Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Cornerstone by J.M. LeDuc: Interview and Excerpt

Questions for the author
How did you start your writing career?
Interesting question. My writing career began more as a cathartic activity than anything else. Due to various injuries, my lust for physical adventure came to a screeching halt. As part of my self-therapy for my self-pity, I began to write. I started journaling my thoughts and my frustrations as a way of ridding myself of my self-imposed anger.
After a while, character profiles began to form in my brain, so I started to write biographies of some of them. From there, a plot began to take shape involving some of the various characters. That’s how my first book, Cursed Blessing came to life.
I tried to outline the book and soon realized that I’m not that type of writer. I know where I want my story to end and I have an idea of how I would like it to end. Everything else is dictated by the characters and where they take me on the journey. This style of writing tends to lead itself to a lot of rewrites and dead ends, but I find it works best for my creative process.
Tell us about a favorite character from a book.
The characters that make up the Phantom Squad and the SIA are like family to me and are dear to my heart, each in their own way, but I have others that are favorites because they were so fun to write or they just left an indelible impression on me. I will name three.
First there is Jonas McFarland aka the Omega Butcher in Cursed Presence, book two of the Trilogy of the Chosen. Jonas is the major antagonist in the book, but he is also a victim. As frightening as he is, there are childlike qualities about him that you just want to try to protect and nurture.
            In Cornerstone I have two favorites: Tag, a Cree brave and Army sniper who becomes a major player in the story. When I began to write Cornerstone, I had no intention to introduce any new major players. He was one of those characters that needed to be written and I can’t wait to explore him further in subsequent books. Then there is the character of Wheels. Wheels has a very minor part in the book, but I love this guy and his attitude. He is a disabled Vietnam Vet who now makes his living a document forger. There are dimensions to this character that have not been touched and I would love to use him again to a larger extent if the right story comes along. The list could go on but I will leave you with those three.
What do you think makes a good story?
            For me, characters come first. As a reader, no matter how good a story is, if I can’t connect with the characters, I will eventually put the book down or I won’t remember it when I’m finished reading it.
            Ebb and flow is necessary in any good book. You need the thrills and the suspense, but you also need the down times because I think that’s when you get to develop the characters. The other vital part of good story to me is I personally want an ending that the reader did not see coming. In fact, it’s usually an ending that I as a writer didn’t see coming in my own books. I mentioned earlier that I have an ending in mind when I start a project. I have yet to end a book in the way I thought I would. Again, it’s the characters who dictate the story, not me.
Questions for the characters
My first question is for Brent Venturi: What was the scariest moment of your life?
Brent leans forward and pushes hid long dark hair from his face. “Wow, as a member of the Phantom Squad there have been many. When I agreed to lead the squad, I took an oath to protect my men and my country above all else, so for me, the most frightening moments were not ones of personal peril but ones when I thought my men and family were in danger. The one that come to mind first was when Chloe was captured by Donavan Ferric. I had no idea if she was alive or dead and at the time I didn’t know if I could trust Maddie Smith. She had been playing both sides and I wasn’t sure where her loyalties lied until the very end. Knowing that I might lose someone I loved had to be my scariest moment.”
My next question is for Maddie: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
There is a tightening of Maddie’s posture as she hears the question. Seven, her husband places his hand on her thigh to comfort her. She glances his way and the right side of her full lips turn upward in a loving way.
Maddie inhales through her nose and slowly exhales through pursed lips. “My childhood ended before it really began. Unfortunately, I was the child of an abusive, alcoholic father and an abused, lost mother. She meant well, but never could get it together enough to help either one of us. So to be honest, as a child all I ever wanted was to be old enough to be on my own.” She looked at Brent and swallowed hard. “That didn’t go so well either until I met Brent.”
Okay, my final question is for Seven: Do your friends think you are an introvert or an extravert? Why?
            Seven pulls his tobacco tin out of his back pocket and places a pinch between his lower lip and gum. “Hell, is that question you really want answered?” he drawls.
            The interviewer smiles and nods.
            Seven shakes his head and spits in an empty coffee mug. “That really depends on the situation, doesn’t it. I think that’s pretty much true about anybody. Everyone in this room will attest to the fact that I’m not much for words. You want to carry on a conversation or talk about your feelings, take it elsewhere. I’m not your guy. But, if there is a job to do, a mission that needs accomplished, I’m the most extroverted person you will ever meet. I talk with my actions not with my words.”
            The interviewer jots down a final note and looks up at those in the room. I have so many more questions for all of you but it seems we are out of time for today. I want to thank you for your time and hopefully we can do this again sometime.


by J.M. LeDuc

on Tour August 1-31, 2013

Book Details:

Genre:  Suspense Thriller / Christian
Published by: Suspense Publishing
Publication Date: 06/25/13
Number of Pages: 330
ISBN: 978-1484188682 // 1484188683

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In the blink of an eye, a life begins and another ends.

In a blink of an eye, Brent Venturi falls into the chasm of despair.

What do you do when everything is lost? When the person you loved is gone and all you have left is guilt? These are the questions that face Brent, the leader of the Phantom Squad and the latest in Noah’s line of descendants. His answer—go back to the beginning, back to where it all began—Mount Ararat.

The last known resting place of Noah’s Ark.

In his travels, Brent will meet Rowtag Achak, a Cree brave and Special Forces sniper who is on a similar path of self-destruction. Together, they will trace their steps from Palm Cove to Washington D.C., all the way to Armenia and the Khor Virap Monastery which sits at the base of Mount Ararat. Their travels will eventually take them to Alpha Camp and the Hindu Kush Mountains on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

When President Dupree and the Phantom Squad get captured by the Brotherhood of Gaza, time for introspection is over and time for action begins. Brent must find a way to get back to the man he was in order to save the people still left in his life.

What begins as a sabbatical of self-awareness turns into a mission of survival. His own, that of the squad and more importantly, that of the president of the United States. What man and nature takes away, only God can restore. The restoration of the Cornerstone.

To find the beginning, one must walk through the past and be willing to step into the future.



One month ago

In one combustible moment, Brent’s life became a tumultuous cascade of happiness and horror. He had witnessed the birth of his daughter and the death of his wife.

Two weeks ago

Eight years ago, after his first encounter with the Omega Butcher, a sadistic serial killer, Brent Venturi lost his identity. Emotional and physical scars forced a sabbatical from the team he led: The Phantom Squad. It was only through the peace he had found in God and in his hometown of Palm Cove that he was able to recover from his physical and psychological injuries.

He was once again sliding back down that slippery slope of despair into a deep, depressive abyss. The place he once ran to for tranquility no longer provided comfort. He spent his days alone and his nights wandering the streets.

The nightmares that once plagued his life, the nightmares he thought were in his past, once again tore a path through his subconscious mind. It was terrifying enough when his dreams brought visions of his own torture, but now, the visions and images were different. More vivid, more personal, more terrifying. The tortured was now Chloe. His nightmares were made worse by the images of blood: so much blood, pools of blood, on her, on him . . . everywhere.

When he did manage to fall asleep, Brent woke up in a pool of sweat and vomit, fearful that the wetness he felt was blood. Chloe’s blood.

Agony was making him less of a man and more of a weapon of mass destruction.

Chapter 1


Seven walked with a purposeful stride down the halls of SIA headquarters which made all other three letter intelligence agencies seem like child’s play. The sound of his footfalls as his heavy boots struck the tile floors reverberated in his ears like the base of a stereo. He heard it echo off the solid steel walls. As he walked deeper into the labyrinth, he looked up at the writing over the door that led to the inner sanctum.
We are called upon when others fail.

He placed his hand on the black glass panel next to the steel door. Like all others in HQ, it worked by palmer recognition. A faint red line slid under his hand. The door’s air lock disengaged. He repeated this maneuver multiple times as he descended further into the maze, finally arriving at his destination, the security office. Joan’s lair.
Joan, an eclectic blend of bohemian and punk was Maddie Smith’s personal assistant and a self taught computer genius. Her office was nestled in the midst of SIA’s security hub. A sea of computers and flat screen monitors filled every bit of desk and wall space. As he entered, she sat transfixed and stared at a video feed. The monitor she was glued to took up one entire wall and was embedded in three feet of concrete and steel.

“How long has he been there?” Seven asked.

Joan turned just long enough to acknowledge his arrival. “I arrived at o-eight hundred hours. The security clock shows he’s been there since…”

“O-five hundred.” Seven finished her sentence.

It had been the same pattern for the past ten days.

He stood behind her and watched Brent in the armory. Seven, like all of those close to Brent, was showing the signs of stress. In the past weeks, wrinkles from age crept into his face, like dried fissures on barren land.

He blinked the sleeplessness from his eyes. “Can you roll the tape back to when he arrived?”

“I can, but nothing has changed. Brent is still anal—a man of pattern.”
Seven reached into the back pocket of his jeans and took out his tobacco tin. Watching the screen, he tapped the lid, shook loose the tobacco, and placed it between his lower lip and gums.

Joan looked at him, rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Much like yourself.”
Seven smirked and spit in his empty coffee cup. “Oblige an old man,” he drawled, “and run the tape.”

“Yes, sir.” Joan reached over with her left hand, nimbly fingered the keyboard, and brought up the tape.

“Finally, a woman who will listen to me.”

“I hope that wasn’t meant for me.”

They both turned and saw Maddie standing in the doorway. Maddie Smith was the director of the SIA and Seven’s wife. As always, everyone’s eyes were glued to her—she was stunning. A voluptuous redhead who knew how to draw attention from both sexes. She embodied a 1950’s movie starlet.

“Good morning, Darlin,” Seven smiled.

“Good morning, Madam Director,” Joan said.

Her piecing emerald green eyes focused on Joan. “Why so formal this morning?”

Joan shrugged. “Everything seems so formal since, . . .” her eyes moistened, “you know.”

Maddie’s voice took on a saddened tone. She stood behind Joan, lightly rubbed her shoulders, and kissed the top of her head. “Yeah, I know, but I would feel better if you went back to calling me Maddie, or Mom, or the ‘B’ word that you mumble under your breath from time to time.”

Joan wiped her tears and sniffed. “And what word would that be?”

“Beautiful,” Maddie joked.

A partial smile surfaced on Joan’s lips. “Oh, that ‘B’ word. Right.”

“That’s the first time I’ve seen you smile in weeks. It feels good.” She looked at Seven expecting a sarcastic comeback, but he was glued to the screen. The look in her husband’s eyes made her shiver. “What is it?”

“It’s Brent’s eyes. They’re blank. Emotionless. It’s as if he were on a squad mission.”

“Is that so bad?” Joan said. “Isn’t that the way you all look when you’re engaged in training?”

Pointing to the monitor, Seven said, “This is different. Look at his jugular veins. His eyes may be expressionless, but the rest of him is about to snap.”

Maddie drew in a deep breath as she watched the monitor. Blowing it out, she knew what she had to do. “We can’t put the inevitable off any longer. Call the directorate and the Phantom Squad to a meeting at thirteen hundred hours and Seven,” she waited for him to acknowledge her. “Get him there.”


Mark Adduci, writing as J. M. LeDuc is native Bostonian, who transplanted to South Florida in 1985. He shares his love and life with his wife, Sherri and his daughter, Chelsea.
Blessed to have had a mother who loved the written word, her passion was passed on to him. It is in her maiden name he writes. When he is not crafting the plot of his next thriller, his alter ego is busy working as a professor at The Academy of Nursing and Health Occupations, a nursing college in West Palm Beach, Florida.
J.M. LeDuc’s first novel, “Cursed Blessing” won a Royal Palm Literary Award in 2008 as an unpublished manuscript in the thriller category. It was published in 2010. He has subsequently written Cursed Presence and Cursed Days, books two and three of the Trilogy of The Chosen, as well as a novella, Phantom Squad. He is a proud member of the Florida Writers Association (FWA) and the prestigious International Thriller Writers (ITW).

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CMash said...

Another great interview, which I enjoyed. Thank you for sharing.

J.M. LeDuc said...

I want to thank you for a great interview and for interviewing the characters . . . my favorite part.