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Tag Archives: DJ Swykert

Death of Anyone

Romance Lives Forever welcomes DJ Swykert to the blog.
Here’s his article about writing The Death of Anyone.
The underlying theme in my latest
book, The Death of Anyone, poses the Machiavellian question: Does the end justify
the means? I developed this story around an impulsive homicide detective, Bonnie
Benham, who wants to use Familial DNA, a search technique not in common use in the
United States.
Only two states even have a written policy regarding its use, Colorado
and California.
Bonnie is a no nonsense cop who describes
herself as a blond with a badge and a gun. She has her own answer to the ethical
use of Familial DNA, but the actual legality of its use will be determined in a
real life courtroom in the California
trial of a serial killer dubbed by the media: The Grim Sleeper.
Lonnie David Franklin, the Grim Sleeper,
was caught because his son’s DNA was the closest match to DNA collected at the crime
scenes in the database. Investigating Franklin’s
son led them to investigate Lonnie Franklin. But there was no direct DNA evidence
that linked Lonnie to the crime scene until they obtained a sample from him after
his arrest. Lonnie Franklin will be the first person in the U.S. to ever stand
trial based on Familial DNA evidence, and its admissibility issues in court will
be thoroughly tested by defense attorneys. These are the very same issues that face
Detroit Homicide Detective Bonnie Benham and form the plot of my story.
I’m a blue collar person from Detroit. I’ve worked as a truck
driver, dispatcher, logistics analyst, operations manager, and ten years as a 911
operator, which was the very best job of them all. I have a pretty straight forward
style of telling a story. I write a book like you’d watch a movie and put it down
on paper.
Detroit Detective Bonnie Benham has
been transferred from narcotics to homicide for using more than arresting and is
working the case of a killer of adolescent girls. CSI collects DNA evidence from
the scene of the latest victim, which had not been detected on the other victims.
But no suspect turns up in the FBI database. Due to the notoriety of the crimes
a task force is put together with Bonnie as the lead detective, and she implores
the D.A. to use an as yet unapproved type of a DNA Search in an effort to identify
the killer. Homicide Detective Neil Jensen, with his own history of drug and alcohol
problems understands Bonnie’s frailty and the two detectives become inseparable
as they track this killer of children.
I first heard about the use of Familial
DNA working as a 911 operator in 2006. It came up in a conversation with officers
working a case. I thought at the time it would make an interesting premise for a
book. I began writing the mystery some three years later after leaving the department.
I had just finished editing a first draft of The Death of Anyone in the summer 2010
when news of The Grim Sleeper’s capture in Los Angeles was released. I read with interest
all the information pouring out of L.A.
regarding the investigation and the problems confronting prosecutors. All of which
are explored in The Death of Anyone.
DJ Swykert

About the Author

DJ Swykert is a former 911 operator. His work has appeared in
The Tampa Review, Detroit News, Monarch Review, Zodiac Review, Scissors& Spackle,
Spittoon, Barbaric Yawp and Bull. His books include Children of the Enemy, a novel
from Cambridge
Books; Alpha Wolves, a novel from Noble Publishing, and The Death
of Anyone is his third novel, just released by Melange Books. You can find out more
about him and how to buy his books on the blogspot: www.magicmasterminds.com, they
are also available at Melange Books, Amazon and at select mystery bookstores. He
is a wolf expert.
Buy links

Previous Books

Maggie Elizabeth Harrington (also titled as The Place Between.)
(I Live in Two Worlds)
Children of the Enemy

Find Me Here

Alpha Wolves

DJ Swykert, welcome to Romance Lives Forever. Let’s talk about
your book, Alpha Wolves.
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Noble Romance Publishing
Cover artist: Fiona Jayde
Length: 174 pages
Heat rating: Sweetheart
Blurb:
Maggie Harrington is torn between her powerful and passionate
love for Tommie Stetter, and her deep and affectionate love for the abiding Jeremy
Paull. Having to choose between them is testing her beliefs and breaking her heart.
Buy links:
What are your main characters’ names, ages, and occupations?
Maggie Elizabeth Harrington, twenty-three, schoolteacher. Tommie
Stetter, twenty-six, mining captain. Jeremy Paull, twenty-six, copper miner.
Excerpt:
I am looking in the mirror at a guilty
person. I see a face that is happy on a day that it should be sad, and I am feeling
guilty about it. Today James Stetter is going to be buried, and I am feeling happy.
I have not liked him for a very long
time; he took something away from me that I have been unable to forgive him for.
It has been ten years since I have seen Tommie Stetter and looked into his beautiful
brown eyes that glisten, that enter into me where I want them to be; and know me,
Maggie Harrington, for who I really am. So, even on this sad day, when they are
going to bury Tommie’s father, I am happy. I am going to be sitting once again in
church with my beloved Tommie, but I feel guilty about it.
I look again at my face in the mirror.
It is the same face, the same blue eyes that loved Tommie Stetter with all her heart
when she was thirteen. I am twenty-three years old now, but I am the same little
Maggie Elizabeth Harrington. I am a little taller, and my bosom is fuller, my hips
are not as straight up and down, but I am the same, I am no different. I still live
here in Central Mine with my father who works deep under the earth digging copper.
I am a teacher’s assistant at the Central
Mine School.
I teach the first three grades, and I like teaching little children; they are pure,
their minds are not as cluttered with things as adults are. So, unlike many of the
people here in Central Mine, I am at least satisfied with my life, if not completely
happy.
Ten years ago, when Tommie was sent
away, I was sure that in two years when he finished school, he would return to Central
Mine to work with his father as a mining captain and we would be married. I lived
with that dream for two years. I walked with Tommie in my head, I talked with Tommie
no matter where in the world he was, I was still with him; we were together. But,
two years later, I learned from my best friend, Annie, Tommie’s sister, that he
was going to stay in the East and continue his education, he was going to college.
But I am a very determined person, and I still believed that Tommie, my true love,
would come back to me. I never gave up that dream. I never left the dream world
that Tommie Stetter and I lived in, and I don’t think I ever will.
After graduating from high school I
began to assist Mrs. Daume with the younger children. Eventually I was allowed to
teach them by myself, and I have been teaching the first three grades ever since.
I felt very fortunate, and I really liked Mrs. Daume. She continued to help me,
taught me all kinds of things about literature and philosophy. I liked learning
about people like Plato, who spent their whole lives thinking. After all, I believe
that I have spent my whole life either thinking or dreaming. I felt I had a lot
in common with Plato, who spent so much time thinking and talking about things like
truth. In addition to teaching at the school Mrs. Daume was the organist at the
Central Mine Methodist
Church. Nothing much has changed
in the church. Reverend White is still there, and still preaching his sermons with
great fervor, the sweat rolling off his temples, his voice screeching through the
air, and all the people listening and saying “Amen.” No, nothing much has changed
at the church.
But a lot has changed at the mine. About
the time that I began helping Mrs. Daume the mine began to fail. The veins of copper
that could be found were very deep, and poor, and you would hear a lot of miners
talking about how they couldn’t make any money. The ore was poor, and they were
mostly just digging barrel copper to be stamped. Then, in the fall of 1899, the
Philadelphia Mining Company announced they were going to pull out. It wasn’t worth
their investment, the return on capital simply wasn’t worth it. Central Mine was
finished, going to be closed. There were many meetings, and lots of miners soon
left Central Mine. Officials came out and closed down the office, and work came
to a halt. The winter of 1899-1900 would be a very dark and cold winter. A very
frightening winter as the miners looked at their future. The mine had been operating
since 1863, and up until now had always been profitable. But it was also very remote,
and quite a few miles from the other mining ventures that still operated on the
Keweenaw Peninsula. Of the mining families that
had settled here, many of them knew little else. Many of the later arrivals, the
French, and Italians, left, but the Cornish teams that had been here the longest,
they were the most settled, these were their homes and they wanted to stay.
When James Stetter offered to reopen
the mine under his own direction that spring the Cornish miners welcomed his offer,
and work began that summer to pump the water out of the shafts and put in fresh
timber. Mr. Stetter was respected and well liked by the miners. They worked hard,
everybody remained in good spirits, and they began that fall to bring small amounts
of copper to the surface. But the ore was not rich, and despite further exploration,
they were unable to discover any large new veins.
For the last three years half of the
miners worked old shafts that still produced some barrel copper, and the money earned
was shared with James Stetter to finance the exploration for new and richer veins
by the other half of the miners. Things were not good, but everybody worked, and
life managed to go on in Central Mine much as it has for the last forty years. Monday
through Saturday under the earth, and Sunday mornings at the Central Mine
Methodist Church
listening to Mrs. Daume play the organ, the choir sing, and Reverend White preaching
his sermons.
I have been busy teaching children;
doing the chores, and cooking dinner for my father, who was just as silent as before,
just as quiet and hard as he has always been, but somehow it wasn’t as important
to me anymore. I was happy working at the school, and dreaming of Tommie Stetter,
knowing that someday he would come for me. “Maggie, are you ready? It’s time we
walked up to the church,” I hear my father say from downstairs. It made me feel
no different than I had those many years ago, when either he or my grandmother called.
I looked at my guilty face in the mirror
once again. Yes, I did feel guilty, but I was also happy. It has been so long since
I looked into Tommie Stetter’s brown eyes that glisten, I couldn’t help it. I was
sad, but happy, all at the same time. I find that so strange; I never have understood
how I could feel that way. But that is exactly how I am feeling this Sunday morning
as I prepare to walk over to the church and listen to Reverend White speak about
James Stetter. We will all pay our last respects, and then follow the pallbearers
as they carry the coffin to the Eagle
River Cemetery
for the burial. And I know that at some point get a chance to see Tommie. I will
get to look him in the eyes, and he will look at me, and we will know where we are,
where we have been, and where we are going. I will know that my waiting was not
the foolish daydream of a schoolgirl. That what passed between Tommie and me ten
years ago was real. It was as real as all the things that I dream about, and all
the things I believe in, and all the things I live for.

Interview

Tell us about your story’s world. What is it like in this
period or place?
Today the village
of Central Mine is a ghost
town, with just a few houses and the church left standing. In 1902, when the story
takes place, it was a thriving community of about 1500 mining families, a store,
a school, and of course the mine. Central Mine sat on top of a hill on the Keweenaw
Peninsula in the northernmost tip of Michigan’s
western upper peninsula, it was over twenty miles through the rugged country to
the nearest small city, Calumet, which is still
thrives today.
What inspired you to write this book?
My father told me about a strange woman who lived across the
street from a house my grandfather had in Central Mine that was used as a hunting
cabin. She was a recluse with wild white hair and a known eccentric who wandered
the countryside during winter and summer, ultimately found frozen to death one winter
morning in a clump of birch trees. Very little was known about her, and what made
her so eccentric. I built a fictional story around her, and included wolves, as
I had raised a pair of them and they were indigenous to the area.
Which character in your current book do you think readers
will like the most? Why?
Jeremy Paull, because he is a man’s man, but a woman’s man as
well, honest, strong, and with integrity. He is the least flawed of the characters
in the book, all who are good people, but fall into some situations that entrap
them, cause them to act in ways that contradict with the kind of people they are
in their core.
Why do you write?
Because in fiction conflicts end the way you want them to, not
as in real life as they sometimes have to.
Who has helped you the most in your career as an author?
Without a doubt my girlfriend Donna, she is my editor and partner.
And I believe good editors are essential to good books, editing is a skill set just
as important as writing.
When you write, what things do you want close at hand? (Coffee,
water, chocolate… pictures of gorgeous hunks for inspiration…?)
I’m going to have to go with the coffee, uh… gorgeous “hunks”
don’t do much for me.
When you’re not writing, what would we find you doing?
Perhaps in the kitchen, I like to cook. Cajun food is my favorite,
I have my own secret Cajun spice. My signature dish would be blackened Cajun Roughy
with a lemon parsley gremolata. I’ve also been known to watch a little football.
Are you a plotter, or do you prefer to make it up on the spur
of the moment?
Neither, I’m a ponderer. I think about a story and the characters
for months, maybe scribble a few notes. And I always have the ending in my head
before I begin. Then I put my characters into situations and the chapters resolve
the conflict but always point towards the ending I already know.
Looking back at your first book, what do you wish you had
done differently?
Sold it for millions. I had a big agent for the very first book,
the prequel to Alpha Wolves, which has been in print twice, once as Maggie Elizabeth
Harrington and published a second time by a now bankrupt publisher under the title
The Place Between. I think it’s a good story, the agent got it read by many major
publishers, but it was declined, they felt it was too regional to ever become a
major bestseller. I think they’re wrong, and in today’s global publishing world,
a regional story about a young woman and her boyfriend trying to save a pack of
young wolves from a bounty hunter can attract a reading audience. But of course
that’s my opinion. I hold the rights to the book and one day it’ll resurface again.
If I’ve learned anything about life it’s that it tends to repeat itself, it’s all
about duplication.
What’s your writing schedule like?
Irregular, but I favor mornings, I’m not as sharp after lunch.
True. My best writing seems to be early in the morning. And I don’t think you can
write good prose by spending too much time each day at it, your brain tires and
your prose does with it.
Any advice for new authors?
Marry somebody rich.
What aspect of your life do you write into your books?
There’s a little bit of the author in every writer’s characters.
I’m no different. And art does imitate life, we all draw from experiences and change
the facts, and that makes it fiction.
When an idea hits you, what do you do to capture it?
Write it down in a notebook. If I don’t, I’ll forget it later.
If you knew it would be a bestseller, what book would you
write that you might not write otherwise?
I believe in animal rights. If you think about it, they lead
miserable, cold starving lives. That’s why I feed feral cats, or anything actually.
There’s a possum that comes to my back stoop and eats food I put out for the cats.
And that’s good with me. I’d like to write a bestseller that brings the treatment
of animals to the attention of the general public.
What’s keeping you from writing that book?
What makes you think I’m not writing “that book?” I am.
What other jobs have you held besides writing?
I was a logistics analyst and operations manager in transportation,
and later a 911 operator for a decade.
Which of your books was the hardest to write and why?
They’re all hard to write. There’s no such thing as an easy book.
I take solace with the thought that If it’s too easy it probably won’t be very good.
What are you currently reading for fun? Anything for research?
An unpublished mystery novel by a friend of mine.
If you could time travel what era would be your first stop?
One A.D.
Do you believe in luck?
I believe in coincidence, as the Hindus say: Given enough time,
it’s inevitable.
What kind of music do you listen to while driving? Same question
when writing?
Same kind I listen to most of the time, Classic Rock. Favorite
road tune: Bob Seeger, Roll Me Away.
Do you play any musical instruments?
I used to play the accordion.
What is your secret talent?
I’m a poet.
What’s your favorite movie?
The Midnight Cowboy.
Are you the eldest, middle, baby, or only child?
The eldest.

Please complete the sentence

I love pizza with anything.
I’m always ready for football.
When I’m alone, I am alone.
You’d never be able to tell, but I’m a softy.
If I had a halo it would be silver.
If I could sing I’d have been a musician.
I can never complain because I’ve been very lucky.

Previous Books

DJ Swykert
Maggie Elizabeth Harrington (also titled as The Place Between.)
I Live in Two Worlds
Children of the Enemy (voted Turning Pages best crime genre story
of 2012)

Books Coming Soon

The Death of Anyone

Find Me Here

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