Sunday, April 21, 2013

Guest Author Day with Stephen L. Brayton

Welcome to my Reading Nook, Stephen L. Brayton. Please make yourself at home and let my cabana boys/girls get you a drink.

Comfortable? Wonderful. Now lets get started.

Tell us about your favorite character from your books.
No doubt, I'm in love with Mallory Petersen. She's 29, a six foot blonde, blue eyes, gorgeous figure, excellent martial artist, quirky sense of humor, and likes Dr Pepper. She is a Fourth Degree Black Belt and private investigator from Des Moines. She has a loyal student base in her school and a variety of oddball clients walking through the door of her PI business. Every now and then, she runs across serious cases that affect her emotionally and physically. She gets taken down to some low levels, but always comes out on top.

Tell us about your current/upcoming release. What inspired this story?
Alpha is the latest release. It's available at Amazon in either paperback or eBook. When I moved to Oskaloosa in 1990, I worked for a radio station. While working there, I learned about a play being cast by the community theatre group in town. I had always enjoyed theatre in high school and college so in my free time I auditioned and was cast in several plays. About a year later I took advantage of a free two week course at the local taekwondo club and soon dropped theatre for martial arts. I earned my black belt in 1993. Later, the writing bug hit me again as it had years before and I created a character who was both a martial artist and private investigator. I admired all of the wonderful, beautiful, and talented women in taekwondo, so instead of a male protaganist,  Mallory Petersen was born. In Alpha, she is involved in the investigation into the murder of her boyfriend and discovers devastating secrets about him.

When in the day/night do you write? How long per day?
In the dead of night, in the middle of a cemetery, using only a low lit lantern for light. I'm the shadow flitting across the tombstones. Drives the neighbors crazy with the spooky ghost sounds I make.

Uh, wait a minute, scratch that.

Seriously, I do write in the middle of the night. Anywhere between midnight and 4 a.m. I work the graveyard shift and after my normal duties are completed, there is a lot of quiet time to write, read, and market current books. I write until I reach the end of a chapter, the current scene, or until my hand starts hurting from writing longhand. If I'm 'in the zone' I can write for as long as there are no interruptions. Like hunger pangs, work duties, uh...bathroom breaks, or need for sleep.

What is the hardest part of writing your books?
Blackmailing some publisher or agent into accepting it. Ah yes...the videos I have collected. Shall I show you one? It's verrry interesting. This one for instance, shows a well known literary agent exiting a particularly seedy motel with...which high ranking member of Congress is following close behind...

Actually, the hardest parts are the editing and rewrites. Last June I joined a new writers' critique group and they're very supportive, but don't hold back. Which is good for me. Recently, they showed me  how I'd become too familiar with Mallory, and had forgotten to make her 'real'. She feels pain, is not indestructible or Superwoman. I'd been overconfident with her abilities and had to show some of her weaknesses. Besides this bit of editing, trying to find the errors, delete repetitive words, fix grammar and punctuation...over and over and over again. One of the most difficult parts of rewrites is looking at the work as a whole and deciding if scenes need to be added, deleted, or tweaked.

What does your family think of your writing career?
My family doesn't know I'm a writer, because they spend all their time on ventures to remote locales like Antarctica, Greenland, the Yukon, small Pacific island groups, and the depths of the Amazon jungle. The last live video feed showed them facing down a pack of wild boars. That's been over a week ago and I'm starting to get worried.

No, really, they've been very supportive. They've been wishing me success for a long time and talk me up as much as possible to everyone they know.

What do you think makes a good story?
Lots of sex.

Ha! No seriously, lots of sex.

Okay, let's get real. A couple years ago my Sisters in Crime group did a presentation to some library patrons and at the last minute one of our group backed out. So I spent seven hours writing a discussion of what I thought made a good story. I had five elements. 1. The author must know how to write. Proper grammar/punctuation/spelling. 2. The author must know how to write a story. Sentence structure, paragraph format, chapters, the amount of tension, back story, etc. 3. A good plot and whether the author wants to create a series, cliffhanger to stretch into a two part novel or a trilogy. The plot has to be 'realistic' enough to capture the readers' interest and keep the interest throughout. 4. The author must be knowledgeable about the subject matter. Medical, legal, police procedures, etc. The author must also be aware of the laws of physics, time, locations, and to stay true to the nature of the story. 5. Characters. Are they believable? Are they interesting? Are they unique? Do they develop through the story?

Plotter or Pantser? Why?
I cannot write without an outline. I just can't. I believe even the pantsers outline, at least somewhat. Sure, this may strike up a bunch of protesting comments, but somewhere along the line while writing the story, the author must figure out where the story is heading, how long it's going to take, what happens in the end, and when to write THE END. That's outlining in a basic sense. I actually want to do more outlining on my future stories. I'm finding my mind working complex plots and if I don't get details written down, I'll completely lose control. I'm not averse to changing things when needed or to swerving off into a subplot if one can be worked in, but I just can't pick up pen and paper and start writing. I'd be lost by page two.

How do you develop your plots and your characters? Do you use any set formula?
Lots of sex.

Wait, I used that already.

For my Mallory Petersen series, I'm using the Greek alphabet and tying in the letters to something else. For instance, in Mallory's intro mystery, Beta, the term was used as a code word the child pornography ring used. In Alpha, the word described some of Mallory's male friends. In Delta (the current Mallory work in progress) I plan to use the triangle symbol along with a reference to a song. I've even figured out Gamma. (Duh, what else but a reference to the Incredible Hulk?) In my short stories featuring Mallory (to be found in future Taekwondo Times issues), I'm using the belt ranks to develop the stories.

I try to include a lot of oddball or kooky characters in Mallory's stories to break up the serious moments. Gang members with humorous names, clients who hire Mallory to find lost object (like missing goats), and I try to use recurring characters who play an important role in Mallory's life. I want to add just a little bit more of the backgrounds or factoids of the supporting characters each time.

What book are you reading now? Any favorite authors/books you want to do a shout out for?
I recently finished books by Frank Kane book and Day Keene. Both were pulp fiction, hard boiled crime stories. I love those old stories with stereotypical characters, fast action, quick deaths, dames, guns, and where the good guy usually wins, but may lose something along the way.

Favorite authors? I'm sorry, your blog isn't long enough. Okay, I'll mention a few. My new favorite author is Robert Pobi. He is a superb writer. I devoured his books and wanted more. He actually hugged me when I met him because I had written a wonderful review for his first book. Other authors whose books I collect: Ellery Queen, Erle Stanley Gardner, Rex Stout, Elaine Viets, John Lutz, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Howard, and if I don't mention Sparkle Abbey and the Pampered Pet series, I'll be banned from any more SiC meetings. Seriously, they're great books.

What do you do to unwind and relax?
Lots of....

Gotcha. Not going to go there.

I try to get in several weekends of fishing during the summer. I'd love to find a racquetball court (that isn't at the Y where I dropped my membership years ago). This summer I really want to do some more golfing. I've been doing an exercise regimen that's helped me lose weight, build muscle and stamina, and that doesn't kill me after twenty minutes. Check it out. It's free.

Morning Person or Night Person? 
Didn't you read earlier where I'm the night shadow flitting across the grave markers?

Yeah, like I could flit.

I think mornings should be banned. Any hour between 6-11 a.m. needs to be outlawed. However, I think some scientist should come up with a way to extend the night for at least three or four more hours. Surely some enterprising geek can figure a way to do it.

Coffee, tea or other drink to get you moving in the morning? 
Does a fifth of vodka count?

Whoops, better change that statement or I'll have my mother calling me.

Coffee should also be outlawed. Really? It's nothing but filtered dirt? And no, despite the hype, cappuccinos, mocha lattes, and frapa-whatevers with extra cream are still coffee. Blech! (Believe me, Mallory feels the same way.) I go for tea, usually. I like the flavored teas. Tomato juice or hot tea with a touch of milk with breakfast. Sometimes, however, I get this hankering (does anybody still use that word?) for soda, so like my heroine, it's Dr Pepper.

What is coming up from you in 2013? Anything you want to tease us with?
Lots of...yeah, yeah, I know. The joke's getting old. Besides, I don't even have a girlfriend. Oh come on, can I get at least a little sympathy? I mean February 14th was just another Thursday for me.

Oh, you mean in the way of writing. Well, I don't have anything scheduled for publication but my goal is to submit at least one of three stories by year's end, preferably sooner. I'm editing/rewriting the next Mallory Petersen story (Delta), a sequel to my first book, Night Shadows, and a story with a brand new private investigator.

I mentioned above about the shorts in Taekwondo Times Magazine. My interview was in the March issue. They publish every two months, so my first story (or rather the first part of my first story) will be in May's issue. I also want to submit some short stories to other magazines.

Anything else you want to add? 
My website is:
My book review blog is:
Friend me at Facebook (especially if you want to audition for my new girlfriend. Lol)
Follow me on Twitter @SLBrayton

A Teaser from Alpha by Stephen L. Braylon

On a rainy October morning, Mallory Petersen, private detective and martial artist, discovers the corpse of her boyfriend, Bobby Furillo, in front of her office in Des Moines. Bucking police authority and continually attacked by unknown adversaries, Mallory uncovers Bobby's devastating secrets. Each new revelation puts Mallory in deeper peril from powerful and dangerous people. And just what are those enigmatic RSVP cards that keep showing up in Mallory's mail?

Murder takes but a single bullet.

I later learned a .45 caliber ended the life of Bobby Furillo, but I could have provided a reasonable guess upon seeing his body. I stood on the sidewalk under a dirty white protective awning as the October sky dumped enough rain on which even Noah would have commented. I did not envy the score of officers, forensics experts, and paramedics moving quickly, trying to protect both the corpse and the crime scene from the elements.

Dressed in jeans and sweater under a Sam Spade trench coat and hat, I shivered, horrified, but I couldn’t stop staring as it all unfolded before me.

Bobby’s body lay crumpled upon the wet asphalt in the parking lot next to my office building. Blood from the massive exit hole in the back disappeared in thin colored streams. Red tinged water saturated and darkened his jeans, a leather jacket, and a striped button down shirt. The expression on the once handsome face showed a combination of surprise and shock, blended together to form an image too tragic for anybody to want to remember, but one I’ll never forget.

I also couldn’t stop looking at the half dozen roses thrown aside at the moment of death. Rain battered mercilessly, detaching petals at random, sending them swirling into the gutter and on down the street to disappear in a soon to be overflowing sewer entrance.

Bobby had stopped by my office to take me to lunch and he wanted to bring me flowers.

Instead, when I drove into the parking lot, I’d discovered he’d brought me death and heartache.

About the Author 

Stephen Brayton is a Fifth Degree Black Belt instructor in the American Taekwondo Association. He’s a reader; a writer; an instructor; a graphic designer; a lover of books, movies, wine, women, music, fine food, good humor, sunny summer days spent hiking or fishing; and a catnip drug dealer to a thirteen pound cat, Thomas.

He began writing as a child; his first short story concerned a true incident about his reactions to discipline. During high school, he wrote for the school newspaper and was a photographer for the yearbook. For a Mass Media class, he wrote and edited a video project.

In college, he began a personal journal for a writing class; said journal is ongoing. He was also a reporter for the college newspaper.

During his early twenties, while working for a Kewanee, Illinois radio station, he wrote a fantasy based story and a trilogy for a comic book.

He has been involved broadcasting, trucking, hospitality, newspaper graphic design, and a pre-press camera operator at a publishing company.

He has written numerous short stories both horror and mystery.

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