Guest Interview: Tabitha Freeman

Today, I’m honored to have indie author Tabitha Freeman give an interview here on my blog, one of several stops on her current blog tour. See the details of Tabitha’s latest publication below; for now, here’s TRF!


1.) Your newest book “Iniquity” debuted August 19, 2014 and has already hit the bestseller status. Tell us a little bit about it!

TRF: It’s a New Age horror fiction read and it circles around a group of six people who committed a horrific crime five years earlier. They are brought together again by some pretty dark forces completely out of their control and the story spins into raw terror from there.

2.) Tell us why this is a perfect Halloween month read.

TRF: October is the one time a year we love to scare ourselves, isn’t it? INIQUITY is practically oozing with everything that makes a person not want to turn off the lights at night.

3.) What does your writing process look like? Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? i.e. Do you listen to music, sit in a certain chair?

TRF: When your career has you working from home the majority of the time, it isn’t always easy—especially for the wild imagination and short attention span of a YA author ;-). So, most days, I’m working in my office from around 6-7 a.m. into the evening around 6-7 p.m. There are definitely times I change it up, relocate myself to a coffee shop or wherever I might travel sometimes for story research or something—but most of the time, to keep my focus, I try to keep a usual routine. I have lots of quirky things in my office and on my desk and walls, which make me feel like I’m in a constant state of “down the rabbit hole”—which is awesome! And I have always made a soundtrack playlist for every book I’ve written to listen to while I’m in the writing process. What’s really cool is that now that I’m eight books in, readers and fans have taken to sending me ideas to add to playlists once my books release and that’s a fun and unique way for me to interact my imagination with my readers’. Something like that is so surreal.

4.) Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)?

TRF: Nothing too out of the ordinary—though I constantly talk to myself and I do periodically have to get up and pace around my house.

5.) If you could cast your characters in INIQUITY in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?

TRF: I normally don’t give answers for this question because I really like to leave that up to my readers’ imaginations, however, I definitely have some Hollywood crushes I see playing Colin Serpan—I’m talking Chris Hemsworth, or Jensen Ackles.

6.) What is your least favorite part of the publishing / writing process?

TRF: Not being able to type 500 wpm…I could write so many stories so much faster if my typing could keep up with the speed of my imagination!

7.) Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?

TRF: Nothing is off the table for me. I think at this point, after eight books in that are all completely different genres from one another, my readers and fans expect a surprise every new release I do. It’s become like my M.O. as an author.

8.) Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy?

TRF: I like to keep my stories as “clean” as I can while not risking the integrity of the story so that more readers can enjoy them.

9.) What are you working on now? What is your next project?

TRF: I’m working on some pretty exciting stuff right now! A spin-off novel from my Ghost Story Trilogy, a dark, apocalyptic project, and I’ve gotten a lot of questions since the release of INIQUITY about other horror reads in the works: the answer is yes, you can definitely expect some more scary-ness in the 2015 year.

10.) You have 6 incredibly relatable and complex characters that lead the story in INIQUITY. Tell us what’s on their tombstones.

TRF: Oooo, this is a fun question!

Ronnie-I Guess I Did Need That Map

Tori-Vanity is Definitely My Favorite Sin

Gabriella-(A carving of Grumpy Cat in her tombstone)

Sam-That Third Wheel Eventually Ran Me Over

Mandy-Who Knew Indecisiveness Could Kill?

Colin-At Least I Looked Like Hercules

11.) What about yours? What would your tombstone read?

TRF: “This isn’t where I parked my car.”

12.) Why the theme of guilt? This story is practically dripping with it.

TRF: I think the scariest part of the entire story is just the reality within the fantasy of it: can we really ever escape guilt?

13.) What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

TRF: I’ve always been a big fan of the horror/occult genre, whether it’s in books or movies. I had the most fun writing this story, however the drafting and editing processes were brutal because I was so particular (and nearly obsessed) with not hitting cliché walls. The horror genre and its basics can be extremely predictable sometimes, and have been done over and over and over. I wanted to make sure that I could keep the basic building blocks of a horror novel intact, while still providing a unique perspective that sticks in readers’ minds and sets itself apart from others like it.



Tabitha, thank you for being here today! Be sure to pick up a copy of Tabitha’s work on Amazon!


“The Journey of St. Laurent” Now Available!

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is with great pleasure I announce the unveiling of Bryce Beattie’s long-awaited, much anticipated sequel to Oasis, entitled The Journey of St. Laurent – now available on Amazon’s Kindle platform, Barnes and Noble’s NOOK platform, and in many additional formats and platforms from Smashwords!


From the description:

ER nurse Corbin St. Laurent has had a bad couple of weeks. His hometown was overrun by zombies and then bombed to the ground. Now he finds out aliens are not only real, but hostile. To make matters worse, the government’s response it to tell the everyone to calm down. With washington strangely reluctant to fight back, Corbin searches for a weapon that could give the people cause to rise up – the same zombie virus that destroyed Oasis.

The Journey of St. Laurent is a pulp action adventure sequel to Bryce Beattie’s debut novel Oasis. If you like zombies, aliens, fiery redheads, loud mouth radio hosts or non-stop action, you’ll probably like this book.

Check it out at the links below!

Guest Post: Irene Helenowski

Note from JDT: Ladies and Gentlemen, I promised this author a guest post some time ago and I’ve neglected to fulfill my promise! Irene, I’m so sorry it took me this long to get to it. Things in The Real World have been dreadfully busy and tough, and I haven’t forgotten so many things as I have these past couple of months. I apologize, everyone. But, without further ado, I present: Irene Helenowski!

Order of The Dimensions

About The Author:

Irene Helenowski, the author of Order of the Dimensions, is a statistical analyst at an academic medical center in Chicago and recently received her doctorate in biostatistics. She also enjoys going to movies and concerts in her spare time.

About the Book:

When Jane Kremowski first began her graduate studies in physics at Madison State University in Wisconsin, little did she know where her work would take her. Now, she is embroiled in a multitude of dimensions all leading to different outcomes. She and her colleagues therefore must act wisely in order to take and keep away the Order of Dimension from falling into the wrong hands for the sake of her loved ones.

From The Author:

Have you ever thought about what you may be doing in another world?  Maybe you’re a painter in Paris, or a rock climber in Colorado?  I have had many such thoughts.  Wouldn’t it be interesting if the multiverse theory as advocated by theoretical physicists Michio Kaky, Brian Green, and Lisa Randall is correct and we could be living such lives in different dimensions within our universe simultaneously?  Such ideas led me to the premise of Order of The Dimensions, where we see the different paths that heroine, physics student, Jane Kremowski takes in different realms.  Adventure ensues with the introduction of villain, Anton Zelov, who schemes to get his hands on her and on the Multiverser, the technology allowing for inter-dimensional travel.

With this work, I not only hope to entice the reader with romance, adventure, and a world of what-ifs, but also encourage young adults, particularly young girls, to look into the wonderful world of science.  I recently read an NPR article about how there is still a major discrepancy between boys and girls in the sciences, especially in physics.  As someone working in an academic medical center, I hope that we can change the attitudes of our youngsters, leading to a new generation of scientists.  Will my book be a vehicle for such an objective, at least in one dimension?  I don’t know, LOL, but it’s been fun so far, thinking about it and trying.

From the Blog Owner

Helen, thanks so much for this post today! And all the best of luck with your ventures in publishing – may you sell a million!


Guest Post: Craig Andrews

Today, I’m happy to introduce guest blogger and author Craig Andrews! Craig is the author of a thriller novel called The Ninth Martini, now available on Amazon’s Kindle platform! So I’ll let him tell you about himself and his book.

Take it away, Craig!

About the  Author

Craig L. Andrews is eclectic when it comes to writing genre, connecting creative wires to whatever sparks a great story that could take the reader somewhere memorable. He tries to develop characters and stories driven by logic and plausibility. He is the author of Broken Toy, A Man’s Dream, A Company’s Mystery, a biography of a man whose small company patented a toy mouse, Micky, two years before Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse. The book was a major reference used for the PBS History Detectives program. He is the author of two works in the horror genre, The Godmanchester Stone and The Bed and Breakfast. He’s a member of the National Writers Association and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. He holds a B. S. and an M.S. degree in physics, was nominated to the Sigma Pi Sigma National Physics Honor Society, holds a patent in design, and has authored physics and automotive engineering papers. When he’s not writing he dabbles in photography and video animation.

About the Book

The Ninth Martini, is a Clancy-type thriller with the best of heroes and worst of the villains.

When hard-nosed Navy intelligence officer and former SEAL, Zack Hawkshaw, reluctantly agrees to use skills from an extinct CIA program for a mission, he has no idea he’ll be plunged into a race to save the world. Zack agrees to one more field assignment and goes head-to-head with a man from an old secret KGB program who has Middle East connections, as well as the same skills Zack developed in the CIA Gondola program. Zack must discover if ex-KGB agent now Shiite, has warheads from a Russian SS-19 missile, and if so, the number and destination. Zack confronts the ex-KGB agent on the mental battlefield trying to stop the nuclear destruction of cities around the globe. You won’t know if he succeeds until the last tick of the clock!
Buy now on Amazon.

From the Writer

I was thinking the other day how literature mirrors reality, tries to explain what is happening, and many times provides a forewarning. A case in point, the latest NSA revelations. I started writing concepts for my book, The Ninth Martini, in 1996.
A year earlier a CIA Technical Adviser went on the Nightline television program and spilled the beans. Yes, the CIA had been engaged in spying, but he wasn’t referring to the usual cloak and dagger routine with men meeting in dark backstreets. He was referring to something that the government started before the 1970s and was so enigmatic that most people would just grin at its description. The Russians had been working on this methodology as far back as 1950s at the Odessa Institute under Dr. A. N. Leontyev. The CIA came to the dance late but soon began pouring money into programs, one of which was called Project Grill Flame. The methodology that psychologists and scientists labored to research and perfect was psychic spying or remote viewing.

This CIA research was said to have been abandoned in the 1990s but why would the agency walk away from something that didn’t rely on wires or electromagnetic waves zipping through the atmosphere? Maybe it’s still alive. What a remarkable premise for a battle between two opposing theologies, societies, and men of conviction. Think of it, two soldiers who can see each other and possibly hear each other’s conversation separated by thousands of miles. There really was an incident in which a Soviet submarine was located by an American psychic spy. Just think what would happen if Jack Bauer of 24 Hours had the same tool.


Thanks for stopping by today and sharing a bit about you and your story today, Craig! Look for his work on Amazon today!

Author Interview: Sherri Cornelius

Today, we have a special treat: an Author interview with Sherri Cornelius, the author of "Skin and Scales", her new contemporary fantasy novel, now available on’s Kindle store.

JDT: Thanks for stopping by today Sherri!


Sherri Cornelius: Thanks for having me for my first interview, Dane.

JDT:  Sherri, you’re a relative newcomer to the field of self-publishing, but you have a lot of writing experience. How long has your writing journey gone, and what path did it lead you down?

SC: The path of broken dreams! Just kidding. I started writing in middle school, but I never seriously considered it as a possible career until my mid-30s. My first novel, a heroic fantasy, landed me an agent but ultimately didn’t sell. I thought once I had an agent I would be all set, but it didn’t work out that way. She sent out two books for me over four years before I decided to go a different way. So now I’m starting all over again. Trying new things.

JDT: Tell me about "Skin and Scales" — what inspired it?

SC: ‘Twas a dream. Specifically, I dreamed of traveling through the as-yet-unnamed Desmayo to the Black Veil, watching my skin flake off, and seeing scales underneath. It was the feeling of going through the Desmayo that guided my early efforts and set the tone. In the book, Drina likens it to being extruded through a tube of burning sandpaper. That was the seed from which everything else grew–the Ushers, the Light, the Lyceum.

JDT: I know Skin and Scales was a long time in the making, and your first full-length novel developed over a significant amount of time too. Unfortunately, we can’t all be as prolific as Stephen King in the 80s or Joe Konrath. For me, writing goes from something I leave simmering on the back burner for a time, to something urgent and desperate. What’s your process like as a writer? How do you develop and form your stories and bring them to life?

SC: I prefer to let things happen through the emotion. I feel what the character feels (or several characters, as in a group dynamic), and the story develops from there. Each choice feeds off the last. That’s the first draft. The second draft consists of dipping back into that well to fill in plot holes. I’ve tried notecards and snowflakes and flagpoles or tentpoles or whatever you call them, but that just confused and frustrated me.

But this is a dangerous way to work, emotionally. I think that’s why I’ve been slow in my output. When I’m in the middle of a book or story, I’m full-out happily writing, but it takes me a long time to recover from all that empathy. I’m hoping to find more of a balance with future works.

And you mention the more prolific writers–for a long time this seemed to me like the only legitimate way to be a working writer. I tried so hard to fit myself into that box. I think most of us go through a time when we try to be the kind of writer we think we should be, rather than being the writer we are. But I guess that’s how we figure it out. I tried to be Robert Jordan with my first novel, and felt like a failure when I didn’t make it. Now that I write in my truest voice I can see glimmers of it in that first book and I love it, but at the time I wanted to erase that voice.

JDT: With "Skin and Scales", the editing process seemed tough for you. Tell me about the evolution of the story.

SC: I started Skin and Scales for NaNoWriMo. I finished the story but fell short of the goal by 8,000 words. I’m used to losing NaNoWriMo, but I was mad that my book was so short. It was going to my agent, so in order for it to be viable in the traditional publishing world, it had to meet a certain word count. That was a depressing moment, when the exhilaration of finishing a whole book turned into the realization that I was only half finished, with no idea how to proceed. I resisted changing the original story for a long time. In order to bring in new (meaningful) material, I had to add characters and change where the story ended and where it began. It was a tough transition which lasted probably a year.

Once I started adding layers to make it into a novel, it took on a depth I never expected. For instance, Drina’s mother became a real character and muddied the water further with those issues. Also, Drina’s friend Caellum turned out to be a completely different kind of person than I originally thought he was. I had room for fun stuff, like Bobby Lee, the Usher who fixes Drina’s gauntlet. A bit part, but “that asshole does some fine metalwork.”

JDT: You have an interesting lead character in Drina. How did she come about?

SC: She revealed herself to me little by little. Like I said, I start with a feeling, and it builds from there. I’m sure many writers have the same kind of character discovery, where you’re writing along and a little whisper tickles your mind. “She doesn’t want to admit she needs a father,” it might say. And you trust the whisper enough to incorporate that bit into your character. And she thanks you for it and feeds you another tidbit, and another. The thing I freaking love about those tidbits is that a lot of times the thing that “just came to me” will serve the story in another way, like to fill a plot hole or serve as scene conflict. So that’s how it was with Drina.

JDT: What sort of things helped you develop the other major characters in the book? I’m especially interested in how you settled on The Foreman and the image you portrayed of that character.

SC: Ah, the Foreman. The enigmatic dinosaur. You might be surprised to know that the Foreman whispered to me more than Drina did. There’s a lot going on beneath the surface of that guy, stuff that didn’t have a place in this story but might come into play later. Caellum and Lohn were there from the beginning, and Inez came in during the expansion after NaNoWriMo. She was a nice surprise. Well, except that she’s a total bitch.

Supporting characters develop in response to not only what the story needs, but what your main character needs. They show what your MC is made of, more than any internal dialogue.

JDT: I’d been preaching to anyone who would listen to self-publish, so it was a given I would dive in. What made you decide to come aboard and self-publish "Skin and Scales"?

SC: My reasons for self-publishing are, I think, atypical. I have difficulty letting my stories go. Probably another reason I’m so slow putting out work. I noticed when I published my first short, Mon Petit Ami, that I finally had closure. I had no desire to go back and edit, aside from the single typo. The story was finished.

I’m hoping to get the same closure with Skin and Scales. I’ve lived with it too long. I love it too much to let it sit on my hard drive, forgotten. I could never forget it. So basically I’m using self-publishing as a way to let this book be finished. This book deserves to be loved. That’s all it really wants.

JDT: How did the publishing process itself go for you? What were your steps? Specifically, tell me about you did things like convert the file for Kindle format, layout your manuscript, prepare the table of contents, software to make the cover, things like that. We like the little techy deets here!

SC: Techy deets…

Well it’s easy to format a Word manuscript for the Kindle. They offer a free ebook with detailed instructions for the manuscript itself and the table of contents. I think most of the problems come in when you have a lot of pictures embedded throughout your book, which I didn’t have. I had a lot more trouble with the Smashwords conversion on the other two stories, but I can’t put Skin and Scales on Smashwords until the Kindle Select period is over.

The cover was a different challenge. With the two shorts’ covers under my belt I felt comfortable tackling the novel myself. Half the challenge was finding the proper images. I’d been looking on the free site for months, and nothing felt right. There were some that could have worked, but they weren’t what I wanted. So I expanded my search to the paid sites, and that was where I found The Light I needed for $20.

I used GIMP 2.8, which has a steep learning curve but is the closest alternative to Photoshop that I’ve found. One piece of advice I have for those just learning GIMP is this: Save after each change, but save it with a different descriptive name, like PicAfterOilify or PicTitle3. Believe me, you WILL want a previous version at some point. Don’t think, I’ll never forget how I did this! Because you will.

JDT: I was one of your early beta readers for the original story, and it seemed to be an interesting take on the "other world" sort of things, without being paranormal. How hard was it for you to come to a classification for the novel?

SC: This issue is another reason I decided to self-publish. Skin and Scales is probably the poster child for self-publishing because it won’t fit easily into any box. Someone who’s used to (and expects) very formulaic, plot-driven genre fiction isn’t my target audience. It’s emotional, but not romance. It’s gritty, but not urban. They have scales, but it isn’t, like, lizard alien sci-fi. It’s the afterlife, but not Heaven and Hell. In fact, the working title (as you know well, Dane) was Black Veil Angel, but I knew it would draw readers who were looking for wings and robes. This ain’t that. So it’s been a challenge to come up with a box to fit Skin and Scales into. In the end, I chose the broad category of contemporary fantasy.

JDT: How has your experience with Kindle Select been so far? Are you going to participate in it again, or just let it expire so you can get away from the exclusivity?

SC: As far as I can tell, the only advantage to Kindle Select is the borrow feature. I’ve had exactly zero borrows on two short stories and one novel, so I won’t be using it again in its current incarnation. To have no presence on Barnes and Noble and Sony seems like shooting myself in the foot.

JDT: My books all seem to do okay, as long as they’re free, but I don’t burn out any calculators with sales figures otherwise. What sort of success are you having with self-publishing? What sort of promotions have you tried?

SC: It’s still too early to tell, but I’m not setting any sales goals. I tried a Facebook ad. It didn’t lead to any sales, as far as I could see, but it was fun to play with. I did a free promotion which was more successful than I expected. We’re not talking huge numbers here, in the low hundreds, but I think from those downloads I got a couple of sales and reviews. What I’d hoped to achieve was a little name recognition, and later on some word-of-mouth sales.

But really, I’m just chillaxin’ about the whole thing. I put the pressure on myself when I had an agent, and it almost killed my muse. That girl has been through a lot. So I’m focusing on access, letting readers come to me and making it easy when they get here. I’ve made sure to update my various author pages, like Amazon and Goodreads, and I’m still working on my website. I might have to get outside help on that one. But I have time.

JDT: Finally, what advice would you give a newbie to self-publishing before they embark on their own journey?

SC: The only advice I have to give is to try many different things, and don’t be afraid to let go of what isn’t working. Even if it’s your own expectations.


Thanks again for being here today, Sherri, and best of luck with your novel! All success to you!

Book page:

Amazon author page:

Smashwords free short story:


The Value of Reviews

I received a 3-star review on my novel Scales of Justice on August 15, 2012. And you know what? It was really eye-opening and valuable to me.

I wanted to pop in and say thank you to the reviewer, but I’ve heard that’s a no-no from the author’s standpoint. I don’t know if I agree. I thought the reviewer’s insights directly hit upon some of the weaknesses of the book and brought up some great ways to improve it. I’m more than half interested in actually implementing those changes. They’d be great.

So, to the person who gave that review, thank you. Thank you for telling me how I could do better and what you did and didn’t like about the story. I’m sorry it wasn’t as much fun for you as you wanted it to be, but I can tell you the gift you gave me, of an honest review, is one I will honor and respect in my next book. I’ll be a better writer for it.

Thank you again, and God bless.

-J. Dane Tyler

You can see the review here. It’s the only 3-star review I’ve gotten to date.

Noir Fiction: “Brick Work” (Guest Author Bryce Beattie)

I’m honored to have a great young pulp author today posting fiction here on my nest o’ nightmares! This piece comes direct from author Bryce Beattie, from, and author of the zombie-pulp novels Oasis and The Journey of St. Laurent.

So, without further ado, let’s have some noir! Take it away, Bryce!


Brick Work

by Bryce Beattie © 2012 Bryce Beattie, all rights reserved

People tiptoe through my office door all the time burdened with questions to which they do not really want to know the answer. If they also come through the door carrying enough lettuce for a three day retainer, then we do business. It’s not usually easy, it’s often dangerous, and it almost always requires getting more than a little dirty. Ah, well, it’s work. Brick work. That’s my idea of a joke. You see, my name’s Brick Baines, and I’m a private dick.

I sat in the Buick and let my thinker meander to the fine ham sandwich that rested lightly in my paws. It had plenty of cheese and a divine-smelling mustard. I figured the new deli might actually work out. And the best part was that for the third day in a row, I’d be eating a lunchtime hoagie on a client’s dime.

And just then, before the cold cuts could cross my lips, for the third time in as many days, a long pair of legs rounded the corner and breezed into the smoky gin joint known as O’Malley’s. On day one, I sat around and waited for the frail who owned the legs to leave with some beefy affair. No such luck. She went home alone. Ditto for day two.

Both days she scrammed walking too straight to have been tossing back giggle water for those six hours. So what was she doing all that time?

After I tailed her home that second night I asked around about the bar. It had survived prohibition and then the war due to the fact that it was owned by “Dangerous” Donovan Druggan. Being a solo act, I don’t really go in for stirring up the hornet’s nest known as organized crime, so I didn’t know much about him. The fact that he was in his seventies and working stiffs still called him “Dangerous” told me something.

The fact that the owner was a Mafioso didn’t mean that the frail was necessarily mixed up with his business. Because, you know, delicious dames often hang out daily in dingy crime-owned bars for no apparent reason. A guy can hope, right?

And speaking of bars, I’d just like to make my point again. The bright small time private investigator tries to avoid even digging dirt in establishments owned by big time operators. This is because bright small time investigators like to keep hot lead out of their heads. Of course, I was retained to find out if she was having an affair, so I’d have to bite that bullet, march in and maybe put myself on the radar of some very shady cats.

Yep, the very thought of diving into that particular den of vipers was enough to make me lean back and finish my sandwich.

When the lunch meats were gone, so were my excuses.

Not wanting to spark an accidental gun fight, I ditched my heater in the Buick’s jockey box before legging it across the street past the parked cabs and into O’Malley’s.

The door opened up onto some steps that led down. At the base of the steps was a second door. The joint was set up so that daylight would never defile its smoky innards.

The interior of the place was about like you’d expect – dark, with pockets of darker. And in a couple of badly planned spots, it brightened up to almost poorly lit.

I scanned the room looking for my mark. She sat in a booth along the back wall, bathed in shadows. A notebook and a coke sat on the table in front of her.

I sat at the bar and ordered a scotch on the rocks. Some say that ice ruins a drink. The people who say that? They’re right. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there to enjoy a tasty libation. I was there to pass time and watch a client’s wife. That meant sip slowly and water it down. I could get three sheets when the case was closed.

A man sitting at the end of the bar saw me, looked again, then looked a third time. After that he stared hard at his drink and rapped his tubby fingers on the counter.

He looked familiar, but I couldn’t get a good enough gaze of his mug to put a point on where I might have seen him before. I wasn’t here to watch him, anyway.

The mirror behind the bartender didn’t give me a good look at the dame, but I could see one leg as well as the seat opposite her.

Halfway through my second drink, a squirrelly guy in an ill-fitting suit slid into the hot seat across from the girl. He didn’t look to me like much of a lover, but sometimes you can’t tell with these things. He made some nervous chit chat and then pulled out a few greenbacks and held them out.

She pulled the geech from his trembling fist and set it somewhere, then scribbled something first in a book and then on a scrap of paper. She slid the paper across the table. He picked it up, put it in his pocket, and made a hasty exit.

From the corner of my peeper I saw the man at the end of the bar signal for the barkeep.

Two others sat down with my client’s wife in turn and performed the same ritual.

Any mook could see what was going on. She was taking bets.

Now, my client’s wife was a looker, but she wasn’t fine enough to be running an operation out of a mob joint without their express permission. And by express permission, I mean more like “working for.” The dame’s supposed affair was really just a part time gig as a bookie for a local hood.

My client was not going to like that any better.

The man at the end of the bar whispered his secrets to the bartender and then practically ran for the exit. The bartender glanced just once over at me and then marched over to the door at the back marked “storage.”

This little show put me on edge, but I wasn’t ready to make like a drum just yet. If I could get it, I needed some kind of proof to take back to my client. My camera was out in the Buick, and dim, smoky joints weren’t the best place for clicking the shutter anyway.

There wasn’t much time to stew on the quandary of proof. The storage room door opened up and in shuffled three burly mooks dressed in finery much too fine for a dive like this. The bartender crowed close behind them and pointed at me. Stinking coward.

The lead monkey pulled the cigar from his lips. “Whatchu doing here?”

“Just getting a drink.”

“No you ain’t. Cliff fingered you as a private dick. Brick Beans or sumpin’.”

I looked from gorilla to gorilla to gorilla. They scowled back.

“Baines,” I shrugged. “All right, all right. It’s true. I am a private dick.”

“Mr. Druggan don’t like none of youze nosy types snooping around.”

“Yeah, but I’m not here chasing anything to do with Mr. Druggan. I didn’t even know he owned the place. A man hired me to find out if his wife was having an affair. She’s supposed to be around in a few minutes. I was just going to watch if she met someone.”

“Yeah, we calls that ‘snooping’ around here.”

One of the backup heavies stepped in. “And who names a kid Brick anyways?”

You know the funny thing? My name’s not really Brick. It’s Daisy. That’s right, I said my given name’s Daisy. Ma and Pa Baines each had a very vivid dream on the same night that the forthcoming kid was to be named Daisy. Three months later I was born a boy, but it was too late, fate had chosen my name.

Still, you can’t go telling tough guys you have a flowery name. “Brick’s a nickname, pal. When I was fourteen, I put a brick through the window of a cherry top. By the time the folks fetched me from the station, the name had stuck.”

The meat didn’t even crack a smile at my story. Oh well. It doesn’t always work. I checked the mirror and saw another transaction happening with the dame. The gambler was a lanky gate in suspenders and looked like he was in a hurry. That gave me an idea.

I lifted my glass to the gorillas. “Can I at least finish my drink? I’ll even pay for it.”

The big one chomped on cigar again and cracked his knuckles. “No. Scram. Now.”

The gambler in the mirror pocketed his receipt.

I took a sip and set down the hooch. “What’s the matter? You run out of sentences and you’re down to just little words?”

“Youze a real smart guy, huh? Maybe you want help findin’ the curb.”

I don’t know what my problem is. Maybe I don’t want to look weak in front of anybody. Maybe I just like making trouble. Plus, I only needed to buy a few seconds.

I stood, sneered, and pointed with my left at his oversize chest. “I told you, ugly, I’m not looking into your boss, so–”

A lot of hired muscle have short fuses. Still, this one seemed especially primed for violence. One direct insult and he went down to business, pulling his beefy fist way back. Much farther than he needed. It gave me all the time in the world to duck and weave.

That’s not what I did, of course. I could have, though. I just want to make that crystal clear. I needed to buy those extra couple of seconds.

His large mitt drilled into my cheek.

I bent my knees, spun to my right, and took a stumbling step back.

The punch hurt but probably wouldn’t even pop a shiner. Some of those giant-types never do learn to fight right. They just rely on a pile of muscle to do all the work.

The lanky gambler shuffled the long way around the commotion.

I brought my left hand up to my cheek and squeezed out a groan. Just for show. My right was turned away and hidden to the three bruisers. I dug it into my pocket.

“Stand up, shamus. Youze is just gettin’ started.”

The gambler was mere feet from the exit when my fingers slipped into the holes of the brass surprise in my pocket.

The monkey who had hit me reached out and grabbed my shoulder.

I pulled out my fist and bent a little lower.

The monkey tugged up on my shoulder, and leaned down to stick his face in mine. “Look at–”

I built my rebuttal punch from my toes pushing against the ground, thrusting my hip forward, and pounding my brass knuckles into the fleshy underside of the monkey’s jaw.

He collapsed, if you don’t mind my saying, like a ton of bricks.

I didn’t stay planted long enough to watch his primate brethren trip over his unconscious corpse in a mad frenzy to rip out my windpipe. I made for the door like a drunken freight train.

The bartender said some unsavory words. The lesser monkeys roared.

I stashed the knuckles quick as I could. If nobody saw me use them, it’d be swell for my reputation. The lanky gambler was my final obstacle. He stood in the lower doorway, staring over his shoulder at the carnage, mouth agape.

I clutched at his left shoulder, fumbled for his right hip, my hand slipping into his pocket, then spun him around. He was a lot lighter than I expected. Even if my luck were good, his featherweight awkwardness wouldn’t slow them down much. Still, they didn’t need to be slowed much. I had plenty of head start.

The still-conscious gorillas tossed table after table out of their way.

I raced through the door, up the stairs, and out the other door.

I signaled one of the cabs and dove in, then told the driver to get moving. It didn’t matter where. I could come back for my Buick in a couple of hours.

The cab squealed out into the street.

I smiled and opened my hand. It contained a piece of paper I had lifted from the gambler’s right pocket during our little dance. Sure enough, it was a receipt for a ten dollar bet on Brooklyn for Saturday’s game, complete with a stamp. The whole thing was handwritten beautifully. It’d be a walk in the park to show that it was her handwriting. That meant proof to tie the dame to the less than legitimate business.

Now I just had to figure out how to tell my client, the Burbank chief of police, that his wife was making book for Dangerous Donovan Druggan.

Guest Post: SBR Martin

Today, I have as my guest author SBR Martin, the writer behind the novel “pig”.


Writing as a Reader: My Novel Approach to the Novel

I have been fortunate enough to study under the greats when it comes to literature and the art of writing fiction. Chuck Palahniuk schooled me on plot twists and the intentional consequences of inserting highly technical medical jargon into otherwise smooth text. Anne Rice educated me on the finer points of character depth and development.

The idea that one character can be both a protagonist and an antagonist at the same time was taught to me by John C. Gardner, as well as by Gregory Maguire. From Mr. William Faulkner, I learned how to further broaden a narrative’s “God” perspective. William Shakespeare, Jean Racine, and Nathaniel Hawthorne were but a few of my other instructors, joined by nonfiction scholars such as Sigmund Freud, Bruno Bettelheim, and Howard Zinn.

Needless to say, though I’ll say it anyway, it was not directly under these greats that I studied. Practical considerations such as time and geography aside, I can’t even begin to fathom the tuition cost of a fabled institution that had all these famed artists on staff!

Every writer is first and foremost a reader, and I am no exception. It was through my academic and personal studies that I discovered and dissected my own writing curriculum. By reading the works of others—from the backs of cereal boxes to the most brilliant works of fiction—I learned invaluable lessons that have influenced the ways I live, learn, and write.

That said, I have had no formal, official, or university-approved training in my art. In college, I took only those writing courses required for graduation and the completion of my psychology major.

I am what some would call a self-taught writer/author. But what beauty I now create came from once-upon-a-time rocky soil. Writing was not always my strong point.

When I started high school at The Ellis School in 1992, my first English assignment was to write a critical analysis of Beowulf. After working at my typewriter for hours, I submitted a paper I thought was pretty damn good. My teacher, however, did not agree.

When the paper was handed back a week later, it was returned without a grade. The words “See me” appeared in the front page margin. What I had considered damn good was, in fact, a crude and poorly-written book report that lacked analysis and sentence variety.

Rather than conceding to my inadequacy, I confronted it, determined to equip myself with stronger skills. Though I embraced help from my high school teachers and a faculty tutor, I placed the brunt of the burden on myself. The scholastic guidance I received was but the first step in a long process that lead to my proactive adventure with the English language and my own understanding of the elements of artful and effective writing.

I honed these self-taught skills and put them to use in my undergraduate studies at the University of Pittsburgh, receiving stellar marks in courses requiring essay work.

It was in my junior year that I again met a familiar situation. After working at my laptop for hours, I submitted a psychology paper I thought was pretty damn good. When the paper was handed back a week later, it was returned without a grade. “See me” appeared in the front page margin.

What I considered damn good was, in fact, so damn good that my instructor questioned whether I had actually written it and dismissively accused me of plagiarism, requiring me to defend myself in front of the head of the Psychology Department before penal action was taken.

Armed with samples of my writing submitted to other professors, I met with the department head, who thoroughly reviewed my work before tabling the claim and calling the instructor into her office to begrudgingly apologize to me for her false accusation.

The next scrutiny my work received was of a far more honorable sort. I was given an English Composition Award for a piece I’d written in an undergraduate legal writing course, a remarkable feat as such awards are rarely doled out for professional writing coursework.

After college, I studied law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, where my writing was recognized by publication in the school’s Journal of Law and Commerce and by an invitation to speak at the 54th annual Conference on College Composition and Communication.

Having tackled critical composition and legal analysis, I next moved on to wrestle other forms of writing. Since 2011, I have worked as a freelance reporter, accumulating journalism experience with media outlets such as CBS Local Media Pittsburgh and AOL’s Patch Network. At Patch alone, I wrote approximately 150 articles over the course of ten months.

My debut novel, In Wake of Water, marked my entry into another genre of writing—fiction. Less than four months after its publication, I finished my second novel, Pig, which was honored as a Second Prize Quarterfinalist in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest.

Of my manuscript, Publishers Weekly wrote: “The ultimate resolution of the story makes for quite a surprise… (Martin) is able to build good characters, flawed and believable, yet familiar; so that at the end one is saddened, but also, in a strange way, enriched.”

A review like that is evidence that I’ve been doing something right. But what?

I’ve been asked about my writing process countless times. My answer is always the same: I write with the intention of writing a good story. To some, this seems like an evasive answer, like I’m purposefully trying to conceal my trade secrets.

Dagnamit, I’m not trying to be cagey! I’m being perfectly candid.

I don’t sketch out a plot. I use no outlines or plans other than those in my head. I just think about what I want to write until I am ready to write it. And, as I write it, more thoughts come to me.

When penning (or, rather, typing) Pig, I started off with a general idea of the story I wanted to tell, the story of a woman reflecting on the loves and losses of her life. My main objective was to have her be a well-rounded person who endured both pits and peaks during her existence. She, as well as the cast of supporting characters, was to be both beautiful and flawed, just as we real people are.

I decided to have her life recounted in a setting where reflection is quite common: at a funeral home. I have experienced the deaths of many family members, and, therefore, understand and appreciate how the faces of funeral home patrons can stir memories, both good and bad.

Along that vein, I formulated the general structure of the imminent novel. I set out to alternate present tense happenings at the funeral home with past tense recollections of the main character’s life.

At the beginning of my writing process, that’s all I had in mind. I didn’t yet have the specifics of the story. I let those come to me, one chapter at a time. I’d sit down, write a chapter, and then think about what should come next.

What else would I want to know about this character or that event? What would shock me? How about a red herring, something that seems important but is nothing more than distraction? Where can I hide a clue to a secret I’ll reveal later? Can I make my characters any more believable? Any more compelling? Why did she do this, he do that, or they do the other thing?

Etc., etc., etc. until completion.

And, speaking of completion, I wrote the end of my novel when I got to the end. I didn’t have the ending in mind at the beginning. The conclusion flowed from me as the chapters before it had done, in a natural, coursing manner. In many ways, I think the resolution was there all along. It was just waiting for me to find it.

Perhaps my approach to the novel is novel, although I doubt I’m the first person to ever write this way. Given my background, or lack thereof, I write the only way I know how—as a reader. It is my greatest hope that my work will affect other readers as strongly as reading others has affected my work.

Read it. Live it. Love it. sbr.

Books by sbr martin:

imagePig: available for purchase on Amazon at and likeable on Facebook at

In Wake of Water: available for purchase on Amazon at and likeable on Facebook at

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