Dec 02

Barry S. Willdorf Joins Mike Angley as Today’s Guest-Blogger

MA: Please help me welcome my guest today, Barry S. Willdorf. Barry grew up in Malden, Massachusetts. He attended Colby College, the University of Manchester (England) and Columbia Law School. Barry is a top-rated trial attorney with 42 years experience including 100 trials, everything from courts martial to murder to securities fraud. He began his professional career as a criminal investigator for the Legal Aid Society in New York City. A preview version of his novel, “Flight of the Sorceress” was featured on Scribd and awarded a rating of 4.7 out of 5.  It has a Five Star rating on Amazon. His new novel, “Burning Questions” is set for publication at the end of July, 2011 and is the first of a trilogy (The 1970s Trilogy) that is under agreement with Whiskey Creek Press. Barry is a member of the San Francisco Writers Workshop, The Blackpoint Writers Group and is represented by The Krista Goering Literary Agency.  He and his wife Bonnie live in San Francisco.

It sounds like writing is a major part of your life. Why novels?

BW: I have always written. I have written poetry and songs. Of course, I spent 42 years writing legal briefs, but that’s not supposed to be fiction — although sometimes, as you might imagine, the line gets blurred. Anyway, it’s a lot more honest to just admit you are writing fiction. The best part about novels though is you get to play God.

MA: Have you found inspiration for fiction from your personal life?

BW: Most of the novels I write draw on personal experiences. Even “The Flight of the Sorceress,” a historical novel set in the 5th Century, A.D. draws on personal experiences I had when I studied at the University of Manchester and visited Bath and other Roman historical sites. But my 1970s Trilogy actually includes vignettes and events that are close to things that happened to me. I am into verisimilitude.

MA: So tell us what you’ve written!

BW: My debut novel, “Bring the War Home!” (2001) is about anti-war Marines at Camp Pendleton, either going to or returning from the Vietnam War. I was a civilian defense attorney at Pendleton in 1970 and 1971 and represented a lot of Marines who were having moral and political conflicts over the war. I made it into a novel to protect the privacy of the men, but the stories are very real. It received great reviews and was endorsed by Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

“Flight of the Sorceress” (Wild Child Publishing, 2010) took 8 years of research and writing. It is the story of resistance by two women (one fictitious, the other Hypatia of Alexandria) against misogynistic clerics of the newly-empowered Catholic Church to restrict their rights to be healers, teachers, librarians and philosophers. Their heroic struggles culminate in the cataclysm events of Lenten Week, 415 A.D. that ushered in the Dark Ages. Can anything be saved?

“Burning Questions,” Part One of my 1970s Trilogy tells a story about the corruption that changed a fishing town into a tourist destination.

MA: So who are your protagonists?

BW: In “Bring the War Home!” the protagonists are sort of fictionalized versions of myself, my wife, Bonnie and composites of the Marines I represented and befriended.

In “Sorceress,” Glenys was constructed from accounts of classical Celtic healers. Hypatia, being a real person, was kept as true to history as possible, given the fact that the Church destroyed all or her writings and all accounts of her are second-hand by men with agendas.

In “Burning Questions,” I got a lot of material from some case files about a teenage suicide I investigated, plus I lived at that time and in that place and “borrowed” characteristics from people I knew, not to mention myself.

MA: What are your heroes’ strengths and weaknesses?

BW: Let’s just deal with “Sorceress.” There is only one person who even approximates a “hero” so I will go to heroine and use Glenys of the Silures, a fictional Celtic healer. Glenys is strong, stubborn and determined. She wants to be an independent woman in the ancient Celtic tradition and will not compromise on the issue of her independence. If she has a weakness, it is that she is willing to use other people to accomplish her objectives, even though they may not approve of her goals. She has her fears and is vulnerable. Sometimes she is naïve. But she sees the consequences of surrender to be very dangerous, not just to her but to women who will follow in the years to come.

MA: And the antagonists?

BW: There are some particularly odious bad guys in my books. In particular, there is the fictitious Ignatus, an ambitious and unscrupulous bishop in “Sorceress.” He hunts Glenys across the Roman Empire, much in the way Inspector Javert hunts Jean Valjean in Les Misérables.  There is also Archbishop Cyril, a real person, who was sanctified, primarily because he successfully orchestrated the murder of Hypatia and the forced expulsion 70,000 Jews from Alexandria in 415 A.D.

MA: You mentioned being influenced during your time at Camp Pendleton to write one of your novels. Tell us more.

BW: I certainly couldn’t have written “Bring the War Home!” or the 1970s Trilogy otherwise. I could have probably done “Sorceress.” However, I have seen how poorly sheltered or inexperienced people fare when they attempt to create fiction in any form or genre. They just don’t know what facts or events will move people to do the things they do, so accounts of actions and behavior lack believability.

MA: What’s in store for your next writing project?

BW: I have two more novels to come in the 1970s Trilogy. Both are written and in a final draft form. I am in the process of submitting a contemporary novel that I don’t want to give away just yet. I also just finished an intermediate draft of a novel made up of five connected novellas that involves the influence upon the later lives of each of the five protagonists that derived from knowing a murder victim who was their neighbor. A lot of that one came from experiences I had growing up near Boston.

MA: So you will continue to feature the same protagonist in future stories? Will any other characters migrate over to future books?

BW: I don’t think I’m going to feature the same protagonists in future books. They may be peripheral characters, but none of them are going to be in the spotlight. I don’t want their egos inflated. Most of them already have narcissism problems and I am not going to be an enabler.

MA: (Laughing) Yes, those pesky protagonists think they own their own stories! What do you consider the most difficult aspect of being a writer?

BW: One of the things I think we all find hardest about this writing gig is the promo. (After all, that’s what we’re doing here, isn’t it?) There are so many books out there, and so many good ones, it is almost impossible to get your stuff noticed. I HATE promo. What I’d like to see is some Sci-Fi gizmo where you just feed your manuscript into a reader-thingy and it somehow comes out with a rating. Then Thingy spits the MS into a series of tubes like the internet, (Ha Ha) and shuffles them to a cyber-promotion specialist machine that electronically sends your stuff to all the people on the social network that say they might like to read or listen to the kind of stuff you write. It gets dropped on their computer doorstep like the milkman used to do, in the form and format they prefer. And if they like print, there is a low cost printer option on your computer that produces a bound, full-color cover copy in five minutes or fewer, depending on page count. And of course the author gets to keep a 90% royalty. My idea of heaven.

MA: (Smiling) Well then, on that note, I want to thank you for stopping by, Barry. For my readers, please visit Barry’s website for more information:

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Nov 30

Author Mary Deal Writes About “A False Sense Of Value” On The Child Finder Trilogy

Once again, my good friend and fellow writer, Mary Deal, comes through with another great article.  This particular one is important to an aspiring writer because it speaks to the nexus between writing what strikes an author’s passion, and writing what the publishing world can sell.  This can be a bitter pill for new writers to swallow.  I think every writer follows his heart first and writes what comes from deep within the well of his passion, emotion, and life experience.  But then the cold, sometimes cruel world of publishing reality settles in.  What strikes the author’s fancy may not even merit a yawn from an editor.  So what is a passionate writer to do?  Read Mary’s article for some advice.  Of course, visit her website, too, for more great articles and writing tips: Write Any Genre.

A False Sense of Value

by Mary Deal

5-12-09-9c-iUWhen we writers select a topic on which to expound, chances are, we choose that topic because of its emotional impact on ourselves. We feel something strongly and want to let the world know our opinion. If we felt nothing, what’s to write?

Once the essay or story is finished and we’re feeling good about having gotten our brainstorm on paper, the next step is to decide if what we’ve written is important enough to send out to get published. Or have we simply committed a lot of weak personal opinion and gibberish to paper?

If we thought about the value of our topic before we wrote, we may write nothing. It’s the emotional value of a topic that rouses our muses; that makes us feel we have something to say.

With great certainty, a topic of little interest to the public, but which sparked something in us, will get rejected, unless we can turn the article or story into a spectacular piece of prose. If lackluster but you still think it shows promise, only after submission might such a piece connect with an editor who just might be able to fit it in or ask for a rewrite first. Editors must also feel your enthusiasm through your writing. If not, the many rounds of submissions aren’t worth it.

What a writer must do is to make certain the topic they choose has some value for the reading public, and fit a market. Just because we feel a lot of emotion for something doesn’t mean the reading public will feel the same.

Choosing a topic we feel emotionally charged about is a natural priority in selecting what to write. Just as important: We must ask ourselves if we’re the only person, or among the few, who feel that way. Emotions in writing are necessary, but they can also lead us astray. It’s quite possible to create a spectacular article or story out of a topic few care about. The quality of the writing will be what makes a dull topic come alive. It’s easier to choose a topic that’s both something we feel charged about and which the reading public would find of interest.

Emotions can give us a false sense of value, leading us to think because we’re excited about something others will be too. Unless we’re excited about a topic that has a specific market, our prose could end up on the endless wheel of multiple submissions and rejections. If that happens, the only way to save the piece is to rewrite again and again and make it exciting or exacting. Or simply put the piece aside until the muse provides a way to make it more desirable. Move on to another project.

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Nov 18

Joseph M. Rinaldo is Mike Angley’s Guest-Blogger Today

MA: My guest today is Joseph M. Rinaldo. He’s not only an author, but he has a distinctive family background that makes him an expert of sorts on the subject matter of his writing. I’m going to let him tell us in his own words. Joseph, welcome.

JR: Raising my daughter with Down syndrome has made me uniquely qualified to write this book, and I have witnessed the effects of Alzheimer’s on a family member. As for the espionage-related topics in A Spy At Home, I prefer not to disclose the source of my knowledge.

My daughter, wife, and I live in Tennessee. I look forward to releasing another ebook in the near future, as I have written seven others that deal with a variety of characters.

Thank you again for taking the time to help me promote my book and myself on your blog. I have always felt the writing community is a very generous and altruistic one, and bloggers like you have proven me correct.

MA: It’s my pleasure to have you here today. Tell us how you came to write.

JR: The actual impetus for me to begin writing came while I was reading Three Weeks With My Brother by Nicholas Sparks. When I got to the part where he received a million-dollar advance, I thought, “Holy cow! He’s a good writer, but I know I can do this, too.” I’ve been writing since that day in 2004.

Eight years prior to reading about the million dollar advance I had only considered writing once in my life. Living alone, I hand wrote a page that I later read to my girlfriend, who is now my wife. She said the characters didn’t really tell the story, and that she heard me reciting rather than the voice of the main character. I wadded up the sheet of paper and threw it away. I never forgot what she said and believe I have corrected those mistakes in A Spy At Home.

Now, by day I work as Credit and Financial Manager for a heating, ventilating, and air conditioning distributor. When I first started writing, I thought being a numbers guy would make me an oddity as an author. That’s proved to be wrong. The more people I meet in this industry, the more I run across accountants and CFOs. Apparently, creativity infects a variety of people. Of course, I have the same dream as other writers. I hope my book sells a million copies and becomes a smash hit movie. Selling ebooks isn’t the get-rich-quick scheme I thought it was before being published. It’s been a lot of work.

MA: That’s something many people who begin writing don’t realize at first. Getting published is a business venture, and while craft is important, so is a healthy understanding of the work that goes into marketing and advertising, for example.

In your story, did you frame any characters on real life people whom you’ve known?

JR: A Spy At Home recounts the life of a CIA operative which means I cannot answer any questions about a career as a spy that I may or may not have had. Generally, I think of the characters in my books as being completely separate people. The characters don’t interact with me, let alone stem from me. At least that’s how it is in my mind. None of my characters are “based on” a person I know. They are combinations of traits from many people, and some imaginary traits are thrown in to keep my friends from recognizing themselves. Just kidding, the characters live in my head, and I write down what they say and do. Hopefully this doesn’t sound too bizarre.

MA: Tell us about the story. Is it a mystery or a thriller or something else?

JR: The genre of my books is very hard to pin down. My wife and I have searched numerous times for standardized publishing industry definitions with no success. As silly as that may sound, especially for a person who wants to deal in words as a career, genres are hard to define. A Spy At Home could be considered contemporary fiction, mainstream (this sounds like a synonym for dull), thriller, suspense (what’s the difference between thriller and suspense? Shouldn’t you be thrilled reading a suspense novel, and shouldn’t you wonder what will happen next in thriller?), drama (any book without intense turmoil probably won’t be worth reading), or adventure (my main character travels to another continent; that’s adventurous, right?). I honestly don’t know where my books fall in the narrow definitions of the publishing world; I do know I have tried to make the characters interesting and multi-faceted, moving through difficulties in their lives. A Spy At Home is my debut published novel.

MA: Fair enough. Tell us, then, about your main character. I assume you crafted him/her by design before you began writing?

JR: I didn’t. That probably sounds absurd, but I don’t intentionally mold a protagonist. The characters live their lives in my head, and I write it down. During the editing process, I might smooth a rough edge, but I try not to do that very much. I mean, for example, instead of having the protagonist cuss out his girlfriend, he simply yells at her. However, I keep his anger, frustration, or whatever in full view of the reader.

Some books I’ve read develop a character like a precise mathematical equation. The character may say, “I hate the Rolling Stones. They’re like nails on a chalkboard.” The reader now knows that he or she will be trapped into listening to Brown Sugar and Satisfaction at some point. To me this detracts from the story because the character becomes too formulaic.

MA: So who is he? What are his attributes?

JR: Garrison in A Spy At Home loves his wife and son with every fiber of his being. That’s his greatest strength. This keeps him going through several ordeals. His biggest downfall is failing to accept life as it comes. As a spy he manipulated people and events to better America’s position in African countries. As a civilian he struggles and often fails to accept life’s messy obstacles. Without revealing too much, Garrison steals a little under ten million dollars before retiring. A stronger person would have taken his pension and left the spy life behind.

MA: And the “bad guy?”

JR: That’s a tough question to answer.  A Spy At Home doesn’t have a traditional villain. The reader decides for themselves who’s evil and heroic. Some might find the protagonist, Garrison, deceitful. Others might see the U.S. government as cruel. Garrison worries a great deal about his own death and what will happen to his mentally retarded son after it. This overwhelming worry could be considered the book’s villain. The “bad guy” is in the eye of the beholder.

MA: I know you have a personal connection to your hero’s life and his family circumstances. Talk about that.

JR: Like Garrison, I have a child with Down syndrome. People with Down are living much longer than ever before, which means my daughter might outlive my wife and me. Who would take care of her as well as we do? This question haunts every parent with a dependent child. My wife wrote a short story based on this concern. I blatantly stole her idea and added a spy, stolen millions, a beach house on a Caribbean island…

MA: That’s really interesting! So what comes after A Spy At Home?

JR: Another book, Hazardous Choices, has been professionally edited and will be released in the near future.  We’re waiting to release it until we’ve promoted A Spy At Home as fully as we can. I have seven more books waiting to be professionally edited and released. As we save the money for more editing, we’ll get the others done, too. At present I have three books floating around in my head but can’t find the time to write them. Hopefully, A Spy At Home will be made into a movie, and I’ll have Garrison’s boat where I can write all day long!

MA: Do you have a sequel planned?

JR: I can’t think of anything more boring than writing a sequel. Mr. Potter has proven what a great success they can be, but following the same characters from one book to the next doesn’t interest me. Once the book is finished, the characters are done with me.

MA: What are your thoughts on historical research when writing novels?

JR: I was at a writer’s conference, and a woman was telling me about her historical novel. She found the menu for the heads of states dinner that actually happened, and she was using it in her novel. While she said this, I kept thinking, ‘That has got to be the most uninteresting book ever if you’re telling the reader what they had to eat.’ Research can be good and bad. Research can make the book come alive and seem real. It can also come across as if the writer is bragging about all he/she knows. If your reader wanted to read a textbook, she/he would’ve bought one. For writing novels the most important thing is being believable, not scientifically accurate.

MA: Thanks, Joseph. Folks – please visit Joseph Rinaldo’s website:, and his blog:

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Nov 16

Author Mary Deal Shares Her Perspective On Foreshadowing With Mike Angley

5-12-09-9c-iUI am excited to post — with permission, of course — an article that Mary Deal has put together with her perspective on foreshadowing.  I told her when she sent me the article that I love this particular literary device, and I’m pretty good at spotting it when I read.  Because I can spot it so well, when I write my own stories, I try to use it with great subtlety.  In fact, I like to sprinkle foreshadowing dust in my books, and then pull the foreshadowed hints together like a bunch of threads at the climax to the story.

You may recall my interview with Mary on November 18th.  Here’s a link to her original interview if you’d like to go back and read it: A Good Deal, Mary Deal, That Is, Guest-Blogs With Mike Angley Today

Mary’s website is chock-full of great articles like the one that follows, so please be sure to visit her at: Write Any Genre

Thanks, Mary!


by Mary Deal

Foreshadowing gives the reader a sense of participation in the story, through anticipation….

Throughout all stages of writing development, foreshadowing gives the reader a sense of participation in the story, through anticipation.

One of the best tips for writing a story, whether short or book length, is to introduce certain plot action early in a composition. That early action, or the action sequences, should quietly suggest what’s to come later. This applies across the board to multi-genre writing.

Great foreshadowing ties all the way down to the ending, through the great writing and grammar, into the story climax and denouement.

Avid readers, especially, are wise to plot action. They can spot foreshadowing without having to go back and read the sequence again. They can sense it in the set up. They want it!

Subconsciously, a few readers may not realize foreshadowing has prepped them. However, on a subconscious level, tight pre-planning keeps them wrapped up in the story.

Whether on a subconscious level or consciously, you want your readers to carry a feeling of anticipation as they read through the stages of writing development that you have so adeptly woven. The reader won’t be aware of writing rules and writing procedures. But foreshadowing keeps them turning pages.

The way I write is to finish a chapter, that one scene, with all that I can allow myself to put into it…for the moment. As I write the next succeeding chapters, I may think of something new to include in the story that needs to be foreshadowed earlier. So I go back and add a tease in a preceding chapter or other chapters before that one. I continue this process throughout the book. No chapter is really finished till the book is finally polished.

In writing my first mystery, I thought my story was finished, but realized one bit of action that should have been foreshadowed earlier. Then, it is a matter of choosing which chapter to go back to, the most likely place, to insert the hint of what was to come.

Those hints must be so innocent that they do not tell exactly what’s to come. Yet, when you read what happens later in the story, you remember the hint of it mentioned earlier.

For instance, in my mystery/thriller, River Bones, when I planned my notes for Chapter 4, I wanted to give a credible reason for my character to accept two pit bull puppies. Yet, I have her so busy she doesn’t have time for dogs. It’s unlikely she would take on responsibility like that. But the plot required that she take these dogs.

So I went back to an earlier chapter, where the protagonist is talking to her little sister’s headstone at her gravesite, sort of updating her sister about her life. My character hasn’t been to her sister’s grave in years, so she’s real emotional, with jumbled thoughts, and she’s just tossing out important events. In the dialog, I added that she said, “By the way, Mandy died. But you know that, don’t you?” As if her sister in heaven watches over her and already knew.

The reader will know that because this is a fiction novel, soon enough, they will learn who Mandy is. Since this is a suspenseful mystery, the mention of a death early in the story is just another incident to tweak the reader’s interest and keep them reading. When they get to the part where the protagonist tells a friend she once had a Yorkshire terrier named Mandy, that she loved dearly, the reader then understands the emotions and motivation that make the woman innocently accept the two pit bull puppies.

I say innocently accept because her doing so out of love for the dogs is a pivotal point in the story that should not feel contrived, especially when the plot action requires the dogs be with her and no one else. To make the story credible, I had to foreshadow a reason why the character would so readily accept the pups. Without having inserted that one line of dialog into the scene at the gravesite, the fact that the protagonist later readily accepts the dogs becomes nothing more than a crutch to help solve a crime.

Foreshadowing gives the reader a sense of participation in the story, through anticipation, and is necessary to make the plot action of any story cohesive.

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Nov 11

Brian L. Thompson, ‘The Revelation Gate’ Author, Guests with Mike Angley

MA: Brian L. Thompson, Great Nation Publishing’s President/Sole Proprietor and author of The Lost Testament, is a licensed educator, and former professional journalist.

He showed an early interest in classical literature and the arts, particularly after his poem, “Black Sunday,” received an honorable mention in Gwynedd-Mercy College’s literary contest for high school students in 1993.

A 1994 North Penn High School graduate, he continued his education at Morehouse College in Atlanta. While there, Thompson wrote for the Maroon Tiger newspaper; moving up the ranks from staff writer, to Sports Editor, and finally to Editor-in Chief.

After earning his Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in English in 1998, he transitioned to a staff writer position at Montgomery Newspapers.

In 2000, his second as a professional journalist, he returned to the field of academics at Temple University, earning a Master’s Degree in secondary education in 2001.

Thompson then turned to education at West Charlotte High and Newton High schools respectively while simultaneously researching and writing his first Christian fiction novel, The Lost Testament – a project self-described as a “faith-based tale with everyday characters engaged in a thrilling plot.”

During this time, he also helped edit author Sabra Robinson’s anthology of inspirational stories entitled The Lost Sheep: How I Got (And AM Still Getting) Over the Hump – A Personal Account of God’s Restoration After Doubting His Purpose, the Church, and Human Existence.

He and his family reside in Georgia.

That is one impressive set of credentials, Brian. I am pleased to have you as my guest today. It sounds like you’ve spent a career between writing and teaching.

BLT: Well Mike, I’m a born writer and educator. I’ve been writing since I was 13. Professionally, I’ve taught in public schools. I was also an award-winning journalist for a time at a weekly newspaper. In May of last year, I resigned from teaching English and journalism to become a full-time writer and motivational speaker. 

MA: What brought you to pursue writing novels?

BLT: I’ve always had a passion for writing and reading. As much as I believe I was called by God to do what I’m doing, I love to read an action-packed story with a redemptive message and I just don’t think the market has enough of that right now.

MA: I know what you mean. My own stories feature faith as a major character attribute of my protagonist. Did you find inspiration for your novels in your professional career in academia and writing?

BLT: I find that everything that I’ve done professionally, from teaching in the classroom, to clearing dishes at a restaurant, has added to the flavor of my particular brand of literature. But all of my characters are composite; there’s no one character I modeled after a particular person. In my first novel, Kelley James is a mixture of my deceased maternal grandmother and a few other older relatives.

MA: Tell us about your latest project.

BLT: The Revelation Gate is my most recent novel and is what would probably be called historical Christian fiction. It’s the story of one man’s journey toward becoming the deliverer of his people. There’s a love story, political intrigue, a racial war, and a message of redemption that my literary friend Michelle Sutton called “mind blowing.”

MA: Who’s the protagonist?

BLT: The protagonist, Chimelu, is really representative of what I imagine a flawed hero would be: fearful, unsure, lonely, and confused with these amazing abilities that transcend comprehension. I armed him with those characteristics, and as I put him in these terrible situations, the character sort of wrote himself.

MA: Would you describe him as courageous?

BLT: He’s a hero, so the courage to do what is right in the face of wrong is there. He puts the welfare of others above himself. At the same time, he’s confused because his destiny is kind of cloudy for most of the book. And he falls in love with a girl whose culture and religion put them at odds. He struggles with that.

MA: I assume your hero has a villain or two that he must struggle against?

BLT: There are a couple of “bad guys.” There’s Kgosi I, who is the king in power at the beginning of the book. He is cruel, but he’s nothing like Kgosi II, his son, who murders him for the throne. There’s Kaizari, who is a self-proclaimed emperor who has managed to live 800 years. Zarek is a kind of puppeteer behind it all.

MA: Is there much of your real life in The Revelation Gate?

BLT: There’s always a little bit of me in every book. My experiences in being an indie publisher and DIY publishing advocate factored into it. One of the books major themes is whether or not to sacrifice your wants for the greater good of others.

MA: I understand you have both a new book in the works and a speaking platform venture. Tell us about them.

BLT: I launched a motivational speaking platform in July called C.A.P.E. (Create a Positive Environment) that really has to do with my belief in DIY publishing. I’m compiling a non-fiction book to complement that. I’m also penning my third book, The Anarchists, for release in 2012. It’s the story of how an unemployed structural engineer, a currency trader, an aspiring marine, and a stay-at-home mom try to save two worlds from destruction.

MA: Do you thread your stories together in any way, like sequels or recurring characters?

BLT: I like to think that all of my characters play a part in the same universe. My first book, The Lost Testament, kind of ended on a cliffhanger, and The Revelation Gate will have a sequel or prequel. The Anarchists features ties to both of those books. Anything else, I guess we’ll have to see!

MA: Thanks, Brian! I am pleased you were able to stop by and guest with me today. For my readers, be sure to stop by Brian’s blog for more information about him and his writing:

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Nov 09

A Good Deal — Mary Deal, That Is, Guest-Blogs With Mike Angley Today

I want to extend a hearty welcome to thriller writer Mary Deal, my guest blogger today!  Mary is a native of Walnut Grove in California’s Sacramento River Delta, has lived in England, the Caribbean, and now resides in Kapaa, Hawaii.  (I’m insanely jealous).  She has published three novels: The Tropics: Child of a Storm – Caught in a Rip – Hurricane Secret, an adventure suspense; The Ka, a paranormal Egyptian suspense; and River Bones, a thriller, which was a winner in the Eric Hoffer Book Awards competition.  A sequel is being written.  Down to the Needle, her next thriller, is due out early 2010.  Mary is also a Pushcart Prize nominee.

5-12-09-9c-iUMA:  You’ve got some impressive writing successes and credentials under your belt.  Tell us how you got into the business.

MD:  My writing career spans a lifetime, if you could call journals and diaries part of my writing career.  I have always wanted to write novels and stories and started a novel from old notes when I lived in San Juan, Puerto Rico in the late 1960s.  Due to family illnesses, I returned home to San Francisco and never finished that book.  However, I have decided to rewrite and finish it set in the Hawaiian Islands instead of the Caribbean.

Much later, in 1990, I began to write a new novel.  In 1991 my family and I were rear-ended in a car accident.  I spent three years in therapy and couldn’t work.  Yet, my mind never stopped spinning.  I could sit at my computer.  My physical problems didn’t flare up when I sat still.  I wrote my first novel, and then went on the write another.  The first novel will probably never be published.  I used some of it to flesh out portions of River Bones, though it can be reworked.

Now I’m publishing my fourth novel, another thriller, in early 2010.  Am also writing the sequel to River Bones, my award winning thriller.

MA:  Did you start out writing novels, or do you have other writing experiences that preceded the novels?

MD:  I first began to write short stories and novellas but found I wanted to make the stories longer still.  Novels are a way of expressing a lot of ideas and feelings that a person doesn’t have in their life, not that mine is lacking.  It’s a way of expressing uplifting denouements in situations that I and the readers may not find in life.  Hopefully, the ends of my stories are enlightening, but not for the “bad guys.”  I like to see them get their comeuppances.

MA:  There’s a lot to be said about making bad guys pay…it’s so…satisfying!  Do we find bits and pieces of Mary Deal in your fiction?

MD:  A little of the writer can be found in everything they write, though many would never admit it.  How else could we write about something if not what we already know?  I’ve had a varied work-life over the years, so lots of different experiences.  Then, in the case of my first novel, The Tropics, I used my own near-death escapades at sea and fictionalized them, turning them into dire situations for my characters.  What could have happened to me I created actually happening to my characters.  A writer’s life experiences are fertile ground for writing.

MA:  Indeed!  So tell us about your books.

River BonesMD:  My third novel, River Bones, a thriller, was set in my childhood hometown area of California’s Sacramento River Delta.  My friends there always asked, “Why don’t you set one of your stories here?”  So I did.  Then they asked, “Why did you place a serial killer among us?” To which I reply, “Never mind.  He stays in the book.  Just read it.”  It gets a laugh.  They read the book.

River Bones was a winner in the 2009 Eric Hoffer Book Awards competition.  My readers seem to love the main character, Sara Mason, and sub-character, Esmerelda.  So now I’m writing a sequel, with yet another planned.

MA:  Ah, fickle friends!  Congratulations, by the way, on the award.  Tell us more about Sara Mason.

MD:  I must admit that I used one of my daydreams to flesh out parts of the character of Sara Mason.  I once dreamed of moving back “home” and buying a Victorian along the Sacramento River, which Sara does.  As the story progresses, when she is faced with dilemmas, I approached the situations with my mentality, my morals and ethics, and built those into her character.  That’s what I meant when I said a little of the writer goes into all characters.  How can we not use ourselves in building our stories?  It is only we who write the story according to our own knowledge and emotions, and hopefully, with a distinct knowledge of right and wrong.

MA:  So is Sara one of those perfect protagonists, or did you build some flaws into her character?

MD:  Sara’s strengths are that she left home a weak teenager, fleeing from the drowning deaths of her family.  It takes strength for an eighteen year old to strike out on her own to a place she had never been.  Later, she comes back home as a mature woman with a mind of her own.  She has made a lot of money and decides to help her closest friends and some local charities.  However, she returns also to avenge her history of being down-trodden and poor, and her family’s deaths.  When she realizes nothing can change the past, we see a great “character arc.”  In the end, dealing with being stalked by a serial killer brings her face to face with both her strengths and weaknesses.

MA:  I understand you have a particularly nasty psychopath in the story.  Tell us about the nemesis.

MD: That, of course, would be the illusive psychopathic serial killer.  Immediately upon returning to the Delta, Sara realizes she is being stalked.  The reader learns why she’s the target as the story progresses.  The original manuscript was read by a clinical psychologist to make sure I got the makeup of the killer correct.  She said, “She [the author] accurately portrays the inner workings of a mind troubled by acute pathology.”

The US Review of Books review said the suspense builds to a “riveting ending.”

MA:  Those are some nice kudos.  What’s the backstory to the novel’s setting?

MD:  This book is set in my childhood hometown area.  I am sure the way I visualized some of the area, some of the people I used to know, the culture, and what I missed when living there are included in the life that Sara attempts to reclaim.

MA:  You mentioned a sequel to the book…can you give us some hints about the next one?

MD:  A sequel to River Bones is already being written.  However, I already had another novel completed and in queue for publication.  “Down to the Needle” is another thriller and due out very early 2010.  My pre-readers said that when doing book signings, for anyone who buys, I should pass out little packages of tissues.  Award winning thriller author, Brian Porter, said this is a “heart wrenching mystery that leads you down a very crooked road.”

MA:  So will the sequel be the end of Sara Mason as a character in your stories, or will you find a way to widget her in to future novels?

MD:  I have other novels in rough notes and outline form.  I had already created some of the character names for those.  Now that I’m writing a couple of sequels to River Bones, those novels in rough note form can be converted so that Sara Mason and other characters from River Bones take over the plots.  After “Down to the Needle,” all my books will probably be labeled “A Sara Mason mystery.”

MA:  I like the idea of branding a mystery series like that.  My publisher is going to do the same for my protagonist, Patrick S. O’Donnell.  Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

MD:  Readers can learn much more about me and how I write on my Web site.  I provide information right there on site to help them get started writing, or to help them continue.  I add new articles from time to time and each deal with a specific area of writing with which I’ve found writers struggle with the most.  The advice covers all aspects of writing from short stories to novels to poetry to business writing and more.

MA:  I want to thank Mary Deal for swinging by the Child Finder Trilogy website today to chat with us about her writing career and her stories.  Learn more about Mary, read short stories, novel excerpts, writing tips and see video book trailers on her web site:

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Nov 04

Kenneth Weene Visits with Mike Angley

MA: A New Englander by upbringing and inclination, Kenneth Weene is a teacher, psychologist, and pastoral counselor by education. Ken’s short stories and poetry have appeared in numerous publications including Sol Spirits, Palo Verde Pages, Vox Poetica Clutching at Straws, Legendary, Sex and Murder Magazine, The New Flesh Magazine, The Santa Fe Literary Review, Daily Flashes of Erotica Quarterly, Bewildering Stories and A Word With You Press.

Ken’s novels, Widow’s Walk and Memoirs From the Asylum are published by All Things That Matter Press.

Welcome, Ken. Tell us more about your background. I’m interested in how being a psychologist and a pastoral counselor have helped shape your writing.

KW: I’m a psychologist by training and worked in that field for years. I’m also an ordained minister. You will find echos of both psychology and ministry in my novels, but I guess that’s obvious when you see Memoirs From the Asylum as a title or the cover of Widow’s Walk.

MA: Have you always wanted to write novels?

KW: I always wanted to write. Retirement has given me the opportunity to pursue that goal. I started with and continue a combination of poetry, short fiction, novels, and even some non-fiction. However, novels are especially fulfilling because they allow me to create a world and explore its truth.

MA: With at least two of your titles finding their inspiration in your career, did you base any characters in them from people you’ve met or worked with professionally?

KW: Clearly Memoirs From the Asylum is rooted in my professional career and is set in the state hospital in which I did part of my training. However, the characters are more drawn from my life than my professional contacts. I know that may sound a bit strange, but there it is. I took the people from my life (including myself) and wrote them large.

Widow’s Walk is actually more connected to my professional experience. The idea came from a family with which I worked. People sometimes ask me which of the characters in Widow’s Walk is based on me; they always think they know the answer. Their guess Arnie Berger, the protagonists love interest, a college professor. Not so. The home health aide, Jem, is my alter ego in this book.

MA: Are your stories character driven or plot driven?

KW: I write literary fiction for adults. Both books focus on language and character more than plot. That is not to say they lack plot, only that I start with the love of words and of people in their creation. I do have another novel ready to come out; it’s a conspiracy novel and much more plot driven.

MA: Tell us about your protagonist(s).

KW: In Memoirs From the Asylum there are three protagonists, an unnamed narrator, a catatonic schizophrenic (Marilyn), and a psychiatric resident (Buford). The narrator and the resident are both drawn from my own character. Their stories draw in different ways on my own biography. I started the book with the narrator, who is tormented – among other things – by his cousin’s suicide. My cousin, his death. The family madness is my family’s. Buford’s connection to me is perhaps simpler to understand: me as therapist. One major difference: my wife and I are still very much in love, and she is extremely supportive.

Marilyn is drawn from some strange place that has no real world corollary. I imagined her full cloth from my sense of what catatonic schizophrenia must be like. A couple of people who have experienced psychotic breaks tell me I did it quite well.

MA: So what’s next? I assume with your extensive writing credentials that you have something planned.

KW: I have two other novels finished. One is the conspiracy novel I mentioned above. The other is a set of interconnected short stories based on the characters who make their home in a bar in Albuquerque. I should mention that this book, Tales From the Dew Drop Inne: Because there’s one in every town is set as far from my personal experience as I could get.

I have another novel under way. Set in New England and very meditative in form except for the science fiction inserts from the protagonist’s writing career. I hope to finish this one at The Writers’ Colony, where I will be spending a three week residence this fall.

MA: Thanks, Ken! I appreciate you stopping by. I want to point my readers to your website where they can learn more about you and your stories:

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