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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final CoverSynopsis of four of the seventeen stories:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell us about your other works.

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

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

Describe a typical day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My best friend would tell you I’m determined.

What is the one thing you cannot do without?

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

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

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

Who are you most proud of?

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

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

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


Author email:   


Facebook Fan Page:


Google +:          

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

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

Amazon Author Page:

Gerard’s Writer Coaching Programs:

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

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

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

The effort I refer to is a book entitled Dissonance. It has been attracting a great deal of attention as well as winning awards since its 2014 re-release. It won the Jim Sagel Prize for the novel while still in manuscript. And after its original publication by the University of New Mexico press in 2003, it was selected as a book of the year by the Tucson-Pima County Public Library, the Midland Library and the Cincinnati Public Library. In 2004, the book was both a NPR Performance Today Summer Reading Choice and the countywide reading selection for Durango-La Plata Reads and in 2005 it was short-listed for the PEN Southwest Book Award. has this to say about her book: “‘Dissonance,’ by Lisa Lenard-Cook, is a touching novel that takes the reader from present-day New Mexico back to the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp and then forward to the present again. It is beautifully written and emotionally charged. I especially enjoyed the way Lenard-Cook uses music as a means to explore sensitive themes. A haunting and lovely read, this one.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Dissonance changing the direction of your career?

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

What are you working on now?

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

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

Thank you, Raymond.

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

Twitter:                                   @LisaLenardCook

Lisa’s website:              

Writers co-op website:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Describe a typical day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’d make chocolate fat and calorie free.

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

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

What is your greatest life lesson?

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

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

The one thing I cannot do without is:

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

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

Persistence and happy thoughts.

Hard copy or ebook?

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

Vice? Virtue?

Neither. Valor.

Favorite movie:

Secret Life of Bees

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

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

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

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

Writers who are looking for assistance in their quest for self publication would do well to check out:

To find additional related information or locate the type of resources mentioned above:

To visit Melissa’s website:






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

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

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

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

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

Go Away Home Award eBook Cover Extra LargeIowa – 1913

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have another novel in the works?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving away from the serious, what makes you laugh?

Silly greeting cards.

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

The one thing I cannot do without is…

Ice cream.

What is your defining trait?

Optimistic persistence.

Hard copy or ebook?


Vice? Virtue?

Ice cream. Iowa Nice.

Favorite book.

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

Favorite movie.

Mamma Mia

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

Write on!

Well said.

Go Away Home is available on Amazon in paperback and ebook formats.

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


Twitter           @CABodensteiner




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—D. Donovan, Reviewer

Here’s an excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you working on now?

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

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

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

Why is your writing different?

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

That said, why should someone buy Cache?

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

Tell us a bit about your path to publication.

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

Do you have a writing routine?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What else have you written?

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

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

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

Does mother, wife and grandmother count?

Where would you live, if you could live anywhere?

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

What is your dream job?

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

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

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

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

Do you have a favorite quote?

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

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

The one thing I cannot do without is:

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

Hard copy or ebook?

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

Favorite book:

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

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

Twitter: @MWeidenbenner1


Amazon Author Page:

264 pages

Regular Price: $3.99

ISBN: 978-1490936390

Cover artist: Avalon Graphics

Random Publishing, LLC

Amazon Buying Links:

Amazon Print Book Link:


The Write Stuff – Monday, October 13 – Interview With Hank Phillippi Ryan

photo-68-primary headshotToday, I am inserting an interview between my regularly scheduled spots to feature a very special author. Hank Phillippi Ryan is an award-winning crime fiction author and the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate. She’s won 32 EMMYs, 12 Edward R. Murrows and dozens of other honors for her ground-breaking journalism. A bestselling author of six mystery novels, Ryan has won multiple prestigious awards for her crime fictions: the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, and the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. National reviews have called her a “master at crafting suspenseful mysteries” and “a superb and gifted storyteller.” Her previous work, The Wrong Girl, has the extraordinary honor of winning the 2013 Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel. A six-week Boston Globe bestseller, it is also an Anthony and Daphne Award nominee, a Patriot Ledger bestseller, and was dubbed “Another winner” in a Booklist starred review and “Stellar” by Library Journal. She’s a founding teacher at Mystery Writers of America University and 2013 president of national Sisters in Crime. She is a rare breed, as she managed to maintain two equally successful careers as a bestselling crime fiction author and award-winning investigative reporter.

Truth Be Told GALLEYHer latest thriller, Truth Be Told, was released on October 7. I’m happy to help her launch it.

Ms. Ryan, given your background, I suspect there is a story behind Truth Be Told. Would you care to fill us in?

That’s a question that some authors loathe…but I love! TRUTH BE TOLD is a puzzle in four parts.

Part one. My husband is a criminal defense attorney. When we first met, I asked: “Have you ever had a murder case where the defendant was convicted, but you still thought they were innocent?” His eyes softened a bit, and then he said: “Yes.” The man was charged with murder in the death of a young woman—the prosecution said he had lured her to a forest, and tied her to a tree.

Jonathan told me he still, to this day, thinks the man is innocent.

Hmmm. Idea.

Another puzzle piece? Another of Jonathan’s cases. A man in prison, incarcerated with a life sentence for shaking a baby to death, recently confessed to a cold-case murder. It’s very unlikely that he actually did it—so why would he confess?

Hmmm. Idea.

Another puzzle piece. We recently did a big story on abandoned homes in Boston. They are all places the banks have foreclosed on, where the owners have been evicted, and the houses are now empty. All are for sale. Many of them are neglected, with broken windows and overgrown lawns. But some are in good shape. While I was interviewing the head of Boston’s Inspectional Services Department about this, I began to wonder. What could be going on inside those forgotten empty houses?

Hmmmm. Idea.

I also thought about the people who had been evicted from those homes. People who’d gotten mortgages from banks with lots of money, but who through some failure of their lives, some catastrophe or disaster, some wrong decision or bad luck had not been able to keep up the payments. Wouldn’t there be something that could have ben done to prevent that? If a banker-type really cared about their customers, wouldn’t there be something that could be done to keep people out of foreclosure?

Hmmmm. Idea.

And finally, I was sitting at the computer in my TV station office, writing a story, and thinking about why I do what I do as a reporter. It’s making history, I decided. It’s creating the record of what happened in our lives, the comings and goings, that issues and the solutions, the documentation of how we live. And people believe it, right? What’s on TV and in the newspapers becomes a resource by which all is remembered and relied on.

And then I thought—what if some reporter decided not to tell the truth? Not big discoverable lie, but simply—little things. A sound bite, a reaction, a quote. Who would know? What difference might that make? And what would happen when the truth was finally told?

Hmmm. Idea.

And in the way we all do as authors, by spinning and polishing and twisting and turning, and shooting it full of a lot of adrenaline and a little romance, I got the key elements of Truth Be Told:

A mortgage banker turned Robin Hood decides to manipulate bank records to keep people out of foreclosure, a murder victim is found in a foreclosed home, a man confesses to the unsolved Lilac Sunday murder, and a reporter makes stuff up.

And when it all comes together in the end: TRUTH BE TOLD.

And now you know exactly where it came from.

That’s more than a little intriguing. Now, I have to say no one wins as many awards as you have by following the herd. Why is your writing different from other authors in this genre?

I have wired myself with hidden cameras, gone undercover and in disguise, confronted corrupt politicians and chased down criminals. My TV investigations have changed laws and changed lives—and I have 32 Emmys to show for it!

And it’s so fascinating to me that all those 40 years of reporting were not the end in themselves—but turns out, they were just the research to prepare me for my second career as a crime fiction author! So when my main character reporter, Jane Ryland, worries about stalkers, deadlines, breaking news, keeping her job, tracking down clues, following leads, doing research and making sure the bad guys get what’s coming to them—it’s all from my own experience! (Tweaked and polished and expanded, of course!) And that, I hope, is what brings authenticity–authentic suspense and authentic stakes—to the books.

What happens to Jane has—or could!—happened to me, or any hardworking reporter. Now, as one fellow reporter put it “She lives it, now she writes it!”

Do you ever experience writer’s block and, if so, how do you overcome it?

Oh, gosh, I get over it by denying its existence. After all these years as a reporter—can you imagine what would happen if I went to my news director and said—You know, can I be on the air at ten after six instead of six? I’m just not feelin’ it right now… ”

I’d be laughed out of the business. So I know that some days, the writing isn’t going to be fabulous, but I also know it has to get done. So I persevere, and allow myself to be bad. I can always make it fabulous later!

I also think that when people feel they have writers block, it’s actually a signal from their writer brain that something is wrong—and a message to you to find it and fix it. Sometimes when I’m stuck—and that’s inevitable!—I scroll back fifty pages and just start reading. Often the mistake or the omission or the error in continuity or the plot glitch will appear, and ping! I can fix it and go on.

That’s marvelous advice. If I may pry a little, can you tell us a little about Hank the person? For example, if you could do anything differently, what would it be?

Not a thing. Not one little thing. The “mistakes” I have learned from .The joys—I count my blessings. It’s all good. (I might have learned how to play the piano, but still, no. That took time from something else that matters.)

What is your greatest life lesson?

Oh, gosh! I think I have learned not to worry. To try not to worry, at least. If I had to go back to my geeky unpopular bookish 10 year old self and tell her something—I would say—get ready, sweetheart, everything going to be great.

What are a few of your favorite authors?

Edith Wharton. Shakespeare. Tom Wolfe. Thomas Wolfe. Stephen King. Kent Krueger. Oh, so many! If I start listing contemporaries, the page will soon be full.

A few Lightning Round questions. Please fill in the blanks.

The one thing I cannot do without is:

Coffee. Paper and pencil. My husband. (fine, fine, in the opposite order.)

Hard copy or ebook?


Vice? Virtue?

Yes, wine. (Is that a vice?) Virtue? I love to solve problems. And I am a good cook.

Favorite book:

Too hard. The Stand? Custom of the Country? Bonfire of the Vanities? Winters Tale?

Favorite movie:

Too hard. Lawrence of Arabia. To Kill A Mockingbird. Desk Set. The Godfather. Working Girl.

I can only imagine how hectic your schedule must be as your launch date approaches, so I want to thank you for taking the time to stop by and visit with us. Before I draw this interview to a close, do you have any closing thoughts you’d like to leave us with?

Two things. On a practical level— If you love a book? Please tell someone. Word of mouth is the most valuable commodity in publishing. (If you don’t like it… um, just don’t say anything.

And philosophically? I am so grateful to readers. I didn’t start writing until was 55, in the midst of a terrifically wonderful career as a journalist. I’m the poster child for following your dreams at midlife! So what is it YOU’D like to do? And what are you waiting for?

Ms. Ryan, thank you so much for taking the time to share with us.

For those of you who would like to learn more about the author, these are her social links:




You can find numerous links through which to purchase her books on her website. As a quick assist, here is her Amazon link:


Hank Phillippi Ryan

A Forge Hardcover

ISBN: 978-0-7653-7493-6

400 pages / $24.99

On-sale: October 7, 2014

Also available in E-book, ISBN: 978-0-7653-7497-4

Audio CD: 978-1-4272-4387-4

Digital Audio: 978-1-4272-4388-1

The Write Stuff – Monday, October 6 – Interview With Diane Robinson

This, the second interview in The Write Stuff’s series of Readers Favorite award-winning authors focuses on children’s author, Diane Robinson. Diane, I’ve learned, is as fantastic as are her characters. Scouring the web for information about the author produced this:

2012-07-13 08.57.08Diane lives in a small hilltop castle nestled amongst a very old and magical forest. In this mystical forest, all the fantasy creatures one can imagine live and audition for parts in the author’s next book.

The author has a journalism diploma from the Schools of Montreal and an advanced diploma from the Institute of Children’s Literature in Connecticut. Diane writes fantasy children chapter books, teaches watercolor and acrylic art to children, and is a writing instructor to adults.

I asked Diane to give us the premise of her latest title, Sir Princess Petra’s Talent – The Pen Pieyu Adventures. This is what she provided:

Sir Princess Petra has already proven she is a kind and noble knight. This, however, does not please the king and queen—they want her to behave like a princess and forget this silly knight nonsense of hers!

But when the king writes a new rule in the royal rule book that requires her to attend Talent School and acquire a princess talent certificate or suffer the spell of the royal magician, Petra, reluctantly, agrees to go. But who could have guessed what Sir Princess Petra’s Talent would be?

How delightful! Will you tell us the story behind your book?

The story behind the book is my rebellious nature, to write the kind of story I want to write, to do something out of the norm, to possibly do what many people say a person can’t do in writing for children. I have studied children’s literature extensively—I don’t agree with all the rules. The main character of this series, Petra, has that same rebellious nature and proves that the unattainable can be accomplished with finesse and pizzazz and through kindness. Maybe I just had to prove, to myself, that a writer doesn’t have to follow the norm to write a fun book for kids.

What are you working on now?

Working on the 3rd book in my fantasy/adventure children’s chapter book series entitled, Sir Princess Petra’s Mission-The Pen Pieyu Adventures. I’m also working on a grammar book for elementary age children entitled, Grammar for Kids and Dragons—written in a humorous tone with the medieval characters from my series in the grammar examples.

And a worthy task that is. Goodness knows how much dragons need this sort of help.

May I ask why you have chosen your particular genre?

I’ve been fascinated with the medieval era and fantasy books since I was a kid. By the age of nine, I was making up mini plays–with princesses, brave knights, and meddlesome, or fun, dragons–and performing them for the neighborhood kids. The only hard thing about making the plays work was my sister, the brave knight, insisting to wear her cowboy attire at all times and shooting the nasty dragon instead of spearing him. Sheesh! Cowboys!

Sheesh indeed! Will you tell us why your writing is different from other authors in this genre?

I have a bizarre sense of humor (or so I’m told from non-bizarre humor people) and I think some of that humor comes out in the characters quite well. My books have been described as: ridiculously fun; very silly; incredibly witty; charmingly funny; and even, a maverick fantasy with brilliant flashes of humor and originality. Hmmmm.

That said, why should someone buy your book?

Well, if you think you might like to read about Sir Princess Petra, a tom-boy, onion-throwing princess knight who hangs out with a dragon (Snarls, from the Forest of Doom) that is a chef, royal steed, and is her best friend, along with a bog witch who is afraid of frilly dresses and a continuously soggy-smelling midget knight, Prince Nastybun, from the Land of Mesoggie, then you might want to buy the books. Oh, and then there’s Prince Duce Crablips who wears pink armour and likes to crochet, and King Asterman who runs Talent School in the Land of Lost Donkeys.

Hah! Ridiculously funny, indeed. I like it. Tell us a bit about your path to publication.

My road to publication was full of pot holes and ruts and quite a few broken wheels. I wrote the first book as a picture story book, researched publishers, queried them, sent manuscripts, had a couple of bites, and after 9 years and 27 rejections got an actual traditional publishing contract if I could turn the book into a chapter book. I did, publisher and I signed, publisher forfeited contract due to lack of funds (during the 2010 U.S. recession), back to drawing board, several months later found another publisher who wanted my book and does a few traditional contracts a year. Yep signed up, toot sweet. This publisher also accepted book two (since I hadn’t signed a series contract with them), and will publish book 3 also.

Good for you. What is your writing routine?

In the summer, I have no writing routine. Summers in Canada are just too short, and we all flock outside to play ball, ride horses, gardens, cruise on the lakes, drink beer around the fire pit, play ant hockey, stuff like that. By November, when the snow flies, I wake up early on Fridays (day off from day job) and write for several hours in a row. Saturdays, I edit for a few hours, write blog posts, work on marketing, and catch up on social media stuff.

Petra book one and two coversWhat else have you written?

Sir Princess Petra – The Pen Pieyu Adventures (book one) was my first publication, Jan., 2012. Sir Princess Petra’s Talent – The Pen Pieyu Adventures (book two) is the 2nd book published, Sept., 2013. Previous to those publications, I wrote some newspaper articles, and had some poetry published. I have written adult short stories that are not published yet.

Tell us about the awards you have won.

On Sept. 1st, 2014, I found out that book one won the Sharp Writ Book Award, 1st place in children’s books, and book two won a bronze medal in the Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards, grade 4th – 6th category.

Previous to that, book one won: 2012 Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Emerging Artist (literary) Award (medal and $10,000.00); 2012 Purple Dragonfly Book Award, 2nd place, children’s chapter books; 2013 Readers’ Favorite Intl’ Book Awards, honorable mention, grade K – 3rd; and was a finalist in the 2013 “50 Great Readers You Should Be Reading” contest.

Do you ever experience writers block and, if so, how do you overcome it?

Sometimes I have writer’s block for weeks at a time. I don’t worry about it much and I never force myself to write. I just have to wait until my imaginary friends start talking to me again, and they do, eventually. If my friends have been silent too long (mad at me because of a ridiculous scene I have put them in?), I go for a walk through the forest on my acreage—that usually gets my characters talking real fast (after threats of bringing in new characters).When I’m going through a writing blockage, I usually work on editing and other left-brain thinking stuff.

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

Marketing books is sheer torture chamber stuff. I work on marketing approximately 5 hours per week. I have a marketing manager, a publicist, and an agent. They all give me input and help me with marketing strategies like: news releases, author signings, school visits, book blast promotions, social media, blogging, and author lectures. It’s still a lot of work on my part, but I have seen how the books have become more popular as I keep up a good and steady marketing effort.

Tell us about your writing community.

I live on an acreage, near a small town. This small town has one library and no book stores. There are several self-published writers around the area, and we all know each other, support each other, and keep in touch. Occasionally, we set up multi-author signing together in the small surrounding towns.

What life experiences or careers inspire or enrich your writing?

For several years, I have been an art teacher to children; being around children is rewarding in that I really get to see and hear what children act and think like, which is vital in writing for children.

For the last year, I have been a writing instructor in the course I teach to adults at the Creative Writing Institute–Writing for Children course. Mentoring other writers is a wonderful experience and it makes me into a more prolific writer—well, I have to be or I will get fired. Yikes.

Ever since I read my first book, Black Beauty, at age 7, I have been a fan of the written word. I read all the time, and have rarely watched television, even as a kid. Reading great writers, whether it is children’s literature or adult horror novels always inspires me to be a better writer.

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

If you ever think to convince a wayward dragon of your opinion, either rub his tummy, or run away (which is very insulting to wayward dragons). But always go with your first instinct.

Before I provide our visitors with the links to your book and way to connect, I’d like to share with them an excerpt from the second chapter of Sir Princess Petra’s Talent – The Pen Pieyu Adventures, the title that earned the Readers Favorite award:

The pink knight spoke with a vibrating voice,

“I am Prince Duce Crablips of the Kingdom of

Crablips. I aim to stop the Princess Knight from

acquiring a talent and gaining her certificate. I

will stop at nothing. We may have to duel if you

do not turn back.”

“What in the entire kingdom are you talking

about?” Petra frowned her eyebrows at him.

“Are you not the Princess Knight?”

“Yes, I am Petra Longstride of the Kingdom

of Pen Pieyu.”

“Oh no, not another do-well?” Snarls

grumbled. “The last time you had a do-well,

you squeezed and squished and twirled

Prince Nastybun in your dance routine for so

long … well, he did finally give up, but honestly,

it was just boring. Don’t you know of any other

do-well maneuvers?”

“It’s a duel, Snarls, not a do-well.”

“I know all about your little clutch-’em-dance

routine,” Duce Crablips blurted. “And you’re not

touching me!”

“I have no intentions of touching you or

dueling with you.” Petra said, feeling quite

sure she was becoming annoyed. “But why in

the kingdom would you care if I received my

talent certificate?”

Duce Crablips dropped to one knee,

shouldered his spear to point at them, and began

chanting something that sounded in between

humming in Chinese and the rusty wheels of

the royal wheat mill.

“Stop that! I can’t understand a word your

saying, and it’s all quite harmful to the ear!” Petra

slid down the smooth scales of her mount.

Duce Crablips let loose his spear.

It landed between Snarl’s toes.

Snarls yanked the spear from the dirt, broke

it in two, then, raised his head and blew out a

fierce stream of something that resembled torn

pieces of gooey parchment.

“Oops.” Snarls flashed a fake smile. “Possibly

too many onions in that last omelette ta-da?”

“Snarls, stop dragon blasting!” Petra snapped.

“And as for you, Duce Crablips, just tell me what

your problem is, and you won’t be reported for

interfering with my mission!”

Duce, covered in layers of sticky onion skins,

looked like something ready to bake. His eyes, as

wide as royal platters, were wider than his wide

lips. He slowly stood up on shaking legs.

“Is it true they put you in a frilly dress

for interfering with someone’s mission?”

he whimpered.

“Worse for messing with a knight!” Petra

scolded. “It’s a strict rule in my kingdom.”

If you, or any younger acquaintances, would like to learn more about Diane or her works, so may do so through the following links.

Book online sales:


B & N:

Tate Publishing:

Goodreads:—the-pen- pieyu-adventures


Abe Books:

Website, blog and other online social accounts:

Author website and blog:

All About Children’s Books blog:


Amazon Author Page:

Goodreads Author Page:

Twitter: @DianeMaeRobinso


Google +:

The Write Stuff – Monday, September 22 – Interview With Patricia Reding

I am using the last several weeks of the year to feature a select group of authors in what promises to be a truly exciting series. Several have earned one or more Readers Favorite book awards this year. Two will be of very special interest. I begin this series with Patricia Reding.

DSC07942_3Patricia Reding leads a double life. By day, she practices law. By night, she reads, reviews a wide variety of works, and writes fantasy. She lives on an island on the Mississippi with her husband and daughters (her son having already flown the nest), Coconut (a Westie) and Flynn Rider (an English Cream Golden Retriever), from whence she seeks to create a world in which she can be in two places at once. She took up Oathtaker as a challenge and discovered along the way, the joy of storytelling. Currently, Patricia is working on Select, the first sequel to Oathtaker.

Oathtaker’s description is as follows:

An Oath Sworn. A Struggle Engaged. A Sacrifice Required.

When Mara, a trained Oathtaker, is drawn by the scent of the Select to battle underworld beasts summoned by the powers of evil to destroy the guardians of life, she swears a life oath for the protection of her charge.

Armed with a unique weapon and her attendant magic, and with the assistance of her Oathtaker cohorts, two ancients and a spymaster, Mara seeks safety for her charge from one who would end Oosa’s rightful line of rule and from assassins who endeavor to bring ruin to the land.

As Mara puzzles to decipher ancient prophecy concerning her charge, as she is haunted with memories of her own past failings, she discovers the price her oath will exact.

To renounce her word would be treasonous; to fail, ruinous; to persevere, tortuous. Abiding by an oath requires sacrifice.

Patricia, I’ve had a chance to glimpse Oathtaker’s opening pages and found it hard to step back out into the “real” world. It’s a captivating read. Further, your readers rave about what a wonderful story it is, but I’m wondering if there is a story behind the story.

I will age myself here and probably open a wider window into my soul than I might intend, but the inspiration for Oathtaker was my longing to return to the world as I saw it as a child. Perhaps it is just that my parents sheltered me more than I thought, but I recall a world in which people said what they meant and meant what they said. People entered into agreements with a handshake. Children knew that if a parent said “no,” it didn’t mean “no” only until the child overcame the parent with begging. People in relationships worked hard to walk through the difficult times together. Their behavior, their choices, came with consequences. I longed for that world because today it seems so easy to go back on your word. This is true across the board—of parents, teachers, politicians, and more. I think that our young people in particular, suffer as a result. They crave continuity and truth and something they can count on to be and to remain true. In many ways I think society has failed our youth in this regard, and I wanted to help to make up for that failure.

With all that in mind, I sought to create a world in which one’s word mattered, and in particular, to examine what someone might do if she found something that, or someone who, pulled her from her path—if she found her love—a moment after swearing a life-oath that forbid her from attaching herself to him. Thus, Mara came to be. Her situation is made more difficult by the fact that in Oathtaker, the man she comes to love, Dixon, is released from his vow only moments before Mara swears her oath. From that premise, Oathtaker was born.

Why have you chosen your particular genre?

There are two main reasons I write fantasy. The first is that I think it is the hardest. You see, I read a fantasy series some years ago that I found utterly genius. I sought to know how the author accomplished what he did. After reading it, I then went through a period when, notwithstanding the many, many wonderful works out there, I struggled to find stories that engaged, entertained, uplifted and challenged me. I had to see for myself what the process included. I had to know more. Thus, I started this writing venture as a challenge to myself—and writing fantasy was the greatest challenge I could conceive of. It requires the creation of a new world and a magic system. Such features must make sense to the story and must be internally consistent. Those are not easy tasks. Along the way, I discovered the joy of storytelling. I also discovered that writing a story that is new and different is very difficult. Perhaps of most importance, I developed a strong understanding of and for other authors. I am much more forgiving of mistakes than I once was.

The second reason I chose fantasy was because I wanted to explore a concept that I felt might seem “preachy” if I approached and discussed it through a story set in our modern world. Specifically, I wanted to present a story in which the main character was faced with choosing between honoring her word and following the path her heart begged her to pursue.

Your Readers Favorite award sets you apart from the herd, but in your words, why is your writing different from other authors in this genre?

Actually, this question makes me laugh. You see, I’ve discovered that there are many who would consider themselves “fantasy aficionados.” These are people who, it seems to me, have preconceived notions of what a fantasy story should do, how it should be told, that all the names should be unpronounceable and include apostrophes, and so forth. For example, some think a fantasy author can only teach about his world and how it works by having the main protagonist begin the venture in some kind of training. In this way, the reader learns along with the character. Some think that the world has to include so many “made up” things (that bear some loose resemblance to things in our world) that the reader has to learn an entirely new vocabulary in order to follow the story or constantly refer to the back-of-the-book glossary. Sometimes I read about how a fantasy work is “set” into some time period in our world (such as medieval, for example). But it makes no sense to me to say that because some features of a fantasy world are “medieval,” that as a result some other features or things can or cannot exist or happen. For me, that is the whole idea behind a fantasy world—it is made up. It can be anything. Thus, I am willing to give the writer the freedom to include or not to include anything in that author’s world that he or she chooses. This includes language used, gadgets in existence, and so forth.

Of course, people can have whatever thoughts they like about the fantasy genre, but I think having preconceived ideas about how a fantasy should be told, is a bit short-sighted. If all authors followed that train of thought, new ways would never come about. For example, where did steampunk come from, but that someone decided to do something different? What about gaslamp fantasy? I found a great list of fantasy subgenres to which I refer from time to time. The titles are intriguing. Consider, for example, the following: hard, gritty, dark, urban, dying earth, new weird, and so on. See: A reader with preconceived notions might be disappointed when they encounter these works. By contrast, I appreciate a writer doing what has not been done before. I’ve read of wizards and elves and fairies. I want something new.

With those ideas in mind, I decided I would create the world I wanted—regardless of what someone else thought it ought be. My world does not fit any particular era in our own world history. The names do not begin with “de” or include apostrophes—and they are pronounceable. In most cases, I chose names because of the meanings behind them or, where I wanted to avoid drawing any connection to a meaning, I made them up. Several readers have told me that they’ve never been able to get into fantasy before—but that they enjoyed my work. Perhaps this is because, as one reviewer of my work suggested, I wrote Oathtaker “from the outside looking in” (see I believe he was on to something . . .

Why should someone buy your book?

Oathtaker is a story that is challenging and uplifting. It offers heroes, secrets, magic, and an adventure. It is appropriate for readers 13 and older.

Tell us about the awards you’ve won.

To date, I’ve only entered one contest and that was the Readers’ Favorite 2014 International Book Award Contest. The winners were announced September 1, 2014. I was delighted to be awarded with an Honorable Mention Award in the Young Adult Fantasy category. This is quite something for a “first work.” I note that while my story may not be a standard “young adult” tale, in that it includes significant characters of a wide range of ages (and does not include “insta-love” or a love-triangle), it certainly poses a challenge to young readers and it speaks to issues important to them. Best of all—young readers have enjoyed it.

The Readers’ Favorite contest also includes a connection with WindDancer Films (at, the production company behind such movies as “What Women Want” and such television series as “Home Improvement.” Of the thousands of entrants in the contest, Oathtaker was chosen as one of ten works about which WindDancer Films would like to learn more.

What is your day job?

Goodness, where does one begin? In addition to being a wife and mother of three (two of whom are still “at home”) I also practice law. My main practice area is Intellectual Property. Intellectual Property includes assets of value that cannot be touched—trademarks, patents, copyrights, trade secrets, and so forth. In particular, I handle trademark matters, including registrations and infringement, domain name infringement, and so forth. (Have you ever received a cease and desist letter from me?)

I think the practice of law makes for good training for writing fantasy—a genre that requires that the author keep numerous balls in the air at the same time. My experience with questioning people, collecting facts, looking for alternative ways to resolve matters, negotiating, drafting, and counseling, serves me well when it comes to writing.

Alright then, would you tell us about your dream job?

More than anything, I would like to teach. I would enjoy mashing some first year law students’ brains, as was done with my own, but even more, I think I would like to teach political science at the undergraduate level.

My undergraduate degree was in Political Science, with a minor in Philosophy. I concentrated on studies relating to what was then the Soviet Union, including history and philosophy courses pertaining to the USSR. Today, I am a 24-7 political news junkie. (The funniest stories my children tell me are of their bringing their teachers, unaware of details about which my children are well-versed, up to speed.) There are so many issues, aside from simple civics details, that would be great fun to explore with young minds. Some themes I know I would concentrate on would be how to be good consumers of information, how to “read between the lines,” how to identify when someone is not answering the question asked, how to spot an ideological bent, and so on.

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

She would probably tell you that I have a knack for asking questions—questions that will unearth issues not previously considered and/or that will move you from problem to conclusion. She might also tell you that I truly do believe that “chocolate” is one of the four basic food groups, that I salt things way too much (because “salt” is another of the four basic food groups), and that I am bilingual—sarcasm is my second language.

Do you have a favorite quote?

There are so many. In particular, I love Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain quotes. But with a philosophy background, I find myself thinking of this, from John Stuart Mills: “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.” In many ways, these words seem to sum up life and the state of the world at any given time.

What are your favorite authors?

I adore Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. I think it is the most beautiful thing ever written. It is more than a story—it is poetry. I am also a big Charles Dickens fan. It took me some time to catch his rhythm, but I now find him positively hilarious. Once, I sat and read aloud to my then middle-grade daughters, the opening chapters of Great Expectations. Honestly, we laughed until tears ran. I love his descriptions of everything from people, to dead and scattered bugs on the floor. As to more contemporary works and/or those in my own genre, I am a big fan of Terry Goodkind’s Sword of the Truth series.

It’s time for the Lightning Round. Brief answers please!

The one thing I cannot do without is:

music. I especially enjoy movie soundtracks, Celtic works, and Broadway shows (in particular, Wicked, The Pirate Queen, Phantom and Aida). My family and I have also performed for almost 20 years now, in a Christmas musical, Two From Galilee, so I love participating as well as listening.

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

Committed. Serious.

Hard copy or ebook?

Preferably hard copy. I love the feel of the book in my hands.

Vice? Virtue?

Vice: Louis Vuitton handbags. If I ever go broke, I will have to auction mine off. Virtue: Can I think about this for a while?

Hah! Favorite book:

Les Miserables

Favorite movie:

Oh . . . this is so hard. I love the Lord of the Rings movies, but probably not for the same reasons as many others. Truthfully, I find the story a bit difficult to follow. My favorite parts are the background music and the lighting—which in some scenes is true genius.

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

Don’t limit yourself—and don’t allow anyone else to do so either.

So true.

I asked Patricia to provide an excerpt from Oathtaker. This is the gem she provided:

PastedGraphic-4Upon touching the woman, Dixon’s eyes turned quickly from the soft glance he had given her to a kind of madness. He jumped up and glared. “What have you done?” he hissed.

“What have I done?” Mara crouched down, pulled away the blanket that covered Rowena, then carefully took into her arms first Reigna, then Eden. She stood up, holding herself as tall as she could. She glared. “What have I done? Oh, nothing! Oh, well that is, except—ahhh . . . well . . . let me think here—.”

She hesitated, playacting. “Oh, yes, I remember now. I took down a full pack of grut, helped Rowena birth these beautiful children, accepted them as my charge, saw to it that she released her power with her dying breath, comforted her in her last moments—. Shall I go on?” She took a deep breath. “What have I done? Who are you to accuse me of anything? I have done my duty!”

“I am her Oathtaker. That’s who I am!”

“Were,” Mara snapped. “You were her Oathtaker. She’s dead. Or did I forget to mention that? So I might ask—what have you done? Where were you when she so clearly needed you? The truth is, if I hadn’t arrived when I did, I expect we would have lost them all!” Her eyes remained fixed on him.

After some seconds, he looked away. “Dead.”

She could not tell if he was stating the fact or asking if it was true. Considering the shock he must be feeling, she decided that arguing with him would not be in anyone’s best interests. She recalled that above all, she must get the girls to safety quickly.

“I’m sorry. I did all I could. Rowena had lost too much blood before I arrived. She . . . she was a fighter, I know.”

He did not take his eyes from his former charge. He dropped to his knees at her side. Taking her hand into his own, he lifted it to his cheek and closed his eyes. His breathing slowed. His jaw set. Mara sensed he fought back tears. Slowly, he leaned forward to stroke the woman’s cheek, then her hair. Finally, he bowed his head and audibly exhaled.

Mara watched his easy touch, saw his shoulders sag and his eyes pressed closed. She knew that look.

“You loved her.” She had not intended to speak the words out loud, but there they were—hanging in the air.

“Well,” he said, clearing his throat, obviously restraining himself, “of course I cared deeply for her. She was my charge. She’s been my charge for . . . for some time now. I’ve forgotten what life is without her.”

“No, that’s not all. You . . . you loved her. I can see it in your eyes, in your touch, in—”

“She was my charge!” He held Mara’s gaze, as though daring her to challenge him further.

She said nothing. Perhaps he was trying to convince himself, but she wondered.

“You do understand the significance of the oath you just swore?” he asked, scornfully.

Of course she did. An Oathtaker’s vow came with commitments. Mara hadn’t given it much thought earlier, but when she swore her oath, she had sealed the deal. Her word bound her to the twins for so long as they lived. She could no longer follow another path.

In the moment she took her vow, Ehyeh bestowed gifts upon her, attendant magic and continued youth. She would not physically age until the death of her charge. Only then could she begin her life anew, follow other dreams. The same had been true for Dixon while his charge had lived. But what did his denial mean? What was he trying to imply? That because he’d sworn to accept Rowena as his charge, he had not still been vulnerable to his own feelings, longings, desires? Had he been one who had fallen into the state of pain that came with loving someone while subject to his oath?

“Of course I do,” she confirmed.


If you’d like to read more, or learn more about the author, here are some links to help you:



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The Write Stuff – Monday, September 8 – Interview With Leisl Kaberry

This week’s guest is award-winning fantasy writer, Leisl Kaberry. I first met Leisl online. She’s a member of Facebook’s Fantasy Sci-fi Network, a group of amazing writers and readers you might wish to consider taking part in. I’ve found this multi-talented Aussie-turned-Canadian a real delight as I’ve gotten to know her. In turn, I thought you would also enjoy meeting her. Leisl writes fantasy adventures. Here’s what she has to say about herself:

Leisl 086‘I was never going to be a writer… seriously.’ Somehow despite Leisl’s lifelong love for making up and telling stories, she had no desire to become an author. However, after a creative urge spurred her on to write an idea for a scene, the world of Titania was born and she hasn’t looked back since. Born and raised in Australia she has lived in a variety places, including the Australian outback and Montreal, Canada. She currently resides in Kitimat, Northern British Columbia with her husband and four children; she is studying a degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice, is an amateur theatre actor and enjoys snowboarding during the winter.

Will you tell us about your award, Leisl?

Recently I won the RomCon Readers Crown 2014 for Fantasy. I was just thrilled to become a finalist, so to actually win… I was over the moon. Our local library in Kitimat has hung all the framed artwork from the book on the wall there. 11 pieces in total… I consider that a great honour, for me and my artist.

With the degree of competitiveness in today’s writing community, I can assure our visitors this is no small achievement. Since just getting published is also a major achievement, will you please share your experience?

I took the really long road on the first. When I started writing Journey of Destiny, I knew I needed to see it through and have it published, but writing for me (over ten years ago) was nothing more than a hobby and I would sit down to write whenever I had a creative urge. Fast forward to when we moved to Montreal Canada and I was stuck indoors while it was freezing cold outside, I barely knew anyone and I was struggling to learn the language. I found myself sitting down to write on a regular basis, when I could get some quiet time away from the kids. Within a year I was finished writing, I bought myself the book Self-Publishing for Dummies (no, really) and I set to work editing for the next three years. I did multiple edits myself between having others edit for me and in that time I rewrote and wrote a whole lot more. I found an artist through a mutual friend and we talked about her doing the cover for me and that turned into a whole lot of other artwork inside the book also… this dragged things on while I learnt how to format and prepare my book for publishing. Just over 11 years from conception to fruition. A worthwhile journey though… I learnt a stack in that time about writing, developed as a person, had some amazing experiences and lived in some very different places… all of which was fodder for my imagination.

That path suggests real discipline. I’m wondering if you ever get stuck. Do you ever experience writer’s block?

I don’t know that I’ve ever really had writers block, for me when I find I can’t write it’s usually just a function of being uninspired which leads to can’t be bothered and the manuscript not being worked on. I tend to find a good brainstorming session will get me past any issues though.

When I’m stuck on a problem the best thing I can do is leave the computer and give it some serious thought. Lying on the couch, sitting in the hot tub or going for a walk by myself can help me relax and just let my mind play with imagination. All answers seem to come after a serious brainstorm and usually with added excitement and clarity. All I want to do then is sit down and write feeling freshly inspired.

What life experiences have enriched your writing?

I guess the biggest inspiration through life experiences has been travel and living in different locations. Traveling to different parts of the world has opened me up to new and exciting scenery that I was able to experience in ways that you can’t through a picture alone. The smells, the people and even the ambient temperature all add to the experience and give inspiration to my world. In the book I’m working on at the moment, a good part of the story takes place in a country that was inspired by a trip to Iceland. Iceland’s terrain is so different and unusual that it is frequently used for filming sci-fi and fantasy movies including Batman Begins, Oblivion, Prometheus and my favourite, Stardust. I loved it and the very experience being there gave me so much feed for my imagination.

Having lived in very different locations has also given me a wealth of inspiration for growing and enriching my world. Living at the top of Australia in the tropics certainly inspired the first book.

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m a hard a work editing the second book of the Titanian Chronicles. It’s fully written and it will soon be passed on to others for further editing. My aim is to get it out by Christmas. While the first book sets our heroes out on a journey of discovery beyond the elvin borders where they have spent the entirety of their lives, the second book sees them five years on, at a time where the armies of the Warlord Moorlan are gathering and the mysterious Dark One is in search of furthering his power. I have seen this book in my mind since the beginning of my own journey writing the first book, there is a lot of exciting plot development in this one and it was so inspiring to write.

What is your typical day like?

A typical day for me starts at 6am with exercise… it’s the greatest thing to wake me up and get me going for the day. Then after I shower, the next hour is all about getting my kids ready for school and off to the bus stop. When I get back with the dog I finally sit down to breakfast and I work through my emails and social media. After that there’s housework and I study. In the early afternoon I sit down to work on my book and most days I can get few hours in before all the kids come bursting in the door from school. Once they are home its pens down for me and it becomes all about them. I help with homework and taxi the kids around to after school activities. I sometimes get a bit more writing done after the kids go to bed but then I also hang out and relax with my husband and maybe get some reading in. Then we go to bed around midnight and get up again at six the next day to start it all again. It doesn’t sound exciting but any day I get to work on my book is a good day for me and I find that exciting.

How do you overcome adversity?

I tend to be a pretty optimistic person anyway and try to see things in a positive light but it doesn’t always work straight away. I tend to find a good sleep does wonders… things always look better in the morning. ‘The sun will come out tomorrow…’ and all that, it really works!

Do you have a favorite quote?

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” ~ Dr Seuss. I love this quote… the Dr knew too well. See!? This totally reflects my positive point of view.

It does! And I like your take charge attitude. So then I have to ask, if you could change your circumstances and live anywhere in the world, where would you choose to live?

Hawaii… haha, and I say that without ever having been there. I’m a beach girl, I just live for it. The roar of the waves, the salty smell in the air, the refreshing water and soft white sands is alluring to me. I would be happy just living in a shack on the beach and Hawaii has a wonderful and rich culture too that I imagine would also inspire me.

Now comes the Lightning Round. In a few words, answer the following:

The one thing I cannot do without is…

My family… I tend to think of my laptop as family too… it carries my characters and the story they tell.

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

Happy go lucky – Oops three words.

Hard copy or ebook?

Although I think ebooks are great and so, so convenient, I still love hard copies of books and where I love a book or series, I will have to have it on my shelf.

Vice? Virtue?

Virtue for me and vice for my characters

Favorite book:

Daniella (played by Drew Barrymore) in Everafter is asked to pick a book, any book and she says “I could no sooner choose a favourite star in the heavens.” I feel this way.

Favorite movie:


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

Not really, but I would like to say thanks Raymond for the interview, I appreciate you taking the time.

Thank you for joining us.

I asked Leisl to provide a synopsis and an excerpt fromTitanian Chronicles – Journey of Destiny. She provided the following:

Journey of Destiny - Leisl KaberrySynopsis

Afeclin walked nervously to the entry of the cottage. He held his breath as he passed over the threshold.

A little cradle was the only piece of furniture left in the building.
Afeclin touched the cradle delicately with one finger.
All of a sudden he fell backward onto the floor as an image of the fire burst into his mind…
He had seen a horrified face that screamed amongst red hot flames.

Found beyond the Elvin borders, Afeclin, a human child, is taken in and raised by an Elvin King. Now grown and longing to learn about the mystic arts, he embarks on a journey back into a land now unfamiliar. Accompanied by his elvin friend, Wolflang, they leave their homes to seek out their destiny. Unbeknown to Afeclin and Wolflang however, the warlord, Moorlan and his confederate, a dark mage, are preparing to bring war to the peaceful Land of Marrapassa, putting their lives and those they care about, in danger.


The ground had been a lot colder and harder to sleep on than it had first appeared. Wolflang had found himself sleeping on rock and although the rock was covered in fresh fallen leaves and moss it provided little comfort for the elf.

Adding to the problem, the day’s events had kept playing over and over again in his mind.

In the early hours of the morning, exhaustion overcame him and Wolflang, tired and achy, fell into a deep sleep.

It was during this sleep, while his body was relaxed and free from the tension built up in him from the previous day, he saw a familiar being.

A human man, wearing a leather cloak, stood before him and beckoned for Wolflang to follow. His face was shadowed by the cloak’s hood apart from his jaw and cheekbones covered in thick, greying stubble. Deep wrinkles around his mouth and down his neck showed that the man was aged and his weathered hands were old but strong.

‘You’re the hooded man I saw at the celebrations the other night.’

The man nodded and once again beckoned for Wolflang to come with him.

Wolflang, while curious, felt at ease with the old man despite his mysterious nature. He began to walk towards the hooded figure, stepping with lightness on the ground.

The older man led Wolflang to the edge of a cliff. There he beckoned the elf with an open hand to cast his eyes over.

Wolflang came and stood beside the hooded man, looking down into a deep valley beset by mountains.

He beheld a frightening scene before his eyes. For there in the valley a mighty battle raged. Heavy men clad in black armour, not unlike the pig-faced trolls they had seen the day before, surrounded a small multi-raced army.

Wolflang could hear the clang of swords clashing and shouts of anger and fear as men fought for their lives, giving everything they had. Blood flooded the terrain as one by one, the smaller army’s men fell to the ground dead.

The men in black, having been victorious, waved their swords in the air and cheered in celebration of their slaughter. It was a sickening sight.

‘What is this?’ Wolflang asked shaking his head.

The hooded man spoke at last, ‘It is a vision of an event that is to come.’

Wolflang felt sick to his stomach. He stared at the strange man with an incredulous frown. ‘Why do you show me this?’

‘In this moment of time lies a part of your destiny,’ the hooded man said as he faded away before Wolflang’s eyes.

‘What do you mean? I am to die down there?’ Wolflang shouted at the already faded figure.

Wolflang’s mind raced as he tried hard to comprehend what he had just witnessed. He buried his head in his hands in sorrow and slumped down to the ground.

If you’d like to buy Leisl’s book, or learn more about her, please click on the following links:

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The Write Stuff – Monday, August 25 – Interview With Author Deborah Blake

I first met this week’s author, Deborah Blake, in 2011, when we joined with several other authors to form the now defunct writers’ blog collective, Black Ink, White Paper. Although we were a varied group, Deborah stood out from the rest of us because she is, you see, a self-proclaimed witch. I mean that in the esoteric sense. In fact, I was a student of the white arts in my younger days, so I was as pleased when she joined as I was disappointed when her other obligations forced her to depart from our company. You can imagine, then, how pleased I am that she has agreed to grace my website with her presence.

IMG_3250 edit #2Deborah Blake has published seven books on modern witchcraft with Llewellyn Worldwide and has an ongoing column in Witches & Pagans Magazine. When not writing, Deborah runs The Artisans’ Guild, a cooperative shop she founded with a friend in 1999, and also works as a jewelry maker, tarot reader, and energy healer. She lives in a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural upstate New York with five cats who supervise all her activities, both magical and mundane.

Her latest title, WICKEDLY DANGEROUS – book 1 in the Baba Yaga series, is a paranormal romance. Look for its release on September 2, just one week and one day after this interview launches.

Known as the wicked witch of Russian fairy tales, Baba Yaga is not one woman, but rather a title carried by a chosen few. They keep the balance of nature and guard the borders of our world, but don’t make the mistake of crossing one of them…

Older than she looks and powerful beyond measure, Barbara Yager no longer has much in common with the mortal life she left behind long ago. Posing as an herbalist and researcher, she travels the country with her faithful (mostly) dragon-turned-dog in an enchanted Airstream, fulfilling her duties as a Baba Yaga and avoiding any possibility of human attachment.

But when she is summoned to find a missing child, Barbara suddenly finds herself caught up in a web of deceit and an unexpected attraction to the charming but frustrating Sheriff Liam McClellan.

Now, as Barbara fights both human enemies and Otherworld creatures to save the lives of three innocent children, she discovers that her most difficult battle may be with her own heart…

Wow! That’s quite an intriguing premise, Deborah, and it compels me to ask if there is a story behind the story.

I suppose there are two stories: the original Russian and Slavic fairy tale that the character is based on, and my story of how I came to write this particular book. The Baba Yaga is a classic Russian fairy tale which featured a witch (of the typical ugly old crone variety) who was sometimes depicted as evil and scary, but other times could be petitioned for aid by a worthy seeker. She lived in a wooden hut in the woods, and the hut ran about on huge chicken legs (so it was rarely in the same place), and often turned its back to the visitor. Baba Yaga flew in a large mortar steered by a pestle, and used her broom to sweep away her tracks. She was sometimes found in the company of a mystical dragon named Chudo-Yudo, and there were some versions where there was more than one Baba Yaga (she often referred to her “sisters”).

When I decided I wanted to write an updated fairy tale, I didn’t want to use any of the better-known stories, such as Beauty and the Beast or Sleeping Beauty, which many authors had already crafted stories about more than once. So I chose to use Baba Yaga, who was more obscure, but whose name was still familiar to many people, and update her for the modern world. (Plus, of course, make her a cool and powerful kickass protagonist.)

For all of us writers, one story always leads to another. What are you working on now?

My current work in progress is a complete change of pace. Instead of being a paranormal romance, it is a humorous contemporary romance. I’m having a lot of fun writing it. I always use some humor in my writing, but intentionally writing a book that is supposed to be funny is giving me a much greater scope for snark. And shockingly, there is nary a witch to be seen. Also, I have a fabulous Sekrit Project for Llewellyn, the publishers of my nonfiction work, which I can’t talk about just yet.

Why have you chosen your particular genre?

I’ve always loved fantastical stories. I grew up devouring fantasy, fairy tales, science fiction, and anything else that created different worlds or showed a secret side of the so-called real world. Plus, as a practicing witch who also writes about modern witchcraft, it made sense for me to write about witches!

Would you tell us why your writing is different from other authors in this genre?

I’ve found that there has been a trend for some time for paranormal romances to be very gritty and very sexy. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I like to read a few of those too. But for people who prefer their paranormal with a slightly lighter touch and a little less naked, I tried to offer something a bit different. Also, of course, there is a very cool dragon disguised as a giant white pit bull. You don’t see a lot of that.

You began your career as a published author before many of us did, before the publishing world changed. Will you tell us a bit about your path to publication?

It was damned long J. I wrote my first nonfiction book for Llewellyn back in 2005 (it came out in 2007), and started working on fiction about that time. I wrote my first novel—about a witch, of course—and spent a couple of years polishing it. I entered a number of contests, got some great feedback and a lot of enthusiasm, and started sending it out to agents. Wherein I got 67 rejections. Yes, you are reading that number right. Mind you, many of those were rejections of partials and fulls, so the manuscript was making it a lot further down the line than just an initial rejection. And a number of the agents said, “Not this one, but I’d look at another.” So I wrote another, and got some more rejections. I looked at all the feedback I’d gotten over the two years or so of writing, revising, re-revising, and re-re-revising (plus some amazingly generous advice from agents along the way) and set out to make my third book a lot better. By that time, I’d narrowed down my agent “wish list” to five names. I sent the third book out to three of those people. One said he wasn’t taking on any new writers. Another said she didn’t like the voice. The third said she’d just sold a book too much like it, and couldn’t take it on—BUT she loved it. That was Lucienne Diver, and she passed the manuscript on to another agent at The Knight Agency, Elaine Spencer, who read it on a Friday/Saturday and called on Monday night to offer representation. Then we didn’t sell that book. Or the one after it. This novel is the seventh one I’ve written, and the third we sent out. Never say die. At least not in publishing.

Amen! Since you are an experienced hand at this craft, do you have a writing routine?

I try to write every day (although in reality, it is more like 5-6 days a week). Since I have a day job, although thankfully not one that is 40 hours a week, I usually write in the evening, from about 6:30 until 9:30 or 10. Once I’m in the zone on a book, I often do two stints on Saturdays and Sundays. I probably average about 1,000 words a day, although on a good day, I can manage 3,000 or more. I have a whiteboard that I use to track my daily word and page count, and monitor my progress. It can either inspire or depress me, depending on how things are going, but it gives me a nice concrete way to watch the book slowly growing.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I manage an artists’ cooperative shop with 50 local and regional artists; a potter friend and I started it about 15 years ago. I also make gemstone jewelry that I sell at the shop, and do some professional tarot reading and energy healing on the side.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

I live in a 120 year old farmhouse with a large garden, five cats, and a sacred circle out behind the barn. I’m perilously close to being a witchy cliché. But I really value the relative calm and quiet of being in the country, since I find it hard to write when it is noisy. And working in the garden is good therapy, especially when coming home from juggling the needs and various quirky personalities of 50 artists.

Do you have a favorite quote?

“Humor, har.” (From Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer) Or anything from The Princess Bride movie. “Bye bye, boys. Have fun stormin’ the castle.” “Will it work?” “It would take a miracle.” “Wuv, tru wuv.” Jeez, don’t get me started. Oh, wait, you probably wanted something inspiring and intellectual. In that case, Einstein’s definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Hah! I LOVE your sense of humor. I need to move on to something else, or you’re apt to get me started. You must forgive me, then, if I turn us to something more serious. What is your greatest life lesson?

Being positive is always better than being negative. When faced with a tough situation, I would rather laugh than cry, rather assume the best possible outcome, rather be a force for growth and change than for stagnation and destruction. When life kicks you in the teeth (and it will), pick yourself up, give it the finger, and keep on going. (If necessary, judiciously apply chocolate and wine as needed to make this possible.)

What are a few of your favorite authors?

How long do you have? Jennifer Crusie, Lani Diane Rich, Trisha Ashley, Katie Fforde (all humorous contemporary romance, the last two are Brits). C.E. Murphy, Carol Berg, Kim Harrison, Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs, Patricia McKillip, Alex Bledsoe, Jim C. Hines, Maria V. Snyder and Lisa DiDio (she’s my CP—not published yet, but pretty soon everyone will know her name!)

For the uninitiated, Lisa was also part of Black Ink, White Paper. OK. Lightning Round.

The one thing I cannot do without is:


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

Loyalty and dependability

Hard copy or ebook?

Hard copy

Vice? Virtue?

Yes please.

Hah! You’re doing it again. Favorite book:

Faking It by Jennifer Crusie

Favorite movie:

The Princess Bride

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

Writing is a gift that authors share with their readers. Reading is the gift that is given to us in return. Amazing how well that works out for everyone.

Before I close, here is an excerpt from WICKEDLY DANGEROUS, followed by the links you will need to follow Deborah and purchase her books:

WickedlyDangerous_hiresPlopping his hat on over his dark blonde hair, Liam strode up to the door of the Airstream—or at least, where he could have sworn the door was a couple of minutes ago. Now there was just a blank wall. He pushed the hair out of his eyes again and walked around to the other side. Shiny silver metal, but no door. So he walked back around to where he started, and there was the entrance, right where it belonged.

“I need to get more sleep,” he muttered to himself. He would almost have said the Airstream was laughing at him, but that was impossible. “More sleep and more coffee.”

He knocked. Waited a minute, and knocked again, louder. Checked his watch. It was six AM; hard to believe that whoever the trailer belonged to was already out and about, but it was always possible. An avid fisherman, maybe, eager to get the first trout of the day. Cautiously, Liam put one hand on the door handle and almost jumped out of his boots when it emitted a loud, ferocious blast of noise.

He snatched his hand away, then laughed at himself as he saw a large, blunt snout pressed against the nearest window. For a second there, he’d almost thought the trailer itself was barking. Man, did he need more coffee.

At the sound of an engine, Liam turned and walked back toward his car. A motorcycle came into view; its rider masked by head-to-toe black leather, a black helmet, and mirrored sunglasses that matched the ones Liam himself wore. The bike itself was a beautiful royal blue classic BMW that made Liam want to drool. And get a better paying job. The melodic throb of its motor cut through the morning silence until it purred to a stop about a foot away from him. The rider swung a leg over the top of the cycle and dismounted gracefully.

“Nice bike,” Liam said in a conversational tone. “Is that a sixty-eight?”

“Sixty-nine,” the rider replied. Gloved hands reached up and removed the helmet, and a cloud of long black hair came pouring out, tumbling waves of ebony silk. The faint aroma of orange blossom drifted across the meadow, although none grew there.

A tenor voice, sounding slightly amused, said, “Is there a problem, officer?”

Liam started, aware that he’d been staring rudely. He told himself it was just the surprise of her gender, not the startling Amazonian beauty of the woman herself, all angles and curves and leather.

“Sheriff,” he corrected out of habit. “Sheriff Liam McClellan.” He held out one hand, then dropped it back to his side when the woman ignored it. “And you are?”

“Not looking for trouble,” she said, a slight accent of unidentifiable origin coloring her words. Her eyes were still hidden behind the dark glasses, so he couldn’t quite make out if she was joking or not. “My name is Barbara Yager. People call me Baba.” One corner of her mouth edged up so briefly, he almost missed it.

“Welcome to Clearwater County,” Liam said. “Would you like to tell me what you’re doing parked out here?” He waved one hand at the Airstream. “I assume this belongs to you?”

She nodded, expressionless. “It does. Or I belong to it. Hard to tell which, sometimes.”

Liam smiled gamely, wondering if his caffeine deficit was making her sound odder than she really was. “Sure. I feel that way about my mortgage sometimes. So, you were going to tell me what you’re doing here.”

“Was I? Somehow I doubt it.” Again, that tiny smile, barely more than a twitch of the lips. “I’m a botanist with a specialty in herbalism; I’m on sabbatical from UC Davis. You have some unusual botanical varieties growing in this area, so I’m here to collect samples for my research.”

Liam’s cop instincts told him that her answer sounded too pat, almost rehearsed. Something about her story was a lie, he was sure of it. But why bother to lie about something he could so easily check?

“Do you have some kind of ID?” he asked. “Your vehicle didn’t turn up in the database and my dispatcher couldn’t find any record of a permit for you to be here. This is county property, you know.” He put on his best “stern cop” expression. The woman with the cloud hair didn’t seem at all fazed.

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