Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Interview With Thriller Writer J. H. Bogran

J. H. Bográn, born and raised in Honduras, is the son of a journalist; he ironically prefers to write fiction rather than fact. José is the author of “Treasure Hunt,” the first in the series of a professional thief who goes by the handle of The Falcon. Other works include short stories, “The Outpost” and “Love Me Two Times,” published by Red Rose Publishing. He is also the author of “Heredero Del Mal,” a thriller published by Editorial Letra Negra.
He’s a contributor editor to The Big Thrill magazine; co-screenwriter for two TV serials and writes movie reviews for the Honduran newspaper La Prensa.
He’s a member of the International Thriller Writers.
JRL: Good morning, Jose. Let’s start with the question what was your biggest challenge in finishing this novel? What was your path to publication?
JHB: You mean besides writing it in a language other than my native one? :- ) I wrote the first draft back in 1998 and after the events of 9/11, I feared that a book with a hijacked plane in the opening chapter would never see the light. Eventually, it did, thanks to Whiskey Creek Press who believed the story should be told. I guess that pretty much covers the path I took, but here is the simple form for any beginner writer: query, receive rejection, study and rewrite, repeat N times. Then in 2005 a new ebook publisher took me in, only to close its doors a year or so later. Spent a few years in the limbo of orphan books but got back to the original program. I received the offer from WCP in January 2010 and last January the book went live after a through editing process.
JRL: Hmph, I know how frustrating it can be to have a publisher accept a book and then go bust. I had a similar experience early on. Getting back to your book, have you ever had the urge to do any treasure hunting yourself?

JHB: Yes, every time I see an Indiana Jones movie! I was a Boy Scout, so camping was a part of my teenage life. Treasure hunting is fun.
JRL: In addition to this novel, you’ve also published a thriller in Spanish, Heredero Del Mal. Any plans for an English version?
JHB: Although I’d love to see “Heredero” in English, I just can’t spend the time translating a book I already published. I rather direct my efforts towards a new book. However, the door is not closed either. Letra Negra, my publisher in Guatemala, has the final version and anybody can approach them about it.
JRL: Curiosity is an important factor in a writer’s makeup. What is it that sparks your curiosity or makes you wonder about a subject?

JHB: Hmmm, so authors are curious by nature…I may use this to justify the fact that I’m a “trivia freak.” I find little-known facts really interesting as they add to the greater picture. The first idea from my stories more often than not comes from a “what if…” question and they are usually prompted by trivia bits.
JRL: What do you find most rewarding about being a published writer?

JHB: The email from the unknown reader. It has happened quite a few times now, but it is still exciting.
JRL: What’s your process in writing? Do you use an outline, or are you a pantser?

JHB: This one I have to do response in a twofold: For novels I use an outline. Once I tried not to do it and ended up in a dead street that forced me to either introduce a new character or delete five previous chapters.
On short stories yes, I can work from the head to the keyboard without the outline.
JRL: What was the last book you read?
JHB: “Boiling Point” by K. L. Dionne. An exciting eco-thriller. The fact that I know the author added a new flavor to the reading of it.
JRL: Do you have any favorite books on the craft of writing?

JHB: Not in any particular orders, but these are the ones that I always keep at hand:
“Dynamic Characters” by Nancy Kress
“On Writing” by Stephen King
“The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White
“Grammatically Correct” by Anne Stilman.
JRL: A good selection. What’s next on your agenda?

JHB: I have one manuscript doing the rounds with agents and at the same time I’m writing another thriller. Definitely promoting Treasure Hunt is also on the priority list. GWE created a wonderful video trailer, you can watch it here:
JRL: What are some of the things you like to do aside from writing? Anything in particular you’d like to tell readers?
JHB: I have the blessing of having a day-job that I also like. I work in the garment manufacturing industry. I think it is the biggest employer in my little corner of the world and I’m happy to be a part of it.
JRL: Anything in particular you’d like to tell readers?
JHB: I truly wish they can enjoy my stories and please, by all means, fell free to drop me a line when you finish reading it. Also, I have a short story giveaway, it is titled “Absolution Withheld” and it’s kind of a prequel to Treasure Hunt. To get it just email me at I can send mobi, pdf and even text only formats, so just let me know.
JRL: Thanks for spending the time with us today, Jose. More information about this writer and his work is available at:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Danger of Living

If a man had a bit of luck it was best not to flaunt it before his neighbors in the Patch. Jake Yeager thought his father should have remembered. And it was because he apparently had not that Jake felt like a trespasser as they cut through Winchester No. 1 Patch.

The Patch was two long rows of ramshackle sun-bleached shacks on a hard-scrabble flat without a tree to shade it from the merciless sun, bisected by the state highway, a dirt track up to the mine and the dolly line that crossed one corner. The shaft passed under the village and sometimes in the still of the day or at night when the charges were fired crockery rattled in the cupboards or a window shook as a reminder to the men and their families that they and every building, including the store and the church and every other blessed thing in the place was the property of the Ragers and their mine. There was a Winchester No. 2 Patch farther up the line but the only affinity between the two was the same kind of people lived in both and all of them were the property of W. K. Rager and Sons, Inc.

It was mid-morning now and the men were either at work or sleeping after their shift. But there were women and children they knew out in front of the houses. Jake lowered his eyes and pretended not to notice them. His father, though, he loudly called out greetings and waved, calling attention on their passage. It was four months since his father had quit the mine and they’d left the Patch. Memories were long here and his father should have remembered. Yet, here he was, acting as though nothing had changed, oblivious to any thought these people might be envious and resent his coming through to remind them of his stroke of luck.

Jake wanted to berate his father, but he was only a boy of twelve and so he kept his mouth shut, held his eyes to the ground, churned with embarrassment and focused his anger on Uncle Dan who was the cause of it.

Usually they took another route to the hole. It was a mile shorter going through the Patch, and they came this way in deference to Uncle Dan who was frail from ill health and a sedentary lifestyle.

Uncle Dan was Jake’s grandfather’s brother. Born in the region, he’d escaped early in his teens to the Army without ever having worked a day in the mines. He’d come back since only on rare visits. It was hard to believe of a man born in the region, but here was one who’d never heard of a coal-hole. And that was the purpose of their jaunt this morning. Jake’s father had promised last night to show his uncle how he earned his living.

Uncle Dan shuffled along beside them, stoop-shouldered, snuffling from exertion, the summer heat and the dust raised by their boots, his eyes skittering back and forth like water-bugs on a pond. “Great God,” he said, finally, “here it is 1949 in the grandest country in the world and this looks like feudal Europe. How can they live like this?”
Jake’s father snorted. “Haint that they want to. Going to work in the dark, coming back in the dark, living like this. You think they like it?”
“You forget, boy, I was born in one of those shacks. I know all about it. I didn’t want no part of it. I got out. Why don’t they?”

“You was lucky.”

“How about you?”

“I was lucky. I got out, and I’m gonna stay out. But it haint easy. Rager keeps a tight squeeze on things. He hires a lot of immigrants who barely speak the language and don’t know the law. The rest are just plain poor and uneducated. He keeps them in debt and he makes sure everybody knows they can’t walk away from here unless their debts are paid first.”

“So, how’d you manage it?”



“Yep. Poker gave me a stake. We play every Friday night down at the firehall. I had a run of luck and I put my winnings aside and scrimped and scraped until I had my debts pared down.”

“But you must have had some idea what you were going to do when you left the mine.”

“Sure did. Purely by accident, Ed Dobson and me found out Rager didn’t have a hold on Turkey Ridge. Pretending we was hunting, we went up every day for a week between shifts and sunk a shaft. We didn’t go too deep before we struck coal. So we grabbed a lease on it and got a couple businessmen in Shannon to stake us to equipment.”

“So what you call ‘working a coal-hole’ is just a matter of digging the coal out of the ground on your own?”

Jake’s father laughed. “Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. But you got the basic idea. It’s a darn good hole, producing about six tons a day of good hard anthracite. It’s a hard one to work, though. The shaft is almost perpendicular. We work it by sending two men down the pit to grub out the coal and load it in burlap sacks, which the third man hauls up to the top with a winch. The top man loads the coal in a wheelbarrow and takes it down the hill to where our pickup is parked.”

“What do you do with the coal? Sell it to Rager?”

“Nah, he won’t buy from us and the other breakers don’t want to offend him. We sell some to folks in Shannon. Most of it we truck down-river to other towns and sell door-to-door. No trouble getting rid of it. We’re not getting rich. But we make a living and we’re independent. That means something after all those years with Rager on our backs.”
They sauntered along, crossing the stone bridge over the acid-wracked creek circling the Patch and started up the trail to Turkey Ridge. There were trees here—scrub oaks, poplar and elders mostly—and the air smelled cleaner now that they were above the Patch and Jake felt better. He picked up his pace, going ahead of the two men, stopping now and again to skip a stone into the trees as grouse took flight or a squirrel chattered a warning. Catbirds mewed along the track and a pair of hawks coasted across blue sky overhead.

Winded, Jake sat down on a conglomerate boulder to wait for his father and Uncle Dan. The anger had left him. He felt good up here. He wasn’t entirely certain what his father meant by independent but he sensed it must be something similar to what he felt up here, clean and free, above the muck that lay below.

They were only a stone’s throw from the hole when Jake’s father suddenly stopped and stood, listening. “What’s the matter?” Uncle Dan asked. “Shh,’ Jake’s father said, still listening. Then he took off at a run for the hole. Jake and Uncle Dan followed, the old man still demanding, “What’s the matter?”

Jake was puzzled at first, too. Then he realized what was missing. Instead of the normal, steady chug-chug of the pump there was only silence. Jake knew, but he was afraid to put it in words.

As they reached the top and broke through the scrub oak they saw Jake’s father talking to Sam Troutman, one of his partners, and a couple of shovel operators who worked for the D&Z Company that was stripping on the other side of the bluff.

“Sam called me over ‘soons it happened,” Jim Dietz, one of the operators, was saying as they came up. “We was just figgerin’ what to do.”

“What’s happened?” Uncle Dan asked again.

“Cave-in. Bill and Ed are down there.”

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph!”

Jake’s head spun and he stumbled against Uncle Dan. Men were always getting caught in cave-ins, but it wasn’t supposed to happen to people you knew. It wasn’t supposed to, but it did. Only the year before one of their neighbors had been trapped. Jake remembered what Cally Ryan looked like when they dug him out. It was something the boy would never forget. Cally’s eyes had been open and full of coal dirt. His mouth had been open, too, as though he died screaming for help. The face was black from the coal, except for two white stripes down Cally’s cheeks where tears from his hurt eyes had washed him clean. Jake didn’t want to see his brother Bill like that. “Can we get them out?” he asked in a tremulous voice.

“We’re gonna try, sure as hell,” his father said, putting an arm around the boy’s trembling shoulders.

“How’d it happen?” Uncle Dan asked.

“We was just gonna quit for lunch,” Sam said. “I’d come up on top to check the winch. Ed said he wanted to place one more charge before they came up. Bill stayed with him. I heard the blast and didn’t pay it no mind till I noticed the pump had stopped. When I climbed down I saw the whole side of the slope had fallen. I don’t know whether the charge was too heavy or if it just went off too quick. It must have knocked out half the timbers on that side.”

Jake’s father was trembling now, too. He paced around the hole, trying to hide his agitation. But they could see it in his blanched face and the sweat glistening on his brow. Then, recovering his composure, he came back to them and took charge. He’d been around mines and mining for thirty of his forty-two years, starting as a slate-picker at the D&Z Colliery. He knew what had to be done.

“We’ve only opened one slope off the gangway,” he said. “If Bill and Ed got far enough back in that slope when the blast went off, they’ll be all right. If they didn’t, there’s no need to hurry. We’ll have to dig them out the same way we mine the coal. Jim, I’d appreciate if you’d go down with Sam and start the digging. I’ll see if I can get the pump to working.”

Jake knew how important it was to get the pump restarted. There’s always seepage in a coal hole. If the pump stopped for even an hour, a foot of water could collect in the bottom of the shaft. That wasn’t much, but if a man were pinned down under a rock or a timber he could drown in less water than that.

“You’d best go down and tell your Mom and Bill and Ed’s wives and see if more help can be rounded up,” Jake’s father told him.

“Let me do it,” put in Uncle Dan. “I think I can break the news better than the kid.”

Jake was grateful. He wanted to stay and help. He ran for tools and helped the other shovel operator dump bags from the winch so they could be sent back down for more dirt.

After a while, his father got the pump started. Then he found the hose was burst. The pump was useless. Jake struggled to hold back his tears. If water was coming in… but no; he couldn’t think of that. He had to focus on the work, fight to drive away the image of Cally’s face that danced before his eyes.

Time passed and Uncle Dan came back with the women. Like gas in a mine, word of the accident had drifted from Shannon to the patch. Concerned neighbors and friends, women and miners between shifts, some who were just curious, came up the hill. The miners pitched into the work. The women and men who weren’t miners stood around in nervous little groups, murmuring, white-faced, wanting to help, not knowing how.
Jake’s father sent him to join his mother and the spectators. His father said he knew Jake wanted to help but he could do it best by comforting his mother. Jake was hurt and ashamed. His father saw he was too distressed to be of help and was right in sending him to the sidelines. The boy stood by his mother, shivering, seeing Cally’s dead face.

Dark clouds scudded across the sun. A cold wind rippled like water through the leaves of the oak, which chattered as though in anguish.
The digging and the hauling and the hoping went on for hours. It was dark now. Some of the curious drifted away and were replaced by others. The minister and a priest who had been called for Ed came. The two men of God conferred, set aside their differences, then took charge of the little flock of spectators, offering words of faith and urging prayer. Someone started a hymn and others joined in, the words echoing over the mountains.

A rain began, a hard pelting rain that made the ground slippery under foot. Instead of Cally, now Jake saw his brother lying on his face with a prop holding him down and the water rising up around his nostrils. Jake cried and started praying, making wild promises to God.

Then.. what was that? What did that guy say?

“We’ve got ‘em. We’ve got ‘em out!”

Jake looked up just in time to see one dark form lifted from the shaft before the crowd rushed in around the hole and blocked his view. “Thank God. Oh, thank God,” his mother cried beside him.

“If you won’t do it for yourself, then do it for your family,” Uncle Dan was saying the next morning when Jake came down for breakfast.

Jake’s father stared into his coffee cup, took a sip, sat down the cup and spoke. “Doc Whalen says they’ll be fine. Shock and a few scratches, but with a little rest they’re gonna be all right.” His father looked tired, but not any more than after a normal work day.

“Pure luck,” Uncle Dan said. “I’ve been away too long. I’d forgotten how dangerous mining is. You’ve gotta get out of it.”

“Sure it’s dangerous, but it’s a job and somebody has to do it,” Jake’s father told him. “Me, I count myself lucky to have got away from Rager and into my own hole. I been at it too long to quit—even if I wanted to. Bill, he’s a good miner. He’ll be back in the hole in a couple days. As for that one,” he continued, pointing a finger at Jake, “he won’t be mining. He’s a bright one and he’ll be off to school and then into some other kind of work. But, wherever he goes, whatever he does, he’ll find there’s danger of one sort or another.”
“Yeah, but not like in mining,” Uncle Dan said. “For God’s sake, Joe, get your boys out of this coal country. You almost lost a son yesterday. If I can’t convince you, that should.”

“It only convinces me there’s danger in living. Danger’s a part of life. We saw one kind yesterday. You saw another last spring when you found out you had TB. Your safe job in the auto plant didn’t keep you from getting sick, did it?”

“That’s not the same thing and you know it. Don’t make excuses that won’t hold water. Get your boys out of here.”

Jake’s father took his empty cup to the sink. Then he went out the screen door onto the porch. He was done talking.

(This story originally appeared in the January 2004 edition of a little mag called Cold Glass)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Counterfeiters and Spys in the American Revolution

War is expensive.

This put the fledgling American colonies at a distinct disadvantage during the Revolutionary War. With little hard currency (gold or silver) to back it up, the Americans issued steadily increasing amounts of paper money to finance the rebellion. This printed money depreciated quickly.

By the 1780s it took an estimated 600 Continental dollars to buy supplies worth the equivalent of one Spanish dollar, the silver coin on which the colonies had relied for decades.

This dollar squeeze became an important strategy to the British. As early as 1776, they began counterfeiting the Colonial paper with the aim of undermining confidence in the money and the credit of the enemy.

This strategy and the spies who carried out the work play an important role in my Kindle novel, “The Accidental Spy.”

Desiring no part in the war, Dan McCracken is a young rogue wandering around Pennsylvania and living by his wits. Wounded in a run in with the law, he flees to Philadelphia where he’s rescued and nursed back to health by the lovely ward of Benedict Arnold’s procurement officer.

Dan finds himself attracted to his nurse. But when her husband returns from the front, he flees and falls in with a band of British spies.

He switches sides when he discovers his conscience through love. Ultimately, his actions will make him a hero.

Combining mystery, adventure and romance, I think you’ll find Spy an entertaining read. Best of all, it’s only $2.99. If you’ve already read it, I’d appreciate a review, tags and/or a ‘like.’ If not, you’ll find it at