ‘User’s Guild’ for readers who want to learn how to use the chain of proof process provided there. That book is my own statement of faith and it’s now updated and complete. So, I think I’ll stick to fiction from now on.


Serena: Now that your latest fictional baby is out in the world, what are you working on next?

Pamela:  I’m working on a novel now that will be released in the fall of 2013 also. It continues the story begun in Dancing on Glass and Chasing the Wind, but this one focuses on Rebecca, Amalise’s friend at the firm. This time we have come to the partnership question—they’re competitors now, but still friends. And an explosive trial, and Rebecca’s fight to achieve some balance in her life.

Serena:  What sort of novels do you read for pleasure?

Pamela: I guess I’m all over the place on that one because I read all the time. Sometimes I read to learn; that’s how I taught myself to write, with the old masters, the classics. Sometimes I just want to relax and I’ll pick up a fast moving book that will keep me reading—something by Phillippa Gregory, Lee Childs, Michael Connelly, Jodi Picoult, Dee Henderson, or Erica Spindler. I think they’re all great storytellers. I love funny books, too, like Confederacy of Dunces. Recently I’ve found several books that I really couldn’t put down. The Shoemaker’s Daughter, by Adriana Trigiani, The Postmistress, by Sarah Blake, and Rules of Civility, by Amor Towels (amazing this is her first novel!).


Serena:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with our HEA readers?
Pamela at a book signing in Augusta
(photo taken from her blog)

Pamela:  Amalise Catoir is thrilled her book is out. She was tied in knots after that last scene with Phillip in Dancing on Glass, and wants me to ask everyone reading Chasing the Wind if they think she’s earned that second chance. Sorry. I’ve tried talking to her, but she doesn’t know she’s not supposed to come out of the book and interrupt our discussion. But she’s getting a little irritable now. Hold on a minute, please.

Hmmm. Well, all right.           

Serena? Amalise also wants me to tell everyone that she’s out now, and wants to really dance. I suggested to her that if she just sticks to the area around Jackson Square that would be all right. A character stepping out of her book’s a little unusual, but probably around here no one will even notice.            
Portions of this interview first appeared at USA Today's Happy Ever After blog.

GIVEAWAY!!!
One lucky reader will win a copy of CHASING THE WIND. All you have to do is leave a comment on THIS post with your spam-free contact info (jane dot doe at jmail dot com)! The winner will be selected using www.random.org. Contest is open to residents of the continental United States only (sorry. Going broke on postage, international folks.) and will run through October 15, 2012. 

Monday, October 01, 2012

Interview: PAMELA BINNINGS EWEN, part 1 of 2 (GIVEAWAY will commence after Part 2!)

A couple of months back I interviewed Pamela Binnings Ewen for USA Today's Happy Ever After blog (the interview posted last week.) Her novel, Chasing the Wind, a romantic legal suspense novel, had just released and I really enjoyed it. It was something new. Smart. And entirely different from much of what I usually read. Mainly, because of the time in which it took place: the 1970s.

Image from barnesandnoble.com
Pamela was so friendly, so open, and so thorough in her answers to my questions that I had to leave a lot of the really good stuff out in order to fit the interview into the HEA format. But I think a lot of EIR readers will find this author just as fascinating as I did and, therefore, I'm going to post that interview, unabridged, right here over the next couple of days. (If you want the short version, follow THIS LINK to what appeared at Happy Ever After.)

Additionally, I have a copy of her novel, Chasing the Wind, available to giveaway. So hang out with Pamela and me today and tomorrow and you'll get a chance to win this unusual, intriguing, well-written suspenseful legal romance for yourself!

Serena: The title of your novel, Chasing the Wind, refers to a common phrase in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, believed to have been authored by King Solomon. Is there one particular character from this novel that you see particularly paralleled to this Biblical figure, or to the people to whom King Solomon is addressing?

Pamela: The book of Ecclesiastes discusses the meaning of human life.  The Teacher reflects on whether life is unsubstantial, something fleeting like a breath of wind and everything therefore is, in an eternal sense, meaningless.  Amalise Catoir, a young woman lawyer in the mid-nineteen-seventies has come through and triumphed over a crisis in her own life, as told in Dancing on Glass. In this new book, Chasing the Wind, Amalise believes that she’s been given a second chance to make her life count. She’s a young, single woman who loves her work, practicing law, but at the same time she comes to recognizes that nothing that she’s accomplished as a lawyer is lasting When she’s gone, someone else will take her place at the firm—good lawyers come and go, contracts will terminate or be amended, money and success, but all the goals that she’s set for herself will mean nothing after she’s gone. But one choice that she has made in the past, that is, not to look away from someone else’s pain—to react to what she knows is wrong—has consequences that are important in a sense that exceeds the limitations of her own fleeting goals.  In Chasing the Wind, Amalise learns that no matter how big a problem appears, when you break it down to individual lives, one person who’s willing to act beyond self-interest can make a difference. I believe that human beings are inherently good—our creator has made us good--but we’ve been given free choice and so we often mess things up. But the universal principle that drives Amalise’s quest for meaning also seems to underlie heroic actions on a higher plane. That is, what makes a person give up the last seat in a lifeboat when there’s no self-interest involved. Or what gave those first-responders courage to go into the Twin-Towers on 9-11 when the high odds were they’d never get out alive?

Serena:  Chasing the Wind is a follow-up to Dancing on Glass, a novel in which Amelise Catoir, an intelligent, ambitious attorney in New Orleans, is swept away by the wrong sort of man. Why did you decide to continue Amalise’s story in another book?

Pamela: I think the trap that Amalise fell into with Phillip Sharp is one that more women fall into than we know. It’s always a secret. It’s what I call the double-bind. These are women who are strong and independent, strong enough to attract a manipulative, needy man like Phillip. And yet, these are also women with compassion, unable to walk away from someone who desperately needs them, primarily on an emotional level. Amalise was caught in that double-bind, but, as I said earlier, she’s come through the experience and has learned from it. That’s what I wanted to convey in Chasing the Wind. But also, the story of Amalise and Jude just had to be told. Not to mention Luke. This book was so much fun to write, and I hope that readers will like it too.

Serena:  Amalise refers to God as “Abba” and Jude trusts that “her Abba” will see her through. Why did you choose this particular name to refer to God throughout the novel?

Pamela: Amalise has a very personal relationship with God. But the word ‘God’ is a title or designation; it doesn’t have the feeling of a name to Amalise. Abba means ‘father’, and that’s how Amalise relates to him, and talks to him.

Serena:  Like Amalise, you are an attorney. Do Amalise’s struggles with the thick glass ceiling of the 1970s at all reflect things that you personally experienced on your way to partnership in a Houston law firm?

Pamela:  I can’t speak for anyone else, but I was so busy worrying about how to survive when I was a young lawyer back then—like Amalise’s quandary of how do you ask a male client to lunch and pay for it, especially when you don’t and never had had a credit card?-- that I didn’t even think of issues like that. Here’s the thing: I thought I’d died and gone to heaven when I found that someone would pay me so much money to do that work. I know that statement will irritate some women, but I loved practicing law. And the fact is that, by comparison, my first job was at an insurance company making $195.00 a month. I held a series of jobs like that before I could go to college. I worked my way through college, worked my way through law school, and by the time I passed the bar exam and began practicing law, there was nothing that was going to stop me. I do think that in general women in those days had a harder time then men not only because law was primarily a male world, but also because we had to compete on the basis of, among other things, the number of billable hours we could work, and most of the men had wives at home, who—as Jude might say—had their backs. Husbands are wonderful today—they’re partners with their wives, whether the wives are working in the home or outside. But that wasn’t the way things were in those days! So, women in law in the 70’s and 80’s had to take each problem as it came and solve it, and really, there wasn’t time to worry about things like glass ceilings. We had to give those men time to get used to us. Life is what it is and you make of it what you will.

Serena: Something that really informs the character of Amalise is her compassion for those on the other side of the world, the orphans and refugees from Vietnam and Cambodia.  When you began this thread in the first book, did you envision bringing it to completion in this way, or did Luke’s part come about more organically as you put the second novel together?

Pamela: Luke was an integral part of the plot and he was on my mind from the beginning. The plight of those orphaned children in the war in Southeast Asia has haunted me. At the time that we, the United States, were leaving Vietnam, the Viet Cong were bearing down on the city. Our evacuations of both Saigon and the U.S. embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, were nightmares vividly displayed on the television news each night. In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge turned out to be completely, ruthlessly barbaric. There was something terrible and surreal about sitting before the television set here in the U.S. and watching the plight of those innocent children on the other side of the world, who—everyone believed—would be slaughtered. In the case of Cambodia, when the Khmer Rouge entered the city, looking for all the world like a troop of zombie children, a veil of silence fell over the country immediately, and what happened after that was hidden from the world for years. But we now know the plight of Cambodia was worse than we’d ever imagined; that even toddlers were worked to death in the killing fields. Luke was my way of  heightening awareness not only about what happened back then, but also that it’s still happening now in some parts of the world. And here’s the main point that Luke and Amalise’s relationship embodies: It may look to us that a problem is too big to solve, that it’s too far away, and out of control, and there’s that nothing we can do. But sometimes there is. Sometimes even the smallest action might result in one small salvation.

Serena:  We get to see aspects of this story from several different points-of-view, but I have to ask: did Samantha, who was instrumental in getting tiny Luke out of Cambodia, live?

Pamela:  Samantha survived and married Oliver, and they now have five children and live in a little house on a quiet beach in Kauai, Hawaii. Their marital bliss was completed however, when they read a book one day that told them what had happened to Luke.

Photo taken from Pamela's Blog
Serena: I’ve never been to New Orleans, so I was surprised when your novel showed this city in such a different light than what I’d expect from a novel taking place there. Whereas many books and films focus solely on the French Quarter, rely on the mystery of the voodoo culture, or the wild nights of Mardi Gras to paint the town, you describe it in much more affection terms. Through Amalise’s eyes, New Orleans is a gentle place of old oaks, strong families, big business, and beautiful history. When did you first fall in love with this city?

Pamela:  I am so glad you asked this question. I’ve always loved New Orleans. My mother and father grew up and married here, and in fact my enormous family is spread all over South Louisiana and has been here for generations. We moved away when I was about four years old, and back when I was 18. So, even though I later practiced law in Houston for many years, I’ve always thought of New Orleans as home. And I’m back now.
The problem that I faced when I began folding the city into my stories was how to avoid the clichés. I mulled that over for a while and then just tossed the worry aside, because the fact is that these clichés’ are that for a reason. Everyone loves the mossy oaks and the streetcars and the French Quarter and the eclectic characters and I do too. And the rich, mixed-up French and Spanish and American history of this city gives it a gloss, and depth. Anyway, I’d much rather write about the soft white petals of a lemon-scented magnolia than some old voodoo trick. People here have minds of their own and a really funny sense of humor—I guess that’s why it’s called the Big Easy. [Serena—you should come on down and I’ll show you all of Amalise’s favorite places!]


STAY TUNED FOR PART 2 OF THIS INTERVIEW 
TO SEE HOW YOU CAN WIN A COPY OF HER NOVEL, 
CHASING THE WIND!

Portions of this interview first appeared at USA Today's Happy Ever After blog. Except where otherwise noted, images are from the author's website.

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