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Interview with Deborah J Ledford, Author of Crescendo

cres_137x212What is your book about?

CRESCENDO is book three of my Steven Hawk/Inola Walela thriller series. Inola carries this book as the only female Native American cop of a small western North Carolina town, searching for a little boy no one but her believes is missing.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

I’m a former screenwriter so ideas and snippets of stories come to me visually. One of the most compelling scenes in CRESCENDO presented itself one morning, that of Inola, gun pointed at a woman standing next to a vehicle stopped at the shoulder of a highway, duffle bag tucked under her arm, the other hand clutching a handful of money, bills swirling in the air.

I pay attention when such a strong visual is presented and this scene became instrumental in piecing together the entire novel.

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

I don’t use an outline, but I do implement a chapter breakdown as I work. Essentially a one-paragraph wrap up of what happens in each chapter after it is written. For the chapters I don’t quite have figured out, I leave those chapters on the breakdown blank and move down to the elements I know I want to implement. This may be merely a line of dialogue, or a climatic element I will flesh out later. The point is to keep going until I reach the end of the first draft. I also keep track of my word count output each day. I keep a yearly Planner that is only for my writing and publishing accomplishments. I find that when I keep track of how many words I’ve written this keeps me focused and helps me meet my goal. I do a word count after I’ve finished for the day and jot that accomplishment on the calendar.

Do you think writing this book changed your life? How so?

CRESCENDO puts Inola in the spotlight more than Hawk—although he is still a major player and Inola would be nothing without him in her life. During the course of the Steven Hawk/Inola Walela thriller series the lead and even secondary characters have evolved to true members of my family. And while researching for the books I’ve had the opportunity to meet people I never would have had the opportunity to know. Like Inola, writing the series has given me a purpose and goal to present my very best work as a writer.

What are you working on right now?

I’m in pre-production mode to record and distribute the audiobook version of CRESCENDO and SNARE which will also benefit a Native American language and culture foundation.

What advice you would give to an aspiring author?

What every other published author recommends: butt in the chair, don’t give up, polish, submit. Most of all, once you’ve submitted your manuscript to agents/publishers start another novel or short story. Rejections don’t hurt as much when you’re in love with another project.

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Deborah_J_Ledford-114x160Deborah J Ledford is the author of the Steven Hawk / Inola Walela suspense series, including: CRESCENDO, SNARE—The Hillerman Sky Award Finalist, and the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards Finalist in the Mystery / Suspense category. The classical music-themed STACCATO is book one. She is a three-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize and her award-winning stories appear in numerous print publications as well as literary and mystery anthologies. Part Eastern Band Cherokee, Deborah spent her summers growing up in the Great Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina, the setting for her psychological suspense thriller novels and many of her short stories.

Click here to buy: Crescendo

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Excerpt From “Crescendo” – by Deborah J Ledford

cres_137x212One murdered woman.
A missing child.
The diabolic father who will do anything to get his son back.
The female cop who risks everything to keep the boy safe.

CRESCENDO– Redemption with a bullet

As the only female Native American officer on the Bryson City, North Carolina police force, Inola Walela, must always play her A game. All bets are off when during a routine traffic stop the passenger insists her son has been kidnapped but is struck by a car before Inola can glean any hard facts. An altercation ensues and Inola’s partner is felled by a bullet—possibly from her gun. On administrative leave, fraught with guilt for allegedly killing her partner, and obsessed with the possibility of a missing child out there somewhere, she defies the force and her fiancé, Sheriff Steven Hawk. Inola sets off on her own journey to find the missing boy.

EXCERPT:

Breath catching in her throat, Inola rose to her knees. She winced as more tires screeched. Metal scraping metal added to the cacophony of noise and confusion. “Jesus,” she muttered, taking in the scene: the woman face down on the highway, arms and legs splayed, blonde hair covering her face.

“Inola!” Cody screamed.

She whirled to see her partner struggling with the driver. One handcuff was secured to the offender’s wrist, but the other swayed loose. The two men battled for Cody’s weapon.

A single gunshot split the air.

Inola jumped to her feet, drew her pistol, took a Weaver’s stance and fired. The driver’s mouth opened and closed as he uttered a deep guttural moan.

Inola ran, feeling as though she glided above the roadway. She kept her Glock trained on the driver. He shuddered. Gasped. His body went limp and dropped to a sitting position against the cruiser’s bumper. She kicked Cody’s gun from the driver’s hand and holstered her weapon.

Hand to his neck, Cody grinned shakily and croaked, “Nice shot, partner.” A trail of blood fell downward. Crimson puddled on the white line of the road. Cody emitted an odd gurgle and slid down the cruiser’s grille to plop beside the driver.

It took a moment for Inola to realize the blood wasn’t coming from the prisoner. Thick claret seeped through Cody’s fingers, staining the neck of his uniform and T-shirt, dropping to his hands in his lap.

Fingers shaking, Inola fumbled for the mic on her shoulder. “Officer down! Officer down! This is unit five-one-eleven. Three down. I need three busses.” She strangled a sob. Fury and terror took over all capacity of reasoning. “My partner’s been shot! Officer eleven-seven-four is down. Please…please help me!”

She dropped to her knees and reached out to stanch the flow streaming from Cody’s neck. “Hold on, partner. Medics are on the way.”

“Gave…up,” Cody stuttered. His eyes locked on Inola’s and then he lowered his head.

She followed his gaze to something clenched in his hand. Cody waved a credit card-sized piece of plastic between his fingers.

“Gave…up…”

Inola’s stomach lurched as she took the slick, sticky card. Cody coughed and frothy blood bubbled from his lips. She gathered her partner in her arms and rocked him. “No, Cody. Dammit, don’t give up. Please! Please. Don’t give up.”

Hot wetness soaked the front of her uniform. She clamped a hand over his pulsating wound. His blood oozed between her fingers. Praying for the ambulance and backup to arrive, she glanced around. Her body convulsed as she took in the accident scene that resembled a disaster movie more than a real-life scenario. Cars were parked in a line along the exit ramp to her right. Gridlocked vehicles clogged each lane of traffic, stunned citizens stood a safe distance away. The ashen atmosphere muted every color as fat snowflakes fluttered from the sky.

The sound of footfalls alerted her that danger still loomed. She eased Cody to the ground, slid her Glock from its holster, pivoted toward shuffling steps.

A man approached, a woman’s limp body draped in his arms, blonde hair streaming downward, the hem of her flowered dress skimming the pavement.

Inola assessed the situation—Cody, the lifeless driver, the woman, the stranger. She was about to yell out to put the woman down. Didn’t he realize he had just tainted the scene by moving her? But the look of horror on his face stopped her protest.

“I didn’t mean to hit her.” He lowered to his knees and laid the woman at Inola’s feet. “Please, can you help her? I think she’s dying.”

Inola eased her hand out and carefully swept aside the veil of hair. Her stomach lurched at the sight of the right side of the victim’s head, flatter than it should be. She placed a shaking hand to the white as porcelain neck. No beat pulsated under her fingertips. “I’m sorry,” she told the man.

His shoulders slumped as he mumbled a few words Inola could not decipher.

She wrenched away and hurried back to Cody, pulled him to her lap and resumed clutching his neck. Although the blood had slowed, it continued a thick path and she worried he would bleed out right there in her arms.

“Cody, open your eyes, partner. I need you to stay awake until the medics get here.”

He didn’t stir. Sirens wailed, growing louder with each beat of Inola’s racing heart. Feeling every bystander’s eyes on her, she settled her gaze on the only person who could possibly understand the magnitude of what had occurred—who, too, would suffer the consequences of this unforeseen catastrophe—the man who had also killed someone that day.

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Deborah_J_Ledford-114x160Deborah J Ledford’s latest novel of suspense, CRESCENDO, is book three of the Steven Hawk/Inola Walela series. Other novels include SNARE, Finalist for The Hillerman Sky Award and the NM-AZ Book Awards, and the classical-music themed STACCATO. Deborah is a three-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize and her award-winning short stories appear in numerous print publications as well as literary and mystery anthologies. Part Eastern Band Cherokee, she spent her summers growing up in western North Carolina where her novels are set. 

Click here to buy: Crescendo

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