Thursday, September 21, 2017

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: James P. Wilcox, Author

James P. Wilcox, Author
James P. Wilcox just released his thriller A FALL FROM GRACE about a terrorist attack against the American Catholic Church. In the belief that plausibility is a key attribute of suspense, he creates characters that are realistic and "well-rounded humans," whether they are heroes or villains. He typically first visualizes a scene before writing it and credits this process to his background as a photographer and reporter.

Today Wilcox is a high school social studies teacher—an activity he says helps him to envision his story in a way to tell it to his readers  similar to how he tells his students about events in history. He has written two other novels— SEX, LIES, AND THE CLASSROOM and THE M-16 AGENDA in addition to the International Bestseller MIRACLE CHILD. He is currently working on his fourth novel, and lives in Kansas City with his wife and three children.

Q: What led you to think of A FALL FROM GRACE?

James P. Wilcox: I have been toying around with the idea for A FALL FROM GRACE for several years now. Honestly, I got the original idea on a Sunday morning, day-dreaming at church. I was thinking about what would happen if there was a terrorist attack on my church, during mass. I then started thinking about what kind of person would stand up to the terrorists. David, the main character of A FALL FROM GRACE, was born in my mind that day.

Q: Your books cross genres and include poetry, thrillers, and non-fiction. Do you have a favorite? Do you believe that different writing approaches can help “tell your story” more readily? That is, can you express some stories better in poetry and others with fiction and/or non-fiction?

James P. Wilcox: I know I should probably care about genres and what genre my work falls in, but I really don’t care about genres very much. I just enjoy trying to tell a good story and I enjoy writing. Although I published a poetry collection, I wrote most of the poems during high school and college, as that was the writing format that worked the best for me at the time. I did include some recent poems, but poetry simply is not my primary writing format anymore. Anyone who has read any of my novels knows that they are hard to put in any particular genre. They are all hybrids, which is one of the reasons I like them so much.

Q: Reviewers of a previous fiction book highlight your “strong characters.” How do you engage readers to care about your characters? What makes them strong?

James P. Wilcox: I try to make my characters as realistic as possible and I try to make them well-rounded “humans.” I try to show both the good and the not so good qualities of each character, regardless of whether they are considered the hero or the villain. I also try to show the motivation of each character. I don’t write a character as good or as evil simply for the sake of making them good or evil. I try to show what makes the good or evil and the motivation behind the actions. I spend a lot of time thinking about and getting to know my characters, which is one of the reasons it takes me a long time to write each one of my books.

Q: How supportive is setting to tell your story A FALL FROM GRACE? Could it be told in any time period or in any city?

James P. Wilcox: The setting certainly frames the story of A FALL FROM GRACE and it is clearly set in our present day world. Ultimately though, A FALL FROM GRACE is a timeless story of good versus evil and the lengths people will go to in order to reach their goals. The story could hold up, with some adjustment, if it was set in the past or in the future.

Q: Are you able to use your background as a reporter, news photographer, or teacher to tell your stories? Does your background influence your writing?

James P. Wilcox: I learned how to write as a newspaper reporter and I learned how to think visually as a photographer. Both of these skills are critical to the writing process, at least for me. I usually “see” the scene as a picture in my mind before I actually start writing. Once I have the picture in my head, it is then simply a matter of describing, in as much detail as possible, what I already see. As a History teacher, I am telling stories each and every day, but with time restrictions. Teaching helps me pick out the important information, and I get to practice telling the story of American history in language that everyone can understand. I definitely think my background in teaching and journalism have made me a better writer.

Q: What do you believe are the key attributes of a thriller? How do you develop suspense in A FALL FROM GRACE to keep readers turning the page?

James P. Wilcox: I think the key attribute of a thriller is that it needs to be plausible. The readers have to believe that the story could actually happen in the “real” world and the characters have to behave like “real” people. If I put my characters in completely unbelievable situations, or that react in unbelievable ways to the situations they find themselves in, then I lose the readers. What I strive to do is create characters the reader can relate to, and hopefully care about, then put them in realistic situations, and then let the suspense build around them.

Q:  Does the concept of “hero versus villain” apply to A FALL FROM GRACE? What are the characteristics of an effective villain?

James P. Wilcox: There are certainly characters in A FALL FROM GRACE who can be considered heroes and some who can be considered villains but I try to spend as much time developing my villains as I do my heroes. I actually want readers to make a connection to my villain, as well as my heroes. An effective villain is simply a well-written hero who made some “bad” decisions, although they may think what they are doing is right. I try to make my heroes and villains a difference in perspective because real life is rarely black and white. The world is full of shades of grey and writing about the gray makes both the heroes and villains believable.

Q: Do you write to deliver a message? Or do you write only to entertain your readers?

James P. Wilcox: That really depends on what I am writing. Obviously when I was writing Miracle Child, which tells the story of what happened when my son Nathaniel was born sixteen weeks early, I was hoping to convey hope to every parent, to every family who is faced with a situation similar to ours. I was also hoping to show the power of faith, of hope, of love, and of family.

When I write fiction, my number one goal is to entertain the readers. Having grown up as an avid reader, I just love reading a good story and I hope I can provide readers with good stories that reflect the world we live in today. I am not shy about what I write about though. Whether it be race relations, terrorism, or politics, I do hope that my stories will make my readers ask questions about uncomfortable topics and become more informed. Ultimately, whether I write poetry, fiction, or non-fiction, I hope the readers enjoy reading my work as much as I enjoy writing them.

Q: I know you’ve just finished A FALL FROM GRACE, but what’s next?

I am already working on a follow-up to my debut novel Sex, Lies, and the Classroom tentatively titled Sacrificing Tyresha. I have also started a family drama titled Wrestling Louise Braille. On top of that, I have an idea for a dystopian novel tentatively titled Saving Christ. Of course, I really don’t think I am finished with David, Alanna, and O’Malley and hope to continue their story in a follow up to A FALL FROM GRACE. I don’t have a working title yet, but hope to have one soon.

Q: Tell us about James P. Wilcox. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Not much to tell really. I am a busy husband and dad, who teaches high school Social Studies during the day and tries to get some writing done at night between all of the soccer, volleyball, basketball, cross country, and softball practices, games and meets, Scout meetings, and errand running that are required each day. In what little free time I have, I enjoy watching (or listening) to Kansas City Royals baseball, taking pictures, and reading books.

About James P. Wilcox

James Wilcox, a former newspaper photographer and writer, is currently a high school social studies teacher in Kansas City, where he lives with his wife and three children. James is also the author of novels SEX, LIES, AND THE CLASSROOM and THE M-16 AGENDA, A FALL FROM GRACE, as well as a work of poetry title Musings of a Particular Bear: A Poetry Collection.  He is also the author of the #1 International Bestseller MIRACLE CHILD. James is currently working on his fourth novel.

David never intended to become a soldier. He planned on following his faith and become a Catholic priest. The Church, however, had other ideas for his future.
After Father Reed is found dead in Philadelphia, David is sent by the Vatican to assist Detective Peter O'Malley in the murder investigation. What they find is a terrorist plot to unleash a jihad against the Catholic Church in America.
Racing against time, David and O’Malley try to prevent a holy war. When his mother and his former girlfriend become targets, David discovers just how far he will go to protect his loved ones and his Church.

A dry and blistered hand, with skin browned by near continual exposure to the sun, reaches out and grasps the scorching metal barrel of the AK-47 Russian-made machine gun. Giving the barrel a quick tug, the strap settles more comfortably across his back. Rolling his shoulders beneath the familiar weight of the weapon, Saladin pulls on the reins and then reaches into the saddlebag riding along the rich chocolate brown of his Arabian’s right flank, and pulls out a pair of Bushnell Legend Ultra HD binoculars. Lifting them to his eyes, he scans the barren valley that stretches out in front of him, concentrating on the cluster of five mud huts built along the face of the mountain cliffs, which run along the eastern length of the valley.

Seen from an elevation of eight hundred feet, the village, if it can be called a village, appears deserted, but Saladin knows what to look for. After slowly scanning the valley from north to south, Saladin makes a slight adjustment to the focus and then settles in for a long look at the largest hut. After ten minutes, his patience is rewarded by a brief glimpse of the midnight black hair of a horse’s tail swishing past the northeastern corner of the hut. Pulling the binoculars from his eyes, Saladin tucks them back into his pack before standing in the stirrups and swinging his left leg over the beast’s rump, deliberately climbing off his horse’s back. A smile creeps across his face as he begins leading the animal down the barely discernible track among the rocks to the valley floor.
Quickly dropping down below the reach of the sun, Saladin shivers against the chill contained within the valley’s shadow. Dressed in the salwar kameez—traditional Afghan clothing consisting of baggy white cotton trousers, which stop just above the ankles, and a loose-fitting forest-green tunic, which ends just above the knee—and his pakol, the wide wool hat encircled by a thick rolled brim made famous by the Mujahedeen during their war with the Soviets, he considers wrapping himself in his patoos, warm wool blanket, before moving deeper into the valley.
Allahu Akbar,” he whispers to himself, ignoring the chill, while quickening his pace toward his destination.

Moving among the rocks, Saladin runs his upcoming meeting, the meeting in which he will change the course of Western history, through his mind. As the undisputed leader of the Ghazwa, a secretive group of terrorists and assassins whose name specifically refers to the battles led by the Prophet Muhammad, Saladin has the power to compel select imam, mullahs and militia chieftains from across the Middle East to gather in this remote location in Nangarhar’s rugged Khogyani district. As the planner and financier of most terrorist activity in the Middle East, he has the right to announce the next phase of jihad, holy war, against Islam’s Western enemies.


Twitter: @m16agenda

Sunday, September 17, 2017

SPECIAL FEATURE: The Mystery of a Setting

Joyce T. Strand, Author
I started to write mystery novels in 2009. Those of you who follow me know that I selected the genre based on my love of reading all types of mysteries or suspense thrillers—noir, spy, cozy, hard-boiled, contemporary, historical. 

In a previous post, I divulged that for me the first step in writing a mystery is to develop the character/sleuth who would drive the plot.

The second most important element is selecting a setting—a place and time in which to place my sleuth. All eight of my published mysteries have been set in California—San Francisco in 1912, Ventura in 1939 and contemporary Silicon Valley and Sonoma wine country.

My ninth mystery, coming in November 2017, is set in a small rural town in Southern California near San Diego—an area that offers a wide spectrum of events and interesting locales.

The following article explains how and why I selected this location—aside from the fact that I live there!

The Mystery of a Setting

Setting can drive a mystery, its sleuth, or its villains—and even become a character itself.

The elements of a mystery plot—sleuth/protagonist, setting, villain/antagonist, red herrings, crime—blend together to create the puzzle for readers to put together piece by piece, chapter by chapter. They all contribute.

I always begin my mysteries with my sleuth. However, I have also discovered that the time period and location can help drive the plot and develop my characters.

When I turned to some of my favorite mysteries, I quickly learned that many successful authors have done the same—they use setting to develop their characters and the mystery.

An outstanding example is Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. The famous detective Hercule Poirot has to solve a murder and learn about the characters—from a moving train. Another example is Dick Francis who set his thrillers around horse racing in the UK. His amateur sleuths—often jockeys—must solve horse-related crimes.

Even procedurals are often heavily influenced by their surroundings – Los Angeles is prevalent in Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch mysteries. And we usually envisage Mickey Spillane in L.A. Or think about Sherlock Holmes in foggy London. And it’s likely Quebec comes to mind when we envision Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache solving murders. And how does Nero Wolfe manage to solve all those crimes never leaving his office?

Therefore when it came time to start a new trilogy with a new amateur sleuth I considered the setting carefully.

My new sleuth, Emily Lazzaro, is the daughter of the Sonoma winemaker in my earlier Brynn Bancroft mysteries. She grew up in the wine region of Sonoma learning about winemaking. It turns out that she wants to work in the hospitality industry, in which she has earned a degree. So when her fiancé invites her to move to an up-and-coming wine region near San Diego, she readily agreed believing that she could be in charge of managing a winery.

By placing her in Ramona, Calif., she comes to appreciate the potential of a rural equestrian community with a wine industry, a hefty artist community, growing restaurants, picturesque rocky views, fresh produce—all located within forty minutes of downtown San Diego. Given the blending of these features, she decides she wants to live there. However, when she breaks up with her fiancé she realizes she needs to make some changes to create a living enabling her to stay.

This heightens her hospitality instincts as she searches for a better paying job, and also enables the introduction of red herrings and plot complications specific to the region that draw her deeper into the mystery.

She becomes involved in a murder, a love interest who doesn’t trust her, a new enterprise, and other Dangerous Changes in her life so that she can live in what has become to her a special town.

As the plot evolves so does Emily—driven by her own background and characteristics—but also by the setting.  Events and happenings in her chosen community mold the changes she needs to make.

Bottom line: by using an intriguing locale and time period readers become engaged more with the characters and are drawn deeper into solving the mystery.

Friday, September 1, 2017

CHECK IT OUT: New Release OUTSIDE by Natasha S. Brown


On the western highlands of Scotland, a springtime storm pummels the coast while Kristie's brother is out fishing. When he fails to return home, Kristie turns away from her list of chores to search the loch in an effort to ease her pregnant sister-in-law's fears. Instead of finding Domnall, she discovers a naked and battered man washed up on shore and worries he could be a thieving reiver or worse--an Englishman.

When the handsome outsider wakes, he is unable to remember who he is or how he came to be there. Although the feisty and melancholy Kristie isn't keen on him remaining, her young neighbor, Jock, takes to the playful stranger and names Creag after the rocky crags where the loch meets the sea. Not long after the lad speaks of selkies, magical seals who shed their skins to live as humans, Creag dreams he is swimming deep beneath the waves.

Kristie is desperate to keep the farm running for her missing brother while Creag's sleep is filled with strange visions--glimpses that may reveal secrets to his past, but he may soon wish they were only a dream.

**CONTENT WARNING: Due to mature content, recommended for readers aged 18+**

Shapeshifter Sagas {Western European Myths from the Middle Ages}

Widow {13thc. | Black Shuck | England}
Scars {10thc. | Fenrir | Iceland}
Tides {10thc. | Kraken | Great Britain/Ireland}
Outsider {14thc. | Selkie | Scotland}

Available to buy from...." rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Paperback

Also Available

Widow (Time of Myths: Shapeshifter Sagas Book 1)
Lady Rayne has few options as a young widow. Either her father will marry her off to a wealthy nobleman--no matter how old and disagreeable he may be, or she will become a nun like her aunt at Grimsford Abbey. The choice is easy: her interest in writing is not supported in the dark halls of her father's home. Rayne eagerly anticipates becoming a scribe and learning the art of illumination and book making. But first she must travel along the treacherous roads of East Anglia.

Far from the confines of Norwich, Rayne hears fables of an enormous ghostly hound called the Black Shuck. She tries to ignore them until she finds herself staring into its expressive brown eyes. With every heartbeat, her chances of reaching Grimsford Abbey disappear. If only she could live to tell the tale.

**CONTENT WARNING: Due to mature content, recommended for readers aged 18+**

Available to buy from....

Scars (Time of Myths: Shapeshifter Sagas Book 2)

Along the breathtaking and unforgiving coast of Snæland, Ásta’s ancestral farm is plagued with bad luck. The kinless maiden’s turf walls continue to be found damaged, and there aren’t enough farmhands to maintain the property. Claw marks in the dirt revive old memories of the wolf attack that left her scarred, and she begins to fear the whispers are true—that Fenrir, son of Loki and king of the wolves, has come to claim her and her land.

Torin often leaves his uncle’s farm in the southern hills to track and ensnare valuable gyrfalcons. His secret ability to turn into the birds he trains means his falconry skills are unparalleled, earning him precious silver and gold. If the ghosts of his past didn’t haunt him daily, pushing him to numb his senses with drink, Torin might have married by now—as his uncle often reminds him. He knows the time has finally come to find a wife and settle down.

During the Althing, the gathering of the year, Ásta’s ability to maintain her property comes into question while Torin wonders if a woman in jeopardy of losing her farm is really worth the trouble.

**CONTENT WARNING: Due to mature content, recommended for readers aged 18+**

Available to buy from....

Tides (Time of Myths: Shapeshifter Sagas Book 3)
It’s Leif’s eighth summer going viking with his father on their ship the Kraken—and he’s had enough. For as long as Leif can remember, his father has claimed to be a descendant of Ægir, god of the sea, and has exploited their shape changing ability—all this to amass enough gold to gain entrance into the ocean god’s halls. Leif hopes that time’s drawing near so he can free himself from Ragna’s domineering shadow.

On the green hills of Éire, Eilish is content learning traditional folk cures from her father until a Finn-Gall raid disturbs the peace. Desperate to protect Eilish from harm, her father cuts her hair and disguises her in his old clothing before she’s ripped from the only home she’s ever known. Sold as a thrall in Duiblinn, she must hide out as a young man on a ship full of barbarians.

Now Eilish, who fears she’ll become Ægir’s next sacrifice, and Leif, who isn’t prepared to stand up against his father’s powerful wrath, must face the tides of change—no matter how ominous they may seem.

**CONTENT WARNING: Due to mature content, recommended for readers aged 18+**

Available to buy from....

About the author
Natasha was born in Nevada City, California. Being an only child, she resorted to using her imagination while exploring the forest surrounding her home (a nasty habit she hasn’t been able to break). Her natural interest in fantasy ignited when her parents read The Hobbit to her as a youth, and from then on anything seemed possible. Once awarded with a Hershey’s bar ‘the size of a Buick’ in her high school English class for creative writing, her passion and interest in literature has never dimmed.

She now lives in Littleton, Colorado, with her husband, two children, and two dogs.

Find the author on the following sites...

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I received this book to review through Beck Valley Books Book Tours, I have volunteered to share my review and all the opinions are 100% my own.


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