The Write Stuff – Monday, April 13 – Interview With Nicholas Rossis

book photo NR_500I first encountered Nicholas Rossis about a year ago through the Facebook Group, Fantasy Sci-Fi Network News. He is a renaissance man, a diligent, cogent blogger and a best-selling fantasy author. If I were asked to describe him in as few words as possible, I would call him engaged, intelligent and pro-active.

When I asked him to describe himself, he did so as follows: Avid reader. Web developer. Architect by training, holder of a PhD in Digital Architecture from the University of Edinburgh. Most importantly, author.

Nicholas loves to write. He has published Runaway Smile, a children’s book, which you can read for free on his blog. He has also written the Amazon best-selling epic fantasy series, Pearseus. The final book in the series is currently penned and expected summer 2015.

Finally, he has published the Amazon best-seller The Power of Six, a collection of short sci-fi stories that includes his award-winning short story, I Come in Peace.

Nicholas lives in Athens, Greece, at a forest’s edge, with his wife, dog and two very silly cats, one of whom is always purring on his lap.

Nicholas, will you tell us about your most recent release?

coverVigil-700That would be Pearseus: Vigil, the third book in my epic fantasy Pearseus series, and the penultimate one overall.

What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?

I wanted to have it ready for Christmas, so the main challenge was to have everything ready by then.

I failed.

You see, in the end I decided it was far more important to produce the best possible book, than to meet an arbitrary deadline. So, when the feedback from my beta readers came and I realized I needed to change a few things to improve on the story, I decided to release the book a month later, even if that meant missing the Christmas period.

I think that was wise. Producing the best book one can is a universal dictum and sound advice. Will you tell us about your other novels?

I have written another three Pearseus books, including a novelette-sized prequel. I have also written The Power of Six, a collection of short stories with a science fiction/fantasy twist.

About a month prior to Pearseus: Vigil, I had released my first children’s book, Runaway Smile. I’m especially fond of this one, particularly the great illustrations provided by the very talented Dimitris Fousekis.

Have there been any awards, productions, videos or anything else of interest associated with your work?

I’ve been lucky enough that four of my books have repeatedly reached #1 on Amazon in their respective genres. Also, one of the short stories in The Power of Six has won a competition here in Greece and was included in a traditionally-published anthology.

I haven’t made any videos, but it’s something I’ve been considering for a while now. I’ll let you know when I do.

What else are you working on?

I’ve already started working on the last Pearseus book (working title: Endgame – you heard it here first), but I’m also working on my next children’s book, Musiville. It’s currently illustrated by Dimitris, and I’m not helping by making changes to the text!

What would you say are the occupational hazards of being a novelist?

Too many to list here, from the obvious (square eyes from staring at a screen all day long) to the not-so-obvious (people think you’ve had a stroke because you spend half the day staring in empty space). Also, I should mention insomnia (from planning your next scene) and industrial-strength absent-mindedness (a natural consequence of your mind being light years away).

Hah! You’re as bad as I am. Will you share with us how you became a published author?

One could say I’ve always been writing in the form of essays, but also a dream journal, where I’ve kept my most memorable dreams since I was in my late teens. Then, in 2009, I dreamed that someone was urging me to write. I flicked through my dream journal and came across a potentially good tale, so I wrote it up as a short story and submitted it to 9, a Greek sci-fi journal. To my great surprise, it was published. Then, I entered a competition with my next story, and won an award – this was the one I mentioned earlier.

I felt I had found my calling, and started working on my novel, Pearseus, while writing further short stories, a children’s book series (currently being illustrated) and various blog posts in between. I tried sending my various manuscripts to maybe a dozen agents and publishers, but was rejected. It gradually dawned on me that things move at a glacial sleep in the world of traditional publishing. Being rather impatient, I decided to self-publish. To my astonishment, the second book of the Pearseus series reached #1 in its genre within two months of its launch.

I have now published traditionally my children’s book, Runaway Smile, in Greece, so I consider myself a hybrid author.

Fantasy authors frequently kill off their characters. If you were going to commit the perfect murder, how would you go about it?

I’m the kind of person who tries to resuscitate ants when he accidentally steps on one, so I think I’m the last person who would commit any kind of crime – let alone murder.

Except in my books, of course. I’ve been reading Sue Coletta’s free 50 ways to Murder your Fictional Character, and now have a pretty good idea of what to use: poison. There’s many a poisonous herbs in our gardens, so the easiest thing would be to slip a handful of those into the unsuspecting victim’s casserole and make sure they eat alone. This would make it the perfect crime, especially if they’re the kind of person to have a herb garden.

Hmm. I’ll have to file that away. Returning to something more serious, is there anything you want to make sure potential readers know?

Only that I love and cherish each and every one of them. If I knew where they lived, I’d bring them chocolate cookies. Unless they left a poor review of course, in which case they’d better not eat them.

I think that brings us back to the previous question. Do you have another job outside of writing?

Yes, I’ve been working on the Internet for the past 20 years, mainly in web design and web marketing. This proved to be a great help when I started self-publishing, as I’ve been using most of the things I’ve learned through my day job for promoting my books. The best thing about it is that I can do it from home, as we have turned the ground floor into a spacious office area, which means no commute. Plus, the tea is always excellent.

Before I share an excerpt from Vigil, I’d like to close with a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m a…

strange kind of beast. But an affectionate one.

The one thing I cannot do without is…

The Internet. I’d feel mute and deaf without it.

The one thing I would change about my life:

Having children. Someone has to test-drive my children’s books.

My biggest peeve is…

The human capacity for self-delusion. I’m now convinced that it’s infinite.

The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is…

My wife, as she totally gets me!

As promised, here is an excerpt from Vigil, after which you will find links where to purchase Nicholas’s books, as well as how to connect with him.

In the Sewers

In the distance, they heard the grating of metal against cobbles as the soldiers opened the manhole to search for them inside the dirty sewers.

She lost track of time as they sped down one tunnel after another, each stinking a little more. She fought to push the image of Sophie’s bloodied body away from her mind, but it kept popping back to her head. The woman had been like a mother and a sister, helping raise the twins as if they were her own. And the priest; why would a priest of Themis be after them? What had they done to offend their goddess?

Elsie froze and her pretty face went white. Angel followed her eyes to a dozen red eyes peering at them from the darkness. She pulled her little sister by the hand. “Don’t look at it,” she whispered, but the little girl could not move. Angel leaned down to face her, trying to avoid the stinking waters. More red eyes blinked around them. “Honey, it’s just a rat. It’s more scared of you than you are of it.”

Elsie bobbed her head while craning it around Angel’s shoulder to stare at the animals splashing in the stinking water. Angel swallowed a sigh and lifted her into her arms. Themis, she’s heavier than she looks!

The girl burrowed in Angel’s arms, squirming with each new rat they encountered. Balancing the torch with one hand and holding Elsie with the other proved impossible. Angel handed the torch to Cook. Stumbling under the weight, she moved as fast as she could. She took one turn, then another, when the torch fell into the water with a loud hiss. It glowed for a second, then the light disappeared.

“I’m sorry,” Cook whispered with a strained voice. “It slipped.”

Angel stopped herself from screaming at him. “It’s all right. We’ll just follow…” Her voice trailed off. Where was the light from Xhi’s torch? He must have moved on, unaware that he had left them behind. She fought the urge to shout his name; she had no idea how close the soldiers might be. When was the last time she had seen the flame from his torch? Shit! It was back at the rats’ nest. She must have taken a wrong turn, and now they were lost. Swearing at herself, she wondered how to tell the children that they had to go back. She opened her mouth, then heard faraway voices. Soldiers!

“Follow me,” she whispered and raised one hand to feel the walls as she pressed forward in the darkness. In the distance, her straining eyes caught a light. She headed that way, hoping to find Xhi. Instead, they arrived at a grating that sliced the dim light from above into dirty squares flickering in the waters. She let Elsie down with a loud sigh. “Will you be all right now, honey?”

The girl nodded, holding back terrified tears.

She heard the voices again, this time accompanied by the sound of approaching feet splashing in the filthy waters. They must be getting closer! Her gaze jumped around, searching for a hiding place. She pushed the twins into a tight alcove, squirming behind them. I wish I had a knife! More splashing echoed in the narrow space, drawing nearer. She held her breath as she pressed their bodies to the wall, wishing to blend into the shadows.

“Angel?” Cyrus’ voice made her jump out of her skin, then she burst from her hiding place to jump into his arms.

“Thank Themis, I thought—”

Xhi did not let her finish her sentence. “They’re heading this way. Hurry.” He climbed a tight ladder before pushing a manhole cover to sneak a look outside. A few moments later, he motioned them up. With some loud, straining breaths, she raised Cook, then Elsie into his arms, and he lifted them out. Angel pushed Cyrus up, then followed them.

They had emerged in a confined alleyway, now covered in darkness. The derelict buildings could only be part of the Slums. She drank the evening air in deep gulps. The stained walls around them stank of mold, urine and moisture, but to Angel the stale air smelled of freedom. The twins stared at the unfamiliar surroundings. Elsie sniffed and wrinkled her nose in disgust. They must be so scared. Angel wished she had some sort of treat, aside from a half-eaten apple.

Thank you so much for sharing with us, Nicholas!

Visitors can connect with Nicholas on the following links:

Facebook         www.facebook.com/NicholasCRossis

Twitter             www.twitter.com/Nicholas_Rossis

Google+           https://plus.google.com/+NicholasRossis

Blog                   http://nicholasrossis.me/

You may purchase his books at:

http://www.amazon.com/Nicholas-C.-Rossis/e/B00FXXIBZA/

Cover_Runaway_Smile_700http://www.amazon.com/Runaway-Smile-fairy-unshared-wasted-ebook/dp/B00QQC2YLY/

The Write Stuff – Monday, March 30 – Interview With Robert Dugoni

On several occasions over the past two years, I’ve had the privilege of interviewing some of the world’s first tier thriller authors. This month, I have the special pleasure of introducing you to Robert, or Bob, Dugoni as he prefers to be called. I first met this humble and gracious man in August of 2011, at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association’s Summer Conference in Bellevue, Washington. It was Thursday, August 4, and Bob was going to be teaching the second part of a course on writing, later that afternoon. Early that morning, just before his co-presenter, Chris Humphreys, opened the seminar, I spotted Bob at the back of the room. When I approached him, I found him to be immediately open and affable. Although it was a brief conversation, I will never forget how genuinely touched he seemed to be when I told him my wife had enjoyed all of his books and thought him to be a better writer than Scott Turow—an author whom Bob conceded was one of his favorites. Even so, you will see from his biography that follows, he is a force to be reckoned with.

SAM_1300Robert Dugoni is the #1 Amazon and New York Times Bestselling Author of eight novels. His latest, My Sister’s Grave, was the #1 Amazon bestseller for two months and Amazon, Library Journal, and Suspense Magazine all chose it as a 2014 Best Book of the Year. Dugoni is also the author of the best-selling David Sloane series, The Jury Master, Wrongful Death, Bodily Harm, Murder One and The Conviction, as well as the stand alone novel Damage Control. His books have twice been recognized by the Los Angeles Times as a top five thriller of the year. Murder One was a finalist for the prestigious Harper Lee Award for literary excellence. Dugoni’s first book, the nonfiction expose, The Cyanide Canary, was a Washington Post 2004 Best Book of the year. Dugoni’s books have been likened to Scott Turow and Nelson DeMille, and the Providence Rhode Island Journal has called him the “the undisputed king of the legal thriller” and the “heir to Grisham’s literary throne.”

The following is a brief peek at My Sister’s Grave:

MySistersGrave CoverTracy Crosswhite has spent twenty years questioning the facts surrounding her sister Sarah’s disappearance and the murder trial that followed. She doesn’t believe that Edmund House—a convicted rapist and the man condemned for Sarah’s murder—is the guilty party. Motivated by the opportunity to obtain real justice, Tracy became a homicide detective with the Seattle PD and dedicated her life to tracking down killers.

When Sarah’s remains are finally discovered near their hometown in the northern Cascade mountains of Washington State, Tracy is determined to get the answers she’s been seeking. As she searches for the real killer, she unearths dark, long-kept secrets that will forever change her relationship to her past—and open the door to deadly danger.

Bob, will you please tell us about My Sister’s Grave?

I wanted to do something fresh. One of my joys as a writer is creating new characters, getting to know them and then letting them run and see what happens. I had been fascinated with an idea ever since I read that Washington was taking down several dams to restore the wild Salmon’s natural spawning grounds. When I read further, I learned that large lakes above the dams would drain and so, as a writer, I thought, “What if?” “What if they were to find a body?” From there the questions multiplied. “What if the body was someone who had disappeared years earlier, without a trace?” “What if the body was someone prominent or the daughter of someone prominent?” “What does a murder do to a family, to an entire small town?” “What if the discovery of that body included evidence that maybe, just maybe, the person convicted and in jail might be innocent?” “What if that small town is harboring some big secrets that certain individuals don’t want exposed?”

It’s taken me more than a decade of writing but I’ve come to realize that while I write thrillers they have a very strong “relationship” element to them not unlike Gone Girl, which was really all about the relationship between the husband and the wife. I think readers will love getting to know Tracy and her relationship to her sister, Sarah. I think women in particular will feel the bond that those two characters share as well as the pain Tracy feels when Sarah disappears, without a trace. I think they’ll love reading about a tough, strong willed, intelligent woman seeking justice. Beyond that, I hope they’ll just love an old-fashioned edge of your chair thriller with a heart pounding ending.

What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?

Trying not to write from the perspective of a woman, though my lead character is a woman. I knew that would be a potential disaster. So I wrote from the perspective of a human being struggling to find closure and justice for a horrific crime committed to her sister that damaged not just her, but her entire family and bucolic existence in a small town. I have four professional sisters and a mother who has run her own business for 40 years. I’ve been surrounded by intelligent, strong willed women my entire life. Tracy Crosswhite is an amalgamation of all of them, with a healthy dose of real life Seattle Homicide Detective Jennifer Southworth. So I tried to draw from all of them.

What other novels have you written?

I’ve written 8 other novels: The Jury Master, Damage Control, Wrongful Death, Bodily Harm, Murder One, The Conviction, Her Last Breath, The Cyanide Canary as well as The Academy, a short story.

Have there been any awards, productions, videos or anything else of interest associated with your work?

Several have hit the NY Times Bestseller List, including My Sister’s Grave, which was also the #1 Amazon download for two months.

Murder One was a finalist for the Harper Lee award for literary excellence

Murder One and Bodily Harm were chosen as one of the five best legal thrillers of the year by Library Journal and by the Los Angeles Times Book Review.

What else are you working on?

The sequel to My Sister’s Grave, Her last Breath will be published September 8, 2015. I’m working on the third in the series.

Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?

Yes, hearing voices in your head all day that sound very real to you.

Hah! I know that one. I also know you were a two-time winner of PNWA’s annual literary contest, which is an unusual accomplishment in and of itself, and those were events that helped get you started. Can you give us any additional insights to your path to publication?

Like a roller coaster. I had an agent die, a publisher get bought by a huge conglomerate, been to the top and back to the bottom and back to the top. This is not a profession for the faint of heart.

Indeed it isn’t. What would you say is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing a novel?

Putting your butt in the chair day after day.

So true. Writing thrillers demands that you “do in” certain characters. Have you ever dispatched someone in a book and then regretted it?

Yes, in Bodily Harm, though I won’t say who.

I guess our visitors will have to read it, then try to figure that out for themselves. Do you have another job outside of writing?

I still practice law a couple days a week.

What motivates or inspires you?

My kids. I have a son who is 18 and a daughter 15. I want the best for them because they are terrific kids and deserve every opportunity to succeed.

How do you pick yourself up in the face of adversity?

What else are you going to do? You can’t quit. If you quit, the critics and cynics win. You have to keep going forward, believe in yourself and be intelligent about your career path.

Some people do quit, despite all that, so I must say how much I admire you. Will you tell us what has been your greatest success in life?

My marriage and my two children.

Do you have any pet projects?

I clean the dog poop in the backyard on a regular basis!

Now that was unexpected. Who has been your greatest inspiration?

My mother and father. They raised 10 kids, all professionals. They just never gave in.

And that tells us where you got your attitude. Before we close, Bob, I like to finish with a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m a …

bit of a Gremlin.

The one thing I cannot do without is:

My wife

The one thing I would change about my life:

Nothing

My biggest peeve is:

People who don’t follow the rules of society the rest of us follow

The person or persons I’m most satisfied with:

My Children

Thank you so much, Bob, for having taken time out of your life to join us here. I’m sure a number of my visitors are glad you stopped by.

For those visitors who would like to sample some of Bob Dugoni’s writing, you can find his latest release at:

http://www.amazon.com/Sisters-Grave-Tracy-Crosswhite-Book-ebook/dp/B00K2EOONI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1424715166&sr=8-1&keywords=My+Sister%27s+Grave

Bob’s website:           www.robertdugoni.com

On Facebook:            https://www.facebook.com/AuthorRobertDugoni /

On Twitter:               @robertdugoni

email:                         bob@robertdugoni.com

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, March 16 – Interview With Matt Pallamary

Over the months since I began this series, I have been privileged to interview several award winning authors. Few of them, however, have garnered as many awards as this week’s guest, Matthew Pallamary. His awards, and the works that earned them, are as follows:

International Book Award – Award Winning Finalist – A Short Walk to the Other Side
USA Best Book Awards – Award Winning Finalist – A Short Walk to the Other Side
International Book Award – 1st Place – Nonfiction New Age – The Infinity Zone
San Diego Book Award – Finalist – The Infinity Zone
Award Winning Finalist – National Best Book Awards – Spirit Matters
San Diego Book Award – Best Spiritual Book – Spirit Matters
San Diego Book Award – Land Without Evil
San Diego Writer’s Monthly Man of the Year Award 2000
2002 Independent e-book award — 1st Place horror/thriller category – Dreamland with Ken Reeth

Author PhotoMatt’s work has appeared in Oui, New Dimensions, The Iconoclast, Starbright, Infinity, Passport, The Short Story Digest, Redcat, The San Diego Writer’s Monthly, Connotations, Phantasm, Essentially You, The Haven Journal, and many others. His fiction has been featured in The San Diego Union Tribune which he has also reviewed books for, and his work has been heard on KPBS-FM in San Diego, KUCI FM in Irvine, television Channel Three in Santa Barbara, and The Susan Cameron Block Show in Vancouver. He has been a guest on nationally syndicated talk shows and a frequent guest on numerous podcasts, among them, The Psychedelic Salon, and C-Realm.

He has taught a fiction workshop at the Southern California Writers’ Conference in San Diego, Palm Springs, and Los Angeles, and at the Santa Barbara Writers’ Conference for twenty five years. He has lectured at the Greater Los Angeles Writer’s Conference, the Getting It Write conference in Oregon, the Saddleback Writers’ Conference, the Rio Grande Writers’ Seminar, the National Council of Teachers of English, The San Diego Writer’s and Editor’s Guild, The San Diego Book Publicists, The Pacific Institute for Professional Writing, and he has been a panelist at the World Fantasy Convention, Con-Dor, and Coppercon. He is presently Editor in Chief of Muse Harbor Publishing.

I could go on for pages with more of his accomplishments, but I’d rather introduce you to the man and talk about his recent release, CyberChrist, a science fiction thriller. This brief introduction will give you a feeling for it:

Ashley Butler, a prize winning journalist at the San Diego Times receives an email from a man who claims to have discovered immortality by turning off the aging gene in a 15 year old boy with an aging disorder. The email has pictures showing a reversal of the aging process and the names of a scientist and a company to investigate. Thinking it a hoax, she forwards the email to friends. Though skeptical, she calls to investigate and gets a no longer in service message. When she leaves her office she overhears a news story about the death of the scientist mentioned in the email. Ashley checks out the company mentioned in the email and discovers a gutted building. At the deceased scientist’s address she has a confrontation with an unfriendly federal investigator. Returning to her office she finds him, subpoena in hand, confiscating her computer. He tells her that the scientist who sent the email is a killer that they need help catching. When her own investigators do more checking, none of them return. The forwarded email becomes the basis for an online church built around the boy, calling him the CyberChrist. The church claims that the Internet is the physical manifestation of the group mind of humanity and the boy is the second coming of Christ online. The federal government tries to shut down the church, but its website replicates faster than they can stop it. While church and state battle over religious freedom online, the media and the state battle over freedom of speech. Ashley battles to stay alive.

Matt, I can’t begin to tell you how pleased I am that you dropped by to talk with us. Will you tell us how CyberChrist came to be?

CyberChrist grew out of my fascination with the subject of immortality, genetics, and the too early death of a close friend, who I “immortalized” in print.

What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?

Keeping up with the rapid pace of technological change which I overcame by keeping abreast of breaking technological advances. CyberChrist needed to be as up to date as possible while being as timeless as possible.

What other novels have you written?

Land Without Evil, DreamLand (With Ken Reeth), Eye of the Predator, Night Whispers. I have also published two short story collections, a nonfiction book, and a memoir.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

No. I write, teach, and edit.

In this day and age, that is highly unusual. Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?

Eating.

That was unexpected. Would you care to elaborate?

I was referring to the inconsistency of income. Sometimes it’s feast, but more often than not it’s famine. Being a novelist, you can’t depend on it for steady income, (unless you’re Stephen King or someone like that.), so if you are dedicated to it, you have to be doing it for the love. I write full time, but I also teach and edit to make ends meet and even that goes in feast and famine cycles.

Most of us imagine life as a successful novelist somewhat more romantically. This takes some of the blush off the rose. Clearly, you know it on a more intimate level. Getting down to the nuts and bolts—if you’ll allow me to mix metaphors—what is your single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing a novel?

Staying focused and avoiding distractions.

Boy! Do I know that one. Distraction can come at you from all directions and in all sorts of disguises. You’ve come a long way as a self-published author. Will you tell us about your path to publication?

I have been through a few publishers and agents and now take great satisfaction in doing my own thing.

CyberChrist is a thriller and thrillers usually involve loss of life. If you were going to commit the perfect murder, how would you go about it?

By not telling a soul about it, or how I would go about it.

I hope you don’t have anything of that sort in the works. Have you ever dispatched someone in a book and then regretted it?

I never regretted it as it was necessary for the story, but it broke my heart on more than one occasion.

How many people have you done away with over the course of your career?

Thousands.

After CyberChrist, what else are you working on?

Phantastic Fiction Front CoverI have another nonfiction book titled Phantastic Fiction – A Shamanic Approach to Story, which will be released this coming June at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference where I have been teaching a Phantastic Fiction workshop for twenty five years.

Very nice. Will you tell us what has been your greatest success in life?

My novel, Land Without Evil and the amazing aerial stage show that came from it.

Here is a link to the preview.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUftl-0AqAI

What do you consider your biggest failure?

One of my best friends is a huge fan of the Mythbusters show. I have watched it a number of times with him. They have a motto, which I will paraphrase here.

There is no failure, there is only data.

Who have been your greatest inspirations?

My Mom, Ray Bradbury, Sparky Schulz, Barnaby Conrad, Chuck Champlin, as well as Sid Stebel and David Brin, who is a good friend of mine.

Is there anything we haven’t touched on you want to make sure potential readers know?

I have been writing for over thirty years and have been teaching and leading writing workshops at major writer’s conferences for over twenty five years, so I am not someone who jumped on the self-publishing bandwagon without any skills or experience. I was blessed to have Ray Bradbury as a mentor as well as Charles (Sparky) Schulz, Barnaby Conrad and the late, great Charles (Chuck) Champlin, the L.A. Times leading film critic for twenty five years. I was very pleased to see Chuck honored at the 2015 Oscars tribute. Together they adopted me into the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference family.

Very nice. Before we present a sample from CyberChrist and tell our visitors where they can get your books, let’s do very quick Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m…

Nuts

The one thing I cannot do without is…

Breathing

The one thing I would change about my life…

The last woman I was married to.

Here is a quick peek at CyberChrist, followed by various links you can use to learm more about Matt and his work.

CHAPTER ONE

CyberChrist Front CoverAshley Butler set her chamomile tea and bran muffin down on her desk and hit the power button on her computer. While the little electronic monster under her desk beeped and chattered to life, she brushed ringlets of long brown hair from her face and pulled them into a pony tail, then she leaned back in her chair and watched the never-ending activity from The San Diego Times newsroom through the tinted glass wall of her office.

Mounted close to the ceiling above the doors, half a dozen TV monitors lined the far wall showing CNN, MSNBC, local, and national news. Smaller computer screens glowed from rows of cubicles below them. The steady clicking of keyboards filled the air while phones rang and people scurried in and out of offices.

Less than a year ago Ashley had occupied one of those cubicles until her prize winning story about the murder of an environmental terrorist brought her from reporter to feature writer. Her editor and mentor Scott Miller had worked through the assignment with her, pushing for more revisions. His suggestions helped pull things together, sparking a close father-daughter relationship that made her eager to please by giving him nothing but her best work.

Her computer played the opening strains of Virginia Woolf by the Indigo Girls, signaling the log-on screen. Ashley nibbled her muffin and tapped in her password with one hand. Her email popped up showing seventeen messages. She recognized sixteen of the names. She had never seen the seventeenth. It had an enclosure.

Dr. Justin Stephens — Subject: Immortality

“What’s that all about?” she muttered, double clicking the mail icon. The message screen appeared, but it had no words. She clicked on the enclosure. Pictures and algebraic equations filled her screen.

The first picture showed a wizened sexless countenance with wrinkled, ashen skin, no eyebrows, and a bald head that seemed too large for such a small face. A beaked nose and receding chin looked as if the mouth would swallow them. Jagged teeth sprouted from red gums and milky blue eyes protruded under lashless eyelids.

Ashley’s breath hitched when she read the caption beneath it.

Diagnosis/Prognosis: Chris Daniels, age 14 presents with Progeria, an acceleration of the aging process to approximately seven times the normal rate. Symptoms include heart disease, arteriosclerosis, arthritis, stunted growth, and premature aging. Applied gene therapy has resulted in the isolation and turning off of an inverted insertion in the long arm of chromosome one. The miraculous results of the administered protocol are shown in the following photos.

More pictures followed, their sequence appearing to go backward in time. In the second picture, Chris’s eyes looked clearer. His or her skin appeared softer with a flush of color; as if it now held moisture, and the child’s teeth had evened some. Ashley thought she saw peach fuzz where eyebrows should be.

The child’s face looked fuller and more feminine in the third picture and the teeth looked straighter. Ashley saw hair on Chris’s head and the kid definitely had eyebrows. The fire in Chris’s now ice blue eyes burned brighter.

The two pictures that followed looked younger and more perfect somehow; androgynous with brighter eyes, a normally proportioned face, and fully formed eyebrows. Feathery lashes, a thickening head of long hair, and healthy skin tone accented everything else, giving Chris an angelic countenance.

I’ve seen this trick before, Ashley thought. They Photo-shopped these to make it look like the person ages at warp speed.

In the last picture, Chris’s hair had grown down to his or her shoulders. Other than tiny crow’s feet around the kid’s eyes and indeterminate sex, Chris looked like a normal teenager, only this kid was beautiful. Ashley couldn’t believe the caption under the picture.

Chris Daniels – Age:17

 

Friend Matt on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/matthew.pallamary

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The Write Stuff – Monday, March 2 – Interview With Wendy Van Camp

Wendy Van Camp is an author and blogger extraordinaire. We met through the Facebook Group, Fantasy Sci-Fi Network, where authors of both genres get together to share publishing information and news of interest to each other, as well as to readers at large. If you are a reader who is interested in either of these genres, you will do well to stop by https://www.facebook.com/FSFNet Fantasy Sci-Fi Network News on a regular basis for updates. Also, please follow us via the #FSFNet hashtag on Twitter.

Wendy Van Camp HeadshotI wanted to use this week’s installment to introduce you to Wendy for two reasons:

(1) Her blogs are filled with rich, insightful interviews with an array of wonderful authors and

(2) Her own writing is crisp and polished. Even though she is still laboring to complete her first novel, her short story and novella length works shine with a polished professional style that’s a pleasure to read.

This is how Wendy describes herself:

My name is Wendy Van Camp. I write science fiction, fantasy, memoir, Scifaiku poetry, and dabble in regency romance. My work has appeared in literary and science fiction magazines such as “Shadows Express”, “Quantum Visions”, “Serendipity”, and “Far Horizons”.

I’m married to a wonderful guy and have a furbaby that I spoil. I collect fountain pens, inks and notebooks like other women collect shoes. I love riding all the great bicycle trails we have here in Orange County, California and cruising PCH with the moon roof open in my car on sunny summer days. I’ve been an artisan jeweler for the past 19 years and a certified gemologist since 2011. I have the diploma to prove it!

Wendy, tell us about your recent release, “The Curate’s Brother.”

Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors. I love all her books, but Persuasion is my favorite. I started to read fanfiction based on Austen’s novels and eventually, ideas for a story of my own developed. “Letters from the Sea” was a Nanowrimo project in 2011 that told the story of how Frederick Wentworth and Anne Elliot met and proceeded to a storyline where events took a different turn for the characters. I was never happy with the novel and set it aside for a few years while I worked on other projects. However, the first chapter of the book where Edward Wentworth viewed his brother’s romance kept calling to me. Eventually, this became the bud that bloomed into “The Curate’s Brother”.

Can you elaborate? Tell us about the essence of the story, if you will, and a bit about the plot.

The Curate’s Brother is a short novella about the relationship between the two Wentworth brothers as seen through the eyes of EDWARD WENTWORTH. It follows their romantic antics over one summer in 1806. This story could be seen as a prequel to Jane Austen’s famous novel “Persuasion”.

Edward Wentworth lives a quiet, structured life as a curate in the regency era village of Monkford. He spends his days ministering to the sick and downhearted, which he considers his life’s calling. His comfortable life is shaken when his elder brother, COMMANDER FREDERICK WENTWORTH arrives on his doorstep for a visit. Frederick has returned to England after seeing action and commanding his first vessel, a prize ship won in the West Indies. He is awaiting orders and has the hope of commanding a ship of his own by the end of summer. His only goal is to pass the time with the only family he has left in England until his next assignment.

At first Edward is glad to see his brother. They have not spent time with each other for years due to his brother’s naval service. They are opposites in many ways. Frederick is bold and likes to take risks. Edward is shy and over-aware of social implications. When his brother flirts with SALLY MARSHALL, an outgoing beauty that Edward is used to viewing as “a child”, the young curate becomes aware that his viewpoint of Sally is sorely outdated. His peaceful life is full of turmoil as he observes Sally flirting with men at public assemblies and realizes that he does not like it.

Meanwhile, Frederick finds himself a celebrity in Monkford. Word from the London papers paint him as “the Hero of San Domingo”, where he won a commendation for his quick thinking in action. The men want to hear the story of his exploits, but Frederick would rather dance with the ladies. The Commander takes an interest in shy wallflower, ANNE ELLIOT. He pays no heed to Edward’s warnings that the girl is the daughter of a baronet and well above his station. Edward fears that no good will come of a union between his brother and the girl due to her family connections.

At the end of summer, a letter and a package arrive that will change everything for the two brothers. Which way will prevail, the bold action of the commander or the quiet manners of the curate?

What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?

The Curate s Brother Book Cover (blog)Once I decided to turn that single chapter into a full story, I ended up developing new characters and a romantic plot for Edward. I completed research into the regency period to learn about the culture, common phrases of speech and settings. It was the lack of research that had hampered the original novel. I had been almost exclusively science fiction and fantasy writer before I attempted this project and had not realized that research was a key element in the genre of historical romance.

When I brought the first effort to my critique groups, they all hated it. A few of the men refused to read it because it was a romance and I was told to forget the story. However, one of my critique members told me that she could see a clear plot in this disaster of a draft. She told me, “You are around 10K words short. You need to find those words.” This writer wrote historical romance herself and was more familiar with the tropes and structure of a romance story than the other members of the group. She inspired me to continue. I ended up finding those 10K words. When I brought the new extended version to my critique groups two weeks later, the members loved it and I was told that I had hit the tone of the regency genre on the spot. One month later, it was available on Amazon as my first ebook.

Criticism and rejection of the kind you encountered would have caused many authors to shy away from that project. I admire your courage and tenacity. Now that this novella is published, are you working on anything else?

My other large writing project is a steampunk science fiction trilogy loosely based on characters from Alice in Wonderland. There will be three or four volumes to the tale and a few short stories to support the main novels.

Alice dreams of romance, and when her handsome prince arrives, she follows him through the looking glass into a world of Victorian steam-powered engines, a mad queen, an assassin, and a charming rogue. Will she have the courage to be the heroine that Wonderland needs and find her heart’s desire?

This series is the story that returned me to writing after a long hiatus. The characters grabbed me and would not let go. I am relatively new to the steampunk sub-genre, but it has proven to be great fun with the steam-powered tech and Victorian period customs and dress. The novels are in revision and I hope to release the first volume soon.

It seems as though history even permeates your science fiction. Since you seem to like taking on challenges, and you’re moving from shorter works to something full length, may I ask what is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing a novel?

For all writers, the biggest challenge is to get in the chair and start writing. When you are a writer, it means that you write every day. I admit that I do schedule writing days off for myself, particularly when I am on the road working jewelry events, but when I’m home, I write something for either a story or my blog every day. Otherwise you blink and two weeks go by without anything to show for it.

What are you planning on writing in the near future?

I am working on series of sequels to “The Curate’s Brother”. There will be a Regency Christmas story set in Kellynch Hall and I have rewritten “Letters From The Sea” to include not only more details from my period research, but fleshed out the storylines of both the main characters. None of these will be format romances. Instead they will be character driven stories with romantic elements. All of the new regency projects are in revision. I hope to have one ready to publish by the end of this year.

The Write Stuff’s visitors enjoy all sorts of genres, so I’m sure many also hope you’re on track to complete them. A bit about you now. Do you have another job outside of writing?

I am an artisan jeweler and have owned my business for 19 years. I create jewelry from semi-precious stones, sterling silver, copper and handmade art glass. My work has a Celtic theme, but with contemporary style. I sell my jewelry at Highland Games, Science Fiction Conventions, and Concerts. I currently do not have a webstore and frankly I am not sure if I want one. While jewelry is my day job, I am more focused on shifting into being an author these days. I suspect that I will be making jewelry for years to come, but gradually I will be making items for myself and friends instead of it being a business. You can typically find my jewelry in the art show at conventions where I am also with my books.

Describe a typical day.

I start my day in my home studio/office. I check email, do my basic daily marketing for the blog and tend to any questions that have come in via email. Then things shift depending on what I’m working on. If I’m drafting, I take my Alphasmart Neo to the local coffeehouse and draft a good 2K words or more. I don’t come home until I reach my quota. If I’m editing, I will work at home in my office since I use Scrivener for revisions and editing software for copyediting. I like to take a long lunch break to walk the dog or ride my bicycle mid-day and when I return, unless a story is grabbing me, I’ll work on house projects, make jewelry on my bench, or even cook a gourmet meal for dinner. When I’m feeling particular naughty, I’ll even read a book! After dinner, I return to my office and this is when my true creative time is. I create my best stories late at night. I’m not sure why. At least my husband seems to accept my night owl behavior.

What motivates or inspires you (not necessarily as regards your writing)?

I’ve always been a self-starter and highly creative, even as a small child. My parents wanted me to be an engineer when I was growing up. I spent two years studying engineering in college before I realized that, while I find science fascinating, the life of an engineer was too structured for me. I shifted into television production, writing and eventually into being a metalsmith and jeweler. My schedule is always in flux and I travel due to my work. All of which I love. I’ve been fortunate that my jewelry and writing have been accepted by the public and the sales of which allow me to continue doing what I love. The travel and adventure is what keeps me motivated.

Do you have any pet projects?

I love to sketch and draw zentangles. There is something relaxing about sitting outside with watercolor paper and drawing repetitive shapes to form the completed artwork. My sketches are not worthy of sale, but I enjoy the tactical feeling of pen to paper and it gives me an excuse to use my fountain pens and fancy inks. It is good to turn off all the screens and enjoy the simple things in life.

Zentangles sound like fun. Now, before I share an excerpt from “The Curate’s Brother,” let’s try a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, answer these five questions:

What would your best friend tell me about you?

My best friend would tell you I’m a creative workaholic.

The one thing I cannot do without is:

coffee!

The one thing I would change about my life:

Taken more risks sooner!

My biggest peeve is:

Men that automatically assume that women are “beginners” at anything professional or technical.

The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is:

My husband

I especially liked your last answer, Wendy, and I want to thank you so much for stopping by.

Here is the excerpt I promised, at the end of which you can find links where to purchase her novella and where to keep in touch with her.

From “The Curate’s Brother”

Stepping out into the soft morning sunshine the following Sunday, Edward found his accustomed place to one side of the doorway of the Monkford church. His Vicar took the other. A mother and father followed by four children were the first to depart. The father stopping for a moment with the Vicar to chat before the family set off to walk home. This was his first day at church since his brother arrived. That Frederick wanted to come to service and see what he did for his living, pleased Edward.

“Good day, Mr. Wentworth.” The voice was soft, feminine and familiar.

“Thank you for the biscuits, Miss Marshall. It was kind of you to bring them to the cottage.”

The girl blushed, the ringlets of her hair giving a pleasant bounce as she dipped her head. Was this the young girls that brought biscuits to his doorstep or help organize the contents of the poor box after services? That memory did not fit the girl standing before him now, wearing an adult frock and a bonnet to protect her complexion. He found the juxtaposition of Sally the child and the adult clothing of the newly come out Miss Marshall to be disconcerting.

Miss Marshall’s attention shifted and her eyes grew wide. Edward noticed his brother, wearing ill-fitting cast offs from the church in place of his naval uniform, had come to join him. He was giving Miss Marshall a casual grin that warred with his feral appraisal that swept over her form. The girl’s eyelashes fluttered and she blushed. Edward felt a wave of discomfort start in his gut and flow to his chest.

“Would you do the honor of introducing me to your fair companion?”

Miss Marshall looked at Edward with expectation and a flash of excitement. He prevented himself from grimacing. “Miss Sally Marshall, may I introduce my brother, Commander Frederick Wentworth of his Majesty’s Royal Navy. Frederick, this is Miss Marshall, the daughter of the village apothecary.” Sally gave a polite curtsy to his brother’s bow and the introduction became complete.

More families streamed through the open double doors of the church, filling the narrow porch. Sally dimpled and said, “Welcome to Monkford, Commander. Will you be staying long with us?’

“As long as the admiralty allows, Miss Marshall. I am awaiting reassignment.”

Miss Marshall’s smile diminished, but she rallied. “Mr. Wentworth, you simply must bring your brother to the assembly next week.”

“You have not mentioned an assembly, Edward.” There was a good natured prodding in Frederick’s voice.

He faced his brother. “I am sure that I would have in time.” Turning back to Sally, “We will both attend, Miss Marshall, you can be certain.”

The girl gave a clap of her gloved hands and this time her winsome smile included both men. “What delightful news. I look forward to telling Papa.” More people were crowding the narrow entry. The girl gave a quick curtsy to the brothers and continued down the steps where her family was waiting.

“What an amiable girl. You have been holding out on me, Edward. I wonder what other delights Monkford will hold.”

“Frederick, Miss Marshall is a respectable girl and the daughter of a friend. If you intend to ruin this girl’s reputation…” A hand from his seafaring brother on his shoulder stopped him.

“I am returning to sea soon enough. I have no intention of starting a complication here. Come, greet your parish. Say no more.” Edward studied his brother’s face and saw no guile there. He relaxed. One after another, the people exited the church, pausing either with himself or with the Vicar across the way.

There did not seem to be a preference by the people of Monkford between the elder Vicar and the Curate. Though Edward was a scant two and twenty years of age, he was as respected as the Vicar. At least, until the baronet’s family from Kellynch Hall exited the church.

Sir Walter Elliot wore a puce frock coat and appeared well groomed, to the point that his coiffure would be the envy of women. His silver headed cane gleamed in the morning light. An elegant woman of similar age followed along with two young women. The first girl had elaborate braids, perfect skin, and a dress of the finest cut and quality. The other was pale, exhibiting fragility. She wore the sprig muslin of an innocent. Sir Walter never stopped to speak to Edward, a mere curate. He would only acknowledge the Vicar when he and his family came to church.

He heard a catch of breath behind him. “Who is that beautiful creature, Edward?”

Edward glanced back to learn who his brother was speaking of and realized he was looking at the baronet’s daughters. “Miss Elliot is the belle of Somersetshire. She is Sir Walter Elliot’s eldest daughter. Reputed to be the heiress of quite a fortune.” There was much speculation about whom Miss Elliot would settle on. Perhaps a man of wealth and title would be able to tempt the golden haired beauty. Sir Walter was in excellent health and while Miss Elliot was quite eligible, neither father nor daughter was in a hurry to find a match.

“No, no, not the fancy one. The one behind her with the brown hair, the lady’s companion? Pretty little thing she is.”

“That is no companion. Miss Anne Elliot is Sir Walter’s second daughter.”

“She is like a pocket sprite, you could just scoop her up and put her in your…”

“Frederick, please. There are people about.”

Across the way, Anne Elliot had noticed his brother’s regard. Her pale face colored a becoming pink and she looked away.

“Such a shy one. It might be fun to draw her out.”

“Frederick, did you not pay heed? She is the daughter of a baronet. Come to your senses man.” While their father had been wealthy enough to buy Frederick’s commission in the navy and to sponsor Edward an education at Cambridge, they were of the merchant class, no match in status for someone of the peerage.

His brother followed the girl’s progress down the steps as Sir Walter led his party to the carriage that waited at the end of the lane. “Brother, you will learn that sometimes risk has its reward.” Anne Elliot entered the carriage and a footman closed the door. His brother turned from the girl and gave Edward his full attention. “Why are you convinced that I have come to cause your doom? Do you think so little of me?”

Edward deflated. “No. I suppose I keep thinking of you as the twelve year old scamp that insisted he was for the sea until father gave in to your desires. I do not know the man that has come back to England. At least, not yet.”

“Fair enough. We need a shakedown cruise to clear the decks between us.” Frederick moved behind Edward to allow more of the parishioners to exit the church. “I hope that we both prove to each other’s satisfaction.”

Book online sales links:

Amazon:         http://www.amazon.com/Curates-Brother-Austen-Variation-Persuasion-ebook/dp/B00OU1V45A

Createspace:    https://www.createspace.com/5286662

Links to Wendy’s website, blog and online social accounts:

Website/Blog (No Wasted Ink):     http://nowastedink.com

Twitter:                                                http://twitter.com/wvancamp

Goodreads:                                          https://www.goodreads.com/indigoskye

Facebook:                                            http://www.facebook.com/nowastedink

Google+:                                             http://www.google.com/+WendyVanCamp

Amazon Author Page:                      https://www.amazon.com/author/wendyvancamp

The Write Stuff – Monday, February 16 – Interview With Ann Charles

I first met Ann Charles in early 2011. We were co-contributors to the writers’ blog, Black Ink White Paper. Unfortunately for the blog, but very fortunate for her, Ann’s debut novel, Nearly Departed in Deadwood, had won the 2010 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense as well as the the 2011 RWA Golden Heart Award. Her career was taking off with such momentum she was forced to bid us farewell. Who could blame her? It has since turned into a five book series with the sixth book about to be started. In addition to the Deadwood Mystery Series, fans also follow her Jackrabbit Junction Mystery Series and her Dig Site Mystery Series. Not content what those successes, she has recently launched a new book that’s causing a great deal of buzz, because Look What the Wind Blew In begins a brand new series.

IMG_2994 FUNNY SEPIAA member of Sisters in Crime and Romance Writers of America for many moons, Ann Charles has a B.A. in English with an emphasis on creative writing from the University of Washington. She is currently toiling away on her next book, wishing she was on a Mexican beach with an ice-cold Corona in one hand and her Kindle in the other. When she is not dabbling in fiction, she is arm wrestling with her two kids, attempting to seduce her husband, and arguing with her sassy cat. Most nights, you can find her hanging out over at www.anncharles.com, on Facebook as Ann Charles, or as AnnWCharles on Twitter–especially around midnight when her quirky fictional world comes to life.

She describes Look What the Wind Blew In like this:

Welcome to the jungle … 

A headstrong and determined archaeologist.

A tall, dark, and unwelcome photojournalist.

Both are trying to unearth secrets that have been long buried, but an ancient Maya curse threatens to destroy them… unless they can learn to trust each other enough to make it out of the jungle alive.

Welcome to The Write Stuff, Ann. I’m so pleased you could join us. Please tell us about your new release.

At the end of January, I released my latest book, Look What The Wind Blew In. This is the story of Quint Parker, a photojournalist, who is also the brother of the heroine in my Deadwood Mystery Series. It’s the first in an archaeological mystery/adventure series that I’ve been wanting to get rolling for years.

What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?

A long, long time ago in a college far, far away, I took a class called History of Mexico. My major was Spanish and I was fascinated with all things south of the United States border—language, art, food, and culture to name a few. Oh, and margaritas, iced or blended, I wasn’t picky. But I digress … in that history class, I learned about the Maya. I read about their famous cities, such as Tulum and Chichen Itza, and I viewed artists’ renditions of their grandeur-filled past as well as current day photographs. I soaked up stories about what their lives may have been like, the day-to-day challenges, the rituals, the architecture, and the sacrifices.

During that class I met Dr. Angélica García, the heroine in Look What the Wind Blew In. I was looking out the window at the blowing snow, wondering what it would be like to be an archaeologist at one of those amazing sites.

From the moment Angélica stepped into my daydreams, she was giving orders to her crew and searching through Maya ruins, determined to find key pieces of history. One hundred percent alpha-female, she needed someone to show her softer side—hence, her father, Dr. Juan García, joined her in my thoughts. Next came the need for a hero who’d give her a run for her money, an outsider she couldn’t control. A photojournalist maybe, working for a renowned magazine, going by the name of Wayne.

Thus, Look What the Wind Blew In was born.

LWTWBI Final Ebook Quote low ResI wrote the first draft while I was in my twenties. It was the second book I’d written at the start of my career. Needless to say, I was still learning how to write a good book (and still am) and it showed in that first draft. My critique partners would agree, because they hated my hero, Wayne.

It’s never good when your readers cringe at the sound of your hero’s name.

I set this story aside and wrote another book, improving my skills. Then I returned to Angélica’s story, excited to try once again to bring her story to life. When I started this second version, my critique partners made me promise to shove Wayne into a closet in my brain and throw away the key. So, Wayne went away, and Quint Parker showed up for hero auditions. He won the role hands down, and I rewrote the story. This next draft was nominated as a finalist in the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart national contest, but it didn’t win with the final judges nor several of the literary agents to whom I submitted it after the contest. The time was not right for Angélica and Quint’s story … not yet.

Putting the book aside to be fine-tuned again after I’d honed my skills some more, I wrote Dance of the Winnebagos and Jackrabbit Junction Jitters. Then I returned to Angélica, took another swipe at this story, and sent it off to the agent I’d signed with in the meantime. It fell through the cracks somehow, temporarily forgotten as I wrote Nearly Departed in Deadwood and launched my publishing career with the Deadwood Mystery Series starring Violet Parker, Quint’s younger sister.

Now, many MANY moons after I sat in that classroom looking out at the snow, Quint’s story is finally ready to share. I spent several months working on it, revising yet again to make it the story I have always dreamed about, full of mystery, adventure, humor, suspense, and romance with just a sprinkle of paranormal.

So, to answer your question about how I overcame the challenges with publishing this book, I guess the answer is I just kept hitting my head against the brick wall until I broke through it.

Is there anything you want to make sure potential readers know?

I write mixed genre stories. I tried the traditional publisher route for many years, but in the end, after making it all of the way up the ladder to the “final acquisitions” meeting at a very large publisher out of New York (with my double-award winning book Nearly Departed In Deadwood), I was rejected by their marketing department because they did not feel I could find an large enough audience for the type of story I’d written. I decided not to let their opinion on potential readers stop me and pushed forward, publishing without them. I am so glad I did because they were wrong, and I feel very lucky every day to have found so many wonderfully, supportive readers who do like mixed genre stories.

What other novels have you written?

Currently, I have several fiction books published from multiple series:

Deadwood Mystery Series (in order)

  1. Nearly Departed In Deadwood (multiple award-winning book for both mystery and romance/mystery)
  2. Optical Delusions In Deadwood
  3. Dead Case In Deadwood (selected as one of Suspense Magazine’s BEST OF 2012 books)
  4. Better Off Dead In Deadwood
  5. An Ex To Grind In Deadwood

Jackrabbit Junction Mystery Series (in order)

  1. Dance Of The Winnebagos
  2. Jackrabbit Junction Jitters
  3. The Great Jackalope Stampede

Dig Site Mystery Series:

  1. Look What The Wind Blew In

Short Stories

  • Deadwood Shorts: Seeing Trouble (short story from my Deadwood Mystery Series)
  • Deadwood Shorts: Boot Points (short story from my Deadwood Mystery Series)
  • The Old Man’s Back In Town (a short story from an upcoming Goldwash Mystery Series).

Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?

I often joke with my husband that when we are old and senile, I’m going to think that all of these characters I’ve created are real people who we’ve known over the years. He thinks it’s going to make for an entertaining time at the breakfast table every morning over grapefruit, turkey bacon, and fiber-filled cereal.

Hah! I should have known that a writer who calls her children Chicken Noodle and Beaker wouldn’t keep her answers entirely serious. OK. Back on track. What is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing a novel?

I have trouble carving out the time I need every day to write. I have two young kids who I want to play with before they grow up, a wonderful husband with whom I love to spend time, and a writing business to run (the “business” part of which takes up 50% of my free time most days). Finding blocks of hours to write usually has to come at the cost of sleep for me, and there is only so much caffeine I can inject into my system before I keel over into a sleep-starved coma.

Got me grinning again. Please tell us about you “other” life. Do you have another job outside of writing?

Not anymore. For the first fifteen years while getting my writing career rolling, I was also a Technical Writer for a banking software company. Two years ago, I was able to quit that job and focus on writing full-time thanks to the awesome readers who have offered so much support and help by letting others know about my books.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

I have several addictions—frozen Coke Slurpees, fun throw rugs, and all sizes and shapes of tote bags to name a few. On top of that, I’m a slave to my sassy cat and I relax by putting together jigsaw puzzles.

I know life is never entirely smooth, so how do you rise above adversity?

I’d like to tell you that I do something wise like meditate to find my zen, but the truth is that I get frustrated, go through my cupboards and fridge in search of something that will make me feel better, and then paw the ground a few times before pushing through whatever is giving me grief. If that doesn’t work, I throw my computer out the window and go stare at the clouds

What has been your greatest success in life?

Doing well enough in the writing world to quit my 40 hour a week job as a technical writer so that I can focus on my 80+ hour a week job as a full-time author.

Before I give our visitors a taste of your new book, let’s try a quick Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please fill in the blanks.

My best friend would tell you this about me…

“turtle”—I don’t like to rush into things, I like to ponder things for a bit first.

The one thing I cannot do without is…

My family

This one thing I would change about my life is…

I’d try to laugh more and worry less.

The thing I’m most satisfied with is…

Where I live—in the mountains in Arizona. I’ve wanted to live here in the Old West since I was a kid watching John Wayne riding a horse through Monument Valley, Old Tucson, and Saguaro National Park on the television screen.

Ann, I cannot begin to tell you how happy I am you joined us. I wish you continued success in an already successful career.

As for our visitors, here is a sample of Look What the Wind Blew In:

 

Chapter One

Mal Viento: An evil wind that can cause sickness or death.

“It’s a curse.”

Angélica García frowned at her father over the beam of her flashlight, wondering if the heat had fried his brain. “It’s not a curse, Dad.”

“Go over it again, gatita. And this time, use plain, old English.” Juan García reached out and gently tweaked the tip of her nose. “Not all of us speak Mayan in our sleep.”

Angélica wiped away the sweat trailing down her cheek. She tilted the flashlight beam slightly away from the temple wall, grazing the surface so the shadows added depth to the blocks of Maya glyphs.

She pointed at the first set. “This shows Yum Cimil, the Lord of Death. It says he rode in on the wind with a traveler.” She moved to the next. “Here, the king is performing a sacrificial ceremony, offering his blood for the lives of his people. And in this one, Yum Cimil has turned his back on the king’s sacrifice and is devouring the village.”

“What about that last set?” Juan asked.

“It shows the Lord of Death crouching inside a temple. It says he ‘waits.’”

“Waits for what?”

“It doesn’t show.”

“Sounds like a curse to me.”

Angélica aimed the flashlight at her father.

He stared back at her, all traces of his usual grin absent. His silver-haired sideburns glistened with sweat.

She shook her head. He couldn’t be serious. “You’re losing it.” She pointed the beam back at the first glyph set. “Look here. The Lord of Death rode in on the wind with the traveler. That means the proof we need is at this site. I just have to find it.” She skimmed her fingers over the warm chiseled stone and smiled at him. “I knew Mom was right.”

“I still think it’s a curse,” he said, mopping his brow with a handkerchief. “You shouldn’t have read it aloud.”

She growled in her throat. After almost four decades of digging in tombs and temples throughout the Yucatán Peninsula, northern Guatemala, and Belize, how could he still believe in curses? “Be serious, Dad. That Lord of Death Waiting glyph is just the Maya equivalent of a ghost story.”

He lifted his eyebrows. “What makes you so certain it’s not a curse?”

Angélica scrubbed her hand down her face. She couldn’t believe they were even having this discussion.

“Listen, child,” Juan started.

“I’m almost thirty-five now, Dad.”

“Maybe so, but I’ve been on this earth—in temples just like this one—a lot longer than you have. It’s time you …”

She crossed her arms over her chest, bracing herself for the usual I’m-your-father speech.

He paused, glancing down at her arms then back up into her face. “And now you’re giving me that look,” he snorted. “I don’t know why I try to tell you anything. You never listen anyway. One of these days you’re going to learn that I’m almost always right.”

Almost being the key word there.” Her grin took the sting out of her words.

Juan chuckled, patting her on the head. “You’re getting more and more like your mother every day.”

Tilting her head, she batted her eyelashes several times. “You mean intelligent and beautiful?”

“Mouthy and obstinate.” He pointed at the carvings on the wall. “Whether you like it or not, this curse could mean trouble.”

Angélica heard a nervous-sounding groan from the shadows behind her father. She shined the flashlight over Juan’s shoulder into the wide eyes of Esteban, a nineteen-year-old Maya boy from a nearby village who had worked for her off and on over the last few years. He must have finished recording the artifacts in the other chamber and slipped into the room without her hearing him.

“Shit,” she said under her breath. The last thing she needed right now were rumors spreading through camp that an ancient curse had come back to life. She turned back to Juan. “Dad, it’s not a curse.” Clearing her throat, she glanced pointedly toward her Maya crewmember. “It’s merely an artist showing a grim vision of the future.”

“Call it what it is, gatita. It’s a curse warning whoever sees it that death is waiting for its next meal,” Juan argued.

 

For those of you who want to read more of Ann’s writing, here are a few links to help you:

Buy links on her website:       http://www.anncharles.com/?page_id=1744

Facebook (Personal Page): http://www.facebook.com/ann.charles.author

Facebook (Author Page):  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ann-Charles/37302789804?ref=share

Twitter (as Ann W. Charles): http://twitter.com/AnnWCharles

Ann Charles Website: http://www.anncharles.com

The Write Stuff – Monday, February 2 – Interview With Gerard Bianco

Every now and then I encounter someone I cannot pin down. How does one label a man who is an artist, a jewelry designer, a writing coach and an author? This week’s guest is just such an individual. And when I try to identify his writing, I’m in an even worse predicament. One published work was called “a horror thriller, a psychological thriller, a whodunit, and a wonderful mystical thriller all rolled into one.” Another was described as “a love story, a laugh-out-loud comedy, and a sympathetic mix of wit, banter, love, and frustration.” Now, his latest release, A Sharp Bend in the Road: 17 Intriguing Stories, is described as a book that “redefines the art of the short story collection.”

Author photoThe one I’m referring to is my guest week, Gerard Bianco who divides his time between Portland, Maine and Boston. He holds an MFA in Writing from Albertus Magnus College. His short stories have appeared in various literary journals. His lessons, exercises and advice on the art and craft of creative fiction have appeared on the web and in the new book, Now Write! Mysteries: Mystery Fiction Exercises From Today’s Best Writers and Teachers. (Tarcher, 2011; Edited by Sherry Ellis and Laurie Lamson.)

The Deal Master (2006) A mystery/thriller novel. Won the Editor’s Choice Award and the Publisher’s Choice Award.

Discipline: A Play (2012) A love story and a laugh-out-loud comedy that uses wit to depict human frailty, won the Editor’s Choice Award, 2012 and was a Finalist in the 2013 Indie Excellence Book Awards.

A Sharp Bend in the Road: 17 Intriguing Stories (January 2015)

Book Blurb: “A virtuosic collection of stories followed by the sharp blade of a killer novella as the final act. Gerard Bianco’s stories do not creep up on you: they fall upon you like a raptor plummeting, wings folded, golden eye ablaze. Their signature swirl of caustic irony is bitter, often brutal – a gleam of talons and a sudden cry – resulting almost always in a small death of the heart.” -Dianne Benedict, Author of Shiny Objects

Book Review: “A Sharp Bend in the Road showcases a carnival of amazing and totally different types of stories. From a story about a young man’s encounter in an elevator, to a gay couple in a jewelry store, to a woman entering a retirement home, Bianco’s characters are real, yet colorful and unique. He has a gift in creating genuine dialogue making each story come alive. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of stories. 5 stars for sure! A fine collection written by one author who clearly knows his craft.” –Susan Violante for Reader Views

Final CoverSynopsis of four of the seventeen stories:

From “A Sharp Bend in the Road.” Following a devastating fall, Rita finds herself standing outside the dining hall at an independent living facility. She squeezes the handle of her cane, and her knuckles turn white. Her wire-rimmed glasses accentuate the tears she tries to hide. – After eighty-two years, and a lifetime of memories, Rita believes she’s been abandoned at the mouth of a fiery dragon that will swallow her up-and she is terrified.

From “A Process of Elimination.” When a man purchases a remote log cabin in the Adirondacks, he believes he has found a peaceful haven, until he discovers a stranger dead on his living room rug.

From “The Organization.” A man, looking for a new adventure, joins a unique organization and quickly learns that getting what you want can sometimes lead to unimagined consequences.

From “The Long Ride.” Two couples set out on a vacation in Maine, only to find their dreamy trip has turned into a getaway nightmare.

Welcome to The Write Stuff, Gerard. I’m so happy you could join us. Your two previous works sound quite compelling. As for your most recent release, it’s always somewhat difficult to follow on the heels of success. What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?

One of the biggest challenges an author faces when putting together a short story collection is making certain all the stories look, and sound different. In this collection, plot, theme, voice, and rhythm change dramatically with every story so that each time the reader picks up the book, the stories are fresh and exciting.

Another way I made certain the stories are different is by writing solid, singular concepts that end with either a twist or an ironic conclusion. (Hence the title: A Sharp Bend in the Road.)

Is there anything you want to make sure potential readers know?

Yes, Raymond. I want readers to understand that the fun about this collection is that the reader never knows what the next story will bring. It’s a total surprise. Some stories are serious, while others are absurdly dark and humorous. Some stories are based in reality, while others are sprinkled with speculative fictional elements. I’ve even included a Maine ghost town story. The length of the stories vary considerably as well. Some stories are short, while others are an average length for short stories. The collection’s finale is a novella.

Tell us about your other works.

I wrote a mystery/thriller titled, The Deal Master. It’s a story based upon a popular 13th century tale. It’s filled with twits and turns and a surprising subplot that takes over and becomes the main thrust of the story. We filmed a Hollywood-style book trailer that I’m certain your readers will enjoy watching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ilXHaugenQ

I also wrote a play titled, Discipline. It takes place in Manhattan. It’s a laugh-out-loud comedy whose meaning goes much deeper than first appears. The deepest truths can only be revealed through fiction. It’s also a love story and it’s available in book form.

Describe a typical day.

When I’m writing, my day begins early, usually about 4:30 a.m. The house is quiet. I write until about 7:30. Then the family gets up and our normal day-to-day life begins. My girlfriend and I have three dogs so they need attention – breakfast, walks, etc.

In the afternoon I spend a few hours on marketing. Then another hour or two writing until dinner. Then it’s dinner and a movie – every night. I love watching movies to see how other writers structure their work, or not.

Off to bed around 10 or 11 p.m. Then back at it the following day.

That’s a rigorous schedule. What motivates or inspires you (not necessarily as regards your writing)?

I’m passionate about art, music, the theater, and of course good writing, all of which inspires me. I’m also inspired by moments that ignite in my brain. It might be a thought, an expression someone uses, or a fleeting glance. And I love the sea. We live a block off the ocean in Maine, and daily beach walks with the pups invigorate me and stir my imagination.

How do you pick yourself up in the face of adversity?

I’m optimistic and I have a positive outlook on life. But, of course, no one is immune to adversity, it either sneaks up on you, or it comes crashing down. I suppose my attitude on life can best be summed up by one of my characters from the title story, “A Sharp Bend in the Road,” in my new book. “Life,” he says, “is like a road that twists and turns from the time you’re born until the day you say good-bye. And if you don’t twist and turn with it, you’ll run smack into a brick wall. There’s nothing you can do about adversity. So live with it. But live, damn it! Don’t fight life. Fight to live life the way it was meant to be lived—with gusto, no matter how old you are.”

That’s a wonderful attitude—realistic as well. Before we conclude, it’s time for the Lightning Round. Please answer the following as concisely as possible:

If I were to ask your best friend about you, what would your friend say?

My best friend would tell you I’m determined.

What is the one thing you cannot do without?

The one thing I cannot do without is the creative process.

What, of all the things you can think of, bothers you the most?

My biggest peeve is people who don’t understand the concept that we’re all in this together, and we need to help each other.

Who are you most proud of?

The person I’m most proud of is my son.

Thanks for the time you’ve spent with us today. It’s always fun to introduce my visitors to someone unique.

If any of you, who’ve dropped by to listen in, would like to learn more about Gerard, here are some links to help you. Please note you can order signed copies of Gerard’s books on his website:

Website:                      www.gerardbianco.com

Author email:             writingcenter@gerardbianco.com

Blog:                            www.gerardbianco.blogspot.com

Facebook Fan Page:    https://www.facebook.com/GerardBiancoWriterEnRoute

Twitter:                       https://twitter.com/GerardFBianco

Google +:                    google.com/+GerardBianco

Amazon link to “A Sharp Bend in the Road” Kindle Edition:

http://www.amazon.com/Sharp-Bend-Road-Intriguing-Stories-ebook/dp/B00S50CY7O/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1421349884

Amazon link to “A Sharp Bend in the Road” paperback edition

http://www.amazon.com/Sharp-Bend-Road-Intriguing-Stories/dp/1491753617/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1421349884&sr=8-1

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Gerard-Bianco/e/B00770UC90/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Gerard’s Writer Coaching Programs: http://www.writercoachingprograms.com/

The Write Stuff – Monday, January 19 – Interview With Lisa Lenard-Cook

I have chosen to begin this year’s series of interviews by introducing my visitors to Lisa Lenard-Cook. As is the case with other authors I intend to feature this year, Lisa writes fiction and non-fiction alike. She is a faculty member at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference and has taught at many other conferences, including the Taos Summer Writing Conferences and NULC in Ogden. She also teaches private classes and takes, in her words, “particular joy in mentoring both beginning & more experienced writers… I love to hear from readers and writers, and cheerfully (mostly) respond to queries.”

30colorI first encountered her work in 2010 when I read her book, The Mind of Your Story, published by Writers’ Digest Books, in which she explores how she synthesizes her experiences into something cohesive. In her book, she suggests that at least three, disparate, compelling ideas must come together before a story can congeal. In the example she gives, the first seed for one such tale involved her learning about two similar women who had developed Alzheimer’s disease and noticing the parallels in their lives. The second came while watching planes dropping slurry onto the fires near her home during a drought. When she read about wild horses starving on government land, that was the necessary final element. The three converged in “Wild Horses,” her account of a rancher whose wife develops Alzheimer’s. You will see how this theme repeats when we discuss her new novel.

The effort I refer to is a book entitled Dissonance. It has been attracting a great deal of attention as well as winning awards since its 2014 re-release. It won the Jim Sagel Prize for the novel while still in manuscript. And after its original publication by the University of New Mexico press in 2003, it was selected as a book of the year by the Tucson-Pima County Public Library, the Midland Library and the Cincinnati Public Library. In 2004, the book was both a NPR Performance Today Summer Reading Choice and the countywide reading selection for Durango-La Plata Reads and in 2005 it was short-listed for the PEN Southwest Book Award.

9781939650115Times-standard.com has this to say about her book: “‘Dissonance,’ by Lisa Lenard-Cook, is a touching novel that takes the reader from present-day New Mexico back to the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp and then forward to the present again. It is beautifully written and emotionally charged. I especially enjoyed the way Lenard-Cook uses music as a means to explore sensitive themes. A haunting and lovely read, this one.”

Congratulations on the re-release of your novel, Dissonance. Can you tell us something about it?

Using the language of music theory as a leitmotif, Dissonance is the story of a Los Alamos piano teacher who receives a legacy from a woman she doesn’t think she knows, which leads her on a journey of self-discovery.

What caused you to write it and is there a story behind the story?

I’ve found that any fiction I write, be it short story or novel, requires three seeds, which quietly mix together until a certain moment when I am quite literally compelled to write. The first seed for Dissonance was likely planted when I was young, when I read an autobiography by my friend Leslie Klein’s mother, Gerda Weissman Klein, All But My Life, which introduced me to a world far less benign than I had previously imagined. I began to notice how many people—how many of my friends’ parents, in fact—had numbers stamped on their arms.

I never intended to write a book about the Holocaust; so many good books have already been written. Nor was I (or am I) someone who immersed herself in Holocaust literature. But then, in the mid 90s, when I was a graduate assistant at Vermont College(where I earned my MFA), Juan Felipe Herrera gave a talk about the writer’s political and social responsibility. It really struck me, that talk, and, while I didn’t know it at the time, it connected to that first seed, when my daughter Kaitlin Kushner brought home a library book, I Never Saw Another Butterfly, about children’s art at the concentration camp Terezín.

Then, at Christmas (1994), we were in Los Alamos at my in-laws. I started thinking about Los Alamos, then and now—the Manhattan Project, SDI, the extraordinarily smart people who live there, and how many of them are musicians. This was the second seed.

Now I happened to be reading a great deal of music theory at the time, although I no longer remember why. One morning, I was reading about the mechanism of the piano when a line came into my head: “The piano is unique among instruments for its double stroke.” While I did not know who was speaking, I did know I had better take notes. From that first line, the first draft of Dissonance was written over a two-month period in the summer of 1995. It was finished coincidentally (or, perhaps, not coincidentally) on the 50th anniversary of the bomb at Hiroshima.

The holocaust is a difficult theme for many readers. So much has been written about it and this subject evokes so many strong emotions. Why do you think Dissonance is being so well-received?

Dissonance is a book about love and forgiveness. Perhaps it is this… hopefulness… that has kept the book alive all these years.

Why was it discontinued and what brought it back to life?

There are still a few hardcover copies out there—UNM Press never remainders books, but sells them until there are no copies left in the warehouse. At the same time, because the second hardcover edition hadn’t sold out, they didn’t bring out paperback or electronic editions.

I got the rights back to the book in 2008, right around the time the publishing industry (and so much else) imploded. It wasn’t until I learned about Santa Fe Writers Project publisher Andrew Gifford’s efforts to reissue books in 2013 that I knew I’d found the book a new home.

Is Dissonance changing the direction of your career?

It’s certainly wonderful to have received so many kudos for the book, but in the end, it’s the act of writing itself that matters. I recently came across this, from Jane Smiley’s Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel. I keep it on my desk: “The more intently [the novelist] focuses on the page being written rather than the career that is developing or disintegrating out there somewhere, the better the work and the happier the… person.”

What are you working on now?

In addition to teaching, editing, and coaching other writers (my “day job”), and putting together bosque (the magazine) #4, I’m working on a new novel, Dear Lucia.

I know how busy you are and I want to thank you for dropping by to introduce us to your work.

Thank you, Raymond.

If you would like to learn more about Lisa or purchase her books, you may do so at the following:

Twitter:                                   @LisaLenardCook

Lisa’s website:                        lisalenardcook.com

Writers co-op website:         abqwriterscoop.com

Amazon:                                 http://www.amazon.com/Dissonance-Lisa-Lenard-Cook/dp/1939650119

http://www.amazon.com/Mind-Your-Story-Discover-Fiction/dp/1582974888/

The Write Stuff – Monday, November 17 – Interview With Melissa Foster

Today’s interview concludes this year’s series and I couldn’t be more delighted with my guest. One of the world’s most successful self-published authors, she is a New York Times, USA Today and Amazon best-selling author. If that’s not enough, this year Melissa won five, count ’em, Readers Favorite awards! This powerhouse, who writes seven days a week, often twelve to fifteen hours per day, is currently turning out one novel per month, aided by a team of editors, artists and formatters. She has so far sold more than one million copies of her novels that encompass the genres of women’s literature, thriller and romance and generate a six figure monthly income for her. While Amazon rates Nora Roberts as the number one romance author, my guest has ranked between number nine and number twenty-five. Of all authors, all genres, all countries worldwide, she’s typically in the top 100, although that changes hourly. That’s not bad for someone who was still waiting to be published only six years ago.

Mel Author Photo brickWhile these details are certainly impressive, to my mind they are the least impressive part of who this woman is. Not content to have risen to the pinnacle of success, she devotes large portions of her already over-loaded schedule to mentoring other aspiring authors, teaching them the ins and outs of marketing and connecting them with resources such as editors, formatters and cover artists. Her untiring efforts have launched the careers of many who were waiting impatiently in the wings, mine included.

Whether you are a reader or a writer, whether you are a regular visitor to this website or have landed here as a result of social network advertising—even by accident—it is my undisguised pleasure to introduce you to Melissa Foster.

Melissa, will you tell us exactly when and why you chose to self publish?

I decided to self publish in 2009 because rejections were plentiful and more importantly, they were demeaning. I wanted to see what readers thought of my work and realized that agents’ and traditional publishers’ scope of interest was quite narrow. I’m glad I did!

Very few self-published authors have experienced your degree of success. Will you tell us a bit about your path to publication and the road beyond?

FOSTER_Traces_Kara_final_awardSure! When I began self publishing there weren’t many supporters of self publishing. I decided early on that I wouldn’t let the naysayers hold me back, and I pushed forward, learning as much as I could about the publishing industry, book marketing, and reaching readers. My second book took off (CHASING AMANDA) and I remember the day I realized I’d sold 60,000 copies in a month. I think my entire mindset changed at that point—and it pushed me to work harder and spread my wings to help other authors learn to do the same.

Exciting things seem to be happening to you all the time. Any new events you’d like to share?

Oh goodness, I have huge news but I can’t share it yet. I’m on the verge of some very exciting ventures! But what I can share is my new series due out next April, HARBORSIDE NIGHTS. I’ve been waiting two years to write this new adult series, and I’m finally diving in later this year. HARBORSIDE NIGHTS is a sexy, hot, and evocatively real New Adult Romance series that follows a group of friends who have known one another for years as “summer” friends, and now come together after college to build their lives. They’re tough, edgy, and accepting—most of the time. This series will be written in the loving, raw, and emotional voice my readers have come to love.

I’m sure we all want to hear what’s brewing when the moment is right. For now, though, I’d like to find out a little more about Melissa the person. For starters, what life experiences have inspired or enriched your writing?

I think every life experiences enriches my writing. I learn and grow from everything I do.

Describe a typical day.

To an outsider, I’m possibly the most boring person on earth – but in my eyes, I’m the luckiest woman on the planet. In addition to taking kids to school and picking them up, and other motherly duties, I typically check email, catch up on social media, and handle non-writing work from 7:00 am-8:45 am, then I write until 2:45, pick up kids, and write again from 4-whenever I feel like I am done, which ranges from 6-midnight. I walk on my treadmill while I write from 9-11 each day (and wish I could walk longer, but my knees won’t take it). This year I’m adding a morning weight workout to my routine, so that will bump my schedule a bit, but hopefully it’ll be worth it. I take social media (or sanity) breaks several times each hour. In addition, I handle my businesses (World Literary Café and Fostering Success) throughout the day.

I’ve seen photos of your new home in Maryland and must admit it’s quite beautiful. That said, if you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be?

This is easy for me to answer. Cape Cod. It’s my favorite place on earth.

What other interests do you have, aside from writing and your other well-known passion, chocolate?

Oh Raymond, you have let my secret out! I have a few other interests, although most I do while enjoying my chocolate addiction. I love to read, and I love to exercise. Painting is always joyful, although I have little time for that any more with my writing schedule.

Do you have a favorite quote you’d like to share with us?

Yes “Enjoy each and every day. No one else can do it for you.” I made it up years ago and I live by it.

It takes a very special individual to achieve what you’ve done, so I’m wondering how you pick yourself up in the face of adversity.

I remember my mother’s face any time I’ve complained about something that stands in my way. She wrinkles her brow and her response is usually something like, “Yeah? And? What are you going to do about it?” In other words, everyone can complain—what can you do to make things better? She’s always been a source of inspiration and strength, and I thank God for her on a daily basis.

If I spoke to your closest friend about you, what would he or she tell me?

Luckily, my best friends would never share my secrets, so she’d probably say I was stubborn, a rule breaker, and that if I want to accomplish something, watch out world, because here I come!

If you could change one thing, what would it be?

I’d make chocolate fat and calorie free.

Hah! Why am I not surprised? Alright then, what makes you laugh?

My husband. He’s a joy to be around. And puppies. They always make me laugh.

What is your greatest life lesson?

There are so many, but the one that serves me best is noted above. When faced with a roadblock there are three routes we can take. We can stop. We can turn around and retreat, or we can stay on track and find a way over or around it. That’s my path.

Lightning round, Melissa. As briefly as possible, please answer the following:

The one thing I cannot do without is:

Writing, chocolate, and my family. Sorry – three things.

In one or two words, what is your defining trait?

Persistence and happy thoughts.

Hard copy or ebook?

Paperback—except when traveling or lying in bed, then ebook.

Vice? Virtue?

Neither. Valor.

Favorite movie:

Secret Life of Bees

These few moments have passed all too quickly. Do you have a parting thought you would like to leave us with?

Yes, I’d like to thank you for hosting me with such a fun interview, and I’d like to thank readers who have picked up my books and/or shared them with friends, and readers who have reached out to me on social media and via email. I love hearing from you! Please continue to reach out. xox

Thank you, Melissa, for taking the time to share with us.

To help my visitors contact or follow Melissa, here are several links:

Writers who are looking for assistance in their quest for self publication would do well to check out:      http://www.fostering-success.com/

To find additional related information or locate the type of resources mentioned above:     http://www.worldliterarycafe.com

To visit Melissa’s website:  www.MelissaFoster.com

Facebook:      https://www.facebook.com/MelissaFosterAuthor

Twitter:          http://www.twitter.com/melissa_Foster

Amazon:        http://www.amazon.com/Melissa-Foster/e/B002LTT7U2/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

 

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, November 3 – Interview With Carol Bodensteiner

In this, the second to last interview of the year, I feature yet another Readers Favorite award winning author, Carol Bodensteiner. Like many of the authors appearing here, I met Carol online in Melissa Foster’s Facebook group, Fostering Success. It is a group of earnest Indie authors who, like Carol, Melissa and my previous interview’s guest, Michelle Weidenbenner, have distinguished themselves by going on to win numerous awards.

Bodensteiner 4C HRCarol Bodensteiner is a writer who finds inspiration in the places, people, culture and history of the Midwest. After a successful career in public relations consulting, she turned to creative writing. She blogs about writing, her prairie, gardening, and whatever in life interests her at the moment. She published a memoir Growing Up Country: Memories Of An Iowa Farm Girl in 2008. Her debut novel Go Away Home was published in 2014. She’s currently working on contemporary fiction.

Carol, will you please provide us with Go Away Home’s premise and give us a sample?

A family scandal closely followed by tragedy ties Liddie Treadway ever more tightly to the family farm she yearns to escape. When she is finally free of her old life, she seems for a moment to have it all — the opportunity for global travel, unlimited adventures, and new passions. But the reappearance of an old friend leads her to question her choices and her future. Set in pre-World War I Iowa, Liddie’s is the timeless story of the fragility of what seems secure and stable and the discovery of what a woman’s heart truly wants.

Go Away Home Award eBook Cover Extra LargeIowa – 1913

Here she was alone for less than an hour, and she felt the rest of her life stretching out before her like an endless, empty road. If she wrote to her mother, what would she say? That she was sitting here feeling sorry for herself after they’d given her exactly what she wanted?

Doing something is better than doing nothing. The words popped into her head. Papa had told her that many times. I will do something, she thought.

She stood and looked around the room, her hands firmly on her hips, her head tilted to one side. The room was similar in size to the one she and Amelia shared, yet it felt so different. So sterile. Functional. Nothing more. The washstand held a plain white pitcher and basin. A white hand towel hung precisely in the middle of the dowel rod. Beside the bed, a straight-back chair offered the only place in the room to sit. A kerosene lamp on the dressing table would light the room at night. A three-drawer pine chest of drawers completed the furnishings.

The faded bedcover unsettled Liddie the most. Such a contrast to the crazy quilt on her bed at home. A riot of shapes and colors and fabrics, the quilt had been pieced together by her mother and aunt before Liddie was born. When she was supposed to be asleep, Liddie often told herself stories about the clothes each piece must have once been. She could smell her father in the wool, see her mother in the silk, hear the rustle of taffeta at a dance. In the dark, she had traced her fingertips along the feather stitches decorating each seam. Each bit of cloth from her family.

Memories of the quilt sent a dizzying wave of homesickness washing over her. She pushed her knees into the edge of the bed, steadying herself until the queasiness passed.

This was her room. She could do what she wanted, so she forced herself to action. She pushed the dressing table into a corner where the mirror caught the light from the window. She put the washbasin on the bed and the pitcher of water on the floor and maneuvered the washstand over to the wall by the door. Immediately, her mood improved.

You do a nice job of beginning to establish a character and her history while setting a scene. What brought you to your story?

Go Away Home was inspired by my maternal grandparents. My grandfather died of the Spanish Flu in 1918. Throughout my life, I’ve been intrigued by my connection to this major world event. Of course I never knew my grandfather and even though my grandmother lived until I was well into my 20s, I never asked her a single question about him or their lives together. And she was not the type to share. So, this story is fiction based on a few facts. It creates a life for the man I never knew and for the grandmother I only knew as a stern old woman.

Do you have another novel in the works?

My work in progress is contemporary fiction. My main character is forced to answer the question of whether she’s willing to risk everything she values to help someone else.

A good story centers around a dilemma. Do you find that the story ever stalls?

Peter DeVries once said, “I only write when I’m inspired, and I make sure I’m inspired every morning at 9 a.m.” Books get written because the author put herself in the chair every day and wrote. I don’t know that I’ve ever had writer’s block, and maybe that’s why. When it’s time to write, I write.

I agree with you. In today’s publishing world, after the work is completed it’s the author’s job to market it. What is your strategy?

I’m fortunate to have spent thirty years in the public relations and marketing business, so marketing comes more easily to me than to many authors. My marketing strategy is to do one thing every day to get the word about my books out to readers. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but it has to be something. To some extent, successful marketing is a matter of persistence. Communication research tells us a customer has to hear about something three times to remember they heard the message at all. They have to hear about it seven times before they’re ready to act. So, don’t give up.

I’ve learned that no successful author writes in a vacuum. What is your writhing community like?

For the past ten years, I’ve been part of a writing group that meets every two weeks. Sometimes there are only two of us in the group, but we are committed to supporting each other on the writing journey. And there’s nothing like a deadline for keeping me at the keyboard. I credit my writing partners – their honesty, insight, and support – for much of my writing success.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be?

I’m living exactly where I choose to live. I love Iowa, with its change of seasons, wide-open farm fields, and broad range of easily accessible recreational and artistic opportunities. I’m also a resident of the world. I love to travel, meet new people and see new things, so I get on the road often and the road always leads me back home to Iowa.

What inspires you, not just as a writer, but the broader you?

I’m inspired by the outdoors. I’ve live on a small acreage that affords room for lots of trees, a vegetable garden, flower beds, and a prairie. The prairie has taught me many lessons about life and is a great place to take visitors – both adults and children – to give them a taste of what Iowa looked like before it was settled by Europeans.

What a treat! Jumping all over the place, I’ll ask if you have a favorite quote.

I have many favorite quotes, and here’s one:

“It’s not our abilities that show what we really are. It’s our choices.” – Albus Dumbledore

Hah! To accompany that, what is your greatest life lesson?

As a public relations professional, the best advice I gave clients was: “Don’t write it down if you are comfortable seeing it as a headline in the New York Times.” In today’s uber-sharing social media world, we could also add: “Don’t share a picture with anyone that you’re not comfortable having everyone in the world see.”

Moving away from the serious, what makes you laugh?

Silly greeting cards.

And that brings us to our Lightning Round. As briefly as possible, please answer these:

The one thing I cannot do without is…

Ice cream.

What is your defining trait?

Optimistic persistence.

Hard copy or ebook?

Both.

Vice? Virtue?

Ice cream. Iowa Nice.

Favorite book.

1000 White Women, Cold Mountain, The Poisonwood Bible, The Other Boleyn Girl, Grapes of Wrath.

Favorite movie.

Mamma Mia

Do you have a parting thought you would like to leave us with?

Write on!

Well said.

Go Away Home is available on Amazon in paperback http://amzn.to/1kUiKxx and ebook http://amzn.to/1qr3YhB formats.

And you can connect with Carol at the following social links:

Website          http://www.carolbodensteiner.com

Twitter           @CABodensteiner

LinkedIn        http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=14449814&trk=tab_pro

Facebook        https://www.facebook.com/CarolBodensteinerAuthor

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, October 20 – Interview With Michelle Weidenbenner

Today, The Write Stuff features Michelle Weidenbenner. Both her YA Thrillers, To Cache a Predator and Scattered Links won Readers’ Favorite gold medals this year. She has won other awards as well. This is no small accomplishment and this is not the first time her name has come up on this website. I had considered featuring this remarkable writer early on, but instead she pointed me to Oliver Dahl, my first interviewee. It’s her turn now. When I asked her to describe herself, this is what she told me:

Author Photo 2014 #1Michelle is a full time employee of God’s kingdom, writing and encouraging writers every day. She’s often a sucker for emotional stories, her sensitive side fueling the passion for her character’s plights, often giving her the ability to show readers the “other” side of the story.

She grew up in the burbs of Detroit with five brothers. No sisters. Each time her mom brought the boy bundle home from the hospital Michelle cried, certain her mom liked boys better than girls. But when her brothers pitched in with the cooking, cleaning, and babysitting–without drama, Michelle discovered having brothers wasn’t so bad. They even taught her how to take direct criticism without flinching, which comes in handy with book reviews.

Michelle is living her dream–writing every day and thanking God for the stories He puts in her path. She’s a random girl who writes in random genres.

When Michelle isn’t writing she’s winning ugly on the tennis court. She’s known as “Queen of the Rim Shots.” No joke. It’s ugly.

There’s not enough space here to shine a spotlight on both her gold medal winners, so we’ve decided to focus on Cache. The Midwest Review has this to say about it:

Cache a Predator isn’t a one-dimensional story of one man’s vendetta: it’s also about mystery and suspense wrapped up in the modern art of geocaching (thus the title)…that’s part of the allure of Cache a Predator, which uses this urban game to the best advantage in the context of a urban mystery.

Any who look for deep psychological elements in their mysteries will find this a satisfying read, moving beyond the usual one-dimensional focus on mystery to reach out and tweak the reader’s heart.

—D. Donovan, Reviewer

Here’s an excerpt:

Cache-A-Predator-AMAZON-GOLDWhen she finally fell asleep, she dreamed she was a child again. That she and her brother were playing tag outside near the barn, and their mother was calling to them, standing in the front yard with a kite in her hand. She played out some of the string, and the kite’s rainbow colors sailed back and forth in the wind. She said, “Come, I’ll teach you how to fly a kite.”

Sarah and Dean giggled and ran to her, running against the wind. But the wind’s force pushed Sarah back and made her run harder to gain distance. She gulped air and lost her breath. The more she ran toward her mother, the farther the wind pushed her back. She yelled, “I’m coming, Mama.” But the wind took the sound of her words away. Her mama kept waving for them to come.

Dean held Sarah’s hand. Little brother, Dean. His tiny arms and legs like thin tree branches. He was always small for his age and sickly. She tightened her grip on his hand, certain the wind would blow him away from her if she didn’t. “Hold tight, little brother. We’ll get there.”

But the more they tried, the farther they fell back, until finally Sarah couldn’t see her mother anymore. She’d disappeared. The wind died, and their father loomed above them. His yellow teeth, his bent nose, and the scar on his forehead stared back at them. When she heard his deranged, boisterous laugh she screamed, which made him laugh all the more.

Sarah bolted upright in bed, her heart racing. Perspiration crawled down her neck like ants marching up a tree. Why had the old man suddenly appeared in her dreams here in her mother’s room? It was like he was taunting her, saying, “You can’t escape me.” Oh, how she hated him.

Chilling! Michelle, in your own words, will you tell us what this story is about?

Cache a Predator is a story of one man’s pursuit to gain custody of his five-year-old daughter. But first he must convince a judge, child protective services, and a deranged vigilante that he’s a loving father.

I always ask about the underlying story, the story behind the story. Will you fill us in?

So many children are living with their grandparents because of illness or unemployment. We had to help our son and daughter-in-law with our grandgirls for a period of time when our son lost his job. During that time, I discovered many other grandparents were raising their grandchildren too. My oldest granddaughter helped me brainstorm this series of chapter books. I learn a lot from her.

What are you working on now?

Several different things at once. One is a YA novel about a world where kids with powers are shunned and killed. Another is a mid-grade novel about a twelve-year-old boy who has to save the canine race. Both are supernatural. I’m also working on a few non-fiction projects and will publish the second book in my children’s chapter book series, Éclair Meets a Gypsy, late this year.

You do work in a number of genres. Why is this?

I write in random genres because I can’t seem to hone my imagination to only one. I write the stories that move me.

Why is your writing different?

My writing seems simpler, easier to read. There isn’t a ton of description, but enough to set the stage. I’ve been told I write about difficult subjects. This is true, but again, it’s what seems to move me to a strong emotion.

That said, why should someone buy Cache?

Readers who like a quick thriller, one they can’t put down, and are interested in learning about geocaching will like Cache a Predator. It’s hidden in geocaching sites all around the US and Canada to bring awareness to child abuse. The books’ goals are to travel to all 50 states and each Canadian province. Some books have traveled more than 5000 miles. It’s fun to watch how they travel, but it’s really fun to chat with geocachers so far away.

Tell us a bit about your path to publication.

I had an agent for a year and a half who was shopping my YA novel (which hasn’t been published yet) but after a few rejections, and waiting for a publisher, I decided to self-publish. I’m an entrepreneur spirit—always have been. I wasn’t afraid of the marketing and the extra work involved in seeing my books in print. What I was afraid of was not publishing a perfect book. But is there such a thing? I learned that books are products and not everyone likes the same brand. However, I’m nit-picky about editing my work. I probably spend the most money on editors.

Do you have a writing routine?

I’m totally blessed that I can write full time. I typically get to my office around 8:30 or 9:00 and start with answering emails and then jump into my projects for the day. I wear many hats, but I recently hired a virtual assistant to help handle promos. I hope it frees up more writing time.

I have a desk treadmill so I work (like right now) while I walk about 2.0 miles an hour. In a typical week I walk about 18 miles. I don’t kill myself on it, but it feels great to move while I write.

As I told our visitors at the outset of this series, I am featuring award-winning authors. Please tell us about the awards you have won.

Scattered Links and Cache a Predator both won the GOLD Medal Award in the Readers’ Favorite International Awards. Scattered Links has won several other awards too: It was the Kindle Book Promo Award winner and a BRONZE Medal winner in Dan Poytner’s Global eBook Awards in the multi-cultural literature category. The fact that it won something in the “literature” category had me dancing on the sofa.

Athletic as you are, I can see that! And so many contests.

Indie authors have to enter contests to win. Not everyone can afford them though. Contests cost money to enter. So I’m a little choosy on which ones I enter. It’s also important to enter the right category. Some categories are more difficult because there are more entrants. Authors have to research sites and analyze what they see. Is the payout worth the expense?

What else have you written?

I write for a nurses’ aide magazine because I love the elderly, and it’s my way to help in their care. I’m also working with my pastor on articles to teach other pastors how to grow their churches. Like I said, I’m a bit random about what I write. I like to have a purpose though and typically write for a reason—to help a certain group.

I wrote Scattered Links after adopting our daughter from Russia. So many adoptive parents think that love is enough when they adopt or foster a child, but sometimes love is not enough. I wrote that story to bring awareness to RAD, reactive attachment disorder.

To give our visitors a better sense of Michelle, the person, let’s hear a little about your “other” life. Do you have another job outside of writing?

Does mother, wife and grandmother count?

Where would you live, if you could live anywhere?

I love where I live—close to my family. It’s not the most beautiful place, but my family matters more than anything to me, so it’s worth the compromise. But if I could move my family to the most beautiful place it might be to Colorado or New Mexico.

What is your dream job?

I’m living my dream job. Some day I want one of my books to make it to the big screen. Hey, a girl can dream, right? So I keep working at making that dream come true.

If I spoke to your closest friend about you, (s)he would tell me:

“Michelle is purpose-driven and goal-oriented. She works hard at what she loves, almost to a fault.”

I’m not the type to sit around and chit-chat if there isn’t a purpose, but I’m working on it. I know it’s important to interact and establish relationships, but sometimes all I can think about is getting back to work. To write.

Do you have a favorite quote?

“I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives.” ― R.J. Palacio, Wonder.

Before we bring this to a close, Michelle, a few Lightning Round questions:

The one thing I cannot do without is:

Tennis, but I know some day I will have to give it up. I’m getting older. I won’t be able to place forever.

Hard copy or ebook?

Ebooks rule because I can take them anywhere and open multiple ones at a time, flipping through them easily. However, if it’s a resource book I want to dog-ear the pages and hold it.

Favorite book:

For this week: The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion. I just finished it and loved it. But I have a different favorite every month. I give a lot of FIVE-STARS because I know how difficult it is to write a good story with all the necessary elements and proper editing. Last month it was Wonder, by R. J. Palacio.

I want to thank you so much for joining us, Michelle. Visitors who want to learn more about Michelle or are interested in buying her books can do so at the following links:

Twitter: @MWeidenbenner1

Blog: http://randomwritingrants.com

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Michelle-Weidenbenner/e/B00E21RMNG/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

264 pages

Regular Price: $3.99

ISBN: 978-1490936390

Cover artist: Avalon Graphics

Random Publishing, LLC

Amazon Buying Links:   http://amzn.to/16MjTyP

Amazon Print Book Link: http://www.amazon.com/Cache-Predator-A-Geocaching-Mystery/dp/1490936394/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1407178641&sr=1-1