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. Read More
Tag Archives: home
MA: I’m joined today by author Shelley Workinger. Shelley was born in Maine, educated in New Orleans, currently resides in New Jersey, and considers all of them home. She’s here to talk about her latest release, Settling. She has a few websites I want to recommend my readers check out where you can discover more about her and her novel series.
What did you do before jumping into the world of writing?
SW: I graduated magna cum laude from Loyola double-majoring in English and Sociology – majors I initially chose to avoid math, which I detested and thankfully placed out of. However, I ended up running a small real estate office and doing all of the accounting – a job I actually loved. What I love even more is how many people think they know everything about the world, when most of us don’t even know our own selves.
MA: With a degree in English, I imagine you had a burning passion to write someday…was this a path you set out to be on some day?
SW: I would never have chosen this path! For me, writing is all-consuming; I can’t sleep, I lose interest in eating, and I can’t quiet my mind enough to ever relax. But the idea behind the “Solid” series was one I couldn’t let go of, and that, combined with my concern that early teens become so overwhelmed with required reading that many lose the love of leisure entirely, made me sit down and expand my idea into a fun, fast read that would be approachable for reluctant readers.
*In choosing to write to the tween age group, I also committed to keeping “Solid” clean – i.e., no drugs, cursing, sex, or gratuitous violence – and I’ve been commended by sites like Reading Teen and Litland for doing so.
MA: What’s your elevator pitch?
SW: The briefest synopsis is: Teens who discover they were secretly genetically altered before birth are brought together at a classified site where they forge new friendships, find love, develop “super-abilities,” and even unearth a conspiracy.
Many readers have called it an “X-men” for girls, focusing more on the relationships than the superpowers.
MA: Probably a good thing you didn’t call it “X-Girls,” then! How did you go about creating your characters?
SW: I began with a tagline – What if you discovered you were the product of a secret government experiment? – and then looked at my premise through the eyes of a 17-year-old girl to create what I felt would be a natural reaction/path.
The second layer to developing Clio’s character was my concern for her actual character values; as a mother of small children and a product of American society, I had a few “requirements” for a female character I’d introduce to young readers:
1. She had to eat real food. (No dieting, unhealthy body issues.)
2. Her life would not revolve a boy. (There is a romantic interest, but Clio can function without him.)
3. She *gasp* had to have a great relationship with her mother. (Specifically, a mutual respect.)
MA: Those seem like healthy traits, so what are Clio’s strengths and weaknesses?
SW: I believe her biggest strength is her weakness – that she is not worldly and experienced, so her actions and reactions are real and relatable. She makes mistakes, she sometimes trusts too easily, but she learns from them.
MA: And does she have to do battle with any particular bad guys or girls?
SW: There isn’t one antagonist per se; it’s really the unknown that challenges the characters. They’re trying to find answers without even knowing where to begin; the revelation of the experiment done on them before birth not only throws their entire pasts into question, but they can no longer even be sure of their own bodies. There are also “bad guys,” but the self-discovery is the bigger hurdle in book one. (There’s a killer on campus in book two, but that has not been released yet.)
MA: I understand you were a military brat (raising three of my own!). Did that experience inform your writing?
SW: My father was a career Army officer, but not in the traditional sense – we never moved. I absolutely romanticized the life of the constantly-moving Army brat since I didn’t get to experience it, so my characters are “living the dream” in that sense.
MA: So what’s next?
SW: I have two very different ideas (from “Solid” and from each other) – a futuristic dystopian YA novel and a football-related horror for adults – but I can’t put any time into those until “Solid” is complete.
MA: I am currently waiting for the release of my third novel, Child Finder: Revelation, so I know what its’ like to write a series. I assume many of your characters migrate from book to book?
SW: Clio and her circle are the whole basis for the “Solid” series, so all of the books will revolve around them. As their “world” continues to grow, new people do come in and/or take on larger roles – book two brings in four new characters, and book three will add at least that many more. I also initially only planned this to be a trilogy, but as I work through book three, I’m starting to think I may have to write a prequel to tie up some loose ends. I’ve also just decided to re-release a slightly-extended version of “Solid” at the same time “Settling” comes out, so I’m working furiously to put that together!
MA: It sounds like you are busy – a good thing to be! Thanks for stopping by to visit with me today and for telling us all about your stories.
SW: Thank you so much for your interest in “Solid” and giving me the opportunity to speak with your blog followers; I know we all have dozens of books on our TBR lists and I am so appreciative for your consideration of mine!
MA: I am pleased to welcome today’s guest, Celia Andriello. Celia is definitely one of the more colorful authors to guest-blog with me. I will let her tell us more about her.
CA: All of my novels are based on my life experiences be it via my roots in parental abuse beyond anyone’s imagination, teaching publically and privately, building creative businesses, trafficking in various products for the benefit of mankind, providing my gift of motivational speeches to various environmental groups and “rights” movements, travel, building the first dream of microcomputers, or just sharing a war with my endearing Viet Nam survivors. Throughout my journey I have been overwhelmed with the inconsistencies of what is said and what is done. My novels are like any fiction; woven into the thread of truth.
MA: That’s quite a resume! Tell us how you began writing.
CA: It all began with “Betty Butterfly.” (Don’t laugh. It’s all true.) It was a second grade assignment that my teacher sliced and diced with her red pen. Fortunately the winds transported the prose into another teacher’s custody and I was immediately proclaimed “a singular creative writer.” I wasn’t sure what it meant, but her smile indicated that it was certainly better than the assassinating red pen.
One must grow-up, sort of, and come face-to-face with what it was that created this “gift for fiction.” There is nothing like two questionable parents to stimulate the best in their children. Therapy was my greatest teacher.
MA: Why novels?
CA: I stick to the novel format to keep from being sued. It’s as simple as that.
MA: Um, okay.
CA: All of my characters have a thread of real character in them. I have known a multitude and revere them through fiction.
MA: What genre do your write?
CA: This has been a devilish question for I really don’t know which to choose. For the sake of my sanity I have often fallen back on general fiction; but it’s more than that. Hear the Calliope: A sentimental Journey on the Earth Ride (circa 1950 – 1986) lays the foundation of betrayal; family and government, for the latter is a parental construct. Within wounds are exposed and delved into in order for the reader to comprehend the distortions in the adult character after the onslaught(s). At the same time humor is woven into the gore in order to repair the damages for the heroes to develop their own personal “more perfect union with the support of a very unique circle of friends. At the same time all previous dogma is discarded; there is no religion, there is no ethnicity, there is only human.
MA: Tell us about your heroine.
CA: Marinda is a young lady who is neither black nor white, nor does she know her ethnic background. Although she was raised Roman Catholic, she has come to understand that the teachings that she tried desperately to embrace as a child never made much sense to her even though she can recite the verse. Even her name is a misnomer. In order to restructure the world to fit her and her companions’ needs she had to be a compilation of the unknown.
Her weakness is her self-doubt created at home through an abusive life style of her parents and supported by her priest. Through her torturous childhood she has come to believe that she is incapable of being loved because she deserves only pain.
On the other hand her strength is her intelligence that takes her through med studies in conjunction with her psychiatric degree. Through her wisdom she is able to re-connect all that meets because she is able to admit that she’s struggling through her traumas as well and can share with them what she’s learned from being the innocent dupe. Likewise her soul mate, Dale, a survivor of friendly fire learns and enhances her methods with his spiritual knowledge.
Within me is housed the stories of the universe for my experiences have fanned out to touch all directions. It is impossible for me to stop writing. I have tried to not avail. I recently finished KILLER: Is Suicide Painless?
MA: Thanks, Celia for that interesting interview. Folks, visit Celia’s blog for more information about her and her writing: http://hubpages.com/hub/HAUDENOSAUNEE-my-faithful-Indian-companion
MA: Julie Achterhoff was born in Michigan, but brought up mostly in the big city of San Francisco and a small island in the Gulf of Mexico. Her imagination was sparked by experiencing these different ways of life. She grew up reading very adult horror, mystery, and thriller novels passed to her by her mother. When reading she would get as excited about the writing of the books as the reading. She ended up becoming a home birth midwife with five children of her own. Still, with every book she read there was that gnawing urge to write something of her own.
Julie – welcome BACK! This is your third visit to my blog, and while I’ve had a few authors guest with me twice, you are the first with a triple visit.
My readers can go back and read the original posts Julie did with me, first on January 1, 2010, and then again on September 10, 2010.
Please remind my readers what you did before beginning your writing journey.
JA: I was a midwife raising a family for about 17 years, but when the oldest got big and responsible enough to watch the younger ones I started taking a couple classes a week at the local college. Of course I picked writing and English classes. I didn’t even dare hope to actually write anything. It was this deep, dark secret I kept even from myself! I started getting addicted when teachers and other students told me what they liked about my writing. That gave me more confidence. I suddenly realized the authors of every book I’d ever read were just regular people like me who probably started out not knowing if they could write. So I allowed my deeply buried creativity out and gave it full rein.
MA: I know you didn’t start writing novels right away, but you actually began with plays, is that right?
JA: My first major effort after some short stories and essays was actually a three-act play called Angel in the House. I really got excited about seeing my work performed. I eventually hoped against hope that I could work in the movie industry. But the structure used in plays and screenplays was very stilting for me. I had to pay so much attention to form that I felt it took away from the writing. I enjoyed just writing away without a care like I could with the short stories I’d written. I just couldn’t imagine putting enough words down to make up a whole darned book. But I decided to give it a try. I figured if others could do it, so could I.
MA: So how many books are you up to at this point?
JA: I’ve now written four books. I still can’t believe it, but I swear it’s true. I just kept writing and writing, and somehow the word count kept climbing until finally it was the end and I had a whole book in my hands. The first was Quantum Earth. It’s about a team of metaphysical scientists racing to find out why we’re having more natural disasters of a higher degree leading up to the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012, and if our own human thoughts are actually creating this reality. Deadly Lucidity is a thriller about a woman trapped in her nightmares and dreams. Then she meets someone who tries to help her find a way out of her own mind. He seems to be another part of her imagination, but he is also so real. Native Vengeance is a novella about a woman who meets a friend on the internet and eventually goes to visit her during the town’s main event of the year. Of course, this annual “event” isn’t what it seems. The town has an old Indian curse on it because of something that happened a long time ago. The new friend needs her so she can escape the evil that occurs each year to punish the residents of the town.
Then there’s my latest book, Earthwalker- Earth can be Hell for a Vampire. I’ve always loved vampires the most of any of the beasts around. Maybe that’s why it took me this long to write my own kind of story about them. Plus, I hate doing anything that’s “in.” So I figured I’d have to write the book so different and far from the main crowd that it would hardly resemble any vampire story from the past. I think I achieved this. Earthwalker is a book about a vampire. And there is a passionate love story. But from there on out it is different in almost every way from any past works of its kind. I think I was successful in finding a fresh new way of presenting it. It’s all in the writing, though, anyway, isn’t it? I mean if you like my writing, you’ll definitely like this book. It barely gives the reader a moment to take a breath. I write tight and lean. There’s not a lot of flowery prose or descriptive overload in my stuff. I think you learn a lot about yourself and your style of writing with each new attempt. I would call Earthwalker my dissertation.
MA: Are you the kind of writer who starts with a hero and then builds the story, or do you start with a plot and develop the right man or woman to fill the need?
JA: Whenever I begin writing a book I already have a pretty good idea of who the protagonist is. I have the framework in my mind and then let them develop and grow on the page. I say “let” them because that’s how it seems to happen. They become alive to me. I think that’s how I’m able to write a whole book at all. The characters kind of take over and tell me what could possibly happen to them that would be thrilling and exciting, but also believable to the reader.
MA: Can you give us an idea of one of your heroes or heroines?
JA: In Earthwalker, for example, Willa is the so-called heroine. In the beginning of the story she is pretty weak. She’s recently gone through some tough life situations and is worn out emotionally. But she’s basically a strong young woman with emotional reserves that she calls on from the beginning. She’s good at dealing with emergency situations, it doesn’t take much for her to catch on when something outside her past experience happens, and she has the capacity to be courageous if need be. She is also willing to sacrifice herself for a greater good. As most of us do, though, she tends to think of herself first. She does sense this about herself and ends up putting herself last. With Willa, it’s like she moves ahead two steps then one step back and so on.
MA: Where do you draw from to create your “bad guys?” I’m always intrigued by antagonists in supernatural stories.
JA: I’ve had pretty intense nightmares since I was very young, so I’ve got plenty of nasty people in my head. I actually tone them down for my books so they’re not totally evil. That would be boring. You’re always going to enjoy a story more when you can somehow relate to the bad guy/gal. It’s like your dirty little secret. It brings the reader in so they feel closer to the characters.
MA: I take it you’ve not had any real-life encounters with vampires or other such creatures, or have you (grinning)?
JA: Not at all. I like making it all up from scratch. You will probably never see a non-fiction book come out of me. The further away from reality the better. My writing is my escape. It takes me far away from this world. And that’s the way I like it!
MA: Okay, so four works of fiction down…how many more to go? Where are you headed in the near future?
JA: Just recently I had a very long and real feeling dream that inspired me to write another book. It’s been months since I’ve written anything, so it’s great to know I haven’t dried up in the writing department. The next one’s about a reporter out to research the latest drug craze. And boy is it a doozy! What a crazy dream that one was.
MA: I can only imagine! I’ve had a few intense dream in my life, so I can relate. Will your allow any characters from past books to tag along in future stories?
JA: I have been asked by several readers if there will be a follow-up to Quantum Earth. Unfortunately, it’s kind of a time-bound novel in that it revolves around a particular time, the year 2012. But I guess it all depends on what actually does happen in 2012 to tell you the truth. Maybe these characters will have more to say and do at that point. Who knows?
MA: Let’s hope the Mayan “prophecy” turns out to be a whole lot of nothin’! After all, the Mayans simply stopped counting days, without actually saying what would happen beyond the calendar. So much about that calendar is super-hyped. Any parting thoughts?
JA: I would just like to encourage anyone who has a desire to write not to make excuses or let your inner critic stop you from doing something that could bring you a lot of joy. Don’t let anything stop you. And don’t do it for the money or fame. Chances are that won’t happen. You just have to love it. And then just do it. Get those words down on that page! You’ve got nothing to lose and so much to gain. If you do it this way it’s gonna show in your writing. Then you’ll have something to be proud of.
MA: Thanks again, Julie, for coming back. I want to encourage my readers to check out Julie’s blog (http://earthwalker.tk) and her books’ website (http://julieachterhoff.tk).
MA: Help me welcome my guest today, Linn B. Halton. Linn lives with her husband Lawrence and Tiggs (a black and white cat with attitude) in Nailsworth. Linn describes Nailsworth as a lovely part of the UK referred to as ‘The Cotswolds’. It’s well known for gentle hillsides (Wolds) and sleepy English villages. She has two sons and three grandchildren, whom she adores. So what did you do before becoming an author?
LH: For twenty years I was involved in financial accounting, specialising in forecasting and budgeting. A change in lifestyle in 2004 saw both my husband and I giving up our careers to spend a couple of years renovating and extending two old cottages and a hunting lodge. We both loved being hands-on and taking on a large share of the work ourselves. We both took part-time jobs and I worked for a local Estate Agent (Realtor) showing people around properties. However, my hobby of designing interiors turned into a new career, when I was asked to furnish a newly built Show Home for a local property developer. At the end of 2008 I became very worried about my mother’s health and gave up work to spend time with her. Sadly she passed away in March 2009, which was when I decided to write full-time.
MA: What brought you to novel-length fiction?
LH: I began writing poetry at the age of eleven and then found myself watching ‘The Man From Uncle’, I would write my own little ‘episodes’. As an adult I found juggling family life, a career and our hobby of buying homes that needed renovation work, meant that writing had to be put to one side. I continued to write poetry for fun and kept a small journal, where I recorded ideas ready for when I reached that time in my life, when I could sit down and write ‘a novel’. As a birthday present to myself five years ago, I gave up watching TV each evening and wrote my first manuscript – just to see if I could write something from start to finish. It made me realize that when the time came I was ready, but I had no idea when exactly that would be. I began writing immediately after my mother’s death, as a way of giving my mind something positive to focus on, during those difficult early months. It was at that point that I decided that fate had intervened and given me the opportunity I had been seeking for so long. I realised that many of the ‘ideas’ in my journal would give rise to novel-length stories, so I began bringing them to life!
MA: I’m sorry about your mother, and while each of us finds inspiration in different ways, I think you turned your sadness into something positive, empowering. Tell us about your novel.
LH: My debut novel ‘Touched By The Light’ was released in February 2011, and this was the first novel I wrote shortly after my mother’s death. At the time I felt a strong psychic link to spirits around me. The opening sequence, where a young woman named Mya is ill in hospital and ‘follows the light’, was based on a near-death experience that had happened to my father many years before. At the time I was at his side, holding his hand and he had described to me in detail what was happening to him, as he battled to stay alive following a serious cancer operation. I believe it was his incredibly strong willpower that pulled him through that night, but what was amazing was that afterwards he no longer feared death. He still had a lot of living to do, but he’d felt the ‘welcome’ waiting for him on the other side. Whilst he was ‘out of his body’ he had also spoken to his mother, who was waiting on the other side of, what he described as, a bridge that disappeared into a bright light. I went on to write another three manuscripts in 2009/2010 and found that I had my genre – I wanted to write about psychic or astrological connections, and true-life love and relationships. So I would describe my genre as contemporary women’s fiction with a psychic or astrological theme. However, I will shortly be releasing on Kindle an account of some of my psychic experiences entitled ‘Being A Sceptic Is Oh So Easy’. Some of the things I have personally witnessed, and that have convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is life after death, may strike a chord with those who have lost loved ones, or had similar experiences. For me it’s very much about ‘seeing is believing’ and it is now a part of my daily life, so it is only natural that it should feature quite prominently in my novels.
MA: What made you choose to write ‘Touched By The Light’ through the eyes of five of the main characters?
LH: This is a story that has a lot of twists and turns, but also explores the way the ‘baggage’ we all carry around with us, can make our relationships more complicated than they need to be. It’s often as much about what we leave unsaid, as what we decide to share. Working on two different ‘planes’, and remembering that Mya is rather isolated when she moves on and has little control over when she is pulled into other people’s lives, was fascinating to write. To then be able to expand upon her limited perception of what was happening, and see it from several other different viewpoints, helped me steer the reader through the plot in a meaningful way. It’s a feel-good story about psychic connections between people on different levels of existence, and the two worlds become curiously entwined. Mya suddenly finds herself involved in the lives of Laurel and Dan, a young couple she didn’t know in this life and who seem to be on the verge of breaking up. She can only assume she is supposed to help them, but her efforts are often misguided, cause amusement or result in things getting broken. It’s all about life and love, the things that hold us back; the mistakes we make and the things we don’t say, but should. But when fate is involved anything can happen, although there are no guarantees that even soul mates can find their way through. The journey they take is filled with all the emotions life has to offer and an insight into Mya’s new reality beyond ‘the light’.
MA: My Child Finder Trilogy features a psychic protagonist, but I must confess I cannot claim to have had any real-life experiences with the paranormal. Were any of the psychic experiences in your story based on real life incidents?
LH: Yes, my personal experiences do inform the way I describe psychic connections. I’ve had so many experiences over the years and fortunately most of them have been good ones. Some have been connected to properties, but many others are simply loved ones who have passed on and are around me, supporting me and giving me guidance. On the rare occasion I have been in the presence of a ‘bad’ vibe, I’ve turned around and run away as fast as my legs would allow me to! In ‘Being A Psychic Is Oh So Easy’ I explain why it took me so long to acknowledge something that had been proven to me time and time again. I’m afraid the short answer is, that being a sceptic means you don’t have anything to explain or prove; however there came a point in my life where my husband and I both started to see ‘things’ at the same time. That’s not something you can easily explain away, you run out of excuses and that was the truly scary part – acceptance!
MA: What other projects do you have planned for the future?
I have three manuscripts that are stand alone stories, one involving astrology and the other two psychic connections, but handled in very different ways. I hope to have these published in 2011/2012 and further information can be found on my website http://linnbhalton.co.uk.
At some point I would like to write a sequel to ‘Touched By The Light’, as it would be fun to take the main characters into the next phase of their lives. The wonderful thing about having help ‘from the other side’, is that I never know what is going to pop into my head next. Every time I have a new psychic ‘experience’ I find myself weaving it into a storyline and the past year has been increasingly active. My personal interest in the subject of life after death and the research I have carried out for some of the stories, seems to be opening me up to an even wider spectrum of experiences. I have to say that I think the projects pick me, and not the other way around!
MA: Linn, thanks for stopping by today for a visit. I’d love for my readers to visit your website to learn more about you and your books.
MA: Today I am pleased to interview Brian Bianco, author of Dressed for a Kill. Brian began writing in 2000, and he’s presently working on books two and three. He says they are not part of any trilogy, and they not in the same genre. Brian spent 20 years is in the insurance industry, but he’s not visited it again, for which he is grateful! Brian has lived in Vancouver and surrounding communities all his life.
So, Brian, tell us why you made the transition from insurance to writing.
BB: Since the late nineties, I had been itching to do something else with my life, rather than continue on in the insurance field, having worked for some of the biggest brokerage firms in the world. It was no longer gratifying. I’ve always considered myself to be creative by nature, drawing (representation under ‘author’ on my website) being a part of that creativity when I was younger but not so much younger. On my website under the link ‘inspiration’ you will find the true reason behind me deciding that I wanted to write. The story is true even if it sounds a little corny.
MA: Why novels? Why not Insurance for Dummies (chuckling)?
BB: Writing novels was something I thought I could do and be good at it. After writing my first novel, if I thought it wasn’t good enough, the book, along with me would never have seen the light of day. I liked the challenge that writing presented to me personally—to be able to create something out of nothing other than what we as writers can think of and then somehow put it all together. Wow!
MA: What is Dressed for a Kill all about?
BB: My story revolves around a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, who aside from working on the biggest story of his life, is also confronted with problems at home. The following is what can be found on the back cover:
To Chicago Trib reporter Miles Fischer, it was just another rape and murder trial, until the two convicted felons are found dead in the muddy parking lot of a rundown bar just days after their surprising acquittal. His curiosity turns to suspicion after searching the archives where he discovers two more cases similar to the one in Tweeksbury. Is it a coincidence? Miles doesn’t think so. In fact, he believes he knows who the killer is after a chance encounter. Miles draws the ire of the FBI and becomes tight-lipped when confronted to disclose what he knows after publishing an article connecting all three. He wants the story and the glory that goes with it, and believes he is the only one who can identify the killer. He sets his sights on Seattle and creates a game of cat-and-mouse with the FBI and an ex-cop turned private investigator, who is after the same thing but for different reasons. What he and the private investigator don’t realize is just how deadly this game is about to become.
MA: That sounds exciting! So did you mold any characters from people you knew in real life, perhaps from your years in the insurance biz?
BB: I actually used some of the characteristics from me personally and transferred them over to the main character, Miles Fischer. I’ve had one person who reviewed the book call him, “a character you love to hate”, which took me aback somewhat, believing Miles is a good guy. I’ve had others who read the book say they loved the character, Miles Fischer, but then again, the book is really not about me. It’s about the fictional character, Miles Fischer. I would say the main character is both of these, ‘love him’ or ‘hate him’.
MA: Hmmm, so a protagonist who may not or may not be so likeable…tell us more about his personality.
BB: His strengths are his beliefs in the truth and finding out what those truths are, no matter what the cost, even though at times he skirts the truth in order to get what he wants. I would also have to say he’s not one to give up, again, no matter what the cost may be to both his family and his own personal safety. He’s opinionated (but aren’t we all?) and it’s those opinions (beliefs) that keep him going while around him, his marriage falls apart. He sees things as black and white, no grey areas, so I would say this trait can be construed as both positive and/or negative.
His weaknesses are he can be drawn to a pretty face (some called him a ‘womanizer’) that can lead him into making the wrong decisions to his own detriment. He can also be sarcastic to a fault when the situation suits him. He hates rules when they tie his hands. He thinks highly of himself, but he’s not as smart as he thinks he is, alas, the final chapters in the book which expose his failings with regard to his pursuit of the killer.
MA: Do you also have an antagonist who is as likeable/unlikeable as Miles?
BB: On the question of an antagonist, I would have to say it could be and probably is more than one. Bruno Carboni, the PI, is certainly the main one, since both he and Fischer are after the same thing. Agent Donlon is also an antagonist, since Fischer has no regard for the FBI as he pursues the killer with Donlon on his back. His wife, Erin, could also be considered in the same mode since she is against him in his pursuit of the story, wanting him to give it to someone else so that he can be at home with her while she delivers their first child. The problems going on in the marriage between Miles and Erin were taken from real-life. Mine to be exact.
MA: You told me you are working on two new projects. Tell us about them.
BB: Presently I’m working on two books; both are completely different from my first novel. One is written in the first person, my first attempt at what I think is harder to write. Therein lies the challenge.
MA: Thanks, Brian, for swinging by and chatting about your novel, Dressed for a Kill. To my readers, please stop by Brian’s website for more information: http://www.brianbianco.ca
Sometimes in our lives tragedy strikes in ways we could never contemplate in advance. The terrible news we read about everyday always seems to be about someone else. When similar events happen to us, we are always caught off-guard, never prepared, and we struggle to make sense of it.
God has His plans. We all know that, and we cherish Him when His works seem to fit our plans. When the unthinkable happens, we are always left to wonder where God was at the time. Was He looking the other way? Did He not see evil coming and try to stop it? We may never know the answers to these questions, but we must rely upon our faith to sustain us.
I spent a career in the United States Air Force as a criminal investigator, and while I saw plenty of tragic things, none ever came too close to home. I was always affected by the cases I worked, and I knew with each sad story I investigated, that I would never be the same. Every victim of every crime has had a place in my heart. My inspiration for writing fiction comes from them. But they were all people I never knew in their lifetimes. Our introductions came with terrible news.
One of my friends from my Air Force days, Kevin Kersh, is going through a tough time. For two years, he and his family have been seeking answers to their daughter’s disappearance. Nadia Kersh disappeared on November 3, 2008 in Alabama. Kevin and his family have been searching for her since, with few clues to guide them. She left behind her son, Kevin’s grandson.
While Nadia has never been found, a person in Alabama will stand trial soon for her murder. That is important, but not nearly as important as finding Nadia and bringing her home. The Kersh’s have not given up their search. What parent could? I hope that by writing about their story, someone with information about Nadia’s whereabouts will come forward and do the right thing. You can learn more about Nadia and her family’s determination to find her here: Help Find Nadia.
I urge my readers to visit the Kersh’s website and help out if you can. If anyone has information about Nadia’s disappearance, now is the time to speak up. Thank you.
MA: My guest today is Steven Jay Griffel. Steven was born in the Bronx, 1952. He tells me he, “met a beautiful blue-eyed art student in my junior year at Queens College (BA, Creative Writing, 1973) and married her in 1976. We’re still holding hands.” Steven studied American Literature at Fordham University, and he and his wife have two beautiful daughters, Sarah and Julia, grown and on their own. He spent his professional life in publishing, and he still works as a publishing consultant, though most of his time is now spent writing novels and talking about them. Steven is a frequent speaker and guest lecturer and especially enjoys leading book club discussions about his novel, Forty Years Later.
You told me you thought writing was a part of your DNA. How did you describe that, again?
SJG: I’m a born storyteller: sired by a father who never met a fact he couldn’t spin into fancy, and by a mother whose bitchin’ neuroses could make a grudge match of any relationship. From my father I learned there is no division between truth and fancy, just a wonderful gray area where imagination and ego could thrive. From my mother I inherited a genius for nursing regrets and grudges, so I’m never at a loss for reasons to rant.
I was raised on the colorful streets of the Bronx, where home plate was a manhole cover; where there was a pizzeria and deli on every other block; where there were always enough kids for a ball game; where it was okay to be Jewish, so long as you didn’t piss off those who weren’t.
MA: Well, that’s a colorful life! How did you decide to write novels? Was it always something you longed to do?
SJG: I wasn’t cut out to be a scientist or movie star or athlete. But I always had lots to say—and a talent for saying it well. In college I considered a career in journalism—until I learned I’d have to stick to the facts. I like facts, but I much prefer the novelist’s god-like sense of entitlement. As a novelist I decide the facts. I decide who rises, who falls. If I need a perfect line I create it, rather than relying on interviews and research for my gold. Thus I prefer fiction, where the music and meaning of words have primacy over facts. . . . I just remembered a pair of wonderfully relevant quotes:
“Journalism is literature in a hurry.” –Matthew Arnold
“Literature is news that stays news.” –Ezra Pound
I like to think that my writing is meant for the long haul.
MA: Well said! So tell us about Forty Years Later.
SJG: A middle-aged man (smart, handsome, happy, successful) has a single, gnawing regret: a lost opportunity to make history. He has kept the regret alive for forty years, continually picking at the scab of its memory. A coincidence (Fate, if you believe in such things) reunites this man with a former teen sweetheart who is very much a part of his regret. The man is married with children, the woman is famously and formerly gay, and their reunion results in the kind of sparks that presage trouble. It is a tale of music, movies, murder—and madness too. It is also a story of love and redemption—except for those who are probably going to Hell.
MA: Oh my! So had did you develop your protagonist’s character? Sounds like there may be a little of you in him…
SJG: Until recently, I too had a gnawing, life-long regret. Like a cancer that does not metastasize, it was annoying but not life-threatening. A complicated coincidence reconnected me with someone I hadn’t seen in forty years: a successful screenwriter who is best known for writing about the subject that framed my regret: Woodstock. We met and hit it off—big time. Of course, I was happily married with children and wouldn’t think of getting involved with another woman—but I have a protagonist; an alter-ego; a doppelganger, I suppose, and this fellow (named David Grossman) has been known to explore roads I dare not travel myself.
MA: So, what are David’s strengths and weaknesses?
SJG: Like many people, the novel’s protagonist is a miracle of contradictions. He is clear-seeing despite his blind spots; confident when not suffering from crises of self-esteem. He is a man who misplaces loyalties and manufactures jealousies. He loves and is loved but sometimes loses his way. All of which is to say, he’s flawed enough to get himself into a royal pickle—and brave enough to see his way out.
MA: What about an antagonist … is there a unique “bad guy” or a recurring nemesis of any kind?
SJG: There is a brilliant, formerly famous lesbian screenwriter with a blind lover and hip-hop son, who becomes a vengeful alcoholic with a particular fondness for dangerously sharp objects. Unique enough?
MA: (Smiling) Okay, so did any of your real-life experiences factor into the plot at all?
SJG: I also nurtured a life-long regret tied to someone I had not seen in forty years. We were reunited. Sparks flew. . . . Note: The real-life tale is private and tame and not worth the telling in this space. However, the novel it inspired is rip-roarin’. But it is not a story for the faint of heart or for those of unbending scruples. It is tale signifying: One is never too old to change; Beware what you wish for; There is no greater grace than tried and true love.
MA: Excellent! So what’s next for you?
SJG: I am working on a new novel called The Ex-Convert. It is, loosely speaking, a sequel to Forty Years Later. Though I am now in the enviable position of having a publisher waiting for my next book, I have no guarantee of publication. My publisher believes I hit a home run with Forty Years Later and demands I hit another one with The Ex-Convert. Batter up!
MA: An enviable position to be in…so will any characters from Forty Years Later migrate over?
SJG: David Grossman is the protagonist in each of my novels, and I haven’t sworn off him yet. Having said that, he is not quite the same character in each book. His voice and sensibility are pretty consistent, but his circumstances vary: he has a wife or not; he has a family or not; he lives in New York, or not, etc. Expect to see him again in the Ex-Convert.
MA: How do readers get a copy of your book?
SJG: Forty Years Later is available as an e-book on Amazon.com. The download is incredibly fast and easy. And no special reading device is required. Most people enjoy Forty Years Later on their computer, PC or Mac. But with each passing day more and more people are using e-readers (like the Kindle) or tablets (like the iPad) or screen phones like the Android, Blackberry, or iPhone. In fact, one of my first readers sent me the following text message from his iPhone: “Reading Forty Years later at 40,000 feet—and loving it!” I also encourage readers to friend me on Facebook and share their thoughts. It’s a digital dawn!
MA: Well, thanks, Steven. Folks, please visit these websites for more information about Forty Years Later and Steven Jay Griffel!
Fellow Military Writers Society of America (MWSA) Author Erin Rainwater Swings by to Visit with Mike Angley
MA: It’s a real treat for me today to have as my guest a fellow member of the Military Writers Society of America (MWSA), and Rocky Mountain neighbor, Erin Rainwater. Erin is a Pennsylvania native who says she probably should have been born in the 19th century but somehow got flash-forwarded into the 20th. There was never any question that she would be a nurse when she grew up, regardless of which century she was in. And beginning in about the seventh grade, there was no question that she’d launch that nursing career in the military. The daughter of a WWII intelligence officer, she entered the Army after graduating from nursing school. That was during the Vietnam War era, and she was privileged to care for the bodies and spirits of soldiers and veterans, including repatriated POWs and MIAs. Her military experience has helped in writing parts of her novels. Her support of the military has been life long and is ongoing, and one of her favorite pastimes is volunteering at the USO in Denver. She participated in Operation Desert Swap, having “adopted” a soldier in Iraq to whom she sent a copy of her novel for reading and swapping with his fellow troops. Erin now lives in Colorado with her husband of 35 years, has four children and the four most adorable grandchildren on the planet.
Erin, thank you for your service. Please tell us a little more about your background, especially your military service.
ER: My “back story” consists of being born and raised in a suburb of Pittsburgh, PA, attending nursing school there, and going directly into the Army Nurse Corps upon graduation. I served for three years during the Vietnam War era, including duty stations at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, the 121st Evac Hospital in Korea, and at Walter Reed in D.C. I got married while still in the Army, and after my discharge I worked part time—mostly in ICU—while raising our four children. I only started writing when I was in my thirties.
MA: I’m familiar with the 121st from my two tours in Korea…a huge facility. Nursing and writing – how did you end up becoming an author?
ER: I’ve always loved fiction, especially historicals, so it was natural for me to migrate toward that genre when I began writing. As for novel length versus short stories, it’s not so much a choice as a lack of ability on my part to write shorter tales. I just plain lack the capacity to spin a yarn in less than 45,000 words. My new release, Refining Fires, started out as a short story, but there was just too much story to tell, and my attempts to limit it failed miserably. My critique group hounded me into telling the full story, so the three-part novel was born. I consider the term “short story” an oxymoron.
MA: Tell us more about your latest release.
ER: Refining Fires is unique in format and storytelling approach. It’s three-stories-in-one format, beginning with “Refining Fire.” Clare Canterbury is a nurse with a tarnished professional reputation seeking work. Any work. She answers an ad for a live-in nurse situation, caring for a disabled Korean War veteran. Little does she know what she’s in for. He tosses her out of his home. But his anger is no match for her pluck, and she finagles her way into his employ, his home, and eventually his heart. As she ministers to Peter’s body, his soul develops a raw yearning for a life and a love he’d long ago thought hopeless. Theirs is quite a romance, but “Refining Fire” is only the beginning of their love story. In the second story, a little girl named Susannah shows grit beyond her years as she faces her biggest fear. She must go it alone on a treacherous journey down a mountain to save her mother’s life, then faces harder times yet to come. The love that Peter and Clare share has an immense impact on this extraordinary child who is filled with “Blind Courage.” Finally, you’ll meet the “Kept Woman” bent on self-destruction until a child and a man from her past teach her about who has been keeping her all along. Refining Fires is not your prototypical romance. It’s made up of three stories of people seeking redemption in one form or another, whose paths cross, showing how God’s hand is ever on us, leading and refining as we go.
MA: I understand you take a unique approach to developing your characters. Please talk about that.
ER: This might sound strange, but for me it’s never been so much about my developing my characters as it is my catching on to the nuances of their personalities. Although I begin with a concept of who I want the main characters to be and what they will be like, I honestly discover things about them right along with the reader as we trek further into the story. Take Peter Cochran in Refining Fires, for instance. We initially see his darker, angry side, but in time, as the walls of his internal fortress begin to crumble, we gain insight into what’s been there all along—astounding courage (even in the face of death, I later discovered), humility, a sense of humor, and the longing to be loved for who he is and not for what he has.
MA: What are Peter’s strengths and weaknesses?
ER: I mentioned his courage, which is one of his great strengths. His nurse Clare points out that not only did he show heroism in the war but during his recovery from his injuries as well—fourteen times he’s been through those operating room doors, plus he learned to walk again, every step he took a victory in itself. His greatest weakness is his lack of awareness that he possesses any of these strengths, or that any of it matters. He also had chosen a lifestyle contrary to his early Christian upbringing, then became embittered when consequence time arrived.
MA: What about an antagonist…is there a unique “bad guy” or a recurring nemesis of any kind?
ER: Ooh, that is such a cool question. In my two previous books, I’ve had some really nasty villains (one reader told me every time the heavy in True Colors entered the scene it made her skin crawl). And there is one character in Refining Fires who definitely is the “bad girl.” But for the most part, Peter is his own worst nemesis.
MA: Given your nursing background, your service in the military, and your overseas time in Korea, I imagine a lot of your real experiences influenced your writing of Refining Fires?
ER: Yep, they sure did. Clare Canterbury is a former Army nurse, as am I. Some of our military experiences were similar. Read More
MA: My guest today is Graham Storrs, a writer who lives in quiet seclusion on a bush property in Australia. He trained as a psychologist in the UK and, after a career in artificial intelligence and human-computer interaction research and software design, now shares his time between his family, writing, and the beautiful forested hills of his adopted home.
Graham, welcome aboard! Tell us how you became a storyteller.
GS: There never was a prequel really, just parallel lines. I’ve always told stories from as early as I can remember. When I got older, I started writing them down. Meanwhile, I went to school, then university, got jobs, did research, had a career. And all the time, I was writing. Strangely enough, I only took seriously the idea of publishing my fiction about two years ago. Before then, I hadn’t published anything (except non-fiction). Since then, I’ve published ten short stories and my first novel.
MA: Why did you choose to write novels?
GS: I didn’t really choose to at all. For most of my life I was happy writing short stories, but the stories kept getting longer and longer. In the end, I stopped trying to keep them short and started writing book-length stories. I still write shorts now and then (I bundled up a few related stories and put them out as an ebook on Smashwords recently) but I feel very cramped in anything smaller than a novel these days.
MA: Tell us about your début novel, TimeSplash.
GS: TimeSplash is a science fiction thriller – a fast-paced, near-future story about a couple of people – Jay and Sandra – who get caught up in a time travel party scene that wrecks their lives. After that, they each devote themselves to bringing down the guy responsible – a supercool villain named Sniper. Sniper quickly graduates from murderer to big-shot terrorist and is planning to use a temporal anomaly to destroy a capital city. When his two pursuers join forces to track him down, they find themselves and each other along the way.
MA: Who’s the main hero or heroine?
GS: My main protagonist is Sandra. I wanted to create a heroine with huge problems, so bad they sometimes incapacitate her, and a task so hard that anyone would regard it as impossible. And I gave her the curse of being breathtakingly beautiful – something which, perhaps more than anything else, blights her life, On the very first page of the book she is in desperate trouble – and then things get worse and worse. All that she has going for her is an unstoppable will to succeed and an ordinary goodness that is often hard to find.
MA: What about your antagonist, Sniper?
GS: Outwardly, he is handsome and suave, a confident, powerful man, but Sniper also has problems that have left serious psychological scars. Throughout the book he teeters on the brink of a self-destructive downward spiral. The world, to him, is on the verge of chaos and the only way he knows to avoid being consumed by it, is to become its master, smashing and destroying on a massive scale to lead chaos by the nose and make it do his bidding.
MA: Your background in AI and human computer interaction is intriguing, and I’m sure (tongue-in-cheek) that you’ve no real experience with time and space travel, but did any other real life experiences factor into the plot at all?
GS: Most of the places in the book are places I know – London, Brussels, Berlin, Paris. The characters are mostly composites of people I have known – even Sniper is not as uncommon a type as you might suppose – but I have exaggerated or magnified them somewhat, to amplify the drama.
MA: Will there be a sequel to TimeSplash?
GS: Since I finished TimeSplash, I have written another near-future sci-fi thriller – a space-based adventure based on how the religious right will deal with the first transhumans. I’m looking for an agent for that one at the moment. Right now I’m writing the first book of a three-book space opera set thousands of years in the future, finishing a sci-fi comedy based in the present day, and planning a spooky sci-fi noir story about a rather unconventional alien invasion.
TimeSplash was really a stand-alone story. However, I left at least one hook in there for another book, in case I ever feel the urge. I have written two short stories set in the same world. In one of them my two protagonists meet again after fifty years. I haven’t tried to publish it because it’s a sad encounter and I don’t know if I really want that to be their destiny.
MA: How can people find you online?
I use Twitter just about every day and I’m always pleased to meet new people. Anyone can reach me at http://twitter.com/graywave (@graywave)
I also have a blog in which I write about my life as a struggling new writer http://grahamstorrs.cantalibre.com
And TimeSplash itself has its own website and blog http://www.timesplash.co.uk
Thanks for having me over, Mike. It’s been great. I hope you’ll do me the favour of letting me have you as a guest on my blog one day soon.