Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Child of Privilege {+ Giveaways}

I’m delighted today to welcome a new-to-me author Ross Ponderson to Thoughts in Progress and learn about his recent release, CHILD OF PRIVILEGE.

Ross will be talking about how his book came about and his writing in general. In addition, he is sharing an excerpt from the book and has graciously offered not one but five (5) free Kindle Gift eBook downloads for a giveaway. Please see the end of the post for more giveaway details.

Here’s a description of CHILD OF PRIVILEGE:

Dana Van Werner is riding a bus bound for nowhere.
          In her pockets, she carries a bus ticket, $260, hope, her own wits, and an unbreakable will. In her memories, she carries the nightmares of frequent beatings, growing up in constant fear, physical and verbal abuse, and her father's unfathomable hatred. Dana, a 19-year-old debutante born into wealth, privilege, culture, and social standing, ponders her new world--the "real" world--for which she is laughably ill-prepared.
          She doesn't know where she's going, where her next meal is coming from, or where she'll sleep tonight. She does, however, take comfort in two certainties: that the brutal beatings at the hands of her father--a psychotic, powerful attorney--are finally over; and that her decision to run away from the palatial mansion she once called home has probably saved her life.
          This lovable, down-to-earth teenager (more "girl next door" than debutante) grows up quickly as she confronts intercity buses, seedy motels, wet t-shirt contests, jail cells, honky-tonks, night people, and sexual predators. All the while, she is relentlessly pursued by private investigators hired by her revenge-obsessed father to bring her back under his control. 
          You'll cheer the courage, strength, and determination of this endearing heroine as she searches for a new home and a new life, and finds a gentle, caring man--a bachelor deputy sheriff--who truly loves her. 
          But she has no inkling of the nightmare awaiting her at the end of the road.
          A dizzying chain of events is triggered by an accident that claims the life of someone Dana loves. Suspicions surrounding the tragedy--and her own anger--force the teenager to return home. Upon her arrival, a humiliating family secret kept carefully hidden for years is callously revealed. This sets the stage for the inevitable final showdown between father and daughter as long-simmering anger, resentment, and hunger for revenge finally erupt into a terrifying flashpoint.
          This emotional rollercoaster will lift you to heartwarming heights, plunge you into tearful depths, and amuse you with moments of wry humor.  
          Join Dana Van Werner on her desperate journey. Let this Child of Privilege inspire you, uplift you, and touch you in her uniquely personal way. You just may discover a part of yourself in her.

Please join me now in giving a warm welcome to Ross as he talks about his writing. Welcome, Ross.

As my favorite English teacher critiqued a short story I’d written for his class, he offered me a nugget of sage advice that has remained with me to this day: “Conflict is the root of all good fiction.”

Without the time-honored struggles of antagonist versus protagonist, good versus evil, and predator versus prey, you have no arc of suspense; your story has no “hook” to engage the reader’s imagination; that thrilling climax you’ve envisioned has no conflicts to resolve; and, worse yet, your novel fails to establish an “interest connection” with your reader.

In short, you have no story.

CHILD OF PRIVILEGE’s development began with—of all things—a newspaper photo of a group of debutantes attending a fundraising gala. They were the essence of culture, grace and style: visions of elegance in their lavish formal gowns, their beautiful faces impeccably made-up and positively beaming, and not a hair out of place. 

Then the writer’s best friend—the beloved “what if”—started blasting in the back of my mind like an arcade game. What if this picture were nothing more than a facade? What if those picture-perfect smiles were disguising something dark and sinister? What if—behind the closed doors of their opulent mansions—their lives were punctuated by beatings, emotional and verbal abuse, and the constant fear of family violence? What if one of those affluent, beautiful young women was—behind that glittering smile--reaching her emotional breaking point?

Thus was born my debut novel, CHILD OF PRIVILEGE, and its protagonist, Dana Van Werner.

My primary antagonist—and Dana would be tormented by several over the course of the novel—was her father Richard, a wealthy, Type-A, mega-successful lawyer driven by a veritable rogue’s gallery of demons: power, winning at any cost, social standing, greed, avarice, influence, and the unquestioned domination of his world, especially his family whom he regarded as little more than window-dressing for his own public image.

Curious as to whether or not this outrageous idea had the “legs” to run the literary marathon that is a modern-day novel, I started scribbling down a series of ideas, possibilities, and concepts as they occurred to me. I was amazed at how easily they all flowed.

The first component of the story would serve to “equalize” Dana with the “real world,” to banish her from her comfort zone--blue-blooded society--and effectively “knock her down a few pegs.” A huge number of pegs, actually. That part was easy. To that end, the story opens in the middle of a chilly autumn night with Dana riding a decrepit intercity bus bound for nowhere. You can imagine how that felt to a young woman accustomed to luxury and elegance. But she had finally escaped the chamber of horrors that was the Van Werner mansion. In doing so, however, she had cut herself off from her former life, including her home, her wealth, and her long-suffering socialite mother Maggie. 

As the miles swirled past in the darkness, Dana continually struggled with smothering feelings of loneliness, doubt, isolation, fear, and worry for the beloved Mom she had left behind.

The liberation of Dana Van Werner had begun.

Once I had pried her out of her element, I started concocting a string of situations that would confront this former debutante: fleabag motels, seedy diners, perverts, jail cells, honky-tonks, night people, and sexual predators. One particularly introspective sequence featured her dancing in a wet t-shirt contest to earn money for a bus ticket. Two long-running threads were used to build my suspense arc: Richard’s relentless pursuit of his prodigal daughter across the country; and the parade of private detectives hired to bring her back under his control. I created one detective in particular—a vulgar, obnoxious buffoon named Reavis Macklin—to take a fiendish delight in tormenting Dana well beyond the requirements of his assignment.                   

Character development and evolution are essential in building that bridge to the reader. To that end, I designed an unusually large number of inter-character conflicts into my storyline. In addition, I forced each player to confront his/her own personal demons as well. The result is a story taut with tension and uncertainty, betrayals and shifting alliances, behind-the-scenes skullduggery and lies, flawed heroes and demonic villains, and a plot with more twists than the bakery section of your local supermarket. These were just a few of the many devices I employed to keep the suspense arc climbing and heightening its appeal to the reader.

After spending a night in jail and escaping a horrifying encounter with Macklin, Dana found refuge in a bucolic Colorado farm town. There she also found love in the form of a bachelor deputy sheriff who convinced her that a man’s touch needn’t be malicious and painful. I took particular pains to bring that budding relationship along slowly, wanting to avoid the “Hi …nice to meet you … let’s do it” scenario. Considering the scars Dana bore, that approach would’ve lacked credibility. Slowly, she did learn to trust again and to feel comfortable with a man’s touch.

Richard’s frustration, meanwhile, pushed him to the brink of insanity. In one of the subplots, an accident triggered a stunning turn of events that drew Dana back home and straight into her father’s clutches. In the shadows, Reavis Macklin quietly plotted unthinkable revenge against our heroine.

With Dana’s reappearance at the Van Werner mansion, everything hit the fan at once.

Dana and Richard clashed in a singularly bloody and emotional showdown. Macklin—drunk on a reckless cocktail of anger, macho, and testosterone—interfered and threw himself into the carnage of an already horrifying scene. A humiliating and long-hidden secret was callously revealed and shredded the fabric of the Van Werner family. Truths were uncovered and closets were flung wide open, allowing their skeletons to tumble forth. By the time those climactic chapters closed, all that remained were the post-mortems. 

As for those final pages before The End, I think many authors develop a signature “style” for closing out a novel. One approach that has always intrigued me was one used in the 1970s movie American Graffiti and on the Dragnet television series. As a result, I dedicated CHILD’s final chapter to a series of brief vignettes describing the principal characters’ ultimate fates. Some readers appreciated this; others preferred to use their own imaginations. It’s a matter of personal preference and I respect that. But I wanted to present a complete story—a neatly-wrapped package, if you will—to the reader. On a personal level, it also lent a sense of closure to the novel.

In closing, I hope this peek inside CHILD OF PRIVILEGE has been informative and entertaining. I enjoyed bringing it to you. I would also like to thank Mason Canyon for the opportunity to meet all of you. 

Happy reading … and writing!

Ross, thank you for joining us today and sharing this understanding into your story. I especially like how you took a photo of a group of debutantes and turned it into this fascinating thriller. The ‘What if’ is a powerful tool.

Now for those who aren’t familiar with Ross, here’s a bit of background on him.

Author Ross Ponderson doesn't do photos :-)
Ross Ponderson is a retired IT guy from the USA. Formerly spending far too many hours writing programming gobbledygook, he is now writing actual, human-readable words in the hope that millions of people will enjoy reading them. His favorite stories to write are those chronicling ordinary people meeting extraordinary challenges with extraordinary courage, strength, and determination. He's a FIRM believer in happy endings, both in life and in his novels.

He has enjoyed writing since his grammar school days when essay assignments delighted him while provoking groans of pain from his classmates.

His pleasure centers include writing (of course), reading, railroading, Subway sandwiches, history, surfing (the web, not the waves!), museums of any kind, 1970’s music, wishing he had become a professional musician (much to the dismay of his weary keyboard), searching for new story ideas, and strolling through the local malls. He ALWAYS brakes for book emporiums, ice cream shops, and music stores.

“Child of Privilege” is his debut novel; his second novel is currently being first-drafted.  Hopefully, many more will follow.

For more on Ross and his writing, visit his blog and connect with him through email (, on Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook.

CHILD OF PRIVILEGE is available on Amazon.

Here’s an excerpt from CHILD OF PRIVILEGE for your reading pleasure …

Chapter 25 

      "Where the hell were you?" Richard Van Werner snapped. "It's after 1 a.m." 
      Maggie leaned back against the open door of her husband's study. It was difficult to ignore her more-than-slightly intoxicated state. It was equally difficult to ignore her libidinous mood. "What's wrong?" she chuckled. "Were you afraid I'd turn into a pumpkin at midnight?" 
      From behind his computer terminal, Richard glared at her. "I'd say you're pretty close to being a vegetable right now." 
      She laughed in a loud, raucous manner. "You were worried about me, weren't you? Come on, admit it. You were worried about me." 
      "I was worried about what kind of trouble I'd have to get you out of." 
      "No worries, mate, as they say in Australia," she giggled. "You'd be surprised the trouble you can get out of if you're drunk enough." 
      "Did you actually drive in that condition?" 
      "No, I drove in my car," she chortled. 
      "You're damned lucky you didn't get pulled over." 
      "Well, if some cop had stopped me, I would've simply told him who I was, and that'd be the end of it." 
      "That simple, huh?" he scolded. "Don't you realize that if you'd been arrested for DUI, it would've been published in the Register? The whole town would know about it." 
      "Then the whole town would know that Maggie Van Werner knows how to drink and enjoy herself." 
      "And humiliate herself." 
      "Hey," she countered, "girls can do anything." 
      He shook his head disappointedly. "You didn't answer my question. Where the hell were you? Weren't you supposed to be at some committee meeting or something?" 
      "Woman does not live by committee meetings alone," she answered in a tone of scoffing pomposity. "After the meeting, Lisa, Barb, Joanne, Trish, and I went over to the Briar Pub for a little girl talk ... and a few drinks." 
      "Oh, Jesus, the Briar Pub," Richard groaned. "The biggest human landfill in town." 
      "Oh, no, no, no" she countered. "Whatever-magazine-it-was said it's the newest hotspot in North Briarwood. Everyone who's anyone goes there. It's got atmosphere, really hot music, dancing. You should've seen the 5 of us; we were dancing up a storm. It was so cool to see 5 creaky old society broads really tearing up the place." 
      Maggie kicked off her shoes and casually kicked them aside. She strutted to the center of her husband's office and began dancing woozily to a rhythm powered by an excess of alcohol and audible only in her own mind. "Come on," she urged. "Get up and dance with me." 
      Richard shook his head disdainfully. "When hell freezes over," he muttered. He turned his attention back toward his computer terminal. 
      When she was able to maintain her balance, Maggie Van Werner resembled a cross between a thoroughly inept Las Vegas showgirl and a 1960's go-go dancer. But even the most jaded judge of female flesh would feel compelled to give her a second look ... and a third ... perhaps even a fourth. Even through several drunken stumbles, a couple of near-falls, and occasionally tripping over her own feet, Maggie could've been a poster girl for the vivacious, attractive, sexy older woman next door. Wearing black pantyhose and a quintessential little black dress that hugged her womanly curves, she was the sexy soccer mom, horny homemaker, and lascivious lover all rolled into one more-than-a-little-sexy package with a touch of tantalizing sexual spice sprinkled on top for that little extra zing of sensuality. Showcased by that figure-hugging black dress, the contours of Maggie's breasts, legs, pubic mound, and ass cheeks were happily, proudly, and defiantly on display. With some minor allowances, she was more than capable of catching the eye of the neighborhood grandfathers, fathers, sons, and grandsons. 
      "Come on, Richard," she hooted. "Let your hair down. Get up here and dance with me. Show me you know how to shake your booty." 
      Richard didn't care to even look. 
      "Hey, why don’t I take my clothes off?" she laughed. "You want me to do a striptease for you? I'll take all my clothes off right here. Nice and slow and sexy. Give you a real show. Then you can carry me upstairs and we'll put some wrinkles in those new bed sheets." 
      Richard's reply was characteristically terse. "Why don't you go upstairs and sleep it off?" 
      "Why don't you come with me?" she giggled. "In more ways than one?" 
      No response. 
      Short-circuited by the intensifying effects of the alcohol, her own fatigue, and her husband's indifference, Maggie slowed down, finally ground to a stop, and flopped into one of the large chairs facing Richard's desk. She was perspiring profusely and laboring to catch her breath. 
      Snidely, he asked, "Why don't you sit down and make yourself comfortable?" 
      "I already have," she answered coquettishly. "Come on, Richard. Keep up with me." 
      "You stay the hell away from that dump," he commanded. "It's nothing but a two-bit dive with Christmas tree lights, loud music, watered-down drinks, and a bunch of oversexed losers looking for a one-night stand. Honestly, I thought you had better taste than that." 
      She shrugged unsteadily. "Well, I guess I've failed once again to live up to your standards. Oh well ... fuck it." 
      "Plenty of that going on there too." 
      Irritation beginning to shade his face, Richard sighed impatiently. "Is there some point to all this? I have hours of work to do." 
      "Well, listen to me for just one minute and I'll make my point. And you might find it interesting ... maybe even profitable." 
      "I doubt it, but go ahead. It's obvious you won't let me get anything done until you do." 
      She leaned forward onto his desk, sidling close to his face. "During a break in the meeting—" 
      Richard wrinkled his nose and turned away. He motioned Maggie to sit back in her chair. "For God's sake, your breath smells like a distillery," he grumbled. "Aim it away from me." 
      Maggie roared loudly and leaned back in her chair. "All right, you old fuddy-duddy. During a break in the meeting, Lisa and I started talking. Her husband, Howard, owns a chain of convenience stores. She told me his company is looking for a new law firm. Now I figure convenience stores must have a ton of legal business. Sounds like easy money in the bank to me. So, I gave you and the firm a big buildup. Now, Howard wants to meet you. So, I invited him and Lisa over for dinner on Friday night." 
      Richard rolled his eyes in disgust. "Oh, that's just fucking great," he whined. "I get to spend an evening listening to some guy crowing about making a fortune peddling coffee, beer, soda pop, bottled water, and flavored ice. That's just great, Maggie. For your information, we are very particular about who we accept as clients. We don't take just anybody who walks in the door. In fact, we already have a client waiting list. Next time, just leave business to me, all right? You stick to your little charity stuff." 
      Clearly deflated, Maggie frowned and said, "You're welcome, Richard." 
      She sank dejectedly into her chair, pouting and staring at the floor. She didn't say anything for a long time. 
      "Is there something else?" he asked, outwardly annoyed by now. 
      "Yes, there's something else," she countered, the hurt in her voice very apparent. "I tried to do something nice for you. Now, could you maybe do something for me? Could you let up on Dana? She's got her own life. Let her be." 
      The attorney's face creased with a crooked half-smile. He appeared mildly amused by his wife's request. He snickered maliciously, "Shit, this is going from bad to worse. I have a pile of work to do and now you want to talk about that little tramp." 
      "She's not a tramp," she shot back. "She's your daughter. Richard, for God's sake, leave her alone already. Nothing good can come of you hunting her down like an animal. She doesn't want to come back. Let her go." 
      He shook his head disapprovingly, leaned forward in his overstuffed leather chair, and addressed his wife as though she were a dim-witted child. "First of all, the North Briarwood Harvest Moon Cotillion is coming up soon. Morton and Sylvia Graham expect the three of us to put in an appearance: I, my wife on one arm, and my prodigal loser on the other. Now, I'll be there, you'll be there, and that little tramp will be there if I have to handcuff her to my wrist. We need to be seen in public together. We need to keep up our image. 
      "Secondly, my dear," he continued, "the search for that little slut is business and it's none of your business. That's between that jackass Saranello and me. We know where she is, and we'll soon have an army of detectives surrounding her. She will be brought back here, and when she is—as the head of this family—I'll deal with her as I see fit. Till then, you just mind your own business." 
      Maggie's eyes widened angrily. "She's my daughter too. She is my business." 
      Richard sighed impatiently. "Okay, I'll say it again. Your business is your little charity stuff, appearing on my arm in public wearing those fancy designer gowns I pay for, smiling, talking at the right time, and shutting up at the right time. You and that little whore daughter of yours are a reflection of me. The two of you are component parts of my image. And the Van Werners will continue to project a nice, neat, happy little family image that North Briarwood and my clients—who, incidentally, pay the bills around here—will eat up. Now, is there any anything about that you don't understand?" 
      "Is that all you care about? What other people think? Your image? The firm?" 
      He laughed malevolently, leaned back in his chair, and smugly folded his arms behind his head. "May I remind you, dear, that public perception, and my image, and the firm paid for that spiffy little roadster you drive around town? Not to mention this estate. And your charge cards. And your checking account. And the search for that little tramp. That jagoff Saranello is costing me a fortune." 
      "Then why don't you just give it up and let her live her own life?" 
      He continued to stare coldly at his wife. "Is there anything else you want to talk about?" 
      Emboldened by the alcohol and her hurt feelings, she asked, 
      "How about the fact that you haven't touched me in weeks?" "How about the fact that you haven't climbed outside of a bottle in weeks?" 
      "Oh, come on, Richard," she snapped. "That's a cop-out. Even before Dana left, our sex life has been nothing more to you than an outlet for your anger. Every time something pisses you off—and you happen to be horny at the moment—you climb into our bed and take it out on me. I can't remember the last time your touched me with something other than the back of your hand or a closed fist. I can’t remember the last time you made love with me as if you really cared about me. The sex between us is always rough; it's ... angry; it’s ... aggressive. It feels like I'm having sex with someone who wants to kill me. You're not making love with me; you're doing it to me. I never told you this, but I'm always sore between my legs for days afterward. Sometimes I get the feeling that the only reason you have sex with me is to punish me for something." 
      Richard instantly tightened. His eyes burrowed into Maggie's with something indefinable ... anger ... something ... something frightening. 
      "I’m not going to apologize for having a good time with my friends tonight," she declared forcefully. "And I'm not going to let you spoil it. And as far as the Briar Pub is concerned, I’m not going to apologize for that either. The girls and I enjoy going there. You’ll just have to accept that. Besides, nobody is going to make a pass at an old broad like me." 
      Maggie countered her husband's stare with one of her own. "But if my husband is smart, he will make a pass at me tonight. And if he does, he'll find me more than receptive. I'm still a little tipsy, and I'm feeling very horny tonight. I’m really in the mood to be touched. I’d love to have my husband make love with me for a change." 
      She stood up and started to make her way unsteadily to the door. "Now, I'm going upstairs and I'm going to take a nice, hot bath. If my husband has anything on the ball, he’ll use the time while I'm in the tub to get his ass up to our bedroom, grab a shower, and get in our bed. When I get out of the tub, I'll be REALLY ready for him." 
      Without waiting for Richard’s answer, Maggie boldly exited her husband's study and headed upstairs.


This giveaway is for not one but five (5) free Kindle Gift eBook downloads of CHILD OF PRIVILEGE by Ross Ponderson. This giveaway is open to all and will end at 12 a.m. (EST) on Thursday, March 31.

To enter the giveaway, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below and follow the instructions. The widget may take a few seconds to load so please be patient. A winner will be selected by the Rafflecopter widget and I’ll send an email with the subject line “Thoughts in Progress Giveaway.” The winner will have 72 hours to reply to the email or another winner will be selected. PLEASE be sure to check your spam folder from time to time after the giveaway ends to make sure the notification email doesn’t end up there. If you win and you’ve already won the book somewhere else or you just decided for whatever reason you don’t want to win (which is fine), once again PLEASE let me know.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. Do you ever read an article in the newspaper or see a photo/story on TV and wonder ‘what if’ about it?

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I often look at photos and wonder. Particularly the photos of the 'rich and privileged'. This sounds dark, dangerous, and right up my very broad reading street.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Well, the author certainly put Dana through the wringer!
    (Sorry, typo in the first comment. It's early.)

  4. A really interesting premise for a story, Mason! Just goes to show you that wealth and privilege aren't everything. Thanks for sharing.

  5. This was quite interesting and certainly a lot happens to Dana.

  6. I never would have guessed what is inside from that cover.

  7. YES, conflict is definitely the root of all good fiction. Without it, we won't keep reading because the story would be way too boring.

  8. Sounds like a great read. I am not familiar with this author, would enjoy reading.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.