Once to Die

Please welcome T.S. Epperson to my blog. Hello Tom, so nice to meet you! Tom has news to share.

1. Please introduce yourself to those reading this blog post.

Mary, thank you for having me as a guest. And thank you, reader, for spending a few moments of your time with us. If I had to tell you quickly who I am, I would say that I have been married to my high school sweetheart for forty-three years, I am dad to two adult sons, and Papa to four amazing grandchildren. If you are interested in personal trivia, I was born the seventh of twelve siblings in a large Catholic family and all my siblings are still living. I love nature and the outdoors. I grew up in Nebraska and Wyoming and have lived in South Carolina most of my adult life. I love the beach, observing wildlife and surf fishing with my grandkids.

2. Has writing always been part of your life and when did you “know” that it was time to start writing your first book?

When I was in fifth grade, my older brother was deployed to Vietnam. My teacher assigned a Christmas-themed writing assignment, so I wrote a poem titled Christmas In Vietnam, reflecting the horror we were seeing on nightly television news, and the fear I had for my brother’s safety. My teacher asked me to read it to a man on the telephone. The man turned out to be a DJ who recorded and produced it as a PSA spot which ran on local radio throughout the Christmas season that year. That teacher was the first one to tell me I should write, and his encouragement stuck with me. I always wrote from that time on, but I guess I was in my late twenties when I first decided I needed to buckle down and get serious about writing a book.

3. How difficult was it writing your first book?

It was terribly difficult. My first book failed. I think I failed at about four different attempts. I tried poetry. I tried song writing. I tried short stories. Finally, I sold out and took a job writing technical manuals for industry, and that taught me the discipline of treating writing like a job rather than a hobby. I learned an important lesson about sitting down and cranking out the work on a deadline. Building on that momentum I was able to start, complete, and self-publish a 300-page non-fiction title dealing with mid-life issues. It wasn’t quite what I set out to write, but it was close. The success of completing a book and seeing it in print gave me confidence and opened the door for the current fiction series.

This story took three years to complete. It started out as a 900-page single volume. I asked two priests who I trust to read it, and the feedback they gave me was “It is excellent, but it is not one book, it is three.” So, back to the drawing board I went, and spent another three years breaking it down into the separate story lines. At the launch of book one, I will have been working on this series over six years. It has matured into a collection of six novels that I’m proud of.

4. Have you ever wanted to give up and what stopped you?

I’ve given up many times. I don’t know who first said “If you can give up, you should. If you can’t give up, then you are a writer,” but that fits my experience. Each time I got disgusted or discouraged and quit, a voice inside me kept gnawing away, wanting to get out, so I would start again.

5. Who is the most supportive of you and your dream to be a writer?

My family has been incredible. My mom, who is 92, self-published a thick volume titled “The house that God built,” about her life. She has always written and inspired me to write. Several of my siblings have served as beta readers for me, and all of them encourage me. The primary help and encouragement comes from my nuclear family. As I said, I have been married 43 years. If you can imagine being married to someone while they went through the developmental struggle I described above, you can understand it would take high levels of love, loyalty, and patience. I have two adult sons, who are both talented writers. They are my writing buddies, encouraging me, challenging me, gently critiquing me. I think every writer needs to have someone who loves them enough to be honest with them. It is critical to success.

6. Anything specific you want to tell your readers?

I love telling stories. I love people, and I am fascinated by how complex and unique every person is. I like stories of good vs. evil, but I don’t believe any person is completely good or completely evil. Life is complicated, replete with nuance and subtlety and at the same time, in a way, it is simple. If you learn to love people fully, selflessly, that’s the whole game, but that is not easy.

Writing is deeply personal and exposes the inner life of the writer. Stepping out in front of the world with that level of vulnerability can be unnerving, but when people connect with the story, it is rewarding and meaningful. I would find it more meaningful to connect with one person who really loved my stories for their depth, than to pander to a million readers who are looking for a shallow, cheap thrill.

7. What is the best advice given to you (book or otherwise), and by whom?

Winston Churchill’s famous line “never give up,” is very good. It works in writing, in everyday life, in relationships and in your spiritual walk. I think it gets to the core of the hard work of being human. Life is so challenging and comes at you in all sorts of unexpected ways. But if you persevere, if you keep moving, striving, you will eventually find yourself in an amazing place, that transcends the ordinary. A second quote, similar, came to me from a live-in nurse we had. She was from a Marine Corps background, and her motto was “Just do more.” My son is also a Marine, and I’ve been impressed and inspired by the grit he brings to life. “Just do more,” is an echo of Churchill, and I’ve motivated myself with that phrase countless times.

8. What is your target audience and what aspect of your writing do you feel targets that audience?

My target audience is readers who love thrillers, suspense, and mystery, but want to read into the deeper motivations that produce the action. In other words, people who are like me. I love that type of story, so that is what I write.

I grew up in a rough and tumble environment. I started playing music in bars with my older brothers when I was eight years old, so I encountered the gritty reality of the world at an earlier age than many people do. On the other hand, my mom was very Catholic, so we walked to daily Mass a lot, and I was an altar server at the same time I was playing music in the bars.

That gave me a unique window into the world. The world I live in is gritty, and at the same time, highly spiritual. I’ve always had an over-active imagination and fantasy is a big part of my writing. My stories go beyond the man on the street and enter the realm of the “other worldly.” I experience life as a grand saga, where each of us is living out an epic centered on the spiritual, and at some point, we each become aware of it. People who resonate with those things are the people I am trying to connect with.

9. Did the cover evolve the same way, or did you work with someone to make it come together for you?

Creating the covers was an agonizing process. I hired two different designers, spent just under a thousand dollars, and could not even get close to what I was looking for. My younger son holds a computer science degree, and has a background in digital art, animation, and game design. He started working with me, helping me, and he eventually came up with the covers for all the books. My older son is also very creative and served as a sounding board for us during that process. The covers are dark, gritty, and hint at the violence in the world. They do a good job of communicating the ambiance of the story.

10. What are you working on now? Can we get a peek, an excerpt?

I am working to finish the series. When I write, I start with an outline, but once I get into the project, I allow the story to unfold naturally, without paying homage to the planned framework. It is more an experience of discovering a story than crafting one. The last three books in the series are at various stages of drafting, and I’m really enjoying that creative process. I would be happy to provide an excerpt of the current work in progress, but it would be kind of raw, as none of the last three books are polished yet.

11. Any last words before we wrap things up?

Thank you again Mary, for hosting me. I love your blog. The service you provide to your fellow authors and to the readers is so important. As you know, an author spends all this time, years of their life writing something, and then it is difficult to get it into the hands of the readers who are looking for it. Thank you for facilitating that connection. To your readers, I would like to say thank you for supporting Mary’s efforts, and for taking time to read this interview.

Please share Mary’s blog with everyone you know, so that she can connect more authors and readers. Your participation in that effort is vital to the success of the independent publishing industry. I hope you will enjoy Once To Die when you get a chance to read it. The greatest kindness you can do for an author is to invest the time to read the words they’ve put down on paper.

Judgement Day

Book #4 in

The Other Side Of Dead series

Advance reader excerpt for When Angels Fly.net blog

Note: this excerpt is from book #4, so there are major spoilers here.

Kojo was driving south on Ninety-five, six lanes of traffic moving eighty miles per hour in a sixty-five zone. Every second or third vehicle was an eighteen-wheeler. In his little Beamer, he felt like a field mouse hopping around in a herd of rhinos. The coupe was equipped with the latest model of autonomous driver, but Kojo preferred to be hands on. This car was his baby. He loved the feel of the sleek machine under his command.

“I’m not an investigator, but if I can help, I will,” he said. “What do you have to go on?”

“Not much,” Traci said. “I asked Lachlan, a friend of mine, who does freelance photography work out of Sydney, to help me set up a photo shoot that would look spontaneous, and then all hell broke loose.”

“What kind of photo shoot?” A blue three-quarter-ton Dodge pickup with a lift kit and loud pipes roared past him on the left like he was standing still.

“I asked him to arrange for Amadeus to meet a couple pretty girls, who would take him out on the town after his performance. Lach was going to get some shots of them dancing in a club, and that was supposed to be the extent of it.”

“So, what went wrong?” The semi in front of him lit his brake lights, made that low growl of an engine brake. Kojo checked his left mirror, saw a space, swerved out around the truck to avoid having to lock ‘em up.

“He said a guy called him, saying he represented the label, and told him to amp it up.”

“Amp it up?”

“Make it more spectacular.”

“And the result was the big scandal? I’d call that a little more than spectacular.” The growling semi merged right, taking an off-ramp to catch a truck stop. He heard a loud air horn and saw that his whole rear-view mirror was filled with a huge chrome grill. He swerved right, and the truck roared up beside him. He frowned and shook his head.

“How did things go so wrong?” he asked. The wheels of the semi were almost as tall as his car, chrome wheels with those big spikes sticking out four inches from the lug nuts.

“My friend got some local beach bum involved, asked him to help set it up. It turns out it was that rapist monster, the scourge of the Sydney beaches. He’s the one who pushed everything off the rails. He introduced drugs, brutally attacked Amadeus, and then later raped one of the girls.”


“Yeah. Same thing I said.”

“But he’s dead now, right? So, there is nothing that can be done, is there?”

“I want to know who interfered with my original plan.”

“You want to find out who this guy was who called the photographer.”


“Do you have a name?”

“No, that’s the confusing part. Guy is the name. Somebody named Guy called my friend and told him to amp it up, promised him photo placements in national magazines.”

“Oh. And do you know who this Guy is?”

“No, there isn’t anyone affiliated with the label who has that name. So how did somebody named Guy get involved? What does he have to do with any of this? I feel like he must be working on behalf of someone else.”

“Man. That’s a mess.”

“Yeah, it is a mess, and it started an avalanche that ended up killing Amadeus. I want to know who pushed the first snowball.”

“What’s your theory? Who would gain from that?” The axles of the big semi passed by them, then abruptly swerved right, into Kojo’s lane, causing him to have to hit the brakes to avoid being clipped by the back tires. The heavy iron corner of the trailer passed over the  edge of his beamer’s hood.

“That’s the terrible part,” Traci said. “The only people who would gain from it are people who have a vested interest in Amadeus’ publicity rankings. This had to be an inside job.”

“Oh my God.”

“It makes me sick. I mean literally, hug the porcelain sick.”

“I get that. I’ve felt that way myself. It isn’t right, what happened to him.”

“No, it isn’t.” A loud roar made Kojo jump a little. A Harley low rider pulled up alongside him, forks maybe slightly extended, long leather tassels streaming off behind black leather gloves showing bare fingers. Leather saddle bags with silver studs. A white shiny bald head, thick neck stuffed down into a leather vest, dark sunglasses, thick mustache wrapped down below his chin, flapping in the wind like the leather tassels. The guy looked over at him with a scowl. Kojo looked away. What’s his problem?

“Okay, let’s look at this objectively,” he said. “It sounds like the only thread we have, is your friend the photographer. We need to find out how Guy contacted him, and how he received payment. Follow the money. It’s the oldest truism in the book.”

“I agree. I have calls in to Lach, but he hasn’t gotten back to me. He’s probably afraid he’s going to be found liable. He’s not overly courageous, and last time I talked with him I threatened him.”

“That might not have been your best move.”

“Tell me about it. But I was so furious. I lost control for a second.” The bike roared loud enough to shake the window glass and pulled away a little. A rebel flag covered the back of the vest. Big, muscled arms leaning the bike left, right, left, putting other people’s lives at risk to look cool. Kojo could see the definition of his triceps from here. The guy was scowling at him in a little rectangle mirror on a tall chrome tube.

“To do this right, I think we’re going to have to have some help,” Kojo said.

“I don’t know who to trust.”

“I mean professional help. Someone who works for us.” He eased off the accelerator a little, to create some room between him and the big steel bar that formed the bumper of the semi in front of him.

“I have access to some of Amadeus’ money now,” he said, keeping his eyes on the traffic, “and I’ll have access to a lot more, once his Dad’s lawsuit gets thrown out.”

“Are you confident that is going to happen?”

“The attorney is. I hope he’s right. Amadeus should at least be able to have his estate settled in the way he wished. He didn’t have much say over anything when he was alive.”

“Ha. Zero say, you mean. He was basically an indentured servant.”

“That is so messed up.” The truck in front of him lit up its brake lights. Kojo hit the brakes, but then checked the mirror and saw that a huge grill was coming up behind him fast. The Harley hit his brakes, fish tailed, burned off a little white smoke, until he was right beside Kojo’s window.

“Everything about this is messed up,” Tracie said, putting her hand on the dash.

“These people are crazy,” Kojo said, checking his hood, his mirror, the maniac beside him.

“Oh, yeah. Ninety-five traffic. It’s the worst,” Traci said. “So, what are you saying we should do?” Kojo eyed the biker beside him. He was getting closer and closer to the window.

“We should hire a private investigator. Hopefully someone with law enforcement experience. What is this guy’s problem?”

“Watch out!” Tracey shouted.

The bike swerved toward him, inches away, stayed there. Kojo checked the mirrors, but the grill was right on him, looked like it was rubbing his bumper. He was locked in. The biker was perfectly matching his speed. The guy reached out a gloved fist, pointed his bare index finger, and to Kojo’s amazement, reached out and touched the piece of the frame that separates the side window from the windshield. He touched it.

“What is he doing?” Tracey asked, turning in her seat to look behind them.

Kojo’s fist was squeezing the padded steering wheel, making sure not to swerve even an inch.

“This idiot is going to get us all killed,” he said. The biker stayed right there, pointed his index finger at Kojo’s face. Then he converted it to a mock pistol, pointed it, and mimicked a recoil. What the hell? The biker punched it, and a hard impact snapped Kojo’s neck backward. Traci screamed. The semi behind them shoved them forward. They were going to be crushed between the trucks. Kojo hit the brakes, but it didn’t even register. They were still moving forward, tires squalling, white smoke rolling beside the windows. At the last instant, Kojo released the brake, swerved right, trying to get to the shoulder. The semi pulled out into the left lane, taking Kojo’s rear bumper with him. He felt the spin, couldn’t do anything about it.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Traci shouted. His door slammed the guardrail hard, looking out the windshield at the traffic behind them. A rooster tail of orange sparks flying away past the hood, the ugly squeal and vibration of his driver side door being scraped off by the guardrail. A strange sensation, facing backward, still moving forward, heavy traffic closing on them, cars swerving, crashing together, something crashed into Traci’s side door, they flipped up and over the guardrail. A sickening feeling, falling, but also tumbling, floorboard, ceiling, floorboard, ceiling, a hard slap in the face, white.

Author Bio for T.S. Epperson

T.S. Epperson is the pen name Tom Epperson uses for writing in the mystery/suspense genre. Due to his background in Workforce Education and Development, Tom is fascinated with colorful and complex characters. Twelve years spent working on staff at a Catholic parish of 1,500 families, changed his understanding of the rhythm of life.      

Everyone is on a unique journey. Tom was born the seventh of twelve siblings. He was an altar boy beginning at age seven, and a bar band musician beginning at age eight. His childhood was a happy rhythm of walking to daily Masses in the morning and participating in music rehearsals in the evening. On Friday and Saturday nights he would close down the bars with his older brothers’ band and then serve or attend Mass again Sunday morning. 

His life has been and still is, a constant effort to balance the worldly with the spiritual, as his writing reflects. Tom is a hopeless optimist and a romantic realist. He is the proud father of two adult sons, the finest of the finest, and lives in South Carolina with his wife, who is his companion in a sweeping time travel adventure. So far, they have traveled more than four decades. Together, they strive to live more in the present than in the past, and his favorite thing is to stand in salt water and teach his Grandchildren how to lure exotic creatures from the sea. 

Below are all my links. I am missing a few off your list.

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17742275.T_S_Epperson

Twitter: @TSEpperson

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/T.S.Epperson

Website: http://www.multivalentpress.com/T.S.Epperson

Book pre order Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BNLTM9JS/ref

Free advanced Reader copy through 3.23.23: https://BookHip.com/KTCBLZN

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