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Monday, March 26, 2018

Hook Me Like Velcro

By Courtney Pierce

The burn of a good book is hard to beat. I’ll obsess about an engrossing story throughout the day: even while lathering up in the shower, retrieving the mail, or getting ready for work. If the book is part of a series, especially a trilogy, then it’s even better. The whole saga has a perfect beginning, middle, and end, and the plot has gobs of character development. A writer can only go so deep in three hundred pages, but in nine hundred . . . well . . . let the games begin.

Characters make a book worth reading, with all their flaws, hang-ups, and sympathetic qualities. They need to stumble, make the wrong decisions, and screw up. I live vicariously through their trials and tribulations to make my own seem benign.

My current obsession sits with the trilogy of Greg Iles, his Penn Cage series of Natchez Burning, The Bone Tree, and Mississippi Blood. I’m on the final leg of this painful journey of racial hate and passion for justice. The subject matter isn’t funny or ooey gooey. In fact, it’s tense, tortuous . . . and timely. I hated every minute of reading this series, because it’s uncomfortable and so wrong. Greg Iles had the courage of Hercules and Sinbad combined to write these books. They paint a picture of divisive Southern life, where bitter truth splatters the glass of a fictional frame.

These books pushed me to my emotional limit. They made me want to shout in anger. They made want to turn away. They made me think too hard. But there I was, Gorilla-glued to this story with the possibility of a bombshell resolution to the Kennedy assassination. Yes, Greg Iles did his research into an area that no one else dared to go: the Golden Eagles, an elite layer of the Klu Klux Klan. Beyond the Book Depository and the frame-by-frame slow-mo of the Zupruder film, a darker, more hateful motive sits below the tabloid dirt. The amazing underbelly of this trilogy is that the incidents in these books are rooted in true events. A real journalist’s research and notes provided the inspiration for this story. He was murdered before he could publish his findings.

This series might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I dove in because I like being yanked out of my comfort zone. Greg Iles’s writing style is so different from mine. My writer's tool bag is filled with humor, poignant sibling relationships, and a little romantic spice. The secret weapons of my personal style are quick dialogue and Murphy’s Law. Greg uses the shock of circumstances and shifting points of view to keep readers on edge. But don’t count this blog article to be a review of Iles’s books. It’s about what makes a book engrossing. 


Readers can spot a phony in fiction. And it doesn't matter if the story is dramatic, funny, romantic, fantastical, or historical. All good stories all have something in common: the writer’s own experiences are buried in the dialogue and scene description. And when they do, readers are Velcroed into the emotion behind the words.

Writers sometimes consider their books a form of therapy. I know that I do. The pain and joy my characters feel bubbles up from my own experiences of love, family, the ridiculous, loss . . . and betrayal. It’s all there. My mantra is “fix it in fiction”. Characters can say and do everything that I wish I could in real life. Hence, my readers connect and send me notes about how real my characters seem.

When I wrote Stitches (my very first book) and The Executrix (my fourth book), my intention was to make each one a standalone story. Only through the urging from reader comments did each become the first of a trilogy series. What they didn't know, but intuitively felt, was that they were based on genuine people infused with my past and wishes for the future. It was easy for me to expand a standalone story into three books. They reflected the saga of what was happening in my lifein real time.

My own complicated beginning, dramatic middle, and satisfying end. Thankfully, fictional books can be a lot messier and much more interesting than reality.

After I release the final book of The Dushane Sisters Trilogy, Indigo Legacy, in the coming
Coming Soon!
Summer, 2018
months, I’ll start a new book, possibly a standalone to become a trilogy, or an even longer series. It will be completely new, with a setting in Montana. I might weave in a bit of rootin' tootin' shootin' with a couple of itchy, scratchy Baby Boomers: a clairvoyant woman and a prideful sheriff.  And guess what? I'm married to a man with pride, own  a home in Montana, and I've even learned how to shoot a gun to protect myself from fuzzy mountain predators. There you have it. My money shall sit where my mouth is.

And like the surf of life, all the former jagged rocks of truth will tumble and roll to polish new characters, smooth and set in stone. I hope they’ll be the kind that catch your eye on and get tossed in a bowl on the coffee table.

Photo: Loma Smith Photography
Courtney Pierce is a fiction writer living in Milwaukie, Oregon, with her new family. She writes for baby boomers. By day, Courtney is an executive in the entertainment industry and uses her time in a theater seat to create stories that are filled with heart, humor and mystery. She has studied craft and storytelling at the Attic Institute and has completed the Hawthorne Fellows Program for writing and publishing. Active in the writing community, she is a board member of the Northwest Independent Writers Association and on the Advisory Council of the Independent Publishing Resource Center. She is a member of Willamette Writers, Pacific Northwest Writers Association, and She Writes. The Executrix received the Library Journal Self-E recommendation seal. 

Check out all of Courtney's books at: and Both print and E-books are available through most major online retailers, including

The Dushane Sisters Trilogy concludes with Indigo Legacy, due out in summer, 2018. There's love in the air for Olivia and Woody, but will their family history get in the way? Ride along for the wild trip that starts in a New York auction house and peaks in a mansion on Boston's Beacon Hill. Will the Dushane sisters finally get the answers they've been seeking about their mother.

New York Times best-selling author Karen Karbo says, "Courtney Pierce spins a madcap tale of family grudges, sisterly love, unexpected romance, mysterious mobsters and dog love. Reading Indigo Lake is like drinking champagne with a chaser of Mountain Dew. Pure Delight."


Judith Ashley said...

Greg Iles's book sounds interesting, especially to those of us who were living in the 1950's and 1960's. I was just 22 when Kennedy was shot and because of television, bore witness to the fight for equality, the Marches and the madness. I couldn't then and can't now understand the kind of hatred some feel for others because they are different.

Sarah Raplee said...

"All good stories all have something in common: the writer’s own experiences are buried in the dialogue and scene description." So true!

Courtney Brooks said...

Until I read Greg Iles' trilogy, I had no idea how deep the Kennedy conspiracy went. For me, it all commenced on a black-and-white TV with John-John saluting my first President. It's as though I've grown up with this tragedy, and it never seems to go away. New information has trickled in over decades, but it continues to baffle me. I learned more from this series than I have from the past fifty-five years. I encourage all to check it out, but be prepared for an uncomfortable ride.

Courtney Brooks said...

And to Sarah...I love to make my characters say things that I've actually said (or wished I said). Tickles me to no end. Why make up dialogue when the real deal sounds more genuine?