Tuesday, April 17, 2018

EMPTY PROMISES by James M. Jackson ~ Guest Post, Excerpt & Giveaway

Empty Promises (Seamus McCree, #5)
by: James M. Jackson
Series: Seamus McCree
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Release Date: April 3, 2018
Publisher: Wolf’s Echo Press
Amazon | Paperback | Goodreads

If you love the suspense and plot twists of domestic thrillers, this page-turner will be for you. Seamus McCree’s first solo bodyguard assignment goes from bad to worse. His client disappears. His granddog finds a buried human bone. Police find a fresh human body.

His client is to testify in a Chicago money laundering trial. He’s paranoid that with a price on his head, if the police know where he’s staying, the information will leak. Seamus promised his business partner and lover, Abigail Hancock, that he’d keep the witness safe at the McCree family camp located deep in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s woods.

Abigail is furious at his incompetence and their relationship flounders. Even his often-helpful son, Paddy, must put family safety ahead of helping his father. Seamus risks his own safety and freedom to turn amateur sleuth in hopes he can solve the crimes, fulfill his promise of protection, and win back Abigail. Wit and grit are on his side, but the clock is ticking . . . and the hit man is on his way.

The Mind of a Killer

It takes an interesting killer to provide a worthy antagonist for a hero. In the Seamus McCree series readers meet two kinds of killers. One is a professional, hired by others to perform a job. Other than in war, most of us couldn’t do it. We talk about such people as “killing machines,” or “without a conscience.” We want to dehumanize them because deep inside we admit that under the right circumstances, we, too, could kill—but that would be different.

A continuing character in the series is the self-styled “Happy Reaper.” He’s a hired killer who readers first meet in Ant Farm (#1). He returns in Empty Promises (#5) and has a significant role in my work-in-progress, False Bottom (#6). He’s driven to be the best in the business, and as we see in Empty Promises, he spends his down time honing his skills. I find one-dimensional hitmen boring. The Happy Reaper has a code of ethics—not like yours and mine, of course—but one he lives by. That makes him more interesting and allows readers and me to explore deeper issues incorporated in the struggle between him and Seamus.

The other killers populating the series are unprofessional, in which the killing is a means unto an end. Sometimes a person finds themselves backed into a corner and killing becomes (they think) their only way out. Readers can see alternatives, so my task as author is to make a death believable by providing sufficient motivation for the act.

Revenge, which I’ve used as the engine of hate, can be particularly powerful. The event that triggered the revenge can be recent or distant. With distant events, the hurt has had time to fester in a warped mind, magnifying and intensifying the internal damage. I try to put myself in the mind of the killer, to feel their burning need to get even, so when I write its revelation, the truth explodes on the page fully formed. It’s also important for me to lay the groundwork in earlier chapters. The reader may be surprised by who-done-it, but it shouldn’t come as a total shock because the clues were there.

When anger triggers a murder, it is important for the reader to understand why something, perhaps even seemingly trivial, created a lethal response. Was there history between the two? Had the killer been in a similar situation and did not want to repeat the prior outcome? I haven’t dealt with this in my novels, but in real life a mouse of a person who has accepted years of verbal and/or physical domestic abuse, snaps and kills the abuser. For us to make sense of that as readers, we need to be brought into the mind of the killer, to experience what she experienced, to feel the building rage. Then, although we may abhor both the abuse and the killing, we at least understand the motivation.

The most frightening people for me are those who rationalize that killing others is justified to bring about a better world. Because I fear it, I am also drawn to explore it, which I did in Cabin Fever (#3). To write these killers, I must understand their motivation. I block out my abhorrence for their fanaticism and allow them to explain to me what they find so important about their goals that they can justify using murder as a tactic. Once we’ve had that discussion (all occurring in my head—what does that say about me?), I’m in a position to allow the character to present his perspective in the novel through his acts, conversations with others, and internal dialog. Understanding the character’s ambition makes their amoral aspect feel more believable when he appoints himself judge, jury, and executioner.

Being able to glimpse the killer’s motivation from their own perspective is one reason I often prefer reading and writing suspense compared to a traditional whodunit. I’ll be interested in your readers’ take on this point.

Had Owen returned my call? Had Abigail found anything? Any word from Bartelle after Owen ratted me out? My phone claimed it had no voice or text messages. Sometimes the signal is so weak the phone doesn’t receive messages, so I brought the remainder of my drink to the deck, where the signal was strongest, and dialed voicemail. The sun-heated decking was uncomfortable on my bare feet. I shifted weight from foot to foot to minimize the discomfort and keyed in my password.

You have no messages at this time.

Back inside, I booted up the computer and checked email. Nothing relevant and no help for my situation.

I had a long, positive history with Sheriff Lon Bartelle. Was it strong enough for him to cut me some slack over my initially lying to him? Surely, the best way to tell him of my malfeasance was face-to-face. Like a man mounting the scaffold for his hanging, I forced leaden legs to return me to the deck. My call to Bartelle brought the information that he was in the office but not available to come to the phone.

I put Atty on a lead to do her business and then shut her in the house. “Sorry girl, I need to leave you home for this one. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

She trotted to the living room and, without a glance back, crawled onto the couch, where she didn’t belong. She pawed the throw pillow resting against one arm, knocking it flat, and stretched out, snuggling into the back of the couch and resting her head on the flattened pillow. Her eyes met mine and she grinned, as if to say, “What? I’m just following orders.”

Purchase Empty Promises from:

The Seamus McCree Series:

James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree series consisting of five novels and one novella. Jim splits his time between the deep woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Georgia’s Lowcountry. He claims the moves between locations are weather-related, but others suggest they may have more to do with not overstaying his welcome. He is the past president of the 700+ member Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

Places to find James M. Jackson:

You can follow the Empty Promises blog tour here.

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  1. I enjoyed getting to know your book; congrats on the tour, I hope it is a fun one for you, and thanks for the chance to win :)

    1. Thanks for stopping by and checking out the book.

  2. Thanks for having me here today. I'll stop by during the day to respond to any comments or questions. Waving to Lisa ~~~

    1. You're welcome. Thank you for the guest post and for stopping by today.


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