This week on 4Q Interview, we are happy to have author
Michael Smart. The following is taken from his amazon bio.
Michael Smart is a native New Yorker, experienced blue water
sailor, and pilot, two passions the protagonists in his novels also share. Michael
writes mysteries and science fiction. His debut novel, Dead Reckoning, is the
first volume of the Bequia Mystery Series, set in St. Vincent and the
Grenadines, a tropical archipelago in the Eastern Caribbean where Michael lived
and sailed for many years. Michael draws on his knowledge of the islands, its
people, and his sailing experiences around the Caribbean to create intimate and
lively portraits of the islands and the people surrounding these compelling
mysteries. His links are listed below.
Dead Reckoning, to my understanding, is calculating one’s position related to
known sightings, winds, currents, compass errors, etc. What does this title
tells us about your debut novel?
It’s a metaphor for the circumstances facing the main
protagonist, Gage, who is in a stage of his life where everything is uncertain.
He’s in uncharted waters, navigating a life he’s attempting to remake for
himself after burying his past, and his demons, but uncertain how to get there.
In his former life he’d led an emotionally isolated existence, avoiding
personal attachments, a mantra for his survival. But now he’s broken that
cardinal rule, including a burgeoning romantic relationship with Police
Superintendent Jolene Johanssen, whose love awakens dormant emotions and
reconnects him to the world. A relationship he’s unsure he’s emotionally
equipped to handle. And a close friendship with the discerning Commissioner of
Police, Mike Daniels, who perceives more regarding Gage’s past than Gage is
comfortable with. When Mike is shot by an unknown gunman, Gage is sucked back
into a lifestyle he thought he’d left behind, and risks upending his new life,
resurrecting his inner demons, and losing those he’s grown close to and cares
about.So he also has to navigate these inner conflicts, while
pursuing a deadly quest to discover who shot his friend, and why.
Can you condense your eight years’ experience of sailing around the Caribbean
to a few paragraphs and how it relates to your novels?
I’ll do it in one sentence: A grand, epic adventure! The Caribbean provides the
most pleasurable sailing in the world. The North and South Atlantic, the Pacific,
the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, may provide more challenging sailing
adventures, but for me the Caribbean is the most pleasurable, with its constant
gentle northeast trade winds, its tropical islands, its beaches, and its
people. And for me, no other lifestyle matches that of living on the water
aboard a sailboat. In
writing the Bequia Mysteries series, the Gage character actually came to
me first. Then I decided to set the stories in the Grenadines. It was a time
when I was considering returning to live in the Grenadines. But I knew it
wouldn’t be the same as before, some things I wouldn’t be able to still do. Too
much time had passed, my perspective and my body had changed. Climbing to the
top of a mainmast, for example, was out of the question. I wondered what it’d
be like living there now. As I thought about those things the character
developed, and also the themes. So Gage arrives in the Grenadines aboard his
staysail schooner ‘Wherever’, which by the way is treated as a full-fledged character
in the novels. He has an entirely new perspective than in his past life, and he
has to cope with reinventing himself.
Please share a fond childhood anecdote or memory with us.
There are so many. It’s difficult to focus on just one. Growing up was also an adventure
for me. My family travelled for my dad’s work, so we lived in many different
places around the world. And each experience had a formative affect on who I am
today. Like my fondness for reading, and the sea and sky. While my father
usually travelled by air ahead of the family, my mother and my siblings made
the passages by sea. Next to being a kid having the run of a ship, reading
provided great entertainment during those long sea voyages. Living in London, I
feasted on graphic novels like the popular WW11 RAF ace “Battler Britton”, and
discovered authors like Leslie
Charteris of the great Simon Templar Saint series, and John Creasey’s The Toff
series, joining their American counterparts Raymond Chandler, Dashiel Hammett, and John D. MacDonald.
I cut my reading teeth on these authors, their characters, and their stories.
They inspired me to want to write. I think the “Battler Britton” comics also
lit the fire in me to fly, to be a pilot.
After Dead Reckoning, there is Deadeye and Deadlight that are part of the
Bequia mysteries. What’s next for Michael Smart?
I also write science fiction, and my first science fiction title is due for
release this summer. I’m also working on the fourth novel in the Bequia
Mysteries series, and another mystery with a sci-fi twist.
Thank you Michael for being part of The South Branch
Scribbler and participating in the 4Q Interview. Watch for an excerpt from one
of Michael’s novels in April. Date to be announced.
one thing I’ve learned about the world of writers, it’s how kind and generous a
lot they are. Allan Hudson is a perfect example of that generosity. Thank you,
Allan, for inviting me to visit the South Branch Scribbler, and for the support
you’ve shown the writers you showcase here. It’s an honour to be invited to
me online at J.P. McLean. I use initials because Jo-Anne is often misspelled,
which is deadly in today’s online world of search engines. I live on a small Gulf
island off the eastern shore of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The rugged
beaches of the west coast feature prominently in my novels, as it seems I never
tire of the landscape. It’s the
perfect setting for the contemporary thrillers that I write, especially because
they all contain an element of fantasy that will leave you believing the
impossible and wary of the night skies. And if you lose yourself while reading
them, or just lose track of time, I’ll have done my job.
started writing The Gift: Awakening,
I thought it would be a one-off book. But it turns out, writing is more like
potato chips for me—all that salty crunchiness, yum—and I couldn’t stop at just
one. So, I traded in the one-off idea for a trilogy and outlined two more
books, The Gift: Revelation and The Gift: Redemption.
I thought a
trilogy would satisfy my craving, but it didn’t. I’m now in the process of
publishing a fourth book, The Gift: Penance.
Of course, a fourth book has ruined the whole trilogy concept, and now I’m busy
replacing references to The Gift Trilogy with The Gift Legacy. Notice how Legacy makes room for further adventures
from these characters who just won’t sit still? That’s what you call learning
through poor planning.
South Branch Scribbler, I thought I’d share a sneak peek at Penance. It will be released in April in
trade paperback and electronic formats. If the story piques your interest, you
can read excerpts and more about the series at https://jpmcleanauthor.com
concrete piers of the Burrard Street Bridge rose up from the False Creek
seabed, its steel girders looming eighty feet overhead. My small kayak felt
inconsequential by comparison. I rested my paddle across the hull and drifted
forward into the bridge’s shadow. A weak sun struggled behind the overcast sky.
condensed in white puffs. I loved these crisp, cool mornings alone on the
water. It was peaceful. Out here, life felt simple, uncomplicated. Almost what
I imagined normal felt like. A
light breeze stirred the chilly air. The kayak
rocked gently, its yellow hull reflected in the ripples that lapped quietly
against the hull. I gazed up toward the underside of the bridge deck where car
tires thumped over the expansion joints.
distance, the rumble of outboard motors drew my attention. Time to get a move
on. I tugged my cap down over my ears and blew a warm breath into cupped hands.
The dry suit that kept my body warm did nothing for my head. The temperature
hovered around five Celsius and the cold was finally getting to me.
I gripped my
paddle and continued seaward, my strokes cautious of the outboard motors that
grew louder as they approached from behind. Six strokes later, almost out of
the bridge’s shadow, the tandem outboards roared, drowning out all other sound.
I darted a wide-eyed glance behind and then hunched my shoulders and braced for
the inevitable waves that would follow.
speed limit in False Creek is five knots or dead slow. They had the dead part
right. They raced by on either side of me with their throttles wide open. I
barely got a glimpse of them before I felt the powerful effect of their wake.
My kayak rolled dangerously when the first wave hit broadside, but it was the
second wave that swamped me. It struck from the opposite direction and lifted
the hull, dumping me into the frigid water.
the dark, trapped upside down in the seat of my cockpit, groping for the tether
to my lost paddle. I’d practiced the Eskimo roll that would right me dozens of
times, but all of those self-induced rolls hadn’t prepared me for the real
thing. It wasn’t the sting of salt water in my eyes, or the frosty temps of a
February ocean, which made holding my breath difficult, it was the clear memory
of drowning—my drowning.
something you ever forget: the desperation that compels you to inhale water
into your lungs. The way the weight of that water sinks you more effectively
than any anchor. It’s the disquieting euphoria of finally letting go. The panic
that should have compelled me to jettison, instead froze me in place. A memory
flashed by at the watery sight of my outstretched arm. Last summer that same
arm reached for a surface that I could see, but couldn’t reach.
seconds ticked by.
I felt my
cap lift away in the current. It was enough to shake me from the nightmare.
Latent terror galvanized me into action. I yanked on my paddle’s tether and
re-established my grip. In an adrenaline-fed stroke, I swept my paddle in a
powerful arc and rode the momentum to the surface. The instant my face cleared
the water into a halo of light and oxygen, I heaved a ragged breath then
coughed and choked in another gulp of air.
you,” a man’s voice called. His red kayak bumped against my hull. A dark beanie
covered his head. I pressed my knuckles against my eyes to clear the stinging
water. My rescuer steadied the kayak while I caught my breath.
I sputtered. The mother of all ice cream headaches stabbed across my forehead.
As I caught my breath, I took in the man who’d come to my rescue. I put him in
his late twenties. A day’s stubble covered cheeks flushed red with the cold. He
had the shoulders of a weightlifter and a firm grip on the cleat behind my
cockpit. He’d laced his paddle under the bungee cording to steady me.
“That was a
lot easier to do in waist-deep water,” I rasped, my throat burning. No wonder
the instructor insisted we repeat the Eskimo roll exercise each time we went
out. She’d said I’d likely never use it. Yeah.
probably shouldn’t have been out here alone. You did well, considering.” He
offered a conciliatory smile.
impulse should have been to claw my way out of the cockpit. “I probably
should’ve done a wet exit.” I’d practiced those, too, struggling back into the
kayak to pump it out. At least the neoprene spray skirt had kept most of the
water out of the kayak.
“I saw you
go under. Luckily, I was just across the channel.”
I glanced around for his partner, but was grateful enough for his help to not
mention the fact that I didn’t find one. A wave rocked us and he held us
steady. His upper arms were impressive.
“We need to
report those yahoos,” he said with contempt. “They’re going to get someone
killed out here.”
who they are?”
“No, but I know
where they rented those boats. Where are you headed?”
“Back to my
car. I put in at Kitsilano, but now I think I’d better find somewhere to warm
up first.” This outing was supposed to help me build the upper body strength my
new kayaking hobby demanded. Perhaps I’d been too ambitious.
“I know a
place. Do you know Scuppers?”
It’s where I was headed. Want to follow me?”
thanks,” I said then reached over to offer my hand. “Emelynn Taylor.”
Cooper,” he said jutting his hand out to take mine in a fierce grip. “Nice to
meet you, Emelynn.” He offered a confident smile that reached up and crinkled
the corners of his dark brown eyes.
disentangled his paddle from the bungee webbing and swung around. “This way,”
he said, paddling landward back under the Burrard Street Bridge. Within minutes
we’d slipped under the grey steel and concrete of the Granville Street Bridge.
We passed a small marina with swaying sailboats and pulled alongside a dock
parallel to the rip-rap shore of Granville Island.
“You can tie
up there,” Owen said, pointing to the end of the slim dock. He continued ahead
while I secured my kayak. I unfolded myself from the cockpit and climbed onto
the dock. My limbs shook from the effort, or maybe it was the receding
adrenaline. It didn’t help that the cold breath of winter on my sopping wet
head sucked the heat out of me. I needed to get warm and fast. With stiff
shoulders, I pulled my dry bag from the rear hatch.
as I clutched the bag to my chest and scanned the docks for anyone out of
place. Constant vigilance was a heavy weight I would gladly shed if I could. I
walked to the far end of the dock to find Owen. I was halfway up the ramp when
I spotted him and stopped short, staring like an ill-mannered child. Owen
operated an electric winch, which had just pulled him from his kayak and
deposited him in a wheelchair at the top of the ramp.
over and waved me up. I snapped my mouth closed and checked my footwear. I
didn’t know the man, but I could have sworn I saw him grin. I swallowed my
embarrassment and continued up the ramp, watching him unhook the harness
staring. You caught me by surprise,” I said.
do.” His grin widened into a smile. “Your reaction was stellar. Maybe one of
the best. I wish I had it on film.”
fortunate you didn’t have a camera,” I said feeling the heat of a blush warm my
face. “It was rude. I’m sorry.”
It’s cheap entertainment for those of us easily amused. Come on; let’s get
Penance is coming in April, 2015. If you’re interested in receiving an ARC of
Penance in mobi or epub format in exchange for an honest review, I’d be happy
to send you one. You can email me at email@example.com
Thank you Jo-Anne for sharing from your latest novel. Please drop by Jo-Anne's website for more information on her writing, her series of novels and what life is like on the west coast. Next week the 4Q Interview will feature Michael Smart. Michael spent 8 years sailing around the Caribbean which became the setting for The Bequia Mysteries.
In 1953 Father Suetonius Graft, an amateur rock climber discovers a cave while scaling a 600 foot rock face in the Peruvian Andes. Poking his flashlight in the hole he discovers skeletal remains. The curled bones reach out from a fallen boulder luring him inside.
You read the first Chapter of the Wall of War here (archived 05/09/2014) This exciting novel of Incan gold, an unfortunate priest, a Spanish crime lord and Drake Alexander is coming in the Fall of 2017. Following is an excerpt. Copyright is held by the author.
The enormity of his speculation bemuses
him. His shoulders droop as if they alone carry the weight. Never before in the
four decades of his life has he been handed such a weighty platter. He is lost
in a torrent of possibilities; not only in historical significance but the
enormous value of what this artifact could be worth if it is all gold, most
likely pure. It seems beyond his frail human belief. The wall has to weigh many
tons; if he guesses it would not be unreasonable that is over 10,000 pounds. He
knows from his own modest investments that gold is selling at present at $34.OO
per troy ounce. Rough calculations tell him it could be worth over four million
dollars in gold bullion. When he considers that his wages are $1.10 an hour,
that’s a fortune. Gigantic in his mind is who he must tell.
thought alerts him to what steps he must take, he is enlivened with the idea
that he must somehow verify this as well as the dimensions. His energy is
renewed as he imagines what the discovery can do for his church. That must to
be why God saw fit to send a priest. As he begins to recite the rosary in his
mind, he withdraws his note book and pencil from one of his stuffed pockets. He
turns it sideways so he can sketch on the widest portion. He draws a rough
image of the wall and the figures it contains. When he is satisfied that his
drawing is as accurate as possible he writes a header, The Wall of War.
the page he begins walking off the dimensions carefully noting the sizes as
best as he can estimate, he wants to be conservative but yet not diminish its
grandness. He is shocked once more when he hurries to the end he first
discovered to judge how thick the wall is, at least eight inches. He touches
the rough back while shining his light up and down. It is textured and
unfinished, given little, if any consideration. Stepping away from the wall he
shines his light back and forth over the fearsome figures thinking the work
must have taken years. He can barely contain his emotions. He shuts off his
light and finishes his prayers in the darkness.
minutes later he turns the light back on, replaces the notebook and pencil,
pauses to think of anything else he should do. It is starting to get cooler,
the sweat on his body long dried. Donning his t-shirt he decides he can’t leave
now. There is one more thing he has to find. How could the workers possibly get
in and out of this cavern he asks himself, how could they bring their supplies
in. He has to know because there is no sign of any engineering where he entered;
there are no other bodies either. He will take another half hour trying to find
another entry. He points his light to the rear proceeding cautiously towards
to his right where he can see the bench, he follows that. It extends half as
long as the wall on the opposite side. The clutter is similar from one end to
the other, except in the center where remnants of woven bowls lay half eaten
away. They contain shards of dried foods, possibly avocados distinguishable by
their wrinkled skin, stem and petrified leaves still attached.He walks slowly beyond the shelf towards the
bare rock wall sidestepping the scattered debris, watching for cracks when his
light shows him that the cavern sides are closing in. He flashes his light back
at the golden wall gauging that he is at the farthest end from where he
entered. He returns the ray of light to his front and sees another slight bend.
He follows the curve until the sides shrink to an opening that comes to the
middle of his chest, about four feet but twice as wide as him.
is huge split in the floor where the pathway he is on ends. He creeps carefully
to the lip shining his light down. There is nothing to see except granite. Scrunching
down on his knees he shines the light into the hole. He guesses the gap to be
about six feet wide. He lifts his lamp and what he sees amazes him as much as
the hammer but not with the same exuberance. He grins as he thinks to himself,
“the experienced discoverer now”.His
gaze takes in what seems to be a store room, broken barrels along one wall. The
bent spears propped against another narrow stone ledge suggest an armory and
directly in front of him, twenty feet away, is a stairway amazingly cut from
the hardest stone. It is a captivating sight. The steps follow two wide cracks
in the mountain, joined together at one time with fresh timber. The wooden,
un-rotted ends are still wedged onto the rock treads. The central part of the
stairway gave way centuries ago and vacations at the bottom of the dark pits.
steps turn sharply to the left about seven steps up and are filled with rocks
and dirt. There must have been a cave in Suetonius realizes, that would explain
the fallen rocks in the caverns. He stares at the whole scene for many moments
trying to understand what he’s found. His whole body tingles, small ripples
pimple his arms and upper body. He is experiencing an epiphany of what all his
previous life has meant. He gleans from the confessional that everyone wants to
know, “Why am I here? What purpose do I serve?” How blessed he feels. The
heavenly reality is physically accompanied by an abundant flow of adrenaline
from the stress he is experiencing. He asks himself, “what if this fell in the
wrong hands”. It’s located in the wilderness; it would be vandalized to no end.
He will have to be very careful; without a doubt, there are people who would
kill for this knowledge. He trembles bodily as the idea ferments.
will write it all down as soon as he returns to his lodgings. He will write in
the most obscure of the several languages he knows. Checking his wrist for the
time, he is disheartened knowing he should leave or he might not get off the
face before dark. Giving the room one last sweep of light he notices something
reflective in the far corner. It’s small whatever it is, he can’t find it
again. Then there it is; a tiny ray of something bright. He keeps his hand
steady trying to see what is making the light bend. It is about twenty feet
away cornered with other detritus. Dust blankets everything. It is difficult to
discern from where he crouches. The ray wavers as he moves his hand so
slightly. Reminded of the star of the Wise Men, is this to be a guide for him,
he ponders. He doesn’t think too long until he decides he has to have it. It could
be the proof he seeks.
I always wanted to write a novel about Incan Gold and a mysterious discovery, a discovery so enormous in historic and monetary value that people would kill for the secret. That's Wall of War. Watch for it in Fall 2017.
Please visit the Scribbler next week and meet guest author JP Mclean of British Columbia. Read an excerpt from her new novel Penance, set to be released in April, 2015
So pleased to have Katrina Cope back on the Scribbler. She has been featured here before with Book 1 of The Sanctum Series. Now you can read an excerpt from Book 2. Her links are listed below.
Wow! What a ride. Ever since I have pressed the publish button on my first book ‘Jayden & the Mysterious Mountain’ on September 2nd, 2013, I have learnt so much about the publishing industry, indie and mainstream (with still a lot more to learn). I learnt from my mistakes and worked on fixing them making sure not to do them again for the next release of ‘The Sanctum Series’. This is the whole reason why the 2nd book ‘Scarlet’s Escape’ took so long to release after the first.
I started with no history, no contacts and not knowing anything about the whole industry. You have a great original story with lots of emotion, characters, and twisted plots not to mention a nice cover – it’s going to take off all by itself, right? Ha, ha! No, I wasn’t that naive but I had a long way to go.
I am delighted that as my first book reaches more people I am starting to have more people like my work and they are keen for the next stage in the series.
Copyright belongs to the author. Used by permission.
When they entered, they were astounded by the amount of weapons in
that one building. It was like a huge gun closet where the collector had gone
mad. There was every kind of gun and rifle, many more than the two boys had
ever seen before. Further inside there were grenades, missiles and boxes and
boxes of explosives.
“Alpha?” Jayden spoke over the communicator.
“Copy contender.” Avando’s voice sounded over Jayden’s headset.
“Can you see this?” Jayden asked him in shock.
“Yes, I can. Unfortunately, it is as I had suspected. I will need you
to destroy it.” Avando told him.
“Destroy it?” Jayden queried in surprise.
“Yes, this is why you have been sent in. It is a great danger to our
“Copy,” Jayden responded getting over his initial disbelief. “How would
you like us to do that?”
“Well, looking at all those explosives, the best way would be to blow
“Really?” Jayden was surprised.
“Yes! There is too much to be able to do anything else.” Avando
“Copy Alpha.” Jayden set to work with Aaron’s help.
They began to work, rigging all of the explosives and setting them
all ready to blow in five minutes. Then they prepared to leave in haste,
heading for the main door. They peered out the window near the door and as they
went to open it, they realised that it also needed a code to exit from the
“What?” Jayden said out loud involuntarily. “Who puts a security lock
on a room from the inside?” His voice started to tighten in panic. “Aaahhh!
“Copy.” Eva’s voice sounded over the headphones.
“We need a code and we need it now!” Jayden started showing a slight
“Just try the code that you entered last for getting in,” she stated
like it was obvious.
“What was that?” he urged.
“C59835,” she advised.
He entered the code but found that it didn’t work. “No good Puzzler,”
he said as dread filled his voice.
“Ahhh! Okay!” she sounded surprised. “Show me the pad and I’ll set to
Jayden showed her the pad so that she could copy it and get to work
on the code. “Be quick, puzzler. We only have four and a half minutes left to
get out in one piece.”
“Copy,” she said and went silently to work. At four minutes left Eva
spoke. “Try these…” and she rattled off several different codes, which Jayden
entered quickly, but with no success.
“No good puzzler. Give us some more, please.” His voice was even
tighter with tension now.
“Copy,” she said and silently went to work again. At three and a half
minutes left, her voice came over the headset again. “Right try these,” she
said and ran through several more codes, again with no success.
“We need more quickly,” Jayden almost screamed at her. The sweat from
the stress was starting to run down his face. He wiped it away with his sleeve
and looked at Aaron anxiously, only to see his emotions mirrored in Aaron’s
face. To make matters worse, the security alarm had set off from not having the
correct code put into the system before the required time. Terror crossed both
boys’ faces at the same instant. “Now puzzler. We need the good code now!” He
was yelling both from panic and the need to be heard over the alarm.
A few seconds later Eva’s voice sounded over the headset. “Right try
these ….” She called out a few more, finally with success. The light turned
green and the alarm stopped, with only two and a half minutes remaining to get
far away from the building and out of harm’s way.
They opened the door to see that there were soldiers running in their
direction. They both glanced at each other with a look of dread crossing their
faces, but they had no choice left now other than to make a dash for it, out
the door in full view of the soldiers. Immediately they heard voices yelling at
them, then shooting, and next they heard bullets hitting the building behind
them. They continued to run to the side of the building from where they had
come from, but they were not so lucky as to be able to make it.
It all happened so fast. Jayden felt himself falling forward to the
ground. No matter how hard he tried he could not get up. He started to crawl
forward in the direction they were planning to go. He glanced around quickly to
see how Aaron was doing and saw that he was also crawling along the ground.
‘Great,’ he thought sarcastically, ‘that’s not going to help us get out of here
quickly!’ They both picked up their rifles and started shooting back at the
soldiers, which slowed their advancement after them. Aaron and Jayden continued
to crawl. Their progress was annoyingly slow and the soldiers started
aggressively coming at them again. So they were forced to start shooting back,
slowing them down yet again. When they retaliated enough to deter them, they
continued crawling towards their exit. Jayden glanced at his watch. To his
horror he saw there was only thirty seconds left.
“Contender!” Avando’s voice came over the headset. “You really need
to hurry, as you are still in the danger zone.”
Jayden didn’t respond but continued moving as fast as he could with
Aaron in close pursuit.
Fifteen seconds. “Come on contender!” Avando almost shrieked over the
They were already going as fast as they could, so all that they could
do was to continue on at that speed. Ten seconds … five … then it happened. One
brilliant flash accompanied by a large whoosh, which flooded over them.
“Contender?” Avando spoke over the communicator. “Contender?” Urgency
now pierced his voice. “Come in Contender! Contender?” Nothing. Silence
followed Avando’s voice.
Please visit again on Friday, March 13th and read an excerpt from my second novel - The Wall of War. A tale of Incan gold. I am presently completing the second draft with hopes of having a completed novel by Fall, 2015.