Friday, August 6, 2021



Tara Atwater holds the right combination of numbers to the record-breaking Ohio state lottery. But what to do about the boyfriend, stabbed to death, on the kitchen floor? It was, after all, his ticket. A diversionary fire might be the answer. Left in her grandparents’ care as her reckless mother worked the carnival circuit, Tara learned about sleight-of-hand flame, purposely created to distract from something far bigger, at age nine. As decades flicker past, from the 1970s until the beginning of a global pandemic, the diversionary fire is a strange art that will touch her and those she loves. From the most marginal of means to unimagined wealth and status, Tara learns that good luck and bad luck, no matter how dense the inferno, can look a lot alike.

Book Details

Title: Diversionary Fires

Author: Rodney Ross

Genre: literary fiction

Published: June 25, 2021

Print length: 354 pages


A few of your favorite things: gardening, cats (and kittens), theatergoing, London and teeth whitening gear. 

Things you need to throw out: a shameful hoarder’s supply of plastic bags from various stores . . . dried-up tubes of SuperGlue . . . brass polish I will never use . . . socks that no amount of bleach will ever render white again . . . Pier 1 scented candles bought on clearance that, alas, have no scent . . . and my bathroom scale, because it taunts me with lies.

Things you need in order to write: I don’t necessarily require quiet, but I DO require a certain vibe: tranquility and time free of pressing chores/errands. Awaiting my “muse” is a little too precious, but I am must be in the proper frame-of-mind. Otherwise, it’s not writing, it’s typing.

Things that hamper your writing: in all honesty, when I am in the midst of writing—and especially when re-writing and editing—I try not to read the fiction of others. It tends to seep into, and affect, my own output . . . not necessarily their style or language, but more a questioning of my character’ motivations, sub-plot resolutions, dialogue. I find great inspiration in many authors, but the somewhat-neurotic need to compare myself to others is counter-productive.

Things you love about writing: all of its possibilities.

Things you hate about writing: what the publishing industry has become.

Easiest thing about being a writer: I find a blank page (or screen) exhilarating. You can do whatever the hell you want.                                                                                                                    
Hardest thing about being a writer: knowing when it is FINALLY time to release my newborn into the cruel world, where it will be alternately wholly embraced and cruelly pinched.

Things you love about where you live: the desert mountains, especially at dawn and dusk . . . the anticipation of “winter” season after the grueling hot summers. . . the demographic diversity of residents.

Things that make you want to move: the grim faces of disapproving people who are older but no wiser . . . jarring snobbism . . . and white entitlement.

Things you never want to run out of: Bath & Body works plug-in refills . . . cat litter . . . panko bread crumbs . . . Trader Joe’s jarred chunky tomato and pepper pasta sauce . . . TP (after the COVID-19 chaos) . . . and baking soda.

Things you wish you’d never bought:  a Swiffer . . . an expensive dining room table runner that my cats inevitably cast to the floor . . . a blood-pressure contraption (because it’s addictive) . . . and that stupidly-large quantity of pricey white bath towels.

Words that describe you: the Ultimate Taurean . . . loyal to those loyal to me . . . tenacious . . . relentless . . . reliable . . . combustible . . . unpretentious.

Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: temperamental . . . cynical . . . distant.

Favorite foods: sushi, properly-cooked pasta, Chicken Parmesan, a fresh shrimp cocktail and vodka (and, yes, I consider it a food). 

Things that make you want to throw up: canned beets, Brussel sprouts, yams/sweet potatoes, and overcooked peas.

Favorite music: I will always succumb to the Pet Shop Boys and most dance/club music from the 80’s.

Music that make your ears bleed: Country/Western (except for Dolly).

Favorite beverage: a cold (and I mean ice chips) Grey Goose martini, up and dirty, with blue-cheese stuffed olives, in a stemmed glass.

Something that gives you a pickle face: anyone at my table who orders veal.

Favorite smell: Gardenia or tuberose.                                                                                    
Something that makes you hold your nose: rotting seaweed on a poorly-kept beach.

Something you’re really good at: pop-culture trivia, especially TV shows, films, and celebrities.

Something you’re really bad at: understanding any professional sport.

Something you wish you could do: fly.

Something you wish you’d never learned to do: politely tolerate bores.

Something you like to do: nap excessively.

Something you wish you’d never done: hurt someone intentionally. As soon as I saw the pain in their face, I was filled with self-disgust, and it has stayed with me for decades.

Last best thing you ate: sauteed calamari. 

Last thing you regret eating: too many Girl Scout Thin Mints after midnight.

Things you’d walk a mile for: my family; to help an injured or wanting animal; and a child in danger.                                                                                                                                                

Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: people who not-so-casually talk about their income, what they drive, where they vacation, and who they know.

Things you always put in your books: a housepet of some sort.                                              
Things you never put in your books: a happy ending just for the sake of it.

Things to say to an author: “I wept throughout.” “I think about   ___ INSERT BOOK TITLE HERE____ all the time” “I laughed out loud and startled people around me.” “I bought a copy for a friend.”                                                                                                                                            
Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: “I’m a bit of a writer, too. I kept a diary.  I’ve lived a fascinating life. Would you help me tell my story?”

Favorite places you’ve been: London, Paris, New York City . . . always.

Places you never want to go to again: Providence, Rhode Island; Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Favorite things to do: long drives to nowhere in particular (as long as someone else is at the wheel); a deep-dive into esoteric YouTube videos; and watching my cats tussle and chase one another.

Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: attending church.

Things that make you happy: meeting people who are unapologetically themselves; a beautiful garden maintained not by a company but the homeowner; cold A/C on an insufferably-hot day; and anything that is a baby (children, kittens, puppies, rabbits, you name it).

Things that drive you crazy: needy gasbags who practically wear a “Notice Me!” sandwich board.

Proudest moment: my marriage.

Most embarrassing moment: forgetting the anniversary of said marriage the very NEXT year.

Best thing you’ve ever done: my marriage.

Biggest mistake: not also adopting the twin brother of my cat Jerry. It is an eternal regret I left him alone at the shelter. (He was, thankfully, adopted the next day.)

Most daring thing you’ve ever done: parasailing (I am terrified of heights).

Something you chickened out from doing: singing Karaoke.

The last thing you did for the first time: drove across the country (the move from South Florida to Southern California with three unhappy cats).

Something you’ll never do again: get into the ocean.


Author Rodney Ross lives, writes, and sweats in Southern California.

The Cool Part Of His Pillow, now in its 2nd edition from JMS Books (first published by Dreamspinner Press), was the 1st Place Winner in the LGBT Fiction category from both the Indie Excellence Awards and the Next Generation Indie Book Awards; Silver Medalist in the 2013 Global EBook Awards; and Honorable Mention in the 2012 Rainbow Book Awards.

Other works include Signing Off in the short story collection Impact, from Other World Ink; Otis, a short fiction from JMS Books about a Christmas Eve where lessons are taught and learned; Bended Knee, from JMS Books, a short, bittersweet contemplation of same-sex marriage; and a non-fiction contribution to the The Other Man: Twenty-One Top Writers Speak Candidly About Sex, Love, Infidelity, Heartbreak and Moving On, also from JMS Books. A trio of essays from this book are being adapted into a play for 2016 by Chicago playwright Bernard Rice. Rodney's work is one of the three.

Past achievements include an optioned screenplay and play, both currently unproduced. Other screenplays earned Honorable Mentions or runners-up citations in the Monterey County Film Commission, FADE-IN and the LGBT One-In-Ten Screenwriting Competitions. Ross was also cited as 'Most Creative' in the Key West Mystery Fest Writing Competition.

Connect with Rodney:
Website  |  Blog Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads  |  Book trailer 

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