#GuestPost Writing Through the Apocalypse by Peter W. J. Hayes, author of “The Things That Last Forever”

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On Tour: January 1 – February 28, 2021


Writing Through the Apocalypse

Stay at home, they said. Only go out for essential reasons, they said. For the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and us in Pittsburgh, those pandemic directives were effective April Fool’s Day, 2020. You can’t make this stuff up. I was left parsing the meaning of ‘essential.’ I wrote three novels—including The Things That Last Forever—and more than a dozen short stories while sitting in a well-known coffee chain. To me, the commute and concentration I needed to block out the coffee-shop hub-bub was ‘essential’ to my writing. But now I had the same problem as everyone else.

How to reinvent my work habits?

I did have advantages. I have a workable home office with a door (which my spouse closes with glee after I enter). I was already in the right profession, because the first draft of any story is up to me alone. And thanks to the loss of my commute, I had more time to write.

But home offices have disadvantages. The main one is that the first draft is up to me alone. The rest can be summed up as the refrigerator, the desperate requirement to keep the bird feeder topped up, and the immediate need to investigate any household noise. In short, distractions, any distractions, real or imagined.

Needless to say, for several months, I didn’t complete a lot of work. It wasn’t for lack of trying. Or, as my father used to say (as I sat in my bedroom doing my homework), “Oh, I see you’re trying. Very trying.” He would then close my bedroom door. Gleefully, I think.

See how that happened? Distractions don’t even require a refrigerator or bird feeder.

By the time August rolled around, I knew needed help. I did an intervention on myself and reviewed everything I was doing, starting in the most logical place.

My playlist.

What I found was disturbing. I listen to my playlist when commuting or taking walks, and I delete and add songs to keep it fresh. My review found lots of new songs from Smile Empty Soul and Death Cab for Cutie. I’m not saying it was depressing. The word isn’t quite strong enough. I started deleting, although I did add one song that made me smile every time I heard it.

I also rethought my original commute to the coffee shop. I read, about that time, of people so desperate for normalcy they drove their pre-pandemic work commute round-trip every morning before they started their work-day from home. They said it got them in the right frame of mind.

I decided I needed a new commute as well.

I chose to walk from my office to the dining room. The first thing I did when I arrived was to close the dining room door. Myself. With glee. At the dining room table, I fired up the same IPad and detachable keyboard I used at the coffee shop to write my first three books.

Amazingly, it worked.

By December I had the first draft of my fourth book. A couple of short stories in my pocket.

I’m not going to say it was easy, but I’m still at it. And who knows, perhaps by the end of the year I can revisit the coffee shop every day.

In the meantime, I’ll keep listening to that one song I added to my playlist. Perhaps you should, too. It’s called Somewhere Over the Rainbow, the cover sung by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole.

It’s winter. We could all use a little sunshine.



The Things That Last Forever by Peter W. J. Hayes

After a house fire hospitalizes his partner and forces him onto medical leave, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police detective Vic Lenoski starts a desperate search for the woman who set the blaze. She is the one person who knows what happened to his missing teenage daughter, but as a fugitive, she’s disappeared so thoroughly no one can find her.

Risking his job and the wrath of the district attorney, Vic resorts to bargaining with criminal suspects for new leads, many of which point to North Dakota. He flies there, only to discover he is far from everything he knows, and his long-cherished definitions of good and bad are fading as quickly as his leads. His only chance is one last audacious roll of the dice. Can he stay alive long enough to discover the whereabouts of his daughter and rebuild his life? Or is everything from his past lost forever?

“The mystery plot itself is riveting…a captivating and emotionally intelligent crime drama.” — Kirkus Reviews

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery: Police Procedural

Published by: Level Best Books

Publication Date: August 1, 2020

Number of Pages: 294

ISBN: 978-1-947915-56-5

Series: A Vic Lenoski Mystery; Pittsburgh Trilogy #3 || Each is a Stand Alone Mystery

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

Sometimes you walk into a room and what’s inside changes your life forever. That sense stopped Vic just inside the doorway. A woman with skin the color of dark amber lay on the only bed, her bandaged arms shockingly white among the shadows. She was reflected in a large window in the far wall, the outside sky as black and still as the inside of a tomb. He smelled disinfectant and blood. Numbers and graph lines flared on grey-eyed medical monitors. Somewhere in the vast empty spaces of the hospital a voice echoed.

He’d never visited a burn ward.

Never had a partner so close to death.

Never thought a room could seem as hollow as he felt inside.

The feeling was so disembodying that when he reached the bed and looked into the woman’s face, he half expected to see himself. But it was Liz, her forehead and knobby cheekbones smeared with ointment, eyebrows and eyelashes burned away. A bandage covered her left earlobe where her favorite earring, a small gold star, usually sat. It seemed like every breath she took pained her.

He wanted to take her hand but the bandages made it impossible. “Liz,” he said softly, her name almost lost among the beeps and clicks of the monitors. Liquid dripped into a tangle of IV tubes at the back of her fist.

Her eyelids fluttered.

“Liz. Doctor told me I could talk to you.”

Her eyes opened. He watched her pupils widen and narrow as they absorbed the distance to the ceiling and distinguished shadows from feeble light.

“Vic?” A hoarse whisper.

“I’m here.”

She turned her face to him. “You got me out.”

Relief rose in Vic’s throat. “Yeah. But the house didn’t make it.”

“Cora Stills?”

Vic squeezed his eyelids shut and rocked on his heels. He didn’t know where to start. Cora Stills. The one person who knew something—anything—about his missing teenage daughter. Liz on her way to arrest her. Instead, Liz, handcuffed to a radiator pipe as flames lathered and stormed through Cora’s house. Cora’s burned-out car found two days later on a crumbling stone dock next to a deserted warehouse, the Allegheny River emptying westward.

Cora, alive and moving through that tomb of darkness outside the window. Free.

“Vic…” Liz said something more but he couldn’t make it out.

He bent closer.

She forced her words from somewhere deep inside, and as she spoke, he knew this was what she saved through all the fear and pain to tell him. “Someone told Cora I was coming.”


Excerpt from The Things That Last Forever by Peter W. J. Hayes. Copyright 2020 by Peter W. J. Hayes. Reproduced with permission from Peter W. J. Hayes. All rights reserved.


Author Bio:

Peter W. J. Hayes

Peter W. J. Hayes worked as a journalist, advertising copywriter and marketing executive before turning to mystery and crime writing. He is the author of the Silver Falchion-nominated Pittsburgh trilogy, a police procedural series, and is a Derringer-nominated author of more than a dozen short stories. His work has appeared in Black Cat Mystery Magazine, Mystery Weekly, Pulp Modern and various anthologies, including two Malice Domestic collections and The Best New England Crime Stories. He is also a past nominee for the Crime Writers Association (CWA) Debut Dagger Award.

Peter can be found at:



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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Peter W.J. Hayes. There will be 4 winners for this giveaway. Two (2) winners will each receive one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card and two (2) winners will each receive one (1) physical copy of The Things That Last Forever by Peter W.J. Hayes (US Only). The giveaway begins on January 1, 2021 and runs through March 2, 2021. Void where prohibited.


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One thought on “#GuestPost Writing Through the Apocalypse by Peter W. J. Hayes, author of “The Things That Last Forever”

  1. What a great article! Not only for authors but readers too. When we got the stay at home order, my first thought was, GREAT! I’m going to breeze through my tower of books that were overdue, but, the opposite happened. I just couldn’t focus!! And every few minutes, I was checking my feed because things were changing so fast. And not only was I following my state’s feed, but I was also checking 2 other states’ feeds where my sons live. And yes, I also would head for the refrigerator or taking time to bake brownies.


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