Tag Archives: Carpet Ride

Interview with Norm Brown, Author of “Carpet Ride”

What is your book about?

Norm: Near the end of their honeymoon trip across Oregon, Sam Stanley, his new wife Lynn, and her one-year-old son Andy, traverse a steep mountain road in a rented RV. In the middle of a blind curve they run over a long roll of carpeting angled across the road. Sam barely manages to avoid crashing down the mountainside. When he walks back up the road to move the obstacle—it’s gone. Upon returning home to Austin, Sam learns that the crushed body of a business executive from Boulder, Colorado has been found at the site of their reported accident. The Oregon police suspect Sam in the obvious hit and run death; there is no roll of carpet. When deadly “accidents” continue in Texas, Sam realizes they were all supposed to die on that mountain.

How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?

Norm: It rattled around in my head for over six months before I actually sat down and began to outline the plot.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

Norm: The opening scene occurred to me when my son and I were traveling on vacation in a rented RV through the Coastal Wilderness of Oregon. While negotiating a frighteningly narrow curve on a steep, lonely mountain road, I couldn’t help but imagine what would happen if something suddenly blocked the way of the big, clunky vehicle. Like most book ideas, it started with that simple question: What if?

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?

Norm: The novel actually has two protagonists, but if I had to choose my favorite it would be Sam Stanley. At the beginning of the story, newly-wed Sam feels almost literally on top of the world. When targeted by an unknown enemy, he discovers courage and strength he never knew he possessed. Carpet Ride is the story of Sam’s evolution from vulnerable victim to desperate defender of his little family.

Who is your most unusual/most likeable character?

Norm: I was surprised by how much I enjoyed writing about the one-and-a-half year old boy, Andy. The growing bond between him and his new step dad Sam added a level of vulnerability that I think helped ratchet up the intensity of the story. The little guy is barely starting to form words, but he actually helps to solve the mystery.

How long did it take you to write your book?

Norm: I’m not a speedy writer at all. I wrote and rewrote for over a year before even considering trying to find a publisher.

How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing it?

Norm: I know a lot of authors like to let the story unfold as they write, but I’m definitely an outliner. The basic story was laid out in my notes before I started. The details of the plot changed a lot however by the time I finished the first draft.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it?

Norm: The action of the story takes place at locations I was already somewhat familiar with in Oregon, Texas, and Colorado. I think that reduced the amount of background research required. I do remember however nervously wandering around a local hospital intensive care unit to get a feel for the layout of a scene. I always feel like an intruder in hospital hallways, and in this case I probably was.

How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

Norm: Although I start writing with a very detailed plot, I find that my characters evolve and more or less define themselves through their actions and words as the story unfolds. One main character, Sam’s best friend John Canton, didn’t even exist when I started the first draft. I soon discovered that I needed him to help Sam solve the murder mystery and he went on to become a second protagonist. Starting out as a rather reckless young man, his development throughout the story is more or less the opposite of Sam Stanley’s. By the last chapter he has noticeably matured and puts his life on the line to defend his friends.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

Norm: I worked most of my life as a computer programmer/analyst. Just as when creating a software program, I need a fairly detailed timeline of how my novel is going to proceed before I start typing. While writing Carpet Ride I kept the timeline updated until very near the end. Once the editing and rewriting phase started, the timeline was still useful as a reference for details.

What do you like to read?

Norm: I read mostly mystery and suspense novels. I particularly like stories that put ordinary people into extraordinary circumstances.

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Excerpt from “Carpet Ride” by Norm Brown

Near the end of their honeymoon trip across Oregon, Sam Stanley, his new wife Lynn, and her one-year-old son Andy, traverse a steep mountain road in a rented RV. In the middle of a blind curve they run over a long roll of carpeting angled across the road. Sam barely manages to avoid crashing the huge vehicle down the mountainside. When he walks back up the road to move the obstacle—it’s gone. Upon returning home to Austin, Sam learns that the crushed body of a business executive from Boulder, Colorado has been found at the site of their reported accident. There is no roll of carpet.

Excerpt:

“Lightning maybe?”

“Could’ve been, I guess. But the storm clouds are gone. I can see stars now.”

They both watched the tree top and sky for a moment.

“We need to keep moving.”

Lynn nodded and started forward.

They walked on down the trail, passing through alternating patches of moonlight and shadow. The low hum from up ahead was becoming more like a rumble. There was an ominous sense of power in the sound that made Sam’s stomach want to roll.

Then he saw the light.

A large white spot flashed across the brush to his left. He stopped and watched. The light became brighter, more focused. First one tree trunk and then the next lit up briefly as the beam of light swung through the woods.

“He’s back,” Lynn cried out behind him.

The light sank lower on the tree trunks and then vanished completely. The approaching vehicle must have dropped into a dip in the trail behind them. It was hard to guess how far behind.

“How can he be coming from that direction, Sam? From behind us.”

“That fork in the trail, back near the cabin. That must be another way in here.”

Sam bounced Andy higher on his hip to get a better grip and then turned back in the direction they had been going.

“Let’s get around this next curve, find a place to hide.”

He walked fast, with long strides. In spite of her limp Lynn kept up fairly well as they followed the ruts around a gentle curve. After about fifty feet, the trail straightened and started down a slight incline. Sam slowed and squinted into the patchy moonlight, trying to make sense of what he saw ahead of them. The white gravel tire ruts they had been following appeared to go straight for a short distance and then disappear into an expanse of open moonlight. It looked to Sam like the world ended a few yards ahead. The rumbling sound was coming from beyond the edge.

He took a couple more slow steps forward before the white beam of light suddenly reappeared, lighting up the woods to his left. It provided enough diffuse light down the trail for Sam to clearly see what lie ahead. From where he stood, the trail continued for a few feet and then abruptly ended. Or more correctly, he realized, it submerged. A dark churning mass of water flowed across from his right to his left. Sam could feel a cool mist on his face.

They had found the creek Sam remembered crossing on the way to Martin’s cabin. Only it was no longer a wide shallow creek, but a raging torrent. Although the heavy rains had ended, all that accumulated water still had to go somewhere. In this hilly terrain the floodwater sought lower ground with amazing speed and force.

Sam felt Andy’s arm tighten around his neck. Lynn came up beside him and squinted in the low light at a pile of white foam tumbling by a few feet away. All three seemed mesmerized by the surging rise and fall of the water. Then they were suddenly lit up from behind. Their long skinny shadows stretched out across the surface of the water, but never quite found the opposite shore of the swollen creek.

Sam and Lynn turned just as the source of the light came into view. Two incredibly bright headlights topped by small orange running lights. The body of the vehicle was not yet visible, but there was little doubt that it would prove to be the big white van.

***

Norm Brown was born and raised in Groves, a small town at the very southeastern corner of Texas. He earned a degree in physics from Lamar University, but a science career was not in the cards. Instead Norm got in on the ground floor of the rapid expansion of computers beginning in the 1970′s and has enjoyed a long, successful career in programming and analysis, living and working in Houston, Dallas, Kansas City, Wichita, Boulder, and finally Austin.

As an avid reader of mystery and suspense, however, Norm always had an unexpressed desire to see his own words in print and to entertain people with stories from his imagination. Carpet Ride is his first novel to be published.

Click here to read the first chapter of: Carpet Ride

Click here to buy: Carpet Ride

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Blog Jog, Zen and the Art of Motor Trikes, and Our Best Contest Ever

Welcome to Blog Jog, a one-day trot around the highways and byways of the blogosphere. Feel free to check out our place before you move on to the next blog in the jog.

With so many authors contributing to the Second Wind Blog, there is something for everyone. If you don’t know where to start, you can start by reading Norm Brown’s article: “Do Not Lean,” a Zen-like post about the art of the motor trike. Norm is the author of Carpet Ride, published by Second Wind Publishing.

Everyone who leaves a comment on this post will be entered in Second Wind’s best contest ever — a chance to win a copy of every title Second Wind will publish in 2011. Wow! So, be sure to leave a comment, then jog on over to visit mystery writer S. R. Claridge.

If you would like to visit a different Blog in the jog, you can find the entire list of participants at: Blog Jog Day.

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Lazarus Barnhill’s Newsletter

            Years ago I had a friend who wrote an article once a month for his company’s newsletter.  And nobody read it.  Tony could write okay.  The problem was his regular piece was always full of nothing but “thank you’s” and “coming events”.  Anytime someone did something noteworthy, he recounted the deed with effusive praise.  Whenever future activities were planned, he would write about them extensively and encourage participation.  By his third newsletter, everyone was ignoring Tony’s articles.

            So as I write this blog entry, I do so with a certain amount of trepidation—because I want to say a big “thank you” to all the kind people who posted such wonderful comments as part of the “Lazarus Barnhill Tribute”.  I’d also like to thank my friends at Second Wind Publishing who promoted and carried this off without me knowing about it until it was at hand.  You’re all delightful and lovely people—in addition to be fine authors.  This is the first time I’ve ever experienced a tribute, and it’s a wonderful, heady experience.

            I must admit, however, there is a dark side to this of which most people aren’t aware.  In the service of full disclosure, I suppose I should be completely candid and say that, without telling our “blog guru” what I was doing, I snuck in and removed all the ugly, hostile comments some people left. . . .  Well, I suppose it’s the thought that counts.  Folks make their tributes in different ways.  As I’ve read and reread the questions and observations about me that I deleted, it dawned on me I should respond to them.  Yes, even warped internet flamers need love and attention from time to time.  So here are some of the less favorable comments and questions along with my personal responses:

            What was your mother thinking when she named her son Lazarus?  Was that lame name the same as your daddy’s?  KDB

            No, my father’s name is not Lazarus.  When Mom named me that she was more than a little cheesed at my father, who at the time of my birth was in the Navy sailing over to Korea to fight a war.  She wasn’t about to name me after him.  Laz is a name that’s appeared in various generations of my family for some time, always accompanied with the hope that the bearer will final achieve something worthwhile. . . .  Now that I think of it, KDB are my mom’s initials.

            You should stick either to romance or to crime/mystery.  Where’d you get the idea you could screw up two genres?  M. Douthit

            You should read more good books.  In fact, you need to visit the Second Wind site.  Many quality romances (like Safe Harbor, Badeaux Knights, Fate and Destiny and A Love Out of Time) have strong elements of mystery and crime in them.  And some outstanding crime books (like Carpet Ride and my own The Medicine People) are full of romantic elements.  It would difficult to find a more heartbreaking romance—with a hopeful ending—than the thriller False Positive.  Murder in Winnebago County actually has a love triangle in it so compelling that Chris Husom’s readers demanded she resolve it in her upcoming sequel Buried in Wolf Lake.  Even though she would deny it, Pat Bertram’s books, especially A Spark of Heavenly Fire, are loaded with complex romances.  It’s a great privilege for me to be published by Second Wind, where authors are not confined to a single genre—which is really just an acknowledgement that a good book may have love, death, laughter, adventure, crime and even the supernatural in it.

            You make fun of police officers in The Medicine People.  You should be ashamed of yourself!  Edna S.

            My uncle and great-uncle were policemen in the little country town where I grew up, Edna.  They used to follow me around to make sure I wasn’t getting into trouble (or giving them a bad name) and when I got my driver’s license they’d find an excuse to stop me once every week or two.  I’m just getting even with them.  Anyway, the hero of the book is a clever cop and he’s surrounded by smart, ethical policemen who are trying to do what’s right.  I happen to think The Medicine People is actually pretty realistic in its depiction of police.

            Your hero in Lacey Took a Holiday is a kidnapper.  He gives me the creeps.  And the girl who’s the main character is a hooker.  She’s not much better.  Nobody wants to read about people like that.  P.P.

            Don’t I remember you from the romance writing contest?  You really ought to do something about your initials.  Anyway, get the book and the read the whole story.  They both start out as “damaged goods” through no fault of their own (he is an embittered WWI vet whose wife and child died in childbirth; she ran away from home as a teenager after being sexually assaulted and then being blamed for it).  Lacey Took a Holiday is not so different from a lot of modern romances in that the main characters have had prior relationships and endured great pain.  I’ll admit the story is a little gritty and realistic.  Second Wind is thinking about moving it over and making it a mainstream title.

            I understand you removed some of the steamier love scenes of your first two books to make them more acceptable to your readers.  Soon you’ll have another novel, East Light, coming out.  Have you made certain the sexual content is acceptable?  KDB

            Dang it, Mom!  Quit posting on the blog.

            Anyway, thanks for all the good comments.  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate them.  And now for some upcoming events . . .  —Laz Barnhill

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Extra Words

While I was struggling through the third or fourth draft of my first novel, I came across a helpful little piece in “Writer’s Digest” magazine. It was a short list of common redundancies that appear in books of all sorts. Sometimes we unintentionally use more words than necessary to get our idea across. Since my main goal at the time was to reduce the word count of my novel, I cut the list out and pinned it on the corkboard next to my desk. Referring to it occasionally made me more aware of my own habits. For example, my character frequently “shrugged his shoulders” when all he really needed to do was “shrug”. What else would he shrug?

Common Redundancies:

Two-wheeled bicycle                               nodded his head

6 a.m. in the morning                              ran quickly

absolutely perfect (perfect is absolute)   rise up

climbed up the stairs                              rose to her feet

crept slowly                                            sat down

drop down                                              shrugged his shoulders

eased slowly                                           small leprechaun

exact same                                             stomped heavily

fall down                                                stood to his full height

long-necked giraffe                               stood up

long-lasting durability                           terribly bad

the reason why                                       tiptoed quietly

The magazine editors included their favorite example:

“Today’s soup du jour of the day is pasta noodle.”—author Linda George

There are also words or phrases that are not necessarily redundant, but are often expendable. They don’t add much to what you’re trying to say. They listed some of those.

Expendable Words:

anyway                                        probably                             just

at the present time (now)            proceeded to                      perhaps

began to                                     owing to the fact                very

by means of (by)                         quite

certainly                                      rather

considering the fact that             real

definitely                                     really

exactly                                        slightly

fairly                                           so

in order to                                  somewhat

in spite of the fact that              sort of

in the event that (if)                   such

In my manuscript, I searched for the word “just” and discovered that I used it far too often for some sort of vague emphasis. Something like: “She was just terrified by the thought.” The little word doesn’t add any real qualification. You’re either terrified or you’re not.

Also, as a Texan, I have to add one more word to the expendable list. I found that my characters and narrator tended to use the adjective “pretty” on practically every page. It’s a common Texas (southern?) colloquialism used to mean something like “very much” or “significantly”. For example: “The kid was pretty excited to see them.” Sometimes it is appropriate for my characters to say things like that. After all, some of them are Texans. But I was startled by how often my third person narrator also used the word. It took me pretty much all day to cut that back to a reasonable number. Okay, I still say “pretty” a lot, but I try not to write it so much.

I found these lists helpful. They are by no means complete. I’m sure you can think of more examples of these common redundancies and expendable words.

Norm Brown is the author of the suspense novel Carpet Ride, recently released by Second wind Publishing, LLC.

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