The American Dream meets Las Vegas, an Interview with author Laura McBride

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Laura McBride, Author

Las Vegas author Laura McBride stopped by Noir Nation recently to discuss her new novel, We Are Called to Rise (Simon & Schuster, June 3, 2014). A college instructor calling Las Vegas home, Laura’s new novel explores the collision of three disjoint lives in Sin City. But unlike the countless stories exploring the glamorous side of Las Vegas, We Are Called to Rise takes us to the real Las Vegas, the city, the community, the people who call this crazy place home.

NN: Why did you write We Are Called to Rise?

LM: I wrote a novel years ago, and it was a fabulously engaging, satisfying process.  I was always on the lookout for the chance to do it again.

Hmm, that’s the answer to why I wrote a novel.  Why did I write this novel?

I guess I thought the core incident had great dramatic potential; I wanted to write a story that captured the chaotic, hopeful, desperate, beautiful boomtown nature of Las Vegas; I wanted a novel that would entertain and satisfy a thoughtful reader.

NN: That’s an interesting title. Why did you choose it?

LM: My agent did not like my working title, and she asked me to come up with some options quickly. I offered three lines from poems, to get the conversation started, and she felt strongly about this one.  It took a while for the title to grow on me, but now I think it perfectly expresses an important theme of the book.  I didn’t have that theme consciously in mind while writing, but it is a central idea.  I’m grateful to my agent for her strong sense that this title was right.

NN: Why did you decide to go with multiple points of view? What are the strengths and weaknesses you’ve experienced with this format?

LM: I wanted to write in the first person, but I needed more than one person’s awareness to tell the story I was thinking about.  I think a strength of the format is that readers often feel a personal connection to the narrator who is speaking; a difficulty of the format (though not perhaps a weakness) is that it can be complicated to communicate critical information through a first person voice.  I had to trust the reader’s ability to pick up nuance, irony, guile.

NN: Do you think people misunderstand Vegas as a community?

LM: I think billions of dollars are spent, by creative and sophisticated people, to disseminate particular ideas about Las Vegas.  Those ideas often don’t represent my experience of living an ordinary life here.  I feel confident in my understanding of Las Vegas, but I recognize that many other people have equally valid ideas about the place.  And then some people have ideas that aren’t so valid!

NN: As a reader, what is your favorite book?

LM: An impossible question. I give.

I’m not just cheating here. I think the really good books one reads when one is young have terrific impact, because one has never before experienced reading in that way.  But those books are not my favorite books anymore, though they might linger in my mind quite vividly.  By the same token, books I really like now might be difficult to categorize as favorites.  I like them, I appreciate them, I am grateful for them, but I am too tested a reader to think of any as a favorite.

NN: Where do you see Las Vegas in ten years?

LM: I have no special prognostic powers.  I guess I think it will look a little bit more like a lot of American cities than it once did.  Already, people are much more likely to live next to someone whose economic situation is similar to their own than was true two decades ago.  I think we are generally sorting into more and more homogenous neighborhoods, which seems sad to me.  So much of what I found amazing about living here came from the salmagundi of being a boomtown.

On the other hand, I think Las Vegas will remain socially, culturally, politically, and ethnically diverse, because people will continue to come here from all over the world.  I hope our economy will be a little more broad-based, but that is not evident to me.

WACTRcover (Medium)Laura McBride is a writer and community college teacher in Las Vegas, Nevada. She once thought of herself as an adventurer, having traveled far from home on little more than a whim and a grin, but now laughs at the conventional trappings of her ordinary suburban life. She’s been married for 25 years to an ex-pat she met in Paris, and has two lovely children. A long time ago, she went to Yale. We Are Called To Rise is her first novel. (from Amazon)

Find Laura:

Web: http://lauramcbrideauthor.com

Twitter: @lmcbrideauthor

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VEGAS WAS HER NAME wins award

2013TheKindleBookReviewVegas Was Her Name by Jonathan Sturak is a Semi-Finalist in the 2013 Book Awards at The Kindle Book Review. Published in March 2013 by Noir Nation Books, Vegas Was Her Name follows businessman Michael Harris into a web of seduction and crime as he becomes victim to the ultimate Vegas con. Read a free sample at Amazon.

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Interview with Sheila Horgan, mystery author pioneering the hybrid novel

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhether you call her books cozy mysteries, comic mysteries, or women sleuth adventures, Sheila Horgan loves writing series. Her popular “Tea Series” has seen tens of thousands of sales and hundreds of unique reviews and has prompted her to create a spin-off series featuring familiar characters on their own adventures, dubbed the “Girls Series.” Today, Sheila gives Noir Nation a glance into the hybrid format she is pioneering.

Noir Nation: Your successful “Tea Series” is described as a hybrid of the traditional novel and the serial novel. Please talk about this type of unique format. What made you choose to release your series in this type of format?

Horgan: I came to writing quite by accident. My kids grew up and chose to have lives of their own. One day I decided to take the advice of every stranger I’d encountered for several years and write a book (it dawned on me much later they might have simply been asking for silence while waiting in line for the grocery clerk). Not knowing all the tried and true things you’re supposed to do when writing a novel – things like arcs and protagonists and pace – I simply told a story. I got an email from a woman that said that reading my book made her laugh her way through chemo. She wanted to know when the next book would be out. I started writing the second book within moments of getting the email. I’m now writing books 11, 12, and 13.

Noir Nation: Do you think ebooks have made serial novels more popular?

Horgan: I think because you can turn a book around much more quickly, a serial novel makes more sense now than it has in the past. If you can supply your reader with a book a couple of times a year, a serial novel makes sense.

Noir Nation: Your new “Girls Series” features characters first introduced in your “Tea Series” books. Did you always know you wanted to give these characters their own book or did you decide to feature them because of the fans?

Horgan: Actually, they were just characters that I thought were interesting. I believe women “of a certain age” have a lot to say and not a lot of places to say it. There was a time when crones were a welcome part of the community. Not so much any more. The girls get to say things that younger women might not be able to say with impunity. Today people are so mobile and families are scattered. Having an older woman to share some insights with might be helpful.

Noir Nation: Your books feature mystery, humor, and women sleuths. Which element comes most natural for you as a writer?

Horgan: Humor. I am a strong believer in the power of humor. It can heal, teach, and diffuse. It can endear, inspire, and motivate. Mostly it can take you out of your problems and help you step back for just a moment to see that life is to be enjoyed. My books are not going to cure cancer. But they’ve been proven to help at least one cancer patient.

Noir Nation: Why did you set the first book of the “Girls Series” in Las Vegas?

Horgan: “The Tea Series” is set in Tampa Bay, Florida. I lived there at the time. Then I moved to the Las Vegas area. Yeah, I’m tricky like that.

Noir Nation: What’s the strangest thing you’ve witnessed firsthand in Vegas?

Horgan: I saw a woman walking down the street with her little girl. The woman was probably in her early thirties. The little girl was probably about five. They were dressed exactly alike. If you were in Disneyland, that might bring to mind matching mouse ears and sweatshirts. In Vegas, it meant lots of Bedazzled Lycra, heels that were much too high for a mere mortal – and certainly for a little girl – low cut belly shirts, and hot pink boas. They were also wearing matching makeup complete with lashes. The strangest part was that no one paid much attention to them.

Noir Nation: Where do you see Las Vegas in ten years?

Horgan: I can’t begin to imagine. Vegas is going through major construction and a complete redesign right now. From a huge London Eyestyle ride, to tearing down the facades of major casinos and doing complete revamps, to a huge casino and resort that is supposed to include a replica of the Great Wall of China, Vegas is a chameleon and able to shift with the trends and demands of those who wish to come and enjoy what it has to offer.

Noir Nation: What are you working next?

Horgan: Right now I have Happy Tea, the tenth book in “The Tea Series” almost complete. Hawaii Can Wait, the second book in “The Girls Series,” is almost complete. I am doing a minor rewrite on Consequences, the first book in Lessons, The Series and will republish it soon.

My most exciting project right now is that my oldest son and I are writing a psychological thriller together. He came to me one day with the idea for a book. He also suggested a very unique way that we could write together and exploit the fact that we think very differently. He has written for magazines but is not interested in writing a novel, yet he has extraordinary ideas for novels, so we decided to try it out. I am hopeful that we can turn this into a grand enterprise. I enjoy working with him.

About Horgan: Blessed to be born into a strong Irish American family, Sheila describes herself as “one of ten.” Sheila raised her son, as well as a plethora of other children she calls her own, and now enjoys the title of Grandma.

When asked about her writing, Sheila states, “I devoted the first phase of my life to my parents and family, the second to my children, this last phase is for me. I love to write, share my somewhat skewed vision of the world, and with luck, make people laugh now and then.”

Visit Sheila Horgan’s Amazon Author Page and her Blog.

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Jay Rankin: Vegas Doorman Reveals the Secrets of Sin City in his Memoir

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Jay Rankin is a very interesting man. Working as a doorman at one of the largest resorts in the world, Jay witnessed first-hand many dark and enigmatic human interactions at the core of true-to-life noir. Today, Jay gives Noir Nation a behind-the-scenes interview of his memoir, Under The Neon Sky.

Noir Nation: Under The Neon Sky shares your experiences as a doorman working on the Las Vegas Strip. When did you know that you had to write this book?

Rankin: Having a background in psychology (my favorite course was on addictions, yikes!) and dealing with my own demons had a lot to do with my need to write. Life is about our chapters and I needed to write this one down. I had experienced my own partying days so I was immediately taken with what I saw and perceived while on the job. What really became clear was how people including myself, handled a place with no boundaries mixed with drugs and alcohol, gambling, and any sort of 24/7 pleasure you can come up with plus, no sleep. My shift was from 7 pm to 3 in the morning. This was the largest hotel in the world (MGM Grand Las Vegas) with over 5,000 rooms, 3 showrooms, one of which held 15,000 people, a theme park, 2 nightclubs, god knows how many restaurants, and a convention center. It was a high energy job that gave new meaning to “being slammed.” I experienced intense excitement, lots of laughter, raw anger, and some very sad moments. It’s absolutely amazing what humans are capable of when placed on Vegas soil. For me, it was a daily electrical charge and challenge. The more I was exposed to, the more I needed to write it down. It didn’t take very long for me to take notes if for no other reason than to give me some relief like therapy. Writing was like talking to a friend, or beating on a body bag, or taking myself for a walk in 110 degree heat to release the toxins that came with the job.

Noir Nation: What attracted you to Las Vegas in the first place?

Rankin: For as long as I can remember, I have always had a need for excitement. Even the people I chose as lifetime friends were wild. When I was 14 years old, I wanted to one day own a nightclub. I first visited Vegas to see my biological father when I was 11 years old. He was a gambler so he knew all the “good old boys.” Everyone he introduced me to was either named Tony or Vito. As a child, being there was my first real rush, seeing all the colors, hearing all the excitement, smelling the cigars, alcohol mixed with men’s colognes and women’s perfumes. My world had changed. I was the kind of person who even as a child loved mingling with the dark side of human nature. Las Vegas was always a high octane, colorful place so when the opportunity came, I jumped on it. One of my initial jobs was being a field reporter on Las Vegas’ first real local business shows. I had the chance to meet a lot of people who ran the town—the mayor, governor, hotel and restaurant owners, etc. It was the very early nineties and the town was exploding, or in many cases, imploding—the new hotels, housing, businesses, schools, hospitals. The infrastructure of all the new streets, bridges, and traffic signals was way behind schedule. I loved being there during those days, it was like watching an empire grow into something much more than it was just weeks ago.

Noir Nation: What is more challenging? Dealing with spoiled celebrities, drunks, hookers, and hoodlums, or Writing a Book?

Rankin: You didn’t include hotel management and co-workers on that list; they too, were very challenging. In a Vegas hotel, the money flows like a river and this can cause a feeding frenzy amongst the employees. The lack of trust is an awful feeling for working conditions each day. I didn’t mind the spoiled celebrities because giving service to people, even those who felt entitled, was the job description. It is very important not to offend people from different cultures. 5 Star service is the hotel motto. The most entitled were the shareholders, or in some cases, the high-rollers. Most of the celebrities were actually very nice. I loved the hookers and street-wise types because they understood and acknowledged exactly who they were without the bullshit, and I could relate to them, but dealing with people who were polluted was a huge challenge. Alcohol and drugs do things to people, make them behave in ways they would never behave without the influence. The brain loses its ability to protect itself, numbs the filtering process, and shuts down the emotional controls. So someone who may be very kind with a big heart, a great guy, can, if high enough, become an uncontrollable, screaming, and violent guest. While holding his wife’s hand, a guest could ask a hooker, “how much?” I’ve seen how alcohol can help people let go of everything. The real problem was that the hotel wanted that guest to come back and call our resort home. I had to swallow a lot of shit from people. Writing a book takes a lot of passion, dedication, discipline, and sacrifice. It’s all about a day at a time. You start off thinking how unique you are and through re-writes become a real writer; it’s not easy. Let’s see; writing or dealing with drunks, writing or drunks, hmmm.

Noir Nation: Some say that Las Vegas doesn’t let you leave once the lights have you. Did you find it hard to leave the job, the lights?

Rankin: Before Las Vegas, my world was work, marriage, sleep, and watching TV. It was all pretty standard, black and white normal—paying bills, deciding on what to eat for dinner, watching Monday Night Football and the news, etc. Vegas was like a frontal blast, a laser wake up call for all my senses to stand up straight, a new reason to take deep breaths. If all that we are is a complex web of pathways in the brain, then Vegas carved a trench into my lobes. When it was over, there were pieces of me lying around but the addiction to the rush, the complex yet vibrant smells, the glow of all the lights was hard for me to walk away from. After I left, it took me a while to come down. The first few weeks away were like the DT’s. Even today, years later, I still miss it.

Noir Nation: What is the most memorable experience you would like to share from your book?

Rankin: That’s a difficult question because of all the stories of the guests and what eventually happened to some good friends, but I would have to say the night Mike Tyson fought Evander Holyfield. Steven Spielberg could not have created what that night was like. I decided to place that event in the 1st chapter. That was probably one of the most memorable and shocking experiences in my life.

Noir Nation: Local magazines and the Art District downtown are trying to establish Vegas as a cultural center instead of just a tourist center. Do you think Las Vegas has any culture or do you think that the transient nature harms the roots needed to foster the arts?

Rankin: With a population of 2 million plus 40 million visitors a year, I believe a cultural center is long overdue and would be wonderful for the town if it’s done right. This is still Las Vegas and even a cultural center needs to be done with some flash to create a destination. When taking a wide-angle picture of Vegas, there are a lot of great things the city offers other than the main industry of hotels and casinos. If you look at all the quaint, cultural centers in big cities, it’s a draw, and for Las Vegas it would be a great addition. It would help to create and bring more depth to the town.

Noir Nation: Where do you see Las Vegas in 10 years?

Rankin: Great question and a tough one. If there is ever a town that had a history of re-inventing itself, it is Las Vegas. There was the corporate re-invention from the mob-owned days. The Steve Wynn re-invention when he opened The Mirage and Bellagio. The MGM Grand Hotel and theme park not only re-invented Vegas, it re-invented the other end of the Strip. I believe the MGM opened the floodgates of visitors targeted as families, the twenty and thirty-something, different cultures. The High-rise condos and all that new real estate certainly re-invented what the Strip had been. The CityCenter Resort re-defined what a Vegas destination was going to be in the future. But then the worldwide recession crept across the planet. When things were good in Las Vegas, revenue from new housing developments and industry was exploding. The building of new casinos worldwide has taken its toll along with the recession. The latest targeting seems to be a younger crowd, lots of alcohol, nightclubs, etc. In 10 years, Las Vegas could become stagnant if things don’t improve. The new Asian casinos seem to be keeping Vegas afloat. Virtual gambling may have an impact. The casino corporations may even decide to do something unheard of, get rid of debt. Possibly a new industry will keep the town growing. Then again, the Strip could recreate itself once again, who knows.

Noir Nation: What are you up to creatively and professionally?

Rankin: I’ve been working on a few writing projects, one of which is about the world of professional boxers. There are some seasoned screenwriters I have been meeting with developing a possible series based on the book. For years, I have been working on a second book based on a doorman. I am also a single dad raising my 11-year-old son. Raising a child by yourself takes a lot of creativity.

Contact info: www.JaysLasVegas.com

Under The Neon Sky….A Las Vegas Doorman’s Story

Amazon & Barnes & Noble

Jay Rankin

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Video of the Day: ‘Vegas Was Her Name’ by Jonathan Sturak

A very cool book trailer for Vegas Was Her Name by Jonathan Sturak. We published the book earlier this year under the growing Noir Nation imprint. What’s the book about?

At the world’s largest technology convention in Las Vegas, Michael Harris, CEO of a top engineering company, debuts Venus, a humanized computer brain that can predict human behavior. He attracts international attention, including the attention of Rachel, a steamy seducer who cons Michael by concealing a secret of her own. Melissa, Michael’s wife, flies to Las Vegas to save her husband and her marriage as the events unfold in the shadows of the Las Vegas Strip.

If you work in the tech sector or have attended the CES convention in Vegas, this novel will read like it was written just for you. This book has it all, tech, crime, and the Lady in Red.

Look for her in this exciting video.

 

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Interview with Laila Lucent, The Yoga Stripper

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Laila Lucent, Author

Laila Lucent is a yoga instructor and the author of The Yoga Stripper: A Las Vegas Memoir of Sex, Drugs, and Namaste.

Q: Tell us about your new book.

A: The Yoga Stripper is an inside look at my two years working at the BEST strip club in Las Vegas, and probably the most famous strip club in the world, the Spearmint Rhino. The book is 100% true (unless it’s my parents asking), really funny and has a lot of heart.

The take away message of The Yoga Stripper is that women are SO MUCH MORE POWERFUL and SO MUCH MORE IN CONTROL than most of them realize, and that EVERYONE should have sex with the damn lights on!

Being a Woman is POWERFUL. SEXUALITY is NOT evil or immoral. SEX is FUN.

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Q: What attracted you to Las Vegas?

A: I was 22-years-old and knew I wanted to move to L.A. to find work as a writer. I packed up all of my stuff in my car and drove alone across the country from Ohio. I made it as far as Las Vegas, and then I got distracted by all the shiny lights. They can be quite distracting…

Honestly, I just always wanted to try working as a stripper! And I was right. It was awesome. I figured writing a book about stripping would make me appear to be more responsible than I actually am.

 

Q: What is more challenging? Yoga, Pole Dancing, or Writing a Book?

A: From scariest to least scary:

Writing a book. The amount of courage required to believe that what you have to say is good enough to be heard is really intense. Putting out a work of art… you need to be able to battle the voices in your head that insist that you’re not talented, smart or cool enough to accomplish your goal.

Pole dancing. I really enjoy dancing on stage topless. I’m an exhibitionist, and it’s not too hard to convince me I should take off my clothes. However, it did take me a while to get the courage up to get on my hands and knees, turn my ass towards the audience and twerk. haha That requires a few drinks.

Yoga. Ah yoga. Yoga has transformed my life in so many amazingly wonderful ways. Yoga is my favorite of the three. Everything about yoga is about accepting yourself as you are and letting yourself be where you are that day. Everyone can do yoga and choose the level of challenge they want.

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Q: Are there too many strip clubs in Las Vegas or not enough?

A: If there were too many then they’d close. There is a massive supply of horny tourists, and therefore there is an equal supply of tits ‘n sass available (for a cost).

Q: Some say that Las Vegas doesn’t let you leave once the lights have you. Do you find it hard to leave or can you come and go as you please?

A: Come and go as I please. I’m living in L.A. these days. Vegas is a quick car ride away if I ever miss the lights, the sin and the wonderful anonymity.

I had an amazing life in Vegas, but I was sure happy to get out of there without a criminal record and my life still in tact.

Vegas is extremely dangerous; anyone who tells you otherwise wasn’t doing it right.

The Yoga Stripper (6)Q: What is the strangest thing (you’ll admit) you’ve seen on the Las Vegas Strip?

A: Everything is a contender: the little Latin people handing out prostitute cards; Mario and Luigi drunk, desolate and begging for change; the celebrities whose parties you can crash (I once stayed up all night partying with one of the guys from Glee and his friends); and the middle-aged Asian business men with their big fake ol’ tits blonde prostitutes. Vegas is bath salts crazy.

Q: Who is your favorite superhero?

A: Batman.

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Laila with Penn Jillette and NYT best-selling author Larry “Ratso” Sloman

 

Q: Where do you see Las Vegas in 10 years?

A: Vegas is the cockroach of the USA. You can’t kill that mother fucker.

Probably Vegas will have at least one more roller coaster and hopefully a massive water slide right in the middle of strip.

And it’ll have been renamed “Penn and Teller‘s Las Vegas.”

 

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Laila with Emily Jillette and friends

 

 

Laila Lucent is a yoga instructor (certified to teach Envision yoga and vinyassa flow) and is presently living in Los Angeles. Her book, The Yoga Stripper: A Las Vegas Memoir of Sex, Drugs, and Namaste, is available now on Amazon. Laila can be found on the web at http://theyogastripper.blogspot.com/ or twitter @theyogastripper

 

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Vegas Loves VEGAS WAS HER NAME

Author Jonathan Sturak was invited to the Clark County Library on Flamingo Road in Las Vegas on Saturday, April 6 to meet library patrons and discuss his new novel, VEGAS WAS HER NAME. Guests holding books about the history of Las Vegas or about gambling secrets stopped by to learn about the new crime novel by Noir Nation Books set in Las Vegas. The event was a success!

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