Monday, April 8, 2024

Chasing the Dragon by Mark Towse (VBT, guest post, excerpt, and GIVEAWAY) GFT ADULT title


I have the pleasure of hosting author Mark Towse, who answers my question:

ELF:  What scares you the most or makes you the happiest about writing?


MT:  I've chosen this topic because I'm all for facing my demons.


I'll start with the happy stuff. Writing is my comfort zone. It's my portal into a thousand other magic worlds. Coming from a place of trauma, it is cathartic, therapeutic, and a chance to unload the bile. When I know I have a day's writing in front of me, it's almost impossible to rip the grin from my face. Think about it: all those adventures and places to explore. Seriously, I feel like a millionaire behind my writing desk. What more could I need besides my imagination, the key to limitless worlds?

When I'm writing, everything else drops out of my head: no more anxiety, stress, fear, or insecurity. It's just me and my guilty giggles as I chill, thrill, and put my characters and readers through the wringer.

Happy doesn't even cut it. But just like playing in the woods as kids, the sun comes down all too quickly. It's a shame, as I could stay there forever.


What scares me?


Failure scares me. That said, I know I have something unique and extraordinary to bring to the table. I haven't always possessed my current confidence level, but I genuinely back myself now. And some. After spending years writing prolifically and mastering the shorter form, then graduating to novellas, I know this novel kicks ass, and I will champion 'Chasing The Dragon' until I'm blue in the face.


To me, this is more than a hobby—it's everything. It's hard to say that out loud, but it's true.


I know I'm good enough, but there's a lot of noise out there. Not being heard scares the living daylights out of me.


Readers, please give me a try; you won't regret it. That's a Towsey guarantee.


Chasing the Dragon


Mark Towse




GENRE:  Vigilante Crime Thriller/Horror






A town on its knees, dread's bony fingers wrapping around its throat and squeezing, death rattles soon to follow.


Drugs, filth, and a lack of human decency are starving it of hope.


Introducing Simon Dooley, our trauma-driven wannabe superhero, the relentless voice of his dead mother pleading with him to "end the chaos." Dressed in a leotard and armed only with a dozen dog poop bags, Simon's plight will find him falling in love and going head to head with the seediest characters walking the streets.


The town needed a hero... it got Reformo.





It’s happening. It’s finally happening.


I strip off in front of the full-length mirror, part self-admiration for my new frame and part sorrow for the shy and squeamish young boy who first walked the corridors of the youth detention centre. 

Okay, not The Rectifier. What then? Captain Justice has been done, you muppet! The Shadow? Nope. Been done, too. The Silhouette? Too jazzy. Unable to wait any longer, the hairs bristling on the back of my neck, I carefully lift the costume from the bed and slip my arms through.

Oh, yes!

It’s as though electricity runs through my veins. I feel alive, reborn. I feel—

“I’m a superhero.”


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AUTHOR Bio and Links:


Mark Towse is an English horror writer living in Australia. He would sell his soul to the devil or anyone buying if it meant he could write full-time. Alas, he left it very late to begin this journey, penning his first story since primary school at the ripe old age of forty-five. Since then, he’s been published in over two hundred journals and anthologies, had his work made into full theatrical productions for shows such as The No Sleep Podcast and Tales to Terrify, and has penned fourteen novellas, including Nana, Gone to the Dogs, 3:33, and Crows. Chasing The Dragon is his debut novel.


Amazon Author Page

Twitter: @MarkTowsey12








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Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Off the Books by Dana King (VBT, guest post, excerpt, and GIVEAWAY) GFT

I have the pleasure of hosting author Dana King, who answers the question:

ELF:  Which author(s) has/have been the most influential to you and how or why?


DK:  The list of authors who have been most influential to my writing evolves over time. I’m good with that. I think it shows growth. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


Had you asked who my influences were fifteen or twenty years ago, I would have given you a concise list:

Elmore Leonard.

Ed McBain.

Raymond Chandler.


Let’s see how that has changed.


I don’t know that I consider Leonard an influence anymore; he’s the foundation. He’s rarely on my mind when sitting at the keyboard, but any time someone brings his “Ten Rules for Writing” to mind I realize they are now so ingrained I don’t even think about them. The Beloved Spouse™ had a tee-shirt made for me to wear at conferences with “WWELD?” (What Would Elmore Leonard Do?) embroidered on the left breast. Across my back the shirt reads “Leave out the parts people tend to skip.”

So he’s gone well beyond being an “influence.” He’s practically a mentor, even though we never met.

McBain’s example remains at the forefront of my Penns River procedural novels, though he now shares the role with Joseph Wambaugh. The Penns River books spend a lot of time with patrol officers and no one ever wrote patrol officers better than Wambaugh. He also loves to digress into side stories that show the bizarre everyday things street cops encounter, which has made my PR books a lot more fun.

Chandler has dropped off the list, to be replaced by Dashiell Hammett. I’m about halfway through a volume of all of Hammett’s Continental Op stories, and his direct and unadorned style appeals to me more all the time. Chandler was the master of simile, but he also too often tried to shoehorn them in where they didn’t fit. There’s nothing in a Hammett story that doesn’t belong.

I can now add two more to the list.

George V. Higgins for his use of dialog. Not only does his dialog read more like real speech than anyone else’s, Higgins was a master at using dialog to move the action. Of particular interest is how well he can skip an action scene, then have one or more characters describe what happened to someone who wasn’t there. This is much more effective than it sounds here, as it’s a way to tell the reader what happened without saying exactly what happened. Each describing character may have an ax to grind, or may be inherently unreliable. It’s left to the reader to sort out which clues are useful and which aren’t.

Another author who comes to mind with somewhat less influence is James Ellroy. What I picked up most from him is a tendency to place dialog attributions before the dialog instead of after. This allows the reader to know in advance who is speaking, and how they’re doing it. (With clenched teeth, laughing, pretending to smile, etc.) Few things take me out of a story faster than having to re-read something because I get to the end of the comment and realize I thought someone else was saying it, or I didn’t know the speaker’s expression or tone changed the context of what he said. Getting that out of the way up front doesn’t just solve the problem; it eliminates it.

Last but not least is Ken Bruen. Trained as a poet, Bruen cares about how the words appear on the page, by which I mean the physical spacing. I have picked up a little of that myself when I need to provide a list, as it moves the reader’s eye more quickly down the page and avoids a dense paragraph where one isn’t otherwise necessary.

This is not to say this list won’t be different next year. That’s one of the things that keeps me writing. I never know what’s over the next hill.



Off the Books


Dana King




GENRE:  Hard-boiled Private Investigator






Nick Forte has lost his detective agency and makes ends meet doing background checks and other paperwork. He pays for everything else through jobs he takes for cash and without any written contract. What starts out as a simple investigation into a traffic accident exposes Forte to people who have truly lost everything and have no viable hope of reclaiming their lives. That doesn’t sit well with Forte, leading him and his friend Goose Satterwhite to take action that ends more violently than anyone expected.


“The return of Chicago private detective Nick Forte, the tough protagonist of two Shamus Award nominated novels, is well worth the wait. Nick’s latest escapade Off The Books—the first in nearly six years—will surely earn additional praise for the acclaimed series.”

-J.L .Abramo, Shamus Award-winning author of Chasing Charlie Chan.


"Nick Forte reminds me of Robert B. Parker's Spenser: a PI with a finely tuned sense of justice who doesn't take anyone's s***. Any fan of hardboiled detective fiction is in for a helluva ride."

--Chris Rhatigan, former publisher of All Due Respect Books






I’m a professional snoop. People’s privacy went only as far as the task at hand in my profession. I executed search warrants as a cop and opened more drawers than an Ethan Allen quality control inspector since I went private. Tonight I felt as if I was violating something sacred as I looked through what passed for personal effects in that trailer. Beside each bunk were two banker’s boxes that held what appeared to be all the earthly possessions of the men (and women?) who lived here. Most were family photos. Children’s drawings. Bibles and small statues of saints. A T-shirt or two. The random pair of jeans. I had no idea how often supplies were replenished. Must have been like Red Cross day in the POW camp this place kept reminding me of.

Bare bulbs suspended from the ceiling with reflectors above them were the only light sources. No clocks. A small shrine to the Virgin Mary occupied a corner of the kitchen.

What little fresh air I felt came through screened vents in the ceiling. I pulled a bunk over so I could peek through and found vent covers six inches above the opening. Air could pass through, but nothing else. Acrylic shields swung up to cover the vent in cold weather.

I photographed it all. After saving about fifty images I returned everything to where it had been and let myself out. Made sure the lock was in the same position I found it. Walked back to my car with my head on a swivel, alert to anything that might be a threat, or possibly useful when I came back.

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AUTHOR Bio and Links:


Off the Books is Dana King’s sixth Nick Forte private investigator novel. Two of the earlier books (A Small Sacrifice and The Man in the Window) received Shamus Award nominations from the Private Eye Writers of America. Dana also writes the Penns River series of police procedurals set in a small Western Pennsylvania town, as well as one standalone novel, Wild Bill, which is not a Western. His short fiction appears in numerous anthologies and web sites. He is a frequent panelist at conferences and reads at Noirs at Bars from New York to North Carolina.



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