Mystery Books News is thrilled to welcome Rick Mofina as our guest blogger. Rick is the author of The Panic Zone (Mira, June 2010 Paperback, 978-0-7783-2794-3), the 2nd mystery featuring international journalist Jack Gannon.
Today, Rick writes about what it means to him to be an author. And he's also providing our readers with an opportunity to win a copy of his book. Visit Mystery Book Contests, click on the "Rick Mofina: The Panic Zone" contest link, enter your name, e-mail address, and this code (5933) for a chance to win! (One entry per person; contest ends July 22, 2010.)
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Photo courtesy of Rick Mofina
I guess telling tales has always been in my blood. I grew up in a working-class family east of Toronto, in Belleville, Ontario, Canada where many of my relatives were natural story tellers. I started writing fiction in grade school and never stopped. I was eighteen when I hitchhiked to California and wrote a (dreadful, still unpublished) novel about the experience. In university I studied Journalism, Religious Responses to Death, and English Literature, including a course in American Detective Fiction. A nice combination to have when I became a cub reporter at The Toronto Star, the same paper where Hemingway once worked. From the Star I embarked on a career in journalism that spanned three decades and several newsrooms.
My reporting has put me face-to-face with murderers on death row in Montana and Texas. I covered a horrific serial-killing case in California, an armored car heist in Las Vegas and the murders of police officers in Alberta. I have flown over Los Angeles with the LAPD, and gone on patrol with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police near the Arctic. I have also reported from the Caribbean, Africa and the Middle East.
It was during my time as crime reporter with the Calgary Herald that I sold my first book, If Angels Fall. My latest release, The Panic Zone, is my 12th book. Now I am published in 16 countries.
The Panic Zone concerns the story of an anguished mother from Wyoming who refuses to believe her baby died in a tragic car crash. Jack Gannon, a wire service reporter from New York, joins her in the hunt for a perfect killer whose trail leads them around the world in a race against time. It is the second book in the Jack Gannon series, which debuted with Vengeance Road.
For Jack Gannon's job as a correspondent with the World Press Alliance based in New York, I drew upon my own time as a newspaper reporter then a wire service reporter in Canada. I also have friends with Reuters and the Associated Press. I visited the AP's world headquarters in NYC and discussed my character with staff there, to get a better feel for him in that sort of environment.
At the outset of The Panic Zone, Gannon is dispatched to Rio de Janeiro to dig up the truth behind a cafe bombing that killed 10 people, including two journalists from the WPA's Rio bureau. I reached into my own experiences of being dispatched at a moment's notice to a story, to places such as the Caribbean, Africa, Kuwait. I recall being told one day, "we need you to go to the Bahamas to chase a story." Then there was the stomach-twisting time I was dispatched to the tragedy in Columbine. "Just grab a laptop and get on a plane." I got on the next flight from Calgary and bought what I needed in Littleton.
For other aspects of The Panic Zone, I did a lot of reading. The research never stops. I'll be researching while I am writing. It all depends on what I need, or think I need.
I think my urge to write reaches back to my earliest years when my mother read bedtime stories to me. She drew me into worlds that were sketched by the writer's words and brought to life in my imagination. This was wild magic. It had captivated me with such intensity that I was compelled to craft my own fiction based on the real things I'd observed. Like how my mother smiled when my father came home and handed me his big lunch bucket, with one cookie left in it for me. Or the way his hands were creased with fine threads of dried concrete as he unlaced his heavy work boots.
I observed the world I was in, then created fiction based on what I saw. Eventually my parents bought me a typewriter and one thing led to another which led to the sale of my first short story for $60.00 to a magazine in New Jersey. My father stared at that check for a long time, trying to make sense of what had transpired. At age 15, I was a professional writer. Or so it seemed. That was 1972. My first novel was published in 2000.
While I left reporting several years ago -- I have a full-time job as a communications advisor -- my writing process has not changed. Once I have an idea I give it a lot of thought to ensure it really grabs me. I get up at 4 am, make notes, and make notes on the bus commute to my day job, I turn those notes into draft pages on the weekends, writing from 5 or 6 a.m. until mid afternoon. When I travel, I work on my laptop in hotels, airports, on planes.
For me, the keys are ritual, routine and discipline. Journalism gave me the discipline, My family gave me everything else. My wife and family are extraordinarily accommodating. Our kids grew up knowing dad was always in the office at the keyboard, coming up for air when reality demands it. Other than that, staying faithful to the writing routine is the only way for me to meet deadlines.
One of the things I love about writing is reader reaction. I've had a lot of nice comments, like ‘you kept me up all night,’ and ‘you need to write more books faster’. But one that stands out came from a lovely handwritten letter from a woman in Indiana. Seems she was on vacation in the west and bought my first book, If Angels Fall, in a used book bin for 25 cents.
After reading it, she liked it so much, she cut me a personal check for the full cover price, $7.00, which she’d attached to her letter. She told me I’d earned it. I was blown away. I thanked her. And yes, I cashed the check, but I’ve kept a photocopy that I intend to frame some day.
And I love the feedback from new readers who have just discovered you. It's very rewarding when someone takes the time to write you a kind note telling you how much they enjoyed your book, that never gets old. Hanging out with other writer friends at conferences is fun, too.
As a writer, one thing I've learned along the way is to never give up. The only guarantee that you will fail, is if you give up. The only thing impeding you stares back at you in the mirror. Don't make excuses for not writing, carve out time and create sentences.
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Rick is currently based in Ottawa, where he lives with his wife and their two children. Visit his website at RickMofina.com, follow him on Twitter (@rickmofina), or check out the Rick Mofina Facebook fan page to learn more about his latest projects.
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About The Panic Zone: A car crashes in Wyoming -- a young mother is thrown clear of the devastating car crash. Dazed, she sees a figure pull her infant son from the flames. Or does she? The police believe it's a case of trauma playing cruel tricks on the mind, until the night the grief-stricken woman hears a voice through the phone: "Your baby is alive."
A bomb explodes in a Rio de Janeiro café -- the heinous act kills ten people, including two journalists with the World Press Alliance news agency. Jack Gannon's first international assignment is to find out whether his colleagues were innocent victims or targets who got too close to a huge story.
A Caribbean cruise ends in horror -- doctors are desperate to identify the mysterious cause of a cruise ship passenger's agonizing death. They turn to the world's top scientists, who fear that someone has resurrected their long-buried secret research. Research that is now being used as a deadly weapon.
With millions of lives at stake, experts work frantically against time. And as an anguished mother searches for her child and Jack Gannon pursues the truth, an unstoppable force hurls them all into the panic zone.
Also available: The Panic Zone by Rick Mofina (Kindle edition).
For a chance to win a copy of The Panic Zone, courtesy of Planned Television Arts, visit Mystery Book Contests, click on the "Rick Mofina: The Panic Zone" contest link, and enter your name, e-mail address, and this code (5933) in the entry form. (One entry per person; contest ends July 22, 2010.)