H. Scott Butler: Night Journey and Voice From the Shadows Sunday, Aug 30 2015 

Please welcome author H. Scott Butler, who will answer some questions about becoming a writer later in life, something Auntie M can identify with~

H. Scott Butler grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He graduated from LSU, went on to earn a doctorate in English at Duke University, and taught literature and film at a community college in eastern Virginia for many years.

Since his early retirement he has devoted his time to writing and to participating in a grassroots effort to preserve Fort Monroe, a former Army post of deep historic significance. He and his wife, Susan, currently live in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Night Journey

What have you written? Three novels, the first unpublished, as should be. The other two–Night Journey and Voice from the Shadows–are mystery thrillers about a female sheriff’s investigator in Northern Virginia. My heroine, Cynthia Westbrook, is a tall thirty-something with a serious interest in literature.

Why a woman for your main character?
Not sure. Although in retrospect, I’ve found it a sort of freeing thing to do. In Night Journey, Cynthia has never dealt with a profoundly traumatic event in her childhood, so in much of the novel she’s a little detached from herself. If she were a man with the same problem, the usual macho baggage would dictate, by my lights, a less cathartic outcome.

Also, I’m drawn to underdogs, and in America as in most countries women aren’t treated as equals.

Is Night Journey, then, primarily about a detective solving a crime or someone with a personal issue?
The two are intertwined. Cynthia’s evasion of her past interferes with her ability to interpret the evidence. She can’t solve the mystery until she confronts herself.

As a reader of mysteries I’m always more interested in the personality of the detective than in the crime, and I wanted to reflect that inclination in my mystery–without, of course, neglecting the crime-solving element.

You said Cynthia’s a serious reader. Why did you emphasize that about her?

Literature has always been important to me. I’m a retired English and film teacher. I spent my working life trying to help students see that art, as Hamlet says, holds the mirror up to nature. It’s a way of understanding ourselves and the world.

So I wanted Cynthia to have that sort of appreciation of literature. And in Night Journey, a poem by Robert Frost becomes in fact both an emotional touchstone for her and a significant clue.

Does literature also play a role in Voice from the Shadows? Voice cover

Yes. There it isn’t a clue but a means of self-understanding. Cynthia feels compelled to confront the traumatic event in her past, a still unsolved murder, by returning to her Alabama hometown and doing her own investigation. For something to read she takes along, not really by accident, as she comes to see, The Scarlet Letter.

You said you were retired. Is writing fiction a recent or a long-time ambition?

I’ve always wanted to do it, but I lacked both the time and impetus–the impetus being, in my case, the sense of time growing short. To quote Andrew Marvel: But at my back I always hear/Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.

How does becoming a writer at your age make you feel?

Young. ………….. H. Scott Butler

Night Journey and Voice from the Shadows, by H. Scott Butler, published by High Tide Publications, are both available from Amazon.

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Lynn Chandler-Willis: The Rising Sunday, Aug 3 2014 

Jesse to the Rescue

When I started writing The Rising, I had a very rough idea of where the story was going. I knew what I wanted to happen but had no idea how I was going to make it happen. Getting from Point A to Point Z was going to take some planning.

The main character, Detective Ellie Saunders, was a thirty year-old woman with a bad habit of looking for love in a one-night stand. One of those one-night stands turns out to be a co-worker, Jesse Alvarez, a former vice cop with a gorgeous smile. To Ellie’s horror, Jesse is assigned to help with her case.

But as often happens with fictional characters, they have a mind of their own. Jesse was not only pushing himself into Ellie’s case, he was pushing himself into my novel! Jesse Alvarez was intended to be a very secondary character. A character’s whose only purpose was to illustrate Ellie’s spiraling out of control personal life.

So I gave him a few lines of dialogue. And then a few more. And then a couple more. And before I knew it, Jesse was more than Ellie’s former one-night stand. He was her partner. And trust me, I never intended for Ellie to have a partner. This was her story. I wanted her to face certain fears on her own. I wanted her to come to terms with her life, on her terms. But what was I to do? Every time I tried holding him back, he pushed himself right back in the scene.

And then I found myself, and Ellie, in a situation I wasn’t comfortable being in. Not only was Jesse taking over Ellie’s personal life, he was taking over the case. He was becoming her rescuer. Every scene where Ellie faced even a small amount of danger, it was Jesse to the rescue.

I wanted Ellie to be strong from the start. I wanted her to be clear-headed and independent. But I also wanted her to be vulnerable. In the book, she has a very tender spot for the little boy dubbed Johnny Doe. Yet, she forms a strong maternal protectiveness over the child. A mamma grizzly at its worst. In another aspect, she has a very real fear of facing the media, stemming from a childhood trauma. Once the “Johnny Doe” case goes public, the media is stirred into a feeding frenzy, forcing Ellie to deal with those fears. I purposely held Jesse back in these instances, forcing Ellie to step-up-to-the-plate and face the issues on her own.

When the time came for the final showdown between Ellie and the suspect, again, I left Jesse at home. Although he played an important role, to the case and in Ellie’s personal life—I wanted it to be all Ellie in the end. I wanted Ellie to save herself and not rely on a handsome partner with a gorgeous smile.

Yes, Jesse’s around in the end—but he’s not Ellie’s rescuer. She did that all by herself.

Lynn Chandler-Willis has worked in the corporate world (hated it!), the television news business (fun job) and the newspaper industry (not a fan of the word “apparently” and phrase “according to”). She keeps coming back to fiction because she likes making stuff up and you just can’t do that in the newspaper or television news business.

She was born, raised, and continues to live in the heart of North Carolina within walking distance to her kids and their spouses and her nine grandchildren. She shares her home, and heart, with Sam the cocker spaniel.

She is the author of the best-selling true crime book, Unholy Covenant. Her debut novel, The Rising (Pelican Book Group, 2013) won the 2013 Grace Award for Excellence in Faith Based Fiction and was a finalist for an INSPY award. In October 2013, she was the first woman in a ten-year span to be named winner of the Minotaur Books/Private Eye Novel Writers of America Best First Private Eye Novel competition for her novel, Wink of an Eye. It will be released by Minotaur in Nov. 2014.

Denise Mina: The End of the Wasp Season Sunday, Nov 20 2011 

Ian Rankin calls fellow Scot Denise Mina: “The most exciting crime writer to have emerged in Britain in years.” Readers of Auntie M will know that she follows Mina’s crime novels, from her stand alones to her Paddy Meehan series. With a law degree in her pocket, Mina also writes short stories, has authored a play, and is a regular contributor to TV and radio.

Mina is back with a new protagonist, as original as any of her others. DS Alex Morrow is pregnant with twins when she catches a murder case that will send shock waves through the wealthy suburb of Glasgow where the victim lived. It will also touch Morrow’s personal life and impact her career as she tries to keep her own ghosts at bay.

Sarah Erroll had taken exceptional care of her ailing mother until the woman’s recent death, providing round-the-clock care in the home Joy Erroll loved. When Sarah is found brutally murdered at the bottom of the stairs of that home, it appears to be a vicious but random attack. Then Morrow listens to the recording made when Sarah tried to call 999 and hears her tell one of her murderers: “I know you.” The case is further complicated when stacks of cash are found hidden under the kitchen table, totaling close to $700,ooo Euros. What was the source of Erroll’s money? Who knew about it?

In a seemingly unrelated event in Kent, millionaire banker Lars Anderson hangs himself from the oak tree standing on the sacred lawn of his mansion. Under investigation for fraudulent business practices that have left his clients destitute, his death is seen by many as a penance for his lifetime self-serving attitude, a just decision in a world damaged by ever-widening recession. Although left in financial straits, his deeply damaged family mostly feel  a sense of release at his death. But just how damaged are they?

Stonewalled by DCI Bannerman, a man who’s learned how to turn rudeness into an art form, it will be up to Morrow to sort out the tangled web that connects both deaths. Travel to London follows as Morrow begins to unravel the threads that will lead to a shattering resolution.

This is a complex and multilayered novel, full of plot turns, with Mina illustrating a deft rendering of the complicated emotions of the people in the book’s world. This talent makes her characters eminently human, and her novels are ones easily gobbled up as the pages turn.