The Write Stuff – Monday, July 28 – Interview With Author C. L. Hoang

I am always looking for the unique writer, someone who intrigues the imagination, who either wins or is in the running for significant awards, and whose subject matter either inspires, or tugs at the heart. I’m sure you’ll agree this sort is not very common, so when a writer such as C. L. Hoang appears on my radar, I sit up and take notice. I hope you will too.

IFMale authors rarely write love stories. Engineers even less frequently. But when I learned this man’s debut novel was selected as the Fiction Grand Prize Winner of the 2014 annual book contest sponsored by LuckyCinda Publishing in Palm Desert, California, I decided to delve deeper. Here’s what he tells us about himself:

I was born and raised in South Vietnam during the war and came to America in the 1970s. Although an engineer by trade, I am a writer at heart and have dabbled in short stories and poetry. Once upon a Mulberry Field, a love story during the Vietnam War, is my first novel, a project from the heart that took six years to complete. So one could say that my “specialty” is a mix between historical fiction (20th Century) and multicultural fiction.

His book, published on Valentine’s Day—February 14 of this year, is classed as both Historical Fiction (20th Century) and Multicultural Fiction and its premise is as follows:

As Roger Connors, a widower with no children, ponders whether to pursue aggressive treatment for his cancer, a cryptic note arrives from a long-lost USAF buddy announcing the visit of an acquaintance from Vietnam. The startling news resurrects ghosts of fallen comrades and haunting memories of the great love he once knew.

Shocking revelations from his visitor uncover a missing part of Roger’s life he never dreamed possible. Peeling back one layer at a time, he delves into a decades-old secret in search of answers and traces of a passion unfulfilled.

From the jungles of Vietnam through the minefields of the heart, Once upon a Mulberry Field follows one man’s journey to self-discovery, fraught with disillusionment and despair but ultimately redeemed by the power of love.

Mr. Hoang, apart from its plot, is there another story behind the book?

It started out as a nostalgia project for my father, who was up in years and ailing, when I began to scour the Internet for old photographs and articles about our former hometown—Saigon in the 1950s, ’60s, and early ’70s. Before I knew it, a bygone world had reopened its door and pulled me in.

As my dad and I reminisced about that forgotten place and time we had once shared and the people, events, and stories that had defined it for us, it occurred to me that I should write down those recollections. First, as a legacy of family history for upcoming generations. And second, as my way of bearing witness to the period of upheaval that had seen our family transplanted to a new continent.

Subsequently, those initial writings went through more mutations to include some oral history and perspectives from American veterans who had served in Vietnam, material that I came across while doing my research to insure historical accuracy.

It is the marriage of those two distinct yet complementary accounts of the war—one from the native people, and the other from the participants from a distant land—that gave birth to the book we are talking about today.

That was a compelling and emotionally wrenching period for both our nations. As if that is not enough reason for someone to pick up your work, in your own words, tell us why you believe someone should buy it.

Because of that unique blend of insider’s view and American perspective, readers get a more complete picture of this most controversial war in U.S. history, as well as gain exposure to the historical and cultural background of Vietnam as a country.

But rather than being just another war or history book, Once upon a Mulberry Field is first and foremost a love story—an ode to the old and the new homelands, and a celebration of the human spirit and the redemptive power of love across the chasm of warring cultures.

Those are the things that set this book apart from all other Vietnam War novels.

Will you share with us your path to publication?

Early on, I opted for self-publishing because of the artistic freedom it would give me in every aspect concerning the book, from material contents to cover art to interior layout. I enlisted the professional help of editors, graphic designer, and page layout designer, taking all their inputs into consideration while striving to stay close to my own vision. For on-demand printing service, I chose CretateSpace because of the simplicity to set up, and also to benefit from the extensive experience of a vast and very helpful community of users there.

Aside from the Grand Prize I mentioned at the beginning of our talk, are there any other awards or honors you’d like to share?

In 2102, the first-draft manuscript of Once upon a Mulberry Field was selected as a finalist in the San Diego Book Awards in the Unpublished Novel category. It came as a wonderful surprise, and it gave me tremendous encouragement. Then in May this year, I received word that my published book had been designated a finalist in the 2014 National Indie Excellence Book Awards in the Historical Fiction category. It was a great honor for me.

All these honors indicate you may have a promising career unfolding. As you well know, these do not come about by accident, but rather by a serious marketing effort. Will you share your strategy with us?

It’s true that most writers would much rather write than do marketing. But for me, one big reason why I write is to share with other people, so I’m making every effort to introduce my book to readers out there via my own personal network (email and telephone campaigns), social media including a website and a blog, other writer friends’ platforms, and my book publicist’s professional network. Immediate results are really hard to estimate, but I believe it’s the cumulative effect over time that will make a difference.

Few, if any,  successful writers work in a vacuum. Please tell us about your writing community.

I belong to a couple of local writers/publishers organizations that hold monthly meetings to exchange ideas and/or listen to invited guest speakers discuss the latest trends in the publishing industry. Through social media, I also made connections with other readers/writers, either individually or within various groups.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I used to write while trying to hold on to my day job as an engineer. But I ended up doing poorly at both, so I finally decided to take a sabbatical from work to devote myself to writing full time.

Since you have managed to avoid workforce tedium, I then have to ask where would you live, if you could live anywhere?

Somewhere close to the ocean where I could fall asleep to the sound of the waves.

I already suspect I know the answer to this, but I still have to ask what is your dream job?

Writing full time without the pressure of a schedule or the burden of self-promotion.

As it is for all writers I know. What is your greatest life lesson?

Don’t keep putting off what you really want to do because you may never get another chance to do it.

That is the only way to begin a career writing. Setting the serious aside for a moment, what makes you laugh?

Little children .

Not what I expected, but you’re right. They make all of us laugh. A few quick questions now:

What are your favorite authors?

W. Somerset Maugham, John Cheever, James Michener

The one thing I cannot do without is:

A word processor

What is your defining trait?


Hard copy or ebook?

Hardcopy at home, and ebook on the road.

Vice? Virtue?


Hah! Now that made me laugh. Favorite book:

Of Mice and Men

Favorite movie:

Gone with the Wind

As always, I asked C. L. Hoang for an excerpt from his book. Here it is, for your enjoyment:

Mulberry 4x6“We are close to the flower market,” Liên said, pointing ahead in the direction of the river. “It is on this same street—Nguyễn-Huệ, or Rue Charner in the old days—just on the other side of Lê-Lợi Street. It has been a Tết tradition for as long as I remember, and it only opens for a short time. From two weeks before Tết until New Year’s Eve. Come. Let us walk.”

We had barely crossed Lê-Lợi Street behind the giant Marines Statues when I beheld, out in the center of Nguyễn-Huệ Boulevard, on the sunny median island, a mirage of explosive colors—a tropical garden floating serenely amid swirling traffic. The visual effect was startling.

“Wait until we get inside the market,” Liên giggled, reading my reaction. “You will forget everything else except New Year’s celebration. When I was a kid, every year we children would get so excited when the flower market opened. It was the sign that Tết was near, which meant no school for two whole weeks, and lots of candies and lì-xì money from the grownups.” She smiled at the memory. “We knew nothing about our parents’ financial worries. It was all innocent fun to us.”

We gingerly picked our path through oncoming traffic, half running, half dodging, and laughing all the way to the oasis in the middle of the boulevard. Greeting us was a kaleidoscope of colors and motion, sounds and smells, all enhanced by the intense afternoon heat. I recognized but a few of the flowers that proliferated along the narrow walkway, some in decorative pots, the rest in fresh bouquets: mums, daisies, marigolds, sunflowers, lilies, orchids, and many exotic unknowns, in countless varieties and shades. Competing with the flowers were miniature kumquat and tangerine trees loaded with luscious fruits the size of golf balls, ornamental plants sculpted in the shapes of mythical birds or rare animals, skeletal branches of spring buds stuck in antique vases, not to mention a vast selection of bonsai in porcelain planters.

I whistled. “I’d buy them all. I wouldn’t know what to choose. Are you finding something you like?”

Liên was admiring a green shoot of daffodil in a small ceramic bowl, with half-opened white-and-yellow buds on it. “This is hoa thủy-tiên―water fairy―which grows from a bulb,” she explained. “There is an art, almost lost to us young kids, in how to prepare the bulb for planting so that it blooms exactly on the First Day of Tết, or New Year’s Day. My father practiced it for years and had amazing success. But he cannot this year, after the stroke. I will get this for him before we go.”

I followed her to the next stall, which displayed long stems of fresh-cut gladiolas. “Tết is a sacred time for us,” she continued. “The whole family gathers to remember our ancestors and pay respect to their memory. Every home sets up an altar for the ancestors during the holidays. My mother loves to use these glaїeul, the red ones especially, to decorate ours. The French brought these new plants to Việt-Nam a century ago. It’s funny that they have become very popular but we still call them by their French name only.”

She bent down to pick up a bouquet of elongated spikes of white flowers that reminded me of Mexican tuberoses. “These, Roger, are called hoa huệ. In Buddhist families like mine, we place offerings of these on Buddha’s altar. Look how pure, how lovely they are. And very nice fragrance, even sweeter at nighttime. Like lotus flowers, they symbolize spirituality.”

Dodging around long strips of red firecrackers that dangled across the stall entrance, she spoke as if making a mental note to herself. “I also need to buy a couple of these strings for my father. He always went out and got them himself in years past.” Then turning to me, “Have you ever heard firecrackers this size explode? They scare me half to death, like real gunfire.” She laughed. “They must be loud enough to chase away evil spirits. The past few years, for security reasons, we are allowed to set them off only on New Year’s Eve and on the First Day of Tết, during the cease-fire. That’s plenty for me.”

She was excited and happy, flitting like a butterfly from one stall to the next, touching and admiring everything in sight. Watching her, I imagined the wide-eyed little girl who had held her mother’s hand during annual trips to the flower market in preparation for Tết and for a lifetime of familial duties. Just like that, her turn had now come. To play grownup herself.


The following are links to his book:


Barnes & Noble:





If you would like to get to know Mr. Hoang a little better, you can connect with him through the following links:







The Write Stuff – Monday, July 14 – Interview With Author Eden Baylee

This week, I am interviewing my long-time friend, Canadian author, Eden Baylee. Back in 2012, Eden and I were part of the writers’ blog, Black Ink, White Paper. It was a collaborative effort of a dozen or so authors wherein we shared all the experiences that influenced our work—not just the literary stuff, but our day trips, food, family life and all the other parts of our everyday existence. I always enjoyed our chemistry, so when I learned Eden was releasing her first full-length novel, I knew I had to bring her on board.

ebEden Baylee left a twenty-year banking career to become a full-time writer. She incorporates many of her favorite things into her writing such as travel, humor, music, poetry, art and much more.

Stranger at Sunset is her first mystery novel, on the heels of several books of erotic anthologies and short stories. She writes in multiple genres.

An introvert by nature and an extrovert by design, Eden is most comfortable at home with her laptop, surrounded by books. She is an online Scrabble junkie and a social media enthusiast, but she really needs to get out more often!

To stay apprised of Eden’s book-related news, please add your name to her mailing list.

Welcome, Eden! I am so excited to have you join us. I thoroughly expect Stranger at Sunset to carry the flavor of your previous works. Can you summarize it for us?

A vacation can be a killer. 

Dr. Kate Hampton, a respected psychiatrist, gathers with a group of strangers at her favorite travel spot, Sunset Villa in Jamaica. Included in the mix are friends of the owners, a businessman with dubious credentials, and a couple who won the trip from a TV game show.

It is January 2013, following the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The luxury resort is struggling, not from the storm, but due to a scathing review from caustic travel writer, Matthew Kane. The owners have invited him back with hopes he will pen a more favorable review to restore their reputation.

Even though she is haunted by her own demons, Kate feels compelled to help. She sets out to discover the motivation behind Kane’s vitriol. Used to getting what he wants, has the reviewer met his match in Kate? Or has she met hers?

Stranger at Sunset is a slow-burning mystery/thriller as seen through the eyes of different narrators, each with their own murky sense of justice. As Kate’s own psychological past begins to unravel, a mysterious stranger at Sunset may be the only one who can save her.

I can already tell this book is a hot one. Aside from the plot, is there a story behind your book?

The book is all about the interaction of strangers, and the word ‘stranger’ has multiple meanings throughout the story. As adults, we are not usually forced into situations with people we do not like, so I wanted to explore a tense atmosphere with strangers, and to do it in a Jamaican resort which, by all accounts, should be a place of paradise and happiness.

The desires and motivations of the strangers in the story are not always clear, not even to themselves. In many ways, it reflects how I feel about people in real life. Sometimes we are strangers to ourselves.

We certainly are. The one thing I do know about you is that you’re never idle. What are you working on now?

I’m working on A Fragile Truce, which is the book that follows Stranger at Sunset and features the same protagonist, Dr. Kate Hampton. There is an excerpt of it at the end of my book.

That’s an indication of how far along you are. I must say, mysteries like these are departures from your previous work. Why have you chosen this particular genre?

I enjoy reading the mystery and thriller genres. There are many nuances contained in them and different ways to tell a story. I’m not a ‘blood and guts’ storyteller, so I don’t have the talent to write police procedurals or crime novels. Where my interest lies is in the motivations of people. That is why I classify my book as a psychological mystery/thriller, because much of it is based on intellectual mind games.

If someone were to ask why they should buy your book, what would you tell them?

The quick and dirty answer is: Buying my book is for entertainment and escapism. Though I was inspired to write it based on my own experiences and views of the world, there are no great life lessons in it.

I’ve read The Austrian and the Asian and enjoyed it very much. That says a lot about your skill as a writer, since not many men read or enjoy erotica. Will you touch on what else you have written?

Prior to Stranger at Sunset, I’ve written short stories, novellas, and flash fiction. They have all been in the erotica genre for the most part. This novel marks my venture into a new genre. It was a huge challenge for me, but I’m proud I pushed myself to do it.

As you should be. Stepping outside one’s comfort zone is a challenge for many of us. I should also tell our visitors how well-developed and layered your writing is. What life experiences or careers inspire or enrich your writing?

I was a banker for twenty years before I took up writing full time. Believe it or not, there are many stories from that period of my life. I just haven’t put them together in my head to create a book.

Music, people, and travel are the biggest inspirations for me.

As a writer, I find even the most mundane of life’s experiences fascinating, as often I need to incorporate those moments into my writing, and to do it in a way that interests the reader. Life, after all, is not always a fast-moving thriller. My book moves at a smoldering pace because I want to pull the reader in slowly.

Because I love the mystery and serendipity of life, I wanted to highlight both these elements in my fiction.

That’s smoldering, as in slow burn, as opposed to blistering. Let’s take a minute to look at your “other life”—your life outside writing. Where would you live, if you could live anywhere?

Thailand—for many reasons, but mainly because of the heat, the beaches, and the people. One of the most personal stories I’ve ever written, called “The Lottery” takes place in Thailand. If you read that book, you will understand why I have a special place in my heart for the Thai people, especially the women.

What is your dream job?

I’m doing it now. To be able to use my imagination to create stories that connect me to others … it’s remarkable.

Hah! That’s every author’s dream. If I spoke to your closest friend about you, what would he or she tell me?

Eden is whacky, creative, and directionally challenged. I hate when she gives me directions in a car because I’ll end up making three or four U-turns in one trip. The only reason we are still friends is because I now have GPS.

Do you have a favorite quote?

“Life is a series of short stories pretending to be a novel” – Anonymous.

What makes you laugh?

Fart jokes. I don’t care how old you are, fart jokes are damn funny.

Now that is something I never would have guessed. OK. Lightning Round.

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

Curious and tolerant, or perhaps curiously tolerant. (And I can’t count. Sorry, Ray! )

Hard copy or ebook?

Both, depends on my mood.

Vice? Virtue?

Vice in fiction, virtue in real life.

Favorite book:

50 Shades of … NOT! Too many to name, I’m afraid.

Whew! I’m glad you didn’t go there. Favorite movie:

Anything with Anthony Hopkins in it.

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

First and foremost, thank you Ray, for your time and energy. It’s lovely of you to interview me given your own busy schedule. I truly appreciate the exposure and look forward to meeting one day for a scotch. You’re buying of course, right?

Uh… er… Would you care to share a little of your book, Eden? (Notice how deftly I changed the subject.)

Sas_KindleThe body plummeted two and a half stories into the sea. It bobbed between crests before foamy waves swept in and yanked it under the surface. The tide rushed out dragging its new possession deep into the ocean’s dark belly. Swells curled and collapsed against the shore. The evening breeze whistled an eerie tune.

Despite how tightly his fingers gripped the large barrels, the binoculars trembled in the man’s hands. He now wished he had bought the more powerful Porro-prism model. This less expensive design darkened the image, especially against a pale orange sky reflecting the chopped glass of the water. While adjusting the diopter ring behind his right eyepiece, he bit down on his lower lip.

A silhouette met his lens, haloed by the glow of the setting sun. With his breath thickening the atmosphere, he pressed the eyepiece harder against his face to stop from shaking.

The woman stood naked with her hair pinned up, loose strands trailing down the nape of her slender neck. Her palms rested on the metal railing of the balcony. As she stared out at the churning sea, he zoomed in on her face, then moved his binoculars downward to her breasts, lingering there longer than he should have. Slowly, he lowered his gaze to her flat stomach. Firm thighs extended off the arc of round buttocks. A dancer’s body—willowy and muscular, but not too muscular, she was beauty and grace, and yet, what she just did …

A hint of dark pubic hair blurred past his lens. While he re-calibrated the magnification, she drifted out of focus. When he brought her back in view, her contemplative mood had changed. She moved a chair to the corner of the terrace. Gathering up a pile of bed sheets, she crossed the threshold into the room and scurried out of view.

He dared not avert his eyes. The light was fading fast, and night would soon fall upon the villa like a magician’s cape. With his elbows pressed to his sides, he loosened his grip on the binoculars and tried to flex his aching fingers.

She had to come back, right?

The doors leading to the patio were still wide open. Secluded in his dark corner of the island, he spied the room as if ogling a dollhouse with its front wall sheared off, scaled down to about the same size too.

The naked woman strolled back into his field of vision as a cramp sneaked up on him. A painful twitch stabbed his wrist, reminded him of old wounds. He dropped the binoculars secured by a strap around his neck to shake out both his hands. By the time he brought the lens to his face again, she had disappeared, no … wait, she popped up from behind the bed carrying two pillows. With an unhurried pace, she stepped out on the balcony and propped the cushions on the chair, even fluffed them before re-entering the suite. She closed the wooden French doors behind her.

The light in her room replaced the sun’s blush, a poor substitute given a set of floor-to-ceiling jalousies bracketed his view. He waited to see what she would do next. His breathing deafened his ears as if he were wheezing through a mask; adrenaline pumped in his veins. She moved in front of the window facing him. With hands on her hips, legs spread apart, she stood full frontal and stared straight at him. He shrank back and jostled her image.

Could she see him?


If you would like to read more from Stranger at Sunset, or learn more about the author, please check out the following links:











The Write Stuff – Monday, June 30 – Interview With Author Lisa Alber

I first encountered this week’s guest, Lisa Alber, when I was looking for authors to join me for a signing at this year’s NW Book Festival in Portland, Oregon. (See this site’s Events page for the place, date and time). Her debut mystery novel, KILMOON, caught my attention right away. It’s been gathering high praise. I was delighted, then, when she consented to be interviewed. I think you will be, too.

?????????????????Lisa Alber’s County Clare mysteries feature Merrit Chase, a recent transplant from California, and Detective Sergeant Danny Ahern. KILMOON, has been called “moody,” “utterly poetic,” and a “stirring debut.” She received an Elizabeth George Foundation writing grant based on KILMOON. Ever distractible, you may find Lisa staring out windows, fooling around online, or drinking red wine with her friends. Ireland, books, animals, photography, and blogging round out her distractions.




“Brooding, gothic overtones haunt Lisa Alber’s polished, atmospheric debut. Romance, mysticism, and the verdant Irish countryside all contribute to making KILMOON a marvelous, suspenseful read.”

—Julia Spencer-Fleming,
New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of Through the Evil Days


Welcome to The Write Stuff, Lisa. I’m so glad you could join us. You write about some very scary stuff. Why have you chosen your particular genre?

I’m a private, perhaps even secretive, person, and I love psychology — the dark side of what makes us human. I’m fascinated by what we hide. We’re all supposed to present well-adjusted facades to the world, but, man, what lurks inside even a “normal” (hmm…some might argue…) person like me would shock some people. So, if I have lots of dark stuff within me, what about those of us who actually don’t have a moral compass? What about the sociopaths? Most of all, what about the people who are basically good but are compelled by extreme stress to kill another person? Crime fiction is the perfect vehicle for delving into our humanity.

Brrrr! Gives me the shivers. That makes me ask, aside from your book’s plot, is there a story behind your book?

Sure is. Two places in Lisdoonvarna village, County Clare, Ireland, initially sparked my imagination: The Matchmaker Bar and an early Christian ruin called Kilmoon Church. The Matchmaker Bar represents the village’s annual matchmaking festival and Kilmoon Church represents secrets long buried. Together they grounded me in place and set my thoughts churning about a matchmaker with a dark past.

My dad’s death also inspired this story. I was grieving his passing (from cancer), and it was only later that I realized I was processing our relationship through the father-daughter themes that run through the novel. Of course, in the novel they’re far darker than anything from my life. Thank goodness!

Thank goodness, indeed! Now that Kilmoon is finally released, are you working on anything else?

I’m revising the second draft of the next novel in the County Clare mystery series. I’m calling it GREY MAN. I have a feeling the title will change, as titles do. I have two primary series protagonists: Merrit and Danny. KILMOON was Merrit’s story. GREY MAN is Danny’s story. He’s a detective sergeant. In this novel, Danny’s investigation into the death of a teenage boy leads to tragedy within his own family. I’m having fun deepening Danny’s character. I kind of have a crush on him!

I enjoy the revision process as well. It’s like polishing a stone.

Your novel’s setting is quite unique and unexpected. This leads me to believe your writing is unique as well.

My novels are traditional mysteries (but not cozy mysteries). I’d say the way they differ is that I concentrate on character rather than, say, the police procedural aspect of the plot. I use ensemble casts, and all the characters have their own narratives, whether they’re major arcs like Danny’s and Merrit’s arcs, or minor arcs. I’m attracted to secrets and the way the past impacts the present, so my stories tend to be layered. In fact, I’d say my novels are mainstream novels that revolve around several layers of mysteries.

Mysteries are complicated works and the complications involved can sometimes trip one up. When you get stuck, how do you get back in stride?

I find that consistency over the long run is the surest way to keep the writing flowing. This doesn’t mean perfection in our routines. We all have our off days or off weeks, times when life gets in the way because that’s what life does.

Just a simple consistency. Sitting down at your computer for an hour at the same time every (or nearly every) day signals to your subconscious that you’re in writing mode and it’s safe to come out and play. Not that you’re always going to have good writing days, but even on the bad writing days, sit quietly and write what you think is garbage for the hour. Most of the time your garbage won’t be as bad as all that.

Also, another trick is to tell yourself you only have to write, say, a page a day, or for 10 minutes a day. That’s not much; we can all do that, right? What happens is that most of the time you will write more or for longer. And on the days you don’t? You can be OK with yourself because you met your goal.

Some say marketing a book is more difficult than writing it. What is your marketing strategy?

The best piece of advice I received on marketing and self-promotion came from New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth George. I saw her in March at a writers conference, and she told me to say “yes” to every opportunity that came my way. She said this is crucial for authors at the beginning of their careers. So I am saying “yes” to everything that comes my way.

My other strategy is not to stress about book touring right now. I don’t have the means to travel a lot write now, so, instead, I’m ensuring my online presence through guest blogging, Facebook, Twitter, and so on. When you’re out there, participating in your online and local communities, it’s amazing what can come your way.

The other thing? Keep writing. We all need to get our next books out there so that sales from one book will increase sales for the others.

That’s marvelous advice, indeed. Since your book is too new to support you… yet, tell us about your day job.

By day, I work as a technical writer. I don’t mind this kind of writing, and I’m quite good at it, oddly enough, but I don’t fit well with corporate cultures. I’d rather be left alone to get my work done. I avoid meetings when I can, and I don’t hang with my colleagues in social settings. My job is a means to an end while I do my best to get my fiction career off the ground.

Assuming your writing career does take off and you could name where you live, where would you choose?

I’d be a nomad! This answer assumes I’m independently wealthy, of course. I’d keep a home on the west coast somewhere, either the Bay Area, where I grew up, or Portland, where I live now. I’d definitely have a place in Paris, another in New York. I’d just pick places and stay for months at time, writing, and then return to my home for a while before heading back out again.

Hah! I love that sort of ambition. That said, what is your dream job?

Novelist, no day job necessary!

Good for you! I agree. Getting bad to the darker side of life, how do you pick yourself up in the face of adversity?

This is going to sound odd, but one of the ways I pick myself up is to let myself fall. I wallow for a while. This seems to help me overcome the emotional part of the adversity quickly. It’s the emotional fallout that tends to affect me more than the actual adversity, say, job loss or death in the family. I deal with what needs dealing with, and then let myself read and nap a lot for a time. Talking to people helps too.

You are as unique as your writing. Before we delve into Kilmoon, here are a few Lightning Round questions:

The one thing I cannot do without is:

Reading for relaxation and comfort.

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

Independent wanderer.

Hard copy or ebook?

Hard copy.

Vice? Virtue?


We won’t go into that. A favorite book:

REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier

A favorite movie:

Gosford Park

I loved that one. And I hope everyone’s interest is piqued by now. Here is a brief description of Kilmoon, followed by a short excerpt:


Californian Merrit Chase travels to County Clare, Ireland, to meet her long-lost father, the famous Matchmaker of Lisfenora. Her simple, if fraught, quest turns complicated when she’s pulled into a murder investigation and she discovers that her father’s dark past is at the heart of the chaos. Murder, vengeance, betrayal, and family secrets—not the family reunion she was hoping for!







Back in the alley, Merrit counted doors, passing her lodgings as she went. Fifth door down, this would be Internet Café’s back entrance.

The door was the tiniest bit ajar, which was odd even by Lisfenora’s safe standards. Merrit hesitated with fist raised against the shop’s door. No way was Lonnie at work this early in the morning. Ivan had to be up and about then. She nudged the door open to see a shabby storage area. Stacked packages of printer paper leaned against one another, covered in dust, and a bathroom exuded a musty funk. A yellow tabby sidled through an inner door that must lead to the storefront. The little fellow mewed and brushed her legs. Merrit picked him up.

She carried the purring cat through the storage area and into the shop. Perhaps she could relay a message through Ivan to Lonnie. Something along the lines of, Stop talking to Liam about me, or else.

Or else what? She wasn’t sure, but it was better than nothing at this point.

A squeal, or perhaps a moan, issued from Lonnie’s office. Merrit froze. A moment later the rat-a-tatting of computer keys ceased and oaths in Ivan’s native Russian took over. Merrit smiled. The minion up to no good in the boss’s office. Now he’d see how much he liked having his personal life threatened with exposure.

On tiptoes, she stepped past computers and around the service counter behind which Ivan usually sat. Thankfully, the window blinds were drawn. No one could see her as she stepped toward one of two doorways marked “For Employees Only,” only to freeze again, this time in the office doorway with the cat pressed against her chest. She knew death when she saw it. There was no mistaking its particular brand of stillness. Death had sucked the energy out of Lonnie’s body, leaving it as bereft of life as a hologram.

Amazon Link:





The Write Stuff – Monday, June 16 – Interview With Author Kasper Beaumont

This week’s edition of The Write Stuff takes us to the Land Down Under, but with a twist… We’re replacing ’roos with dragons and Aussies with elves as author Kasper J. Beaumont takes time away from her already busy schedule to share her writing life with us. I first met Kaz through Facebook’s Fantasy Sci-Fi Network where she’s an active part of the group that connects readers with bloggers and authors who specialized in this genre.

041 Kasper J. Beaumont was born and raised in Australia and lives a quiet life with the family in a seaside town. Combining a love of fantasy and a penchant for travel in the Hunters of Reloria trilogy, Kasper started to write on the urging of friends and family and enjoys watching readers become immersed in the magical world of Reloria. Kasper is a pen name for a rather shy author who is happy to remain unnamed.






Golden Dragon crop The first two volumes of her trilogy, Elven Jewel and Hunters’ Quest, are already out. The concluding volume, Dragon’s Revenge, is expected to be released July of this year. Oh, yes. Before I forget, the Dragon’s Revenge art competition is underway. There are 11 prizes and anyone can enter.




Here is some information about the first two installments:

Elven Jewel Cover 3x4 Elven Jewel

This fantasy adventure begins when the magical continent of Reloria is threatened by cruel, scaly invaders called Vergai from the wastelands of Vergash. These invaders are barbaric and are intent on destroying the protective elven forcefield and conquering peaceful Reloria. The Vergais’ plan is to steal the Elven Jewel which is the key to the Relorian defence system.

Halfling friends Randir and Fendi and their bond-fairies are the first to discover the invaders and they embark on a quest to save the Elven Jewel. They leave their peaceful farm village with their fairies and race against time to stop the invaders. They join forces with dwarves, elves, men and a mysterious dragon, and call themselves the Hunters of Reloria.

The quest is perilous, with numerous encounters with the ruthless Vergai, who are determined to fulfill their mission. The Elven Jewel is stolen and the quest becomes a race to the portal to retrieve the jewel before it can be taken to Vergash. A battle for Reloria ensues where the consequences for the Relorians is death, unless Vergai are stopped.

Hunters Quest 3x4 Hunters’ Quest

Magical Reloria is under siege by scaly Vergai invaders by portal who have captured the Elven Jewel which creates their protective forcefield. These Vergai live across the western sea, and have fled with the elven princess.
Halfling friends, Randir and Fendi and their bond-fairies are members of a group of brave hunters on a quest to recover the stolen Elven Jewel. They must search for a mage who can make a portal to rescue the princess. They thought they knew what the quest would entail, but with an unexpected member and new enemies, not everything goes the way they had planned.
Their journey takes them to strange new places including the centaur lands, the gnomish inventors, the Great Elven Heart and the home of the dragons.
This unlikely group of men, a dragon, dwarves, halflings, fairies and an elf are known as the Hunters of Reloria.

Kaz, what distinguishes your work from that of other fantasy authors?

I introduced the concept of fairies and halflings bonded together in a symbiotic relationship. The fairies use their magic to heal and regenerate the halflings. The halflings eat food which keeps the fairies strong. The fairy comes into being at the birth of the halfling and one will not outlive the other. They also have a distance limit of 10 metres, but as I don’t use measurements in the book, I just call it the limit of their bond. I like that their fairies have individual personalities. Some are like a little conscience and others such as Sienna-Li can be very cheeky and get himself into trouble.

I also use some mythical beasts in my books, which some reviewers call a ‘genre-mash.’

Intriguing. These are certainly unique stipulations. Will you give us an idea of what your writing routine is like?

I’m not sure that I have one. I do routinely wake at 5am, but I don’t tend to start writing straight away. I usually sort through the 100-odd emails I’ve received for the day and do writing later on, maybe when the kids go to school. I love to escape to the bath or cubbyhouse with my scrapbook and scribble away without distractions.

For some authors, writing occurs in fits and starts. How do you overcome writer’s block?

I don’t believe in it. I could write 18 hours a day if my life would let me. It’s like there’s a dam full of ideas in me and the sluice can be opened at any time for ideas to spill forth.

Hah! Good for you. I would say the same about myself. Since I suspect we will also agree writing doesn’t come out of nowhere, but rather springs from our experiences, what life experiences inspire or enrich your writing?

I would have to mention my family when talking about writing. My eldest son has two short stories published and has been my biggest supporter. He likes to come up with outrageous ideas such as Cyclops giants with laser beams and I fit them into the stories somehow.

My favourite thing to do is travel with the family and experience new lands and cultures. Not only is this fun, but you always learn something, whether you’re in the Louvre, or wandering a desolate countryside.

Aside from the Hunters of Reloria trilogy, what else have you written?

I’ve written a short story recently about the tragedy of Garass and Asher, which is the back-story to one of the Hunters of Reloria. They were two best friends who had the misfortune to fall in love with the same woman and it tore them all apart. I like this one, because I get to write more romance than in the previous books, but as you know, I do love my battles too. I just handed it over to my editor and hope to share it with you all soon. My poor editor is very busy at the moment.

A moment ago, you mentioned your family and how they influence your writing. What else would you care to share about life in the Beaumont household?

My chickens. I have 6 beautiful little hens who are so tame they eat out of our hands. Sometimes they get impatient and peck our toes to remind us to bring food. They each have a name and personality. It’s so nice to have fresh eggs every day and know that the hens are loved and well cared for.

That’s delightful! Sticking to your “other” life for a moment, do you have another job outside of writing?

Yes, I’m a healthcare worker and I do enjoy my job most of the time. It has its challenges and rewards. At the moment I’m working less hours there and spending more time on my writing, so I would have to call it the best of both worlds.

Here are a few of questions I ask most of my guests. Where would you live, if you could live anywhere?

I’d love to be on an island with a couple of hundred people. Somewhere that’s not too hot or cold and there’s a mango tree. My family and I would live in tree houses and go fishing for our supper. Perhaps we’d have a pet possum. No work, no school, no traffic. I’d still have my scrapbook, no doubt. No worries and no cares sounds heavenly to me. Oh-oh, I think I’ve watched too many episodes of Survivor LOL.

Sounds like Swiss—or rather, Aussie—Family Beaumont. How do you pick yourself up in the face of adversity?

Keep calm and carry on. I’m not really one for theatrics. We’ve had some loss recently and it has brought my partner and I closer together. It has been great to have all the family rallying around us.

I agree. Having said that, what makes you laugh?

The Umbilical Brothers and Tim Minchin. They are seriously some funny guys. Also the Big Bang Theory is hilarious.

Alright, before I treat our visitors to an excerpt from your writing, here are a few Lightening Round Questions. Answer them in as few words as possible.

The one thing I cannot do without is:

Chocolate (I apologise to my partner, who runs a very close second!)

Favorite book:

The Belgariad series by David Eddings

Favorite movie:

Star Wars

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

Try an Indie author for your next book. There are truly some gems to be found.

Raymond, thanks so much for having me on your blog today. It’s been heaps of fun, cheers, Kasper.

I’ve enjoyed having you. Thank you for coming.

Now, as I promised at the beginning of this interview, for your reading pleasure, here is an excerpt from Hunters’ Quest by Kasper Beaumont, Battle of the Western Outpost.

Halflings Fendi and Sienna and their bond fairies, could now discern what the elf and dragons’ keen eyes had already seen. The grasslands ahead were covered with thousands of Vergai, spread out in numerous camps across the West Lands, and beyond them, the outpost castle was just discernable in the early morning gloom. Bolts of lightning could be seen striking about the black fortress. As they sped closer, Fendi saw many giants surrounding the crackling portal.

Dark shadows above the portal caused the Dragon leader to pull up abruptly from his rapid flight. The dragons hovered high above the Vergai campfires.

The grey Dragon turned to the brown and growled, “There be some kind of sorcery here. See those large blobs suspended over the castle? They emit lightning at random intervals. To destroy the portal, we must avoid them and defeat the wizards on the far side.”

To the dragons’ surprise, a loud voice came from far above them, “Well, it’s about time you dragons joined the party. We have been here for hours, but can’t find a way past the lightning creatures and the giants. They keep pouring through the portal and we can’t get close to it.” It was Baja dwarf’s cheerful voice calling, but he sounded rather more serious than usual.

They all looked up to see Heikki’s gnomish flying machine suspended above them, with their companions straining to look over the sides of the basket.

The Dragon leader gave a regretful look at the Hunters of Reloria in the flying machine, before saying, “Lead them to the wizards, Varnon. If I fail, that is our last hope.”

With mighty beats of his enormous wings, the dragon set off towards the portal, leaving his companions behind. Fendi gave a cry of despair at seeing huntress Sienna valiantly clinging to the dragon’s spiked neck. The other dragons followed the leader closely, with Fendi riding the plucky brown, and Daeron upon the large black.

As they approached the castle, the halflings saw it was the same defensive design as the other outposts, but made of black rock. A fair distance in front of the castle was the portal, surrounded by giants and twelve strange lightning creatures. Fendi thought they looked a bit like large bloated toads, anchored to the ground in front of the portal by long thick ropes. Glowing antennae projecting from their foreheads were suspended before wide mouths. Every so often, one of the creatures burped and lightning crackled in all directions, striking the ground with a loud explosion. Fendi noticed that the giants stayed well clear of these lightning creatures and were positioned directly in front of the portal.

The Dragon leader carrying Sienna reached the portal first and circled high around it, noting the portal could only be seen from the eastern side with no guards to the west. He surmised that the portal could only be accessed from one direction and he banked around to see the other dragons, hydra and wyvern, waiting for his lead.

“Follow me, dragons, we’ll go straight down the middle and then peel off sideways just before the portal, while sending your strongest burst of flame into the mouth of the portal to break the connection. Let’s go.”

With wings beating strongly, the grey Dragon sped straight towards the lightning creatures, with the others bravely fanning out behind in a V formation.

If you’d like to learn more about Kasper Beaumont, or purchase her books, here are a few links to assist you.

Book links:

Links to her website, blog and online social accounts: kaspers-ramblings.html

The Write Stuff – Monday, June 2 – Interview With Author Andrea Buginsky

Summer is almost upon us and I thought a nice way to begin the season, as we all crawl out of our cubby holes, is to introduce you to YA author, Andrea Buginsky. Andrea and I made each other’s acquaintance this year through best-selling author, Melissa Foster’s author group on Facebook. Throughout winter’s darker months, through its chill and the snows it had brought, Andrea remained an upbeat online presence. This is something about her background:

My Headshot

Andrea Buginsky is a freelance writer living with a congenital heart defect. She has enjoyed writing since she was a kid. When she went to college, she decided to turn it into a career, and earned her BA in Journalism. She has been freelance writing for several years now.

Andrea has always wanted to write a book, and decided she wanted to write for children. She loves fantasy movies like “The Lord of the Rings” and “Harry Potter,” so she decided to try her hand at writing one of her own.

Andrea’s first publication is “The Chosen,” a middle-grade fantasy she worked on for about three years. It was published by Solstice Publishing on December 14, 2010. The second book in THE CHOSEN series, “Nature’s Unbalance,” was published on July 17, 2012.

Andrea is currently writing a new series, NEW AVALON, a YA fantasy. Book 1, DESTINY, is now available. She is currently writing the second, FATE.

Andrea has also published , “My Open Heart,” an autobiography about growing up with heart disease. Her hope is that it will give encouragement to young adults growing up with heart disease, or other chronic illnesses, as well as parents of children growing up with heart disease.

Andrea lives in the Kansas City, KS area. She grew up in Florida, but is originally from NJ.

What are you currently working on, Andrea?

Book 2 of the New Avalon series.

Why have you chosen your particular genre?

I love fantasy, and often live in a fantasy world myself. I love to have the ability to come up with things that are completely out of this world and have them work in my stories.

You are one of those authors who managed to get taken on by a traditional publisher, but you have since self-published. Can you tell us a bit about that journey?

When I started writing books, it took me some time to figure out that YA fantasy was my niche. My first book was The Chosen. I queried it to different publishers and agents, but got several rejections. During an online writing conference, I had the chance to pitch it to some smaller publishers, and one offered me a contract. It was my first home. When my contract expired, I decided to take it on my own and self-publish it. I had just self-published my fourth book, and wanted to do the same with my other three. Now I have three books available on Amazon, with a fourth, fifth and sixth on the way.

Destiny is book one in the New Avalon series and Fateis Book 2.  Have you written any others?

My first book is The Chosen, about a group of warriors sent off by the queen of their world to save it. I have since written two more books in the series, which will be published sometime this year, and am working on the fourth one. I’ve also written My Open Heart, my autobiography about growing up with heart disease.

While My Open Heart clearly targets a specific audience, there are hundreds, if not thousands of fantasy novels. Why should teenagers be drawn to your fantasy books?

Because they want to read about an unlikely hero that faces normal teenage problems like they do.

What life experiences or careers inspire or enrich your writing?

I think just life itself, and how hard it can be sometimes. But overcoming the hard parts is what makes the stories come to life. My heroes persevere, just like I do.

What is your dream job?

I have it, although I would love to have the energy to sit at my desk all day, every day, and carve out 100s of pages a day.

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

Seeing people do good things. We hear way too much bad news about school shootings and other horrible incidents in the world. I love it when I hear a great humanitarian story about someone doing something simply out of the kindness of their heart.

What is your greatest life lesson?

To never give up your dreams.

Who are a few of your favorite authors?

J.K. Rowling, Rick Riordan, Danielle Steel, Nicholas Sparks

Do you have a favorite quote?

“I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes until I saw the man who had no feet.”

It is often hard to realize how truly blessed we are and to accept our own circumstances. Before I share a bit of your writing with our visitors, let’s try a few Lightning Round questions.

The one thing I cannot do without is:


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


Hard copy or ebook?


Vice? Virtue?

Chocolate. Honesty.

Favorite book:

Harry Potter

Favorite movie:

Dirty Dancing

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

Reach for the stars, and make your dreams come true.

For those of you who would like a taste of Andrea’s writing, here is the premise of Destiny: New Avalon, book 1 (September 9, 2013), followed by a very brief excerpt.

Destiny (2)

Constantly teased and taunted by the popular girls, Elena Baxter desperately wants to fit in. On her sweet sixteenth, she receives two shocking gifts: telekinesis and the surprising truth about her heritage. With high hopes that things will be different now, Elena returns to school to find that nothing has changed. Only this time her hurt feelings and frustration boil into something even she cannot understand.

When her powers explode, chaos ensues and she learns that her new ability is greater than she ever desired. As she learns to control her powers, Elena discovers there’s so much more to her heritage than she ever imagined.


As she yelled, things around her felt funny, and she realized she heard screaming. She looked around, and was startled to see everyone staring at her, horrified. She took a deep breath, and realized what had happened. She let her emotions get away from her, and her powers erupted.

The only words she could think of to describe the scene around her were total chaosEvery locker had burst open, and the entire contents – books, folders, papers, pictures, mirrors, backpacks – had come flying out. The posters on the walls were scattered everywhere. Most of the students and teachers were picking themselves up off the floor. Elena knew her powers had gotten totally out of hand, and she made everything around her fly out of control, literally.

She heard footsteps walking toward her, the only sound in the hall. She looked up and saw her counselor, Mrs. Adams, walking toward her. She gently took Elena by the shoulder and guided her to her office. She looked back and saw Barb and the other Bimbettes staring at her, as well as everyone else in the hall.

To read more about Andrea, please visit her website.

Social Media Links


Twitter: @andreabuginsky




The Write Stuff – Monday, May 19 – Interview With Author Massimo Marino

I feel especially privileged today to host the award-winning science fiction author, Massimo Marino. After reading DAIMONES, the first volume of his trilogy, I knew I wanted to share this author with you. Not only is his story’s premise original, but his writing is subtly compelling. He manages to draw the reader in with intrigue, rather than the violence and fast-paced action so characteristic of the genre. And while it is not unheard of for a scientist to write science fiction, Massimo manages to interweave paranormal and mythological events into his tale. I asked Mr. Marino to begin by telling us about himself.


I’m Italian, and because even in Italy that means everything and nothing at all, I should say I am Sicilian. I was born in Palermo, and as it happened with countless Sicilians, I left it, back in 1986. I lived more years abroad than in my home country, and I have changed in many and different ways than my old friends there. It is always a pleasure to go back, but it is now 6 long years since my last visit. Saudade? Maybe, a little.

I lived in Switzerland, France, and the United States. I am a scientist as a background, and have spent over 17 years in fundamental research. Most of my writing are then academic stuff, and I always wonder at how much Google is able to find about everyone. I am sure one has to Google oneself so not to forget too much…

I worked for many years at CERN—an international lab for particle physics research near Geneva, Switzerland—then in the US at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Fantastic moments and memories from those years. In 2005 I moved to the private sector, worked with Apple Inc., and then for the World Economic Forum.

I wrote since I was a kid, short stories and novellas, but never had anyone read it. It was a personal thing. Then, work and life took their toll and I stopped. Slightly over a year ago, for various reasons, I started again with some burning inside that needed to come out. On the first weekend I got over 15000 words, then subscribed to for peer review, lurked a year keeping on writing and getting feedback.

On September 2012 my debut novel, DAIMONES, saw the light. It received the 2012 PRG Reviewer’s Choice Award in Science Fiction. Last February it was awarded with the Hall of Fame – Best Science Fiction by Quality Reads UK, and received over 64% of the 1600+ readers votes. To the day, DAIMONES has sold over 4,000 copies. Both novels are available as digital and printed editions.













The sequel, ONCE HUMANS, was published last July and has sold more than 1,000 copies since. I’m writing Vol.3, THE RISE OF THE PHOENIX. Its Prelude (chapters 1-4) has been published last November and readers can have a taste of what’s coming in the trilogy.













The novels have been optioned by an Independent Audiobook Publisher in the US, Sci-Fi Publishing LCC, and both DAIMONES and ONCE HUMANS are now available as audiobook, too. (From, Amazon and iTunes).

Rise of the Phoenix Cover













What you have told us about DAIMONES’ debut is tantalizing. Would you please detail a bit more about your path to publication?

I started as many others with query letters to agents and publishers. A good number asked for reading a few chapters. I only had two kind of replies: total silence, or personal words of appreciation for the story, my background, my voice, the “lyric of the prose”, and encouragements with the caveat that the market is looking unfortunately for something else. After a while, because the market is made of readers, I decided to verify myself if the market was looking for something else. Thus, I became the publisher of my work. I have a team supporting me, beta-readers, proofreading services, a copy editor, and a graphic professional for the covers. I’ve sold over 6000 copies of my books and critiques and readers appreciation are close to 90%.

I believe it would be the same even after 6 million copies, the sample I have is convincing enough.

I received two offers — since I published — from small publishing companies but the current standard of contracts is laughable. I said thanks but no thanks in both cases.

As I intimated at the outset of our discussion, your premise is unusual. What is the story behind the story?

The animal deaths around the world. Those intrigued me, they still happen, unexplained, targeting one single race at the time and leaving all others undisturbed. Don’t look like natural events and yet I’m not aware of any serious scientific investigation on what’s happening there. Who knows, maybe the Daimones trilogy is nothing but a premonition?

One would suspect that a scientist would write about, shall we say, down to earth matters. What made you choose science fiction?

I grew up with brother and dad buried under sci-fi novels. Dad received Astounding Stories magazine and I wasn’t allowed to read those but I looked at the pictures and fantasized. Later on, I started reading sci-fi, too.

In your own words, why is your writing different from other sci-fi authors?

Sci-fi is considered by many a minor, less valuable genre, not good for good, discerning readers, full of crazy ideas with little ground on reality, shoddy characterization and the equivalent of a B-series, low budget Hollywood movie. I think sci-fi can be of the highest literature, allowing the author to stress the boundaries of the society and the universe where the characters interact to explore any and every major high literature themes. I look after Literary Science Fiction.

I agree. Will you tell us what you are working on now?

I’m working on the launch of Vol. 3 of the trilogy: THE RISE OF THE PHOENIX. At the times of posting this interview it might be already available as ebook and paperback from major retailers and the audiobook being produced.

When you’re not marketing your work, what is your writing day like?

When I write a new book, I write every day. I aim at 2500 words. Good or bad doesn’t matter. Inspiration has to find me while I write, not while I’m attending other stuff.

Are there any awards you’ve received you haven’t mentioned above?

The novels have received the PRG Reviewer’s Choice Award in Science Fiction and Best Science Fiction Series. They have been awarded the Awesome Indies Gold Seal of Approval and the Seal of Excellency in Writing by the association. But the greatest honor is when the stories touch the heart and soul of readers and prompt them to share their feelings with a 4 and a 5 star review.

I’ll be more direct. Aside from these, why should someone buy your books?

To spend good time reading immersive novels, to be provoked and questions beliefs and certainties, to daydream together.

Excellent answer! Let’s leave writing behind. I know you live in wonderful places in Europe—France, Switzerland and Italy. Many would consider these ideal. What is your dream location?

In a villa overlooking the Ocean in Big Sur, California.

Not a bad choice at all. In view of your marvelous career to date, what would be your dream job?

Being able to earn enough royalties from my books every month to pay for all I and family need. And writing new novels for new readers – sharing the visions and gifting them with pleasant reading times, moments of evasion and fulfillment.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

I have two furry, rascal cats who are the reasons for my pauses during a writing day, otherwise I’d forget about lunch, physiological rests, and any other task requiring my attention at any moment. When I write, I’m no more there. My cats arrive, place their paws on my hands or walk over the keyboard and stare at me. They give me the look: “Time to take a break.”

Even though your life may seem ideal to many of those visiting today, no one’s is perfect. So I have to ask, how do you pick yourself up in the face of adversity?

Panting and huffing, and with the support of my family.

Do you have a favorite quote?

“’Tis the good reader that makes the good book; in every book he finds passages which seem to be confidences or sides hidden from all else and unmistakably meant for his ear; the profit of books is according to the sensibility of the reader; the profound thought or passion sleeps as in a mine, until it is discovered by an equal mind and heart.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thank you. That’s a new one for me. Before we bring this interview to a close, I have a few Lightening Round questions.

The one thing I cannot do without is:

My tool for writing and doing research: my Mac Book Air

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

Compulsive, passionate

Hard copy or ebook?

Both. There are moments for both.

Vice? Virtue?

It’s no virtue to have no vice.

Favorite book:

The one I’m reading at the moment.

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

A note to readers: Sales are great, press releases, interviews, live radio guest appearances are exciting, climbing the ranks and entering the Top 100 Authors for my genre is exhilarating, but nothing beats the support of all readers and friends and fellow writers who share the thrill with me. You’re the best readers any writer could ever have. Without you giving my stories a chance, nothing would ever be possible.



Press Releases:

The Write Stuff – Monday, May 5 – Interview With Author Giacomo Giammatteo

This edition of The Write Stuff moves into different territory. When I began this series, I promised to present authors of interest. I doubt you will find anyone more interesting than mystery and non-fiction author, Giacomo Giammatteo. With so many titles to his credit and such glowing reviews about his work, I hardly knew where to begin this interview. I thought I would play it safe by asking Jim, as I have grown to know him, to tell us a little about himself. He chose to describe himself this way:

Giacomo & Slick 3andAhalf Inch

I live in Texas now, but I grew up in Cleland Heights, a mixed ethnic neighborhood in Wilmington, Delaware, that sat on the fringes of the Italian, Irish and Polish neighborhoods. The main characters of Murder Takes Time grew up in Cleland Heights and many of the scenes in the book were taken from real-life experiences.

Somehow I survived the transition to adulthood, but when my kids were young I left the Northeast and settled in Texas, where my wife suggested we get a few animals. I should have known better; we now have a full-blown animal sanctuary with rescues from all over. At last count we had 41 animals—12 dogs, a horse, a three-legged cat and 26 pigs. Oh, and one crazy—and very large—wild boar, who takes walks with me every day and happens to also be my best buddy.

Since this is a bio, some of you might wonder what I do. By day I am a headhunter, scouring the country for top talent to fill jobs in the biotech and medical device industry. In the evening I help my wife tend the animals, and at night—late at night—I turn into a writer. I write mysteries and non-fiction career books. I also have a series of epic fantasies planned; the first three are written.

Jim, in brief, what is Murder Takes Time about?

Nicky Fusco thought he knew right from wrong, living by an oath of friendship & honor with his three best friends. But life took them down separate paths, and the oath was broken. Secrets were kept. Years later they are reunited and the bonds of their friendship are brutally tested, putting them on a collision course set in motion long ago.

Murder Takes Time is not a typical murder mystery or mob story. It is a thriller, a romance, and a coming-of-age story that rips your heart out. By the time you’re done reading it, you just might find yourself rethinking the definition of friendship & honor—even right and wrong.

Three boys, one girl. Friendship, honor, love—betrayal. It ends with murder.

Wow! That’s quite a concept. Since I know from personal experience that every story has a seed, what prompted you to write this one and why should someone buy it?

Many of the stories in this book are true, mostly of the kids in the early days. The neighborhood described is where I grew up.

I guarantee a good read. Literally. If you don’t like my books, or don’t feel you got your money’s worth, I’ll give you a refund or a new book. I have it posted on both of my sites. No one has taken me up on it yet.

What are you working on now?

Always a tricky question. I tend to work on a lot of things at once, and at different stages of development. So, I have just put up my second career book  on pre-order (No Mistakes Interviews), and I am doing the final edit on A Bullet From Dominic, the second book in the Blood Flows South series. I am also close to finishing the draft on Murder Takes Patience, the third in the Friendship & Honor series, and I am plotting a novella, and also the fourth and final book in my fantasy series.

Right from the start, I said you have numerous titles to your credit. That brings up the question, how do you overcome writer’s block?

Fortunately, I have never had to deal with that.

Some say marketing a book is more difficult than writing it, yet you’ve bee very successful at this. What is your marketing strategy?

When you find a strategy that works, please let me know. I have been experimenting with a lot. I can tell you what I don’t do, and that’s give books away for free in mass quantities.

Hah! Can you tell us what life experiences inspire or enrich your writing?

I guess growing up in the city in a big family and among various ethnic groups. That was a wonderful experience.

Between all of the animals and your day job, how do you find time to write? What’s a typical day?

  • Wake up about 7, feed a few of the animals. (we have a sanctuary with 45 animals).
  • Drink coffee.
  • Work in my day job, headhunting in the biotech/medical device industries.
  • More coffee.
  • Feed animals at noon.
  • Back to headhunting.
  • More coffee.
  • Feed more animals at around 5-6 PM.
  • More coffee.
  • Eat dinner around 8:00 and then start writing.
  • Write until about midnight or so. Start all over the next day.

 A few quick questions. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Italy. No question about it.

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

Knowing that picking yourself up is required. That’s what must be done.

Do you have a favorite quote?

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Do you have any pet projects?

Continuing our work with animals that need help.

What makes you laugh?

Almost anything. But especially little kids and animals.

What are a few of your favorite authors?

Alexandre Dumas, Luciano DeCrescenzo, Frank Herbert, John Sandford.

I enjoy multiple genres, as well. Alright, Jim, before I share an excerpt from Murder Takes Time with our visitors, as well as links to more of your work, let’s try a lightning round.

 The one thing I cannot do without is:

Coffee/espresso, garlic, pasta. (I can’t limit it to one)

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


Hard copy or ebook?

Doesn’t matter.

Vice? Virtue?

Coffee, garlic, pasta.

Hah! I think I see a pattern here. Favorite book:

The Count of Monte Cristo

Favorite movie:

The Phantom of the Opera (2004 version)

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

If you like a book, tell someone about it.

I asked Jim to provide a brief excerpt from Murder Takes Time. Here it is, for your enjoyment:

 Murder takes time Final-a

GG: Murder Takes Time

Published 4/15/2012


Chapter 1

Rule Number One―Murder Takes Time


Brooklyn, New York—Current Day

He sipped the last of a shitty cup of coffee and stared across the street at Nino Tortella, the guy he was going to kill. Killing was an art, requiring finesse, planning, skill—and above all—patience. Patience had been the most difficult to learn. The killing came naturally. He cursed himself for that. Prayed to God every night for the strength to stop. But so far God hadn’t answered him, and there were still a few more people that needed killing.

The waitress leaned forward to refill his cup, her cleavage a hint that more than coffee was being offered. “You want more?”

He waved a hand—Nino was heading towards his car. “Just the check, please.”

From behind her ear she pulled a yellow pencil, tucked into a tight bun of red hair, then opened the receipt book clipped to the pocket of her apron. Cigarette smoke lingered on her breath, almost hidden by the gum she chewed.

Spearmint, he thought, and smiled. It was his favorite, too.

He waited for her to leave, scanned the table and booth, plucked a few strands of hair from the torn cushion and a fingernail clipping from the windowsill. After putting them into a small plastic bag, he wiped everything with a napkin. The check was $4.28. He pulled a five and a one from his money clip and left them on the table. As he moved to the door he glanced out the window. Nino already left the lot, but it was Thursday, and on Thursdays Nino stopped for pizza.

He parked three blocks from Nino’s house, finding a spot where the snow wasn’t piled high at the curb. After pulling a black wool cap over his forehead, he put leather gloves on, raised the collar on his coat then grabbed his black sports bag. Favoring his left leg, he walked down the street, dropping his eyes if he passed someone. The last thing he wanted was a witness remembering his face.

He counted the joints in the concrete as he walked. Numbers forced him to think logically, kept his mind off what he had to do. He didn’t want to kill Nino. He had to. It seemed as if all of his life he was doing things he didn’t want to do. He shook his head, focused on the numbers again.

When he drew near the house, he cast a quick glance to ensure the neighbors’ cars weren’t there. The door took less than thirty seconds to open. He kept his hat and gloves on, walked into the kitchen, and set his bag on the counter. He removed a pair of tongs and a shot glass, and set them on the coffee table. A glance around the room had him straightening pictures and moving dirty dishes to the sink. A picture of an older woman stared at him from a shelf above an end table. Might be his mother, he thought, and gently set it face down. Back to the kitchen. He opened the top of the black bag and removed two smaller bags. He set one in the fridge and took the other with him.

The contents of the second bag—hair and other items—he spread throughout the living room. The crime scene unit would get a kick out of that. He did one final check, removed a baseball bat from the bag, then sat on the couch behind the door. The bat lay on the cushion beside him. While he stretched his legs and leaned back, he thought about Nino. It would be easy to just shoot him, but that wouldn’t be fair. Renzo suffered for what he did; Nino should too. He remembered Mamma Rosa’s warnings, that the things people did would come back to haunt them. Nino would pay the price now.

A car pulled into the driveway. He sat up straight and gripped the bat.

For more of  Giacomo Giammatteo’s work:

Online sales links:


Barnes & Noble:







Website, blog and online social accounts:


The Write Stuff – Sunday, April 20 – Interview With Author Richie Earl

This edition of The Write Stuff features Richie Earl, a fantasy author who hails from the South Wales town of Merthyr Tydfil. As Richie tells it, about 200 years ago, Merthyr was world renowned as a major industrial town, particularly for its production and exportation of iron. Around that time, a gentleman named Richard Trevethick built the first steam engine to run on a rail track. That journey began just a couple of hundred yards from where he now lives.

Richie EarlRichie Earl is the writer of fantastical fantasy adventures. Earl’s first series, Tales of Finndragon, is a two part young adult adventure which started life as a bedtime story for his three children. They nagged him so much that he finally agreed to write a novel. Only one book was intended, but Earl came to realise that a second was required.

Earl was offered a publishing contract by a small Welsh press, but after much deliberation and discussion with the publisher, decided not to accept the offer. This proved to be a shrewd move, as he later discovered the press was struggling to meet the costs of publishing and has since moved its business solely into the field of printing.

Earl is currently working on two projects, a young adult paranormal mystery and another fantasy adventure, which may turn into a trilogy.

Legend of Finndragon's Curse

Richie, will you tell us a little about Tales of Finndragon’s premise?

Three children racing against time, desperately searching for their missing father.

A medieval kingdom cursed by an evil wizard.

An ancient legend beneath our very feet.

The Legend of Finndragon’s Curse is the first book in a unique, two book fantasy adventure series and is a fast paced, engaging and thrilling page turner. The story races along with plenty of twists and turns as it heads for the prophesized confrontation between the children and the evil Finndragon himself.

Combining wizardry and magic with modern technology and containing magical animals and terrible demons, The Legend of Finndragon’s Curse is a rollercoaster of emotions that will make you laugh out loud and then fight to hold back the tears, as the children race against time to rescue their father. In doing so they have to kill Finndragon and put an end to the dreadful curse.

A young adult adventure that is sure to be enjoyed by all ages.

As you said, your children prompted you to put the story down on paper. Can you tell us a little more?

Emma, Megan and Scott are the middle names of my own children and their characters were born in bedtime stories I made up for my kids. Although older than my children, they have similar personalities, strengths and weaknesses.

I think subconsciously at first, the legend was based on my own childhood exploring the ruins of Morlais Castle in the town of Merthyr Tydfil, where I have lived all my life.

Presenting such a personal tale to a broader audience requires a certain amount of courage.

A couple of hours before the book went live on Amazon, I received an email from a small Welsh publisher expressing an interest in my manuscript, which had been sent out some six months before. I was subsequently offered a publishing contract, and agreed a deal. However, for various reasons, I didn’t sign the contract, which I keep as a reminder that my work was deemed worthy of publication by a professional organisation.

If someone were to ask why they should buy your book, what would you tell them?

Anyone who enjoys a tale of adventure will be captivated by the childrens’ relentless search for their missing father. Demons and medieval magic neatly dovetail with 21st century technology, and there are many twists and turns along the way.

Readers have compared the story with works by Enid Blyton and Tolkien, as well as other great writers and there have also been analogies drawn with The Wizard of Oz.

The Legend of Finndragon’s Curse is a story that can be read and enjoyed by readers aged ten to 1500 years and older, although some of the vocabulary might be a little testing for younger readers.

Fantasy certainly appeals to children. What does it hold for you?

I started writing stories for young adults because I wanted to entertain my own children, but also hope that my books might have a wider appeal. I was greatly influenced by David Eddings, having read The Belgariad and The Mallorean when I was in my early twenties, and I just love creating realistic new worlds.

That’s part of my fascination, too. Are you working on another fantasy adventure?

I’m currently working on an as yet untitled YA paranormal murder mystery, which I hope will be ready for release before the end of the year.

That was an unexpected answer. What else have you written?

I have written a collection of poetry and the first two books in a rhyming picture book series for young children. I intend to publish these projects at a later date, but for the immediate future I want to continue to concentrate on YA fantasy.

Since you are obviously multi-faceted, do you have any other pet projects you’d like to share?

Helping other self-published authors means a lot to me, knowing how hard it can be to market and promote one’s work. Last September I launched a new blog which aims to provide a platform for such writers. One Thousand Worlds in One Thousand Words allows science fiction and fantasy authors to showcase the first one thousand words of their books. There are also author interviews and I have a few review partners who share reviews from their own book blogs.

Those who are reading this should know that your blog is how we first met. Since we are still becoming acquainted, with your permission, I’d like to ask a few personal questions.

 If you could have done anything differently, what would it have been?

I now realise that my true talent lies in writing and given the chance, I would ensure that I sought out and took advantage of opportunities to hone that talent from an early age.

What makes you laugh?

I think that I have a good sense of humour and can laugh at almost anything, from the classic old comedies such as Laurel and Hardy to more modern day comedies such as American Pie and Something About Mary. I particularly enjoyed Groundhog day and there is a slightly macabre element of that in the Tales of Finndragon series.

I try not to, but I am unable to stop myself laughing when someone falls over. However, my middle child (Megan in the books) can make me laugh by raising her eyebrows, or just by laughing herself.

What are a few of your favorite authors?

I grew up enchanted by Enid Blyton, reading virtually everything she ever had published, but probably my favourite books as a child were the Just William series by Richmal Crompton. David Eddings, as I mentioned earlier, has been a major influence on my choice of genre. Making History by Stephen Fry is one of my favourite books.

Alright, Richie. Lightning Round. The one thing I cannot do without is:

My smart phone

Hard copy or ebook?

Ebook – my phone is loaded with all the books on my to read list.

Favorite book:

Making History by Stephen Fry

Favorite Movie:

Chitty Chitty BangBang

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

Don’t forget the three Rs: Read – Write – Review

I couldn’t agree more. Thank you for sharing your time and your thoughts with us.

Those of you who have dropped by to visit should know that Richie’s books are available through the following sites:

 Amazon – for kindle

The Legend of Finndragon’s Curse:

Return to Finndragon’s Den:     

Lulu Publishing – paperback:

Other pertinent links are:

One Thousand Worlds in One Thousand Words blog:

Tales of Finndragon Facebook Page:    

Goodreads Author Page:

Twitter (@finndragons):

Book Trailer:     

Lastly, so you can sample Richie’s writing, he has agreed to provide a short excerpt taken from the beginning of Return to Finndragon’s Den, during the children’s search for the lost kingdom of Morgannwg (pronounced More-gan-oog).:

Once in the water, Emma held a heavy rock which helped her sink, and swiftly entered the watery tunnel. She swam as quickly as she could, shining the torch ahead. Even its powerful beam could only illuminate a few feet in front of her. The tunnel was almost a perfect cylinder, about six feet in diameter and snaked its way along. With each turn Emma hoped she might emerge once again from the chilly water. She was becoming concerned that she’d already travelled a long way, when in fact she’d only gone about thirty feet. She looked at her watch; she’d been in the water one minute. In another minute Megan and Scott would start reeling her in. She started to feel a little panicky, but she could hear Dad saying, “Stay calm, Em, once you panic you’ll fall off.” But that was when he was teaching her to ride a bike. Still she thought, don’t panic, don’t panic.

Her lungs were starting to burn, she could feel invisible arms squeezing her chest, slowly beginning to choke the life out of her. Emma gently let some air out of her lungs, still kicking her legs. She shone the torch upwards, the roof of the cave vanished and the tunnel turned ninety degrees upwards. This must be it, she thought. The way out, as she pushed off the tunnel floor and swam upwards for all she was worth.

Scott was looking very anxiously at his watch. “That’s one and a half minutes now Meg. We’re going to have to pull her out. Get ready.” Megan took hold of the rope too, although they kept feeding it out. “Ten seconds and we pull for all we’re worth!” Megan nodded. He counted down the last five seconds. “Five, four, three, two, one, pull!” He shouted.

Wait Scott; give her a few more seconds!” Megan pleaded. They waited another ten seconds.

“We can’t leave it any longer, we’ve got to pull now,” and they did.

Emma reached the surface, and took in the largest gasp of the loveliest air she’d ever breathed; she felt under the water, reaching for the rope tied to her ankle, ready to give two huge pulls. But before she got a grip she was yanked downwards, back into the deep water, dragged feet first.

Megan and Scott pulled vigorously on the rope; hand over hand, both terrified that it may be too late to save Emma. The wet rope started to gather behind them, but then went tight and they couldn’t pull any more, however hard they tried.

Scott cried out, “Emma must be stuck, or the rope has snagged on something. What do we do now, Meg?”

“I’ll have to dive in and go and find her!” she said, less than confidently.

Emma clawed at the tunnel walls as she plummeted, she tried to reach down towards her ankle, but it was hopeless against the force of being pulled feet first. She dropped the torch, which was no use to her any more. She knew she couldn’t survive being pulled back all the way through the tunnel. That one large gasp of air barely replenished her empty lungs, let alone prepared her for a return journey, however fast. Emma thought quickly, she had one chance to save her life, miss it and she knew she would die. As she reached the bottom of the vertical shaft she might have a split second were she could get some sort of a grip, before she entered the horizontal section.

Please note that Richie is offering  a Rafflecopter giveaway
Click the link to enter!

The Write Stuff – Monday, April 7 – Interview With Author LJ Cohen

Welcome to the second installment of The Write Stuff. I am pleased to have Sci-fi/fantasy author LJ Cohen as my guest. We were first introduced as contributors to the now-defunct, but once highly successful blog, Black Ink, White Paper,, a writers’ co-op. I always enjoyed her upbeat posts, so I was delighted when she agreed to be interviewed.

3.5 Lisa Publicity vignette

LJ Cohen is the writing persona of Lisa Janice Cohen, poet, novelist, blogger, local food enthusiast, Doctor Who fan, and relentless optimist. Lisa lives just outside of Boston with her family, two dogs (only one of which actually ever listens to her) and the occasional international student. Committed to walking a hybrid road to publication, she is represented by Nephele Tempest of The Knight Agency and has published books under her own imprint, Interrobang Books. When not doing battle with a stubborn Jack Russell Terrier mix, Lisa can be found working on the next novel, which often looks a lot like daydreaming. Her work is as eclectic as her interests and includes science fiction, fantasy, magical realism for young adults and adults.

LJ, I know you released your latest book, FUTURE TENSE, just over eight weeks ago. Can you sum up the story?

In the ten years since his parents died in a fire he predicted but couldn’t prevent, seventeen year old Matt is trying to stay out of trouble, biding his time until he graduates and ages out of foster care. All he wants is for the world to leave him alone so he won’t be tortured by seeing someone’s future he’s powerless to change anyway. But his plans for keeping himself aloof fail when he interrupts a vicious attack on Amara, a girl he recognizes from school. Despite his best attempts to push her away, he can’t ignore the connection they’ve formed. That’s when glimpses of Amara’s dangerous future start to invade the present — a future he fears is his fault. Now Matt has something to lose again . . . and something to fight for.

Ah! I love stories involving precognition. What led you to write this one?

Nearly all my books spring from a single idea or image. That’s the stone tossed in a pond. From that single impact, the story develops in concentric circles, that ripple out from the center. For FUTURE TENSE, my starting point was the phrase “run-away”. Ultimately Matt was not a run-away, but a foster child, but the initial image was what drove the process.

I knew I wanted to write about someone in an inner-city, someone beaten down by life, and someone afraid to connect to others. From that, I needed to decide what had happened to Matt and what kept him isolated and afraid.

It was also important to me to write about characters who lived in a diverse world. Representation matters. It matters a lot. And too few fantasy books for young people feature characters who are not our cultural ‘default’ of white and middle-class.

Breaking the mold is important to me, as well. Young readers, young people in general, are becoming increasingly accepting of diversity and a non-standard reality. Anything else cooking on the front burner?

I am currently writing a sequel to THE BETWEEN, tentatively titled, TIME AND TITHE. It’s been a struggle for a number of reasons. First, because in many ways, starting fresh with a new idea and a new plot means you have free reign to simply create. Writing a sequel means you have to pay attention to continuity and style. Second, it’s a difficult story because of how I set up time passing between the Mortal and Fae realms. For one character, only about 6 months have passed. For another, more than 10 years have passed.

Both of these characters, sisters, have to cope with the significant changes that have taken them in different paths. In the sequel, they are now the same age, where in THE BETWEEN, there was a nearly 10 year difference between them. It makes for a very interesting dynamic.

For those of you not acquainted with LJ’s work, THE BETWEEN was her debut novel. The first of eight, so far. I think we’d all like to see how you handle this twist. And, since everything you’ve told us so far about your writing breaks the mold, I want to ask why you chose this genre. I’m getting a feeling for why, but I’d really like you to put it into words.

My favorite books to read are those that expand my imagination. I guess I never outgrew my need to believe in the magical and the wondrous, so it just felt natural to write in the genres that welcomed the slightly odd or the seriously strange. Even when I set my stories in a more realistic world, as I did with FUTURE TENSE, elements of the fantastic sneak in. In this case, Matt’s precognitive visions and, to a lesser extent, the mystery of Trina’s drawings.

Can you go into more detail about what sets your writing apart from other authors in your genre?

I always say that I imprinted on “A Wrinkle in Time” at a young and impressionable age, so like a duckling, that’s the model I am forced to follow. What was groundbreaking about that book, (now 50 years old and still relevant!) is that it’s centered around a less-than-perfect protagonist and her important relationships with family and a non-romantic friendship. Meg was the first main character that I could truly identify with growing up. Reading about her made me believe that I could be the hero of my own story.

So many of the books written for young adults, regardless of genre, revolve around a beautiful and desirable protagonist involved in a love triangle. I realize ‘realistic’ is an odd word to use when I write speculative fiction, but the ‘soul mate’ and love triangle tropes feel highly manufactured and terribly overused. I want to see more stories of teens finding their own voices and strengths, and forging solid friendships. These are the stories I write.

Alright, LJ, I’ll ask you to put it concisely: why should someone but your books?

In all my books, readers will find stories of ordinary people whose choices lead them to extraordinary adventures. I strive for emotional honesty and integrity in every page. It is my hope that my readers will find both a story they enjoy and a story that moves them.

 Before we leave the topic of writing behind, please tell us a little more about your work.

My debut publication is THE BETWEEN, a story of what happens when Lydia, a Fae changeling, is left to be a Mortal for too long and how Oberon and Titania get more than they bargain for when they try to use her as a pawn in their ongoing war.  It’s available in print and eBook formats.

I am currently preparing a science fiction novel for publication by Summer of 2014. DERELICT: When Rosalen Maldonado tinkers with the derelict space ship, she didn’t count on waking its damaged AI or having 3 stowaways on board. If the 4 teens can’t figure out how to work together, they’ll die together, victims of a computer that doesn’t realize the war ended decades before its accidental crew were even born.

I’m hardly a teen, but your stories intrigue me. Let’s find out about you, now. Do you have another job aside from writing?

I am currently writing ‘full time’, though I find that designation a little odd, because I’m not sitting at my computer from 9 to 5 Monday through Friday, writing. When I started writing my first novel, 10 years ago, I had a 25-30 hour a week physical therapy private practice and balanced my work life with my home life (my children were 8 and 11) and my writing life. In those days, I learned to write in chunks of time of 15 minutes, wherever I could carve them out.

About 5 years ago, I shut down my practice because of needing to balance the needs of my own children and the increasing needs of my elderly, ill parents. Along the way, I was able to devote increasing amounts of time to my writing life. I’ve been fortunate that we’ve been able to keep hearth and home together without needing me to return to my clinical practice.

Very fortunate, indeed. Alright, fantasy time: If you could live anywhere—no obstacles whatsoever—where would you live?

This is dream big time, right? Not remotely realistic? Then if a genie granted me that wish, I would spend 6 months a year on a sailboat in some warm and tropical climate, and 6 months in the mountains near incredible powder and endless blue skies where I could ski without lift lines.

Let’s push fantasizing one step further. What would be your dream job?

This writing thing. Even on days when the words are a struggle, it’s the best job I’ve ever had.

I certainly agree. Returning to a more earthly tone, can you share something about your home life?

I do a lot of daydreaming, while I’m doing all the other things that need to happen in a life. So when I’m walking the dogs, or cooking dinner, or folding laundry, I’m also thinking about story. I struggle to find balance between the time I’m sitting at the computer, especially the distractions of social media, and everything else. Because I tend to the obsessive/persistent, I can get stuck in researching something, or simply refreshing my G+ page, waiting for comments on something I’ve posted. I’ve had to install an add-on to my browser called LeechBlock which I set to limit all social media websites to 10 minutes every 2 hours during my writing time.

Sounds like something I could use!

I’m also fairly obsessive about local food. And since I live in New England, where we have a fairly short growing season, eating locally and in season, means I do a lot of preserving. So I’m this contradiction: I love technology and computers (ohh, shiny!) and I do this old fashioned canning and preserving. I’m very proud of my pantry. If you came to visit, I’d serve fresh bread and home made preserves along with tea, served in mugs I made on the wheel.

Ah! A ceramicist!

Oh, and don’t call me during Red Sox games.

I’ll consider myself warned. Alright. Last question before the lightening round. What do you do when things get rough? How do you pick yourself up?

I’m pretty good in a crisis. It’s in the aftermath that I tend to fall apart. In the past 5 years, our family has experienced serious illnesses, death, and disasters, but we’re still standing. I use humor, particularly dark humor,  to diffuse stress. Also, my husband is incredibly supportive and he helps me be at my best. Yoga is a recent discovery and has become my exercise of choice, keeping me grounded and sane. But through it all, I write. Poetry, especially, is the form I turn to during adversity. I have journals filled with fragments of poems and inner thoughts written during the year after our house fire (2011) and the year my mother died (2012). Those journals helped me process what I was feeling at the time, but I haven’t been brave enough to open and re-read them.

Nonetheless, these are the sort of things that help grow a writer. Alright. Fast and furious. Answer these as quickly as you can. The one thing I cannot do without is:

Laughing with my family.

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

Optimism and stubbornness.

Hard copy or ebook?


Hah! Vice? Virtue?

Dark chocolate. It’s both.

Favorite book:

That’s like asking which is my favorite child!

Favorite movie:

Local Hero

Thank you so much, LJ, for having joined us today. I really enjoyed chatting with you. I’d like all our readers to remember that FUTURE TENSE, her most recent work, published February 2014, is available through the following links:

3.5 LJCohen-FutureTenseCoverArt_rev88_EBOOK_COVER_1280h

Amazon ebook:

Amazon print book:

CreateSpace print book:

B&N ebook:

iTunes ebook:

Smashwords ebook:


I asked LJ to provide and excerpt from FUTURE TENSE. Here it is, for your enjoyment:

I didn’t smoke, and I didn’t drink. It wasn’t because I was some freaking choir boy, and it wasn’t for lack of trying. After Mr. Murphy, my ninth grade math teacher died, I spent the better part of that year drunk or high. It didn’t do anything to erase the visions of his car slamming into a concrete barrier and smearing his body parts all over the icy pavement. If anything, the more stoned I got, the stronger and more frequent the visions became. The headaches that followed got so bad, I thought my head would explode. Eventually, I got sober.

When Mrs. P called us in for Sunday supper, Dante’s eyes were clearer and he had changed his clothes. Whatever. It wasn’t my problem. The girl from school took up most of my brain space. It didn’t make sense. I never had visions before of someone I didn’t have a connection to.

Besides, what I saw this time wasn’t a car crash, or a natural disaster, or a shooting. This was me threatening some girl I didn’t even know. Maybe I couldn’t stop all those terrible things from happening to other people, but I sure as hell could stop myself from hurting someone. I would just stay away from her. No matter what. It was only a few months before I could get out of the system and be on my own. I just had to make it until them.

Trina set her stub of a pencil down and carefully shimmied into the seat next to me. I raised an eyebrow. Mrs. P shrugged. Trina always sat on Mrs. P’s left. As long as I’d been at the Powells’ place, that was Trina’s seat, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. She would scream if someone else sat there.

“You don’t mind helping her, do you Matt?” she asked.

Mrs. P usually cut Trina’s food and made sure nothing touched anything else on her plate. I smiled and shrugged one shoulder. It would give me an excuse not to talk too much at the table.

“I’m going to try out for the school play,” Lola said. “Mrs. Cramer said I had the loudest voice in the class.”

I winced. She definitely had the loudest voice here. If Dante did somehow screw up, Lola would probably be the one to let us all know about it.

“That’s great, Lola,” Mr. Powell said. “Break a leg.”

Jack swallowed hard, and his cheeks got red. “That’s not nice!”

When he had come here, green and purple bruises covered his skinny arms and legs.

“Oh, honey,” Mrs. P said. “It’s okay. That’s just something you say to actors and actresses to wish them luck.”

Jack drew his dark eyebrows over confused hazel eyes as he watched Lola for a few minutes. “Break your arm, Lola.”

“Not quite, Jackie,” Mr. P said, “but close enough.”

Everyone laughed around the table, even Dante, who usually stayed in his own little pot-fueled universe.

I glared at him, and he smirked back.

Really, I didn’t care what the hell he did as long as he wasn’t dealing out of the house or getting the kids turned on to his shit. The Powells weren’t stupid just because they were nice. They’d figure Dante out soon enough.

No one noticed when Trina leaned close to me to tug on my sleeve. I turned to her, figuring she needed something else to eat, but her plate was still full. It looked like she had taken exactly one spoonful of everything. As I tried to turn back to the conversation, she patted my arm, her amber eyes staring directly into mine.

Seconds passed and she didn’t blink. I could feel my face heat up. Normally, she couldn’t cope with eye contact, but I was the one who shied away.

“Don’t be scared, Mattie,” she whispered, squeezing my arm one last time before letting me go.

Four words. Four more words than she’d spoken to anyone. Ever. And she said them to me.

I looked around the table, but everyone was still talking to Lola and Jack.

“Trina?” Her empty gaze slipped past me, staring at nothing again, or maybe she watched her waggling fingers.

A chill crawled down to the base of my spine, and I wasn’t hungry anymore.


If this interview has intrigued you, you may follow her at:





Twitter: @lisajanicecohen

Next time around on The Write Stuff, I will be interviewing Welsh author Richie Earl. Although most of these interviews will air on a Monday, because of Richie’s Kindle Countdown schedule, he has asked me to post it on Sunday, April 20. See you then.

The Write Stuff – Monday, March 24 – Interview With Author Oliver Dahl

Welcome to The Write Stuff: a bi-weekly series of author interviews that will continue throughout most of this year and, hopefully, into next year as well. The featured guests hail from not only the United States, but also from Canada, Europe and Australia. Some are soon-to-be published or are in the process of launching their debut novels at the time of their interview. Others have already released one or more books and some are established, best-selling authors. No matter what kind of writing you are drawn to, be it mainstream literature or genre fiction—including thrillers, mystery, fantasy/sci-fi, YA and all varieties of romance—whether you prefer non-fiction or historical fiction, there will be something here for every one of you. Mark your calendars or sign up on this website’s email list, but beginning today, Monday, March 24, The Write Stuff will feature some of the world’s most interesting and exciting writers every other Monday. Today is no exception.

I was considering whom to feature in this debut issue, when Amazon best-selling author of the YA Thrillers To Cache a Predator and Scattered Links, Michelle Saint-Germain Weidenbenner, tossed me a curve ball. She told me about a sixteen-year-old author who has been attracting a great deal of attention and thought he would be a perfect fit for this venue. Now it is rare for someone so young to write well, to see something as complex as a book through to its end, let alone several as this one has. After learning more about him, I decided she was right. Today, it is my pleasure to introduce Oliver Dahl.


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Born in 1998, Oliver Dahl is the oldest of five children and lives in Idaho. Previous to finishing middle school, “The Dreamers” had made Oliver one of Idaho’s Top 50 Authors (2011) & its 2012 Student of the Year. Both “The Dreamers” and its sequel, “The Nightmarers”, have spent time at the top of Amazon Category Bestseller lists. Oliver enjoys reading, blogging, vlogging, and laughing at his own jokes. On March 11 of this year, Oliver released “Lies: Ann Putnam Jr.’s Recounting of the Salem Witch Trials,”

Oliver, you have accomplished so much already. Do you have any more books up your sleeve?

I’m currently working on my next book, entitled “Beneath.” (More info at It takes place in a world underneath the catacombs of Paris. After a boy is kidnapped by the people who live there, he must fight to escape the world all the while making friends, stopping a villain and saving both worlds. It’s a modern epic fantasy that’s my longest book yet. While still only a little bit into the writing process, it is over 50,000 words. I’m really excited about it.

Many authors much older than you would consider 50,000 words quite enough. It sounds as if you are moving out of novellas and into full-length novels. Good for you. Why have you chosen to write an epic fantasy?

While my most recent book, “Lies,” is historical fiction, my favorite genre (both to read and write) is modern fantasy—stories that take place in “the real world” but have elements of fantasy realistically implemented within our world. (Examples include Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Gregor the Overlander, etc.) I love it because it allows me to shape the world around me in crazy, absurd ways, and make people wonder if the impossible is actually that.

What you are accomplishing makes you quite unusual for someone your age. Is your writing as unique as you are?

My stories are YA, so told by a young adult/teenage character. Compared to adult writers, who have been out of their teenage years at least for a little while, I have immediate first-person perspective into the teenage life. So being, I feel like I can write more realistic, believable teenage characters. I am one, so it’s really just writing what’s already in my head. (This usually involves a lot of sarcasm, dumb jokes, and tangents)

Alright then, please tell us why someone should buy your books.

To have great adventures and experiences without having to leave your favorite chair. (You know the one). “Lies” specifically has been received extremely well, people remarking at how thought-provoking and beautiful it is. To hear that I was able to relate a historical event via historical means and maintain people’s interest to the point that they finish the book in a single night is amazing! (Another reason would be because it really helps me out as a young author aiming to be a career author when I’m older )

Can you tell us something about your other works?

I’ve written a middle grade modern action/scifi/fantasy series entitled “The Dreamers Adventures.” Consisting of two books, (The Dreamers & The Nightmarers) the short series follows the adventures of Sam Kullen, a boy who discovers he can live inside of his dreams. In them, he meets other people like him and helps them save the Dream Realm from the evil Malfix. Though they’re middle grade, I have, quite surprisingly, had many adults enjoy them as well!

From the way you’re handling yourself in such a public forum as this, I’m not surprised. What else do you do outside of writing?

 I actually just go to school. I’m a sophomore in High School and that adds its own challenges to the existing challenges of being an author. I also intern at Strategic Mobili, a local social media marketing company specializing in Facebook advertising.

Interning while still in high school says a lot about you. Alright, since you like to write fantasy, let’s fantasize for a moment. Given a choice of anywhere in this world, where would you choose to live?

 Though I have yet to visit, (but will hopefully someday!—Hey, another reason to read my books, haha) Paris is just beautiful. I would love to have a little flat and write through the morning, then go out and explore and have great food the rest of the day.

Ha! Great choice. One of mine, as well. Since you just made me laugh, what makes you laugh?

 I have a random, and occasionally dark sense of humor. Antijokes, Anti-anti jokes, and puns usually do the job, though.

So there’s a dark side. Alright. On a more somber note, what would you say is your greatest life lesson?

 It’s probably just the question “Are you what you want to be?” I just heard it the other day and it really struck me. If the answer is no, why not? Get to work so that you are! Work to achieve the status of being what you always wanted to be. It’s rather inspiring and motivating, I think.

A few more quick questions. Who are some of your favorite authors?

 Oh boy. Here we go. Richard Paul Evans, Obert Skye, Brandon Mull, (all three of which are super nice guys) Suzanne Collins, Rick Riordan, John Green, Brian Jaques, Roald Dahl (to which I have no real relation, sadly) Lemony Snicket, Shel Silverstein, Gary Paulsen, John Flanagan, Margaret Peterson Haddix, the list goes on.

Your favorite book?

 For the longest of times, it was The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins (author of The Hunger Games). I actually liked this series more than The Hunger Games. Recently, my favoritism has shifted to DJ Machale’s Pendragon series. They’re such great adventures, taking place on beautifully shaped worlds.

Your favorite movie?

I really like Inception. It reminds me of my “Dreamers Adventures Series” but more intense, dark, serious, and gritty. (Qualities that I enjoy).

Hard copy or paperback?

 Hard copy all the way. I don’t mind eBooks, though. The bookshelf value alone is a swaying factor for me. It just feels better to read a book than read off of a screen.

Oliver, I’ve really enjoyed talking with you. I’m so glad Michelle introduced us. Before I call our time to a close, would you care to leave us with a final thought?

 Thanks for having me! I hope you’ll all visit my website. Come say hi. I can’t wait to meet you all!

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I think this was a great debut for “The Write Stuff.” If you would like to learn more about my guest and his latest release, “Lies,” here are a few useful links:

Lies front cover 3.5 x 4.6 


Amazon Link: [This link works and redirects people to the Amazon store of the country they’re in. US, UK, CA, etc.]

If you would like to download two free chapters, go to






Thank you so much for stopping by. I hope you will drop by again on Monday, April 7, when I will interview Sci-fi/fantasy author, L.J. Cohen.