Thriller

The Devil and the Deadly Peace

The Devil and the Deadly Peace - Sindhura Chamala 

I had no trouble flying through this book. Despite my mild confusion at the beginning as to where and when I was and exactly what was going on, I was entranced by the excellent writing and world building. 

I immediately fell in love with both the Little Brother and the Devil and wanted nothing more than to see their story play out happily. 

What I did have trouble with was trying to determine how I would classify this book. It's thrilling, but not quite a thriller. It's fantastic, but not really a fantasy. There's suspense, action, intrigue, deception, and devious plots, but I couldn't quite put my finger on what shelf I would place this book upon. 

For those of you who know my love of Ray Bradbury, you know that's what I love most about his work - unclassifiable. 

So kudos to Sindhura for creating a book that doesn't quite fit into any mold - to me that is a sign of a great author. 

I HIGHLY recommend this book. And I look forward to reading more by this author. 


Some Bio Information

Sindhura is from the small town of Nalgonda in India. She has a bachelor's degree in Information Systems from BITS Pilani. She works a Data Storage Engineer in Bangalore. Away from work, you can find her reading or writing with a cup of tea nearby.


Q&A

1) What inspired you to write this book? 

I've always been a storyteller since childhood, and I would spend hours narrating stories to my group of friends in school. The love for stories only grew, and I became an avid reader. One evening, on a walk alone, a conversation between a few imaginary characters popped up in my head, and I immediately wanted to build a story on that. Once I had a solid plot, I narrated that to a friend of mine who liked it. More than that, I loved the experience of telling that story. That's when I decided to write it.

2) Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? 

Once I had the plot, I immediately sat down to write. I knew I needed to finish the first draft quickly before my fears or doubts crept in. I discovered that I loved to write, and there was no stopping me. The first draft was the story I told myself. Once I was satisfied with that, I kept editing the draft until it was in a state that can be understood clearly by another person. I got it reviewed by one of my friends first, and then I got it edited by a professional.

3) What types of readers would most enjoy your work? 

I did not have a specific target of an audience when I wrote the story. All I knew was that I wanted to write a simple and short book that anyone could pick up and read.

4) What do you hope that readers take away from your work?

I hope the readers connect to the characters and the places that I created. I hope the book gives them a short escape into an interesting world in which they would like to spend more time.

5) Who is your favorite fictional character? 

I read many great books. Picking a favorite character is hard. However, the characters that stay with me for long are usually the kickass females that went through hardships and stood strong.

6) How would you describe your writing style? 

I would call it simple.

7) What’s your ultimate writing goal? 

I escape into the worlds created by other writers and would spend my life there if it weren't for the real life getting in the way. Then I discovered writing. I do it because I love it, and I hope I can continue to do that.  And along the way, if only a single person falls in love with my work, I would be a content writer.

Quarterback Trap

Quarterback Trap - Dallas Gorham

This is a great suspenseful and thrilling mystery that, while geared towards men with the football theme, will keep everyone on the edge of their seats. 

To be clear, I am not a football fan, and I very much enjoyed this book. I read it all in one sitting, completely unable to put it down until the plot was resolved. 

Gorham's writing style is easy to follow and he doesn't bog the reader down with statistics or football-speak that might alienate readers who don't really follow the sport. 

I loved all the characters and thought they were excellently written. Chuck is great as the main character and I can see him starring in future novels, such as Alex Delaware for Jonathan Kellerman, etc. 

Even if you're not a football fan, if you enjoy a good mystery/thriller, then I can definitely recommend this one to you. 


Some Bio Information

Dallas Gorham is a sixth-generation Texan and a proud Texas Longhorn, having earned a Bachelor of Business Administration at the University of Texas at Austin. He graduated in the top three-quarters of his class, maybe.
 
Dallas, the writer, and his wife moved to Florida years ago to escape Dallas, the city, winters (Brrrr. Way too cold) and summers (Whew. Way too hot). Like his fictional hero, Chuck McCrary, he lives in Florida in a waterfront home where he and his wife watch the sunset over the lake most days and where he has followed his lifelong love of reading mysteries and thrillers into writing them in his home office. He is a member of Mystery Writers of America and the Florida Writers Association. He also chairs the Central Florida annex meetings of the Florida Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America because he can’t get anyone else to take the post.
 
When not writing fiction, Dallas is frequent (but bad) golfer. He plays about once a week because that is all the abuse he can stand. One of his goals in life is to find more golf balls than he loses. He also is an accomplished liar (is this true?) and defender of down-trodden palm trees.
 
Dallas is married to his one-and-only wife who treats him far better than he deserves. They have two grown sons whom they are inordinately proud of. They also have seven grandchildren who are the smartest, most handsome, and most beautiful grandchildren in the known universe. He and his wife spend waaaay too much money on their love of travel. They have visited all 50 states and over 90 foreign countries, the most recent of which was Morocco, where their cruise ship stopped at Agadir (don’t bother).
 
Dallas writes a blog at http://dallasgorham.com  that is sometimes funny, but not nearly as funny as he thinks. The website also has more information about his books, including the characters. If you have too much time on your hands, you can follow him on Twitter at @DallasGorham, or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/DallasGorham.


Q&A

1)      What inspired you to write this book? 

I had previous written in Six Murders Too Many about Chuck’s high school football career and his friendship with the NFL quarterback Bob Martinez. I got to thinking about how a gambler might fix the Super Bowl game.
 
2)      Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? 

I have a home office. When I’m in writing mode, I’m at my desk by 8 a.m. I write until noon, have lunch with my wife, then write until 6 p.m. My goal is 3000+ words per day for the first draft. Quoting from my blog of Feb 4, 2016:

My first draft of Day of the Tiger followed the principal of “Dump it on the page and get the basics of the story right.” I met a fellow writer who wore a tee-shirt that said, “I don’t care if it’s crap; just get it on the page.” You can’t improve a story that’s not written. Some famous writer whose name escapes me once said, “Every good novel began as a lousy first draft.”

In this case, my lousy first draft ran 77,787 words. That took about four solid weeks chained to my desk.

To write the second draft, I read the first draft aloud to see how the words sounded. I know that you don’t move your lips when you read. But even when you read silently, you hear in your mind how the words sound. I want my words to sound well in the reader’s head. I read the first draft aloud and stopped when something didn’t flow just right. I made the changes to the draft and kept reading. That took two days to read, change, and create the second draft.

The second draft ran 79,809 words. That means that I had to add about 2,000 more words to make the words flow smoothly.

And, yes, I did get hoarse reading aloud for over twelve hours.

To write the third draft, I ran the second draft through a piece of software called Smart Edit, available from Bad Wolf Software. Smart Edit looks for things like overused adverbs, repeated phrases, misused words (such as their when you mean there), clichés, redundancies, proper nouns (to make sure I don’t call a character Monty one time and Marty the rest of the time), and so forth. The third draft had 78,626 words and took another two days.

The fourth draft took just over a week to go through my “List of words to restrict use of.” It’s a list of over fifty words or parts of words that writers sometimes overuse: about, almost, also, anyway, can or could, get, going or going to, etc. See my blog of March 3, 2014, How to be a better writer–words to avoid . That original list had only 41 items on it. Now I have over fifty.

That draft wound up with 74,216 words.

Then I print the fourth draft, sit in my easy chair, and read it just like you would (except I have a ballpoint pen in my hand). That was 211 pages of 8-1/2 by 11 paper. I discovered some parts in an earlier chapter than I moved to a later chapter when the flow of the action made more sense. Those corrections took another two days and resulted in the fifth draft, which had 74,166 words.
That’s the one I sent to my editor.

3) What types of readers would most enjoy your work? 
 
People who read for pure entertainment. I create a world of action, adventure, and intrigue---more of it than most people would actually experience in two lifetimes---all in the course of the few days or weeks that the story happens.
 
4) What do you hope that readers take away from your work?
 
A few hours of escapist fun.
 
5) Who is your favorite fictional character? 
 
That has to be a tie between Robert B. Parker’s Spenser and Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. I admire both characters.
 
6) How would you describe your writing style? 
 
I am usually a pantser, although I wrote Quarterback Trap from an extensive outline.
 
7) What’s your ultimate writing goal? 
 
Make a good living from telling entertaining stories.

Destiny

Destiny - S M Spencer

A fun twist on the young adult paranormal genre. Spencer offers up young love, vampires, ghosts, action, excitement, and much more. 

Lili is a fun main character who jumps into this new world she's discovered with both feet. As anyone who recently exited a serious relationship, she goes back and forth regarding her feelings for Sam, who has his own reservations about the emotions she stirs in him. 

Overall I enjoyed the book and was left anxious to know what would happen in the rest of the series. I enjoy when romance is mixed with paranormal,  it gives the genre a refreshing take (even though it's taken on a genre of its own now) and gives readers more than just another drama filled romance book. 

Very well written and definitely left me wanting more. If you're a fan of paranormal romance, I'd recommend the Absent Shadows Trilogy. 


Some Bio Information

S M Spencer grew up writing stories about the horses she pretended to ride through the rolling coastal hills of California. She finally bought her first horse at the age of 16, and then dreamt of having horses on her own property one day.

As a teenager, she discovered the romantic suspense works of marvelous authors such as Daphne du Maurier and Mary Stewart, as well as a wide range of other genres by incredible authors such as Ray Bradbury, Amy Tan and J.R.R. Tolkien. These wonderful works stirred a passion in her--to one day become a writer herself.

Now living in Australia, she has combined her dreams--she writes from the semi-rural home she shares with her husband, horses, cats and dogs--not to mention the mob of kangaroos that share the paddocks with the horses from time to time.

Her current series is the Copperhead Creek Australian Romance series. This is clean Australian contemporary/rural romance set within the Golden Triangle outside Melbourne. 

She has also written a clean YA paranormal romance trilogy, Absent Shadows, which is set mostly in Australia. 


Q&A

1) What inspired you to write this book?  

I was working near the Queen Victoria Markets and the Flagstaff Gardens where the book takes place. The market’s car park was actually built over a very old graveyard, and most of the bodies were never removed – I’d been on a couple of ghost tours through that area and found it fascinating. Of course, the popularity of vampires was also an inspiration for someone who grew up watching the original “Dark Shadows” – but now I’m showing my age!

2) Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process?

I write in spurts – I don’t get “writer’s block” because I simply don’t worry about it. When I’m inspired I might write for 8 hours or more a day for days at a time – but then I mightn’t write again for a week or so. I simply write when I’m in the mood to do so.

3) What types of readers would most enjoy your work?

The Absent Shadows Trilogy was written for the teen/YA audience – the MC’s are 19-20 year olds. It’s pretty clean – probably PG13. But adults who enjoy YA books with realistic heroines (not larger than life superhero females) will also enjoy it.

4) What do you hope that readers take away from your work?

These books are mostly for pure enjoyment – there are no real ‘messages’ in them, other than to follow your heart.

5) Who is your favorite fictional character?

Well, it used to be Winnie the Pooh & Tigger many years ago. More recently Aragorn and Frodo are up there, along with Legolas ... Harry Potter & co ... Tris from Divergent (because I like her taste in men) ... Stephanie Plumm (because she is so cheeky).

6) How would you describe your writing style?

Easy to read, fast paced, not too deep but not completely superficial either, the good guys will win, the bad guys will lose.

7) What’s your ultimate writing goal?

To make as many people happy as possible. I get a kick out of knowing people are reading MY books and enjoying them, hopefully the way I have enjoyed so many over the years.

The Moors

The Moors - Jody Medland

I loved the concept behind this work: a journalist going undercover to expose a dark and sinister place, too many secrets, and a rumored monster who terrorizes the home. The set up was great - I was hooked immediately. If this had been a Netflix Horror Movie, it would have been added to my queue immediately. I love "creature features." 

The plot is very well written, I had no trouble keeping up with the information the main character was stumbling across. While I found myself asking a few additional questions, overall I had no issues with where the plot led. 

While I was not exactly appeased by the conclusion of the work, I give the author credit for choosing to go down a unique path instead of wrapping it all up in a nice and neat little bow. But I definitely found myself wanting more as I closed the book. 

Despite that small detail, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the work and would definitely recommend it. 


Some Bio Information

JODY MEDLAND is an award-winning writer who has worked successfully across the advertising, education, film, gaming, literary and television industries.

His debut feature film, The Adored, was released in the States in 2013 and has since enjoyed worldwide distribution, including territories such as the UK, Germany, Poland and Uganda. It won Best Film at the Durban Film Festival in South Africa and earned three official selections in Wales, Germany and the US.

Jody is deeply passionate about his literary work and from 2011-2012 he produced and published ten short story books, titled The Emerging Light Series – a project that encouraged new writers to create and submit short stories.

It is the ability to wield strong, original concepts that Jody is renowned for among his peers and he is a great fan of dramas, thrillers and mystical stories, which are his genres of choice when writing.


Q&A

1. Tell us a little about what inspired you to write this book.

Well it actually started as a screenplay. When I was a teenager, I was living in Devon and saving the money to move to London so I could get work experience in film. I had a summer job delivering bouncy castles and there was this one place – right in the middle of Exmoor – that was beautiful by day but terrifying at night. In the evening when I picked the bouncy castle back up, the engine of my van started spluttering and I wondered what I would do if I broke down. If you’ve ever been on your own in the middle of a place like Exmoor in the early hours of the morning, you’ll understand exactly why my brain was ticking! I had a few wild ideas that seemed to formulate over the next few days, and that became the catalyst for The Moors

2. How long did it take you to put your work together?

That’s a tough one to answer. I wrote it as a script, went to places like Cannes Film Festival, touted it around and got some interest. In fact, I raised £800,000 of in-kind sponsorship, but I needed £1.7 million to make the film and I wasn’t quite well connected enough to secure the hard cash, so it didn’t quite get off the ground. I had producers offering to buy the script, but only if I forfeited the right to direct the film, so I declined. After that, I stepped away from The Moors for about ten years, but I always knew I would pick it up again when the time was right. Last summer, I decided it would work well as a novel and so I started writing. Within six weeks, the first draft was complete, and then I did about six months’ worth of rewrites. So as you can see, it’s hard to really know where time started and stopped. It was always at the back of my mind and so you could say it was about twelve years in the making.

3. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process?

For this project, it was very confused. Ha! Adapting something from a screenplay to a novel is pretty rare, but it was actually quite an enlightening experience. I literally cut and pasted the script in a Word document and then went through making notes about what I felt was missing, and where details needed to be fleshed out, etc. I’m an obsessive note taker, so I had scores of pieces of paper with ideas scribbled from the past decade – all for when I resumed work on the story again. It might sound a bit manic but, rather oddly, everything just seemed to fall into place. It was honestly one of the best writing experiences I’d had, but I feel like I’d been writing it subconsciously for a long time. In many ways, the creation of The Moors goes against everything I’ve learnt about how to structure a piece of work, but what can I say? It worked out, and I’m very proud of it. 

4. What was your least favorite part of the writing process?

The edits. Any writer worth their salt knows how essential editing is, but when you have a great new idea and you start working on it, there’s no greater feeling. You’re on a high for weeks and months as you write, but in the cold light of day when you read it all back, you realise that to get it in good enough shape for the marketplace, you’re probably going to have to read it between fifteen and twenty times to highlight and fix the things that don’t quite work. By the end, you feel like you never want to read it again, and so I find the editing process a painful one. Of course, whenever I talk to somebody who’s a fan of the book though, it feels more than worth it.

5. How would you describe your writing style?

I find it difficult to judge my own style. One thing I guess I can objectively say is that my concepts are quite bold and daring, and everything I do is very character-led. My interest is in people and how they react in unique situations. Many of the characters in my stories are under huge pressures of some kind, and I think that’s when people are at their most interesting – when their backs are completely against the wall. I’m very interested in relationships and motivations. What makes us do the things we do? Why I think my work is quite bold is that I usually take on storylines that put a spin on tradition. It may be that my subject matter isn’t always entirely believable, yet the challenge of making readers believe in it anyway, and also have a deep personal experience, is the whole reason I write.

6. What is your ultimate writing goal?

All I know is that writing is the only natural gift I have. For some reason, coming up with original ideas is a knack I was born with and I can sit and write for hours on end, and never get bored. I think when you can do something for 18-hours a day and still want to do it the next, you need to realise you’re lucky and keep going. I don’t think I’ll learn the reason for why I write in my lifetime. I just honestly feel like it’s the reason I’m here and so I do it every day. Of course, it would be nice to be recognised within the industry in some kind of grand way, but I wouldn’t be too upset if that day never come. Whenever I’m approached by somebody who excitedly talks to me about something I’ve written – when I can tell that they get the story and that it’s affected them somehow – there’s honestly no other feeling like it. Equally, now that I run my own publishing company, I’m getting just as much of a kick out of our other authors’ work. There are a handful of books coming out this year that I just can’t wait for people to see, so I’m trying not to set many goals other than to expand the company and get more content into readers’ hands.

7. What would you like readers to take away from your work?

It depends on the subject. With my fictional books, I’d just like the readers to be entertained because escapism is an extremely powerful thing to be able to offer. Whenever I work on non-fiction, I just hope that the message sticks. For instance, we’re releasing a book in June – a memoir, titled Street Girl. It documents the life of a young girl who grew up on the streets of Brazil and faced violence, rape and torture on a daily basis. The things she went through – even by the time she was my daughter’s age – should never be experienced by anyone. The reason I wanted to publish it is because the Olympics are in Brazil this year and I’m fully aware of how glamorous the country will be made to look while the event’s on. What I want to do is let people know there’s a whole other side to the country that needs to be addressed. I have a meeting lined up with the Brazilian Embassy and I’ve also secured the author some air time on TV this week. We’ll do what we can to get the message out there over the next few months because I thinks it’s an important one, so depending on the content our any given release, I think the takeaways for the reader will always be different.

Angels Three Five

Angels Three Five - Don Candy

While military thrillers don't usually find their way onto my reading list, I love the change to expand my reading horizons and challenge myself with a genre that I don't normally read. 

I often find that military thrillers are written for people in the military. The lingo, abbreviations, codes, etc. often go over my head and leave me feeling like I'm missing out on a huge aspect of the plot. 

Fortunately, Don Candy has written Angels Three Five with easy to read prose that answered all of my questions regarding lingo and other military terminology before I even had a chance to mentally ask the question!

In addition, the characters were incredibly well developed and I had no trouble forming attachments to them. It all seemed very realistic and plausible, which also made it a terrifying and eye-opening read. 

If you're a fan of military thrillers, I definitely recommend Angels Three Five. And if you're just looking to test the waters a bit, this is a great book to start with. I never felt lost or as though the author was speaking over my head. It was a highly enjoyable read. 


Some Bio Information

Engineer, commercial pilot, flight instructor, sailing instructor and retired CEO, Don Candy led a life of adventure. His life experiences and his respect and admiration for the U.S. Special Forces led to this book, the first in his series of Sam McKensie novels. He, his wife Karan, their son Stephen and daughter Sara and their four grandchildren enjoy traveling, sailing, skiing, and water sports. 


Q&A

1. Tell us a little about what inspired you to write this book.

Angels Three Five was inspired by my love for Special Forces thrillers; the Tom Clancy, Stephen Coonts, genre. And my life as an engineer, pilot and sailor. A35 is the first of three Sam McKensie Novels and contains many of my life’s experiences. The next book, Dawn’s Early Light, now about half complete, will contain much less of my life and much more of my imagination.

2. How long did it take you to put your work together?

A35 took me a year to write and six months to edit. I intend to complete the next book in less than a year, and the third in less than that.

3. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process?

I have a busy life with not nearly enough time to devote to my writing, so I spend much more time than I should having to review what I’ve already done to be sure everything fits and this is what I like least about my writing process. I tend to be very chronological with only a few flash-backs. I cherish the opportunities to work through several chapters without interruptions.

4. How would you describe your writing style?

I tend to structure my work much like James Patterson; several intertwining but related stories leading to one or more false climaxes before the finale with short to medium length chapters.

5. What is your ultimate writing goal?

My goal as a writer at this point is to finish the trilogy I have started and make the books successful.

6. What would you like readers to take away from your work?

I want my reader to enjoy my writing and come away with an appreciation for the sacrifice and dedication of our country’s Special Forces and for the technical savvy, innovation and effort of those in the background who develop the systems and equipment that help keep them safe.

Tempting Treasures

Tempting Treasures - Michele Buchholz

I love plots that center around treasure hunting. They're fun to read and I enjoy watching the main characters piece together the clues as they narrow down their search. What I enjoyed about Tempting Treasures was that it was all set in the family house. Keeping the treasure hunt narrowed down into that location made for an even more intriguing plot - and the supernatural elements that Buchholz included added depth and a uniqueness that many treasuring hunt plots lack. 

I struggled a bit with connecting with the characters. While I wanted to root for and connect with Elena, I wasn't able to see through her eyes or fully understand the emotions that drove her actions. 

Overall a fun read with lots of twists and turns that made for a well developed plot line. 


Some Bio Information

As for the personal scoop, I'm a stay at home mom by day, Author and aspiring Artist by night. On the weekends, I put paint to canvas while enjoying a glass of wine with my gal pals. All this, while juggling the demands of being a full-time mother and wife. I have been a long time reader of historical romance and lover of mystery novels, ever since I could pick up a book. A big Thank You to my Grandmother for igniting that book-loving spark. To this day, it drives me, entertains me, and moves me forward in my writing career, eliciting stories full of intrigue, murder and mayhem. Whether by the fireplace on a cold winter night or soaking up the hot summer sun, I find the opportunity to indulge my imagination.


Q&A

1. What inspired you to write this book?

I love mysteries and treasure hunts! I kept trying to find those types of novels in book stores and libraries but they seemed few and far in between, at least in the historical time periods that I loved. So, I wrote my own!  Let me tell you, that was easier said than done! Took me five years from first draft to final publication. I had a lot of writer's block and breaks along the way. 

2. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process?

I'm what's termed a 'Pantser". I don't have detailed notes and plans, just an over all concept, when I sit down to write. The characters really control their own destiny as I get the story out. It's fun for me to write this way b/c they constantly surprise me! 

3. What was your favorite part of writing this book?

Listening to the characters! Figuring out all the twists and turns to the final conclusion while sprinkling in the clues for the readers to hopefully find. 

4. What does the perfect writing environment look like to you?

In my opinion there is no such thing as a perfect writing environment. I frequently change my venue, even if its just across the room. When you have writer's block anything might trigger a release. Also, when I'm writing certain types of scenes I have different stimulus needs. I stumbled across one in particular. For instance, when I'm writing a fight or action scene I love to have football and heavy metal on. 

5. How would you describe your writing style?

Again, I'm a pantser, there isn't much to my style other than starting with an over all theme or idea then slowly building. This novel, I rewrote at least six times during editing as the threads of the story grew. 

6. What would you like readers to take away from your book?  

I hope they enjoyed the thrill of the treasure hunt! 

7. What’s your ultimate writing goal?

To get better and faster! I have many more stories to share, being the mother of three young boys, I don't have a lot of time to spare! 

The Journalist

The Journalist - M.F. Moonzajer

Deciding to undertake the process of writing an espionage thriller is no small matter. There are so many additional details and plot lines to follow, even plot lines that you don't specifically lay out within the pages. 

Moonzajer's The Journalist had all the great plot points that you would expect from this type of thriller. However, I did find myself getting confused on a couple of occasions. There were several chapters I had to reread to try to find my bearings once again so that I could continue on with the plot. 

But the writing is very well done and it's an overall very exciting story. 


Some Bio Information

M.F. Moonzajer is a former intern for the United Nations Secretariat in Bonn, Germany, an International Development Research Center of Canada scholar, the current editor of the International Scientific Journal of Issues, Research and Essay (JSRE), and the chairman of the Indie Authors Promotion Center. Moonzajer is also a former correspondent for the Journalism in Crisis Coalition of New Zealand, a coordinator for the International Media Support of Denmark, a fellow for the Sustainable Development Policy Institute of Pakistan and a policy maker for an international NGO in Afghanistan. He has BA in Journalism and a Master’s degree in Development Studies.


Q&A

1. What inspired you to write this book? 

I have read and watched many spy (MI6, FBI and CIA) books and movies, and I always wanted to have my own version of spy and espionage story. The Journalist is like my kid. I have had nurtured the story in my dreams for years. Previously, I had written a number of nonfiction books on different topics, but the Journalist is my first fiction book. To tell you the truth, the dead of Mike Spann, the first CIA agent killed in Afghanistan in 2001, inspired me to write this book and I have also dedicated this book to him and his heroism. 

2. Was there a deciding point in your life that made you want to become an author? 

Yes, I was born and raised in an illiterate family. Education was not our thing at all. I failed to pass the exam during my seventh grade, because I could not read or write even my name. Then I had to decide whether leave the school or do my best. I succeeded to continue my education, and I completed school, then university (first person who went to university in our generations) and then I completed my master academic program. Along the journey, I started writing academic papers, I wrote for the international journals and magazines such as the Global Foreign Policy Magazine, News Safety Institute of America, Express tribune, Wave Magazine of Europe etc. and the collection of my academic papers turned into a book “30 pieces”. I felt that I owe the world, and now it is my time to write. 

3. Are there any authors who influence your writing? 

Yes, I like reading Robert Ludlum’s books a lot. I have read most of his books. He has a unique style of writing. His imaginations are awesome. I want to continue the trilogy of the Journalist like his series spy fiction. I also enjoy reading John le Carre’s spy fiction. 

4. Can you tell me a little bit about your writing process? 

Well, as I said, it is my first fiction, and the eighth book in total, in this special case, I developed the story, the characters, and then start writing it. It took me just a few months to draft the book. I faced many problems, especially in the post drafting process. I live in Afghanistan and it is hard to find people who can read and understand English and then it is difficult, because those who can read English are too busy or they do not read at all, or even they are not interested in reading and giving you feedback. I like to have control over my writing process. I first design the plot and storyline, then I draft it, and later I work on illustration of events, introducing characters and it goes on until it is finalized. It is more like a child’s 9 months process. 

5. Who is your favorite character in your work? 

Characters are like an author’s children. Some of them are good and some of them are bad, but what makes a few of them is the connection you find between yourself and the character. I loved Elena, for her softness, simplicity and kindheartedness, but I had to let her go, because the world inside the Journalist was too harsh for her. I also like a complicated character like Takdeer, so it is between good and bad. 

6. How would you describe your writing style?  

I think I need to re-evaluate that. I have been writing academic papers, which is all about facts; no imagination is needed at all. Well, I use active voice; I try to use alliteration. I also use prose in the second edition of the Journalist (November 2015). 

7. What’s your ultimate writing goal? 

We have many untold stories in my country (Afghanistan). I want to write as many as good quality books and tell the stories to the world. I want to take part in changing the life of people through writing.

Frank Winston

Frank Winston - Jacob Power

What happens when an author combines a real life news article with a plot that fans of Grumpy Old Men would applaud?

Frank Winston by Jacob Power happens - that's what. 

This entertaining short story is a fun combination of humor and thrills as a couple of older ex-cons try to make some quick cash. 

Complete with plenty of face-palm moments, I found myself feeling quite bad for the two main characters as they have no idea what they're getting themselves into at the start of the day. 

Frank Winston was a great departure from my normal reading list. It was unique, enjoyable, and well written.


Some Bio Information

Jacob Power is a graphic designer, husband, father, and writer, but not necessarily in that order. He grew up in central Louisiana and graduated from the University of Louisiana at Monroe in journalism. To view more samples of his writing, or graphic design work, you can visit his website JPowerDesign.com, or follow him on Twitter @PowerJacobE.


Q&A

1. What inspired you to write this short story? 

A friend of mine sent me a news story where two older guys were arrested for driving around in what looked like a sniper van. One of the men had some sort of connection with the New Orleans mob, and both men were denying they had any idea of the silenced .22 rifle that was in the van. As soon as I finished reading the article the movie "Grumpy Old Men" came to mind and the idea of the story was born. 

2. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? 

I have a full time job, wife, three kids, and two dogs. To say I'm busy is an understatement. However, I carve out time here and there where I can. Sometimes I write late at night, sometimes I write on my lunch break. The great thing about this story was that it was extremely fun to write. Plus, I knew it was going to be a short story so that allowed me to let the story be as long or short as it wanted to be. I liked writing these two old guys, and I loved the conversations they had. I was always eager to see what was going to happen next.

Right now, I'm doing the same thing for a novel I'm working on, some writing in the morning (when I can get out of bed early enough), at lunch, and at night once the kids are in bed. I used to never plan ahead when it came to writing, but I've found that having a loose outline to keep any ideas for what could happen in the story rewarding. As I'm writing I'll keep the outline in the back of my mind like it's directions to get from point A to point B, but the ride along the way can take me anywhere.  

3. Who is your favorite character?   

Though I liked Frank, I enjoyed Winston's character more. He seemed more of the realist of the two. He was a reluctant sidekick, but as conservative as he was he wanted to be there when the action happened.                                                                                                                                       

4. How would you describe the perfect writing environment? 

I would love to have my own writing hut/shed/whatever. The idea of having a dedicated space that's not directly connected to the house, like Chuck Wendig's "Mystery Shack," sounds like the perfect place to me. I would wake up, write for a couple of hours, take a break, then work on other material I completed. I did something like this while on a trip, and loved the routine of it. I wish I could incorporate more of that now.  

5. Do you have a favorite author?  

For the longest time I was a fan of Kurt Vonnegut, and I still am to some extent. I loved his writing style and sarcasm. Now, I tend to lean more toward Dennis Lehane, or Elmore Leonard. There are authors I wish had more material out there to read, I'm talking about you Donna Tartt.              

6. How would you describe your writing style?  

I'm not sure how I would describe my writing style. I'm not a minimalist, but I don't try to ramble on for pages about how a room looks either. I realize the reader should have an idea of what certain settings should look like. A friend described my style as "packed with content/meaning in relatively little space." 

7. What’s your ultimate writing goal?  

I would love to be a full time novelist with at least two to three book releases a year. For the longest time I wanted to be published traditionally. I would still love to be published traditionally, but  I'm continually exploring the self publishing/indie side of getting my work out there.

I currently have a novel I'm having beta read, and hopefully self published in the near future. I also have an outline for a sequel to that book, but I'm working on another project at this time. I know there is plenty of work to be done to get to that point. I've learned there is more to being an author than just writing. It's exciting and a little scary at the same time. Even if I don't become a full time novelist then I'll still want to get my work out there in one way or another.      

The Black Swan Company

The Black Swan Company - Luna DeMasi

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With so many paranormal books out there, I always get excited when I find one that takes off in a new direction that I haven't seen before. The Black Swan Company reminds me a little of The Omega Man by Richard Matheson. But there are more political implications and a lot of thrills as our heroine fights for survival, the truth, and in the end, love. 

There is a lot of dialogue in this book, but DeMasi makes it seem effortless. I had no trouble keeping up with the plot, the characters, or in believing the direction she took. Without giving away spoilers, I have to say that the biggest shock to me was that the main Sanguine character is not what I expected him to be. And it was a breath of fresh air. Absolutely lovely. 

I had a lot of fun reading this book and look forward to more in the series. 


Some Bio Information

Luna DeMasi was born in New York, but currently resides in southeast Michigan. She holds a B. S. in psychology, a master’s of library and information science, and loves scary stories.


Q&A

1. What inspired you to write this book?

Much like the way my other stories came to me: I had a very simple concept come to me that I was intrigued by, then built the story around it. In this case, it was a human being marooned in a world of monsters, and having to work with one to survive; my anxiety surrounding the current political climate in the United States found its way inside, and before I knew it, I had my plot for the book

2. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process?

It involves so much thinking; staring at walls, listening to music, and thinking. Then, obsessive writing!

3. What is your least favorite part of the writing process?

The editing. Oh, how I hate editing...I'm a perfectionist about that kind of stuff.

4. How would you describe the perfect writing environment? 

Perfect quiet with nothing else that needs to be done in the mundane world to distract me!

5. What can readers expect from you in the future? 

I'm trying to complete another project called 'Counting the Stars without You,' which is also in the paranormal genre, but as far as 'The Black Swan Company' series, I'm hoping for three more books

6. How would you describe your writing style? 

Lucid.

7. What’s your ultimate writing goal?

To get all of my ideas for stories in book form!

The Unrevealed

The Unrevealed - Jason Porter and Lara Marie Collinsworth

As the cover of this book would suggest (along with the title), The Unrevealed is a bit of a whirlwind plot. 

You're immediately thrown into the life of Haze as he's thrown a curve ball of his own. And despite his less than legal actions in retaliation, I felt for him and immediately took a liking to him. 

The plot moves so fast to begin with that I had a hard time keeping up, but at the same time, it was near impossible to stop turning the pages (electronically speaking). 

By the end of the book I was left with more questions than answers, but the great dialogue, realistic and in depth characters, and great action sequences made the journey a fun one. 

If you're looking for something a little unique and out of your ordinary reading realm, then The Unrevealed is worth your time. 


Some Bio Information

After discovering that cannabis was the only treatment for his rare illness, long-time poet Jason Porter Collinsworth became an ardent advocate for medical marijuana.  He founded and became head breeder of Love Genetics, an innovative boutique cannabis breeding organization in California that focuses on high CBD and THC strains. He has written an extensive amount of poetry, some of which is published in his anthology, Tearing Apart a Whisper. Jason also co-authored The Unrevealed, the first cannabis superhero adventure novel of its kind, with his wife, Lara Marie Collinsworth. In his free time, Jason enjoys photographing life, composing poetry, growing, making soap, and creating interesting recipes. He lives with his two beautiful children and his lovely wife in California.

Lara Marie Collinsworth began writing fantasy stories at the early age of seven.  Her passion for writing only grew from there.  She worked as an editor for a literary magazine, earned her BA in English, and became a high school English teacher.  After developing a serious medical condition, Lara left teaching and now focuses exclusively on writing and studying yoga.  She published her first novel, The Unrevealed, as a collaboration piece with her husband, Jason Porter Collinsworth.  She and Jason are currently working on their second novel, The Convergence, and several short stories.  They live in California with their two children and three cats.


Q&A

1. What inspired you to write this book?

Our own lives and stories inspired us to write The Unrevealed series and to spread the word about the healing and curative nature of cannabis in an entertaining package. We hope that we can potentially reach mainstream society with such an important message.

2. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process?

First, Jason and I created the universe for the series and the main character descriptions and plot lines.  Next, we outlined and brainstormed the chapters one at a time, and then Jason composed the text orally like telling a story.  I directly transcribed what he said, and later we went back over the chapters together.  When we finished, we spent about a year editing and revising the novel in its entirety.

3. Who is your favorite character within The Unrevealed?

Haze.  He’s got this sexy, charming bad boy thing goin’ on, while at the same time truly caring about people and doing whatever he can to help them.  Plus, you never know what he’ll do or say next.  He’s exciting.

4. How long did it take you to complete this book?

We wrote the first draft in 5 months, and then it took about a year to edit and revise.

5. How would you describe your writing style?

Our style is edgy, poetic personal narrative like if Hunter S. Thompson and Sylvia Path collaborated to write a superhero novel based on their real lives.

6. What would you like your readers to take away from your work?

We hope our readers find high times on the wild ride and leave with a greater appreciation and understanding of the benefits of cannabis.

7. What’s your ultimate writing goal?

Jason:  I hope to someday write a piece of literature that becomes so much more than a book in somebody’s life, something that actually becomes a life event that they remember, a piece of art they celebrate forever because of how much the language or wisdom impacted their soul like The Alchemist and Stone Junction did for me.

Lara:  My goal is just to write, and then see what happens.

Dark-Boy Vol. 1: The Dead Blue

Dark-Boy Vol. 1: The Dead Blue - Alexander Engel-Hodgkinson

While some books do well at telling a story, I always appreciate the author that's able to take their skill to the next level. 

To me, the next level is creating this beautiful bubble like atmosphere so that while you're reading, you completely forget where you are and what's going on around you. 

This author has created such an environment. The characters are great, the action is well written, and I'm quite interested to see where this series goes. 

My only complaints are that I had a difficult time following the plot in the first couple of chapters, but that sorted itself out quite quickly, and that I couldn't always understand the characters' motivations. But it was more of a mild confusion and it didn't stop me from enjoying the plot. 


Some Bio Information

Alexander Engel-Hodgkinson lives in Ontario, Canada with his two crazy dogs, his younger brother, and his mother.  There, he frequently seeks out new and old films to watch and is constantly thinking of new things to write whenever he isn’t looking out for potentially exciting things to learn and gain experience from.


Q&A

1. What inspired you to write this book?

A mixture of things.  I grew up with anime, comic books (both Eastern and Western), and action films, so that was an essential source of my inspiration.  A lot of my Dark-Boy ideas are derived from history and current events, too—mostly from the wars of the 20th century (especially the Second World War and the Cold War), but also things from the last fifteen years, like the rapid growth of technology and my own pessimism regarding a few factors of society, I guess (LOL).  The biggest factor, however, would probably be Brian Jacques—more specifically, his Redwall novels.  I was in fourth grade when my mom dragged me to the book store and made me pick something out.  My brother picked up a Geronimo Stilton book.  I picked up Martin the Warrior.  It was the first intermediate-level novel I’d ever read, and since then I’ve read several novels in the series.  They were so many things that I just couldn’t list down; each book blew my mind and helped greatly expand my imagination.  Brian Jacques is pretty much the main reason I started coming up with my own ideas, and I guess you could say I probably wouldn’t have started writing if it weren’t for him.

2. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process?

Like everything else, it starts with an idea.  The idea could come to me from anything.  From baling hay to camping out in the middle of nowhere without cell reception for four days to listening to music.  Ideas just pop in there.  And like that, I start to think up scenarios based on these ideas.  As they develop, I start picturing scenes in my head, as if my brain was a film projector or something.  If I really like the idea, it’ll keep coming to me and I’ll write out a rough synopsis and tweak it until I’m satisfied.  Then I’ll sit there and dream up potential plot ideas, characters, environments, etc.  It takes me a while to get to the writing bit sometimes.  Other times, I’ll just start with an idea, and just let my fingers fly across the keyboard and fill up a few pages in a blank document, and see where my imagination takes me.  If I start it that way, then I just develop the plot and add coherency and all that good stuff to it while I write through it.

3. Who is your favorite character in Dark Boy?

I can never decide on just one.  I actually like Damian, despite how much of an ass he makes himself out to be most of the time.  He’s one of my oldest characters, too, so he feels like that really crazy brother you sort-of know and can’t decide if you like or dislike half the time.  Other common favourites include the Knight Sisters, Jenny and Aria, because I like their personalities and for some reason I think they’re hilarious and appealing in their own weird ways.  Jonathon Silverstein, because he inherits my appreciation of relics from the past, and I like severely misunderstood villains who think themselves to be the hero despite their ‘means to an end’ logic..  And Matthew Corridian, just because I really like his style… and there’s the fact that he’s also something of a feral version of a good friend I used to have.

4. How would you describe your writing style?

I’m not really sure… maybe I’d describe it as ‘punchy’ and ‘to-the-point.’  My writing style is mostly derived from the short, gist-of-it style of film screenplays and the long, descriptive narrative of Brian Jacques.

5. Do you have a favorite author?

Aside from Brian Jacques?  LOL.  I’d say Frank Miller, Shirow Masamune, and Koushun Takami.

6. What made you decide to become an indie author?

I’ve been writing since I was ten and I’d always dreamed of becoming a big-name author with a big publisher and movie deals and blah, blah, blah.  When I was sixteen, I really took it seriously and learned the basics and more from a good friend of my mother’s, who’s also an indie author.  She informed me about how strict publisher companies can be with royalties and deadlines and all of that, which made me go, “Well, screw that.”  I work better (albeit slower) when I’m doing it at my own pace, and since indie authors also (of course) can control the royalty rates and maintain total creative control over their own work without worrying about requests or deadlines from publishers, I figured it was a no-brainer.

7. What’s your ultimate writing goal?

My ultimate goal is to maintain a stable lifestyle with my writing work, and perhaps even make enough to become something of a film producer and/or film director (another job I’ve long admired) and develop films either based on past ideas through adaptations that improve upon the original work, or new ideas that come to me.  I mean, could you imagine being able to direct a film adaptation of your own work?  That’d be amazing!

Slumberscythe

Slumberscythe - Vance Bastian

There is nothing better than when a book surprises you. 

It's a beautiful moment when you suddenly feel connected to a work and you're unable to look away or set it down. 

Slumberscythe sneaks up on you. While it seems to start a little slow, it didn't take long for me to be caught up in the action and the intrigue of what James is going through. And as the pages continued, the plot continued to go deeper while simultaneously weaving delightful layers that not only enhanced the characters, but made it impossible not to finish the rest of the book as quickly as possible. 

Very well written. Highly enjoyable plot and characters -- James is just fantastic! And overall, a book that I strongly recommend. 


Some Bio Information

Vance Bastian has a degree in linguistics, a sordid past as an actor and director, and a confusing job as a production editor bringing other people's books into the world. He asks that you don't hold any of that against him.

Quite recently he's come to love his gig as a podcast host, audiobook narrator, book reviewer, and author. These jobs you can hold that against him all you want.

Vance's life goal has always been to master the art of the tale. He brings a powerful, visual, action-oriented storytelling background to his novels.

Vance lives with his fiancée and their feisty dog. He's pretty sure both of them think he's insane for pursuing a creative life.


Q&A

1. What inspired you to write this book?

Two things.  First, growing up I’d never had an adventure style story with a character who was gay like me. That character exists in romance, but I’m a science-fiction/fantasy nerd at heart. All my life I’d looked without finding a hero I could relate to. Finally, I wrote the story I wanted to read.

Second, the actual plot came to me while mountain hiking in upstate New York. There’s a local legend about The Hermit of Storm King Mountain. Just that phrase alone sent my creativity into overdrive. After outlining the series, the Hermit and his mountain have been moved to Book Two, but they get inspirational credit.

2. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process?

I am pretty evenly balanced between being a Plotter and a Pantser. As I mentioned, the whole series has a skeleton of a timeline that has individual character goals and world events marked out. From that, I’ve written a one-sentence logline of what I want to happen in each chapter.

However, when I sit down to write, I engage storytelling creativity by narrating out loud as I type. Sometimes I use dictation software, sometimes I want the keys under my fingers. It’s at that point that the characters who are in focus that chapter usually hijack my chapter goals and issue a list of their own demands.

3. How would you describe your writing style?

Slightly snarky, fan-boy urban fantasy with hidden linguistic gems. I love inside jokes that don’t detract from the plot in any way. For example, all of my Sandmen have agent handles that come from words related to dreams or sleep in other languages.

4. Who is your favorite fictional character?

There are too many! I love the good-hearted roguish character. The one who thinks on his feet, might live a touch in the shadows, but will come back and do the right thing. Robin Hood, Han Solo, heck even Harry Dresden all fit the type.

5. What is your least favorite part of the writing process?

Marketing. I was born and raised in the Midwest where self-promotion is, uh… not encouraged. No matter your publisher – self or otherwise – an author needs to be out and about talking about what they’re writing.

6. Is there a particular author that inspired you to become a writer?

J. R. R. Tolkein opened my mind to what a book can do for the imagination. Donald J. Sobol (The Encyclopedia Brown series) and later Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes) held my attention for as series writers who made a living with the pen. They were probably the first who made me think, “This could be a career.”  Since then, I’ve read almost a book a month and have encountered far too many phenomenal works to try to categorize that inspiration further.

7. What’s your ultimate writing goal?

I have always wanted to be a storyteller. I recently took another step that direction when I was accepted as an Audible (ACX) audiobook narrator. My personal goal is to make my living delivering stories – mine and other authors’ – to anyone who still hears “what if?” when they dream.

Saving Hascal's Horrors

Saving Hascal's Horrors - Laura Smith

I love young adult thrillers. While they keep me on the edge of my seat, by reading them, I'm able to avoid a lot of the shock gore and violence that exists in much of the horror genre today. 

Saving Hascal's Horrors is a charming young adult book about a boy who loves horror movies and finds himself in the middle of one when an old missing persons case begins to haunt him and his family. 

The characters are lovable and believable and are written with plenty of depth and personality. I definitely felt connected with them by the end of the book. The plot was well paced and held my attention, especially as I realized what Mike was planning to do. 

Mike goes through quite a bit of maturing throughout the book as he learned to respect his sister's decisions regarding their father's shop and in making room for new friends within his group. Lots of good lessons for young boys and girls alike. 


Some Bio Information

Laura Smith is an office worker by day and writes books at night and on weekends. She graduated from Carlow University in 2007 with a degree in Creative Writing. Her poetry has been published in 6 Sentences, Rune Magazine, Voices from the Garage, Falling Star Magazine and Blast Furnace Press. She has self-published three middle grade books, "The Stable House," "Saving Hascal's Horrors," and "The Castle Park Kids, which are all available on CreateSpace and Amazon.  In her spare time, she enjoys watching movies, reading, taking pictures, and spending time with her family.  She lives in Pittsburgh, PA.


Q&A

1. What inspired you to write this book?

This book was inspired by a dream I had about a family of grave diggers combined with an adult novel I was working on from Julie's point of view. I was going to have Julie as the main character debating whether or not to close her family's shop and pursue her own career path with Mike talking her out of it by the end of the book. The dream I had was from a boy like Mike's point of view, and I decided to rewrite it from his perspective, adding my own love of classic horror movies and ghost stories to the mix.

2. Who is your favorite character?

I like all of my characters, but I would say that Mike is my favorite. I tend to gravitate towards the leaders, and Mike is a leader. I like how he is set in his ways and already has a strong grasp as to what he wants out of life. He would also do anything for his family, and that's an admirable quality as well.

3. Will we be seeing more of Julia and Mike?

I was thinking of starting a series of novellas that chronicle Mike's life both before and after the events of this book. I'm already coming up with ideas for each book in the series. The stories will be separate from each other but will all exist in the same universe with the same characters.

4. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? 

This book was written entirely out of order. That was the first time I had ever done that, and it wasn't easy, but it did keep me motivated because it allowed me to write whatever I felt like writing about that day, whether it was from a specific character's point of view or a specific part of the story. The process has been different for each novel I have written, but essentially, I hand write or type a few pages every day and then go through the book over and over, adding parts, deleting sections, and just general proofreading. The editing process was actually really fun on this book because I kept thinking of new elements and characterizations to add. So, it wasn't much different from the writing process.

 5. Who is your favorite YA genre author?

I read a lot as a kid, but I mostly read R.L. Stein, Ann M Martin, and Laura Ingalls Wilder. I loved book series about real kids doing real things. I wasn't much of a fantasy reader, and I'm still not, but I do love horror and ghost stories.

6. Who did you write this book for?

I wrote this book for anyone who loves horror movies or wants to get into horror movies but doesn't like to sleep with the lights on. I thought about making it a treasure hunting story, similar to "The Goonies," but in the end I thought that just saving his family's shop would be reward enough for Mike.

7. What’s your ultimate writing goal?

I would like to sell enough books to be able to do this full time and pump out as many stories as I can about topics that interest me and that my readers also enjoy as well. I would like kids to know that a book doesn't have to have wizards and vampires in it in order to be entertaining. Regular kids are interesting enough. 

A Desire for Vengeance

A Desire for Vengeance - L.R. Puttock

I'm not much for Political Thrillers. But I do appreciate the intense amount of time, effort, and research that they take to create. Whether based on an actual event/inciting incident or merely the brainchild of someone who has their finger on the political pulse, these types of thrillers always force readers to ask "Could this have actually happened?"

What I really enjoyed about this book, was just how realistic the main character was. While she's a strong female lead, she wasn't particularly likable. I appreciated her determination, her courage, and her loyalty to her sister and beliefs, but I would not want to attempt to befriend this woman. Nor did I agree with all of her actions: choosing to continue to put herself, her little one, and her sister in danger. I'm always skeptical of characters that are perfect and 100% likable. They can lack the depth of real personality. So this definitely added to the realistic quality of this thriller.

All the components add together to create a very thrilling ride of a book. Those of you who truly enjoy political thrillers will not be disappointed in A Desire for Vengeance. The writing is excellent, the characters are strong, and the logic all seems sound. 


Some Bio Information

I was born in Hackney, in the East-end of London in 1955. After leaving school at the age of fifteen, I had many jobs, including a brief stint in the army, finally fetching up as a computer operator for an insurance company. Forty-two years later, I still work in IT for a major US bank in London. I now live in Surrey (about twenty miles south of the centre of London) with my wife, Jayne, our children, Robert and Jennie and granddaughter Millie.


Q&A

1. What inspired you to write this book?

I have always had a desire to be a writer and must have planned 100’s of novels and short stories in my mind over the years. However, it was only relatively recently that I put pen to paper – or more accurately, fingers to keyboard. 

Throughout my career as a computer analyst/programmer and database designer my job was to develop and build structures that satisfied the firm’s requirements. The process is not unlike developing a plot and narrative so my creative needs were satisfied.  Then they made me a manager and my opportunities for creativity were suddenly confined to status reports and staff appraisals.  

I started to read even more than I had before, immersing myself in the works of Wilbur Smith, Frederick Forsyth, Bernard Cornwall, Richard Woodman and many others. Before long, I had exhausted the supply of adventure novels in my little local library. Left for a weekend without something to read, I began to write my own. 

2. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process?

Process is probably too strong a word for it. It implies a degree of organization. I know where the story begins and have a loose plan in my head of where it is going. The route it takes depends on the characters and their response to the events I throw at them. I try to put myself into the POV character’s shoes and have them act as I think they would. Their reaction to an event triggers a further reaction in other characters, leading to more events. It is a bit like playing chess with yourself, turning the board each time to see events from the other side and reacting accordingly. That is probably why the book is longer than it should be.

3. Who is your favorite fictional character?

Oh dear! A cast of many! Probably C.S Forrester’s Horatio Hornblower, but also Wilbur Smith’s Sean Courtney (When the Lion Feeds, etc), Bernard Cornwell’s Uthred of Babbenburgh (The Warrior Chronicles series) and Lisbeth Salander (the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). I like to think of Sandy as “Giving  Lesbeth Salander a Long Kiss goodnight and adding a pinch of SALT”  

4. Will we be seeing more of Sandy?

There are two, maybe three more adventures for Sandy. I am currently writing the prequel of D4V, “Operation Cevapi”. There is also a part-written sequel set 20 years later where Sandy (in her new ID, Penny Thorpe) is a research scientist working on a secret weapon, only to have people and events from her past come back to haunt her. 

5. How much research did this book require?

Quite a lot, mostly on the internet but I have also read a number of books pertaining to the Bosnian Civil war, which was the underlying cause of the action in D4V. The character of Amanda was inspired by Stella Rimington, the first female Director General of MI5, who was in post at the time D4V is set. I read her autobiography a few years ago and got quote a lot of detail from it that I could put into my novel.

6. Describe your favorite place. 

The island of Santorini lies in the Aegean Sea, roughly halfway between Crete and Athens. Four thousand years ago it was the hub of the Minoan civilization, but it was destroyed by a cataclysmic volcanic eruption, in which the centre of the island disintegrated and sank into the sea (some scholars believe it was the inspiration for the story of Atlantis). What remains are two islands forming three-quarters of a circle, with a third-and-fourth island in the middle that have been formed by undersea eruptions of the still-active volcano. 

At the northern end of the island stands the little town of Oia. Layers of whitewashed houses and blue-domed churches cling to the precipitous side of the old caldera. So steep are the cliffs, that from the sea, the buildings appear to be stacked one upon the other. To stand on the cliffs and look out across the azure sea to the far side of the caldera is an artist’s or photographer’s dream. I visited this marvelous place two years ago and declared it then the most beautiful place I have ever visited.   

7. What’s your ultimate writing goal?

My goal is to have people read my book and enjoy it. Sure, I would like to be successful and make lots of money – who wouldn’t – but that is not my goal. My writing is to me the same as a concert performed by an orchestra or perhaps more relevantly, a soloist. I get a buzz from people reading my work and telling me that they enjoyed it.
 

Ice

Ice - Jessica Wren

I'm always interested when someone combines genres to create a unique plot. While I expected a straight up thriller/suspense novel, Ice by Jessica Wren immediately shows you that it's much more than that. 

As we're introduced to Minterville, we're also introduced to The Minter, which brings in a fantasy and science fiction component that I'm not used to seeing in this type of suspense drama. 

The plot moves quite quickly and I realized on several occasions that I had blinked and missed a vital piece of the puzzle. I enjoyed that various chapters are told through various characters' perspectives. It added some depth to the plot and allowed you to draw a little closer to each of the characters instead of only being attached to one or two. 

Although questions are answered at the end of the book, I found myself with many more questions about the town itself. I still felt that Minterville was hiding quite a few secrets behind locked doors. 


Some Bio Information

Jessica Wren is a writer who has published exactly one ebook. She wishes to share her infinite wisdom and experience with professionals such as herself. A high school teacher in a small Georgia city, she knows everything about being a cop, a lawyer, a drug dealer, a serial killer, a teenage boy, and every other known identity. She gives top-notch professional advice about writing by which she consistently fails to abide.

Her other talents include boring teenagers to death, aggravating her husband, driving extra-slow when others are behind her, and dropping food on her blouse. She is the nagging wife of Patrick since 2006 and the mother of Rachel, whom she one day hopes to embarrass in front of her high-school friends. She is the dictator, I mean co-founder of Author Promo-Co-op, a group for indie authors that is dedicated to cross-promotion and networking (https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/153603-author-promo-co-op)

Jessica's ultimate dream is to retire to a one-room shack with 20 cats, where she will sit on the porch and shout "Get out of my yard!" while swinging a broom at anyone who happens to pass by. 


Q&A

1. Do you have a favorite author?

I have many favorite authors. Stephen King, Arthur Hailey, and Suzanne Collins top my lists, and while studying Spanish in college, I got into the works of Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Lately, though, I have been enjoying reading the works from talented indie authors. Jessica Wren tops my list of favorite indie authors. She’s not only a fantastic writer, she’s also very modest. 

2. What inspired you to write this book?

It’s quite an interesting story, actually. I was house sitting for a professor’s family in Statesboro one summer. His house was located at the end of a nearly mile-long road (at least it felt like a mile, since one of my duties was to walk the dogs twice a day), and had an extra-long dirt driveway surrounded by woods. One day, while resting, I stopped and thought, “If I didn’t already know what was at the other end of this driveway, I’d think there was a magical world in there.” Georgia heat does strange things to your imagination.

That same summer I also read One Hundred Years of Solitude and many of the characters in Ice were American versions of the characters in Solitude. Minterville is essentially an American Macondo. Then later that fall, I watched a Saw marathon and a documentary about Griselda Blanco. One night, I had a dream about that Erika Christensen’s character in Swimfan; she was calling for me to rescue her from the pool. All these melded together in my mind, and Ice was born.

The Cliff Notes version of this story: too much TV and brain-melt. 

3. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process?

I take a ball-point pen and a legal pad and get to it. Oh, that’s not what you meant! A plot outline for me is a must. It’s not carved in stone, but I have to have some idea of where the story ends before I can begin it. I then hand-write several rough drafts before typing. I do research as I go; I double-check my facts to avoid plot holes.

It’s not 100% perfect, but it helps me to avoid factual errors which lessen your credibility with readers (note that there are differences between fictional liberties and factual errors. For instance, Minterville is a fictional town, but I’m not saying that it’s the capital of Georgia. One piece of advice I would give about the writing process is to know the difference between taking fictional liberties and putting in factually incorrect information.) If there’s something I’m not sure of, I either write around it or cut it out entirely. I try to write about 1-2 chapters a day. 

4. How would you describe your writing style?

I am just too excessively wordy for no good reason. (I use a lot of parentheses, which-along with the m dash-I tend to overuse). I also mix in background information as I go along. Sometimes I wear purple shirts when I’m writing. This creates a lot of backstory, which I’m working on refining. My stories also have enormous amounts of characters, such as Tom the mayor, Andy the cop, Kendra the rich lady, Stephanie the cat-lover, Dewayne the paramedic, Elliot the football player, Susan the teacher, etc. (Pop quiz and no cheating: who’s the cat-lover?).

I try to keep my tone informal to keep the flow smoother, but sometimes my tendency to use big words with a diminutive one will do takes over. I try not to use too much F##ing profanity, and I only use it when it makes the characters appear more realistic or shows their emotions. Because I write crime stories, my scenes of violence do tend to be graphic, but generally no more than the scenes in Catching Fire when Gale was whipped with a horsewhip until his back was slashed up and bloody or Johanna Mason axed Cashmere through the chest.

Jessica really wishes she had used third person for Ice and for future novels, she will. Fortunately, she has a whole team of beta-readers who are helping her to overcome some of these novice writing techniques to create better novels. I have been told that I am an expert at creating suspense and incorporating social themes. Obesity is a leading cause of health problems in America, but for one character, being 150 pounds overweight saved her life. To find out how, check out Ice. 

5. Describe your favorite place in the world.

My bed. I also really like Gatlinburg, Tennessee, where I went on my honeymoon. It’s beautiful out there, and there are so many things to do. If I ever become a bestseller, I’m going to buy a cabin in Gatlinburg and write all my novels there. Who wants to help me achieve this dream? Anyone? Well, until then, I’ll be in my bed writing.
 
6. What would you like readers to take away from your book?

That Jessica Wren is the best writer in the world and that they just HAVE to recommend her to all their friends. Also, the importance of community and family, the benefits of forgiveness and understanding, and the most important message of all: always listen to your instinct. If something “feels” wrong, it probably is. 

7. What’s your ultimate writing goal?

To get these fictional people in my head to shut up! All day long, I hear, “Hey, Jess! When are you gonna put us on paper? You can’t keep us locked in here forever, you know.” Ice got written pretty quickly once I got tired of listening to Barbara Jenkins yapping in my head all day (That, and Sebastian was threatening to kill me…). I am hoping that others will enjoy the products of my overactive imagination. And many do, so I guess I’m almost there. Another goal is to sell enough books to buy a cabin in Gatlinburg. 

Death Defiant

Death Defiant - Paige Reiring

Many of us have fears based upon our mortality. A fear of water, a fear of heights, a fear of clowns (Thanks Stephen King). Regardless of the fear itself, it's a singular event that we're afraid of. The pain. The helplessness. But then it's over and we anticipate peaceful release from the pain. 

In Death Defiant, Reiring puts her main character through literal (and figurative) hell by forcing upon her the ability to die over and over again, only to come back every time with full memory of the agony and pain she endured. The ultimate torture. 

I was pretty fascinated by this book and the world that Reiring has created. From demons to angels to half-demons, a great amount of creativity and organization went into this book. I enjoyed the pace of the plot, the growth of the main character, and seeing her take on challenge after challenge. 

Overall a very enjoyable read. 


Some Bio Information

Paige Reiring is a fourth year at The Ohio State University majoring in English. She made her first attempt at a novel when she was nine years old, writing about a young girl whose family was murdered by a man named Nicotine and her exploits trying to get revenge. Luckily for everyone, the work was scrapped after chapter seven. She loves dark fantasy, and her favorite works defy expectations and common tropes. She debuted her writing with the short story Spawn, but Death Defiant is her first full-length novel. She has made it her personal pledge to never write a story with a straight main character.


Q&A

1. When did you decide you wanted to become an author?

I remember in 4th grade I was writing a fantasy-horror story, and when I asked my teacher if I could share it with the class, she didn’t think to check it beforehand. What’s the worst a ten-year-old can come up with, after all? But it was actually pretty dark, complete with murder and demons. And while we mysteriously never again had time for me to share a new chapter with the class, the feedback I received after that definitely cemented the idea that I wanted to be a person who wrote stories and shared them with others. Seeing my peers actively enjoy what I wrote and complimenting me on it and wanting to talk to me about it – there’s something special about that kind of praise and engagement. I think it’s the desire for that kind of connection with other people that takes people from “I like to write” to “I want to be an author,” and while I think everyone loves being praised for xir work, that community engagement is what drives me to share these stories with other people.

2. Who do you identify with more: Cheri or Bel?

That’s a pretty hard choice. I worked on making each of them distinct from myself, but if I had to pick, I think I’d say Belkor. Zir bluntness resonates me; when I was younger, I was often told that I had no “traffic cop” to stop the words in my brain from leaving my mouth. I’m not quite as bad as Bel is, though. I’d also say I’m just as optimistic; for both of us, we’ll always find a way to spin a bad situation into something good or to see promise in the future. I can also identify with Bel’s struggle between optimism and depression, which you don’t see much of in this book but will become apparent in the sequel. The more distant Bel becomes from zir home and what ze once knew zirself to be, the more ze struggles with finding optimism in the future, and that complexity of mental illness setting in versus who you are as a person is a topic close to my heart.

3. Tell us a little bit about the mission you mention at the end of your book (to never write a straight MC). 

Despite living with a mom passively supportive of the LGBTQ community, I didn’t know what a lesbian was until middle school, and when I entered high school and took on that label as my own identity, I was hungry for books about people like me. I loved The Demonata by Darren Shan and Rowling’s Harry Potter, and I wanted to see stories like this with characters like me. So I went book-hunting, but all I could find was contemporary novels about the (white, cis) experience of being a queer person. I read stuff like Annie on my Mind and Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and I couldn’t find anything else. While these weren’t necessarily bad books, they weren’t the kind of stories I was looking for. Where was my gay Chosen One protagonist who was going to battle the Dark Lord? Where was my lesbian descendant of werewolves fated to either save the world or destroy it? Any fantasy books I found that had queer characters relegated them to the background. Nobody like me was the main character, only ever a sidekick. 

I’ve talked at length before about my desire for a queer renaissance in media. There’s no reason I should have ever felt that people like me couldn’t or didn’t deserve to be main characters. There’s no reason I should have had to struggle so much to find something that not only had people like me but also had dragons and sorcery and crazy plots. Coming out stories and stories about what it’s like to live as a queer person are important, but it’s also important to see yourself as not restricted to those boundaries. It’s the twenty-first century, and I shouldn’t still struggle to find to find these kinds of novels, so rather than wait for someone else to write them, I’ll write them myself. 

4. What’s the perfect writing environment for you?

A place without Internet, honestly! It’s probably the worst distraction I face. I don’t usually have that option, though, so anywhere I can be apart from friends or family is ideal – my room, a coffee shop, the library. I have a Pandora station composed of soundtracks from video games and movies to listen to while I write, and it provides the perfect amount of background noise and signals me to focus.

5. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process?

Usually there’s some plot element or world-building concept that sparks the idea for a story, and once I have that, I start developing characters to fit into the world. I figure out basic back stories and character traits that allow me to use them to explore the world. Once I’ve got my main characters figured out, I take the time to outline what’s going to happen, chapter by chapter. I’ll usually do that in one sitting, even though it takes a couple hours to get through. I write a first draft where I get all the story out, veering away from the outline if I have to but usually following pretty closely. While I’m writing, I’ll keep records of plot lines, characters, and world-building, writing down every detail that comes along so I can reference it later if I need to. Once I’ve finished the first draft, I have a much better idea of who these characters are, what the plot is, and what breadcrumbs I need to leave at the beginning to get myself to the end. 

Without reading the draft I just finished, I rewrite the entire story from scratch. I consult the records I’ve been keeping while writing, updating and changing them when I need to. Once I get to the end of the second draft, I read through it and check my records to make sure there are no plot holes or inconsistencies. I’ll do some small rewrites at this point, but nothing huge, and I’ll make some notes on what I want to change later and what I want to ask beta readers about. When I finish, I send it off to my beta readers and don’t look at it again until they get it back to me, usually a little over a month after I send it to them. 

I formulate a revision plan after I get their feedback and start revising and editing after that. When I feel that I’ve addressed all the issues, I read through it once more for plot, character, and world-building. If there are no issues on that front, then I run spell-check before doing a more careful read-through for grammar and spelling.

6. What inspired you to write this book?

Cheri, Bel, and Xandamore were originally RPG characters I created back in 8th grade. At the time, I was really into the “moody, stoic guy” thing, so Xandamore was the main character I role-played with while Cheri and Bel were just side characters. I wrote these characters pretty exclusively with a close friend of mine, and so they were on my mind and developed over the course of two years, being written about every day. 

The plot of that RP was quite different from what Death Defiant became. It was all about prophecies and forbidden love, the kind of stuff I ate up at twelve years old. Eight years later, I wanted to write a novel about these characters and world concepts, but I didn’t want to use Xandamore as a main character; it didn’t feel right when he’d already had a thousand pages written about him. Cheri was a character whose concept I loved – a person caught between worlds with the inability to die – and I knew I couldn’t write about zir without also writing about the others who influenced zir life, which is how Bel and Xand got involved. But the world and plot had to be different than what I’d already written, and so I kept the world-building aspects I’d once loved – demons running businesses on Earth, angels who had shut themselves away from everyone and lived knowing one death could create a domino effect in the community – and created a new story.

7. What’s your ultimate writing goal?

I want to write books that affect people and foster community. I want to see people who like my work so much that they talk about it with their friends and write meta about it and create fanart and fanfiction because they love it so much. But as I said earlier, what’s most important to me is putting out work with LGBTQ characters, so all that fandom boils down to people seeing my characters and either identifying with them (if the reader is queer) or empathizing with them. I want my work to move people and allow for a better representation of what the world actually is, so if my work can help achieve that, then I’ll be happy. 

When I Was Jane

When I Was Jane - Theresa Mieczkowski

Very few books make me excited. And I mean "Wow, that was such a rush!" excited. But as I was reading Jane/Audrey's story, I felt every single high and low that she felt. I connected with her on a level that I haven't felt from a book in a long time. And I was just as anxious to uncover her subconscious’  secrets as she was. 

The plot is written in such a way that you find yourself speculating about Jane/Audrey's backstory hundreds of times. And just to let you know, I was never right. By the time I got to the end of the book, I was completely caught off guard and surprised. 

This book is getting lots of high praise and I really think we'll see some great future books by Theresa. She's quite talented and has a way of teasing you with her plot that leaves you anxious, breathless, and overall spellbound. 


Some Bio Information

Theresa Mieczkowski is a writer, photographer and behavioral consultant. She lives with her husband, three kids and two dogs in Woodbury, Ct. She is an experienced motivational speaker who  never tires of meeting new people and has been visiting  book clubs to discuss When I Was Jane as much as she can.


Q&A

1.Tell me a little bit about what prompted you to write this story. 

When I was an undergrad studying psychology I was fascinated with memory and the idea that who we are shapes what we remember. After many years of sitting on this story-which I had thought up for a long time- I finally took advice from my thirteen year old daughter and completed a longtime dream.

2.Do you identify with Jane/Audrey?

Absolutely. I think each of them represents a part of every woman. Sometimes we are stronger and sometimes we are needier- I think that the characters are a facet of every woman- but I definitely called upon my own experiences to be able to write for both of them.

3.Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? 

I have an unconventional process. I wrote the end of this book many years ago and then went back and finished it by writing parts all out of order and then stringing them together. If I felt like I really wanted to do a scene, I would do that and save it and then wrote the lead up. For me, I needed to write the end first in order to be able to really understand how the beginning would unfold. And the beginnings are always the hardest.

4.Describe your perfect writing environment. 

A quiet house, no distractions like housework piled up…sometimes I like to have a friend to sit across from me and bounce ideas off. Being able to pace around in my pajamas and run to the computer when I have to get it all out. SO basically- not my house.

5.Do you have future writing projects planned out? 

I have flushed out stories for two other characters in the book—one of them is Vivienne and I would love to be able to do that because her story is amazing.

6.Who would you cast as the lead if your book was made into a movie? 

I have thought about this a lot. Definitely Alexander Skarsgard from Tru blood as Jason. Possibly Henry Clavill is Thomas. Jane—I would need to find a very young Ashley Judd. I had a dream actually that Mandy Moore played her and I can see that actually.

7.How would you describe your writing style? 

Thoughtful and funny. Light and easy to read but also thought provoking. I like to hide insights among good old fashioned story telling. And of course, I am lucky to be edited or else I would go on and on all day. If someone can connect with one of my characters or be able to grow somehow through the experience then I did what I set out to do.

Foehammer

Foehammer - Duncan Campbell

I've been searching for an appropriate way to describe this book for the full 48 hours since I finished reading it. And what have I come up with? Zilch. I don't know that I can do it justice in a simple turn of a phrase. It lies somewhere in between Avengers, Resident Evil, Revelation (as in the book of the Bible), and heck, I don't know, The Thing? The X-Files? Fringe? On top of that, throw in a little bit of political corruption and intrigue and a multitude of half-wit masses who no longer care about their government, and you have Foehammer. 

I want to say that I was hooked from the beginning, but I was not. It took 3-4 chapters for me to really figure out what was going on -- about the time the team was assembled and meeting for the first time. But I cannot put this on Campbell. I was having a difficult time focusing. 

But once I was hooked, I could not put my Kindle down. I stayed up way past my bedtime just to finish this book. Partially because I was so into the plot. And partially because, although there is a lot of humor and downtime in this book where they're not fighting off bizarre creatures, the plot and Campbell's writing style is just enough to put me on edge and make me uncomfortable enough that I couldn't fall asleep until I had a resolution. 

I love the questions that the plot brought to my mind. Most importantly, I love that the questions are not blatantly posed to the reader. With just the tiniest hint of what's going on in the world of Foehammer, alarms ring in your head and you realize that world is not right; something seems terribly wrong. 

While I want to go on and on about this book (I'm practically gushing already), I'm going to stop and simply say that you should read it. Period. End of story. The characters are exceptionally well developed, the plot is positively entrancing, and the writing style is clever and smooth -- leading you on with each page turned. 


WIN YOUR OWN SIGNED COPY OF FOEHAMMER!

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Some Bio Information

Duncan Campbell was born and grew up in Yorkshire in the UK. After school he left York to study philosophy at the University of Sussex. 

A huge dose of magic mushrooms whilst backpacking in Thailand resulted in a powerful hallucinogenic experience that awakened a strong interest in shamanism. The ‘spirit world’ sequences in the Foehammer books are drawn directly from his diary entries at this time.


Q&A

1.    Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process?

I write lots and lots of drafts. This allows the story and characters to develop slowly and gives me lots of reflection time. Most people don’t believe it, but there were more than eighty drafts of Foehammer before I was happy. This took eight years. It’s a very personal story and reflects strong beliefs that I hold – so it was worth it.

2.    Is the story over? 

No, not at all. It has just begun! There are two more books. Unfortunately only a few characters survive!

3.    Which Foehammer character do you relate to the most? 

It has to be two. I am half Jester and half Curtis! In fact if you want to go into psychological depth then Curtis represents my super ego and Jester my id.

4.    What’s your least favorite part of the writing process?

Getting stuck on a single sentence to describe something. 

5.    Who’s your favorite author?

When I was a boy I read The Lord of The Rings about twelve times – so Tolkien.
As an adult, I rate Iain M Banks and Cormac McCarthy

6.    Can you give us a little hint of the inspiration behind Foehammer?

I can give you loads! Strangely, the tone of the book is inspired by the sound of the post punk band Killing joke. Many of the scenes contain subtle Killing Joke references. I wanted to capture the intensity of their music and gigs in written form (an insane goal – but there you go).

Politically Foehammer is also an angry statement about social complacency, politicians profiting from war and increasing global wealth inequality. Jester and Curtis will never allow themselves to be sub-dermaly chipped and tracked by the government! Foehammer are my small army of resistance. Crooked politicians and corrupt corporations beware, there are only six of them – but they will find you and nothing can stop them.

I am also inspired by classic graphic novels and sci fi. Some reviewers have spotted a hint of Alien and Aliens, and I hope there’s some Bladerunner in there – as I adore that film.

7.    What’s your ultimate writing goal?

To keep going. First I have to finish the trilogy – and then I have a box of about three hundred more ideas to get through. I will do a British ‘superhero’ collective in a few years time.

Zero Is The Key

Zero Is The Key - Robert Guerrera

There are a lot of young adult books out there. When I was in high school, I mostly ignored these as they tended to have flaky and unreliable protagonists. Plus, growing up in a Christian school, the "acceptable" reading choices weren't always the greatest of books. 

So I really appreciate when I read a young adult novel that has strong role models for the children leading them. Not only are Declan and Dalya intelligent and responsible, but they also are respectful of others and aren't afraid of trying something new. Their bond as siblings was admirable and I appreciated the lack of a romantic element. 

All of that combined made for a highly enjoyable read that I would gladly hand over to my young adult child (if I had one. . .my 2 year old is a little young for it at this point). 

I thought the plot was excellent and moved along at a steady pace. While the dialogue was a little stiff, I believe that had to do with the scientific nature of it in general. It took a little getting used to that these were not your average slang-talking teens. But once I realized that, I had an easier time with the dialogue. 

Overall it was a fun book and I enjoyed watching the twins piece together the puzzle placed before them. I'm very interested to see where this series goes. 


Some Bio Information

Born in Alaska and raised in California, Robert Guerrera earned his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at San Jose State University. In 1993, he moved to Texas where he earned teaching certificates in elementary education and in secondary social studies at the University of Texas – Pan American. Ever since, he has been teaching elementary, middle, and high school students.

After teaching in the United States for several years, his traveling itch and curiosity to learn about different cultures led him into an international teaching career. He has lived and worked in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Switzerland. Presently, Robert lives in Switzerland with his wife, two children, and his black cat. He teaches English, history, and geography at a private bilingual school, travels, plays the guitar, and writes.

 


Q&A

1.    Do you have further plans for Declan and Dalya? 

Yes, indeed. Declan and Dalya will have many adventures after this introductory tale featured in ‘Zero Is The Key.’ I am in the process of finishing up research for the initial settings and concepts for the second installment. As the writing process unfolds while the story develops, more research will be needed to respond to the gong that goes off in my head when a major idea shows itself, asking to be enriched and expanded. The second installment will also have the features to stand on its own or be read as a follow up to ‘Zero Is The Key.’

2.    Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? 

Well, for several months ideas for a new story begin to drop into my mind. As time passes, the drops become a small stream, and then a gushing river. When the gushing river begins to overflow, I begin organizing an outline for the story’s plot and settings. Characters begin to reveal themselves somewhere along this process. When most or all of the characters reveal themselves, I develop a character web on paper with pen and pencil. And then, over a year or so, the story commands itself to be written until the first draft is finished. As each chapter is completed, my editor reviews it and gives it back to me for revision. When every chapter has been edited, I then reread the entire story two to three times for further editing. Afterwards, I hand over the third or fourth draft is given to my editor for an overall proofing. When this is finished, my editor and I painstakingly review all of the suggested plot and structural changes together. I then rewrite the changes and then proofread it a final time. The story is now ready to publish...maybe.

3.    Was there a deciding point in your life when you realized you wanted to be an author?

As a child, in the hot summer months, I lived in Mexico. During the mid afternoon’s siesta time, I would pass the time by writing my own superhero comics.  As a teacher, I feel I have always been a writer of sorts since I have had to write reports, newsletters, promotional documents, curriculum, and projects of all types with their rubrics and written student expectations, and other school documents. To model written assignments for students, I have written my own short narratives and other various writing pieces to motivate children to write.. Later, I began telling bedtime adventure stories to my two children every night and would improvise everything. My children loved the stories. One day, I described several of these to my wife. She suggested that I should write a book someday. That was three years ago. And now, my first book has been published.

4.    Describe your favorite place: 

Well, I believe there are special places based on a desire or need at a particular time or phase in one’s life.  A solitude moment  on a beach at sunset is a great time to reflect and ponder one‘s life experiences or to ponder over a difficult situation.  A family gathering around a dinner table is a great time to connect with others. Standing on top of a mountain top or paddling down an isolated part of a river is a great way to explore the wonders of nature. There are many great places based on your desires or needs.

5.    How much time did you spend researching for this book?

Weeks were spent researching for my book’s unique geographical settings. Since I use real yet obscure but fascinating places for my story, the history and physical qualities of my settings must be accurate and must help the story come alive. The settings in my book are actually important major characters of the book that are integral and necessary for the story’s development. For me, the trick on writing realistic fiction is to decide how much factual information is left out of a story. It is more difficult to decide what to leave out than what to leave in. For the first draft, I include a vast amount of facts from my research. During the several revisions and editing sessions, much of the irrelevant information is painstakingly removed. In this case, twenty-five percent of the book’s content was cut in order to prevent the story from being bogged down with wordiness, subplots, and irrelevant details. 

6.    Who is your favorite character in Zero is the Key? 

At the moment, I don’t have a favorite character in the novel. All of the characters are so unique, strange, and lively. I-m fond of all of them, with the exception of the main antagonist. However, I am always rooting for Declan and Dalya. I think as Declan and Dalya develop further in the second book, there may be a favorite.

7.    What is your ultimate writing goal?
 
My ultimate writing goal is to write for me...it is a selfish reason, but I must have a creative outlet to release ideas and thoughts swimming frantically around in my head. Playing music and teaching students are outlets as well, but nothing beats the quiet solitude a writer has with his or her own thoughts, and that inner voice that compels one to pour one’s soul out into the form of a story, an autobiography, a documentary, or any other form of writing. Hopefully, by reading this book and my future books, people may also learn something about our cultural heritage and become even more interested in the fascinating world we live in and the gifts we could benefit from if we treated each other and our planet with more dignity and kindness.

Dead Center

Dead Center - Danielle Girard

As a rule, I don't refresh my memory on a book's teaser before reading it. I don't read other reviews nor do I reread the brief description on Goodreads or Amazon. I like jumping into the book with no preconceived notions whatsoever. 

So when I started Dead Center, I was a little confused. The scenes jump around quite quickly at first and I couldn't figure out who's eyes I was looking through at various times. And while this made for a rocky start to the book, what kept me going was the author's strong dialogue and impressive way with words. 

After a few chapters, I was able to pick out which characters were being referenced and I grew accustomed to the way the book jumped perspectives. Then I was really able to focus on the plot.

I was trying to piece the entire puzzle together instead of realizing that there might be a couple different smaller puzzles in the mix. But again, the quick pace of the plot and the author's enjoyable writing style made it easy for me to simply sit back and let the plot take me where it would. 

Overall I highly enjoyed this crime thriller and would recommend it. I look forward to reading more by this author. 


Some Bio Information

Almost two decades ago, Danielle decided she wanted to try to write a book. She set out to write something sweet, maybe even romantic, but on page 5, someone got shot and it's been that way ever since. The Barry-award winning author lives with her husband, who is careful never to lurk in dark corners, and their two children. They split their time between San Francisco and the northern Rockies.


Q&A

1.    When did you know you wanted to be an author? 

I wrote a little in college, but “writing” was not an acceptable career choice in my house. My parents were doctors and business people, so “art” was not a vocation. It was a hobby. For that reason, the interest in writing was always pushed to the side by “important” things like organic chemistry and calculus II. After college, I worked in finance where met a woman who wrote romance novels. She inspired me to sit down and just start something. I had no idea what it would turn out to be until (on page five) someone got shot. I was 24 and I’ve been writing suspense ever since.  

2.    Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? 

Nothing can replace the time in the chair. If you don’t sit there, even just to stare out the window, you don’t get it done. I try to write a certain number of words every day when I’m in a book (usually 1000) but I fall off that wagon regularly. (Today, for instance.) Sometimes I think it’s my brain’s way of recognizing that I haven’t solved an issue that has to be dealt with before I can keep going. But, I’m also pretty good and getting back up, dusting off and getting back in the chair. And I do give myself time between books to recharge. Usually the next book starts talking to me and I know it’s time to sit down and start again. 

3.    Who is your favorite character in Dead Center? 

I have a real soft spot for broken characters. I guess this comes from my belief that we are all damaged in some way. Some of us do better at hiding it, but it’s these little cracks in our plaster, these little breaks that make us interesting and also real. Jamie Vail, protagonist of Dead Center and lead member of the Rookie Club, is like this. She’s quite angry and a little self-destructive, but when push comes to shove, she’s also fiercely loyal and protective. I love that she is a series of contradictions (like of all of us) so she feels real to me. 

4.    What was the most difficult part of writing this book?

The toughest part of any book is the beginning. I don’t know my character yet, so I have to let her talk to me, tell me who she is and show me how she handles things. For that reason, the beginning takes the longest. I feel like the first 10% (40 pages-ish) has to really hold together before the story can take off. I usually spend a month or more on the beginning. After that, the rest of the book is usually written, edited, and prepared for publication in another 4-6 months. The end is always the easiest because it’s been teasing itself out in the back of my brain for so long. 

5.    Who is your favorite author?

Wow. That is such a hard question. As a person, John Connolly is one of my favorite authors. I think he’s brilliant and kind and his books are magic. I’m lucky to have a lot of authors who I consider friends. Elizabeth Strout, Lisa Gardner, Alafair Burke, Lee Child, Jonathon King, Jeff Abbott. They are both wonderful people and wonderful writers. While most of the readers I know are suspense authors, I read all over the board, so I also love Jeffrey Eugenides, Colum McCann, Sue Mott Kidd, John Green, Jodi Piccoult, Junot Diaz….did you say one favorite?     

6.    Describe your favorite place. 

I love to travel. Love love love it. So my favorite places include the tiny hill towns in Italy, Macchu Picchu, Peru and a tiny island in Thailand called Koh Tao where I was once, twenty years ago. I am lucky enough to spend a lot of time in Montana and I am in love with the mountains and the snow (even when it comes in July). But, if I had to choose just a single place, it would be my office. I’ve got big windows that look out into the yard and the mountains. It’s such a peaceful view. The room, on the other hand, is an absolute mess. I have a sign that says, “Genius is a messy process.” I swear it’s a quote I found somewhere, but my husband is convinced I made it up to explain my office. I don’t like to admit that he might be right.

Despite the mess, the office is also a beautiful space. The walls are painted a light sea green, the wall behind my chair a little bolder. My husband and kids have framed all my covers, so they hang on the walls along with art done by my brothers (who are both artists) as well as some pieces done by my kids and a few photographs. On one wall is a case with all my taekwondo belts in it, from the white one all the way through to my second degree black belt. These remind me that good things take a lot of time and effort. Not to mention sweat and blood and a fair number of tears. 

7.    What’s your ultimate writing goal? 

Ultimately, I want to write a compelling story that is engrossing, draws you in and makes it hard to let go. At the same time, the characters in a story are, to me, the most important part. I want the protagonist’s struggle to be real. Sharing those struggles through genuine characters is a way to help all of us be better and stronger, even in the toughest of times. That’s what I hope to accomplish in my books.