Please help us welcome author Rodd Clark to TNA today on the tour for the third novel in his Gabriel Church series, Ash and Cinders. He’s talking a bit about character motivation, sharing an excerpt from the book, and is also offering a lucky reader the chance to win an e-copy of the book.
There are three strong male figures in Ash and Cinders, and for those familiar with the tale from the first two books, there’s a much overlooked aspect to each of the main characters’ personalities; that being the relationship each had with their mothers.
Our killer, Gabriel Church, is a product of his upbringing. If you were to pull the threads of his character just to understand what makes such a seemingly sane individual perform such horrific and insane crimes…well, then you might discover that his mother had always been an important source of inspiration; some good, some not so good. Sissy Church was a dichotomy for Gabe. He pitied her just as he was simultaneously repulsed by her lack of a spine when it came to her overbearing, sometimes violent husband, Bennett Church. But she was also kind, and also the impetus for many of Church’s twisted, religious dogmas and, therefore, important in ways he couldn’t quite fathom at the time.
Christian Maxwell is a writer and educated man, the exact opposite of his beloved killer, Gabriel. He finds himself drawn into the story, and himself attracted to someone that he shouldn’t find appealing. He too was the product of his upbringing. Only Chris’s mother was strong, stoic, and anything but maternal. She was a hard-edged woman who married well. She found herself navigating life by reputation and respectability and always through a haze of her typical afternoon vodka gimlets. Chris remembered all too well cocktail glasses held casually in limp wrists, and hearing the tinkling of the ice cubes as they bounced against the crystal. He also remembered seeing the edges of the glass stained red from that ruby lipstick she always wore.
Lastly, there is Deputy Bleu Corso of the Sonora Police, who also possessed a complicated relationship with his mother. I decided to include this section as an excerpt in particular; mainly because I wanted readers to see how three such unique individuals can have differing perspectives, based solely upon the guidance they received as young boys. And how some might’ve been neglectful, and some protective, it was in the end just a hint of creation as to the men they would each someday become. This passage has little to do with the criminal behavior of Church or the bent romance that exists between Gabe and Chris, or even how the white-bread lawman Bleu Corso has anything to do with their resolution. But it interested me – and therefore I thought I would share this section from Ash and Cinders where the killer first spies the deputy in a diner having breakfast:
“But it was the uniformed officer finishing his breakfast who interested him in that moment. Gabe could tell he was physically fit under his ill-tailored outfit. He was a clean-cut, strapping young man, at least ten years Gabriel’s junior. Albeit, rather white-bread and homogenized for his tastes. But just the type to attract warm smiles of ladies he might pass along the sidewalk or looking up from a driver’s seat as they fumbled with an open purse for a license or their registration.
The deputy pushed his empty plate across the counter then drained the last remnants of his coffee before standing to leave. He discarded a folded twenty on the counter, easily giving him the preferred treatment of not having to wait in line at the register like most patrons. His sizable tip made the extra effort a worthy addition for those lucky waitresses with the good fortune of serving him during his semi-regular visits at the diner. A woman called out as he whisks up a cap from the counter. He didn’t wear the traditional deputy hat Church was familiar with seeing, choosing to wear a ball cap with a badge emblazed in his center with the words Tuolumne County over the top and Sheriff’s Office beneath the badge.
“Be careful out there Bleu!” A feminine voice bellowed from unseen parts.
The deputy turned, smiled then called back,
“Will do Charlene and you likewise…cuz some of these fella’s up in here look a tad rowdy…so if you need backup, just give me a shout out!”
There was an audible titter of laughter from the geezers at a nearby table and Church recognized instantly this deputy was well-known by many Sonora natives. He was surely respected by nearly as many as those who knew him by name. It didn’t take long before Church’s server appeared and slid a warm plate in front across the linoleum top. It was filled to the edges with all of his favorites; hash browns, scrambled eggs and sides of bacon and peppery sausage links. He devoured it right away with barely enough time for a smile and a nod at the waitress before she left.
~ ~ ~
An hour later Deputy Corso was sitting behind the wheel of his cruiser, hidden by the weedy overgrowth and interstate billboard signs. He was clocking tourists with his LiDAR radar and hoping he might fill his quota of monthly citations that everyone understood police to have. One Mississippi…two Mississippi…as each car passed quickly he mouthed the words with his radar gun aimed from his open window. He was smiling and remembering the old joke echoed around the station.
Citizen: “Do you have a quota of tickets you have to write?”
Officer: “No, I can write as many as I want.”
Bleu didn’t care much for working traffic, but it was an integral part of his police duties so he shouldered that burden as he’d always done, with a smile and few complaints. After all, there wasn’t much crime to speak of in Sonora and he often felt his presence was more show than any real necessity. Still, he liked working for the Sheriff’s office and knew his promotion was an eminent conclusion with his record. He liked the jangle of keys in his dress brown slacks, the respect shown in the faces of townies, and that comforting sense of a gun at his hip, even though it almost never left its holster. He took time at the shooting range whenever he could because he wanted to keep his skills honed and at a ready practiced speed. But mostly his job consisted of working traffic stops, making appearances at outdoor festivals, or recording noise and trespassing infractions from the faces of those locals he saw far too regularly for his own satisfaction.
Bleu lived his life by simple decrees. The mottos in his head rang as proverbs and country sayings, and each one rang with the soft, dulcet tones of his mother’s voice. Her homespun, no-nonsense way of seeing life had successfully carried him through his more difficult days, and every axiom somehow gave his life some meaning and enabled others to see him as the man he was learning to become. He could still recall when he’d perform some idle task for her, like drying dinner dishes, or helping her move a heavy couch to vacuum under and being a child who seemed too eager for her approval he’d always ask “Is this okay Momma?” Her responses were simple, uneducated elegance and hit the mark where she deft aimed.
“Well it’s certainly better’na poke in the eye with a sharp stick.”
He remembered his mother very fondly, just as he remembered every smile when she offered her sage, yet obscure wisdoms. Like little treasures he could pocket and pull out later and examine in detail. Even in those rare times when he couldn’t quite grasp their strange meanings, like particularly that phrase. Wasn’t everything better than some horrible poke in the eye, regardless of the size or sharpness in the protrusion? Yet he could call to mind her twinkling jade-green pupils whenever she bequeathed those around her one of her signature, rural colloquialisms. It always produced an ear-to-ear smile on the young deputy’s face when her funny sayings came to mind.
Sadly, she was dead now. She’d been taken by cervical cancer when Bleu was only sixteen years old. Far too early a departure he knew, which left a son and a husband to feel her absence on a near-daily basis. Residual scar tissue was the only thing left behind after her painful exodus from this world, that and a deep, vacuum-like chasm which sucked everything good about his family inside. But gratefully for Bleu, he could still sense her spirit circling around him as he went through every day mundane chores. Such as when he changed out of his uniform and into street clothes at the precinct’s locker room, or in that instant when he was ordering his breakfast at one of the local diners he frequented. She was that warm breath on the nape of his neck, making him feel safe and secure. And he learned early on that he needed to be thankful he could still recall her with such vivid detail. Just as he remembered her comical sayings and idiosyncratic mannerisms, or the way she made him feel protected and loved while in her presence.
Her name had been Ruth Tierney when she was young and still possessed her maidenhood, as she would later tell her ‘lovely, little boy Bleu’, with an expansive grin plastered on her face. That was until a strapping naval officer just returning from the war had unexpectedly caught her attention. At once she fell head-long in love with Edwin Corso. After first seeing him at some random social gathering she couldn’t quite recall and attired in his pristine white dress uniform. She understood instantly and throughout their brief period of dating that she’d someday marry her attractive soldier. But it all turned tragically fleeting, when just as her little boy had been obtaining his driver’s license, both he and his father Ed lost that delicate connection they cherished so dearly, the single matriarchal thread which held their small family intact.”
About the Book
“It’s just the devil’s share. When life evens itself out and every bad guy gets what’s coming to em’ . . . it’s one of the few balancing things life really offers.”—Gabriel Church
Gabriel Church has done a bad, bad thing . . . and normally that doesn’t bother him too much. But everything changed when he met Christian Maxwell. Chris became his unholy grail. The thing he sought more than any other treasure, yet still a priceless pearl beyond his reach. Nothing he does seems to solidify any prospect of them being able to remain together, to live that happily-ever-after story. Even if he were to make a promise to stop his killing in the name of God, it would still only be a salty futility to wet and tempt his lips.
Christian Maxwell discovered a damaged soul inside Church, with a goodness plumbed somewhere below the visible surface. He saw pain shadowing his killer like some trailing footprint left moist in the sand. But he failed to recognize each victim, or the costs of every action the fugitive took for granted. He simply pushed those faceless victims to the dark recesses of his mind, hiding them from plain view as if they were discarded things, recollections intentionally forgotten.
The one thing Church knows with certainty is the writer is the only person who really knows him, and the only man other than himself who possibly understands where they are both headed. But life is about to get more twisted and dangerous. It begins with a back woods Deputy Sheriff and that same ill-fated chance that always prevented him from slowing down his pace or finding a peaceful place to rest with Chris Maxwell by his side.
About the Series
Rubble and the Wreckage
Gabriel Church knows you can’t take a life without first understanding just how feeble life is, how tentative and weak it stands alone. If you desire murder, you hold a life in your hand. Whether you release it to grant life or grip tighter to end it, it is at your command and discretion. Gabriel is a serial killer with a story he wants told.
Christian Maxwell studied abnormal psychology in college but chose instead to focus on a career in writing. His background comes in handy when he thinks of writing about a serial killer. He can’t think of anyone more qualified to write the story of Gabriel Lee Church, and do so in the murderer’s own words. It’s been done before, but never with a killer who has yet to be captured or convicted.
There was never anything more than a gentleman’s understanding between the two men that Christian would record Gabriel’s life story. The killer did not ask for his complicity in any crimes, nor did he ever ask for his silence. Christian’s interest in the man, though, is fast becoming something more than academic. When the writer and his subject become unexpected friends and then lovers, the question remains: What is Gabriel’s endgame . . . and why does he want his story told?
~ ~ ~
Torn and Frayed
“Conscience isn’t something all people are born with…”
Gabriel Church is a portrait in contrast. It would be easy to get lost in his pale-blue eyes, ache with the need to feel the strength of his masculine frame. He appears to be nothing but animal and instinct. The only people who know the full depth of that truth are dead, murdered, or two thousand miles away.
Gabe is a serial killer. For the first time in his life, he has more on his mind than his own survival. This time he is running from Seattle to protect the only person he thinks innocent in his laundry list of crime and murder: Christian Maxwell, his biographer and unexpected lover. Drawn to a place he never thought to return, Gabe finds new and different realities. Realities that insist he let go of his tragic past, those incredible perceptions of God, and his own divinity. He must open his eyes to what the love of a good man can do to heal a broken soul.
But when the killer is confronted by his own willingness to love and sacrifice, he is forced to ultimately ask the question: Just how far will he go to save a life . . . when all he’s ever done is take them?
About the Author
Rodd lives in Dallas, TX and can be reached through his web presence at RODDCLARK.COM.
He is interested in the M/M Mystery, Romance and Thriller genres, but has varied interests and enjoys many different types of books. With a dark and distinctively disturbing voice, he creates characters which are flawed yet intriguing; such as the Main Character of Gabriel Church in his Romantic Fiction Rubble and the Wreckage and Torn and Frayed.
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