by Sandra Murphy
This week we have a group of Oak Tree Press mystery authors. Here we have a review of License to Lie by Terry Ambrose, an interview with Terry & you can enter to win a copy of License To Lie–details at the end of this post. Also in this issue, reviews & giveaways of Murder’s Last Resort by Marta Chausee & Sea-Duction: A Jake Mortensen Mystery By Douglas Danielson.
License to Lie by Terry Ambrose
Review by Sandra Murphy
The back cover says, “Roxy Tanner lies for a living. Skip Cosgrove uncovers the lies others tell.”
With that in mind, I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy this book—I mean, a con artist and a guy who consults with the police, working together, how’s that going to go? This book turned out to be a great read after all. The only disappointment was turning the last page to find there was no more.
Roxy has a goal in life. She wants to raise five million dollars and go work on her tan in a sunny climate. Of course, five million is out of the reach of most people who work for an honest living so she does have to cut corners—like scam rich people—to make her goal. She’s got one more scam to run and then she’s out of there and headed for the beach.
Skip Cosgrove thought about being a policeman but found consulting work an easier way to get justice, work with the cops but without the rules, and use his skills at reading people. How in the world could he be attracted to Roxy? It’s driving him nuts because he’s sure she’s lying with every word she speaks and he’s right.
The book starts with a runaway boy, pretty easily solved if you know what to look for but impressive to those who don’t. When Roxy’s dad doesn’t come home from a newly acquired habit of getting drunk, Roxy’s mom asks Skip to help. Roxy doesn’t trust such a do-gooder type but can’t afford the cops coming around either so she tags along with Skip, not that she’s attracted to him or anything but just to keep an eye on him.
How do you find a middle-aged guy who left the bar with another guy the bartender’s never seen before? There are a few clues but things get easier, if not more dangerous, when the ransom note arrives. What a coincidence—the kidnapper wants five million dollars. In a humorous twist, Roxy has to text back that she’s $50,000 short, will they return her dad anyway? Luckily, the answer is yes.
The plot goes round and round as Roxy and Skip track the kidnappers, find her dad, and look for the man behind the whole thing. Along the way, I had an idea of who was behind it all but was never sure. The twists and turns made for a satisfying and surprising end after all.
Also by this author, Photo Finish.
Interview With Terry Ambrose
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Terry: I’ve been writing for about 25 years.
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? A little about it?
Terry: My first novel, Photo Finish, was actually the fourth book I had written and was released in July 2012 as an e-book. Later, it came out in soft cover. Photo Finish is a funny Hawaiian mystery about a former skip tracer named McKenna. When McKenna crosses paths with a beautiful con artist in Honolulu, he finds himself chasing a missing airplane, unmasking a crooked land developer, and tracking down an island killer. Trouble? Oh, yeah. McKenna’s found it. If only trouble didn’t have such great legs.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
Terry: As far as long fiction goes, I’ve only written mysteries and suspense. I have written short pieces, both serious and humorous, which are available in my anthology titled Life’s Shorts.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series? Tell us a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.
Terry: License to Lie began with the fascination that I have for human behavior. Why do men look at situations differently than women? Why do some people choose one side of the law while others choose the opposite side? After Photo Finish, I wanted to tackle something with more suspense, that had two characters with opposing views of the world, and who both saw themselves as being right. That led me to Roxy Tanner and Skip Cosgrove, a female con artist and a male criminologist. We had also moved to Arizona, so setting License to Lie in Carlsbad, CA gave me an opportunity to virtually “revisit” the area we’d left. The book was a huge amount of fun to write because I got to take on the age-old battle between the sexes and the struggle between right and wrong. Ultimately, I gave the book the tag line, “Never trust a soul…even your own.”
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Terry: Above all else, my purpose is to entertain readers. With that said, I’m always looking at “issues.” In Photo Finish, the issue was finding redemption—yet readers get to laugh throughout the book. In License to Lie, the issue is trust. Even though I take on those bigger issues, I never want to tell people what to think. Instead, I want them to think about the issue for themselves. To me, that’s the real genius of entertainment—keeping people engaged while getting them to think and talk about issues.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Terry: My schedule is haphazard, so I tend to be an opportunist. I try to make sure to grab time each day to do some writing, but there are days when it just doesn’t happen.
KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Terry: I’m still experimenting with ways to handle organizing a book and keeping everything straight. I use Scrivener as my writing program and love it not only because I can keep almost everything for a book in one place, but also because I can reorganize things easily. However, even with that, there are times when I have to go back to the trusty index card.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Terry: My favorite time of day to write is in the morning just after the sun comes up. Unfortunately, in San Diego, Mr. Sun may not make an appearance until noon or later on many days.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Terry: Not difficult, impossible. But then, I was starting out at a time when the traditional model was the one and only game in town. Fortunately, I always looked on those rejections as fuel to write a better book.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Terry: Nothing really sticks out.
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Terry: My favorite has become my recent trip to the Tucson Festival of Books this past March. The festival draws between 50,000 and 100,000 visitors each year and has outdoor exhibits from hundreds of authors, book sellers, and service providers in the publishing field. I was in one of those outdoor booths with two other writers and, despite the cold, we were talking to people–a lot of people. We were selling books like crazy and having a great time—and then we started seeing very light snow flurries. Fortunately, it didn’t last long!
KRL: Future writing goals?
Terry: I have two books coming out this year, then I hope to slow the pace slightly. My first and foremost goal is always to write a great story. Personally, I think that takes time and so now that I’m “caught up” I want to be able to write at a sustainable pace and continue to produce books that get great reviews.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Terry: I absolutely loved the first books in Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone series, then it felt like he got tired of the characters. I think he was brilliant for cross-pollinating his books with characters from his other series and I’m trying to follow that model in my own books. T. Jefferson Parker is another writer I admire greatly because I see him having a great balance of writing and storytelling abilities. By that, I mean that his writing is clean and concise and, at the same time, he creates a great plot that keeps readers engaged. I think one of my favorite books of all time is LA Outlaws because of the way he got inside the head of Allison Murrieta.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Terry: I like to visit places when possible. I do lots of internet research. But, especially when I’m writing about a place, there’s nothing like being there and getting views that can’t be found online. For Photo Finish I needed to know more about the local airports and how they operated. We planned a few extra days on Oahu so that I could visit two of the small ones and speak with one of the administrators at Kahleloa Airport.
KRL: What do you read?
Terry: I get very little time to read for pleasure because I’m either doing a review, a critique, or reading about writing craft. When I do get time to read for pleasure, I like well-written mysteries, either funny or serious, and some suspense.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Terry: Castle! My absolute favorite TV show is Castle for the interplay between the characters and the humor. Another favorite is Once Upon a Time. I love the way that show flips everything on its head and how they create plot twists based on character motivation.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Terry: I was asked this question by an aspiring writer when I was doing a presentation at a local service club and my response was, “Don’t.” The look of shock on her face got the desired reaction. We talked about the sheer volume of books being published, the tremendous commitment it takes to navigate the business, and the amount of rejection she might face. The only goal she’d ever set was to finish her book. She still wants to write, but now she’s starting to think beyond that goal.
KRL: How do you feel about the growing popularity of e-books?
Terry: I think e-books are wonderful and will continue to grow in popularity. Will they ever completely replace paper? I don’t think so. But, hey, that’s what they said about CDs, too.
KRL: Do you read e-books yourself?
Terry: I read a mix of e-books and paper.
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Terry: Personally, I think the market is inundated with poorly written books, so this really becomes another tidbit of advice for aspiring writers. I think each writer needs to ask himself how he wants to be remembered—as someone who cranked out a bunch of mediocre books? Or, as someone who churned out fewer books of high quality. I can only hope readers see me as being in the latter category. That’s certainly my goal.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Terry: Is there anything left? Oh, maybe, but you really don’t want to know about that!
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
KRL: How do you compete in an overcrowded market?
Terry: Everyone thinks that writing a book is hard. For me, that was the easy part. The hard part is finding ways to stand out in this market that is so overcrowded. My strategy is to stay focused on bringing people information about scams and cons. That information may come from a personal presentation to a local service group, my Examiner.com column, or my novels. I’m still working at it, but my goal is to make everything work together to bring value to those who find me and thus create name recognition. And let’s face it, selling books isn’t really about making the sale, it’s about bringing value to the market and the reader.
To enter to win a copy of License To Lie, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, with the subject line “License”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 11, 2013. U.S. residents only.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.