Guest Post: Jeff Bond – THE BEGONIA KILLER

Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours Banner: THE BEGONIA KILLER by Jeff Bond, A McGill Investigators Novel; quote: "If you like Stephanie Plum, you'll love Molly McGill."; Book cover done in pulp fiction style with blue fading to purple to red, THE BEGONIA KILLER by Jeff Bond, house in the background with a man grabbing the shoulder of a woman, fence separates the two yards and in the foreground is man wearing  a red tie, glasses, and holding bloody hedge clippers above some flowers next to a mailbox.

Good day, book divas and divos. I hope you’re having a fantastic week so far and have gotten some reading time whilst enjoying the warm weather. I’m currently participating in my local library’s “Summer reading challenge” or at least I’m trying to participate. Sadly, I’ve been residing in migraine headache central for the past week, which is somewhat apropos since June is Migraine and Headache Awareness Month. Despite the severe migraine headaches lately, I’ve been steadily adding to my TBR list (no, you don’t want to know how long it actually is at this point). I keep telling myself that I really need to get started on a few of the series I’ve marked to read just so I can read the latest releases in the series. One such series is the Third Chance Enterprises series featuring Molly McGill by Jeff Bond, including the most recent release, The Begonia Killer. (I’ve fallen in love with the pulp fiction style cover.) I’m incredibly honored and pleased to welcome back to the blog, Jeff Bond. Mr. Bond (I really love saying that) will be discussing the concept of “writing what you know” with us today. I hope you’ll enjoy what he has to say and add The Begonia Killer to your ever-growing TBR list. Good day, Mr. Bond, and thank you for today’s visit.

Writing from Personal Experience

I finally got around to starting Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. It’s a book some people swear by, but at 1088 pages and with a heavy post-modern reputation, it’s been more than I’ve felt like biting off. I’m enjoying the book. The language and characters are dazzling. The scenes are very readable and don’t drag the way you might expect from a book that long.

Still, certain riffs have such an encyclopedic feel that I found myself speculating about how Wallace came into so much knowledge. He’s particularly voluminous on the topic of the Enfield Tennis Academy — the interpersonal dynamics of the young athletes training there, details of their games, minutiae about showers and sweaty laundry and admissions procedures.

He must have played growing up, I thought. A quick Google search confirmed that, yes, David Foster Wallace was a fairly serious junior tennis player.

There are plenty of advantages to following the old adage, “Write what you know.” You’re likely to have a reservoir of well-developed ideas about the topic. Any details your story needs are right there in your brain, ready to fall out onto the page. Often when you’re writing a character outside your experience — a neurosurgeon, say — you’ll have to do some homework to craft them believably. How much of their time is spent performing operations versus talking to patients versus reading X-rays? What sort of practice is most typical in their field? Private? University-affiliated?

All these answers are immediately available to a writer working in a field they know.

I set a recent book, The Pinebox Vendetta, at a twenty-year Yale reunion, not long after I attended my own. I didn’t have any grand wisdoms to convey about reunions or Yale. I just liked the setting for the plot I had in mind. Pinebox is book one of a series about rival political clans locked in a perpetual power struggle. I wanted to begin the series in a non-political setting to emphasize the consequences of the clans’ fighting beyond just votes and Senate seats. Because so many recent political figures have attended Yale, it felt natural for a backdrop.

In the end, I was happy with the choice. The Ivy League setting suited the centuries-old feud, and as an added bonus, I had an easy time with street names and building descriptions, and imagining the alumnae emotions during reunion weekend.

The flip side of familiar settings is that they can distort your perspective. Authors generally strive to write for the reader who’s naïve about their subject matter, and being very close to a particular industry, sport, or profession can make it hard to strike a balance between accessibility and authenticity.

I struggled with this writing my second novel, Blackquest 40. It starred Deb Bollinger, a software engineer with attitude forced by foreign commandos to solve an impossible coding problem — a Silicon Valley Die Hard. In my twenties, I’d worked some as a software engineer in San Francisco so I knew Deb’s turf. The plot required many intricate technology explanations, and I had Deb lay them out in the plainest way possible.

Except, as it turned out, my “plain” wasn’t plain enough. My first round of beta readers found the book’s technical passages cumbersome and byzantine. I revised away much of the coding talk, but those sections were still giving people trouble. It took five or six rounds before I finally wrangled the book into a form that typical readers felt comfortable with. In the final version, I even tossed a line into chapter one where Deb, after a character misunderstands her, gives a clear wink to the reader by remarking in narrative voice, “I don’t expect non-techies to understand every word I say, all the nitty-gritty.”

In my latest book, The Begonia Killer, I borrow significantly from my own experience balancing writing against the work of raising children. Molly McGill, my single-mother private-investigator protagonist, deals with stuffed animals being peed on by the family cat, a kindergartner obsessed with cellphone games, and a teenage son who expects snacks on demand. These are all close to situations I’ve encountered myself, though never quite like Molly does. My daughters don’t actually crave the phone like Molly’s. They aren’t teenagers so I wouldn’t expect them to help themselves to snacks. In fact, I prefer they don’t, since that line between granola and candy bar keeps shrinking.

When using a personal experience as a writer, it’s important not to shoehorn the source incident too perfectly — but rather to massage until it fits your character and plot.

Another example from Begonia comes when Zach, Molly’s teenage son, yells at his mother for putting away his laundry with two left socks folded together. That’s something that I actually did myself sometime in middle school. Now I didn’t have much in common with Zach — of the long bangs and skateboard tucked in his armpit — but that one episode felt perfectly apt in portraying Zach’s adolescent entitlement and cluelessness about the world.

Starting out as an author, I had no sense for this. A few of my early attempts featured characters drawn fairly close to real-life counterparts, and this made for some dicey encounters with friends who volunteered to read. Some would immediately try guessing which character went with which of our mutual friends. It didn’t help that I was also lousy with naming back then. More than once, I started drafting with a name too similar to a character’s real analog, then had to go back using my word processor’s find-and-replace and swap the original for a less recognizable name. Invariably, I would miss a contraction or some apostrophe-s version and give myself away.

Maybe because I set this precedent early, I still have friends who’ll insist on matching up real people to characters in my books. If I’ve borrowed a single anecdote or trait, it may appear that the entire character is adapted. I can understand that. In fact, I’ve rejected plot ideas that too closely mirrored actual events for just that reason: I didn’t want somebody to read and believe the story’s events reflected on them. It’s always possible to find a different way, plot- or character-wise, to create the effect you want. It just takes some shifting around of other elements.

I’m still working on Infinite Jest — readable or not, 1088 pages is 1088 pages. Sadly, David Foster Wallace is no longer with us, but I have a sneaking suspicion that a former teammate or two squirmed reading about a certain mannerism or vocal tic of one of Enfield Tennis Academy’s pupils. I hope they keep in mind that if Wallace borrowed from them, it was because he had good artistic reasons for doing so.

At least I think he did.


 

The Begonia Killer

by Jeff Bond

June 1-30, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

THE BEGONIA KILLER - JBondYou know Molly McGill from her death-defying escapes in Anarchy of the Mice, book one of the Third Chance Enterprises series. Now ride along for her first standalone caper, The Begonia Killer.

When Martha Dodson hires McGill Investigators to look into an odd neighbor, Molly feels optimistic about the case — right up until Martha reveals her theory that Kent Kirkland, the neighbor, is holding two boys hostage in his papered-over upstairs bedroom.

Martha’s husband thinks she needs a hobby. Detective Art Judd, who Molly visits on her client’s behalf, sees no evidence worthy of devoting police resources.

But Molly feels a kinship with the Yancy Park housewife and bone-deep concern for the missing boys.

She forges ahead with the investigation, navigating her own headstrong kids, an unlikely romance with Detective Judd, and a suspect in Kent Kirkland every bit as terrifying as the supervillains she’s battled before alongside Quaid Rafferty and Durwood Oak Jones.

The Begonia Killer is not your grandparents’ cozy mystery.

 

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery — Cozy/Romance
Published by: Jeff Bond Books
Publication Date: June 1, 2021
Number of Pages: 195
ISBN: 1734622520 (ISBN-13 : 978-1734622522)
Series: Third Chance Enterprises, #3
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Author - Jeff BondJeff Bond is an American author of popular fiction. A Kansas native and Yale graduate, he now lives in Michigan with his wife and two daughters. The Pinebox Vendetta received the gold medal in the 2020 Independent Publisher Book Awards, and the first two entries in the Third Chance Enterprises series — Anarchy of the Mice and Dear Durwood — were named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best 100 Indie Books of 2020.

Catch Up With Jeff Bond:
ThirdChanceStories.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @jeff_bond
Instagram – @jeffabond
Twitter – @jeffABond
Facebook – @jeffabondbooks

Tour Participants:

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This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Jeff Bond. There will be one (1) winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on June 1, 2021 and runs through July 2, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Guest Post: Jeff Bond – DEAR DURWOOD

Good day, my bookish peeps. We’ve made it to another Friday, YAY! For most of us avid readers, our reading style may change a bit as we age, but the one thing we know when we read it is a good story. We enjoy the characters, the settings, the storylines, and the action. Everything about the story just seems to make sense and work. I’m incredibly pleased to welcome Mr. Jeff Bond, author of the Third Chance Enterprise series including Dear Durwood. Mr. Bond will be discussing why we need what he calls “balance in storytelling” to make stories believable. Thank you, Mr. Bond, for taking time away from your writing to visit with us today. The blog is yours!




Balance in Storytelling


My wife and I had a rare night to ourselves last month, the kids away at a sleepover, and decided to relax with some TV. I usually defer to whatever she wants to watch, but I had been itching to check out a movie on Netflix I’d been hearing about for months. For years, actually.

The Irishman.

De Niro … Pacino … Pesci … the three and a half hour runtime gave me pause, but I had fond memories of watching Goodfellas as a college student and couldn’t wait to see these actors reunited and doing their thing.

We watched the movie.

Now I wouldn’t dream of critiquing Martin Scorsese — and my purpose here isn’t to write a movie review — but we both sat back when the credits rolled with conflicted expressions.

“What did you think?” my wife asked.

I thought the film was subtle and moving and utterly convincing, but I didn’t love it. De Niro, Pacino, Pesci — those same actors I’d been excited to watch again felt somehow suffocating. It was just so much sameness. Leaving aside race for now — the only substantial female plotline involves the De Niro character’s daughter and her ongoing disapproval of his line of work, which she communicates with mute scowls and sidelong glances throughout the film.

In fairness, that’s the world of the Italian-American mafia. It would’ve been disingenuous for Scorsese to portray it otherwise. The issue never even crossed my mind as a young person watching Goodfellas, which owed partly to the different times and diversity not being something we all considered much. (Enough, I should say.)

Another difference between me twenty years ago and me now is that I’ve written several stories of my own. I’ve developed my own method for balancing a book along gender, racial, and sexual orientation lines. It’s nothing groundbreaking, usually just a document I’ll produce at the beginning of the project breaking out the main and secondary characters with either “m” or “f” beside each. If the proportions aren’t close, or if all the f‘s are good and m‘s are bad or vice versa, it’s time to rethink the mix. The technique isn’t perfect by any means, but I do notice now when a story seems to ignore the issue.

The reasons for balancing a book in such a way are simple. One, it reflects the world as it is — a goal anyone trying to write convincing realistic fiction should strive for. Second, it’s shamelessly better for sales. You don’t want to cut your potential audience in half by writing exclusively about one group, leaving others unrepresented. Now that’s an oversimplification because we’re all human beings, and I can certainly enjoy and identify with stories portraying the inner lives of women or people of different ethnic groups than myself. If readers can cast their minds into protagonists from outside their own experiences, though, there’s no reason authors can’t do likewise and meet them halfway.

In fact, I would’ve liked my recent releases to be more diverse than they are. Although I love the throwback pulp-style images my cover artist created for the Third Chance Enterprises books, I feel some angst at all the white faces there. I thought long and hard about making Durwood Oak Jones African-American. Some things about his character would’ve changed, but I think it could have been an interesting twist, paired with his conservative values and deep Appalachian roots. In the end, though, I didn’t feel comfortable risking accusations of cultural appropriation. The Third Chance Enterprises series is nothing more or less than a big, breezy thrill-ride, and I didn’t want to saddle it or tarnish readers’ experiences with an #ownVoices controversy.

I should say here that I have nothing but respect for #ownVoices as a movement. Its goals are the right ones and progress has clearly been made, particularly on the traditional publishing side. The world doesn’t need to weep that straight white male authors like me are slightly constrained in choosing our protagonists. I actually have a couple of books in the outline phase for my new Franklin series — which is more literary/slice-of-life in tone — featuring ensemble casts that should allow me to provide readers with a more representative mix of characters.

Diversity in fiction is tough, coming and going. It can feel artificial when done wrong and patronizing when done very wrong. Stories that reference a character’s protected class without a genuine need to do so seem token-ish. It’s important for writers to dig deep and find organic story elements that support more diverse casts.

In my second novel, Blackquest 40 — a kind of Die Hard in a San Francisco tech company —  I chose a young female computer programmer to be my Bruce Willis. The story revolves around a nightmarish corporate training exercise that turns darker by the hour, and I wanted above all to create maximum conflict between the corporate overlords running the “training” and my protagonist, Deb Bollinger. Given the macho bro-vibe of the Northern California tech world, I thought making Deb a lesbian would exacerbate that split in a good way — and also made sense given I was setting the story in San Francisco. (Partly because that’s where those companies are located; partly because I lived there six years and know the city well.)

This choice took traditional publishing off the table for Blackquest 40, due to #ownVoices concerns. I released it as an indie title and haven’t heard many complaints. Most readers like Deb and seem fine with my portrayal. There are certainly other authors who pull it off. James Patterson comes to mind with his Alex Cross series. Thrillers generally don’t have social statements at their core — they aren’t saying big important things about racial or gender identity — and there’s a side of me that feels like the genre should be ripe for more diverse heroes from authors of all backgrounds. But I realize my own perspective is limited here, and that the long legacy of exclusionary homogeneity in publishing looms over the issue.

Ultimately, like so many of us in this challenging year of 2020, I’m feeling my way through the dark, doing my best, trying to learn.






Dear Durwood

by Jeff Bond

on Tour August 1 – September 30, 2020



Synopsis:


Dear Durwood by Jeff Bond


Book two in the epic Third Chance Enterprises series, Dear Durwood is a standalone mystery pitting uncompromising principle against big city greed.

Durwood Oak Jones is a man of few indulgences. One he does allow is a standing ad in Soldier of Fortune magazine soliciting “injustices in need of attention.”

This month’s bundle of letters includes one from Carol Bridges, mayor of the dusty, blue-collar town of Chickasaw, Texas. For nearly a century, Chickasaw has relied on the jobs and goodwill of Hogan Consolidated, a family-run manufacturer of industrial parts. Now East Coast lawyers and investment bankers have taken aim at the company. The citizens of Chickasaw fear it may be acquired or bankrupted, leading to massive layoffs — effectively destroying the town.

Durwood and his trusty bluetick coonhound, Sue-Ann, fly to Texas to see what can be done. They find a young CEO born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Factory workers with hammers. A good woman, Carol Bridges, who knows her town is being cheated but can’t get to the bottom of how. And lawyers.

Dirty, good-for-nothing lawyers.





Book Details:


Genre: Action-Adventure / Western Romance
Published by: Jeff Bond Books
Publication Date: June 15, 2020
Number of Pages: 215
ISBN: 1732255296 (ISBN13: 9781732255296)
Series: Third Chance Enterprises
Purchase Links: Amazon | Third Chance Stories | Goodreads




Author Bio:


Jeff Bond

Jeff Bond is an American author of popular fiction. His books have been featured in The New York Review of Books, and his 2020 release, The Pinebox Vendetta, received the gold medal (top prize) in the 2020 Independent Publisher Book Awards. A Kansas native and Yale graduate, he now lives in Michigan with his wife and two daughters.

Catch Up With Jeff Bond On:


JeffBondBooks.com
BookBub
Goodreads
Instagram
Twitter
Facebook!




Tour Participants:


Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!





Enter To Win!:



This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Jeff Bond. There will be 2 winners of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card each. The giveaway begins on August 1, 2020, and runs through October 2, 2020. Void where prohibited.


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