Tag Archives: school

Jun 24

“The Light Bringer” Co-Authors Mike Force & Chris DiGiuseppi Guest-Blog with Mike Angley

MA: I am pleased today to welcome co-authors Chris DiGiuseppi and Mike Force. Chris and Mike have penned a wonderful suspense novel, The Light Bringer. Both of these gentlemen are fellow former law enforcement officers, so I have a special place in my heart (and on my blog) for their service.

Chris has over nineteen years in law enforcement at various levels up to and including Assistant Chief of Police. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and Northwestern University School of Police Staff Command. He is trained in various aspects of law enforcement and holds degrees in Human Resources and Business Administration. Chris lives with his wife and children in Missouri.

Mike has spent over 30 years in law enforcement, the last 19 as a Police Chief. Mike has numerous certifications in various areas of law, forensics, investigations and criminology. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and served 22 years in the U.S. Marines where he retired as a Captain. He oversaw operations for twenty-seven military installations worldwide. He holds degrees in Political Science and Human Resources. Mike lives with his wife in Missouri and has three grown children and a granddaughter.

Thanks for your LEO and military service, and welcome aboard! I’m going to fire questions at you both, so perhaps we’ll go back and forth for equal time. Chris, please tell us a little bit about your professional LE background.

CD: I’ve risen through the ranks from patrol officer up to Assistant Chief of Police for a small community near St. Louis, MO. I’ve experienced many different facets of police work during my tenure since starting in 1991 to include general patrol, public and community relations, support services functions and administrative functions over our Operations Division. Since our agency is smaller, 30 sworn officers and 10 civilian employees, we’ve had the luxury of building a team of professionals centering on good core values that we look for when recruiting people for our organizational family.

More important than my professional background, I’m married with 3 children and 2 step children – and couldn’t be happier.

MA: Excellent, and I could not agree more with your assessment about the role of family. Mike, your turn. Tell us why you chose to write a novel, especially why you and Chris decided to co-author a project.

MF: Chris and I talked about writing a book for many years. The desire to write was sparked from the many tragedies we experienced over the course of our careers and our book relates to those instances. In my opinion, the initial reason that we wrote was basically therapeutic, as our story helped us make some sense of those things that often bothered us involving tragic incidents of death. Helping people through those times of despair and grief pushed us to question the complexity of life and why things happened, that seemed so wrong. The first half of our book is based on real incidents that Chris and I experienced in both our professional and personal lives. The last portion of our book delves into a supernatural explanation that takes the reader beyond life.

MA: Obviously, your professional careers inspired your story, but are any of your characters based upon real-life people with whom you’ve interacted?

CD: Our personal and professional lives definitely formed our writing, and our characters are based on real people and/or personalities we’ve encountered throughout our lives.

MA: Tell us about The Light Bringer.

MF: The Light Bringer is our first novel and is part of a trilogy. Our publisher, HCI Books, has it categorized as Suspense Fiction but it also has a paranormal/supernatural element as well as an inspirational theme.

MA: Who is the hero or heroine in the story?

CD: Our main character is an ex-military man who is now a police sergeant. His personality traits and overall characterization was developed as a mixture of our (myself and co-author Mike Force) background, habits and personal traits.

MA: This may be a tough question considering your protagonist is a composite of you both, but what are his strengths and flaws?

MF: I believe his strengths and weaknesses stem from the same thing. He’s a deep thinker and extremely empathetic where he spends a great deal of time fighting to stick to his core values.

MA: There’s a lot to be said about having strong core values, and I’m afraid not too many real people, let alone fictional characters, embody them. What about a bad guy – any unique antagonist you want to tell us about?

CD: There is one particular character that was developed who portrays a person of poor character and values who is continually doing what’s wrong. His constant dedication to victimize others leads to a much bigger plot and eventually reveals his involvement in something extremely evil and wrong.

MA: I suspected as much based upon your hero’s description. What better antagonist than someone who is the polar opposite? I take it there are some elements of real-life experiences and people in The Light Bringer?

MF: Absolutely – the first portion of the book centers around 16 different people who die – most of those incidents are based on real experiences that we’ve had in our professional and personal lives.

MA: Since The Light Bringer is the first in a trilogy, how close are you to getting the second book out?

CD: We have the second draft written and hope to further it within the next year or so. The second book bridges the first and the third. The third book will offer finality to the overlying plot and message. The main characters will continue through the trilogy with new characters being added as we go.

MA: Given the inspirational nature of The Light Bringer, what do you want your readers to walk away with after reading it?

MF & CD: The Light Bringer focuses on the question “Why do people die.” We’ve received many praises and endorsements from readers via advanced readers’ copies. The book seems to appeal to a diverse crowd from those who like a good paranormal suspense/thriller, to those who like a murder mystery with a supernatural twist or even those who are looking for an inspirational message of hope in dark times. It’s our desire that this book will not only entertain but also help people who struggle with grief and despair because of tragedy. We additionally aspire to challenge the reader to draw their own conclusions pertaining to the concept of how “doing what’s right” in life perhaps follows you after death.

MA: Gentlemen, it was a pleasure having you guest with me today, and thanks again for your public service. I encourage my readers to learn more about Mike Force, Chris DiGiuseppi, and The Light Bringer by visiting their website: http://www.thelightbringerbook.com/ Read More

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Jun 17

“Deadly Focus” Co-Authors Carol and Bob Bridgestock Guest with Mike Angley

MA: Today I will change up my format a bit. Instead of a series of Q & A with my guest authors, I am going to let them tell their story in their own words. All the way from England, please welcome Carol and Bob Bridgestock!.

Carol and Bob Bridgestock have spent almost half a century between them working for the West Yorkshire Police in the North of England. The force is the fourth largest in the Country.

Bob was born in West Yorkshire in 1952. He attended local schools – the last one being Morley Grammar School. He had a weekend and holiday job working at the local butchers, and when the offer of an apprenticeship came he left school and commenced work before the exams. The apprenticeship was for five years after which he became qualified and competent. Bob decided after a while that the career wasn’t the one he wanted to pursue and took up a job in a dye works, only because of the money and he had a young family. This, however, was a complete contrast to what he had done before and over the next two years he considered his future.

The next 30 years he spent as a Police officer, working as a detective at every rank and spending less than three of them thirty years in uniform. During his distinguished and exemplary career he received recognition for his outstanding detective work by way of ‘commendations’ from judges and chief constables. A total of 26 is an unusually high figure. As well as being a senior detective for over 17 years, he was also an on call negotiator for kidnap, hostage and suicide intervention incidents.

He achieved the rank of Detective Superintendent and became one of a very small number of Senior Investigating Officers in the force. As ‘the man in charge’ in his last three years alone he took charge of: 26 murder investigations, 23 major incidents including attempted murder and shootings, over 50 suspicious deaths, and numerous sexual attacks.

Carol was also born in West Yorkshire in 1961 and the majority of her schooling was also in West Yorkshire, although for four years she lived in Milford-on-sea in Hampshire. She ended her school days, however, at Sowerby Bridge Grammar School. On leaving school Carol became a hairdresser and opened her own salon before going on to College to teach the subject. Later she worked in the Police in a number of support roles and was ultimately a supervisor in the administration department. During this time she also was commended for her work with the community, inspiring children to highlight crime prevention work.

When Bob completed his service Carol also retired from the force and they both headed to the south of England where they now live on the Isle of Wight. They had often holidayed on the Island and fell in love with the way of life and the tranquillity of the Island. The Police service behind them, they got on with enjoying life without a pager or a mobile phone. Carol had always told Bob he should write a book, but he had no incentive to do so. Their new group of friends on the island with no police connections also suggested that he write due to the fact he relayed so many stories about his career; some happy, others sad, many macabre. He resisted until a cold damp morning in 2008 he saw an advert in the local paper advertising a college course ‘Write your first novel’. As sudden as it was out of character, he booked them both on it to Carol’s amazement.

Thereafter their new joint career as co-authors took off.

Crime fiction was the answer to Bob’s reluctance to write. This way he could use his real life experience in a way that would not be connected to the original events.

Deadly Focus, the first novel, introduces Yorkshire Detective Inspector Jack Dylan and the clandestine love of his life Jennifer Jones. This is a fast moving story that allows you to travel with Dylan to a series of murders, seeing through his eyes the stark reality of death and its fallout. It allows the reader to feel as he does the highs and lows of an intense murder investigation. The reader through the ‘eyes’ of Jen also gets to know how it feels to be the partner of the ‘man in charge’.

Dylan’s strengths lies with his persistence and experience, but will the pressure have a dire affect on his health? Jen is his ’norm’ a safety net for his turmoil of emotions after the distressing sights he has to endure. Deadly Focus continues to receive 5 star reviews on Amazon, WH Smith etc. In May it was resurrected as the first crime novel in the RC Bridgestock series published by Caffeine Nights Publishers. It is also live on eBooks via Smashwords and Amazon as well as many other e Book outlets.

People often ask the question, ’How do you write together? Does one of you write the odd, the others the even?’

We enjoy working together at last! Our police ‘working life’ often meant spending hours apart. Bob writes the plot and the storyline from start to finish. Carol then takes this first draft and develops the scenes, the story line and importantly the characters. Carol teases out of Bob the true feelings of what it is really like to deal with these gruesome crimes. The novel is then passed back to Bob for the re-write to be checked. Then they both sit down together and go through every word, sentence and chapter to ensure it works. Then and only then is it ready for the publishers to scrutinise the draft.

As we said before, May this year sees the resurrection of the original Deadly Focus and it is also being published this time as an eBook. We have been fortunate to be taken into Caffeine Nights Publishers stable of authors who will also publish book two in the series this summer. We have called this book ‘Consequences.’ The third book in the series is ready for scrutiny by the publishers and book four is ready for the re-write stage. Others in the series are also being penned.

As can be seen, the writing is industrious, as well as being addictive and enjoyable. Both Carol and Bob are members of a local writing group called Wight Fair Writers’s Circle that Carol chairs. This group evolved from the college course and we remain a group who also runs competitions to inspire others to write, especially children. All proceeds go to local charities. Bob and Carol also do talks about Bob’s career for schools and colleges as well as other adult groups to raise money for the local hospice which they support. Certainly exciting times and a new career which they never considered when they retired,

To learn more about Carol and Bob and their writing visit their website. www.rcbridgestock.com. A must is also www.caffeine-nights.com. On both these sites you can download the first two chapters of Deadly Focus FREE! Carol & Bob are also on Facebook – Carol Bridgestock and RC Bridgestock and we Twitter – RC Bridgstock

The support from our readers around the globe is extremely satisfying and spurs us on. Read More

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Apr 29

Eric Hoeffer Award Finalist, Steven Nedelton, Guests with Mike Angley

MA: Help me welcome my newest guest, Steven Nedelton. Steve is a professional engineer, but most of his life he dabbled in arts. For example, he likes to paint in oils. He lived for a while in several countries outside of the U.S. and was born in the Balkans. Steve lived and worked all over the U.S., from the Washington and California coasts to Arizona, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and North Carolina. He started reading when he was ten after beginning to receive books as birthday gifts. Those included Tom Sawyer, then a year later, The Three Musketeers, and so on. At first, it was hard for him to concentrate, in fact, he hated reading. But then, gradually, he began to love good novels. Zane Grey became one of his favorite writers. He still remembers how he got the lunch money from his grandmother and spent it on books about cowboys and Indians, and the Wild West.
That’s a very colorful life and background you’ve had! You mentioned dabbling in the arts and having a love of reading, so it sounds like a natural progression to writing.
SN: Way back in my early teens, together with a few of my school chums, I began writing short stories. There’s no doubt that Tom Sawyer, The Three Musketeers and the various pirate novels were the principal contributors to our writing affliction. Also, the principal cause of all my later accompanying woes. But, aside from those early literary misadventures, and a lot of reading since, my first serious involvement with English Literature happened in my college English 102 and the subsequent course, Advanced Creative Writing. It was a true miracle that I managed to get through those two classes with A’s, and even to this very day, I am convinced that my professor was one crafty yet friendly soul. I guess, my feeble pretenses to understand Shakespeare warned him I wasn’t the material for a future scribbler. Thus my English Literature marks, A or F, were quite inconsequential. And his conclusion was natural, I was studying how to become an engineer, not how to write another War and Peace

From then on, my writing was, one might say, ‘placed on hold.’ A lot of occasional reads, but not much else until a decade ago. It was then that that sordid writing affliction got sort of reawakened within me, and the desire to become a writer was reborn too. And so, finally, after all those years, I chained myself to my laptop, and began writing again. I worked very hard while braving various virus attacks and rejection e-mails from a multitude of publishers and agents.

MA: Given your penchant for writing short stories as a teen, how did you come about writing novels?

SN: That is an interesting question. Early on, in my teens, I dreamed of writing a top short story. Much later, after reading a number of novels, I decided that short stories were not for me. Mostly because avid readers loved novels. I felt it was in my best interest to stay away from short stories and proceed with novels. There I could fit in my interest in thrillers–suspense and crime, the genre that was my true love and I knew I could do it well.

MA: You and I share a few writing things in common. My Child Finder Trilogy is a thriller series with paranormal elements which some of your books have also featured.

SN: I write fiction based on partly true events and characters. My novels deal with infamous criminals, espionage, and extrasensory perception tied together with unusual and extraordinary action. Basically, I write about anything that will make the reader interested in the story. I don’t specialize in any genre; I try to write about life in general. My stories cover local and international events. Also the events I have lived through and been a part of. Mixing fiction with fact makes readers believe in my stories.

For example, Crossroads is a thriller/suspense based on extrasensory and the action takes place in the US, Russia and France. The principal character is a U.S. agent assigned to lead a group of men with very special gifts like claivoyance, remote viewing–the ESP. The inspiration came from a sentence found in a major newspaper in the early 90s. The story is far more than espionage, James Bond like flick. It deals with several countries and characters with their ethnic peculiarities.

The inspiration for The Raven Affair came from the news too. In this case I had already heard quite a lot about one particularly infamous criminal involved in genocide who was finally being prosecuted in California. I thought that I could write a story that would be far more interesting than a description of his hideous exploits alone. I decided to add a number of fictitious characters and a number of fictiotious events. The title of this book was based on its central character, the hit man known as ‘Raven’ who, as a child, witnessed the horrors of genocide and decided to revenge his family. But the stories included in this book are far more interesting than the criminals and, of course, I’ve used my imagination to make them believable.

Both books were reviewed by the top country reviewers like the Midwest Book Review, The US Review of books, Apex, etc. I just received a note from the “Eric Hoffer Award” representative advising me that The Raven Affair is “Da Vinci Eye Finalist” and an “Eric Hoffer Award” finalist.” I feel that it is a great achievement for my novels.

Fear! is my next book that I hope to have it released soon. It is a sort of a historical biography. And, I am presently working on my third thriller, Tunnel.
MA: Congratulations on the book award accomplishments! Those are two excellent and prestigious selections. Tell us how you approach the development of your characters.
SN: I develop my characters through events. I let them speak, act, and from their actions and dialogs one can get the feel for the character’s strengths or weaknesses. For example, in The Raven Affair, the hero (the hit man Raven) has the criminal in the gun sights and yet he does not shoot him. He lets him live so that the people’s courts can judge him for his hideous crimes.

MA: A hit man protagonist! Tell us more about him.
SN: Raven is a very determined man. He is ready to sacrifice his life yet, occasionally, he is cold and detached, disinterested in other people feelings.

MA: I take it with these standalone novels that you do not migrate any of the characters over to other novels, or do you?

SN: I don’t have a recurring character in my novels as yet. Each of my novels is a completely different story with different characters, with one exception. I am developing the use of a character from Crossroads. This is still in a developmental stage and I am not yet set on other characters and their interaction. I can assure you that he will be used in the most interesting way.

MA: Given your travels in life, have any of your experiences outside the United States inspired your writing?

SN: Yes, I lived in several countries, England and France for example. I dealt with various people there and although people are pretty similar everywhere, there are ethnic peculiarities that one needs to experience in order to portray a character properly in a story.

MA: Where can people learn more about your stories and purchase your books?

SN: My books are available in print and e-book formats on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Fictionwise.com, etc. They can be accessed directly from my web site: http://snedelton.com.

MA: Thanks, Steve!
Read More

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Jan 28

Scientist-Turned-Novelist Paul Guthrie Joins Mike Angley Today

MA: My guest-blogger today is Paul Guthrie. Paul – or Dr. Guthrie – is a scientist by training and vocation. He received a BA in Physics from Cornell University, followed by a Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Massachusetts. After graduation, Paul went to work for NASA at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt MD. His work was primarily in the development of computer models to simulate the chemistry of the Earth’s atmosphere in order to understand ozone depletion and climate change. After thirteen years he left NASA and joined a consulting firm in San Rafael CA, working mainly on air pollution issues for the EPA. By then he was irrevocably committed to the use of computers and the development of software. In 1999 he left the environmental field entirely and became involved in developing software for biotechnology and medical applications, which he continues to do part time. Starting in 2002, however, Paul decided to pursue another interest, that of writing fiction. He lives in the San Francisco Bay area, still married to the same person after thirty-seven years. We have two grown children.

Now that’s a fascinating biography you have, Paul. I am curious about how you found an interest in fiction with so much science in your life.

PG: I’m a scientist, with degrees in physics and astronomy. Working on issues like climate change, I was part of the collision of science, where truth (even approximate truth) is an ultimate goal, with politics, where truth is irrelevant. And I like to read. I‘ve read lots of fantasy and SF over the years, from classic “hard” SF to Tolkien, Eddings, Jordan, Martin, Stephenson, Gibson…the list goes on and on. I also like technology thrillers, like early Tom Clancy and early Michael Crichton.

MA: It’s good to have a wide breadth of interests, but how did you end up writing fiction, and why novels?

PG: My teachers always said I was a good writer, back before I chose a career in science and technology. In 2002 the medical imaging startup where I was working ran out of money and went belly up. Writing seemed like a good way to keep my mind occupied until something else turned up. Something else never did. Why novels…the form is long enough to really explore characters and story. You can say a lot of things in a novel.

MA: Tell us about your novel.

PG: “The Wrong God” crosses genres a bit. It involves something that looks like magic, elements of science fiction, some real science, politics and religion. Here’s the pitch:
Since the beginnings of history people have believed in magic, but California science writer Andy Taggart is not one of them. Until the day that John Chalk, his old friend from grad school, makes a ballpoint pen rise to stand on end – untouched. From that moment Andy is caught up in John’s mystery. Is this an illusion or is it new physics? Why can John do things that other people can’t – things that will mark him in some eyes as a worker of miracles? And why does John think someone is watching him?

Someone is watching. Wendell Murchison is possibly the most powerful man in America. He controls wealth, his own cable news network, an army of evangelical political operatives, and the President of the United States, but he wants more. From the new America of terrorist sleeper cells, detention camps and legalized torture he sees a path to levels of power not seen since the Inquisition. He would make a new all-out war of religion; all he needs is a leader – the New Prophet, John Chalk. Whether John believes or not.

When John refuses and disappears, Andy is left to face an adversary who will offer bribes, publish lies, send goon squads to beat him, whatever it takes to force him to betray John. Under constant surveillance and unsure who he can trust, Andy can’t stand alone; he has to find John. But even together, what can they do against Murchison? Levitating pens won’t stop him and there’s no point in hoping for miracles if you don’t believe in anybody’s gods.

Actually, it all grew out of a single observation. Traditional epic fantasy often involves ancient magic, with a venerable sage or a sacred book to explain the magic. My question was, how did the book get written? Who were the poor bastards who first discovered magic and had to figure out how it worked without killing themselves? Since I assumed (naturally) that they would approach it like scientists, the story became contemporary.

MA: That sounds intriguing, and it contains many of the same elements I enjoy reading about and writing with my own work. Tell us how you developed Andy’s character.

PG: Andy is kind of an almost-scientist. He has the training, but he isn’t entirely part of that world, the way John is. Andy can see the ambiguities in John’s discovery. I tend to like stories of ordinary people facing extraordinary challenges, so he had to be somewhat unheroic.

MA: Andy’s strengths? Weaknesses?

PG: Strengths…determination, loyalty, intelligence, humility, his love for his girlfriend, Rachel.
Weaknesses…fear, self-doubt, a little envy.

MA: It sounds like this Murchison guy is pretty devious…your antagonist, I assume?

PG: Oh yeah. I spent a lot of time on Wendell Murchison. My wife kept asking for more backstory. I kind of saw him as an amalgam of the kinds of people who have been involved at the intersection of great wealth, political propaganda, and the religious right.

MA: I almost hesitate to ask if any real-life experiences made their way into your story, especially given you hard science background.

PG: I guess the main influences were knowing how physicists think and approach problems, and experience watching scientists collide with politics. One other thing isn’t really central to the plot, but I’m a student and player of Taiko, the big Japanese drums. I gave that to Andy so I could try to describe it.

MA: I spent many years in Japan and always enjoyed Taiko drum performances, so I can relate to that character aspect (and a good thing you gave that to your hero!). So what’s next?
PG: I’m working on another novel that is still an untitled work in progress. It’s unrelated, more of a straight-ahead technology/political thriller. Beyond that I have notes for two more books to continue the story of “The Wrong God.”

MA: Thanks, Paul! You have a great blend of real science colliding with fiction in your work. I like the confluence of the two. For my readers, please check out Paul’s website: http://www.thewronggod.com Read More

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Jan 21

Fellow Air Force Veteran & Author, Alan Simon, Guest-blogs with Mike Angley

MA: My guest today is Alan Simon, the author or co-author of 30 books dating back to the early 1980s. His writing career began with the 1st edition of How to be A Successful Computer Consultant (McGraw-Hill) that sold approximately 200,000 copies in 4 editions over the next 15 years. He is the author of three titles in the “For Dummies” franchise series and has written extensively about technology and business topics. In 2009 Alan began experimenting in self-publishing with Blocking and Tackling Your Way to Management Success in which he set 40 fundamental management lessons against a backdrop of 40 stories from the history of his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers. In 2010, Alan branched out into fiction with the publication of his first two novels including The First Christmas of the War, set at Christmastime, 1941 – only weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Alan currently lives in Phoenix and in the past has lived in Pittsburgh, Tucson, Colorado Springs, Denver, and northeastern Pennsylvania.

Please tell me a little bit about your professional or personal background…the prequel if you would to your writing career.

AS: The best way to describe my professional background is to quote The Beatles: “The long and winding road…” I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA until my family moved to Tucson, Arizona just before my 16th birthday. I attended college at Arizona State in Tempe and then went to graduate school at the University of Arizona back in Tucson before heading off to Colorado Springs where I spent four years as a U.S. Air Force officer stationed at Cheyenne Mountain. In the Air Force I wrote software for one of the real-life “War Games” systems, referring to the early 1980s movie in which Matthew Broderick breaks into Cheyenne Mountain’s computers to play “thermonuclear war.” After my Air Force days I worked for a series of technology and consulting companies in a variety of roles, including several as a national or global practice leader in business intelligence and data warehousing. I began my own firm – currently called Thinking Helmet, Inc. – in 2006.

In many ways my writing career began as an “accident.” When I was an Air Force officer in the early 1980s I started a small computer consulting business on the side mostly so I could stay up to date with the technology of the then-brand new “microcomputers” that were very different than the old-fashioned mainframes we used in the Air Force. One day I was thinking about all of the tasks I had to do to set up my company and learn about new technology and suddenly thought there might be a book in the making there. I wrote a proposal, sent it off to McGraw-Hill, and presto! Book deal! (Little did I know the publishing game wasn’t quite that easy…)

MA: Well, I definitely have a soft spot for fellow Air Force vets, and I am very familiar with Cheyenne Mountain during my work in Air Force Space Command nearby. With such a technical and non-fiction writing background, how did you end up writing fiction?

AS: I began “dabbling” in fiction approximately 25 years ago, sequestered in a near-deserted hotel in the mountains of Colorado in late May of 1985. I had gone there to spend a week finishing up the final manuscript for my first book, How to be a Successful Computer Consultant. (Thinking back, my long-ago writing getaway in the Rockies was sort of a combination of two works from one of my favorite authors, Stephen King: “The Shining” meets “Misery” !)

Whenever I’d take a break from polishing that manuscript during that trip, I’d shift to write two or three more draft pages for an idea I had for a “potboiler” novel; something that in retrospect was heavily influenced by the writing style and typical plot lines from popular writers of the day such as Harold Robbins and Sidney Sheldon. I shelved that book for all eternity shortly thereafter, but over the next two decades spent thousands of hours – and wrote the proverbial million words of fiction – on any number of long-dormant projects, as fiction writing grew into a deep passion of mine.

MA: Speaking of The Shining, my kids and I once spent a night in the “Stephen King” room at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, where King stayed and wrote the book. Sadly, nothing spooky happened during our stay there. So tell us about your novels.

AS: I wrote two novels in parallel with each other over a period of 6+ years; both were self-published this past year. The first is entitled The First Christmas of the War and is a family saga set at Christmastime, 1941…only weeks after Pearl Harbor. Beyond the overarching and terrifying news coming back from the war front, each family member has his or her own “mini-drama” going on, and the story interweaves the “macro” and “micro” plots in a day-by-day format beginning with the Saturday before Christmas and ending the day after Christmas.

The other novel is entitled Unfinished Business and just like The First Christmas of the War, it’s set in my hometown of Pittsburgh. I like to think of Unfinished Business as “a darker Bridges of Madison County story” that begins in flashback with a brief wartime affair that takes place in 1942. The plot of the story is based around the resumption of that affair nine years later, in 1951, when Roseanne DeMarco’s steelworker husband is called up from the Army Reserves and set off to the Korean War…just as her long-ago “friend” reappears in Pittsburgh as she’s struggling to make ends meet.

MA: I have a hard enough time writing one story, so I can’t imagine what two parallel ones must be like. Who are your protagonists?

AS: In The First Christmas of the War I’m fortunate enough to have a number of main characters who essentially are an “ensemble cast” as the book’s protagonist. The family’s patriarch – Gerald Coleman – is patterned after one of my grandfathers. He’s a shoemaker who is fortunate enough to have made a decent enough living during the Depression. His wife, Irene Coleman, is the classic homemaker of the day…she runs her household and her family and is always looking out for the best interests of every family member. The eldest son, Jonathan, is patterned after characters such as those played by Sean Penn and Nicholas Cage in the 1980s movie Racing with the Moon…he knows with certainty he’s headed off to war soon and is trying to come to grips with this sudden reality. The rest of the family members are all “demographically appropriate” for 1941 children and teenagers.

In Unfinished Business I tried my best to get inside the head of Roseanne DeMarco. Her husband is suddenly sent off to war, she has no safety net to fall back on, and in general she’s sleepwalking through life…and here comes this person from the past who was her “partner” in an illicit yet exciting brief period of her young life. Throughout the book she’s conflicted between the renewal of this excitement and her increasing guilt about what she’s doing while her husband is away at war.

MA: They both sound interesting. Who are the antagonists in the stories?

AS: The First Christmas of the War doesn’t have an antagonist…unless you want to think of Hitler and Tojo as off-the-pages antagonists who made the story (and the war) possible!

In Unfinished Business Frank Donaldson – the main with whom Roseanne DeMarco renews her affair – is very much an antagonist, but a carefully constructed one. I patterned his character after that of Noel Airman in Herman Wouk’s 1955 novel, Marjorie Morningstar. At first he seems suave, debonair, the man of Roseanne DeMarco’s dreams who has returned to her…but increasingly his fascination in the story with Jack Kerouac (then a brand new novelist) becomes symbolic of his own character flaws.

MA: How much of your real life’s story influenced your writing?

AS: When I moved from Pittsburgh to Tucson just before my 16th birthday, I was very homesick for my original city and spent many hours in the high school and public libraries reading books about Pittsburgh and its history. Since I planned to go into the military in one way or another, I was also very interested in the World War II era and the aftermath, including the boom years of the 1950s. So my fascination with mid-20th century Pittsburgh formed the foundation for both of these novels. I spent many hours researching the facts and tidbits for both stories, though when appropriate I took a bit of poetic license in the interest of moving the story along.

In both books – especially The First Christmas of the War – I did use my real-life great-grandfather’s produce business in Pittsburgh as a plot vehicle, and in First Christmas had eldest son Jonathan working side-by-side with my real-life great-uncles in a couple of scenes. I dedicated that book to those great-uncles, all of them gone now, as members of the “greatest generation” who (to use the words of the book’s dedication) “sacrificed much of their youth to the Second World War.”

MA: So what’s next for you? You are so versatile, I can imagine either a novel or some techno-geek book coming soon!

MA: The biggest challenge I have is getting my head and hands around a much-too-full list of to-be-written projects for 2011. In all seriousness, I have a list of about 15 business, technology and management topics; 25-30 ideas for novels and short stories; and another non-fiction, self-help oriented title based on my own personal close call on 9/11. (A schedule quirk put me in Pittsburgh for a speech that morning, scheduled to fly to San Francisco from there that afternoon; otherwise I almost certainly would have been on United Flight 93 since I was shuttling between projects and proposals in New Jersey and the San Francisco bay area for the consulting company I worked for then.)

MA: Wow! I’m glad you missed the original flight, and it’s nice to hear you plan to turn that experience into something good that may help others. With regard to fiction, would any of your future writing involve characters from your first two novels?

AS: The First Christmas of the War is actually the first of a series of four holiday-set, similarly-structured novels featuring the Coleman family. Next up is Thanksgiving, 1942, taking place – as one can tell from the title – eleven months after the initial book’s Christmas, 1941 setting. The next title is The First Christmas After the War, set at Christmastime, 1945. Finally, a concluding novel set in the 1970s takes a final holiday visit with the Coleman family.

MA: Sounds like a nice set of books. Anything else you’d like add before we wrap it up?

AS: Over the years, I’ve had many, many people ask me about the writing business and my own experiences in the context of book or story ideas they’ve had themselves. I always enjoy sharing my experiences with others and am always more than willing to help people navigate today’s publishing world, craft proposals…pretty much anything.

MA: Thanks Alan for appearing on my blog, and thanks for your military service. Please visit Alan’s websites for more information about this amazing author and his projects: www.alansimonbooks.com and www.thinkinghelmet.com.
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Dec 27

Young Adult Fantasy Novelist, Rainforest-Dwelling Writer, Tahlia Newland Guests with Mike Angley

MA: I have an intriguing guest today, so please extend a warm American welcome and Merry Christmas to Tahlia Newland. Tahlia is the author of the Young Adult fantasy novel Lethal Inheritance, the first in the Diamond Peak series.

She lives in an Australian rainforest south of Sydney and is a refugee from the Performing and Visual Arts. For 20 years, she created and performed in Visual Theatre shows and she makes Venetian style masks, which you can discover here: http://tahliasmasks.wordpress.com.

Now that she growing grey, she’s given all that up to become a writer. That is, when she’s not being an extremely casual high school teacher.

She has written scripts for theatre in education, a book of short stories for children and a few other short stories (one a semi finalist in the Aussiecon 4 Make Ready fantasy/scfi competition 2010), but her love in writing is novels.

Welcome, Tahlia! So you live in an Australian rainforest? I’m fascinated (and jealous). Tell us what you did before writing.

TN: I trained as a teacher after leaving high school, taught briefly then gave that up to become a professional dancer actor, mime and mask performer. During the 20 years that I lived off these talents, I also made masks and studied how our mind works. Specifically how what we think and how we deal with what rises in our mind affects what we feel, what we perceive, how we behave and what we experience.

MA: You’ve always been around the arts, so I suppose it was a natural decision to write novels?

TN: It wasn’t so much a decision, more something that just happened. I had wanted to write novels when I was younger, but I got into other creative areas and never had an idea that screamed to be written like Lethal Inheritance did. When the idea first came, it percolated for a while, then scenes began appearing in my mind and I just had to write them down.

MA: Tell us all about the story.

TN: Lethal Inheritance is a Young Adult Fantasy novel, the first in a four part series called Diamond Peak.

It’s a combination quest, love story and surrealistic journey into the mind, with sexy characters, flashes of humour, terrifying battles and a mix of fantasy and reality. It’s set in our world in the present day.

If last night was real then Ariel should be dead, but her mother has disappeared, there are bruise marks on her neck and that hideous beast in the photo looks frighteningly familiar.

When demons kidnap her mother, Ariel is catapulted into a mysterious realm in a hidden layer of reality. Stuck on a rescue mission she doesn’t want, she must negotiate an intriguing and unpredictable world where demons who feed on fear are hunting her, and they’re aiming to kill.

She needs help fast, but can she trust the quirky old guide who says he can teach her how to fine tune her mind into a powerful weapon? And what should she do about Nick, whose power is more than he or she can handle?

Ariel’s journey challenges her perception, tests her awareness and takes her deep into her heart and mind to confront, and ultimately transcend, her fear and anger.

MA: Nice tease! I take it Ariel, your heroine, was a carefully-crafted character?

TN: She just developed as I wrote the first two drafts. It wasn’t a conscious thing, rather she emerged from my creative mind as if she already existed.

MA: Well, that’s interesting. What makes Ariel strong as a protagonist?

TN: Strengths –she’s intelligent, willing to learn, cautious, has a sense of responsibility for her family, self reliant, determined. Weaknesses – At the start of the book, she is emotional, untrained, doesn’t believe in her own abilities, doesn’t know anything about the hidden realm, is sometimes over cautiour and naive.

MA: You mentioned a beast in a photo, I assume that’s the antagonist?

TN: Yes. Bitah the demon. He feeds on human’s fear and anger and tries to kill Ariel to prevent her from finding his master and rescuing her mother. There are various other demons and entities working for him as well, but he’s the main one she has to defeat in this book.

MA: So, I take it you haven’t been a real-world demon hunter…but do you have any real-life experiences that somehow influenced the plot?

TN: Not specifically, but my understanding of the workings of the mind form the basis for the methods the Warriors use to kill demons.

MA: What’s next in the Diamond Peak series?

TN: There are three sequels to this novel. I’ve written them to second draft stage and will work on them again once I get a publishing contract. I’m also working on another novel, that has a greater degree of romance and leans a bit more towards adults , but still deals with the mind and a combination of modern and older style realities. It’s called Captive. The main characters will remain the same and some characters who are relatively minor in this book will feature more predominantly.

MA: I have to ask, can you describe the demon for my readers?

TN: A black, flowing form, human in size and shape, dropped onto the path without a sound. Its slimy skin, hanging in folds like the fabric of a long hooded cloak, rippled from the impact. White flames, flicking like snake tongues, blazed from two slits in its hideous face, casting an eerie glow as the head swung from side to side, as if searching for its prey. Another slash of flaming white formed a thin-lipped mouth curled into a sneer. Long loose arms dangled at the creature’s sides and its clawed hands repeatedly flexed and unflexed. A putrid smell, reminiscent of rotting potatoes, emanated from the beast. Ariel’s nose wrinkled and her stomach felt queasy.

MA: Well, there you have it! Thanks, Tahlia. Folks, please visit Tahlia Newland’s website for more beastly information: http://tahlianewland.com. Read More

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Dec 17

All the Way from the UK, Mike Angley Welcomes Author Ian Barker

MA: All the way from the UK, please help me welcome today’s guest-blogger, Ian Barker! Ian has always dabbled in writing since leaving school. However, he spent almost 20 years working in IT before he discovered that writing about computers was easier than fixing them. He is now editor of PC Utilities magazine and lives and works in Greater Manchester, UK. Fallen Star is his début novel. Tell us more about your background.
IB: I was a voracious reader as a kid and have always been interested in writing. I repressed this for quite a long time, however, and it expressed itself in the odd comic poem for birthday cards but not much else. It was only once I’d turned 40 that I started to take writing more seriously and that led me to combining career and interest and getting a job on a computer magazine. The idea of writing a novel came around the same time. Maybe it comes of a desire to leave something permanent behind.
MA: Why did you choose to write novels, and not poetry?
IB: I’m not sure you ever choose to write novels. The call of the story simply becomes too strong to resist. I’d done the usual thing of writing a semi-autobiographical first novel and consigning it to the bottom drawer. The initial idea for Fallen Star I thought might make an interesting short story but it quickly turned into something bigger.
MA: Tell us about Fallen Star.
IB: It’s about the shallowness of celebrity culture, the price of fame and how, almost inevitably, we find ourselves living in the shadow of our parents and often repeating their mistakes. It’s an adult/young adult crossover – the protagonist is 21 – and at its heart it’s a love story.
Karl has been a member of a boy band since leaving school and at 21 knows no other life. When another band member dies of a drug overdose he’s forced to readjust to real life. To further complicate things he falls in love with Lizzie, but she’s the daughter of an IRA terrorist and that makes her someone Karl’s ex-soldier father is bound to hate.
All of that might sound a bit grim but there’s a lot of comedy in the book. Although it’s been described as a modern day morality tale it doesn’t hit you over the head with a message, it’s an entertaining, fun read.
MA: Where did the idea for the story come from?
IB: Appropriately enough the idea came from watching a reality TV show. Around 2003 the BBC ran a series called Fame Academy with a group of would-be pop stars trained and forced each week to ‘sing for survival’ to stay on the show. It was around the time that digital TV began to take off and this was one of the first shows to have live ‘round the clock feeds. I started to think about what would happen if you reversed the situation – what if you removed someone’s fame when they were at their peak? The story grew from there.
The terrorism angle came later but I think it adds an extra dimension to the book and makes it more relevant to today’s world.

MA: How hard did you find it to write the two main characters?
IB: I found Karl relatively easy to write. I don’t think men ever grow up much beyond the age of eighteen anyway! It was much more difficult to get inside the head of a 25-year-old woman for Lizzie’s parts. I was constantly hounding female writer friends to read sections and tell me if they rang true.
MA: How does the hero’s develop through the book?
IB: A key part of the book is Karl’s growth as a character. At the start he’s shallow, immature and somewhat vain, the world has always come to him. That made for a tricky first few chapters as in the beginning he’s not especially likeable. As the story progresses he comes to realise that he must take responsibility for his own actions and take control of his own life. He also finds that he has more in common with his father than he ever thought possible.
MA: Does Fallen Star have its own unique bad guy?
IB: Not in the usual melodramatic sense. Patrick, the closest the book gets to a bad guy character, is dishonest rather than outright bad. He’s also a rather peripheral character. His impact is felt in its effect on other characters but he only actually appears in a few scenes.
The real villain here is the way that terrorism affects people’s lives even one generation removed.
MA: Did any of your real-life experiences influence the plot?
IB: In terms of the main plot points no, but as always there are certain incidents and conversations that are rooted in things that have happened to me or to friends. There are also the inevitable snippets of overheard conversations and such.
MA: Beyond this novel what are your future writing plans?
IB: I’m working on a sequel which picks up Fallen Star’s characters a few years on from where this book ends. I don’t see it turning into a long series, however, there probably won’t be a third book on this theme. I’d like to revisit the idea of my bottom drawer novel. I think the premise – a coming of age tale set in the mid 1970s – still works but I know that I could write it much better now. One of Fallen Star’s characters does appear as his younger self in my original version though so it wouldn’t be a complete break.
MA: Would you do it again?
Yes. Writing a novel and getting it published is a long and often frustrating experience but you only appreciate that when you’ve tried it. If I’d known at the start what I know now I might have done a few things differently but it wouldn’t have stopped me.
MA: Ian, thanks for traveling so far to visit with me today (wink). I recommend my readers check out Ian Barker’s website for more information about him and his novel: www.iandavidbarker.co.uk.
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Dec 10

“No Chinook” Author, K. Sawyer Paul, Swings by to Visit with Mike Angley

MA: I’d like to welcome today’s guest blogger, K. Sawyer Paul. Mr. Sawyer is the author of the novel, No Chinook. Please tell us about you and your writing.

KSP: I think my first few stories were all plagiarisms and remixes. When I was in junior high and high school, I’m not sure I had a single original thought. I’d take characters, stories, and plots from various books and movies and video games that I’d enjoyed and play with them in different environments. It was basically the equivalent to playing with action figures from different cartoons. I didn’t know why I wrote, but I always had it in my head that I could write well if I just stuck at it for long enough. You know, the idea that perspiration would eventually lead to inspiration. So I wrote a lot. I wrote a short novella in high school, printed it out, and sold it for a couple of bucks. I sold it for a dollar if the person wanted it on a CD. I basically had my first ebook in 2000, in the form of a Word 98 file. I went to the University of Toronto and decided to take professional writing as a minor. It was a great experience, and it taught me many things about what not to do. I felt I was a little allergic to preconceived ideas of success in writing, especially Canadian writing, where the expectation is that you’ll never really make any money and you sort of make people suffer through your work. I’m very against that. If my story isn’t gripping, put it down, you know? There’s more books being published every year than anyone could ever read. Why waste time if you’re not enjoying it?

MA: Well, amen to that! Why did you choose to write short novels?

KSP: I write short novels, because I don’t like to waste people’s time, but I like novels because even if they’re short, they feel like an accomplishment to read and write. I generally hit the 50 or 60 thousand word mark in the first draft, then cut it down to 45 or so. That makes for a 200-220 page book, which I think is enough. I’m a big fan of not wasting time, wasting words. I’m a big fan of Cormac McCarthy’s style in that respect, where he purposefully leaves out areas of his stories that really could use a sweeping emotional explanation. Hemmingway, too. I like that I can go back and read A Farewell to Arms or Francis Macomber and I’m done in a weekend and better for it. There’s something really crisp and biting about a terse novel.

MA: How did you approach your two novels?

KSP: I made a really set decision when I started writing Everything We Haven’t Lost and then No Chinook to never get unbelievable, so I write about relationships because I think I know my way around them pretty well. So you can say I do romance, but if you read my books you know they’re not typical romances. The fight scenes are uglier. The sex scenes are rougher. The dialogue that connects the exposition seems pulled from real people. At least, I’d like to think so. That’s what people tell me. I want it to feel like you’re actually peering in on a real conversation between real people in a contemporary setting, and while these people are adults they still have emotional hiccups and can really hurt one another.

MA: Tell us about your hero in No Chinook.

KSP: With No Chinook, I developed Scott out of how I saw myself out of the kind of guy I saw a lot of at college: someone who’s grown in every way, but still has a few hang-ups regarding his scars. He’s not a finished adult yet, and No Chinook is in many ways him working his way out of that. So Scott is still hung up over a girl from high school, and he thinks he’s over it until she comes back into his life and they sleep together. What’s interesting about Scott is he sees how immature this girl is, and still can’t eject himself from the drama, because he’s fighting the urges of his younger self.

MA: What should we know about Scott? What makes him strong, and what makes him weak, if at all?

KSP: Scott’s big strength is that he’s a truly nice guy, who’s capable of going a long way for a friend, a lover, and even an ex-lover. His weakness is pretty well as I said above, his inability to really break free of a toxic situation. The relationship he has with Shawn is pretty toxic, and the only way he’s really capable of breaking free is by removing the love he has for this man and just using him. Basically, by figuring out how to cure himself of his biggest weakness, he has to rid himself of his greatest strength. That might seem like a convenient plot progression, but I don’t know that I’ve ever even thought of it that way until recently, now that the book has been out for two years.

MA: Interesting. And what about an antagonist?

KSP: Kate, Scott’s girl from the past, is definitely the antagonist. She’s in many ways Scott’s Tyler Durden or Ferris Bueller, a free character that helps him out of his shell. But she also crushes him over and over. Also, she never reveals where she works. Would you date someone who kept their job from you?

MA: Uh, oh…do I detect an old flame influencing the “bad girl” in No Chinook?

KSP: Yeah, there was definitely a girl I was into who didn’t like me back. But who doesn’t have that? I tapped into other people’s stories more than my own, and built conversation after conversation on the pain of my friends and colleagues. It’s a writer’s job, I think, to plaster those sorts of things together, to make sense of it.

MA: Since No Chinook has been out for two years now, what’s next on your plate?

KSP: I sent my next novel off to my editor just recently. The editorial process always takes longer than you want it to, but it’s in the pipeline. It’s called A Record Year For Rainfall. It’s about a paparazzi and a celebrity blogger who live in Las Vegas. I’m a big fan of Las Vegas, but I’m young so I’ve only ever seen the modernized Disney-like Vegas, so my characters exist in it, in 2006. It’s still sleazy, but there’s all these ironic angles where it’s family friendly now. But there’s still girls in sexy outfits everywhere, and celebrities still go there to go crazy. It’s a fun book that’s about trying to escape yourself and the things you love but not really being able to. There’s a lot of comedic violence and sex and there’s a gay governor and I think people will think the book is a lot of fun.

MA: Are your novels all standalone types, or will you write using some of the same characters in the future?

KSP: There aren’t any continuations of character, but A Record Year For Rainfall and No Chinook definitely exist in the same “universe.” You can think of it like the Kevin Smith movies or Final Fantasy video games, where there’s a new cast, but there’s a lot of familiar aspects. In Rainfall, you’ll find that Bret, the main character, used to work at a job that he’s not allowed to talk about. It’s the same place Kate from No Chinook works, but that’s not obvious from reading either book necessarily. To sum up, I guess: I don’t do sequels, but I do enjoy planting Easter eggs.

MA: I happen to love Easter eggs J. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

KSP: I think I want to talk about publishing here. There isn’t any stigma in being an independent graphic artist, an indie band, an independent charity, an independent chef, or almost any other art form or business. Lawyers go into business for themselves all the time. Doctors open up their own private practices. Soon, in less than ten years, people will absolutely not care who published your book. I don’t think readers care who published your book now. If you design a book properly, if you edit it professionally, if the package looks and smells and registers like a real book, then I don’t see the difference between an indie book and something by Harper. There’s a big difference between vanity publishing and independently publishing. Gredunza Press is a business. We publish books. I publish my books through it. Does Dave Eggers get slack for publishing his books through McSweeney’s, a press he built? The only people who care these days are authors who are more swept up in the “industry” than in writing their own books, publishers who want to stay on top, and pundits looking for a juicy story. Readers and writers don’t care, and soon enough nobody else will either. You can buy my book on your Kindle or Nook or whatever, and you can order the physical copy from me and soon from Amazon. You read it, and you’d never know I didn’t get published by one of the big guys. Not every author is capable of completely going into business for themselves. They need help editing, designing, and promoting their novels. That’s where publishers like ours come in. We offer services to authors trying to make it. We’re the future.

MA: Thanks, K. Sawyer. Folks, please visit his website and the site for his press: www.ksawyerpaul.com, and www.gredunzapress.com. Read More

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