Thursday, August 24, 2017

Interview with novelist John Collings

Novelist John Collings joins me today. We’re chatting about his new young adult literary fiction work, Tag: A Cautionary Tale.

John Collings has written two critically acclaimed novels, Hell and God and Nuns with Rulers, and Tag: A Cautionary Tale. He is also a creative writing teacher at Korea International School, and spends his free time traveling around the world to learn from the people he meets.

Welcome, John. Please tell us about your current release.
Tag: A Cautionary Tale is a fictionalized history of the playground game, Tag, and all the games that were spawned from its inception. The boys who created the game enjoy it on a daily basis until things start to fall apart for them. Soon factions are formed and neither side listens to the other side as they both inadvertently work towards the destruction of the field they both love.

The story plays around with how destructive strong opposing ideologies can be, and if we cannot spend the time to realize it, we will be sucked down in that destruction. I wrote it before the recent presidential election in the United States, and it was released shortly before the ugliness of the election process started to play out later in 2016. Since then, I have had a lot of conversations with people who have read the book and can see the same thing that played out with the boys in my story also play out in American politics. The conversations have led me to believe that this is a timely piece that really reflects the frustrations that many Americans are experiencing in the current political environment.

What inspired you to write this book?
The idea of this story came while I was teaching Alex Kotlowitz’s There are no Children Here. It the story of two brothers growing up in the projects of Chicago during the 1980s. One of the parts of the story that affected me the most was a short episode where these two kids could not even enjoy a game of tag because of the violence of their neighborhood. The simple childhood game is something I believe is essential to the development of any child. The game teaches us so much about the world we live in and as it gets more complicated with the way we grow, it continues to help with this development and understanding. I had toyed around with idea for a few years but never could tell the story the way I wanted to. There was something missing and I couldn’t quite figure out what it was. It took a camping trip to the Redwood Forrest in Northern California with my wife. She had gone to bed earlier and I was watching a big oak log burn down when the characters of Little Lizzy and the old curmudgeon popped into my head. I hadn’t even thought about the story for a couple of months, but these two were the missing elements I was looking for. Afterwards, the story just poured out of me, and four months later I had the rough draft.

Excerpt from Chapter One of Tag: A Cautionary Tale:
Back then, roads didn’t exist. Big buildings didn’t block out the blue sky. Even the cars didn’t hurry off to the places where cars hurry off to. Tall trees circled the expanse of the field. Of course, a few stray trees here and there offered their shade to those in need on sunny days, and shelter to those in need on rainy days. Arbella Hill stood over there, the steep sides of it also covered with trees. On the top of it stood the mightiest of all trees, a proud oak. And, of course, this rock I’m sitting on sat right here.
Back in the day, we didn’t call the hill Arbella; that name came later. We only called the hill, “The Hill”, just as we called the rock, “The Rock” and each individual tree, a tree. We didn’t spend a lot of time naming things back in those days. We had more important things to do. We had a big field.
I couldn’t tell you where everybody came from, but we came, none the less. We all wandered out of the woods and across the horizon, drawn by this majestic mound. It stood above everything else on the plain, rivaled by no other formation in its beauty. On it, assorted fruit trees and tall pines pointed their peaks towards the heavens, wondrous wildflowers blossomed, rearing their heads to the world, animals scurried under the protection of the hill, peeking their happy heads out whenever they saw fit. If they ever noticed us looking at them, they would dart back into the shadows. They didn’t know they had nothing to worry about because we cared about them as much as they cared about us. We had many more exciting things to do, besides.
We ran. Not to or from a specific place—doing something like that didn’t interest us much. We ran more for the why, rather than the where.
What was the why, you ask? Well, why not?
But just imagine a huge field stretched out before you, soft and supple grass growing just tall enough to tickle your toes as the drops of dew danced upon your bare feet, the subtle sun warming you as you wind your way through the maze of dandelions. And if ever its heat gets too hot, the shade of a nearby tree is there to comfort you. If you’d rather continue on your run, the wind was there to blow a refreshing breeze your way. As far as we were concerned, the field had been created just for our pleasure, and we took every opportunity to partake in that gift.
As was the case with the hill, the rock, and the trees, we didn’t bother with each other’s names. We didn’t even bother to acknowledge each other’s presence. We weren’t very social at that time—running occupied most of our time.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I have been finishing up the first novel for a collection of stories I have been working on that revolves around Envotuer’s Traveling Carnival, an ancient and magical circus. The owners of the place interact with certain customers that force them to involve themselves with the carnival and the real mission of the place. All of the stories stand on their own, but the characters of each smaller piece intertwine to create a bigger picture, and in one story, one of the people might be the protagonist, but turn up as a minor character in another story. It has elements of H.P. Lovecraft’s writing, and a couple of the characters have already appeared in other stories that have been published.

I am also working on a story that reflects the students I work with in Korea. It is the story of a Korean high school student that feels the pressure of the academic world the country pressures the young adults with. She attends an international school and goes to hagwons, additional intense study programs in Seoul, at night. Through a series of bad luck experiences, she gets kicked out of her hagwon, and instead of telling her tiger mom about it, she decides to open her own hagwon that teaches its students how to have fun.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I thought it would have been when I held my first book, Hell and God and Nuns with Rulers in my hands, but that moment was a little too surreal to make it feel like I could really call myself a writer. It was when I got one of my first reviews for the same book in which the reviewer talked about one of my minor characters and had some greater insight into the character than what I had planned for her. The reviewer was able to talk about the way that character was in love with the main character. I didn’t think I had written it that way, but after reading the review I could see what she was talking about. It just showed me that any piece of art that is received by the public takes on a life of its own, and it was fun to sit back and say that I created that piece and now people are making their own connections with it. I really felt like a writer at that exact moment.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I teach British Literature, Creative Writing, and Film as Literature at an international school in Korea. It keeps me pretty busy, but I enjoy the interaction with my students, and the way they challenge my thinking. It also give me the opportunity to get another perspective on the world which I believe is probably the most important thing somebody can do in this world. With all of this going on in my life, I am able to find an hour every day to sit down and write. It is amazing how much can be written by just dedicating this small amount of time to do it. I escape from the world for a little bit, and at the same time, allows me feel like I am giving something back to the world.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I have always been a great fan of pop music. For many years, before I became a teacher, I was a wedding disc jockey and gained an encyclopedic knowledge of all kinds of music. I use this knowledge to create a soundtrack to what I am writing. Before I sit down to bang away on the computer, I try to find the perfect album that will help create the mood of what it is I am writing about that day. It is also how I keep track of the hour that I write for each day. I figure that on average an album is one hour long. Some days I write for more than an hour, and some days, I write for a little less, but in the end it averages out to be an hour. I feel that the music helps me create the mood with that day’s writing. Even though the reader can never hear what I hear while I am creating the piece, I feel that it is still present in the story being told.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was always fascinated by the newspaper comics while I was growing up. I loved the stories that they used to tell, and would do anything to make sure I was able to read the daily installments of The Far Side, Bloom County, and Calvin and Hobbes. I used to play around with creating my own characters and writing my own story lines while I was supposed to be learning math in school. There is still a collection of notebooks in my storage unit with a couple of pages of math notes in the front and a daily collection of comics written in the back of it. They aren’t very good but I enjoyed the challenge of coming up with a new joke every day. And it is also interesting to see how it helped shape the way I think today.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
It has taken me many years to find balance in my life, but I am glad that I have. I would recommend that everybody else works on doing the same thing. It is important for you to pick up a book and read because you learn something new every time you do that, but it is also important to put that book down and go out and experience something fun and engaging everyday as well. You need to laugh from your heart as well as use that organ to shed some tears. You need to work so your voice can be heard in this busy world, but you also need to play so you can discover the true meaning of that voice. Just make sure you do not do too much of one thing because then you become a two-dimensional character, and those characters are always forgettable. Don’t be forgettable.


Thanks for being here today, John.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Interview with satirist and author Douglas Wells

Author Douglas Wells is in the hot seat today. He’s talking with me about his new mystery farce, The Secrets of All Secrets

Douglas Wells was born in Seattle, Washington. His father was an officer in the U.S. Army, and by the time Douglas finished high school he had lived in Hawaii, North Carolina, Texas, Okinawa, South Carolina, Alabama, and Florida. He earned his B.A. and M.A. in English from the University of South Florida and has taught English and Literature at several colleges.

Douglas has a unique interest in and perspective on the comical and absurd foibles of the human race, which inspires his writing. The imaginative pillar of his novel, The Secrets of All Secrets, released by TouchPoint Press on May 12, 2017, is built on Groucho Marx’s line, “Humor is reason gone mad” and the Roman poet Juvenal’s declaration that “It is difficult not to write satire.”

Douglas is a Professor of English at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City, Florida. He is the father of two grown sons, and he lives with his wife and cat in Panama City Beach.

Please tell us about your current release.
The Secrets of All Secrets lampoons government, corporate, and extremist entities, while also casting a satirical eye on “the stuff that dreams are made on.”

I have written some previous works, but I needed to find my own style. What to write, what to write? I asked myself. Just in the nick of time, before I fell into a full-blown existential crisis, before I ended up as a couple of splotches on the drop cloth of life—okay, those are exaggerations—I decided to write something humorous and satirical because everyone knows humor, satire, and irony are my bread and butter, and I’m hip as to which side of my butter is breaded. Based on a thought I had about USB drives, I developed the beginning of a story. Zane, my central character receives a USB device by a mysterious, cloaked figure on a bridge at night. When Zane takes it home and inserts it into his laptop, an unknown entity speaks to him via writing on the screen. The entity tells Zane he has been anointed, so to speak, to seek The Secrets of All Secrets, which will confer upon him unlimited knowledge and power, the confirmation of the meaning of life itself, and we’re not just talking about unveiling the mysteries of how to properly fold a fitted sheet and how to program a TV remote. Out of this nucleus, the entire story flowed.

Other characters came to life: four quirky government agents who hunt Zane and The Secrets after intimidating Zane’s friend Hazim into revealing Zane’s mission. Dali appeared. She has also been given a USB. She and Zane meet up in Florida and combine forces. Quarrelsome with each other at first, a romance slowly blossoms

More characters arrived: a corporate megalomaniac fond of quoting Von Clausewitz’s On War and Inazo Nitobe’s Bushido: The Code of the Samurai, who sends his right hand woman, Magdalene, to pursue The Secrets. She hires Speque, a hit man/tracker, to assist her. They make quite a pair. She’s 6 foot 2. He’s 5 foot 6; naturally, they’re made for each other. Then there are brothers Jonah and Jeptha, crazy, fringe-element, anti-government separatists determined to get The Secrets in order to form a new Amerika—“Amerika with a k,” as Jonah asserts. Off they all go, chasing Zane and Dali pell-mell across the state of Florida. Zane and Dali become the contemporary Everyman and Everywoman, hounded by nefarious, zealous forces. Zane, Dali, and their pursuers encounter an armadillo festival, visit a nudist resort, and hang out with a presumed dead 60s rocker. Pandemonium occurs at each venue, with Zane and Dali one step ahead of everyone until all parties convene for a climactic confrontation over The Secrets.

What are The Secrets? Well, I hope people will read the book and find out.

What inspired you to write this book?
As a college professor, I store my courses and assignments on USB drives. One day it occurred to me that it would be interesting if all knowledge was on one USB, and the question arose: Who would most likely be obsessed with getting it?

Excerpt from The Secrets of All Secrets:

The next morning, Washington awoke first. He threw on some clothes and entered the kitchen area to make some coffee. Once the coffee maker stopped gurgling, he poured a cup, took it to the living area, and sipped while he checked his phone for messages, pleased that there were none. He looked out the windows to assess his whereabouts, but darkness hadn’t lifted. All he could tell was that they were in an RV park. He sat and drank his coffee, relishing the warm black liquid and the solitude until the others staggered in one after the other and poured coffee for themselves. They all joined him in the living area as dawn ascended.
            “So where are we?” he asked Adams.
            “In Tadmor.”
            “This is Tadmor? Tadmor is an RV park?”
            “Tadmor is a resort,” Madison said. “Paradise Pines. The target, or should I say targets, are here.”
            “They’re in a cabin on the other side of the resort,” Adams said.
            “Where did you get the intel?”
            “From the lady at in the registration office. I employed a ruse.”
            “He employed a ruse,” Madison said.
            Washington glowered at him. “Oh, great. It’s infectious, and if any one of you repeat that it’s infectious I’m shipping you back to DC with a termination recommendation.”
            “He’ll ship us back to DC with a termination recommendation,” Adams said.
            Washington stared at Adams, fury flashing from his eyes. “Didn’t you hear what I said?”
            “I did,” Adams retorted. “You said if any of us repeated that it’s infectious you would ship us back to DC. I only repeated the shipping back part. Once again, I was only reinforcing your authority, which I respect.”
            Washington allowed the fury to subside and nodded in reluctant acceptance.
            Jefferson got up and peered out the windows. “Should we go out and reconnoiter the resort? Check that the targets are in their cabin?”
            “Good idea,” Washington said. “You and Madison take a look around and confirm the targets are present.”
            Madison and Jefferson left the RV and began walking toward the cabin area. The sun was up now. As they moved along, two joggers, a man and a woman, overtook them from behind, and as they passed by, they shot Adams and Madison hostile glances. “I know this is a private resort,” Adams said, “but they shouldn’t be doing that.”
            “Jeez,” Madison said. “Someone might report them and they’ll get kicked out. I’m sure it’s against the rules.”
            They made their way over to the cabins and stopped before they reached Cabin seven, spotting Zane’s Explorer out front. “The car is there,” Madison said. “Let’s assume the targets are inside.”
            “Right. We’ll go back, convey the info, and establish a protocol for surveillance.”
            They swung about. A group of a half dozen power-walking women moved towards them.
            “There’s something odd here,” Madison said as the walkers approached.
            When the walkers reached them, one of the women said, “You must’ve just arrived, but you need to read the brochure.”
            “Uh oh,” Adams said after the walkers were far away.
            “What’s wrong?” Madison asked. “Other than joggers and walkers exercising naked.”  
            “See those people doing yoga over there?”
            “Uh huh. Oh.”
            “You don’t think—?”
            “I’m beginning to.”
            “Maybe that’s why the woman said something to us—because we’re wearing clothes.”
            “You mean as they came abreast?”
            Adams halted. “That’s a good one,” he said, laughing.
            Madison waited until Adams stopped laughing. “Damn, though. This means if we’re going to watch the targets, we’re going to have to be naked too.”
            “You mean while we tail them?”
            They laughed together this time.
            “We’d better get back and brief Washington. Plus read the brochure.”
            “Are you kidding me?” Washington asked after Adams and Madison reported. “This is some kind of nudist colony?”
            “Resort,” Adams said.
            “Whatever. Where’s the brochure?”
            Madison picked the brochure up from the driver’s seat where Adams left it and handed it to Washington who set it on the table in the living area and began reading. He read silently for five minutes. The other three exchanged anxious glances. Washington closed the brochure, inhaled a rumbling breath, exhaled, and said. “This is a nudist resort.”
            “Right,” Madison said. “Resort.”
            “Rule number one: clothes are not permitted when guests are outside of their cabins or RVs or trailers. Guests wearing clothes will be asked to return to their cabin or RV and remove them if they wish to participate in resort activities. Refusal to comply will result in the guests being ejected from the resort.”
            “What’s rule number two?” Jefferson asked.
            “Rule number two: guests are required to carry a towel with them for sanitary purposes when sitting on resort furniture.”
            Adams addressed Washington. “What are your orders for us?”
            Washington arose. “We have to stay with the targets, so we’ll have to blend in. I don’t like it any more than you do.”
            “I never said I didn’t like it,” Jefferson said.
            Washington ignored him. “’Rule number three: lewd, harassing, and/or any sexual behavior are not permitted. This includes staring and any unwanted physical contact. Any violations of this policy will result in immediate ejection from the resort.’ Like it or not, when you joined this organization you signed an oath that informed you of the sacrifices you’d have to make. We have to do our jobs, gentlemen.”
            “Well,” Madison said. “It’s going undercover without the cover.”
            Adams gave Madison a glance of solidarity. “It’s a cloak and dagger operation without the cloak or the dagger.”
            Madison and Adams giggled.
            “At least we won’t have to wear those gaudy shirts,” Jefferson added.
            “Enough,” Washington said. “Additionally, you are under strict orders not to experience tumescence. We cannot have undue attention paid to us. You are trained, highly skilled, highly disciplined, veteran operatives. Along with making sacrifices, your oath stipulated you would likely experience physical pain and deprivation. Now is the time to fulfill your oath. Are we agreed?”
            “Excuse me,” Madison broke in. “Our country expects us not to have erections, not even on the first day before we acclimate ourselves to rampant nudity?”
            “America is counting on you not to have an erection, Madison. Once again, are we agreed?”
            “Yes sir,” Jefferson said.
            “Yes sir,” Madison said.
            “We are agreed,” Adams said.
             Eyes rolled once again.
            “Gentlemen,” Washington announced, “take off your clothes.”

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m working on a satire of political correctness.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
As an adolescent, when I wrote sappy poems about being lovesick.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I have a full-time teaching job, which does afford me some time to write, but I accomplish the bulk of my writing in the summer when I’m not teaching. I usually write in the morning, eat a bite of lunch, relax for a bit, take a nap then get up and go back at it until late afternoon. When I’m not writing, I’m daydreaming my story forward.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I type with two fingers--pretty fast and pretty accurately—and I get up and pace a lot.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Actually, I was always dismayed that I would have to grow up. I’m still not sure I’ve made it there yet.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I like to think the kind of novels I (and others) write are needed now more desperately than ever. Our culture is rife with such ideas as post-truth, fake news, and alternative facts. It’s ironic that one of the places we can find truth is in fiction.


Thank you for being here today, Douglas.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Interview with sci-fi writer David Erik Nelson

Sci-fi writer David Erik Nelson joins me today to talk about a short serial with romantic leanings called Expiration Date, a serial written as part of the Arbor Teas Summer Reading Series (which just completed on Thurs, Aug 17, so you can read the entire story!)

David Erik Nelson is an award-winning science-fiction author and essayist. His fiction has appeared in Asimov's, Fantasy & Science Fiction, and elsewhere. His non-fiction includes DIY books like Junkyard Jam Band and Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred

What do you enjoy most about writing short stories?
Narrative is what changes people's minds. Not facts, not arguments; stories. Once someone has a story in their head, they are going to disproportionately favor the facts and arguments that support that story. So, if I want to see the arc of the moral universe bend toward justice, then the way to do that is in writing stories that encourage folks to consider where they lie along that arc, where they want to be along that arc, and what they have to do to assure that arc doesn't relax toward its default state of *shrug* it's all relative, man.

Can you give us a little insight into a few of your short stories – perhaps some of your favorites?
Oof. That's always a hard one, because it's so difficult for me to even look at a story I've written once it's been published (all the little places you could have made it better just jump out at you). That said, a story I wrote a few years ago tends to land pretty well with folks who ask me where they should start with my work, or what to read next after they've stumbled across something of mine they like. That story, which was first published in Asimov's magazine in 2013 and has since been translated a few times, is "The New Guys Always Work Overtime." It's pretty easy to find online.

What genre are you inspired to write in the most? Why? I like writing that's triggered by Big Questions, and so science fiction is a pretty natural place for me. But I'm also really interested in relationships in general, and the emotional demands of peoples' situations. Because of my personality, this has mostly drawn me to horror--but as is the case in Expiration Date, this can just as easily lend itself to romance. Those two genres are opposite sides of the same coin.

What exciting story are you working on next? I'm actually pretty excited about another novella, which is just hitting newsstands now in the latest issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction ( It's the cover story, titled "There Was a Crooked Man, He Flipped a Crooked House."

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I was 15 years old I went on a big school hiking trip. It was a long backcountry trip, with heavy packs (I think mine weighed 90 lbs when we left camp--no joke), and I wasn't in the best shape in the world, so I couldn't really talk while I was hiking. Because I was too out-of-breath to run at the mouth, I spent a lot of time thinking, and what I was thinking about--slowly, ponderously, step-by-step through the Smoky Mountains--was this story I wanted to write. It was sort of an overblown, overly symbolic, overly structurally clever thing, and I'm embarrassed by it now, but I had all that time to think, and I needed to distract myself, and so I thought it through in this very complete way that I hadn't really thought an idea through before. When I got home I started writing, and I worked on it basically everyday after school for the next year, first very slowly drafting it, then very, very slowly revising it, just sorta jazzed to be sunk into the story like that. Then I had this story in hand, so I submitted it to the school literary magazine at the last minute--the absolute last minute, maybe even a few minutes after the last minute.

But they got really excited about it. That story seemed gargantuan to me at the time--I mean, it took a whole year, right? And it certainly struck them as a big and meaty piece of writing, a "real story." (Incidentally, I had call to look at it again recently, and had to laugh: It's hardly 4,000 words. It's probably one of my shorter pieces that's been "published.")

Anyway, when they put the issue out at the end of the year--I hadn't really thought ahead to that point, when folks would read this story. That was terrifying. This story was the thing I'd been doing alone in my bedroom for the last year. I challenge any 15-year-old boy to be excited about anyone finding out what he'd been doing alone in his bedroom after school for the last year.

But the thing was, people read that story and people liked it (or, if they didn't like it, they certainly didn't bother seeking me out to say so--there was no Internet yet, and thus the inclination to zoom up and yell at someone for doing something that doesn't perfectly please you was an as-of-yet unexplored American pass time).

More importantly girls--girls I didn't even really know--read it and liked it and said that to me, their eyes wide.

Because they were impressed.

I could write a thing--I could work at it, in my room, alone, typing and backspacing and typing again, pacing, reading aloud, crossing out lines, revising, typing more--and the result would be that girls I didn't even know would be impressed with me.

That was pretty powerful motivation for a chubby, clumsy, loudmouthed kid with no other real dating prospects.

How do you research markets for your work, perhaps as some advice for writers?
I guess I'm sort of a traditionalist: Because I grew up reading sci-fi in the library and staring at the magazine racks at Waldenbooks, and because I like those sort of "golden age" Big Idea stories, I tend to gravitate towards the older print publications, like Asimov's and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. But there is a lot of really exciting stuff happening now, because of how the Internet flattens and democratize the ability to distribute fiction. Online venus like Strange Horizons and Clarkesworld and publish great stuff, treat authors well, and work hard to really promote the work they publish. Also, podcasts have created a new channel (and demand) for old-style audio drama and oral/aural storytelling. I've not had a ton of luck cracking those markets, but I love them. The Truth and Pseudopod are consistently good, as is the podcast for Nightmare magazine. Finally, now that ebooks have a solid foothold among the reading public, there are many interesting anthologies being pulled together by both traditional processes (i.e., an editor has an open call for submissions, selects pieces, puts together a book) and less traditional means (authors team up on their own to produce a huge multi-author genre anthology--things that run thousands of pages, and would just be functionally impossible to print economically). Many of these are wildly popular, and can be lucrative.

As for how to research markets: I've always worked with paying markets, because that was important to me. But it not be as important to other writers, who may have different goals (i.e., reaching a specific audience, winning awards, etc.) When I'm looking for new markets, I look at authors whose work I like, or who I feel an artistic kinship to, and see where they've had pieces published. I also look out for publications where editors I like are working (for example, I've never sold anything to Ellen Datlow, but I like her taste in fiction, and so I keep pitching stuff her way). Finally, I look at the Recommended Reading/Honorable Mention lists that accompany the major awards (Hugo, Nebula, etc.), or that editors put out alongside their big "Best Of" and "Years Best" anthologies; the places that originally published those stories are the magazines these folks are looking at, and so even if the pay is small, knowing that this magazine has an engaged readership is valuable.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I subvocalize almost constantly. Like, this sentence I'm typing right now, I'm thinking about saying it as I'm typing it. I can feel it on my tongue. It's the same when I'm reading (and a big part of why I'm such a slow reader). Almost every thought I have is composed as an imagined dialogue with someone. Very little of what I say is spontaneous at all. I guess, for a lot of people, their process of reading/writing as actually fairly divorced from their process of speaking/hearing. For me they're mashed into a single thing.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
The first thing I remember very clearly wanting to be--in a job sense--was an archeologist. Part of that had to do with how big the world is and how much has happened on it. The rest had to do with Indiana Jones.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Nope. They've been patient enough with me; it's summer! Go eat popsicles and throw water balloons are your kids!


Thank you for being here today, David!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Interview with contemporary romance author Kristina Mathews

Welcome readers. I’m helping romance author Kristina Mathews kick off a virtual book tour for her new contemporary romance, Diving In (A Swift River Romance #3).

During her virtual book tour, Kristina will be giving away a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too!

Welcome, Kristina. Please share a little bit about your current release.
The sweetest revenge . . .

He’s the Swift brother who got left behind, the son abandoned by his father. Now Kyle Swift is a man determined to destroy the whitewater rafting empire built by the half-brothers he never knew, the Swift sons who got the life—and the love—he was denied. Seducing Fisher Jones isn’t part of his revenge, but sharing a bed with the beautiful whitewater instructor is the one bright spot in his otherwise dark plan. That is, if he manages not to fall for the sad-eyed beauty . . .

Fearless when it comes to facing even the most daunting river rapids, Fisher never takes chances with her love life—until the night she gets swept away by a sexy stranger. But when her one-night stand unexpectedly shows up in her whitewater class, Fisher faces her greatest challenge yet: keeping her heart safe from a man determined to put an end to the family business—and the life—she holds dear. . .

What inspired you to write this book?
The first book in the series was inspired by my husband and his brother, both former raft guides. They came home from fishing one day with a story of how they had jumped in the river to save some guy who had fallen in and was struggling with the current. I changed the two married brothers to single twins, the man to a woman, and the rest of the story took off from there. The first two books feature the twins and the women they fall in love with while running their rafting business. Fisher, the heroine of this third book has had a crush on Cody, her boss, throughout the first two books, but he only sees her as a friend. I fell in love with Fisher and knew she needed her own HEA. She thinks it would be easier to quit after he’s married, but she’s promoted instead. She tries to get over her crush with a one-night stand, but finds out her anonymous lover is a student in her whitewater guide school. He also happens to be a long-lost half-brother intent on buying out the company.

Excerpt from Diving In:
When it was his turn, Kyle was determined to make a good impression. On his fellow students, but mostly on his instructor. He wouldn’t be too cautious or too cocky. He would show that he’d been paying attention, soaking in Fisher’s words of encouragement and instruction.

He gave the commands. “Forward paddle. Stop. Left back.”

His crew did exactly as he instructed. The raft was perfectly positioned. Except the current was faster than he anticipated. They were headed straight toward the rock in the middle of the rapid. He used his paddle to make a correction, but he dug in a little too deep and he managed to spin them three hundred sixty degrees around. They hit the rock dead on, and the front of the boat lifted in the air, almost vertical, and everyone went flying into the river.

Well, not everyone. Kyle felt himself being jerked backward and tossed to the floor of the boat like a fish. He scrambled to a sitting position and found Fisher was maneuvering the raft through the rapid.

“I’m sorry. I guess I screwed up.” Kyle couldn’t remember the last time he’d admitted to a mistake. He’d made plenty, but never admitted them. But for some reason, he knew Fisher already knew he was in over his head, and she’d call bullshit if he tried to deny it.

“Help pull the crew back in,” she commanded as they came alongside the swimmers. “We’ll talk about it when everyone can benefit.”

Leia was the closest and Kyle was able to get her aboard; then she helped pull Brett into the raft while Fisher grabbed Nolan.

“Well, that was interesting.” Nolan shook his head and ran his fingers through his wet hair.

“Kyle has just demonstrated the dump truck move.” Somehow, Fisher kept her cool. Made it almost seem normal. “And the important thing is that he was able to account for all the passengers.”

What a loser. Instead of impressing her, he nearly drowned his fellow students.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m heading north, to a fictional small town at the base of Mt. Shasta. There will be outdoor recreation, such as hiking, skiing, and fly-fishing. Secrets, crystals, and small-town politics. A billionaire who wants to be a handyman, a world class skier who wants to save his hometown ski resort, and a female fly-fishing guide who wants to keep her father’s memory alive while fighting off the development of the historic town.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ve always been a writer. I used to keep journals to get me through my teen years. I started my first Romance back in 1993 but never finished it. The premise of that story is the book Miranda writes in In Too Deep (A Swift River Romance #2). I started several books after my second son was born and I quit teaching in 2002, but I didn’t really take that next step toward publication until 2010 when I joined Romance Writers of America.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I also work as a para educator (teacher’s aide) mostly working with emerging and developing readers. I do tell my students that I write Romance novels (kissing books to the younger kids) that they can read when they are older. During the school year I write in the evenings and on weekends. I post on social media before school and on my lunch break.

I’d like to say I get a lot of writing done in the summer, but not necessarily. Sometimes I am more productive when I’m busy. I find that when I have all day to work on my book, I spend too much of it revamping my website, engaging on social media, reading blogs or craft books to inspire my writing, and I tend to not get down to writing new scenes until the afternoon or evenings. But some of the other stuff is necessary, too. Even watching old romantic comedies helps me to see what works for me and what doesn’t.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I get my best ideas in the shower. Or the car. Or anywhere where I can’t get to my computer. I do often jot ideas on the notes app on my phone. If I handwrite notes to myself I usually can’t read them later. I can teach a Kindergartener how to write their name, but I can’t print worth beans when my brain is bursting with a plot twist or secret a character reveals to me unexpectedly.  

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A baseball player, musician, astronaut, teacher, Princess Leia. The great thing about being a writer is that I can be all those things. Well, maybe not Princess Leia. Except on Halloween, I usually dress as her to hand out candy to Trick-or-Treaters. This year, I went as Fisher, the heroine in Diving In. I wore the lifejacket my husband gave me for our anniversary and my board shorts, sun protective shirt and river sandals.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I’d just like to thank each and every one of my readers. I still get a little overwhelmed by the idea that I have fans.

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Thank you for being a guest on my blog!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Interview with author Jody Summers

Author Jody Summers joins me today to talk about her supernatural thrillers, Dark Canvas and its sequel, The Mask Maker.

Born in New Orleans, Jody Summers' life has been filled with unconventionality. The adopted son of a prominent Texas restaurateur, Jody grew up in New Orleans, Memphis and then Houston, learning the restaurant business while he built a career as a competitive gymnast that propelled him to a scholarship at the University of Kansas.

After college, Jody followed in his father’s footsteps owning, at one point, three 24-hour restaurant franchises along with four tanning salons in Tulsa. Finally leaving that business, he turned his entrepreneurial skills to everything from a patent in the Pet Industry to a Single’s website.

A restaurateur, a gymnast, a stunt man, an entrepreneur, a pilot, skydiver, scuba diver, and an accomplished martial artist for twenty-five years, Jody Summers has tried it all. Now he brings all those experiences to paper in his first novel, the supernatural thriller, Dark Canvas.

Welcome, Jody. Please tell us about Dark Canvas.
When artist, Kira McGovern mixes paints with the ashes of the dead, she discovers her extraordinary gift, but it also leads her to some horrifying crimes in this psychological thriller of a novel.

It seems innocent enough at first, thought Kira McGovern---mixing her dead mother’s ashes with paint to create a tribute painting. What a way to personalize and immortalize her mom’s memory! The idea so ensnares her that she forms a new business, Canvas of Life, to do just that for others. As she begins with her first clients, something inexplicable occurs: Kira experiences segments of the dead person’s life. In dreams and visions, she begins to receive images, some are gratifying, some unpleasant and some of them are downright deadly.

Sean Easton is a Kansas farm boy with a special talent he is just beginning to understand. His father, too, has recently died, but something sinister still lingers on the farm. When he takes his father’s ashes to Kira as a pretense to meet her, he not only falls in love but makes some startling discoveries about his own life as well, and as Kira begins to paint with Sean’s father’s ashes the real terror begins….

                                    Sometimes Secrets Don’t Stay in the Grave.

The sequel, The Mask Maker picks up where Dark Canvas left off and as a result of their previous experiences; Sean and Kira find themselves involved in a deadly chase for a unique and gruesome arsonist with unpredictable results.

I have another book I am about to release which is also a thriller, however with a bit less supernatural tilt than Dark Canvas. It is called The Mayan Legacy.

I am also finishing the first draft of Mental Marauder which is the third installment in the Dark Canvas series.

What inspired you to write Dark Canvas?
A lovely lady I had a chance date with was actually painting with the ashes of the deceased, cremains, as she calls them, and it occurred to me that as much as I’ve read (and trust me that’s a lot) I had never read anything like this before, and the notion of writing something new under the sun fascinated me so that I just jumped on it.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I believe my next endeavor will be a Sci-Fi novel tentatively entitled “The Amazing Enigma of Aiden Quiver. His name is an acronym that I will share with everyone at a later date.

Stay tuned!

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
LOL. Somewhere AFTER I finished Dark Canvas. Even though I’ve written hundreds of poems over the years

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I am currently making a living in the oil and gas business as a permit agent. Therefore, most of my writing comes early in the morning or is dictated when I’m driving. I hope for that to change in the near future.

I also have a number of producers evaluating Dark Canvas for a movie. Fingers crossed.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I like to change perspective frequently, even within a paragraph. I like offering the observations from more than one person in a scene while still keeping it abundantly clear who is speaking. This little quirk gives editors fits.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I had no clue as a child. Later, I wanted to be an Olympic gymnast.

The next thing I KNEW I wanted to be when I grew up was a writer….figured that one out at age 50.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
My books are going to keep coming but as you can already tell in addition to the Dark Canvas series, I’m jumping genres, I already have a sci-fi plot that I mentioned earlier which I intend to tackle right after I finish the third book in the Dark Canvas series, which means later this year or early next year.

I already have the first draft of another novel, a religious thriller I plan to edit and finish entitled The Note from Christ.

I don’t plan to abandon the Dark Canvas series, though; I have plots in mind for at least two more in the series already.

As Robert Jordan, one of my favorite authors, said, “I intend to continue writing until they nail my coffin shut.” Which he did by the way with his brilliant Wheel of Time series.

Also, along with my hero Dean Koontz, I love to read Clive Cussler novels and would love to write a story someday to emulate his style of fast paced action and adventure comingled with a touch of history.


Thank you for being here, Jody!