Monday, July 17, 2017

      



     MEDIA CLIPS - SASSCER HILL



Alexandra Amor's video interview with author Sasscer Hill.     
            










             Sasscer reads the first chapter of FLAMINGO ROAD

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Criminal Element's Tomlinson Reviews FLAMINGO ROAD

Review: Flamingo Road 

      by Sasscer Hill


Flamingo Road by Sasscer Hill is the 1st book in the Fia McKee Mystery series (available April 18, 2017).
Sasscer Hill likes horses, and not in a “My Little Pony” kind of way. A horsewoman and horse breeder, it’s in her blood. As she explains on her blog:
I started galloping about the family farm on a stick horse when I was four years old. By the time, I was seven or eight, I was sneaking rides on the Belgian plow horses. I did this because my father didn't like horses and considered ponies dangerous. So instead, I drummed my heels on the sides of a 2,000-pound draft mare, while grasping whatever string or rope I managed to tie to her halter.
Her debut mystery series featured a young female jockey named Nikki Latrelle, and the books were atmospheric tales that brought the racing world to life more authentically than anyone had since Dick Francis died. (On her blog, Sasscer pays tribute to Dick Francis as her favorite author.)
The protagonist in Flamingo Road, the 1st in the Fia McKee series, is a cop whose solitary beat in the crime-ridden streets of Baltimore could not be further from the sunlit racetrack at Florida’s Gulf Stream Park if it was located on the moon. And yet, by saving the life of a terrified woman named Shyra Darnell, who works at Pimlico Race Track as a “hot walker,” Fia is thrown into a mystery that connects her past to her present in a most unexpected way.
Despite being under investigation by Internal Affairs, Fia can’t help but pick at the mystery surrounding Shyra and wonder what (or who) she is so afraid of. 
Then, a call from her estranged brother summons her to Florida, bringing her into contact with horse-butchering lunatics, cutting-edge performance-enhancing drugs, handsome animal activists, and Cuban gangs. Suddenly, things get very personal when her already troubled niece loses her beloved gelding Cody.
What was this? Kids on a joyride? Stealing tack or Patrick’s tools and equipment? Whatever it was, it wasn’t right.
I sped down the drive, my rubber shoes silent. The cart had headed to the right on the far side of the stable, and it looked like the fastest way to catch up would be to run straight down the center aisle and out the other side. Plunging into the murk of the barn, I smelled a horrible, familiar odor before skidding in what had to be blood. I wound up on my hands and knees, staring at a dark lump on the floor.
God, no. “You sons of bitches!” I yelled. I staggered up, skirted the slick, sticky pool and ran out the back. In the distance, I heard a couple of thumps. A truck engine started, but no lights came on. The sound of a motor rapidly faded into the distance.
Feeling helpless and sickened, I searched for a light switch and found it. Okay, Fia, get a grip. I flipped the switch.
Blood was everywhere. Cody’s black tail like a paintbrush dipped in blood looked. I fought a wave of nausea. They had butchered him in his own barn, removing the large cuts of meat. I wanted to kill them. I grabbed my phone and called 911.
Fia, whose horse-trainer father was murdered in a case as cold as Maryland in winter, knows this horsey world very well. And thanks to Hill, who teaches classes on how to craft settings that “saturate a story with mood, meaning, and thematic connotations,” we are immersed in that world as well. (Maybe a little too well as we learn the particulars of the trade in horse meat.)
“Your horse,” Zanin said, “was butchered by Cuban Americans who live in the C-Nine Basin. By now, they’ve delivered his meat to a specialty butcher shop in Miami.”
Patrick shook his head as if denying the whole thing. “That’s disgusting. It doesn’t make sense. There can’t be enough money to outweigh the risk.”
“I’m betting the horse was young,” Zanin said. “Maybe a little fat?”
Recalling Jilly’s conversation at dinner, I said, “Cody was only three.” An image struck me. Cody plump and happy in the paddock with Jilly that afternoon. “Oh, God. He was fat. Is that why they killed him?”
“Yeah,” Zanin said. “They like ’em young and well-marbled. Brings the highest price, like beef.”
I dropped my head into my hands. It was impossible to shut out the images. Glancing at him, I said, “Who are these people? And what’s the C-Nine Basin?”
“It’s the Wild West of Florida. Straddles the western edge of Broward and Miami-Dade counties, along one side of the Everglades. Mostly men live there, Cubans and Haitians and almost everything they do is outside the law—cockfights, horse slaughter, dogfights.”
“But Patrick’s right,” I said. “It doesn’t make sense. Horse slaughter is legal in so many places now.”
Zanin gazed at me intently. “Think about it.”
I cringed as it hit me. “It doesn’t matter if it’s legal because if those animals are old and tough…”
Zanin nodded. “They bring less money. The men in the C-Nine, they’re renegades, squatters, really rough people. These guys build shacks and pilfer from electric lines. They don’t care about right and wrong, especially when money in the form of prime meat is available just down the road. Believe me, the police are afraid to go in there.”
Turns out, there’s a really good reason the cops are scared to go into the C-Nine, and before the story gallops to a conclusion (sorry), readers will be scared too. And they’ll know a lot more about the racing world than they did before they opened the book.

Click here to find FLAMINGO ROAD!
Katherine Tomlinson is a former reporter who prefers making things up. She was editor of Astonishing Adventures Magazine and the publisher of Dark Valentine Magazine.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

SETTING: USE IT FOR MOOD, USE IT AS A CHARACTER, BUT USE IT WELL!

DECKLE EDGE WRITING CONFERENCE: WORKSHOP

SETTING: USE IT FOR MOOD, USE IT AS A CHARACTER, BUT USE IT WELL!

Instructor: Sasscer Hill
Sasscer reads FLAMINGO ROAD, due April 18, to mystery fan, Rosco
Friday February 24. Fifteen-person limit.Where: SC State Library, 1500 Senate Street, Columbia, SC
Description:  Fiction has three main elements: plotting, character, and setting. Writers often spend hours plotting and creating characters, but sometimes pay little attention to setting. The place where your story unfolds provides the backdrop against which your drama plays out. With knowledge gained from a decade of mystery and suspense courses at Maryland’s Bethesda Writers’ Center, Hill will show how setting is more than a backdrop for action; it is an interactive part of your fictional world that saturates the story with mood, meaning, and thematic connotations. She will explore the importance of using setting as character, to indicate the passing of time, the importance of using the five senses, as well as other tools setting can provide to the writer. Participants in the workshop are encouraged (but not commanded) to bring one (1) sample paragraph of their own writing that shows setting, or to send two (2) such paragraphs at least four days ahead of time to Hill at Hillerroo@gmail.com. Your writing will be gently critiqued in a manner that highlights both its weaknesses and strengths. About the instructor: South Carolina author Sasscer Hill has written seven novels, many short stories, and has received multiple award nominations, including an Agatha, a Macavity, and the Dr. Tony Ryan Best in Racing Literature Award. One of her two completed manuscripts under contract with St. Martins Press, THE DARK SIDE OF TOWN, won First Place in the Carrie McCray 2015 Competition for First Chapter of a Novel, and was a runner up for the prestigious Claymore Award. Working with writers’ groups, she has critiqued thousands of pages of published authors work. Sasscer received a B.A. with honors in English Literature from Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, PA. For more information or to sign up, visit the conference here:   http://deckleedgesc.org/  

Monday, January 2, 2017

FLAMINGO ROAD

So thrilled to receive this first and fabulous trade review from Kirkus on FLAMINGO ROAD. I am also very appreciative of the unnamed reviewer who read the story closely and got it right! Thank you Kirkus.

FLAMINGO ROAD 

Sasscer Hill

Review Issue Date: January 15, 2017
Online Publish Date: December 27, 2016
Publisher:Minotaur
Pages: 320
Price ( Hardcover ): $25.99
Publication Date: April 18, 2017
ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-1-250-09691-3
Category: Fiction
Classification: Mystery

The dark and dirty underbelly of horse racing is exposed when a Baltimore cop goes to visit relatives in Florida.Internal Affairs has been very interested in Fia McKee ever since she shot and killed the man who was choking Shyra Darnell, a hot walker at Pimlico who's so afraid of someone that she refuses to answer any questions. When Fia's beloved father, a racehorse trainer, was murdered five years earlier, Fia joined the police and has never given up on his case, which has now turned very cold. Put on leave, she answers a call for help from her brother, Patrick, whose wife has walked out and left him with a horse-crazy teen. Someone's been slaughtering people's horses for meat, and when Cody, her niece Jilly's gelding, becomes a victim, Fia gets mad and plots to get even. The night of the gelding's death, she meets a man named Zanin who runs the Protect the Animals League and is trying to stop the carnage. Zanin is sure the guilty party is a Cuban-American who lives in the dangerous and lawless area known as the C-Nine Basin, but no one's been able to prove that he's involved. Meantime, Fia learns that her problems back home may go away if she agrees to go undercover for the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau at Florida's Gulfstream Park, where horses that shouldn't be winning are suddenly showing amazing talent. Fia eases into a job as an exercise rider for an honest trainer while trying to discover what new, so far undetectable, drug is turning ordinary horses into superstars. Hill (Racing from Evil, 2016, etc.) boasts a knowledge of horses and the very real problems in horse racing that fill this sound mystery with thrills and hair-raising action from first to last. 



Thursday, August 18, 2016

TRAVELING THE WRITER'S ROAD

When I was seventeen, I found this quote that touched my soul.

“We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started. And know the place for the first time.” – T. S. Eliot- 1955


















Eliot’s words nail my experience with life’s adventures, none so much as my journey as a writer. 

THE FIRST NOVEL
Back in the nineties, I wanted to write a novel, and though I could write, I knew nothing about being an author or writing a mystery novel. To learn, I read several books on writing and took mystery courses at a writer's school in Maryland.

I was told that before I wrote a novel about a jockey named Nikki Latrelle, I should write her back story. The idea was to find out who Nikki was, and what made her tick before I began writing her into the novel, FULL MORTALITY. Hard work, but it paid off. FULL MORTALITY was picked up by a small press and received Agatha and a Macavity best first novel nominations.

I wrote two more Nikki Latrelle books, but unfortunately, the small press provided little marketing and didn't stock the books in libraries and book stores. I was forced to abandon Nikki. 









Click here to find the Nikki books 


THE BIG CONTRACT
I wanted a publishing contract with one of New York's big five publishers. My agent said I had to write a new series. So I did. My new heroine, Fia McKee, landed me a two book deal with St. Martins, a thrilling and heady moment, for sure.

But the huge gap between the last Nikki Latrelle, published in 2013, and the not-available-until 2017, FLAMINGO ROAD worried me. I’d planned to start a third in the Fia McKee series, but realized if the first two books in this new series don’t succeed, St. Martins could drop me like a hot potato.
FLAMINGO ROAD, Coming April, 2017





















I knew that some publishers are asking their authors to write novellas and short stories to remain in the public eye during intervals between full length novels. I decided to self publish another Nikki Latrelle. And so, after the long journey of writing five books, I returned to my notes about Nikki Latrelle’s early years. 

BACK TO THE BEGINNING Like the Eliot quote, I came back to where I’d started and knew the place for the first time.


This tale of Nikki’s early years was poignant and loaded with reader satisfaction.  Imagine a fatherless thirteen-year-old girl whose mother dies suddenly, leaving her in the hands of a lewd, malevolent stepfather. 

The fact that she does survive and succeeds should make a good story, so I wrote the Nikki Latrelle novella, RACING FROM EVIL. The novella has sold well and been a good stopgap.  





Click here to find RACING FROM EVIL


I was still torn, for in my heart I believe the St. Martins/Fia McKee series will succeed. After all, the unpublished series won the Carrie McCray (South Carolina Writers Association) Award for Best First Chapter of a Novel, and received a nomination for a Claymore Award.


A CALIFORNIA NOVEL
I wanted the next Fia McKee to take place at Santa Anita Park in California, and even took a trip out to the track, touring it and the Hollywood area nearby. I wanted a murder mystery set at this well-known track surrounded by the glitz and deceit of Hollywood. 

Me and Ziconic









Checking out the lady's room in the "High Roller" section of Santa Anita Racetrack

But again that fear niggled at me. What if the first two novels don’t succeed? What good will this idea be then? If I want to sell to another big five publisher, any book I write, has to be something new, which means yet another series and a new set of characters.


A TRAVELERS NOVEL
Since I can’t afford not to hedge my bets, I started a new book–a murder mystery about the American Irish Travelers. By happy coincidence, the largest enclave of these people is Murphy Village, not more than forty minutes from my home in South Carolina.

Travelers have a fascinating culture. The children are taken out of school by eighth grade, if not before, and the girls are married by contract and usually as young teens. Travelers stick to themselves and have little dealings with outsiders. Society believes the Travelers are scam and con artists. Truth be told, these families do take to the road in the summer doing odd jobs out of state, sometimes scamming or even robbing people. 
Travelers who haven't pulled in the cash live like this.










What would it be like for a girl who grows up in this atmosphere? What if she wants out? Where would she go? What would happen to her?

And so, another book starts. My research included a plan to drive to Murphy Village, and shoot video and photos of the huge McMansions these people build and the religious statues I had read stood in every yard. But friends in Aiken were aghast.

"You're going to drive into Murphy Village? Don't to that! They'll surround your car, ask what business you have in their village. They'll run you out!"  

Travelers with the cash build houses like this.
Notice the old single-wide trailer still in the yard?

But mystery authors will not be denied, and I went up there, anyway. I got the images I wanted. Amazing to see these huge homes without any landscaping in the same yard with single wide trailers, trailers that could still hit the road if necessary. I didn't have any trouble with the natives, and the next morning, I found out why. Imagine my shock to see this headline.
                                                   











Of course, no one had both bothered me. These people were in enough trouble already. Probably didn't want any more. 


Below, are pictures of the evolving village. As the travelers make more money, they build more huge houses and even begin landscaping. But those with less money continue to live in their double-wides.













The orange sign is a subject to forfeiture notice from the feds.
  Apparently the home belongs to one of the 32 people indicted. 




























And so for me, another story evolves, and another exploration begins. Only time will tell which way I travel, but at least I’ll be as prepared as possible for whatever happens next.

Pondering the road we travel with Lee Child at Bouchercon












Tuesday, September 1, 2015

ONE AUTHOR’S JOURNEY TO A NEW YORK PUBLISHING DEAL

Like many of my writer friends, the road I have traveled so far in the quest for a “big” publisher has been long and hard.

In 1994, I finished my first book, a novel of romantic suspense. I landed an agent with the manuscript. He sent it out to six major publishers. They rejected the book, and the agent immediately dropped me.

I was so devastated and naive, I crawled away to lick my wounds for five wasted years, before taking several courses at the Bethesda Writer’s center where I learned not just how to write mystery fiction, but the elements that must be included. Stuff I’d never heard of, like story arcs, plot points. I learned how to write a synopsis, how to market, network, and that I needed to join groups like Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. 



While taking these courses, I wrote the first book in the Nikki Latrelle series, FULL MORTALITY. With the novel finished some time in 2005, I queried 40 literary agents before securing one who believed FULL MORTALITY could attract a New York publisher. After months of this agent sending out and receiving rejections, I was disheartened to say the least. Of course, my agent avoided small publishers as the money was too meager for her.

In the meantime I wrote the second in the series, RACING FROM DEATH, which lingered at Bantam, New American Library and Berkeley for a total of 13 months before being rejected. Then, Marcia Markland at St. Martin’s Press requested an exclusive on RACING FROM DEATH before rejecting the manuscript nine months later. And so, another five years crawled by. 

I met John Betancourt, the publisher of the small DC area Wildside Press. He’d read parts of RACING FROM DEATH and offered to take it on, but I wanted to wait for the big NY deal. I waited on these NY publishers until the stock market crashed in 2008 and the Maryland horse market went down the drain right behind it.

In February of 2010, my favorite author Dick Francis passed away, I was diagnosed with lymphoma, and my horse farm was hit by the historic blizzard, Snowmageddon, the worst snow storm in the history of Maryland. 


The first hour of Snowmageddon


By now I was desperate and emailed Betancourt to ask if he’d look at the first in the series, FULL MORTALITY. He read the manuscript during the blizzard and accepted the book for publication the next day.


My agent informed me a NY publisher would no longer want to take on the rest of the series. We parted ways.

The treatment I underwent for my lymphoma was wonderfully successful, and miraculously, FULL MORTALITY was published in May of 2010, received rave reviews, and was nominated for both Agatha and Macavity Best First Book awards.


These nominations, and another big batch of query letters, helped secure a new, truly professional agent. But by the time I finished the third book, THE SEA HORSE TRADE, I knew my old agent had been right. New York publishers were not interested in a new book in a series already in the hands of another publisher–unless it had humongous sales. A word to the wise: you are unlikely to get humongous sales with a small press.

In the hopes of making some pocket change, I put a number of my short stories up on Kindle. I made a dollar here, a dollar there, almost enough to buy dog food.
My new agent told me if I wanted a bigger publisher that might provide me with a modest income, I had to start a new series. So I did, creating “Fia McKee,” a thirty-two-year old agent for the real life agency, Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau (TRPB.) I drove up to Fair Hill, Maryland, in the winter of 2012 and interviewed with the President and Vice President of the TRPB. The President asked me so many questions I felt almost like a criminal under investigation.


TRPB in Fair Hill, MD


I started the first book in the Fia Mckee series after I moved to Aiken in the fall of 2012, but lost most of 2012 and the beginning of 2013 to selling the farm that had been in my family for over two hundred years, my horses, moving to Aiken, and settling in. I finished the manuscript with the working title FLAMINGO ROAD  around August of 2014. I started the second in the series in October of 2014.

My agent began shopping FLAMINGO ROAD in December of 2014. An editor at St. Martins Minotaur showed interest in FLAMINGO ROAD, but with some reservations about the public’s interest in a horse racing novel. I immediately went to work. Phone calls and research provided me with statistics on the surprisingly strong popularity of horse racing. I cited things like NBC’s unprecedented ten-year extension agreement to broadcast rights to the Breeders Cup weekend races as well as the eleven qualifying races that precede that two-day, all-star  event. I noted how a recent ESPN poll showed horse racing is the most popular non-team sport, beating out tennis, boxing, and even NASCAR! I managed to dig up and write two pages of statistics, and my agent sent them to the St. Martins’ editor.

Happily, less than a week after this, the Carrie McCray committee announced that my in-progress novel, the second of the Fia McKee series, had won their Best First-Chapter of a Novel award. How did this happen? When I moved to Aiken, I joined the South Carolina Writer’s Workshop, the state writer’s association, and got involved with the group.

Amazingly, that same week, my previously published Nikki Latrelle horse racing trilogy received a glorious endorsement from Steve Haskin, the senior Correspondent for the Blood-Horse, and a former national correspondent for the Daily Racing Form. The recipient of eighteen awards for excellence in turf writing, Haskin wrote, “Sasscer, the honor comes in your accomplishments and talent, and you should take great pride in such a magnificent trifecta. Congratulations!!! Well done. Dick Francis lives!” 
http://tinyurl.com/n5gaavf

                      

How did I get this 20015 endorsement? I befriended Haskin on Facebook in 2009, reading and commenting on his excellent posts and articles in the “Blood Horse,” for five years.

But the brightest star to align that very same week was a racehorse named American Pharoah. Deep in my heart, I’d believed if the colt could pull off the historical and momentous feat of winning the first Triple Crown in 37 years, it might nudge a publishing offer from St. Martins my way. White knuckled, I watched the final race. When American Pharoah blasted around the Belmont track on the lead, rocketed down the stretch, pulling away from the Belmont field, I screamed, “My God, he’s going to win!” 

And when he opened up even more and won by daylight, I wept. I turned to my husband and said, “I think I’m going to get an offer.” I could feel the bright star that is my love for horses rising over me. Pharoah’s race drew 22 million television viewers, and the subsequent radio, television, and social media attention was phenomenal. Within a week, American Pharoah appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and a day later, I received a two-book offer from St. Martins Minotaur.
THE DEAL!




Inspectors McChickens inspect Hill's Trilogy and ten pages
 of  St. Martin's contracts for the new two-book deal!




YOUR TAKE AWAY FROM THIS STORY:
Never give up.
Learn your craft, but follow your heart.
Always be kind and gracious, you never know if the person sitting next to you, or posting on Facebook might be a key to unlock a door.
Know your market.
Join groups, but don’t let them take too much of your time.
Nothing is a important as writing.
Network, but do so within reason. See previous sentence.
When you go to meetings note (A) writers you like and admire. Now, note (B)writers you don’t like or admire. Tip: for heaven’s sake behave like the A writers!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Low Country Chapter of Romance Writers of America hosts author Sasscer Hill.

Incorporating Your Life Into Your Author’s World
Guest Speaker: Sasscer Hill
Location: Charleston, South Carolina
Coosaw Creek Country Club, Ashley Room
Times: Luncheon at 11:30 a.m.; Speaker at 1:00 pm


Are you trying to kick start your first novel? Your fifth novel? Find a story idea, or plot? Are you overwhelmed by the concept of platform and branding?
Sasscer Hill will address these questions. She wants to provide you with motivation, and arm you with a couple of obvious weapons you may not even know you have. Sasscer writes horse racing mysteries. Her brand and platform is that she was a race horse owner, breeder, and rider for years. What is your platform as it relates to what you write?
Now that Sasscer is retired from the hands on business of horse racing, how does she continue to strengthen that brand? How can you?
Come on February 28 and help Sasscer find the ammunition you can use to jump start or strengthen your writing career.