Friday, July 30, 2010

Step Two - Finding the Time For Writing Your Novel

So you’ve fired all your distractions before starting a new novel. Now it’s time to actually write one. As with any great crime against nature, being successful takes both motive and opportunity. Why a writer does what they do varies based on the author. In the interest of space, let’s leave it at the writer actually wants to write a novel and move on to opportunity.

The most important component in opportunity is time. Writing can be done almost anywhere, but it takes time. Lots of it. Some novels are written piecemeal over years, others happen in bursts. The first draft of Fahrenheit 451 took Ray Bradbury 10 days, while Tom Wolfe spent more than 5 years working on a draft of Man in Full. It’s likely your project will fall somewhere in between the two.

More than ninety percent of writers have day jobs, thus their most creative efforts are relegated to hours either before or after work. Take away the commute, cooking, eating, bathing and some basic (but necessary) chores and there’s probably two free hours left. Perhaps this block is contiguous, perhaps not. It might mean getting up early for one hour before work, and then one hour after. Whatever the configuration, that sliver provides more than enough opportunity to get the project rolling.

A focused writer can get a lot of writing done in two hours a day, five sessions a week. Over the course of a month, those “tiny” increments will probably equal the amount of work done in one week at the day job. Toss in a full day session on Saturdays or Sundays, and that’s nearly two writing weeks for every four weeks dealing with the Boss man.

Keep that pace up for seven months and that’s more than 500 hours at the keyboard. Now that’s a decent amount. Especially since most professional novelists who only answer to an editor, rarely log more than five hours of writing per day. James Patterson spent years working at a marketing firm—long after a string of mega bestsellers—writing just two hours every weeknight. It can be done. So, what are you waiting for? Get started!

by Sam Hilliard, author of The Last Track

*excerpt from a guest blog on Life in the First Draft. To read more, go to:

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Working on a First Draft - First Fire Your Distractions!

Before word one of a first draft ever reaches the page, ideally one thing must happen: the writer must fire all their distractions. There will be plenty of moments along the way for introspection and hindsight, but this is not the time. Do right by the project and do it early on by recognizing there will be inevitable, unplanned diversions that might cause delays, sometimes permanent ones. Have a plan of attack before you begin.

Granted, some situations will always remain outside the writer’s control. Illness, a plumbing emergency, or the neighbors launching bottle rockets off the roof, will all likely impact a writing session. None of these events are really distractions, though. They are called life.

Acceptance is the answer to most situations of this type. Let them go rather than fighting them and with the possible exception of the plumbing emergency, they will generally work themselves out.

True distractions require a different approach and take more than just letting go. Distractions can be avoided, lessened or even eliminated. This is possible because the writer usually creates their own distractions. Let me repeat that. The writer is the single biggest manufacturer of predicaments that obstruct their own writing. They are grand masters of drama.

If writing is like setting sail on the ocean, the writer is not a good captain when distracted. No, the writer is playing the part of the Kraken, the beast who gnarls his octopus like legs around the ship, threatening to pull the whole works into the sea forever.

Minimizing distractions can take some preemptive action. For instance: scheduling automatic payment of bills (even ones not due for many weeks or months). Where applicable, load up on cat food, cat treats and litter (or dog/fish/ferret/lion goodies as the case may be). Just because Daddy has a book to write, doesn’t change the fact that the Cat Army has needs.

If a home improvement project can wait a few months, consider tabling it. Dealing with contractors hefting sheetrock and pneumatic drills up the stairs will severely curtail your attention span. For the same reason, avoid adopting a new pet until the first draft (no matter how primitive) is done. While pets love nibbling freshly edited pages, wait until you actually have something of consequence for them to chew. Mistah Kitteh will thank you. So will your editor.

And there are some minor office organization techniques that can help later on. It sounds silly, but deal with every piece of paper in sight from your seat at the typewriter or computer. If a letter wasted away beside the keyboard, unread for months, perhaps it wants to visit the shredder more than it wants to be ignored yet again.

Writing furniture should be comfortable, so if the chair or desk causes pain when seated for periods of longer than 90 minutes, a new one might save a few trips to the chiropractor. Make the workspace as functional as possible by reducing the clutter and keeping it clean—throughout the project.

Last, write an email to your innermost circle of friends. This missive is not an announcement of your plans to write a novel. No, it’s an admission of guilt and contrition, because you will be neglecting them—for quite awhile. Instead of groveling for forgiveness after the fact, why not do it in advance instead of when your mind is a million miles away with your characters? Then when friends do eventually complain about your absence (emotional, physical or otherwise), just hit send.

And then get back to the writing!
*this excerpt is  from a guest blog by Sam Hilliard, author of The Last Track: A Mike Brody Novel available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A good read-full of those fast-paced thrills of mystery!

I really like suspense novels. They get your heart pounding and your blood pumping. I enjoy the thrill of trying to figure out the "what's next" and the "whodunit". So, when the chance to review new author Sam Hilliard's book, The Last Track, came I took it without hesitation. I'm glad I did, because, while it wasn't a Christian Suspense like I like or my absolute favorite one, it was still a good read and full of those fast paced thrills of mystery.

Mike Brody is a well created, depth-lending character who is pulled into the twists and turns of mystery when he has to put his special forces training to use in finding a missing murder witness. Mike Brody's detective work is broken down into a span of just days and really packs the story full of adrenaline pumping mystery. 

If you're looking for a good new, thriller full of suspense, then Sam Hilliard's 4 star worthy book, The Last Track, is one that will satisfy your reading appetite. I am hoping this Mike Brody novel is just the start of a wonderful new series for us suspense lovers! 

*excerpt from a review on Book Reviews by buuklvr81

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Running on Empty

Years of cross-country running greatly influenced the character of Sean, the young missing murder witness that Mike Brody searches for in the The Last Track. Fearful of capture, Sean runs ever deeper into the Montana wilderness. Like Sean, I’m no stranger to covering long distances through dense woods. Back in high school, I ran cross-country, and I still run to this day (though much less seriously).

Preparing for races back then meant regular sessions running over the most grueling terrain Upstate New York had to offer. My teammates and I did not seek these harsh conditions out of a love for twisted ankles and shin splints. No, we did this because we never knew what the next invitational course was going to look like, especially in the snow or rain. We just assumed a healthy mix of steep inclines, breakneck descents, and general slop awaited us.
While we may not have known what rigors the course might demand, we could anticipate it would be either very cold or very wet or both. Competition rules required that all members of a cross country team wear the same uniform during a race, without exception. Such homogeneity made identifying teams easier for both officials and competitors. The problem with this well-intentioned bit of regulation is that the odds of all the teenaged boys on the team remembering to bring matching thermals or tights to wear under the uniform were extremely unlikely. Somebody always forgot part of their gear or packed the wrong color. At least we all suffered together.
I remember running over snow-covered fields with ice hanging off my laces, dressed in a singlet, shorts, a pair of mud caked socks and some racing shoes, thinking the next mile might as well be one hundred. I also knew the only way out of it was to finish. No matter how uncomfortable it was, in the end, the problem was temporary.
So I worked that experience into Sean. Though his stakes are much greater than mine were, he uses a similar technique to persevere. As he becomes lost in the woods, disoriented by lack of food and water, he stays centered by remembering that his problems will pass.
As long as he can stay ahead of the killer.
*excerpt from a guest blog post by Sam Hilliard, author of The Last Track on  Fodder For Fiction. To read more go to:

Monday, July 26, 2010

Debut author Sam Hilliard has created an immensely likable reluctant hero in Mike Brody, and he’s only scratched the surface of the character’s potential

 The Last Track by Sam Hilliard
July 26, 2010 by Elizabeth A. White  •
The Last Track by Sam Hilliard“The first track. It’s my baseline. I build a picture of the subject in my mind – how he moves, what he feels, what he might do next – it all flows from the first track.” – Mike Brody
Mike Brody has led an adventurous life. Formerly a special forces operative, upon leaving the military he worked as a smoke jumper – a firefighter who parachutes into remote areas to fight wildfires – until a catastrophic knee injury forced him to give up the job.
Now working as a guide for extreme adventure tours, Brody is trying to take a break from his hectic life by traveling with his son and ex-wife for a relaxing vacation at a dude ranch in Montana. Fortunately for the reader, it’s not in the cards for Brody to lead a life of relaxation.
Shortly after their arrival Brody is contacted by the local sheriff and enlisted in the search for a boy who’s gone missing in the forest surrounding the ranch. It turns out Brody has a special talent for tracking people, and a few high profile cases have made him the “go to” guy for law enforcement when all else fails. Complicating matters in the current situation is that the boy didn’t just wander off, but is actively on the run because he witnessed a murder.
Before Brody knows it he’s deep in the wilderness searching for the boy, saddled with a deputy he’s not sure he trusts, and receiving threatening phone calls from a mysterious figure called “The Partner” who says they’ll harm Brody’s family unless he tips The Partner to the boy’s location once he finds him… before he tells the police. It all makes for a thrilling, multi-layered plot that will have you turning pages late into the night.
Debut author Sam Hilliard has created an immensely likable reluctant hero in Mike Brody, and he’s only scratched the surface of the character’s potential. Though we know Brody’s ability to track people borders on the supernatural, how he first discovered his talent and the inner demons that compel him to answer every request for help are only hinted at. Given the undoubtedly rich backstory available for Hilliard to mine, it’s exciting to know that a second book featuring Brody is already in the works. It’s clear that both Sam Hilliard and Mike Brody have very bright futures ahead of them.
The Last Track is not only author Sam Hilliard’s first book, it’s also the first book from publisher Buddhapuss Ink, which has done a spectacular job with its initial offering. Hilliard lives outside New York City with his girlfriend and an army of four cats. When not writing, he’s the Director of IT at an all-girl boarding school. To learn more about Sam, visit his website.
*excerpt from a review on Musings of an All Purpose Monkey. To read more, go to:

Friday, July 23, 2010

An Entertaining Mystery With Some Interesting Surprises

Review of The Last Track:

Mike Brody is a skilled tracker with an extra sense to help the process. He is not just dedicated to tracking but he is driven. You learn the details of his motivation near the end of the story. I liked Mike as a well developed character.  Even though he is strong and inclined to do things his way, it is more because he knows what he is doing and not because he is arrogant. He doesn't panic but logically works through the problems. He doesn’t accept help easily but he can accept it.

Mike’s ex-wife Jessica seems almost as driven in her journalism career so it is interesting that she resents Mike’s dedication. It does seem that they both tend to put their careers before their family which is a little sad for their 8 year old son, Andy. This story takes place while they are vacationing and they don't get in much time together. Jessica is able to use lots of  contacts to help the investigation move along.

I enjoyed the details on Mike’s tracking techniques and survival tips. This added extra interest to the story which has plenty of intrigue and suspicious characters. It seems everyone is hiding something so it is hard to tell who can be trusted. The known villain, Crotty, is a pretty nasty piece of work.  The difficult task though is to try to figure out who “The Partner” in crime is.

I liked how breaks were set up in time sequences rather than chapters. This helped the reading to move at a good clip. This is an easy read that and the language is appropriate to work well for teens and all ages up. Mystery buffs will especially appreciate the detailed tracking and the unexpected surprises.

*excerpt from Martha's Bookshelf. To read more, or enter the book giveaway - win a signed copy of The Last Track - go to:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

5 Things You Should Know About Writing

1. If writing feels like work you might be doing it wrong. Writing works best when it’s an escape for the writer, as well as the reader. And when the writer lets the characters take over, time stops mattering; the days pass quickly. But if the manuscript is becoming a hassle, you either aren’t into the project, or the project needs some space so the ideas can finish germinating. In the meantime, write something else.
2. Every writing day is an adventure (or there is no typical writing day). Unless you work in a log cabin in the middle of nowhere, people will encroach on your routine. Taking the unplanned phone call or answering the door to deal with the Girl Scout hawking cookies not only provides an opportunity to socialize, albeit briefly, it forces the writer to act like a human instead of a super-serious badge of courage writer. Each day something interesting might happen when you temporarily step away from the keyboard—if you let it.
3. Some deadlines matter more than others. Generally the bigger the check attached to the deadline, the more it matters. So rank those projects according to the possibility that missing them might require legal counsel. If there’s no chance a lawyer will crawl out of his coffin to serve up a suit, it can probably wait.
4. Revisions should be as engaging as the original writing process. If you can’t spend 4 hours working a paragraph over, only to revert to what you had the day before without thinking you wasted your time, you might want to consider watching television instead of telling stories. Revisions are what make writing effective, and doing them well takes time.
5. When developing a character, don’t be afraid to talk out loud. Ask yourself a question and then answer in a different voice. Interviewing really helps you get to know your characters. One of the masters of fiction, Charles Dickens, pioneered the four mirror technique. Each mirror represented a different character and when he was unsure about a line of dialog, he stood in front of the appropriate mirror and acted out the passage before returning to the pages.

by Sam Hilliard, author of The Last Track
Sam HilliardBorn in Kansas City, MO, near the center of the United States, Sam Hilliard arrived during a very scary period of the 1970s. Since then he has lived on both coasts and quite a few places in between. Currently, Sam resides outside New York City with his girlfriend, and an army of four cats—one feline under the legal limit. His first book, The Last Track: A Mike Brody Novel, a mystery/thriller, released this Spring. When not writing, he’s the Director of IT at an all-girl boarding school where he gets to observe world-class drama firsthand. It’s also the reason he studies Krav Maga and Tai Chi.

*excerpt from a guest blog by Sam at Literarily Speaking. To read more go to:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Interview with Sam Hilliard: ‘Hitting bottom sometimes serves as the biggest opportunity in life’

How’s that for an exciting premise!  We welcome today Sam Hilliard, author of the mystery/thriller novel, The Last Track.
Sam HilliardThank you for this interview, Sam.  I was reading an interview the other day and you mentioned you always liked to write, but it just took a real low to get you to do it.  What did you mean by that?  Can you tell us about the “real low” that got you writing again?
Sam: First, thanks very much for having me here, and also for asking that question. Hitting bottom sometimes serves as the biggest opportunity in life, rather than the terrible tragedy that some people perceive.
Sometime during school, I found writing was something I enjoyed. To this day, in one of my desk drawers, two unfinished novels from that period still beg for completion. But after graduation from college, finding time for writing got a lot harder, partly because I did not allow myself many opportunities to do so, and partly because I failed to appreciate how important writing really was to my sense of well-being. Note: Both these obstructions were self-imposed.
Years without writing passed. I became increasingly miserable without quite realizing why and that lack of self-awareness about that fact tainted everything I touched—from my relationship, to my career. By the time I got laid off (or was fired, depending on who you ask) three days after my honeymoon, it was pretty clear that I had lost the ability to pretend I could be happy without writing.
And that was what I meant by a real low.
Pretty quickly after the dust settled, my now ex-wife suggested that maybe I should try writing for a little while, in between freelance assignments and looking for another job, just to see if it helped. Fortunately it did.
Tell us how you got the idea to write your latest book, The Last Track.  You were sitting in the woods and…
Sam: Many years ago, I was walking through the deep woods and suddenly became very aware of how it easy it would be to completely disappear into that landscape. I interrupted my hiking buddy and said something like: “I’m going to write books about a guy who finds missing people in the woods.”
And then I filed that moment away for several years. When I had time to write, a character—Mike Brody—who did just that surfaced.
Do you see a little of yourself in your main character, Mike Brody?
Sam: Mike has traits that I certainly try to emulate. He is a compelling character for several reasons. First, he can think and adapt in extremely chaotic situations—consistent with his military training and personal background. Second, while I do not know how the series will eventually conclude, I am certain Mike will never quit what he is doing, no matter what the personal cost. Last, he’s done some exceptional things with his life in an attempt to heal some childhood wounds. Maybe not the best things from a physical or an emotional standpoint, but he tries the best he can with what he has.
In some areas, there’s overlap. I see Mike as roughly the same age as me, and we share a birthday. My knees were in bad shape long before I injured them skydiving. A basic failure to resolve some personal issues directly contributed to my divorce. And lastly, for some reason, I continually find myself in do-or-die situations with strong women.
What was the hardest part about writing The Last Track?
Sam: I really enjoyed writing it, even during the dark periods when it seemed like the book would never get past my computer screen, but there was one particular thorny sticking point. I spent a few years on the book, and then realized the entire middle section wasn’t working at all. Oddly, fixing those problems proved far easier than actually admitting they existed in the first place.
You have an interesting job at an all-girls boarding school I understand.  Do they know they have an author on staff?  If so, what has been their reaction?
Sam: I am the Director of Technology at an all-girls boarding school, and witness world class drama first hand. Thanks to a co-worker who sent a staff-wide email about it a few months ago, my secret life as a writer has been exposed.
The reaction varies, depending on how an individual knows me. To the students, I’m the ghost in the machine who keeps them from getting to Facebook during class. Regardless of how far I go with my writing, I doubt it will impress the students very much. That’s an appropriate reaction and one that keeps me grounded.
The response from co-workers has been good. Many bought copies—I only know because they asked me to sign them—including my boss. Also the Head of School sent a nice note on my birthday wishing me good luck with the book. That’s a pretty supportive attitude towards an outside creative endeavour.
Before you wrote The Last Track, did you feel you had a book in you but were not sure what you wanted to write about?  Can you tell us what other things you have written?
Sam: I definitely was begging for an excuse to find out whether there was a book in me or not. In terms of subject matter, I was willing to be pretty flexible about what I wrote.
Right now, I’m working on two manuscripts. One is another Mike Brody adventure slated for Fall/Winter 2011, and the other is a project with no fixed deadline.
Finally, I like to ask authors this question…what is your passion?  What is it that you’re more passionate about than anything else?
Sam: I think at the end of the day, being in a situation where I have the time and energy to write matters most. The problem is if I don’t write, my life becomes completely unmanageable, and I transform into the type of person no one wants to be around. Yet when I do commit to a big writing project, happily entrenched in the pages, I tend to neglect everything except the absolute necessities; it’s really no problem for me to stay in the house for ten days in a row on a writing tear. Fortunately working at a school affords a pretty generous vacation allowance for such indulgences during the summer.
So the real trick is finding a balance between doing what’s necessary to write, while remembering there are actually other people I care about—besides the characters.
Thank you for this interview, Sam.  I wish you much success with your new book!
Sam: Thanks very much! I wish you the best of luck as well.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Getting to Know Mike Brody

 Today's guest blogger is Sam Hilliard. We're going to be getting to know a little bit about Mike Brody,the main character from Sam's mystery/thriller novel, The Last Track.

Getting to Know Mike Brody by Sam Hilliard

While Mike Brody has a broad set of skills—one bordering on supernatural—it is the depth of his childhood wounds that truly forged him. The circumstances of his abduction and the murder of his brother haunt him to this day.

Able to think and adapt in the most chaotic of situations, he sees what others overlook. By tapping into the emotional charge left behind in their tracks, Mike can visualize the circumstances that led to a person’s disappearance, as if through their eyes.

A former Special Forces operative and member of the 75th Ranger Regiment, Mike’s spent most of his twenties in the military. Toward the end of his tour of duty, Mike suffered a serious knee injury during a mission that resulted in several months on the sidelines. Though eighty percent of the mobility in the affected knee returned, specialists agreed that even with a full replacement and months of rehabilitation, he would never return to full capacity. Since the injury could potentially prevent him from giving one hundred percent in a combat situation, both parties agreed not to extend his service upon expiration of his contract.

While his wife, Jessica, celebrated the end of his military career—a recurring point of stress between them—her joy was short-lived. Mike soon began leading extreme excursions all over the world and smoke jumping forest fires in the Pacific Northwest. Occasionally the knee injury flares up and requires treatment, temporarily sidelining him once again.

In the midst of all of this, are the calls from law enforcement agencies and desperate families asking for his help in the search for the missing. He answers, always, no matter what the cost to him personally, emotionally or professionally.

Jessica finally tired of his adrenaline seeking ways and his refusal to seek help for some issues she felt impacted their marriage, filed for divorce. Currently, they work hard to maintain an extremely civil friendship for the benefit of their young son, Andy. But they continue to struggle with an on-again, off-again relationship, that doesn’t work well when they are together, but doesn’t work at all when they are apart.

Besides the knee injuries, Mike suffers from night terrors, as well as post traumatic stress and abandonment issues—the product of losing his parents just before high school and reinforced by his own divorce.

At the end of the day, Mike Brody is an unlikely hero. He is a man who wants to do the right thing, for all the right reasons. But it is the way he approaches those situations that the people who care for him the most have trouble accepting.

*excerpt from a guest blog by Sam on The Book Connection . . . Where Readers and Wroters Connect. To read more got to:

Saturday, July 17, 2010


I enjoyed this read even though I really didn't know what to expect.  I thumbed through it first and noticed it all takes place in a few days and then was wondering how can you get this much book in a few days and keep my attention?  I was surprised to say the least. I found that this book was very interesting and I really liked Mike Brody as he turned out to be a great character.  I found that I liked the way the book was laid out by the days and minutes it makes it all come together pretty good.  This was a great story and had good characters with nice details, just enough to keep you reading on and not too much to over do it I thought that it was a nice mix.  The story had several twists and turns and a couple times I thought I new who was doing what and I was wrong.  I like that in a book. One other thing I thought was good was the cover design which is done by Elynn Cohen I thought it fit perfect as I was reading along and came to the part where Mike Brody is placing his hand in the footprint with the details and the picture it just fit together nicely.  This book was well written and put together nicely.  If you like a good mystery and one that is believable then you should try this one.  I will be waiting for the next one.The Last Track: A Mike Brody Novel
* excerpt for DK's Reviews. To read more go to:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Are You Insatiable - Here's Something to Fill Your Craving!

Welcome back to another exciting day here at Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers!  Today we are playing host not only to a new author and their latest work (which is exciting enough as it is), but also to a publishing company's first step into the limelight of the industry with this being their first book (a great accomplishment indeed).  Without further adieu, please welcome via Pump Up Your Book Promotions and Buddhapuss Ink LLC...our book of the day, and blog tour feature.....
The Last Track
While vacationing at a dude ranch in Montana, Mike Brody's skills as a tracker are called into action as the search for a missing boy (Danny) heats up; what he's not initially told is the reason he is being sought so urgently. Aside from the fact that he is a minor missing in a densely wooded and mountainous area, excluding the health issues he has and possible injuries he could sustain, it seems that this young man may have happened upon the scene of a grisly wait, strike that...he DID see it, as Mike's abilities afford him to confirm.  It seems that by touching the footprints, dropped items, car tracks and the like, Mike Brody can sense and read their energy left behind.  A handy tool when on this type of search for certain, unless the person's behind the murder don't want the boy found alive, and will do everything in their power to see that this comes to pass.  When a murder is committed, it's bad enough...but what if the order to commit it came from those in high places?  Who can you really trust?  The voice that calls themselves 'the Partner' and threatens you and your family?  The officers with whom you are working the investigation?  Good question....choose wisely.

The first thing I was reminded of when reading this story were a few of my old time favorite crime fiction know the ones.  Wait, you don't?  Hmmm, I could have sworn I told you all about them...cie la vie.  Patricia Cornwell and James Patterson are those writers to which I am referring.  Yep...the story telling style although not as graphic or violent as some of these established authors works, was very reminiscent of their headlining ways.  How so?  (Boy, you are full of questions today aren't you?  Just kidding...) The book opens on a rather daunting scene, immediately grabbing your attention.  Soon there after, a lead character (in this case two) is introduced full of morals, values, and ability...someone you can depend on in a time of crisis.  Add to this, a back story (revealed in time) that explains their tendencies and makes you even more invested in their fate and the cases eventual outcome.  In summary, you are drawn into the story through their heroic efforts and misadventures.  Until you reach the final page, you won't be satiated. 

As if that weren't enough to have you hooked, there's another note-worthy feature I've yet to mention.  This, wait...this author has a surprise addition to the classic story telling formula used in this genre....plot twists.  Now I know what you're thinking...and don't roll your eyes about it are plot twists original?  In this case, it is...let me explain.  It works some what similar to that "scary" movie classic, Scream.  Remember how (okay, if you've seen it, remember, if not, GOOGLE it for a synopsis) in the film, one key rule was observed in every installment?  That rule was....EVERYONE is a suspect.  It kept you guessing right up to the bitter end.  The clues revealed along the way poked you in one direction and prodded you in another.  Try as you might, the identity of the killers remained a mystery until the movie (well the writers and producers) were ready for the big reveal.  THAT, my friends, is the key to this book.  I mean really, character wise you've got the officers working the case, the cook with a vendetta, the overly nice ranch owner hitting on your wife, and the list goes on and on.  Try as you won't figure this one out...or at least not 100%-right-on-the-money...which is a good thing.  It keeps the story fresh and leaves this reader ready for a sequel.  (Ahem...Mr. Hilliard...a sequel at your earliest convenience would be great...thanks!)
Recommended reading for fiction fans that love to watch as the story unfolds before them as opposed to having it neatly served on a platter from page one.  This book is available now for your reading pleasure, so be sure to check it out over at Amazon.  Special thanks to Jaime at Pump Up Your Book Promotions and to Mary at Buddhapress Ink for the SIGNED review copy.  (THANKS!)  For more information on their current happenings, check out their websites or follow along on Twitter (1 or 2)! 

Until next time....happy reading!
*excerpt for Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers. To read more go to:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Author of The Last Track to be guest on A Book and A Chat

Sam Hilliard, author of The Last Track: A Mike Brody Novel will be the featured guest on A Book and A Chat tomorrow 7/15 at 6:30PM EDT .

Sam's book has been getting rave reviews, including one in the upcoming Summer issue of Mystery Scene Magazine that says in part " If you like thrillers set in the great outdoors, Sam Hilliard’s The Last Track (Buddhapuss Ink, $15.95 PB) might light your campfire. Mike Brody’s tracking skills are so expert that many of his clients think he’s psychic, therefore when a boy goes missing from a Montana resort, he’s brought in to find the teenager . . . Brody is such a riveting character that he could easily anchor an entire series."

You will want to tune in and catch this engaging new author as he chats with host Barry Eva about the book, the series and maybe even his Cat Army!
Tune in to:  6:30PM EDT

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Jessica Barrett Interviews Mike Brody from The Last Track

The following is a fictional interview of Mike Brody (lead character in The Last Track by Sam Hilliard)  by Jessica Barrett (Mike's journalist ex-wife).

Jessica seldom used a tape recorder when conducting interviews. Instead she preferred the give and take of a conversation. No flashy technology necessary, just a pencil and notepad. Yes, the technique was old fashioned. She could be that way at times. But she knew what worked for her. She had a lot of practice.

And what Jessica knew best about interviewing, was that when subjects knew they were being recorded, they edited their answers. Maybe just a little. Maybe a whole lot. Either way the sight of a tape recorder had an odd effect on people. She had seen it in their eyes that the device she considered a tool, those being interviewed saw as an invitation to embellish. Not that people lied outright. No, they just tried a little too hard to say something really memorable.

Something about Mike Brody told her he would offer up something compelling all on his own. She was certain of this. Jessica knew Mike better than almost anyone. And so when dealing with Mike, even though she really wanted to make an exception and preserve every moment, she knew enough to leave the tape recorder in the leather satchel, right next to her laptop.

Mike sat across from her, hiding behind a hairstyle that was somewhere between military and business professional. Only Mike had long ago stopped being either. It showed. A lot more than just the table separated them.

Catching her off guard, Mike made the first move. “So is this working for you?”

“What’s that?”

“Our divorce.”

“Just so we’re clear,” Jessica said, “I asked you for an interview and not a mediation.”

“Yes, “Mike said. “And I agreed to an interview. But I didn’t agree that you would get to ask all the questions.”

Even without glancing at the table, she caught herself crossing her arms at the wrists. She tapped the table a few times with the fingers of both hands, before she returned to her point. “Tell me about Senator Hexler and how you came to be involved with the search for his son. Was there a phone call from his office, or did the police ask you?”

“You’re asking who brought me into the search.”

“That’s very good, Mike. Your question sounded nothing at all like one.”

“I learned from the best.” He paused. “Someone inside his circle had heard about other searches I had been involved in and they thought I could help. I never spoke to the Senator directly.”

“Even after you recovered his son? Two hundred law enforcement searching for nearly a week couldn’t do that.”

Before answering he cleared his throat. “You know, to me, the most important thing to remember about that experience, was that I was a tiny part of a very large search team. There were a lot of well-trained and dedicated individuals involved. At the end of the day, I was just in a position to find him.”

“And you haven’t spoken much about the case, until now,” Jessica said.

Mike nodded. “I haven’t spoken at all about the case.”

“Why?” asked Jessica

“Why not talk about the case? Or why speak about it now?”

“Whichever you feel comfortable answering.”

“Honestly,” Mike said, “it was a chance to talk to you. And also, I feel like I owed you for everything you did for me. I know you wanted to place a piece in News Story for a long time. You used to talk about it, back in the old days.”
“Do you feel like there are other debts you are trying to pay down by finding the missing? Is that why you keep doing it—no matter what it costs you personally or emotionally.”

“I think,” Mike said, pushing back from the table, “that’s a question for another interview.”

* excerpt from The Plot. To read more go to:

Friday, July 9, 2010

From a Reviewer's Desk - "Pick this one up, you won't regret it!"

Synopsis from Goodreads: Imagine if being late meant a child disappeared forever. That is the fear that drives Mike Brody: the man you want, when the one you love is missing.
Mike is more than just a master tracker. An ex-Special Forces operative, Smoke jumper, and now extreme adventure tour guide, he also possesses a unique ability to tap into the memory and emotional state of those he pursues.
In The Last Track, a police detective recruits Mike to help find an asthmatic boy lost in the dense woods surrounding a dude ranch in Montana. An unwitting murder witness, the boy burrows ever deeper into the rugged terrain, fearful of being found. As Mike and a local officer search for the boy, the killer follows them. While the investigation expands, his ex-wife, a well-connected journalist, uses her contacts to unravel the truth behind the murder.
Her discoveries threaten to snare them all in a treacherous conspiracy . . .

My thoughts:   I selected this book because I hadn't read anything truly described as suspenseful in quite some time.   Once I read the synopsis I immediately knew this one held promise.  My first clue that I was  really going to enjoy this book came from a note from Sam that was included.  His wit and candor was amusing and the tone of the note felt like it was coming from a friend.

The story is pretty fast paced with much of the story taking place over a four day period.  The characters were believable.  Mike Brody has excellent tracking skills with a little bit of super human kicked in for good measure.  His ex, Jessica is completely likable and I found myself wondering why they were divorced.  With some novels you've already figured out the "whodunit" before they really get into the story.  Not this one,  I found that there were some great twists and turns in the plot.  Just when I thought I had it figured out, something new was revealed and I was left wondering if I was right. 

I understand that The Last Track is the first in a series.  I am eagerly anticipating the next installment, hopefully I won't have to wait too long.  I would recommend The Last Track to anyone who has some time to spare because you aren't going to want to put it down!  Seriously, if you enjoy crime solving novels or movies pick this one up, you aren't going to regret it.  
For an example of Sam's wit check out his guest post if you haven't already.

*excerpt from Teresa's Reading Corner. To read more go to:

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Peek at a Typical Day in the Life of a Writer/Ironman - Sam Hilliard

So how do these New Age writers shoot down the sloth monster that seems a ready-made date for those in such a sedentary profession? Here’s a sample writer’s workout routine. It’s a careful blend of resistance training and aerobics, and of course sensible eating.

NOTE: This strenuous routine may not be appropriate for all writers. Please consult your physician before making any changes in your own diet or physical regimen.

6:40 AM – Crawl from bed to bathroom. Feed cats on return to bed.
6:42 AM – Meditate.
7:59 AM – Beat the alarm clock to pulp for interrupting morning meditation session.
8:10 AM – Steal paper off a neighboring lawn, running back to home quickly so they don’t throw garbage at you again.
8:20 AM – Complain about crappy coffee.
8:45 AM – Shower, dress (in something besides a robe), eat breakfast and read purloined paper.
9:10 AM – Commence Power meditation while positioned horizontally with head supported by pillows.
11:13 AM – Interrupt meditation to curse world for not having written a word.
11:19 AM – Screw around on Internet, checking mail, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and stock quotes. Tell your editor you’re deep into “research” when they call to ask how the book is coming along.
11:59 AM – Write for seven minutes and then make lunch.
12:59 PM – Return from lunch. Resume writing. Break every forty five minutes to stretch or eat something crunchy, whichever feels better.
2:00 PM – Doritos break.
2:17 PM – Mid-day caffeine break.
4:56 PM – Read the day’s pages. Curse world for forcing you to read your own written words.
5:30 PM – Eat a balanced dinner that includes at least one of the following food groups: pizza, tacos, hot dogs, donuts, or beer.
6:10 PM – Think about working out. Just thinking about it usually makes you feel better about not
 doing it.
7:30 PM – Channel surf while holding some form of alcoholic beverage in your other hand.
9:35 PM – Read (hopefully someone else’s work).
11:14 PM – Wake  up to cat licking drool off your face, and retire for evening’s meditation, but not before final power snack from one or more of the following food groups: cheez whiz, potato chips, or leftover Chinese.
11:20 PM – Begin evening meditation session.

Thank you Sam!  Come back tomorrow for my review of The Last Track.  You won't want to miss it.

*excerpt from Teresa's Reading Corner. To read more go to: Last Track: A Mike Brody Novel

700 Words About Rejection

or Submission Does Not Mean Surrender!

Sam and His Habit

Welcome, Author and Guest Blogger, Sam Hilliard! We're thrilled to have you at Rex Robot Reviews. Sam is the brilliant writer behind The Last Track.

 A Hard Habit to Break
I’m always looking to feed my habit. My movie habit that is. Between the local cineplex, Blockbuster and Redbox, I ingest a lot of flicks each year—probably too many for my health. What follows is a breakdown of a handful of movies released in the last twelve months that few people saw, but merit a second (or third) viewing.

Away We Go – Maya Rudolph and John Krasinki are about to have a baby, and the only family nearby is moving to Denmark. It’s a road trip not about leaving home for a great adventure, but about the great adventure that awaits in finding a home.
Boondocks Saints 2: All Saints Day – our favorite Irish brothers are back in Boston after years in hiding, to avenge the death of a parish priest murdered in an attempt to frame them. Actually a lot of people saw this movie at home, as the DVD sales were twice the theater receipts, but I’d like to see that trend continue.

Worlds Greatest Dad – Bobcat Goldthwait directing Robin Williams? Yeah it’s funny, but oh so very dark. It may be as dark and acerbic as Heathers, but oddly even more rewarding. WARNING: may not be appropriate for all audiences.

Defendor – a superhero spoof to end all spoofs. This hero wages a war to protect the weak and helpless. Quirky and funny, and Woody Harrelson could really use a paycheck, so help him out by renting or buying this one.

Messengers – possibly the hardest job in the world, these military officers must inform the next of kin about the death of their loved one. Bonus features include a behind the scenes look at the actual process, including interviews with the officers who contact the next of kin, and one family who was on the other side of the door when the knock came.

Oh and when you finish viewing these flicks, help me feed my habit—pick up a copy of The Last Track. My cats and my publisher will both thank you!
*excerpt from guest blog by Sam on Rex Robot Reviews. To read more go to:

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tour Continues - New Interview with Author of the Last Track

Thank you for this interview, Sam. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

Thanks very much for having me on your site! When I’m not writing, I enjoy reading, watching movies, studying martial arts, playing bass and complaining about the government. Before the age of thirteen I had already lived on both coasts, a good portion of the Midwest, and Utah. Such frequent moves led me to suspect my parents were in the witness protection program. In fact, I probably just blew their cover.

While I’ve been writing off and on for much of my life, I only began to take it seriously in the last six years.

Can you tell us briefly what your book is about?

The Last Track is the story of Mike Brody, a tracker who can tap into the memory and emotional state of those he pursues. More than just a master tracker, Mike is a former Special Forces operative, smoke jumper, and now extreme adventure tour guide. He is recruited to find a missing, asthmatic boy (and unwitting murder witness) in the rugged terrain surrounding a dude ranch in Montana where Mike and his family are vacationing.

Fearful of capture, the boy has burrowed deep into the woods. As Mike tracks the boy, the killer pursues them both. Meanwhile, Mike’s ex-wife—a well-connected journalist—uses her contacts to unravel the killer’s identity. Her discoveries ensnare them all in a treacherous conspiracy

Who is your intended audience? Have you been able to crossover into other audiences as well?

My only goal regarding audience, was to write a book that stayed true to the characters. As it happened, The Last Track draws from elements found both in mysteries and in thrillers, and thus for ease of categorization the publisher classifies it as a mystery/thriller.

Whether the book reaches beyond the mystery/thriller genre and finds a home with readers who generally prefer say, urban fantasy, horror, or suspense remains to be seen.

That’s up to the readers.

Why did you choose your particular genre?

The story picked its own genre, rather than me bending it to my whims. Personally, I always liked stories that moved quickly, ones filled with cliff hangers and endless twists, like thrillers, as well stories that had a cerebral who-dun-it feel, more in the vein of mysteries. Honestly, the two genres combined quite organically, with very little intervention on my part. It’s just the form the characters chose to tell the story. I guess you can blame it on Mike Brody.

Do you ever experience self-doubts with your work?

The longer the gap between writing sessions, the more the doubts begin gathering like dark clouds above the manuscript, until the storm erupts and washes away the essential faith a writer needs to finish a project. It would take far more narcissism than even I can muster to avoid second-guessing a project mid-stream.

In an effort to mitigate these doubts, I try to avoid letting too much time pass between writing sessions.

Where do you write? Do you have a favorite place?

I will only write in one place, that’s at a desk deep enough to support my forearms from wrist to elbow, keeping them parallel to each other. Carpal tunnel syndrome has plagued far better writers than me, so I never cut this corner.

Any room with the above accommodations will more than suffice.

What kind of research did you have to do during the writing process?

I did a fair amount of research into police procedure and developed a healthy collaboration with an ever expanding network of experts. At present I have access to law enforcement personnel working at various levels inside the US and the Middle East, plus a Senior Officer in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police—loosely the Canadian equivalent of the FBI. In addition, I recently picked up a source at NASA who will figure in a future book.

And the process continues. I’m always open to learning from people who are willing to share what they can with me about a given subject. They allow me to give the reader a glimpse of what it’s like on the inside.

At a certain point, though, the writer has to trust their imagination and let the story happen. Technical details can be sorted out later. So that’s why I lean on the experts for the gut checks. They can guffaw in private at my flubs and then let me know what needs fixing.

There are times however, when I will deliberately alter a detail to either suit the story or ease my conscience—regardless of what I really know about procedure. I am trying to tell the best story I can by leveraging access to privileged information in a way that makes the story more credible and engaging. I’m not writing a primer on how to frustrate police investigations.

Who is your publisher and how did you get accepted by them? Did you pitch your book yourself or go through an agent?

My publisher, Buddhapuss Ink LLC is a young house based in Edison, NJ. Founded by long-time publishing professionals, they recognized the huge disconnect between what readers today want and expect and what the publishing old guard currently distributes.

I arrived at Buddhapuss Ink LLC after having failed to woo any of the agents I had contacted into representing me. Fortunately, I’m a big believer in Randy Pausch and The Last Lecture, especially his point about how obstacles keep everyone else out, but give you a chance to prove exactly how bad you want something. Well after 122 agents, I was staring at that wall. It was time to get creative and prove how bad I wanted this.

At the time, book trailers were drawing the buzz that blogs and podcasts did before them. My idea was to try and translate part of The Last Track into a live action trailer, burn it on a DVD and send it out with a sample chapter and query letter, but this time I went directly to publishers.

That did the trick.

How are you promoting your book thus far?

The greatest idea in the world is only worth something when people know about it. Self-promotion never ends. One of the reasons I like my publisher is they spend the lion share of their efforts on promotion versus infrastructure. By running a modest-sized organization, they have more resources for marketing and are willing to spend when it makes sense to do so.

Online, I make the usual pit stops, goodreads, Facebook and twitter, plus my own site. Offline, I’ve been asked to present at some writing workshops. I don’t expect to sell too many books at these events, but it does get my name and face out there. I’ll also be at some book fairs this summer and fall, signing books in the Buddhapuss Ink booth (my publisher), as well as doing some store and library appearances. I’m also available to meet/speak with book groups, locally in person, or long-distance by speaker phone or Skype.

If you could give one book promotion tip to new authors, what would that be?

Start with your circle of friends and family, and then build outward. Go indirect with groups and networks. Offer help before asking for it. Before you know it, assistance and new ideas will start coming your way.

What’s next for you?

The sequel to The Last Track is slated for Holidays 2011. I have a lot of work to do!

Thank you for this interview, Sam. Can you tell us where we can find you on the web?

Thank you very much as well! It’s been a pleasure. Here are all the options for finding me:

Publisher’s site:

*excerpt from interview on The Examiner. To read more go to: