The Plot Thickens

One of the most encouraging comments I have received from Gypsy Spy readers has been, “What happens next?” I am thrilled to be working on the answer. After months of research, reading, and dreaming, I am finally plotting out the story arc of Valley of Wolves.  The story picks up not long after where we left off. With the original time line of Gypsy Spy spread out in front of me along with my stack of research notes and my idea journal, I spent the better part of the day outlining the path into the Valley of Wolves. It promises to be wild ride.

 

 

Hishoro

The idea of a diminutive old woman intimidating a world class assassin intrigued me. Gypsy Spy is populated with a host of minor characters with deep histories. We get glimpses of Hishoro throughout the narrative. She will receive a fuller treatment in Valley of Wolves, the next Gypsy Spy novel. Partially inspired by Frank Herbert’s character Shadout Mapes from Dune, she is a major vertebra in the deep spine of the story. This vignette comes to you from Chapter 36.

“You are dangerous,” a voice said behind him. Shane spun on his heel only to be confronted by Hishoro. She was a full head shorter than he. Yet, she always managed to make him feel intimidated. “You should leave us be,” she told him, brow knitted in anger.

“I cannot,” he said. “You are an addiction.”

“We are a convenience. The Rroma desire to live in peace. The lure of money has clouded Alfonso’s judgment. If not for you, he would not be involved in illegal activities.”

“Illegal activities?” Shane said, surprised by the shallowness of her argument. He knew Hishoro to be anything but shallow. “Illegal to whom, Hishoro? By the world’s standards, your people are the epitome of lawlessness. I’ve brought no ill will to your people. Why do you dislike me so? Are you simply a bigoted, sour woman?” She sparked a shadow of a smile at his onslaught. Was she simply fishing for a reaction? he wondered.

“No, I am not a bigot. I suffer the Gazhe better than most.”

“Then what is the problem?”

“You walk with death, Taliga. It hangs on you. And death is of Beng, the evil one. Walk with death and soon it will walk on you and all that are yours,” she warned him sternly and left without giving him the chance of rebuttal. A strange one there, he thought. But if I ever get her on my side, he added, she would be a powerful ally.

Hang tight, Gypsy Spy fans! Valley of Wolves should be in your hands in 2019!

Finding the Valley of Wolves

I am a firm believer that if one does one’s due diligence in research, the writing almost takes care of itself. Embedding fictional characters and technologies in the real world requires an understanding of that world, particularly if one has opted to leverage an entire ethnic group as a literary device.

When I began writing Gypsy Spy decades ago, there was no internet, no Amazon, and no easily accessible tomes on Romani language. I made do with popular histories, encyclopedias, and personal experience.

Gypsy Spy research.2

Thankfully, Romani grammars were available when I began the final rewrite of Gypsy Spy in 2015. These allowed me to standardize the Romani phrases that are salted throughout the work, increasing the story’s authenticity and connection to the real world.

My most recent research tool find is the Google Newspaper Archives. Containing scanned images from newspapers published as early as the 1860s and as recently as a few years ago, this site is a treasure trove of possibilities. The headlines have given me a story frame to house the next adventure for Carlos de Leon, a.k.a. Gavin Leoppard, the Gypsy Spy. Happy hunting!

Fall 2017 Author Events

The cities of South Hampton Roads have a vibrant Indie Author community which is supported by local businesses, libraries, and radio stations. This Fall is off to a great start. I recently had the privilege of  participating in the Writer’s Block program on WHRV 89.5 FM, the local NPR affiliate. The program featured ten local writers reading everything from short stories to vignettes from books in progress. The audience was warm and welcoming and the auditorium of the Virginia Beach Central Library. The show was recorded live for later broadcast. I read one of my musings on cancer survival entitled Pizza Night: Milestones on Recovery Road. They even let me plug Gypsy Spy in my intro. Stay tuned for broadcast dates.

WHRV 9-22-17

I will be back out at my favorite book store, the Book Exchange Virginia Beach, on Saturday, October 7, 2017 for another round of book signings. I will be there from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. If you are in the area, stop on by. This place gives readers the best bang for their buck. Even Amazon can’t compete! Sam the store manager did a great graphic to advertise the event on their Facebook page.

Book Exchange 10-7-17

The following week, on October 14th, I will be participating in the annual Virginia Beach Indie Author Day. The event is being held at the Joint-Use Library of the Virginia Beach TCC Campus. Over twenty local authors will be there with their books. The event features presentations from well-known and successful independent authors, breakout sessions for readers and writers, and book reading every half hour. This event gets better every year.

IAD Promo.jpg

My next event after that will be at the Virginia Beach Central Library to participate in their Meet the Authors program. I will be one of a panel of five discussing our writing process, doing book readings, having a Q&A with the audience, and doing book signings. The program takes place on November 2, 2017 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. If you are curious about writing and publishing, this event is for you.

Meet the Authors 11022017

These events are great for readers and writers alike. If you have independently published works, getting out and connecting with readers and fellow authors is very rewarding. Indie authors are very supportive of one another and generous with their knowledge. Get out there and get involved!

Target #8: Claude Renault

Some characters are crafted with the express purpose of being casualties. After all, it’s difficult to write a story about an assassin without at least having one target that is destined to be eliminated. In The Perfect Kill: 21 Laws for Assassins, former CIA operative Robert Baer lists “the bastard has to deserve it” as Law #1. Seeing that Carlos de Leon is an atypical assassin, it stands to reason that sooner or later he would disregard this cardinal rule. Just when you think you have the plot figured out, the twists keep coming all the way through to the end. This vignette comes from Chapter 37 – Confrontations.

¤

He held his breath as he wheeled his cart to room 342. The guard didn’t even give him a second glance as he pushed the door open and stepped in. What he found was shocking. The room was large enough for two patients. But the other bed had been cleared out to make room for the life-support equipment. Why hadn’t they put him in the intensive care unit? Drake wondered.

Renault lay on the bed, motionless. His head was wrapped in heavy bandaging. Only his left eye and nose remained exposed. A blue, ribbed tube sprouted out of where Drake supposed Claude’s mouth to be and ran all the way into a hissing respirator. The mechanical accordion rose and fell in counterpoint with Claude’s chest. He had an IV in each arm. The bags dripped their liquids down the clear tubes in timed precision. His right hand was in a splint; his thumb, index, and second fingers taped to the metal stabilizers. A plastic bag hung on the bed rail, slowly collecting the urine brought to it by the catheter. The smell of disinfectant mixed with the odor of excreted medicine made Drake ill. He hated hospitals. “What have you done to yourself now,” Drake said, shaking his head.

He went into the bathroom and turned the water on as a covering sound. Going back to Claude’s bed, he inspected the patient more thoroughly. He lifted the bed sheets and examined Claude’s body. Not a burn mark on him. He picked up the chart and did his best to read the French medical mumbo-jumbo. Head injury caused by a shotgun blast, he read. Then his cronies must have released the fire injury to cover up the suicide attempt. It wouldn’t do to have the public know that their mayor elect had suicidal tendencies. They would ask him to resign before he was even able to take office. Smoke inhalation? He read it again. Yes, he had suffered from smoke inhalation. What happened?

“Claude,” he said into the man’s bandaged ear. “Claude, it’s me.” The left eye opened and swiveled about. It rested on Drake, then closed again. “Claude, what happened?” he asked. Claude opened his eye again and rolled his head from side to side. Drake placed a clean page of the chart on Claude’s lap and pressed a pen into the man’s left hand. “What happened?” he asked again. The hand moved slowly, deliberately.

“Kill me.”

“I can’t. What happened?”

“Pull plug!!”

“Tell me what happened,” Drake said.

“The Devil,” Claude wrote and dropped the pen. The Devil? What did that mean? Drake wondered. Claude pawed for the pen. Drake found it in the folds of the sheet and put it back into the injured man’s hand. “Will take Swenson,” he added to the line. The Devil will take Swenson?

“The Devil? Who?” Drake asked. In a swift motion, Claude jabbed the pen into his respirator line and pulled it out. The hiss grew louder. “Crap,” Drake said and placed his hand over the hole. It was no use. Claude’s left eye bulged slightly as his brain fought against his mind for life and tried to find air. A monotone replaced the background blip in the room. Drake looked up at the heart monitor. Flat line. Cursing, Drake slapped the blue button above the headboard.

Alias

What does Carlos de Leon, a.k.a. Rat-gêló, have in common with Prince Richard of England, a.k.a. Norman of Torn, or Townsend Harper, a.k.a. Jack, a.k.a. Number Thirteen? What? You haven’t heard of Norman of Torn or Number Thirteen? Well, what about John Carter, a.k.a. Dotar Sojat, or John Clayton III?

Surely you have heard of John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke? Oh, maybe you are more familiar with his other name, Tarzan. Having decided that he could write at least as bad a pulp fiction as what he had been reading, Edgar Rice Burroughs began spinning tales that would carry his readers from the Arizona desert to the rugged landscapes of Mars, from English manor houses to the darkest jungles of Africa, from the Sahara sands to the center of the Earth, from the South Pacific to a land that time forgot. No one would deign to classify Burroughs’s writing as “literature,” least of all himself. But he was a master storyteller who became a corner stone to the science fiction genre (ever heard of Star Wars or Avatar), action adventure (ever heard of Raiders of the Lost Ark), and even plied his pen writing Westerns and historical fiction.

Burroughs’s protagonists were all supremely optimistic, noble of heart, and deadly at arms. The women they rescued weren’t helpless, just outnumbered. Ray Bradbury said, “Burroughs is probably the most influential writer in the entire history of the world. By giving romance and adventure to a whole generation of boys, Burroughs caused them to go out and decide to become special.”[1] I know he made me feel that way. A true mark of good story—and by good I mean that it calls us to a better self—is fictional characters that can inspire you. When Tarzan is tied to a post and the current horde of enemies is lighting the fire at his feet and he utters, “So long as there is breath, there is hope,” young boys take courage. I know I did. His stories taught me that ladies are to be treasured, that goals outweigh difficulty, that tenacity wins the day, and that evil is to be vanquished.

It was my Aunt Jeanie who got me hooked on Burroughs. One Christmas, she sent us a graphic novel version of Tarzan. The artwork was exquisite, the story like none other I had ever read. I devoured his books after that. Tarzan, The Princess of Mars, The Moon Maid, Pellucidar, The Outlaw of Torn, I Am a Barbarian, The Monster Men, The Efficiency Expert all at one time or another had my nose prints in them. He was entertaining, engaging, the master of circumstance and switched points of view. Story trumped all and he never let the pressure off, not even in the end. The cliff-hanger was his stock-in-trade.

I may owe Robert Ludlum for my sense of plausible plot twists. To Stephen King I owe the threatening overtones of the supernatural and the literary sleight of hand offered by an altered state of mind. But to Edgar Rice Burroughs I owe the pace and progress of story and the sheer adventure of it all. He was born on this day, September 1, in 1875. He came to writing late but stayed at it long. And his legacy lives on in writers and filmmakers to this day. Happy Birthday, Edgar!

[1] http://thejohncarterfiles.com/the-influence-of-edgar-rice-burroughs/, accessed September 1, 2017

Ocean View Indie Author Event

My friend and fellow indie author, Rev. James Boyd, has organized a local author book sale and signing event at the Mary D. Pretlow Anchor Branch Library this Saturday, August 12, 2017, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The library is located in the Ocean View section of Norfolk.

What? Local Indie Author Book Signing Event

When? August 12, 2017, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where? Mary D. Pretlow Anchor Library, 111 W Ocean View Ave., Norfolk, VA

Rev. Boyd will be there with copies of his Special Forces Christians: The Rise of Militant Faith and Karla Perry will be present with plenty of copies of Back to the Future: Rebuilding America’s StabilityOf course, yours truly will be there with my favorite Gypsy, Carlos de Leon. Come on out and meet some great local authors and stock up for your late summer and fall reading.

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