Thursday, August 29, 2013

Richard Hacker on writing and 'Dirty Water'

Welcome author Richard Hacker to the blog today!

What was the inspiration behind 'Dirty Water'?
All of the Nick Sibelius crime novels are set in Austin, Texas and I’ve had an environmental thread throughout. Toxic Relationship centered around toxic waste dumping. Dirty Water focuses on an issue Texas and all of the Southwest struggles with--water. As I wrote Dirty Water, another cycle of drought hit the state. And as we speak, the state is still in the grasp of drought with lake levels way down and crops parched. Water is gold in Texas.
How much do you have in common with the main character, PI Nick Sibelius?
Nick and I both appreciate a good bourbon (although I can’t seem to get him to stop drinking Jack Daniels), TexMex, a cold beer on a hot day, smoked Texas brisket, and a love of Texas. We part ways with women (I’m married to my high school sweetheart, he’s divorced and now perpetually single), children (I have a daughter, Nick doesn’t have kids), criminals (I don’t have any violent criminal friends, Nick has quite a few), and guns (I shoot at targets, he shoots at bad guys on a regular basis.
Which character was the most fun to write?
For Dirty Water it’s a tough call between the eco-terrorist Charity and the developer Dan Hoyt. But I’ll go with Charity. She’s a tall, athletic cyclist eco-terrorist who has it in for ‘carbon spewers’ and anyone who might want to run her off the road. She’s crazy, but extremely passionate about her cause. A conversation with her would be fascinating, hearing the story of what drives her and why she traveled from Australia to the States. I’m also pretty clear that Charity is not someone you want for a friend. She’s certifiable. A sociopath with anger issues. Hanging around Charity guarantees jail time, injury, or more likely, both.
Which scene is your favorite?
Tough questions!! I’ll go with the first one that comes to mind. Dan Hoyt hires Nick because he’s convinced someone is trying to scare him, possibly even kill him. He wakes up late one night with a lobster firmly affixed to his foot with one of its claws. Then he sees the other two. Convinced he’s being attacked by hit lobsters a bit of slapstick ensues involving a baseball bat and a pari of pliers. I’ll leave it to your imagination so I don’t spoil it for you. It’s one of those scenes I had to take laugh breaks while I wrote.
What kind of research did you have to do for this book?
Are you kidding? A Nick Sibelius novel requires meticulous research involving eating lots of TexMex, BBQ and beer. But seriously, I go to Austin often to visit family and friends. I’ll drive around, looking for locations like I’m shooting a movie. For example, in Dirty Water, the antagonist, Izzy Zydeco’s office happens to be the building just west of the Loop 360 bridge on Lake Austin. I scoped out some murder locations, imagining where the action would take place and where to hide the bodies. In the previous novel, Toxic Relationship, I took pictures of the overpass in Pflugerville I used for a shooting. I do have to be careful. Imagine a police officer stopping by wondering why I’m loitering under a bridge or by a dumpster and I unthinkingly say something like, “Oh, I’m planning a murder.”
Will we ever see these characters again?
The next book, Chain Reaction, which is tentatively scheduled for release in March, 2014 brings Nick, Theresa, and Gov. Francis Adamson back in full-force. I’m also pleased to say my transgendered character, Alice, returns from her Jamaican love retreat and plays a more active role.
Please tell us more about your other published books.
Toxic Relationship was my first novel, published in 2012 by Champagne Books. You don’t need to read the Sibelius series in order, but Toxic Relationship introduces you to Nick and the piece of Texas he calls home. After young couple disappears and a bass fisherman turns up dead, his investigation leads him to his past. He discovers the felon who killed his partner in Houston has joined forces with Barry, a sociopathic dentist turned illegal toxic waste and methamphetamine entrepreneur with visions of grandeur, Nick must not only stop the toxic waste dumping while finding his client's missing daughter, but keep from being killed in the process.
On what other projects are you currently working?

I am writing a new adult fantasy tentatively called Inker Wars: The Five Pens of Johann. It’s a fun and challenging project which mixes fantasy, historical fiction, speculative fiction and sci fi. I haven’t started on a fourth Nick Sibelius novel yet, but I do have some ideas. So it’s definitely a possibility.
You write in a variety of genres. Do you have a favorite?
The fantasy writing I’m doing is hard work, from the historical research to the execution of the plot. I love the intricacies of the work and the challenge. The humorous crime novels are just plain fun to write. If I need to relax and have some fun, writing a Sibelius story is the ticket. So I can’t say I have a favorite since they serve different purposes. I love both genres.
How does your family support you as a writer?
I had a career and my own business as a business consultant doing one-on-one coaching and group training--essentially helping people play well together. We moved from Austin in 2009 after having lived there for many years for my wife’s work. I was about to fire up my business once again when she grabbed me by the shoulders and suggested this was a chance to change things up. Why not write like you’ve always wanted? It’s a scary thing to step away from your means of making a living to pursue what you love. Sidney encouraged and supported me. And with that focus I’ve attracted a publisher for my work and am beginning to build readers. So I’d say she supports me 110%.
You have lived in both Texas and Seattle. What are some of your favorite places in each one?
A perfect day in Texas. Take a walk around Lady Bird Lake followed by a big plate of migas at Magnolia Cafe. Then get in the car and drive toward Fredricksburg. Take the Willow City Loop, a small road winding down a canyon. Roll down the windows, put down the top, take in a bit of the Texas Hill Country. Go over to Enchanted Rock, a massive granite formation, climb to the top for a bird’s eye view, then swing over to Fredricksburg for a lunch and some antiquing. Then hit a few wineries on the way back to Austin. Yes, you’re going to want to drop by Barton Springs for a dip in the spring fed pool, then off to Lockhart for some BBQ at Blacks. Now back to Austin to wander 6th street for some live music and since you’re visiting, why not stay at the historic old Driskill Hotel.

A perfect day in Seattle. Stand at Sunset Park overlooking Puget Sound, Bainbridge Island, as the sun sets over the snow covered Olympic Mountains. Go to Pikes Place Market, buy a huge bouquet of flowers for $5, then take the monorail to Seattle Center and go to the top of the Needle for a spectacular 360 degree view-- The Olympics to the West, Mt. Baker to the North, the Cascades to the East, and Mt. Rainier to the south. You’ll also see the hills which make up the neighborhoods of urban Seattle. Drive out to Snoqualmie Lodge, the location for Twin Peaks, see the falls, and grab a bite at the Lodge. Get on the water--rowing shell, kayak, sailboat, tour boat--whatever way you can get on the water for a unique view of a city surrounded by water. Drink--I’ve never lived in a place so devoted to the art of cocktails, distilled spirits, wine and beer in my life. Eat--Seattlites are serious foodies, so when in Seattle, eat. Often.
What can you be found doing when not reading or writing?
Walking my dog, Jazz. She’s a 2 year old springer spaniel with lots of energy. Riding my scooter. I ride around for errands, but I also will go on little excursions, for example a pizza slice and a beer in Alki beach in West Seattle. Hiking. And given what I said above, eating and drinking!
What is something readers may be surprised to learn about you?
I’m a licensed pilot. After moving to Seattle I backed off the flying. I do have an instrument rating, but flying in the muck by instruments is work. I fly for fun. Maybe if I return to a more consistently sunny clime, I’ll pick it back up again.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I want to thank you and your readers for our time together. And I hope everyone enjoys reading about Nick Sibelius as much as I enjoy writing about him.
Thank you so much for your time!

Crime Thirller - Suspense/Mystery
Date Published:
June 2013
Publisher: Champagne Books

Synopsis: An open and shut case of vandalism leaves more questions than answers for PI Nick Sibelius, as he untangles a knot of egomania, desire and greed. When entrepreneur Dan Hoyt makes a deal with virtual gaming icon, Izzy Zydeco, to partner in a desalination project Hoyt begins to count his money. Unknown to Hoyt, his partner has bigger and more insidious plans, which involves betraying a major drug cartel and, in a twisted business strategy to build a customer base for desalinated water, contaminating the Austin water supply for the next century. Working with a covert Homeland Security agent and past love, MaryLou and his new partner, Theresa, Nick must thwart Izzy and ultimately choose between justice and saving Theresa’s life. Water is up for grabs in Texas and Nick discovers that H2O is a dirty business.

Read an excerpt:

Target #5

Charity’s universe demanded blood for the pain she endured.

She sat in her black Nissan Leaf, silent but for the sound of the impatient tapping of her fingers on the steering wheel. Her eyes fixed on a red roof tiled Spanish revival number in the cul-de-sac of Island Palms Cove, a street lined with multi-million dollar mansions along a custom built peninsula on Lake Austin. Ignoring the opulence, she watched a fire red Ferrari 430, license plate number HNJ 793. Her hopped up, speed addicted, hacker of a cousin Larry had provided, as usual, the required critical information. She'd handed him her standard envelop with his “medication” and a license plate number. Several hours later, he emailed an encrypted file with all of the particulars, including a code for the security gate. Charity would make Daniel Hoyt pay for his disrespect of cyclists.

She pondered the idea of sticking a gun in Hoyt’s, mouth. She’d pull the trigger, watching his brain matter splatter across the mirrored surface of his fucking Italian super car. Imagining how sunbaked blood and brain would absolutely eat right through the clear coat, destroying his mirror finish, gave her a visceral pleasure. Balance. Don't worry about the future, girl, focus on the goal.

Sitting in her carbon zero car, she downed a non-fat latte, one power bar and an electrolyte packed coconut water. Her hip ached and the need to take a piss rose with some urgency. For a moment she considered packing it in for the day, knowing she could come back tomorrow. Tapping an iPod strapped to her arm, a high energy male voice filled her ear buds.

“Are you haunted by demons? Do you find your plans faltering? Do you let your fear of failure stop you from achieving your goals?”

Charity spoke out loud to her demons – the lazy, fat, loser demons who always haunted her whenever she “hit the wall” during a race or a workout.

“Come on, Charity! Push it! Push through it, goddamn it! Let’s go. Let’s go!”

The podcast continued. “How do you approach life? ‘Fire, ready, aim’? To live with intention, to live consciously in the world, you must rearrange your world from ‘fire, ready, aim’ to ‘ready, aim, fire!’” Charity stepped out of the car into a warm, humid summer morning. She scanned the area, then pulled down her black tech fabric riding shorts. Squatting, she kept her legs far enough apart to avoid the splashing stream of urine. While peeing felt good, the indignity of the moment set off her ongoing anger at God. Men had pricks they could just hang out at will to pee.

If God was a woman, then women, whenever the mood or necessity warranted, would be able to yank a man’s prick right off, like the tail of a chameleon, who scurries away nub-butted while you hold the still twitching member in your hand.

The energetic male voice pulled her back to the task at hand, “What is ‘Ready’? You are ready when mind, body and spirit, when your whole being is a coiled spring for action. Can you feel your creative, life spirit tension about to explode?”

Charity repeated her mantra. “Yes, I am Ready. I am a coiled spring. I am a creative explosion.”

Finishing, she pulled her shorts up over her long and freckled muscular legs, watching her quads flex as she smoothed the leg band. As had been the pattern for the last three days, Hoyt had not left his house before 6:30 am. She checked her pink GPS enabled training watch. 5:05 am. Plenty of time.

“Readiness is not sufficient. To be powerful you must AIM. A for Attitude, the attitude of a winner. I for Intention, intending with heart, mind and soul the reality you will create. And M for Manifestation, making your power real in the world.”

“I am ready. I am a winner. I will manifest my power to create life exactly how I want it. Let’s go, Charity.”

Pulling the trunk release, she reached for her Iron Divas black and pink workout bag with a white skeleton riding a pink road bike, the skeletal rider’s long flaming hair trailing behind, teeth gritted the load of the bag. Her focus on Hoyt had taken her off the daily workout regimen. Just one more reason she hated this sonofabitch. Opening the bag, she pulled out a one liter opaque plastic bottle filled with a batch of highly concentrated fox urine she had purchased at Hill Country Outfitters the day before.

“I am a winner. I will prevail.”

Moving quickly, she jogged the two blocks to an expansive home with terra cotta roof tiles and her target red sports car in the driveway. She crept to the driver’s side of the Ferrari, checking the door. No alarm. Even though she had a “smash and go” plan if needed, it pissed her off the egotistical jerk assumed no one would dare mess with his ride. She worked fast. Placing a gel pack on the driver’s side door to dampen the sound, she punched a quarter inch hole through the carbon fiber door with a titanium drill bit. Charity pulled a battery powered pump with two drooping hoses from her bag. One hose connected to the urine filled bottle. She slipped the other hose, fitted with a tiny spray nozzle, into the hole, then flipped the switch. The pump hummed. A sulfurous stench filled the morning air, as urine flowed through clear plastic tubing, disappearing into Hoyt’s sports car’s door. A fine mist sprayed out the nozzle onto the interior and custom red and black racing seats. Her pump strained, having emptied the container. She pulled the hose out, causing some liquid to dribble down the door, splashing onto the drive. Charity took a breath in through her nose, the stench like diarrhea and burnt hair causing her to gag, acidic vomit coming up in her mouth.

Be strong. Be confident. Be courageous.

Closing her eyes she regained her focus, put the equipment back into her bag and twisted a bullet shaped tampon into the hole, its pale blue string dangling in the air.

She ran back, tossing her gear in the trunk, then drove to the Laguna Gloria Museum parking lot to put on her cycling shoes, helmet, gloves and riding glasses. 5:55 am. She lifted her pink carbon road bike off the roof rack, checked tire pressure and brakes, then clipped in, heading back to Hoyt’s house. Her legs burned as she conquered the gradual slope of Mount Bonnell Road. She was strong, powerful, in control. Hoyt had begun his crucible of becoming her fifth target. But as she shifted through the gears, Charity reminded herself while Target #5 would be fun, she had come to Austin with a singular purpose: to kill her brother’s murderer.

Yes, the Universe demands a balance of blood for pain.

Richard Hacker’s novel, TOXIC RELATIONSHIP, released August, 2012 by Champagne Books was a 2011 Writer’s League of Texas (WLT) finalist, where in addition, SHAPER EMERGENCE won best novel in the Science Fiction category. He is a member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association.

After living many years in Austin, Texas where he worked as a leadership coach, public speaker and management trainer, he moved with his high school sweetheart to Seattle. While he misses the big skies of Texas, Richard has grown fond of the Pacific Northwest. His writing partner, a springer spaniel named Jazz, helps with proofreading and ball fetching.

DIRTY WATER, the next novel in the Nick Sibelius series after TOXIC RELATIONSHIP, will be released June, 2013. He is currently working on the third book in the series, CHAIN REACTION, as well as a young adult fantasy entitled INKER WARS: THE FIVE PENS OF JOHANN.

Visit him online at


Twitter: @Richard_Hacker


Dirty Water 
Giveaway Contest

Two fans who answer the survey correctly will be randomly selected to win $25 Amazon Gift Certificates.
Read the book. Take the  survey. Win the prize.
Two chances to win!

Send your completed questionnaire to:

What is your email address? (The address will be used to send the contest winner their prize and may be used to send you periodic updates on future publications.)


1. Who was pitching in Nick’s dream? ____

A. Sandy Koufax


Nolan Ryan


Roger Clemens


Andy Petit

2. What mythological creature terrifies Charity?  ____

A. Banshee





D. Yeti

3. Jonah Martin plays one of Izzy Zydeco’s virtual games. What is it?  ____

A. Mujahid Deathmatch 1.2


Kill Bird Death Knell


Argo Blaster Kill Zone 3


Pro Tennis Courtside

4. What is Dan Hoyt building on the Texas coast?  ___

A. Spa Resort

B. Margarita Machine Factory


Suntan lotion boutique


Desalination Plant

5. Nick has a run-in with what drug cartel?  ____

A. Tres cerditos


Los Tejanos Diablos


Los Distribuidores


La Familia

Send your completed questionnaire to:

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