Guest Post: Victoria Weisfeld – ARCHITECT OF COURAGE

Good day, book people. It never seems to fail, but in almost every author interview I’ve seen, heard, or read, the author gets asked a question that is basically “where do you get the ideas for your stories.” I’m pleased to welcome Victoria Weisfeld, author of Architect of Courage, to the blog. Ms. Weisfeld is joining us today to discuss the perennial question: “where do stories come from?” I hope you’ll add Architect of Courage to your summer reading list, I did. For now, please help me welcome Victoria Weisfeld. Thank you, Ms. Weisfeld, for taking the time to join us and share your thoughts on where stories come from. I’ll now turn the blog over to you.

Where Stories Come From
by Victoria Weisfeld

 

Writers are often asked where their stories come from, and for me, the proper answer is—everywhere! The newspaper, the rich fictional lives other writers have shared, the people I know, my own experiences, and my personal worldview. I’ve been lucky enough to have some thirty of my short stories published, but writing a novel is a totally different project, and it’s surprising really how many disparate pieces eventually come together in unexpected ways.

The murder mystery Architect of Courage is my first novel, and I feel like an archaeologist when I try to unearth its origins. Let’s dig around together for a while.

Yes, the main character is an architect. I wanted someone successful, on top of his professional world, as it were, who would confront serious situations that he was totally unprepared for. He’s not a man accustomed to being in over his head! I didn’t want to make him a lawyer or a doctor, because many writers trained in those professions write thrillers and have the background for it.

At the same time, I’ve always been interested in architecture. My parents were big fans of Frank Lloyd Wright, and my dad designed our house on Wrightean principles. In college, I hung around with the architecture students and was fascinated by the building models they created (dollhouses for boys). And I’ve subscribed to and read a leading architecture and design magazine for more than thirty years.

Rather than my having a detailed knowledge of the nuts and bolts of the profession, I believe I understand how architects think. (I’m delighted to say that a leading architect who read an advance review copy agreed.) As an example, they are accustomed to working in teams, alongside people with different expertise. Unlike the go-it-alone heroes of some thrillers, my architect, Archer Landis, is quite willing to get help when he needs it, in order to work his way through the baffling challenges that confront him.

Another thread came from the news media. At the time I started writing Architect of Courage, I was troubled by the broad-brush anti-Muslim rhetoric I kept hearing, which seemed to assume all Muslims were terrorists. Arch believes he’s fallen in love with a Spanish woman named Julia who is one of his assistants, but when she’s murdered, the police discover she’s really an American and a Muslim. They immediately assume terrorist, that she’s finagled a job with his firm to find targets for bombs. Arch disagrees and sets out to prove them wrong. Not until recently did I recognize how many examples of the corrosive nature of prejudice are in the book, though it is almost never discussed overtly, and the word “prejudice” never appears.

It’s predictable that the police react as they do because the book is set in summer 2011, in the months leading up to the tenth anniversary of 9/11. There were lots of rumors about impending catastrophes going around in official circles right then. So that part of the book—the timing—was based on a real-life situation. Living so close to Manhattan as I do, and having friends with personal tragedies connected to those events, it’s an indelible part of my life. Not as much for people elsewhere in the country, perhaps.

Arch’s lady-love, Julia, grew up in Dearborn, Michigan, now home to the largest Arab American community in the country. It’s the company town for the Ford Motor Company (where my dad and all my uncles worked). I grew up there too, some years before Julia (!). I worked into the story what I know about the town now: the billboards in Arabic on Michigan Avenue, the Lebanese restaurants, the Arab American National Museum (well worth a visit), along with Julia’s brothers’ career ambitions at Ford’s, as locals refer to the company.

Manhattan is a fun setting for a novel because of the great diversity of people who can inspire various characters. Arch came from a middle-class background, but his wife was from Connecticut’s upper crust. His receptionist is Black. His two principal associates are from the Midwest and South Carolina. His lawyer is Irish, and the man who helps him with technical stuff (guns, flashbangs, and such) is Latino.

Arch’s own history includes a stint in the Army near the end of the Vietnam war, an experience he doesn’t talk about. These weren’t conscious decisions, but, looking back at the text now, I see that every time he’s in the most peril (and only then), his war experiences come back to him. Some of the superb books written about that conflict have apparently made their mark on me, and I’ve taken on board some of their insights.

In just these examples, you can glimpse the many threads that come together to weave a novel: personal history and experiences, current events, social attitudes, and stories I’ve read. I think readers will find their own touchpoints in this story. Although I’ve assembled the pieces, many of the pieces themselves, these and others, relate to real-life experiences in our shared consciousness. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did the writing! ♦

Architect of Courage

by Victoria Weisfeld

June 20 – July 15, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Architect of Courage by Victoria Weisfeld

Ordinary Man, Extraordinary Situation

In June 2011, September was weeks away, and the full dread of the approaching anniversary hadn’t yet settled on New York City’s residents. But from One Police Plaza to the FBI’s grim headquarters in Washington, D.C., the top brass harbor a rumbling in the gut. Each person who works for them down the line shares their unease, from every rookie cop walking the beat to the lowliest surveillance specialist. And Archer Landis is about to get caught up in their fixation.

Landis is not one of his city’s guardians, and a different sort of electricity runs under his skin on this warm Thursday evening. A highly successful Manhattan architect—a man you’d say has his life totally, enviably, in order—Landis works the room at a Midtown reception, shaking hands, being seen, accompanying his cheerful greetings with the convivial clinking of ice in an untouched glass of scotch.

When the noisy crowd becomes sufficiently dense and everyone present can say they’ve seen him, he will slip away. Out on Fifth Avenue, he will grab a cab for the run south to Julia’s Chelsea apartment. It’s a trip that will hurtle him into deadly danger. Everyone and everything he cares about most will be threatened, and he will have to discover whether he has the courage to fight his way clear.

Book Details:

Genre: Crime / Murder Mystery
Published by: Black Opal Books
Publication Date: June 4, 2022
Number of Pages: 350
ISBN10: 1953434819 (paperback)
ISBN13: 9781953434814 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781953434821 (eBook)
ASIN: B0B3R5TLN4 (Kindle edition)
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes & Noble | B&N Nook Book | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org | !ndigo eBook | Kobo eBook | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Victoria Weisfeld

Vicki Weisfeld’s short stories have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Mystery Magazine, Sherlock Holmes MM, and Black Cat MM, among others, as well as in a number of highly competitive crime anthologies, including: Busted: Arresting Stories from the Beat, Seascapes: Best New England Crime Stories, Passport to Murder (Bouchercon), The Best Laid Plans, Quoth the Raven, and Sherlock Holmes in the Realms of Edgar Allan Poe. Her stories have won awards from the Short Mystery Fiction Society and the Public Safety Writers Association. She’s a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and other crime fiction organizations. For the past decade, she’s blogged several times a week at www.vweisfeld.com. She is a frequent book reviewer for the UK website, crimefictionlover.com.

Catch Up With Victoria:
www.VWeisfeld.com
Goodreads
Twitter – @vsk8s
Facebook

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Guest Post: Shelly Frome – SHADOW OF THE GYPSY

Good day, my bookish peeps. Books, especially memorable books, are made up of much more than just the plot. These stories usually have memorable characters and are set in unusual settings. Would To Kill a Mockingbird be as memorable without Atticus, Scout, Gem, Dil, and Boo Radley? Can you imagine the Harry Potter series without Hogwarts, Hermione, Ron Weasley, Dumbledore, or Snape? It doesn’t matter if it’s the main character or not, the more unusual they are generally relates to their being remembered. I’m honored to host a return visit from Shelly Frome, author of the recently released Shadow of the Gypsy. Mr. Frome will be discussing characters with us today. Please help me welcome back, Shelly Frome. Thank you, Mr. Frome, for returning to my blog and sharing with us today. I’ll now turn the blog over to you.

Those Freewheeling Characters
by Shelly Frome

In his first detective novel The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe was changeable: by turns wised up, hopeful, thoughtful, adventurous, sentimental, cynical, and rebellious. Moreover, there was the sense that Marlowe was keenly aware that pain hurt, life really mattered, and you never knew what you were going to run into. He found himself taken with his client the General, a dying millionaire with “only a few locks of dry white hair clinging to his scalp,” a man who spoke slowly, “carefully using whatever strength he had left.” It seems that one of the General’s unpredictable and troublesome daughters was being blackmailed. Soon enough, there were intimations of kidnapping, pornography, seduction, and murder as a number of characters, working at cross-purposes, sent the action winging in different directions.

Arguably, the prototype in detective fiction at least is Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. In this edgy tale, there’s always a subtext beneath the surface. As Sam Spade endeavors to catch the person who killed his partner Miles Archer during a stakeout, Spade runs into a trio of colorful characters like Brigid O’Shaughnessy who is so deceitful, she seems to be lying even when she may be telling the truth and leaves Spade perplexed to the point of even falling in love with her.

Years later, and by extension, the playwright Edward Albee confided to a handful of us graduate students that he’d had a problem with his play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The circumstances centered on a jaded couple he called George and Martha, stuck on a small New England college campus, who’d invited a newly arrived younger couple over for fun and games. However, the results were flat and predictable. Soon enough, George and Martha imaginatively came to him and threatened to quit if he didn’t back off. In truth, the pair of them claimed, they were not only unpredictable, they had deep dark secrets percolating underneath and all hell would burst loose if, and only if, Albee would let go of his outline and set them free. Albee complied and the fresh and compelling results can be seen in the movie version starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

On a personal note, I once attended a book fair in New York and, at the same time, was having trouble with my crime novel Murder Run. A story that centered on a laconic handyman named Jed who’d been falsely accused of the untimely death of a woman he’d been working for. Jed had reason to believe the real culprit was a mobster who drove down the night in question and then took off back to the mean streets. And so there I was, sauntering around the Little Italy section of Manhattan on a bright spring morning when I ran into a stocky character who called himself Johnny Diamonds and announced, “This is my territory, man.” A twelve-year-old scamp named Angie came along and said, “If you’re lost, mister, I can show you around for a little coin.” In my mind, this tough little girl became Jed’s sidekick and guide, a figure like Johnny Diamonds became the key to the world of the local Mafia, and anything could happen.

As one writer once noted, “No surprising characters, no liveliness in the story.”

Perhaps the novelist E.L. Doctorow put it best when he said that writing fiction was like driving at night with only the headlight beams to guide you. You know more or less where you’re headed but have no idea of the turns you’ll make, who you’ll meet along the way, and what influence they’ll have on your journey. ♦

Shadow of the Gypsy

by Shelly Frome

June 6 – July 1, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Shadow of the Gypsy by Shelly Frome

A nemesis out of the past suddenly returns, ​forcing Josh Bartlett to come to terms with his true identity.

Josh Bartlet had figured all the angles, changed his name, holed up as a small town features writer in the Blue Ridge. He’d just give it a few weeks more and then begin anew, return to the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut and Molly (if she’d have him) and, at long last, live a normal life. After all, it was a matter of record that Zharko had been deported well over a year ago. The shadowy form Josh had glimpsed yesterday at the lake was only that—a hazy, shadow under the eaves. It stood to reason his old nemesis was still ensconced in Bucharest or thereabouts. No matter what, he simply wouldn’t travel over eight hundred miles to track Josh down, hook into his life, put him under the gun and ruin everything. Surely not now, not after all this.

“Sharp writing, and a keen pace keep this story rolling.”
– Lee A. Jacobus, author of Crown Island and Hawaiian Tales

“Shadow of the Gypsy is intriguing, complicated, and mysterious. . . “
– Tina M. Zion, award-winning author and international teacher of intuition

“By turns charming and chilling, Shadow of the Gypsy is that rarest of gems, a crime novel that curdles the blood, even as it tugs on the heartstrings. . . “
– Jaden Terrell, author of A Taste of Blood and Ashes, River of Glass, A Cup Full of Midnight, and Racing the Devil

“Once you start, you won’t want to stop reading. . .”
– Jana Zinser, author of The Children’s Train: Escape on the Kindertransport and Fly Like a Bird

Book Details:

Genre: Crime Fiction
Published by: BQB Publishing
Publication Date: May 5, 2022
Number of Pages: 330
ISBN:     1952782570 (paperback)
ISBN13: 9781952782572 (paperback)
ASIN:     B09HST8WP5 (Kindle edition)
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes & Noble | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org | Goodreads

Shadow of the Gypsy Book Trailer:

Author Bio:

Shelly Frome

Shelly Frome is a member of Mystery Writers of America, a professor of dramatic arts emeritus at UConn, a former professional actor, and a writer of crime novels and books on theater and film. He also is a features writer for Gannett Publications. His fiction includes Sun Dance for Andy Horn, Lilac Moon, Twilight of the Drifter, Tinseltown Riff, Murder Run, Moon Games, The Secluded Village Murders, and Miranda and the D-Day Caper. Among his works of non-fiction are The Actors Studio: A History and a guide to playwriting and one on screenwriting, Shadow of the Gypsy is his latest foray into the world of crime and the amateur sleuth. He lives in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

Catch Up With Shelly:
www.ShellyFrome.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @ShellyFrome
Instagram – @AuthorShellyFrome
Twitter – @ShellyFrome
Facebook – @ShellyFrome

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Book Showcase: SYMPHONY ROAD by Gabriel Valjan

Symphony Road by Gabriel Valjan Banner

 

Symphony Road

by Gabriel Valjan

February 1-28, 2021 Tour

 

Synopsis:

Symphony Road by Gabriel Valjan

Trouble comes in threes for Shane Cleary, a former police officer and now, a PI.

Arson. A Missing Person. A cold case.

Two of his clients whom he shouldn’t trust, he does, and the third, whom he should, he can’t.

Shane is up against crooked cops, a notorious slumlord and a mafia boss who want what they want, and then there’s the good guys who may or may not be what they seem.

Praise for Symphony Road:

“The second installment in this noir series takes us on a gritty journey through mid-seventies Boston, warts and all, and presents Shane Cleary with a complex arson case that proves to be much more than our PI expected. Peppered with the right mix of period detail and sharp, spare prose, Valjan proves he’s the real deal.” – Edwin Hill, Edgar finalist and author of Watch Her

“Ostracized former cop turned PI Shane Cleary navigates the mean streets of Boston’s seedy underbelly in Symphony Road. A brilliant follow up to Dirty Old Town, Valjan’s literary flair and dark humor are on full display.” – Bruce Robert Coffin, award-winning author of the Detective Byron Mysteries

“A private eye mystery steeped in atmosphere and attitude.” – Richie Narvaez, author of Noiryorican

Book Details:

Genre: Crime fiction, Procedural, Noir, Historical Fiction
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: January 15, 2021
Number of Pages: 232
ISBN: 978-1-953789-07-5
Series: Shane Cleary Mystery, #2
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

I went to cross the street when the wheels of a black Cadillac sped up and bristled over tempered glass from a recent smash-and-grab. The brake lights pulsed red, and a thick door opened. A big hulk stepped out, and the car wobbled. The man reached into his pocket. I thought this was it. My obituary was in tomorrow’s paper, written in past tense and in the smallest and dullest typeface, Helvetica, because nothing else said boring better.

Click. Click. “I can never get this fucking thing to light.”

It was Tony Two-Times, Mr. B’s no-neck side man. His nickname came from his habit of clicking his lighter twice. “Mr. B wants a word.”

“Allow me.” I grabbed the Bic. The orange flame jumped on my first try and roasted the end of his Marlboro Red. “You really oughta quit.”

“Thanks for the health advice. Get in.”

Tony nudged me into the backseat. I became the meat in the sandwich between him and Mr. B. There was no need for introductions. The chauffeur was nothing more than a back of a head and a pair of hands on the wheel. The car moved and Mr. B contemplated the night life outside the window.

“I heard you’re on your way to the police station to help your friend.”

“News travels fast on Thursday night. Did Bill tell you before or after he called me?”

“I’m here on another matter.”

The cloud of smoke made me cough. Tony Two-Times was halfway to the filter. The chauffeur cracked the window a smidge for ventilation. As I expected, the radio played Sinatra and there were plans for a detour. A string of red and green lights stared back at us through a clean windshield.

“A kid I know is missing,” Mr. B said.

“Kids go missing all the time.”

“This kid is special.”

“Has a Missing Persons Report been filed?”

The look from Mr. B prompted regret. “We do things my way. Understood?”

We stopped at a light. A long-legged working girl with a chinchilla wrap crossed the street. She approached the car to recite the menu and her prices, but one look at us and she kept walking.

“Is this kid one of your own?”

The old man’s hand strummed leather. The missing pinky unnerved me. I’ve seen my share of trauma in Vietnam: shattered bones, intestines hanging out of a man, but missing parts made me queasy. The car moved and Mr. B continued the narrative.

“Kid’s a real pain in my ass, which is what you’d expect from a teenager, but he’s not in the rackets, if that’s what you’re wondering. This should be easy money for you.”

Money never came easy. As soon as it was in my hand, it went to the landlady, or the vet, or the utilities, or inside the refrigerator. I’d allow Mr. B his slow revelation of facts. Mr. B mentioned the kid’s gender when he said “he’s not in the rackets.” This detail had already made the case easier for me. A boy was stupider, easier to find and catch. Finding a teenage girl, that took something special, like pulling the wings off of an angel.

“He’s a good kid. No troubles with the law, good in school, excellent grades and all, but his mother seems to think he needed to work off some of that rebellious energy kids get. You know how it is.”

I didn’t. The last of my teen years were spent in rice paddies, in a hundred-seventeen-degree weather—and that was before summer—trying to distinguish friendlies from enemies in a jungle on the other side of the planet. And then there were the firefights, screams, and all the dead bodies.

“Does this kid have a girlfriend?” I asked.

Mr. B said nothing.

“A boyfriend then?” That question made Mr. B twist his head and Tony Two-Times elbowed me hard. “I’ve got to ask. Kids these days. You know, drugs, sex, and rock’ n roll.”

“The kid isn’t like your friend Bill, Mr. Cleary.”

The mister before Cleary was a first. The ribs ached. I caught a flash of the driver’s eyes in the rearview mirror. Mr. B conveyed specifics such as height and weight, build, the last known place the kid was seen, the usual hangouts and habits. This kid was All-American, too vanilla, and Mr. B had to know it. Still, this kid was vestal purity compared to Mr. B, who had run gin during Prohibition, killed his first man during the Depression, and became a made-man before Leave It to Beaver aired its first episode on television.

The car came to a stop. The driver put an emphasis on the brakes. We sat in silence. The locks shot up. Not quite the sound of a bolt-action rifle, but close. Mr. B extended his hand for a handshake. I took it. No choice there. This was B’s way of saying his word was his bond and whatever I discovered during the course of my investigation stayed between us, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

“I’ve got to ask,” I said.

“I’ll pay you whatever you want.”

“It’s not that,” I said, feeling Tony Two-Times’ breath on the back of my neck. “Did you hire Jimmy C to do a job lately?”

“I did not.”

“And Bill called me, just like that?” I knew better than to snap my fingers. Tony would grab my hand and crush my knuckles like a bag of peanuts. A massive paw on the shoulder told me it was time to vacate the premises, but then Mr. B did the tailor’s touch, a light hand to my elbow. “Jimmy is queer like your friend, right?”

“What has that got to do with anything?”

“When it comes to friends, you forgive certain habits, like I allow this idiot over here to smoke those stupid cigarettes. Capisci?”

“Yeah, I understand.”

“Good. Now, screw off.”

I climbed over Tony Two-Times to leave the car. Door handle in my grip, I leaned forward to ask one last thing, “You know about Jimmy’s predicament?”

“Ironic, isn’t it?” Mr. B said.

“What is?”

“I know everything in this town, except where my grandnephew is. Now, shut the door.”

The door clapped shut. I heard bolts hammer down and lock. There was a brief sight of silhouettes behind glass before the car left the curb. I had two cases before breakfast, one in front of me, and the other one, behind me in the precinct house. There was no need for me to turn around. No need either, to read the sign overhead.

The limestone building loomed large in my memory. Two lanterns glowed and the entrance, double doors of polished brass, were as tall and heavy as I remembered them. It was late March and I wasn’t Caesar but it sure as hell felt like the Ides of March as I walked up those marble steps.

***

Excerpt from Symphony Road by Gabriel Valjan. Copyright 2021 by Gabriel Valjan. Reproduced with permission from Gabriel Valjan. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Gabriel Valjan

Gabriel Valjan lives in Boston’s South End. He is the author of the Roma Series and Company Files (Winter Goose Publishing) and the Shane Cleary series (Level Best Books). His second Company File novel, The Naming Game, was a finalist for the Agatha Award for Best Historical Mystery and the Anthony Award for Best Paperback Original in 2020. Gabriel is a member of the Historical Novel Society, International Thriller Writer (ITW), and Sisters in Crime.

Catch Up With Gabriel Valjan:
www.GabrielValjan.com
GabrielsWharf.wordpress.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @gvaljan
Instagram – @gabrielvaljan
Twitter – @GValjan
Facebook

 

 

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