Rick Bylina's One Promise Too Many

My guest today is Rick Bylina. Rick lives with his wife and cockatiel, Sydney, near Apex, North Carolina. Ongoing corporate downsizing convinced him to tap into his passion. He scribed any crazy idea that crossed his mind. After gaining discipline, he wrote his debut mystery novel, One Promise Too Many, the first in a series, featuring Detective Roger Stark. Writing happens spontaneously between housework, gardening, cooking, and wrestling alligators. The second book in the series, A Matter of Faith has also been published. The third book, Meteor Magic, is due out in the spring of 2012.

Anne - Welcome, Rick! When did you first realize you were destined to be a mystery/suspense writer?

Rick - Quit frankly, it didn't take long to head in the direction of being a mystery and suspense writer. I started writing the great American novel and found dead bodies piling up in my office space. I had to do something with them. Besides, in general, all stories are mysteries. Someone needs, wants, or desires something whether it's internal or physical. The mystery is not only what it really is sometimes, but also how they acquire it. I believe that detective novels are popular because most people like an experienced guide to help them on the journey to discovery, and that is what a detective is. In Detective Stark's case, he's somewhat like you and me as we try to find answers to the mysteries in our lives, always moving forward, even when we sometimes take wrong turns or make initial decisions that turn out wrong. In sum, we can empathize with him. At least I hope so.

Anne - Tell us about your book. 

Rick - One Promise Too Many is the first novel of what I plan to be a seven-book series, featuring Detective Roger Stark. He's a steady family man who wrestles with personal issues as we all do, but without making him the dark tragic figure that so many stories paint our police heroes to be. In this story, his co-protagonist, is Phil Cartier, a paranoid-schizophrenic, who quickly becomes the target of the investigation into the kidnapping of a five-year-old girl, the daughter of a wealthy CEO. My portrayal of Phil has gotten some highly favorable comments from people who deal or treat schizophrenics in real life. I'm proud of the research I did to make this come alive. This is Stark's first case as a detective. Much on his plate and more keeps being heaped onto it. He has had some recent failures that has dampened his enthusiasm for the job he loves, he gets a new partner, Edwin Jones, fresh from a boring retirement from the NYPD, who has issues of his own, and the investigation uncovers a crime of wider scope.

Anne - Is it part of a series? If so, include other titles. What do you enjoy most about writing a series? What part do you loathe?

Rick - As mentioned, One Promise Too Many is part of the Detective Stark Mystery Series. The second book, A Matter of Faith, has already been published. The third book, Meteor Magic is a bit more whimsical than the first two. However, it does maintain the obviously serious overtones necessary to capture a murderer. It will be out in April 2012. What I enjoy most about writing a series intertwines to significant writing elements: one is the growth of the character over the series and the second is the ability to use that growth as a familiarity factor in my writing and for the reader. I don't think I loathe anything about writing a series, yet; however, the most challenging part in a series is filling in a new reader in the middle of the series with the characters background without boring the tears out of a reader who has come along for the full ride.

Anne – Okay, my fav question. How many rejections have you received? Was one more memorable than others? Why?

Rick - I've received 527 rejections for the five novels I've submitted. On the surface, that's bad, but in reality, each rejection made the novel stronger. Now, I stand behind some really solid work. I did have one email rejection two minutes after I sent it out, but the one that stands out was the agent who loved everything about the book, but still rejected it. I'm a bit anal, and that rejection still drives me nuts.

Anne – I’ve had some of those “love it, but no thanks” rejections as well, and you’re right. Those are the ones that gnaw at your soul! Any words of advice for struggling, unpublished writers?

Rick - The tagline at the end of my emails says it all. The only rule: writers write! Everything else is a guideline. Learn all the supposed rules, understand that they are guidelines, and then keep writing with an eye on breaking those rules by going places where the stories haven't gone before.

Anne – Would you share an excerpt of One Promise Too Many with us? 

Rick – You have to ask?!

Chapter 1

I was eight-years-old when Mother captured Father’s dimpled smile with her camera just as I had reached for his red hair. The next day, someone murdered him. Fused onto a three-inch square memorial magnet, my father’s image from that day is a constant bittersweet memory. Twenty-four years later, I saw his face stare back at me whenever I looked into a mirror. I grew into him with the dimpled smile, familiar blue eyes, and same copper-colored hair. I idolized him. At his funeral, I made a promise only a na├»ve boy could make. I had promised to find his killer. It was a promise I felt honor-bound to accomplish as a man.

When I was finally in a position to eventually investigate his cold case, my confidence ebbed. Fulfilling that promise weighed heavily against recent events. On the back wall of my locker’s gray interior, the magnet held a weathered three-month old newspaper article from the Memorial Day edition of the Marshfield, Pennsylvania Sentinel. It was a reminder of unfinished business, one of those recent events. In one of the article’s photographs, I stood dripping wet, shrouded in a blanket. Bobby Richardson’s anguished father pointed an accusatory finger at me. The other picture showed Bobby’s cherubic face captured for all eternity over the caption “Eight-year-old boy drowns. Stark’s rescue fails.” The underwater caverns below the thundering Hidden River Falls at the edge of town still held his body.

I grabbed the article and wadded it up, not needing the reminder that Bobby could bob to the surface at any time. He did it often enough in my nightmares. Three months after Bobby’s drowning, the haunting question remained. What more could I have done to save him? I convinced myself the answer was nothing, but some days it was a hard sell. I needed to focus on the here and now—to move on. The crumpled article thumped the bottom of a trashcan.

I slipped my tie under the collar of my white shirt in the changing room at Marshfield Police Headquarters. Over, under, around, and through, I knotted the black tie into a half-Windsor. The review board cleared me of procedural issues in the drowning, but the process stung anyway. It sucked the enthusiasm out of the job I loved, making me question my actions. Afterwards, Lieutenant Newby warned me, “Hesitant cops are dead cops.” Newby’s stern message played like a refrain from a dirge. I straightened the narrow tie and slipped on my black suit coat. A lot had happened since Bobby died. Sometimes it seemed like too much, and all of it bad. I had to find a way to put the bad behind me or risk making Newby’s warning prophetic.

Shift change commenced. Cops entered from across the room beyond the row of lockers. It was time to go. I closed the locker door, and Bobby slipped beneath the surface of my thoughts.

The detective’s badge fit snuggly in my shirt pocket, and then I headed for my first shift as a detective to help out over the Labor Day weekend. Entering quietly into this new position three days ahead of my scheduled return to duty seemed like a good idea. I sucked in a cleansing breath before pushing open the door to the catwalk behind the central processing pit. Designed to keep me grounded and focused, I mumbled my mantra. “I’m a cop.”

Anne – What a fantastic opening, Rick. I can’t wait to read more, and I know I’m not the only one. Where can readers reach you online?

Rick –I blog, I tweet at @Rickbylina, and I yak on Facebook. You can also email me at rbylina@earthlink.net. My books are available at most online book sites, including Amazon and SmashwordsThey are also available at Quail Ridge Book Store in Raleigh, NC, one of the top 25 independent bookstores in America according to Newsweek.

Anne – Thanks so much for dropping by, Rick. One Promise Too Many is now on my TBR list!

In closing, happy reading, y'all! As always, your comments are welcome and appreciated. Btw, if you become a follower, well, hey, I will be eternally grateful!

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jennymilch said...

Best of luck with the new series! Love how the great American novel gave way to dead bodies.

Rick Bylina said...

Thanks Jenny...Yes, there was only one body in the great American novel...just not enough. :-) I may come back to it someday. It's 70K words just propping open a door.

Trev said...

New follower via book blogs, thought I would say hi! Trev @ trevsliteraryreview.blogspot.com

Anne K. Albert said...

Thank you Jenny and Trev for dropping by. Much appreciated. :)

Rick Bylina said...

Thanks for dropping by Trev. I will have to check out the literary review despite the fact that ONE PROMISE TOO MANY is just a good police procedural with a bit of depth. The second book, A MATTER OF FAITH, is a mystery, but has more literary leanings. Would God help solve a murder?

Okay, everyone, Happy Dance.

Rick Bylina said...

Just picked up my first UK 5-star rating at ( http://tinyurl.com/7m7hnea ) to go with my dozen 5-stars on Amazon (Kindle & paperback) and nine on www.smashwords.com . Come on over and take a look.

Anne K. Albert said...

Huge congrats, Rick! Well deserved.