Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Author Interview: S.L. Dearing

Self Published Authors is happy to introduce you to S.L.Dearing.  I took a few moments to read through her interview and I have to say her book sounds very intriguing.  Thanks for sharing Shannon! 

Author Name:  Hello.  My name is Shannon L. Dearing, although I write under the pen name S.L. Dearing.  My first novel is number one in a series.  It’s called The Gathering: Book One of the Lia Fail Chronicles.

Where can we find your book?  How much does it cost?  The Gathering is available in print through my website (www.SLDearing.com) and at Amazon for $20.00 and in eBook format for Kindle ($8.99) and Nook ($7.99).  It is also available directly through me if you want it signed (wink, wink).  

Tell us a little about your book.  My book would best be classified as a fantasy adventure, but it contains elements of romance, horror, thriller, etc.  It takes place in Los Angeles 13 years after World War 3, although L.A. no longer exists.  The survivors have rebuilt, but in the form of colonies that reflect an almost medieval structure, (due to much of our current technology being destroyed and not replaceable, that will be explained in the prequel I’ve been asked to write).  Well, most of these colonies are based on religion and the main colony of the story is Lia Fail, the Pagan camp.  Lia Fail is led by our main character, Alia Stark, who is their queen.  We open to them preparing for the Bi-annual Gathering, where all the colonies come and celebrate for ten days.  During the course of the book, they are presented with an evil they have never known before and well, they have to come to terms with that and several other “changes” in the new world they’ve built.  It’s definitely got some darkness and it can be graphic at times, but I love it and so far, so has mostly everyone else who has read it.

Do you have any upcoming projects?  I am currently working on the sequel to The Gathering, as well as several stand-alone novels, one of which is a YA fantasy.  I also have written my first play and I will be directing that at the end of October for The Askew Theatre Co.’s Triple Feature Halloween project.

What has your journey as a writer been like?  Interesting, for sure.  I’ve been writing my entire life, but I never thought of it as being my passion.  I wanted to be a vet, and actress, a producer, and the list goes on, but I never really embraced writing until I was in my late twenties and began writing screenplays while I was in film/TV at LACC (Los Angeles City College).  That’s when I really started to realize writing was what I wanted to do.  Then in my early thirties, I decided to write a novel.  It’s hard, but it’s great.  It’s what I love.

Why did you choose to self publish? Would you do it again?
As I was writing, I did a lot of research in terms of publishing and I didn’t like what I found.  Most old school publishers not only make you sign a contract giving them exclusive publishing rights in that specific country, but they can choose to take your book out of print anytime they wish.  Then you are up the stream without a paddle.  You can’t take your book else where without breaching contract, so you could have to wait 5 or 7 years before you can put your book back in print.  Also, they want 90% of the profits for 20% of the work, they want to tell you what should be in the book and how long it should be and what the cover should look like and if you aren’t “somebody”, they expect you to do all the leg work.  In addition, all the book signings and marketing comes out of your royalties.  That is not an ideal situation for me.  Thus, I went to self-publishing (and do your research as some of the self-publishers are the same as the traditional, except you pay them) in particular CreateSpace and POD (Print on Demand) and I make the decisions.  I’m doing the work and if I’m expected to do all the legwork, then I’ll get the rewards as well.  In addition, on a personal level, I don’t like the idea of getting paid for something or promising something I may not be able to deliver on (advances and book deals).  Would I do it again?  In a hot minute… everything is mine, the success and the failure, but it’s mine and I can’t help but get better at it every time I try again.

What was the process you used to write your manuscript?  I always start by asking the question “What would happen if?”  Then the brain starts spinning and soon I’m seeing scenes in my head, much like a movie.  The characters start to form and when I can see them fully, they start to come to life.  Then I just start writing, whichever scene is screaming to get out goes first.  I don’t tend to outline, but I do start an outline of items already written, so I can keep track.  Then by the middle of the book, I can see where things are going and I can throw some ideas into the outline, but usually it’s more of a roller coaster.  Hold on tight and don’t fall out.

How did you create your characters?  Do you have a favorite character and why?  They come to me.  As I think about the story and ask the questions, they start to develop and then start to “talk” to me.  A favorite?  Honestly, no.  I love each one of them.  The collective whole brings the story to life and each one of them, even the small ones, move the thing forward and add life to the tale.

What one person has impacted your life the most?  My father.  He was truly the most amazing man I have ever met and had the privilege of knowing.  He loved life and reveled in the wonder of it.  It was him who was always telling me to just do it, stop talking about it and just do it.  Any great man I write about, I can guarantee you, he is always the influence and I’m just glad he was still here when I published this book, so we could share that.

How do you plan to promote your book?  Well, it’s been slow going, but I’m currently working on a Press Kit, which will be complete by the end of the month.  We’ll be sending that out to reviewers and bloggers, and hopefully they will review the book.  I’m also on Twitter and Facebook.  I’m creating trailers for YouTube and beginning next year, I plan on doing a virtual book tour and possibly setting up book signings at some of the independent stores in Southern California as well as some of the book festivals nearby. 

Please share some advice to help future authors.  I suppose the best advice is to keep reading and writing.  Sit down everyday and write.  And Read. And believe in your story, whatever that is.  Make sure to listen to the people you trust.  They’ll tell you what is working and what isn’t. Oh, and know the difference between Criticism and Critique.  They’re very different.  But over all, just keep writing.

S. L. Dearing was raised in California and grew up in Arizona.  She (Shannon) attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, then spent several years studying at Los Angeles City College’s renowned Television/ Film program. She has worked on several film projects in many capacities.  She currently works in an administrative capacity in Pasadena and is a book reviewer for the Big Blend Magazine and Champagne Sunday’s radio showShannon has been writing since grade school.  Over the years she has written several screenplays, poems and short stories.    The Gathering is her first novel.  Shannon currently lives with her husband, David, in the No Ho Arts District of the San Fernando Valley of Southern California. www.SLDearing.com

Below is Chapter 1 of The Gathering: Book One Of the Lia Fail Chronicles:

The early morning silence of the village was heavy in the cool autumn air, but that would soon change as it was the third Sunday of November, the Gathering. 
This was the time when all of the villages gathered at the chosen colony to trade goods and tales, and when families and friends were re-united.  The last Gathering of the year would be in Lia Fail, the great pagan village, resting tall on top of the Santa Monica Mountains, just above the ruins of the old Hollywood sign. 
The quiet of the morning was as yet undisturbed, save for the few sentinels at their posts, occasionally shifting their gaze from one end of the horizon to the other in bored observation. 
A giant stonewall surrounded the town, allowing the sentinels to see over both valleys.  Every two hundred feet sat a giant tower.  A walkway extended the entire length of the wall, running through each tower.  The village was a fortress. 
There were some gardens in the settlement, but most of the crops were outside the wall, as were many of the herding animals who grazed among the chaparral, and who were being tended to before the sun rose.  A creek running along the edge of the village supplied water for the community.  In addition to the creek, an underground spring ran through the center of the town, where several wells had been placed to benefit the settlement. 
The walls were made of stone that was eight feet thick and secured by steel, and the two main gates at the front and rear of the colony had been fortified by giant metal portcullises.  
The entire area was reminiscent of a medieval castle, save for bits of technology like the windmills that grew from behind homes and parapets, and solar panels that were attached to the highest roofs and turrets.  The rays of the sun rose higher in the sky and began to reflect off the panels, causing the light to dance and sparkle.
Sean Lantry, the captain of the guard, appeared from the lower hall of the barracks and moved steadily across the courtyard to the stairs of the eastern wall.  His lean, muscular build advanced easily up the steps.  As he approached the battlement, his gaze was turned to the rising sun.  The light reflected against his long, wavy brown hair, blowing gently around his stubble-strewn, darkly tanned face.  He closed his eyes to a squint in an attempt to make out the figures riding from the edge of the valley. 
"Creegan! Jones!"  He pointed towards the moving figures. 
The two guards looked in the direction their captain had ordered.  Molly Creegan, a tall, thin woman in her mid-twenties with short black hair and almond-shaped gray eyes, grabbed a pair of binoculars and looked to the east, positioning them to get the best angle without being blinded by the ever-increasing light of the sun. 
There, in the distance, she saw six riders approaching the village.  No banner was waving, but they rode in a familiar fashion.  The other guard, Arthur Jones, then adjusted his eyeglass and recognized the lead figure.
"It's her, Captain," he shouted.
Sean grinned and called to the soldiers by the entrance.
"Open the gate!"
Sean turned back to Molly.
"Did she catch anything?"
Molly looked back through the binoculars and began to smile, then pulled the binoculars down and looked slyly at her partner.  Arthur Jones was a short, stocky young man, with a head full of short, strawberry-blond hair; he too began to smile as if in anticipation of what she was going to say.
"Well, she appears to have a hell of a catch on her horse, Sir, but my gut tells me that it isn't hers," Molly said.
Sean smiled and waved Jones and Molly back to their posts.  The two soldiers laughed and turned as Sean trotted down the winding steps, back to the courtyard.
The first signs of activity began to fill the village as the soldiers moved to the front of the parapet where several more guards were pulling the gates open.  Despite the early hour, several faces looked out their windows into the courtyard as the soldiers' shouts echoed against the stone walls.
As Sean approached the bottom step, Vivian Shorely, chancellor to the queen, was waiting in anticipation.
"What is she doing out there unattended, Captain?"
Sean looked at the thin, pinched face of the middle-aged woman and smiled slowly, cocking his head.
"I have no idea, Chancellor, I wasn't invited."
He moved around Vivian and continued towards the gate.  Vivian's mouth dropped open at the obvious dismissal.  She shook her head and spun on her heel in pursuit.
"See here, Captain!  It is your responsibility to look after the safety of the queen, is it not?"
Sean turned to the woman, who had to stop suddenly so as not to run into him.
"I beg your pardon?" he asked.
"I said," she began sarcastically, "is she or is she not your responsibility?"
Vivian folded her arms in front of her as she smugly completed her sentence.  Sean took a step up to her and put his face to hers.
"See here, Woman…"
She gasped, "Woman?!"
"I realize to some it might be hard to tell, but you are a woman, right?”
Vivian scrunched her little face into a frown as Sean continued.
“Yeah, here's the deal… it’s my job to make sure everyone in this village is protected and if the queen should choose to leave the safety of these walls, which is her prerogative, then I have no control over that."
Vivian's tight face became even more pinched as she tried to respond, but was once again rebuffed as Sean turned and walked in the direction of the approaching riders.
From the wall above, a young sentry called out, "Here they come!"
Through the gates, the horses pounded into the quad, led by the queen.  Her auburn hair looked like spiral flames as it flowed behind her.  She wore a small leather top and long leather pants.  The sun glistened off her tanned and muscled body as steam rose from her skin, while she reigned in the giant animal. 
Several stable hands came forward and grabbed the horses' reins as the riders dismounted.  The queen jumped down from the left side of her horse and began to walk towards Sean, and he watched her with wonder and pride. 
She was the queen of Lia Fail, Alia Stark.  She demanded respect and her people gladly gave it.  Not one person in Lia Fail could look into those mysterious gold eyes and help but pledge their loyalty.  Sean marveled at the round soft features of her face, a contradiction to the strength of this lady.  She was forty-eight, he knew that, but she didn’t look a day over thirty.  
Sean walked towards the queen, quickly followed by Vivian.
“Anxious?” Sean asked as he raised his eyebrows.
Alia furrowed her brow and looked at Sean.  Her eyes blazed as brightly as her hair.  A slight smile appeared on her face.
“You trying to say something, Lantry?”
“No, Ma'am.” He smiled and shook his head.  “It’s just that you don’t usually take off so early in the morning, especially to hunt.”
Vivian moved forward, pushing Sean out of the way, causing him to roll his eyes as he was forced to take several steps back, shaking his head.
“Your Highness!” 
The chancellor spoke loudly and with a shrill forcefulness that made Alia take a step back and frowned.
“Your Highness,” Vivian continued, “the Gathering is starting today."
"I know, Vivian."
"Then how can you behave so irresponsibly and go off riding without a proper escort?  What if something had happened to you?  There is so much to be done.  You have petitioners in just a few hours, the cakes have to be checked, the breads tasted, the wine chosen, then you have to begin getting dressed for your presentation…”
Vivian stopped short and sharply inhaled, only to look directly into the face of the queen, who was now right in front of her, hands on her hips.  The furrow had deepened considerably.
“I…well, I …things…” Vivian stammered and stopped as Alia held her hand in front of the chancellor's face.  Sean turned around so that no one could see him smirk, on the verge of laughter.
“Vivian, I go where I want, when I want,” Alia stated.  “Please remember that… and for the record, I did have an escort.  I also understand the importance of this day and I'm aware of all the things that must be done prior to the arrival of our guests.” 
Alia stepped back and motioned for the chefs to take the game.  Gordon Hutton, the head chef, stepped forward and patted a fat deer, which was slung across the back of the queen’s horse.
“Most excellent, Your Majesty!  That’s quite a prize you took down!”
“Sorry, Gordon, I only got a few ducks and quail.  Quinn and Todd brought this bad boy down.”
The two large men in their early twenties smiled at Gordon and smashed their fists together and then curled their arms around and under like body builders.  They were physical opposites of one another.  Quinn was pale and blond, where Todd was dark skinned and had black hair.
Gordon frowned and shook his head as he walked towards the kitchens, hurrying his butchers and chefs along as he did.
"Don't be sore, Gordo," Quinn yelled after him.
"He's still pissed about that cake."
Todd looked at Quinn, who looked around, then slyly smiled.
"Good cake.
Alia smiled and looked to her captain.
“Hey!” barked Sean.  “You two still have sentry duty in a few hours.  So put your horses up and get some food.”
“Yes, Sir!”
They smirked until they saw that Sean was not laughing.  Only when their backs were turned and they had headed off to the stables did their captain break into a grin and wink at Alia.
Vivian's face grew crimson, the color spreading from her neck to the top of her head while she watched the commotion.  She fidgeted and bounced in her tightly laced shoes, slightly tapping her toes in annoyance.  Alia gave Sean a knowing look and slowly turned to face her chancellor.
“Alright, Vivian, here we go.  Please check with Janeen and her staff verifying the assigned areas for our guests, both tent housing and vendor booths.  Also, check with Duncan Worley and verify that his staff is also prepared to assist our guests with any help they might need…Oh, and make sure they are prepared for plumbing issues.  Please make sure that your staff keep the petitioners to an hour today.  With everything going on, I'm just not going to have time.  Also, I'm putting you in charge of keeping the kitchens on time, which includes picking the wine and making sure the beer is cold, and that breakfast, lunch and dinner are on time.  Please assist Gordon with whatever he needs, and be willing to take his advice, as he is our head chef.  I know he and his staff have been working very hard for the last month trying to perfect their recipes and for the last week they've been up almost every night.  I'm sure they could use more help setting up the stands.  Pay special attention to the cakes and pastries, Vivian, I would hate for the Crystals to show us up in that department like they did at the last Gathering.  It all comes down to you."
She took Vivian by the shoulders and looked her squarely in the eye.
"Make me proud.”
Vivian’s face brightened.  She turned and strode off in the direction of the main hall. 
"And Vivian…"
Vivian turned and looked at the queen in earnest.
"Be on the lookout for Quinn and Todd.  You know how they are about cakes."
Vivian nodded her head and set her tiny pinched mouth, obviously meaning business.  As Vivian walked towards Janeen's office, she thought about the Crystals.  They had named their colony Crystal Shade and they had built it on the remnants of the Crystal Cathedral in what was once Garden Grove.  The Crystal Cathedral had gone pretty quickly when the bombing began.  Vivian would make sure that Lia Fail's confections were the best they had ever been. 
As Vivian turned the corner, Alia took Sean by the arm.
“I want you to watch those boys as well.  I really want to kick some Crystal butt this year and if they steal any of the cakes again…"
"I know," Sean replied, "it's my ass."
"Damn straight.  Walk me back to the castle.”
“You are nervous.”
Alia smiled and placed one hand over her other in the crook of his arm.
“A little” she said.  “I just hope that everyone behaves themselves.  Some of the other colonies can get so sanctimonious.  The last thing we need is to have to deal with their stupidity.”
Sean placed his hand on hers and smiled.
“Not to worry, Al.  We'll be watching.”
Alia nodded and smiled.
"I know.  You're angry we didn’t come and get you for the hunt, aren't you?”
“Me?”  He looked surprised. “No.”
She looked at him. 
"After all," she started, "it was a late meeting last night and I do realize that you're getting older, so I thought…"
“Older?”  He asked, feigning hurt.  “I just figured after the last hunt, you all couldn't take being shown up again…”
They walked towards the castle arm in arm and laughing, unaware of the events the Gathering would bring.

Offering Free book Reviews

Hi Everyone!

Hope you are all doing well with your writing.  Can't wait to post some of the interviews I've been looking over today.  We have some great new authors to introduce to you to with up and coming talent!

But...that's not my focus of this post.  I'm looking for books to review.  Not just any books though, sorry.  I would love, for those of you who write in my favorite genre's, to give me a chance to offer you a free book review in exchange for a free copy of your eBook. 

What I'm looking for:
  • Teen Fantasy/Paranormal/Sci-fi
  • Teen Romance
  • Inspirational Romance
  • Stories set in Pioneering or Medieval times
  • Mystery...but it's gotta be a challenge to figure it out!  Don't tell me who did it in the first chapter!
I will consider other genre's, especially if you're struggling to fit your book into just one genre but please NO NON-FICTION!  It's not my thing and I simply won't be able to give you an unbiased review. 

I know a lot of self published authors that will pay for reviews, which is good, but I'm offering it for only the cost of one of your books.

I promise to be fair with my review.  Any criticism that I do have will be sent to your privately.  I want to help you improve not tear you down.  I'm very aware of how important a good review is so I promise to focus on your strong points when I finalize my review. 

If this is something you would be interested in, please email me at DefianceRising@live.com with a brief explanation.  Sell me on your book!  I'm doing this to help you first and foremost...but I also want to be entertained!  What reader doesn't?

I'm an avid reader, and spend more time reading that writing many times, so I will take each book as it comes in order.  I typically go through three or four books a week, but that varies depending on my own book writing load.

Author Interview: Gary Showalter

Self Published Authors is proud to introduce you to Gary Showalter.  Twisted Key is his third novel and is avaliable now.  Thanks for joining us Gary!

Gary Showalter Introduction

I’m a writer, for better or worse. I’m not passionate about it, as some authors like to claim. Passion is great when it brings two people together or when you start a new project, but it’s nothing to be going on with when life turns into a long, slow slog down a muddy road. I’m a writer because it’s the only way I know to make a living any more.
And according to my readers, I’m pretty good at it. Lucky me, huh?

But I don’t claim to write my novels by myself. I have a good-sized cast of characters – Terry Rankin and Cathy Diamond, Cathy’s dad Matt, Terry’s office manager Cecelia, and his operations manager Tommy and a few others. I can’t not mention Spike, a six-toed Hemmingway cat from Key West who’s taken up residence on Terry’s trawler Nina R. And they all argue with me, constantly.  Sometimes it gets very noisy in here.

Life is filled with confusion and lots and lots of good, bad and indifferent people. It’s chaos, actually, and our job is to make some sense and order out of it for ourselves and the people we care about. So that’s what I write about. Mystery, murder, greed, incompetence, corruption, romance, hope and optimism, reward and punishment and just enough light-hearted humor to keep us sane.

I’ve never had what anyone would call a stable life, so maybe my point of view is somewhat skewed. But you have to write about what you know, so that’s what I do.
I have been asked why and how I write. I’ve already answered why, so here’s the how:
I get that question a lot. Writing is not an easy job, and producing one of my novels requires around two years of steady (all right, mostly on-off, but kinda-sorta steady) thinking, researching, writing and re-writing. Lots of re-writing.

In all truth, my contribution to these stories is a very small part of the project. Important – at least I’m told it’s important, but for all that a very small part of the process of writing.
Writing is very much a solitary profession, but having said that, it is not a lonely one. In fact, sometimes it gets pretty crowded in here, and noisy.

Because I don’t write by myself.  I don’t mean that I have a staff of hack writers. I wouldn’t know what to do with them, if I did. I do the creative thinking, at least at the beginning. And all of the typing. And deleting, and formatting and re-formatting of the text.

My characters write their parts. They decide on what has to be done. Sometimes they argue among themselves, but that’s usually quickly resolved.

The environment plays a big part in any story, or it should. The roads, the shopping centers, the design of Terry’s office, the layout of his hotel room, what kind of vehicle he’s driving, that sort of thing. The layout of the city he’s working in plays a big part in these stories.

I don’t make these things up, folks. Well, I don’t make most of these things up. It’s just too much trouble keeping track of them when I’ve got an entire world filled with stuff I can make use of.
The environment shapes the story. It provides the backdrop and the scope for the lives and actions of my characters.

The climate plays a big part in any story. Is it January in Tampa, and pouring rain, or summer in the Everglades? Are the roads slippery from the grease and rubber caked into the surface, and it’s starting to rain? Climate should play a big part in the decisions the characters make and how they react to their changing situation.

 And, of course, there’s the ever-present plot. Or not. Frankly, I don’t care all that much about plotting in my stories. Don't get me wrong; there is a plot, and the plot is a major part of the story, but it doesn't drive the story. It stays in the background, where it belongs.

My stories deal with how my characters react to the situations they find themselves in, and the decisions they make and the prices they inevitably have to pay for having made those decisions.  I don’t bother with a plot outline. I find it very restricting.

Besides, my characters wouldn't stand for it.

Hog Valley” is my second novel, and I am very pleased with how the story worked itself out. All of my novels take two years of research, writing and rewriting before they ever see an editor. I spent those two years in Marion County, Florida, while I worked on the novel. I was very fortunate in meeting people who volunteered their time and knowledge during the research for the book.

Hog Valley” is about weakness and temptation, easy money and greed. It explores the limits to which people are willing to go to get what they want. And the inevitable penalty they have to pay when they come up short of our goals.

I write with more than a little tongue-in-cheek humor. Life is filled with irony, you see. And romance, which I deal with lightly and tenderly, as it should be. But since life also has its harsh and brutal side, I present that, as well. People can be cruel and bloody-minded and indifferent to the pain of others, and I write about that, as well.

All of my novels, including “Twisted Key”, my third novel, are available in digital format for both the Kindle and Nook eBook readers. “Twisted Key” should be available in paperback near the end of September.

“Twisted Key” is about a clash of cultures and what happens to family values when Love and money collide. It’s also about buried treasure, and one of the worst hurricanes to ever hit the shores of Florida. And greed.

I’m working on my fourth novel, titled “Lonesome Cove”, now. It’s about half-way roughed out and should be in print near July of next year. August, for sure, or maybe some time in September.

My web site, www.garyshowalter.com, has a lot more information, including downloadable PDF files with the first three chapters of all of my novels and a large section with reader’s comments.

Twisted Key Description
Terry Rankin has a new client; Fatima al Natsche, a Muslim woman living under a sentence of death for her work on behalf of women suffering under Islamic law. Terry’s a businessman – he’ll protect just about anyone who can pay the freight. In fact, he admires Ms. Al Natsche and the sacrifices she’s made to get her message out.
But then her daughter flies over from Norway and gets snatched off the street in front of her mother’s home, and all of the masks come off and all of the dirty little secrets come out to play in the Florida sun.
Twisted Key Teaser:
Chapter 1

Saturday, December 28
Leakey, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
Tampa, Florida

We left my dad’s ranch close to ten on Saturday morning, three days after the most wonderful Christmas of my life. The temperature was in the low twenties and snow lay on the ground, but the West Texas sky was a beautiful blue. My sister, Mary Catherine, was driving. She and Cathy were the first to get up from the kitchen table once we were done with all of the phone calls.
Cathy’s call was from her boss, Lieutenant Mike Banks, of the Major Crimes Squad of the Orlando Police Department.
 “What’s up, Mike?” She said. Then she put him on speaker phone so I could listen to both sides of the conversation.
Banks said, “Got a shooting in College Park this morning. I need you on it.”
“What about Sparks and Moscowitz?” Cathy asked. “Why can’t one of them handle this?”
“They are both on this shooting now, but we’ve got a small gang war going on in west Orlando. That’s their field of expertise, and I’ve got to cut them loose from this so they can work it. Give my apologies to Terry and his family, but I really need you on the first flight back here.”
“We’ll be on the next flight to Tampa, if there’s room. I’ll let you know. Tell Sparks I’ll be in touch with him during the drive to San Antonio. I’ve got questions, and he’d better have answers for me.”
While Cathy was still talking with her boss, I got a call on my cell phone from my operations manager, Charley Weeks. My stomach dropped into the basement. “Sorry to ruin your vacation, Boss,” he said, “but we got a problem.” I took a seat beside Cathy at the massive old pine table in the kitchen. “What’s the matter, Charley?”
“You know that Arab lady we signed last month, Fatima al Natsche?”
“Yeah, so?”
“She was at the mall on Merritt Island doing a little post-Christmas shopping. A young girl was snatched off the sidewalk right in front of al Natsche’s home, so the team leader at the house called to alert the team with her. They got her out of the mall and into the vehicle. Then they called me to find out where they should take her. I gave them directions to my rental property in College Park.”
I ended the call at Cathy’s request before Charley could give me any more information, so she was the one who told me that one of my men had been shot in College Park.
My name is Terrance Charles Rankin, and I’m the majority owner of Rankin Protective Services in Orlando, Florida. Cathy and I met early last year during a very rough period for both of us. We wound up in a like/dislike relationship, but things change, and now we’re planning to get married. We don’t have a date, yet. Once my sister learned Cathy and I were getting married, our two-week holiday visit quickly become a flurry of engagement parties and get-to-know-you parties; each of which included a round of gift giving for the new bride-to-be. 
Cathy’s dad and I had our bags packed in about fifteen minutes. My intended was going home with a lot more than she arrived with. We were sitting in the living room with my father, saying our good-byes, until one of the women would call us to carry down another bag. As far as I was concerned, all of it could go later.
Cathy and I sat in the back seat of the old station wagon. She spent much of the trip to San Antonio on the phone while she took notes in a yellow pad my dad gave her. Her dad Matt sat beside my sister Mary Catherine and spent the trip chatting and I listened to Cathy get on top of the investigation.
Sparks, give me an update.” She wrote and listened to him.
“So what do you have?” Cathy brushed a strand of hair off her face as she leaned over the pad in her lap.
“Three shooters plus a driver?” she asked. “How many rounds did they fire?”
The reply didn’t please her. “Well, how many shells have you recovered?”
She waited while he broke away and asked someone. 
Then she asked. “What’s the name of the bodyguard who caught the rounds? What’s his status? Well, why don’t you know these things?” She asked.
Whatever Sparks said in reply apparently did not satisfy her.
She snapped back at him, asking, “Are you the lead investigator or not?”
I could almost make out the man’s reply as she held the phone away from her ear. “I’m not going to do your paperwork for you. It’s your job now, so you do it. Listen to me, Sparks. You and Moscowitz stay on it until I debrief you in the office tonight. You have all of your paperwork current, complete and legible or by God you will stay until it is. Am I clear enough for you?” She ended the call while he was still screaming at her.
“What a wuss,” She said. Matt, Mary Catherine and I all broke into laughter. The grin on Cathy’s face spread from ear to ear.
We got to the airport in San Antonio around noon; forty minutes later, Cathy, Matt, and I waved good-bye to my sister. Twenty minutes more and we were clearing the security barrier, with our bags on their way to somewhere, while we headed for Tampa.
The flight left at two-thirty. After we were wheels up and had our seat belts off, Cathy took out her pad and pen. “I meant to tell you earlier; your man, Tommy Fuchs, caught two rounds, both non-life threatening. He’ll be okay. Now tell me about this client of yours.”
“Fatima al Natsche from Hebron in the Occupied Territories in Israel. She’s only been a client for a few months. She told me she was forced into marriage at a young age, and has one daughter. Her husband beat her and her daughter regularly. She converted to Christianity from Islam. She managed to escape with her daughter with the help of some kind of secret Christian organization.”
“That’s why these shooters were after her?”
“No idea. But she’s definitely a pain in someone’s butt.  Once she was free, she started talking and writing about the abuse of women in Islam. She travels a lot on speaking engagements in the US and Europe, does television and radio interviews, holds seminars on women’s rights in Islam, stuff like that. She’s under a fatwa, a death sentence, for her public stance on the subject.”
“That young girl who was taken off the sidewalk in front of her home on Merritt Island, any chance that was her daughter?”
“It’s worth asking her. I have no idea. Don’t think she told any of my people she was expecting the girl to show up.”
We were back on the ground in Tampa at five that afternoon. We carried our bags to my Suburban in the long-term parking lot and headed for Matt’s place. Cathy and I stayed just long enough to see him settled in and fed. Then we showered, changed, and got on the road to Orlando.
I drove my tan Suburban and Cathy took her quarter-ton canary yellow pick up. She’d called Mike Banks from her dad’s home to say she would meet him at the Public Safety Building. I drove to my office on
Colonial Drive
to meet with Charley Weeks and one of the two teams that were assigned to the protective detail on Fatima al Natsche.
Cathy expected to work through the night on the investigation into the shooting. I needed to know what had gone down with my teams on Merritt Island and in College Park. I needed to know why one of my men had to catch a few bullets.
Charley Weeks and two people from the security team that escorted the client to the Mall on Merritt Island were waiting for me at the office on
Colonial Drive
. Tommy Fuchs, the third member of that team, was in the hospital. It was close to 9:30 at night.
I wanted to be aboard my converted trawler, Nina R, in her slip in Clearwater. But she was up on blocks in Rolf Craddock’s boatyard in Tampa, being rebuilt for the second time in a year. The woman I love was in the Public Safety Building in downtown Orlando going over the paperwork on the shooting in College Park.
So much for what I wanted. What I had to do was to catch up on what happened with my teams. Then I could drive to the apartment hotel in mid-town, and get some sleep. Cecelia, the office manager, had the place open and the coffee maker going. I grabbed a cup and spoke with her for a few minutes before the smell of takeout Chinese food drew me into the conference room. Charley and the security team that had been with the client during the shooting were taking advantage of the free meal.
It would be deceptive to build the image of a fancy oak paneled boardroom, and leather-covered seats around a large, oval, conference table with ornate inlay. My office is utilitarian, not fancy. In fact, it could use a coat of paint on the walls, and at least some cheap plastic frames around the photographs and maps instead of mismatched thumbtacks. New carpeting would be nice, too. Don’t get me wrong. The place is clean and organized; it’s just nowhere close to showy. It’s more like a cop shop in a low-rent part of town. Homey, if you like that sort of thing.
Charley reviewed the events that led up to the shooting in College Park. “Nick, Tommy and Alicia were with Ms. al Natsche at the mall on Merritt Island,” he began. Nick Thomas, Tommy Fuchs, and Alicia Benning all had prior military or police experience. They’d worked for several years on bodyguard details, mostly for corporate executives on Central and South American jaunts, where things can get hairy in a heartbeat.
“It was around three, maybe three-fifteen in the afternoon when Nick took the call from the house about a girl getting snatched off the sidewalk,” Charley continued. “We didn’t know if this represented a threat to the client, but we weren’t going to take any chances. So he, Alicia and Tommy hustled the client out of the mall and drove off the island, headed for Orlando.” Charley’s voice sounded unsure. I got the picture -They didn’t know what else to do. Nothing like this had happened before, so they had to improvise.
 “Nick was driving and Tommy was riding shotgun. Alicia called me and asked where they should bring the client. I told her to get Ms. al Natsche up to a rental home I own in College Park and give me an estimated time of arrival, that I’d meet them with the key.” Charley paused and said, “We just never thought we’d need a safe house, Terry. But maybe we should have.”
He was right of course, but buying a place that might be used once in a blue moon and keeping it staffed was a lot more money than we could afford to spend, even to cover something like this. ‘Something like this’ didn’t come up very often. In fact, it shouldn’t have come up at all. I shook my head. “Go on, Charley. We can talk about what we should have done later.”
He nodded and continued, “Once the team leader at the al Natsche house knew the client was safe, he called the cops and reported what he saw happen to the girl. Nobody knew who she was, only that she had been snatched off the street in front of the house.” The other team wasn’t with us in the conference room. They were still on duty with the client.
“When I got off the phone with Alicia,” Charley continued, “I called the team at the house on Merritt Island and told them that once the cops released them they should lock up the house and drive back here to the office. Then I drove up to College Park.” Charley looked at Alicia and said, “You take it from there.”
Alicia, an olive-skinned, slender woman, took up the story. “We didn’t see any sign of a tail, Terry. Not once during the drive from Merritt Island. We went by the book. Tommy was shotgun, and he kept his eyes on the right side of the vehicle and on the side view mirror. Nick was driving, and I was sitting behind him with Ms. al Natsche. I kept my eyes on the left side traffic and out the rear window. If there was a tail, they were damn good at their job.” She brushed her short, dark hair off her forehead and said, “And there had to be one, Boss.”
I didn’t think there was, at least not the way she was thinking. I’d explain later.
She got back to the story. “We stayed in heavy traffic all the way. Nick drove south on I-95 to Highway 50. Then we went through Winter Park to
Edgewater Drive
and then up to College Park.” She shook her head. “We did everything right. But just as soon as we pulled into the driveway to Charley’s place on
Rugby Avenue
, those bastards were right behind us, blocking us in.”
Charley picked up the narrative from there. “I’d parked along the curb in front of the house to the right of my place, so my car wouldn’t block the view of the street. I got up to the house, unlocked the door, and was waiting inside. I saw Nick swing the car into the drive, and just the way Alicia said, a late-model, gunmetal grey mini-van pulled in right behind them.”
“Where did it come from, Charley?” I asked.
Alicia jumped in. “We were heading north on Edgewater Drive, and when we got to Rugby, Nick turned right, following Charley’s directions to the house.” Alicia’s dark eyes rose to look at me as she said, “I think it was an ‘07 Magnum – my dad used to have one. It was parked in a lot behind one of the stores on the corner of Edgewater and Rugby. I saw it pull in behind us as we headed for the house, about two blocks down. I didn’t think anything of it at the time,” She shook her head. “But those bastards were sitting right there in that parking lot, waiting for us.”
I spared a thought for the other team members. Neal, Tina and Richard had been at the al Natsche home when the young woman was taken. They spent the rest of the day tied up with the local cops. They knew Tommy Fuchs, of course; they worked with him every day. Now he was in the hospital and my teams had been made to look like amateurs. They were not happy campers. None of us were.
Quietly, I said, “They didn’t need to follow you, Alicia. They’d isolated the transmissions from your cell phones. They got the directions to that house on Rugby at the same time you did. When Charley gave them to you.”

Author’s Bio

Gary Showalter was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. He lived in Aruba, Florida and the Panama Canal Zone before joining the U.S. Army during the 1960s.  Following his discharge from the Army, Mr. Showalter picked cotton in East Texas, baled hay in Ardmore Oklahoma, sold light bulbs in Los Angeles, California, and built cattle pens in Fallon, Nevada (during a blizzard, of course).  After settling in Atlanta, Georgia, Mr. Showalter worked as a professional gardener before turning his hand to furniture making.

In 1981, he moved to Israel, married, and raised four children while working as a furniture maker, silversmith, goldsmith, and ornamental wood turner. He served in the Israel Defense Forces Reserves for sixteen years, and when not on active duty he worked in government and private security.  He has also served in senior management positions in two software development companies in Israel.

During his time in Israel, Mr. Showalter published articles dealing with international terror and the Israel-Arab conflict in the Jerusalem Post, Israel national News and several political science web sites.

Mr. Showalter returned to the United States in the fall of 2003, to care for an elderly parent. He published his first novel, “The Big Bend”, in the fall of 2008.  His second novel, “Hog Valley”, is now in print.  “Twisted Key” is his third novel.

Mr. Showalter currently resides in Orange Park, Florida, where he is working on his fourth, titled “Lonesome Cove”.