Chris Rogers Talks About Emissary

March 6, 2015 at 9:17 pm (Interviews) (, , , , , , )

175496I’m a long time Chris Rogers fan.  I met her a few years ago booking signing for Half Price Books books and I’ve enjoyed reading her work, featuring her on my blog, and hanging out in bookstores with her ever since.  The following is an interview regarding her latest work, Emissary, which I read and reviewed toward the end of 2014.

1. Emissary is drastically different from your previous work in the Dixie Flannigan series, but I understand you started writing it first.   What was it like finally getting such a long term project completed?

The idea came to me just after I published the third Dixie Flannigan book, Chill Factor. I do a lot of driving, and this is often when I get the ideas I turn into stories. On a long trip to Wyoming I was sort of cursing the sun beaming emissarythrough my windshield no matter how I tried to block it, then reasoning that rain would be even worse, when I flashed on the idea of having no sun at all. What if our sun went supernova? We’d fry, right?

But our scientists would surely see it coming long before the actual event, so what would we do? Build spaceships and try to escape? But to where? And how could we possibly build enough ships for the world’s population?

After pondering that idea for a few miles, I flipped it. What if the supernova occurred to an inhabited planet in another solar system? They’re more advanced that we are, so they build ships and look for a planet that will take them in. One emissary is sent to Earth, where he becomes embroiled in our political and criminal problems. Naturally, I’d want the emissary to connect closely with an interesting individual, and I chose a cop.

I liked it, but when I pitched it to my agent, he said, “Can you do it without the alien?” So I continued writing the next Dixie Flannigan book. But the story stayed with me, and though I wrote others over the years, I kept coming back to this one. So yes, I love this story and it’s wonderful to have it finally launched so readers can enjoy it, too.

2. Emissary is so much bigger than the Dixie stories.   Dixie is sort of self contained, the impact is on her own life, the lives of the criminals, and the safety within her community; whereas Emissary involved a full cast of lives, cultures, and worlds.  Was this a more difficult writing task? Or  was it nice to stretch your wingspan a bit?

Not easy, I’ll admit, but a book I fell in love with as a child was Red Planet by Robert A. Heinlein, which is about a boy who attends school on Mars and takes his pet, Willis the Bouncer. So science fiction has been as dear to me as mysteries. When I envisioned Emissary Ruell, I knew he would be young (as most front-line soldiers are young) and inexperienced (since no Szhen had been in this situation before), and the whole “stranger in a strange land” feeling came to me. When I’m writing, I become the characters in my book, the good ones and the bad, so I envisioned how I would attempt to communicate the plight of my people, and also envisioned the difficulties I would encounter. Ruell would start with the “most powerful person in the free world,” which brings in American President Addison Hale. As with any novel, he can’t succeed on the first try, so he expands his efforts globally, which means the book also expands, because extraterrestrial emigration would be a global concern. Then, to rein in the story, I introduced Ruell to Officer Kirk Longshadow, who has his own problems, and they eventually create the “close community” feeling you mentioned, even as they pursue solving an international crime involving the president.

Tackling a story that exists on a broader canvas than my previous books challenged me on many levels. Considering the result, it was well worth the effort.

3. You did your own cover art, which I love by the way.   Was this painting done specifically for Emissary or did it merge as one project later?

I was poised to self-publish Emissary when I met Jeffrey Hastings, who was launching his Houston publishing company, Chart House Press. The book was finished except for the cover. The painting I chose was actually one of my early works, but the sleeping woman with blue skin resonated for me with Ruell’s girlfriend, Jianna, who appears in the book only in Ruell’s memory.

It seemed like a great starting place, yet I really didn’t know how to prevent it appearing as purely science fiction, when it’s more of political thriller with science fiction overtones. Once I decided to link my efforts with Chart House Press, I inherited a team who turned the painting into the final cover art, with an excellent result. Sometimes we get too close to a project, and fresh eyes can save the day.

4. I would love to see Emissary put to film.   (Despite what it may seem, I’m a huge science fiction nerd and one of my own long term projects is a time and space opera.)   If that were to happen, who would be in your ideal cast?   What director would you desire?   Do you have a favorite film score composer?   Would you want a lot of involvement or a little?

For Longshadow, I’d definitely choose David Giuntoli, who plays Nick Burkhardt on the TV series, Grimm. David doesn’t have the appearance of a “typical cop”, which fits Officer Longshadow, who often wonders why he ever thought he was cop material. David does have the toughness of a copy when he needs it, which Longshadow also has. Ruell would be harder to cast, but Neil Patrick Harris in his younger years as Doogie Howser, MD, would’ve been great. President Addison Hale is the third major character in the nuclear family of Emissary, and my choice would probably be Tea Leoni, who is terrific as Secretary of State on Madam Secretary.

And while I realize this is the expected answer to the choice of a director, it has to be Steven Spielberg. It’s not only that he’s an incredible director who makes excellent blockbuster movies but that his attitude about extraterrestrials is similar to mine. In most science fiction films, the aliens are bad guys who come here and make war, or we make war with them in space. I recently watched Close Encounters of the Third Kind again. No war, and I was as moved by it as when I first saw it in 1977. Yes, I know that dates me, but facts are facts.

As for musical score, I’d have to leave that to the experts, and being intricately involved in the film production would be terrific—but not likely. Hollywood likes to keep writers at a distance.

5. Now that you’ve emerged into the science fiction world, after being a long time mystery genre writer, are you here to stay?   (I look forward to reading more projects like this one.)

My early writing attempts were neither mystery nor sf. Back then, I didn’t believe I could plot the exciting and intricate stories I loved to read. So I started with children’s books, mistakenly thinking they’d be easy since I had four children. I was wrong. Then I tried the romance genre because I’d had a few romances in my life, whereas I’d never killed anyone and wasn’t a science nerd. Romance wasn’t easy, either and my stories kept being rejected for having “too much mystery.”

A diehard sf reader might say the same of Emissary, that it has “too much mystery,” but it’s a combination I enjoy, and it works for me. So yes, I plan to continue in this venue. For readers, Emissary opens the door to a world where humans interact with extraterrestrials, the way J.R.R. Tolkien created Middle-earth, Isaac Asimov created a world where robots with positronic brains dwell alongside humans, and J. K. Rowling created Hogwarts. Without giving

away the story, I can say that I planned Emissary as a trilogy, and the ending of this first book is the beginning of an exciting new future for the humans who dwell in that story world.

At present, I’m also working on a paranormal mystery about a 300-year-old pirate who runs his many times-refurbished ship today as a Caribbean cruise ship. Passengers attracted to a Molly Dore cruise always include at least one person with a dark paranormal problem that Captain Cord McKinsey helps resolve, despite the fact that he can’t cure his own curse of immortality. I started this story in 2011 and put it aside to work on Emissary. Now it’s scheduled for release in May 2015.

6. If you could interview any existing science fiction author and pick their brain, who would it be?   Did that author and their work influence Emissary in any way?

Sadly, I don’t read current sf, but my favorite sf author of all time is Harlan Ellison. He writes the sort of speculative fiction I enjoy. My first introduction to Ellison’s work was his short story, “A Boy and His Dog,” which first published in 1969 and was adapted into a film in 1975 by L.Q. Jones. I’m a feminist, and the story’s hero, 15-year-old Vic Blood, is a knuckle-dragging brute, but I still enjoyed the story. Many fans will know Ellison for his work on the original Star Trek series, his numerous Hugo- or Nebula Award-winning stories, his often caustic personality, which he demonstrated as Guest of Honor at the first AggieCon in 1969, or from his being the first author to win a copyright dispute against a major television network. In picking Ellison’s brilliant brain, I would come away with scars, but I’d still love to sit down with him for an hour or so.

As to whether Ellison’s work influenced Emissary, how can I judge? I’ve read literally thousands of stories and seen hundreds of movies, and all that material is muddled together somewhere in my consciousness. But no, I didn’t base Emissary on any author’s work. That’s not to say I don’t steal from the best when I fall in love with an idea or a great line. What author doesn’t?

7. What’s the main thought you would want readers to walk away from Emissary thinking?

This is the question I tell my students to consider early on in the process of writing a book, yet it’s a hard one to answer without sounding a bit full of myself. I suppose it’s this: people are complicated and wonderful and shouldn’t be pigeon-holed into any sort of group analysis. Each of us has value and heart but we also have a dark side that rises at times, and no one is without flaws, so stop throwing stones at strangers who are “different” and look for the wonder that each person can bring. On the other hand, remain watchful for the horrors that rise in certain malcontents, because they really are out there and can be devastating.

8. Do you plan to take Emissary to any sci-fi conventions in the future? (Say, Comicpalooza in May?)

I’m signed up for AggieCon 46, which happens March 27-29 2015 in College Station, Tx. Never having attended a science fiction convention, I’m a little scared.

9. What would you say to a graphic novelization of Emissary?

I grew up reading EC Comics, such as Vault of Horror and Tales From the Crypt, which I loved, so for me graphic novels are still comic books. I know there’s a difference. I have a copy of The Illustrated Harlan Ellison, which features several of his stories and was produced by Byron Preiss in 1978. It’s great. Some truly talented illustrators were selected for this graphic compilation, but I believe some of the stories converted well to graphic presentation while others didn’t. In that light, I don’t see Emissary as a graphic novel. But that’s just me.

10. Has the publication of Emissary opened any new doors for you as an author that were previously closed in the mystery genre?

Not yet. I’m not even sure which doors I’d knock on, but I’m open to whatever happens. Meanwhile, writing and painting continue to make me happy, and that’s what really counts.

On the other hand, Emissary is already available in print, e-book, and audio—which took much longer when I was associated with a major publisher. For me, that’s an important door, because it makes this big-format story that’s so dear to me available to more readers.

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Interview with Author Amy Woods

September 2, 2014 at 7:29 am (Interviews) (, , , , , , , , )

AmyRecently I read an reviewed His Texas Forever Family.  Shortly after reading the book, I had the opportunity to interview the author!

1. Your debut novel His Texas Forever Family is Harlequin’s September 2014 Special Edition® release. That’s incredible! What’s going through your head right now?

To be honest, I’m a little overwhelmed. As a new writer, I’ve worked hard to put together the absolute best book I can at this point in my career, but it’s scary knowing that not all readers will love my story. Falling in love with a book is such a subjective thing, and it’s almost impossible to please everyone—something that every author knows when that book hits the (physical and virtual) shelves. Being new, I haven’t yet gone through the experience of reading reviews from people who don’t like what I’ve written, and I imagine it’s not a great feeling. All that any writer can do is write her very best book at any given time, and hope that each subsequent book will get better and better as her writing and storytelling skills improve—I just keep reminding myself that this is enough.

His Texas Forever Family2. How has your Harlequin experience been? Do you hope to write more for them, pursue other ventures, or both?

Harlequin has treated me very well and yes, I do hope to continue writing for them. I love my editor, Carly Silver, which makes things run really smooth. She and I get each other and she understands my writing and my goals for each story, which makes the process of readying each book for publication a pleasant experience. I do plan to venture into indie (self) -publishing at some point, but I want to write for Harlequin as long as they’ll have me.

3. This is a romance novel, do you plan to stay in the genre or get your toes wet in another area of the book community?

For now, I’m very happy writing romance. I also love to read cozy mysteries, and at some point, I’d love to spend more time learning the craft of writing one and try my hand at that genre. Lots of cozies have a romance subplot, as well, so at least I would have that part down.

4. What authors influenced your writing of this book?

I’ve spent a lot of time reading Nora Roberts’ old category romances—the ones she wrote long before she was the romance writing icon that she is now. When Roberts started writing category romance, she broke a lot of the genre’s conventions with her strong, intelligent, independent heroines that often had very interesting or unique careers. I’d love to follow in her footsteps with my heroines. And, let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want a career like hers? Roberts worked hard to build a readership and to make a name for herself—actions I very much admire and hope to emulate in my own romantic fiction career.

5. What authors do you generally read? What is your favorite genre?

I read widely—both genre and literary fiction—anything from scifi to biography, and I love it all. I’m not sure I could choose a favorite. I think it’s important for writers to read both in and outside of their genres, to stay open to new ideas and new worlds.

6. In addition to your budding writing career, what else do you have up your sleeve?

Right now I’m just concentrating on keeping up with my contracted book deadlines, and promoting my debut release. In the near future, I’m planning to write and self-publish a new series, in addition to continuing to write for Harlequin.

fredri 27. How much of Peach Leaf was drawn out of real experiences? You seem to know your way around an elementary school and children…

Although the book’s setting, Peach Leaf, Texas is a fictional small town, it’s loosely based on one of my all-time real favorite places—Fredericksburg, Texas. Fredericksburg is a town in West Texas with a population of a little over 10,000, and was founded in 1846 and named after Prince Frederick of Prussia. Both Fredericksburg and Peach Leaf are home to several amazing German restaurants boasting excellent beer and mouth-watering Reuben sandwiches, and Pioneer Museums that share artifacts and tons of information about the towns’ intriguing histories. As for the school setting—I was a teacher myself for a bit, though I taught high school rather than elementary.

8. What made you choose Texas as a setting?

I chose Texas mostly for the low risk of messing up.  I’ve lived here my whole life, so I figured for my debut novel, I’d better stick to what I know best. I plan to travel, do some research, and branch out a little in the future, but Texas will always be in my bones.

9. What brought you into the writing world? What got you writing?

I’ve always loved to read and I think, like many, for me writing was a natural response to having enjoyed so many books. I’ve always written here and there, but, despite a degree in English, I never considered making a career out of it until I found myself in a job I loathed and needed a creative outlet. Once I started writing frequently, I fell in love with the process, and eventually decided to submit some work.

Amy 210. What is one thing you would like your readers/fans to know about you?

That I’m pretty easygoing and open. I love hearing from readers and I’m always happy to answer questions about the writing or publishing process, and to help out when I have something to offer.

Readers are always welcome to contact me via my website.

For additional information on His Texas Forever Family, please visit the Books page on my website, or find me on Facebook as Amy Woods Books, or on Twitter as @amywoodsbooks.

Thanks so much for having me as a guest today!

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Seashells, Gator Bones, and an Interview

August 5, 2014 at 8:08 pm (Interviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Interview with Susan Adger

seashells and gator bones1. Seashells, Gator Bones, and the Church of Everlasting Liability. What a title! Can you tell us a bit about it?

Actually, my daughter Emily came up with the title, based on three of the stories in the book. Seashells are reminders of a girl’s first love, one of the characters makes jewelry out of gator bones, and the Church of Everlasting Liability is one of the town’s churches; the name came from the fact that the members are supposed to be “libel” for each other – to take care of each other – which means they have to know everybody’s else’s business.

2. What made you choose Florida as a setting?

My family has been in the Tampa Bay area for five generations, and the characters in the book are based on some of the old stories my Grandma Keathley used to tell us. When she was born in Mango, FL in 1891, the population swelled to thirty-eight people. Her mother was one of seven children, and her grandmother was one of eight, so there were plenty of crazy, I mean interesting, relatives out there to get ideas from. While everything in the book is fiction, my relatives will be able to tell you who some of the characters are based on.

3. Can you tell us a bit about your earlier work A Quiet Voice?

A Quiet VoiceThe book was inspired by a man named Eugene Hairston, who grew up in grinding poverty, then to keep himself out of trouble – he thought – he enlisted in the army and ended up fighting in Vietnam. When he reported the rampant discrimination on the base, his sergeant pushed him out of a helicopter into Viet Cong territory. He survived almost by accident, when some American soldiers on patrol happened by a few days later and rescued him. After the incident was reported, Eugene was given the opportunity to return home, which he did. With untreated P.T.S.D., he became addicted to drugs and alcohol, spent almost two decades in jails and prisons, and lived on the streets of Tampa for eight long years.

In 1998 he changed his life. I met him a few years later and we started working on A Quiet Voice in 2005. It took us almost two years of meeting weekly to complete it. Today he is married, holds a responsible position at the Bay Pines Veterans Administration Medical Center in St. Petersburg, Florida, and is held in high esteem by hundreds of people who know him. The V.A. sends him to speak to veterans about his life at conferences nationwide, and he has received many incredibly heart-warming letters from readers. I’m very gratified to know that writing this book has helped him reach so many people.

4. Ray Bradbury once said, “You can’t learn to write in college. It’s a very bad place for writers because the teachers always think they know more than you do—and they don’t. They have prejudices.” What do you think about this statement?

Well, actually, I never studied writing in college, but for me it has been really important to read a lot, to learn from what others do, and to get feedback on my work. I’ve done this mostly with other writers; I’m in two critique groups and value their input. When I’m critiquing others, however, I always remind them that what they’ve written is their work, and while it’s good to listen to input, in the end it’s their creation.

SusanPHLibInitially, I was told that I should know my entire story inside and out before actually writing it; have my outline and character sketches completed and go from there. And heaven knows I tried to do that. But when writing fiction, the only way that seems to work for me is to have an idea about a character and then just watch to see what happens; when there’s a knock on the door in the story, I go along to answer it and we both see who’s there. Of course, I do a lot of editing that way, but it works for me.

I enjoy writing short stories, keeping it light. These days I can hardly bear to watch the news or read the paper; seems to me there’s plenty of negative out there and we could all use a laugh once in a while.

5. What were your educational experiences like? Do you think these experiences have influenced the kind of writer you have become?

I was never too wild about school and wasn’t a great student, partly because when I was growing up my family moved almost every year so I was always the new kid on the block. I remember in the second grade, looking out the classroom window and thinking I’d give anything to be outside with the guys trimming the hedge rather than sitting at my desk. But somehow I ended up with a B.A. in Sociology and a Master’s Degree in Education.

I’m sure everything I’ve experienced in my life has colored what I write. I don’t think any author can avoid putting themselves into their work, even if they want to. I spent a number of years working in child abuse and neglect, as well as with young children with behaviour/emotional problems or developmental delays, and their families. Being able to watch people work to make changes in their lives has been both rewarding and heart breaking. They all taught me a great deal.

6. What brought you to the writing world? What made you decide to write?

I am definitely a late starter. I first began writing when the last of my three children moved out. I remember coming home from work that day, sitting on the couch in an empty living room and listening to the quiet; nobody yelling that somebody stole her sweater (nothing was ever misplaced, it was stolen), no loud music competing with the television, no phone ringing off the hook. I felt let down, a little lonely. For about ten minutes. Then it occurred to me that after twenty-two years of raising kids, mostly as a single parent, I had a life of my own again and could do whatever I wanted. I started with family stories, and branched out from there.

7. Do you have future projects up your sleeve?

I’m in the middle of recording the Seashells book, in my grandma’s old Florida vernacular and hope to have it done this fall. (Why is everything harder than it looks?) And I have a number of stories completed for a companion book.

8. Who are your favorite authors? Do you have an author whose career you aspire to emulate?

Years ago I discovered Lee Smith, whose stories about poor families in Appalachia drew me in. While I haven’t intentionally used her as a model, she has unquestionably had an influence on my work.

9. I see on your facebook page that you do a number of public speaking events and lead group discussions on your books. What do these events involve? How do they work out for you?

I’ve been fortunate to be asked to give a number of book talks at local venues, and have been gratified to see how encouraging and supportive audiences have been. When I first started speaking, I found it quite challenging (read terrifying), but with practice, I no longer feel that I’ll have a nervous breakdown before it’s over.

I talk a little about how I got into writing and my Florida family’s background, read some excerpts from the book, and encourage listeners to record their family histories.

10. If there were one thing you would want your readers and fans to know about you, what would it be?

One of the reasons I thought to write this book was because of interviews I did with my Grandma Keathley. Years ago I sat down with her and recorded her reminiscences about growing up in Mango, and later raising her six children in Tampa. I had to kind of twist her arm to do it; she finally relented after I talked her into reciting poetry like she did to her kids when they were small, and singing a few hymns. Then I just kind of sneaked her into the interview by asking questions.

I love hearing her stories about growing up in Mango in her voice with the old Florida “southernisms” Sometimes when I’m feeling down, I’ll make myself the breakfast she’d always fix me, a fried egg on top of some buttered oatmeal, then listen to one of her interviews, and I feel better.

When I speak, I strongly encourage the audience to interview the older members of their families – these days it’s easy to videotape them – or write about their own histories. The little details are what I love most – knowing that the oxen my great-grandfather hooked up to the wagon to take his vegetables to market were named Red’en and George; and when my great-grandfather would pull my grandmother up on the horse with him so she could see the baby birds in their nest; and once, when my grandma was at a “Church Sing” with a new boyfriend, the horse took off with the buggy and when they found him he’d gotten stuck halfway over a fence. For me, details like that make my family history come to life.

And you can quote me on this: “There is NOTHING more interesting than families.”

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Interview with Leo King

August 4, 2014 at 3:53 pm (Interviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

P1000461Periodically, Anakalian Whims interviews authors and artists for the public.  This blog having such a friendly relationship with Grey Gecko Press has allowed for more author interviews than I could have ever dreamed for, and here’s one more.  Meet Leo King, author of the Sins of the Father trilogy.

1. You have a 3.95 average rating on Goodreads for The Bourbon Street Ripper, sounds like people generally like it! (The first few pages creeped me out and I’m holding off until I can muster a non-scaredy cat reading mood out of myself to finish the book.) Tell us a little about your series Sins of the Father.

Sins of the Father is a genre-bending trilogy. While it’s thriller throughout, it starts as a a murder mystery and changes into what could almost be called urban fantasy. The voodoo culture undertones in the beginning become more prevalent as the three books go on.

2. What brought you to the murder/mystery/thriller genre? Is it merely what fit this story or is it your chosen genre?

My chosen genres are actually sci-fi, urban fantasy and epic fantasy. However, I’ve always wanted to write a trilogy that mutates genres in a seamless fashion. Most of this is because I want to show that it can be done. Put enough information in the story to inform the reader, and you can go from mystery to supernatural or fantasy to science fiction, etc. While it’s not recommended all the time (fans of one tend to favor it over the other), there are occasions when it can be very entertaining.

This is my only attempt at genre-bending. I will not do it again. I also will likely never write pure modern-day mystery. It’s not something I think I’d enjoy. I might try a hand at science-fiction mystery some time.P1020027

I love thrillers though, and will likely continue in the supernatural thriller and serial killer thriller genre in the future.

I think I kind of got away from your question. Sorry about that. The genres of Sins of the Father fit the story.

3. Who are your favorite books and authors? Ultimately whose writing career inspires you most?

American Gods by Neil Gaiman is my #1 favorite for modern authors. Otherwise, anything by Asimov for science fiction, Weiss and Hickman for fantasy, and Stephen King for thriller/horror. My favorite old-school novel is Lord of the Rings.

P10200164. You’re published through Grey Gecko Press. How has that experience been for you?

I’ve enjoyed the freedom I get with GGP. They put the author’s desires first and foremost. I consider GGP a great starting place for any author.

5. Although you’re a Houston local, I see in your bio that you’re not a Houston native. How do you think your Louisiana roots and life experiences have affected your writing?

I grew up in New Orleans, the birth place of the modern romantic vampire (mostly thanks to Anne Rice). Because of that, I tend to blend romanticism with everything I write. I also try to give my locations and settings enough life for them to be considered a character themselves.

6. Your bio also says that you want your work to be controversial enough to make people think. What kind of thinking were you wanting to encourage with the Sins of the Father series? What kind of themes do you plan to pursue in future work?

If nothing else, I want to dispel stereotypes. Let me explain.

Every person, even the most deplorable, is still a person. Something made them that way. For example, some people in our society believe that anyone who is a terrorist is the epitome of evil and deserves no regard. But what drove that person to become that way? What hopelessness made them susceptible to their cause’s brain-washing? So many people do not ask those questions. They just brand and condemn. It disgusts me.

So I’ll create characters that the reader falls in love with, and then have them reveal something utterly horrible about themselves. Will my readers continue to love them? Will they condemn the actions instead of the person? Or will they suddenly hate the character and put the book down? What they do, and if they think before doing it, will say a lot about them.

I won’t apologize for anything I write, no matter how much it offends someone. Every human being has a story, and that story needs to be told.

7. You’re planning a Halloween release party for your next book. Ideally, what would that look like to you?

As this is my first launch party, I have no expectations. Something voodoo themed would be lovely.

8. Did you put any of your series to paper while listening to music? If so, what kind, which artists, what songs?

I write in silence.

9. Outside of your writing career what does your life look like? Do you have hobbies or interests that you’d like to share with your readership?

I am happily married to my wife of going on nine years. I work from home during the day and write at night. Sometimes I meet friends for coffee or beer, but never coffee and beer. That’s an important distinction!

My biggest out of office activity is my Writing Workshop. It’s a video workshop I started in 2012 and let stall out due to lack of equipment. I am thinking of setting up a Kickstarter campaign to get better equipment. It’s hard to teach writing techniques when you’re recording on an iPhone!

As for hobbies, I am an avid gamer. That’s both video games and role-playing games. I have a BS in Video Game Design that I’ve never used professionally, but I design game mods and develop indie games all the time. Yes, game development is a hobby for me. I love martial arts and am a sword collector.

10. If there were one thing you would want your fans/readers to know about you, what would it be?

Someone once expressed concern about my mental health because of some of the scenes in The Bourbon Street Ripper. I want to say that it’s just a book: I don’t endorse any of the horrible things my characters do!


Leo King, second from the left in the black shirt, interacting with fans at one of his book signings.

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Interview with Marit Menzin

July 10, 2014 at 8:45 pm (Interviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

MaritAlong with the story time kids, I had the opportunity to interview the author of Song for Papa Crow, Marit Menzin.

First, questions from the kids:

“What made you want to write a book like this one, about crows and singing?” – Justin, age 9

I love animals and nature, and I’m childlike in the sense that I always keep asking questions. I live in Lexington, Massachusetts where I see most of the birds featured in Song for Papa Crow in my backyard. The idea for my book came to me when I helped one of my children with a school project on birds. When I discovered that father crows take care of their offspring longer than most other birds, and that the whole flock would come to help a wounded crow, I asked myself: What would happen if a little crow was teased by songbirds for his unique song? And, what if in his quest to make friends he learned the other birds’ songs, but when he was in danger his father wouldn’t recognize his song? This idea is not farfetched, as I learned to my surprise that crows can mimic sounds made by animals and other birds, as well as sounds made by humans.

P1020327“What moral were you trying to get across?” – Ethan, age 11

When I wrote my story I wasn’t thinking about morals, but there are many morals that I subconsciously conveyed: Every child is special, and every child has unique gifts. Be proud of your family, and with who you are. It’s a good idea to tell your parents where you’re going, and whom you’re hanging out with so they’ll know where to find you. Your family loves you no matter what. Your family is the most important thing.

“My question is about Papa Crow. Will he always save Little Crow? That’s my question.” – Ayla, age 3

Yes. Papa Crow will ALWAYS save Little Crow when he hears his voice. For Papa Crow, Little Crow’s voice is the sweetest thing in the world.

“Exactly why did you make the singing scenes? And who did you write the story for?” – Ian, age 7

I made the singing scenes because the birds I see and listen to in my backyard inspired me. I also thought that it would be fun to research bird songs and rituals.

northern_mockingbird_glamour“Why did you make the mockingbird the rock star?” – Alex, age 9

Although Song for Papa Crow is a fiction picture book, the story line is based on true facts. The mockingbird is a great singer who can imitate the sounds of other birds, and is also one of the few birds that can be heard singing at night.

Questions from Anaklian Whims Blog:

What led you to Schiffer Books? (

I heard of Schiffer Publishing from a local author I ran into when my art was exhibited at my local library. JungkeSml

What inspired your collage art? It’s a very unique way to illustrate.

I doodled and painted since my early childhood, and I experimented with different art media including oils, and pastels. But I only started developing my collage technique when I took classes with the Caldecott award-winning illustrator Ilse Plume at the deCordova Museum.

I see that you are a freelance collage artist. You do book covers for hire? What sort of cost would an indie author be looking at?

I designed the cover for my book. In general, a cover price can range anywhere from $150 to $4000 but an Indie Author could pay $250-$1000 depending on what she’s looking for and how much work is involved.

Do you have more kids’ books of your own in your future?

I’m currently working on the illustrations for a new book.

I see you do school visits. What would it take to get you to Texas?

I would love to visit Texas. You’ll have to add travel & lodging expenses to visit cost. For more about this author/illustrator, visit:

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Interview with Jason Kristopher

June 14, 2014 at 7:08 pm (Interviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

P10200191. Your books (The Dying of the Light) are a series of zombie apocalypse novels. What do you think your stories have that set them apart from the rest of the zombie genre?

First, a realistic and scientifically-vetted reason for zombies, as in it’s not just supernatural or science fiction ‘hand-waving.’ Second, and this is the key difference, the books aren’t about the zombies. Yes, they have zombies in them, and action and blood and guts and gore, but at its core, The Dying of the Light is a story about people. I always tell potential readers that it could’ve been anything that ended the world: aliens, earthquakes, global warming… none of that matters. This series is about the end of these people’s own personal worlds, and how they deal with what happens during and after, and more importantly, with each other. That’s the real story – the rest is just window-dressing.

2. What inspired you to write zombie novels? Did the characters come to you as products of the apocalypse, or did you drop them into that setting after their inception?

The idea for the story was a mash-up of two different dreams, actually. One about a lone zombie survivor on an island, the other about the end of the world (though I didn’t know at the time what had done it). My writer’s brain smashed them together, and suddenly, there was a zombie apocalypse trilogy. It makes me a bit nervous about the other connections my mind makes, actually…

3. Stephen King says people who don’t read don’t have the tools to write. Who are your favorite authors? Who inspires you to write? Who do you read to gain more writing energy?

on-writing-coverWould it be trite to say Stephen King? His book On Writing is the single best treatise on the craft of authorship that I’ve ever read. As for other fun favorites, I have a ton, but a few that come to mind: Isaac Asimov, Terry Brooks, Jim Butcher, Orson Scott Card, Arthur C. Clarke, Donaldson, Jordan, Koontz, Niven, Pratchett… see what I mean? For inspiration, I look at some of my friends, like George Wright Padgett (Spindown), who wrote one of my personal Top 5 sci-fi books. That is inspiring, to me. I like to re-read some books if I’m having trouble with a book I’m writing, too. For example, I’ll revisit The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series if I’m stumbling over dialogue – even though it’s English slang, Douglas Adams was a master of dialogue.

4. Do you have play lists of mood music you write to? If so, which artists/songs generally make the cut?

If I have music on, it’s generally instrumental – tuneful background noise, basically. The soundtrack to Lord of the Rings, or Last of the Mohicans, that sort of thing. If I’m struggling with a particular type of scene, I’ll find some music that fits that ambiance. For example, my “Car Chase” playlist has Guns N’ Roses, Project Pitchfork, Rihanna, and even Motley Crue. But usually, I like it quiet or very low music when I’m writing; it keeps me focused.

grey gecko press5. You are not just an author, but the owner of a publishing company: Grey Gecko Press. Tell me a little about that. What made you decide to open such a venture and what are your goals for the company?

I’ve always been business-minded, and when I published my first book, I knew there would be business expenses involved. Originally, I never planned to publish anyone else’s work, but then a friend (author Wayne Basta) asked if I could help him, and Aristeia: Revolutionary Right became the second book published under the Grey Gecko imprint. I found I really enjoyed working with other authors to share great stories, even if they weren’t mine, and I had the ability to do it… so why not? From the beginning, the company has been about treating authors fairly, publishing great books, and doing things the right way, even if that bucks centuries of tradition.

As far as goals… well, I’ve long said that I’d like for Grey Gecko to be ‘the Google of publishing.’ Most people interpret that to mean I want to be rich, when that’s not at all my goal. I want Grey Gecko Press to be huge because it would mean that every author would have a chance at the same kind of success that only a few get now with traditional publishing. Every struggling writer, pounding away at their keyboard (or typewriter, I’m not judging) would know that at least one company would look at their work when it was done, regardless of their past publishing experience – because, at the end of the day, Grey Gecko isn’t about making money: it’s about publishing great books and putting authors first. As you can tell, I’m quite passionate about this endeavor.

6. You’re quite an entrepreneur. What other projects do you have up your sleeve?

I think it’d be grP1020027eat to have a Grey Gecko bookstore, for one thing. For another, we haven’t been able to focus on as much as I’d like with Grey Gecko is giving back to our community. I’ve got some ideas for creating local resources and ‘maker-spaces’ for writers of all types and kinds. When we’re ready, I’d like to take our business model into other fields, as well, including movies, film, and even music. So yeah, a few projects on the horizon!

7. How would you feel about having your books made into a television show or series of movies? Would you want to write your own screenplays? Who would be your ideal director?

One of the comments I have most about my books are that they’re very visual, very cinematic, and I agree! I think they’d make great movies/TV shows, mainly because that’s what I see in my head when I write them. I’m not sure about writing the screenplays myself, although I’d give it a try. There’s a lot about the behind-the-camera part of the film industry that I don’t know, so I’d at least listen to some experts… though naturally I’d want final say. I’d rather not have it made at all than made badly. I’m not sure of all the director’s names on The Walking Dead, but they do such a masterful job with a show that’s so similar in tone, that I’d likely pick one of them, given the choice.

Jason and rene8. You’ve had booths at Comicpalooza and done numerous book signings with local bookstores. What were those experiences like for you? What are your favorite parts? What are your least favorite parts?

Despite what I may say on Sunday afternoon at a convention, I actually enjoy talking to people about our books. Helping people discover a new book they haven’t heard about, or seeing their excitement at the next volume in a series, or seeing the light of wonder shine in a child’s eyes as I hand them a copy of Greystone Valley is why I do what I do. As far as book signings go, I enjoy them for many of the same reasons; talking to people about my books and getting tP1020015hem excited about reading is a blast. What it really comes down to for me, though, is that I’m a storyteller at heart; however I can tell you a story, I’m going to do it. My least favorite part of all these things would be the setup, teardown, and logistics that go into planning them… mainly because I’m lazy! I’d love to show up with a cup of coffee and find everything set and ready to go, but that’s the price you pay for being your own boss, I guess!

9. What other published work have you been a part of? And what can we expect to see from you in the future?

Aside from The Dying of the Light, I’ve also published several short stories, some of which are based in my zombie series, some not. I also contributed one of my favorite short pieces, The Art of Steaming, to the horror anthology A Fancy Dinner Party, along with 9 other Grey Gecko Press authors, and it was also featured in the collection Penny Dreadfuls: Halloween Special. For future work… boy, have I got some ideas for you!

First, I’m finishing The Dying of the Light with the third book, Beginning, due out this winter. Then there’s Under a Cloud-covered Moon, the first in a series about an irascible, anti-hero detective who works for the Seattle Metahuman Crimes Unit, solving crimes by and against ‘metas’ – non-supernatural mutants who’ve been called ‘vampires’ and ‘werewolves’ for centuries by those who had no idea of their true nature. I’ve also got a middle-grade/YA story in mind about a Teddy Bear (because it’s a job, not a toy) named Freddy McPhane, as well as my epic fantasy series of 30 books (no joke), not to mention the 150+ other ideas I have written down. I’m going to be busy!

10. If there is one thing you would want your readers and fans to know about you, what would it be? If you had one request of your readers and fans, what would it be?

I want all my fans and readers to know that I love hearing from them! Whether it’s a quick note, or a detailed letter, I’m always excited to connect with my readers, which is best done through email at

For a request, I’d request everyone who enjoys the books they read, especially indie books, to leave a review on Amazon, GoodReads, or elsewhere. Short of buying more books, a review is the best way to support indie authors and small press. That and telling all your friends, of course! To find out why reviews are so important, visit my blog: On the Importance of Reviews, or, It’s Just 21 Words!

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Interview with Wayne Basta

June 13, 2014 at 1:20 am (Interviews) (, , , , )

wayne bastaI had the pleasure of meeting author Wayne Basta awhile back for a book signing at Half Price Books Humble.  He has a three part series published under Grey Gecko Press here in the Houston area.  This week, I finally had the pleasure of interviewing him.

1. I haven’t had the pleasure of reading your series. Can you tell us about it?

Aristeia is a science fiction space opera that follows the characters of Maarkean, Saracasi and Zeric as they accidently set off a rebellion against the powerful Alliance.

2. What moved you to start writing science fiction?

I’ve always been a fan of the genre. My father got me into Star Trek and Star Wars at a young age and then followed it up with classic science fiction books like Asimov and Clarke.

3. An interviewer (Sam Weller, of the Paris Review) asked Ray Bradbury if writing science fiction satisfied something that mainstream fiction did not. I’d like to ask you that same question. Do you find that science fiction satisfies something that mainstream fiction cannot – both in yourself as well as in society?

I don’t believe science fiction isn’t mainstream fiction. Look at the biggest blockbuster movies and books and you’ll find lots examples of science fiction. Science fiction certainly satisfies something other genre’s do not, but so does every different genre.

4. When did you start writing? Have you always wanted to write?

The first things I wrote were when I was 9 and we got our first home computer. I dabbled in writing ever sense then, though I didn’t make a serious effort to write a complete novel length story until just a few years ago.

5. When you write, do you have a specific place or environment you like to go? Do you play music (and if so, what music?) or do you prefer the quiet?

I usually write from my laptop at the kitchen table. The chairs are less comfortable than my desk chair so its easier to stay focused. The laptop also can’t run most of my games so that clearly defines this computer a work place and the desktop for play.

I write in silence a lot but depending on the scene I’m working on I might put on music. I’ll often try and match the music to what’s happening in the book. During a heavy battle scene I might play some epic sound tracks from movie battles or if its more subdued a lighter piece.

6. What is the easiest part of the writing process for you? What is the hardest?

The easiest part is the writing itself. Figuring out what I’m going to write, finding the time when there’s no toddler demanding attention, marketing the books, editing the grammar and everything else is hard. But when I know what is going to happen to my characters, the words just flow out with ease.

basta book7. Who designed your book covers?

I worked with an artist named Oliver Wetter to design the cover. I told him what I had in mind and described the looks of my characters. He then brought them to life. He did an amazing job with each of them.

8. You were recently at a Comicpalooza. What were you doing there? What was that experience like?

I sat on a number of writing panels at Comicpalooza. It’s always great to get to sit down and talk about writing and books with fellow authors and fans of the genre.

9. Do you have any tips or advice on getting published for aspiring authors?

Never give up, never surrender. It’s a hard process to wade through and relies mostly on persistence and dedication to succeeding. Keep trying and keep improving your queries and your writing.

Like Wayne’s page on facebook.


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Interview with John Oehler

June 6, 2014 at 11:18 pm (Interviews) (, , , , , , )

John Oehler

I love doing author interviews, especially for authors whose work I have read and enjoyed.  Please allow me to introduce to you John Oehler.  Below is an interview in which he was kind enough to participate.

1. I read Papyrus and Aphrodesia and was riveted by both. You have a knack for mystery and detail, whether historical or well-researched professions like perfuming. What inspired you to write these stories?

The initial idea for Papyrus came to me in 1983 when I was in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and noticed a potential way for thieves to break in. Over time (by which I mean decades, because I was not yet a serious writer), the story concept expanded tremendously. The theft now occupies only a chapter and a half.

Interested readers can see my original sketch of the break-in route by going to , pulling down Papyrus from the Novels tab, and clicking on Behind the Scenes.

Aphrodesia is another story that took years to mature. I first became interested in fragrances while living in London in the mid-80s. I started collecting perfume samples, perfume books, and articles on the psychology of scent. I wanted to write a story centered on fragrances but couldn’t think of an interesting plot — until I met a master perfumer in Versailles who told me that creating a true aphrodisiac is the Holy Grail of the perfumer’s art. I thought: Bingo! I can make a story out of an aphrodisiac.

As with Papyrus, you can read more about the origin of Aphrodesia on my website. Pull down Aphrodesia from the Novels menu, click on Behind the Scenes, and you’ll see two entries illustrated with photos of the master perfumer and of ISIPCA, the perfume school in Versailles where the story begins.

2. You got an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for Papyrus and First Place in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association for Tepui. How did you feel about being recognized so well on these novels? (Also, what’s your secret to success?)

papyrusPapyrus was a semifinalist in the 2009 ABNA competition, ranking in the top 1% out of 10,000 submissions. I was thrilled. At the same time I was disappointed, because the Publishers Weekly reviewer praised everything about the story except for the “downbeat” ending — a major character died. It made me wonder if a more upbeat ending might have advanced Papyrus into the finals. I knew, from critique partners and others who had read the story, that opinion was divided about 50:50 between those who loved the last chapter and those who didn’t. Ultimately I decided to change the ending.

As an aside, I have toyed with the idea of posting the original ending on my website. But beyond those who read this interview, very few people are even aware that the current last chapter was not my first choice.

Winning the PNWA competition was probably the biggest surprise of my writing career. It’s a major contest that attracts lots of agents and editors. I’d entered a thriller titled Tepui and received a hint that it might be a finalist. At the award ceremony, I was sitting at a big round table with my wife and about ten other people as the finalists were read off. When my name was announced as the winner, I blurted, “Are you shitting me?” The whole table laughed.

Perhaps the coolest thing was that this led to a role reversal. Like most unpublished writers, I’d endured years of frustration playing supplicant to the deaf gods of agentdom. Now, suddenly, agents were courting ME.

In the end, the agent I signed with turned out to be a poor choice. Several months into our relationship, she sold a YA fantasy for half a million bucks and a second YA fantasy for a quarter million. She lost interest in thrillers. On the flip side, I lost interest in agents and have been more than happy to self-publish ever since.

Secret to success? I’m certainly not as “successful” as I’d like to be. But I attribute my modicum of popularity to excellent teachers (like Chris Rogers) and critique partners I trust and respect. I strive to create unusual characters, take them to places most readers have never seen before, and keep readers guessing what’s going to happen next. I also try to engage all of the senses, to help readers feel like they are in the story, not just reading it.

3. I’ve posted reviews for Aphrodesia and Papyrus here on my blog, but I haven’t had the pleasure of discovering Tepui. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Tepui is the story of a burn-scarred botanist who treks into the remote Venezuelan highlands in search of a living fossil but stumbles onto something far more astonishing, and deadly.

This story stems from my work and travels in Venezuela and on the history of the region.

4. Tell us about your other writing ventures. What other brilliant ideas have you got up your sleeve? When can we expect to see your next book?

TepuiTepui will be the next book I publish. I’m currently refining it and hope to get it out by the fall.

I’m not sure what will come after that. I’ve always loved old books and libraries. While visiting a monastery in Prague last Christmas, I spent an hour contemplating their library and especially their locked collection of forbidden tomes. I’d like to set a story in that environment. The idea might sound derivative of The Name of the Rose (one of my all-time favorite stories), but I would set it mainly in modern times.

In a similar vein, I’ve long wanted to write a story set in western Ireland during the Viking raids of the early 900s. It would center on a mixed male-female monastery with a round tower that serves as a repository for volumes rescued from the anti-intellectual book burnings of the Dark Ages. I’m torn between this and the Prague story. I don’t think I can do both, because there’d be too many similarities.

I’ve written parts of several other stories I’d like to expand if I live long enough. One centers on a powder created by an 8th-Century Arab alchemist (a real person) that extends life for centuries, provided you keep taking it. The story opens with the spectacular (true) robbery in 1976 of a bank in Nice, during which thieves spent an entire weekend looting safe deposit boxes in the underground vault. In my twist, the thieves were working for a woman who knew the powder and the alchemist’s formula were in one of the boxes, and that’s all she wanted.

Most of the others involve things like ancient mysteries and labyrinthine puzzles.

5. What got you started in the writing world? Have you always wanted to write or is it a passion you discovered later in life?

In high school I wrote poetry about society’s outcasts, some of which was published in a scholastic magazine. In college I occasionally ghostwrote sonnets for girls who were supposed to write them as a class assignment. Simple rhyming poetry always came easily to me.

What started me writing novels — or trying to — was hubris. In the late 70s and early 80s, I traveled internationally quite a bit and spent my time on planes reading Robert Ludlum novels. After a while, I thought: I can do better than that. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure my attitude came from the fact that (as he admitted later) his stories all had the same plot. So on that trip to Egypt when I got my initial idea for Papyrus, I decided to try my hand at writing a book. Little did I know.

Flash forward several years and I’ve finally finished my first version, a 240,000-word tome I called The Papyrus of Tiye. A friend of mine offers to take it home with him at Thanksgiving and show it to his mother, a vice president at Bantam. P.S. It came back with a note that read, “Tell him to take a creative writing class.”

Exit all traces of hubris, never to return. Enter the long, hard slog of learning to craft stories that OTHER people enjoy reading.

6. Your writing style is truly unique; I’ve never read another quite like you. Who are your favorite authors to read? Who inspires you?

Interesting that you should mention my “style.” I was once told that I don’t have a style. In truth, I don’t think about it when I write. But when I proof a story, I do notice a lot of “habits” that surface on every page.

Modern authors I enjoy reading include Ken Follett, Michael Crichton (before his stories became political), Umberto Eco, Nelson DeMille, Daniel Silva, Trevanian, Frank Herbert, Stieg Larsson, Wilbur Smith, Elizabeth George (her earlier books), and Laura Hillenbrand (a monument to writing beautifully under major adversity). Sadly, several of these authors have left us.

If I had to pick one author who inspires me, it would be Michael Crichton. As a scientist, I like the way he turns science into adventure and often combines that with history. My own stories do the same.

7. Your ‘on location’ scenes in your books are so detailed. Have you traveled to the places you write to describe them so vividly?

What a wonderful compliment. Thank you.

Yes, I’ve traveled to many of the places I describe: Egypt for Papyrus, France for Aphrodesia, Venezuela for Tepui. In fact, I’ve traveled to fifty or sixty countries and lived in six. But there are places in my stories I have not visited. Two examples are Yemen in Aphrodesia and Sudan in Papyrus. For these I used my experiences in Somalia, combined with books and articles I have plus a lot of Internet research.

If you’re going to take a reader to someplace exotic, I believe you have a duty to make that place as real as possible. And not just visually. What does it smell like? What sounds do you hear? How does the food taste? What textures do you feel? Those details help the reader feel “there.”

8. Other than writing, what are your other hobbies and interests?

I read a lot, of course. I love to cook. And my wife and I continue to travel as often as we can. She’s a member of the Mars Science team, which operates and analyzes data from NASA’s Curiosity rover, so our travel opportunities are limited by the rover’s activities. But we manage to get away frequently and always enjoy the foods, wines, art, music, and history of the places we visit.

John and ElfieThen there’s our Old English Sheepdog, Elfie, who has her own Facebook page ( and takes a chunk of my “spare” time.

As to interests, name something, and I’m probably interested. I have files on everything from art, poisons, labyrinths, and magic to ancient and medieval history, symbology, gold, gypsies, and food. Probably I’m most interested in things that influence the way we think and behave, especially early Catholicism, medieval Islam, taboos, superstitions, and the like.

9. If there is one thing you’d want your readers and fans to know about you, what would it be?

My whole reason for writing is to please my readers and make them hungry for more of my work. I want to share with them the excitement of exotic places, the richness (and sometimes terror) of foreign cultures. And (don’t kill me for saying this) I try to educate by painlessly integrating elements of history, art, and science. I love it when readers say, “I never knew that.” And I love it even more when they wonder, Could this really happen?

10. Previously you have participated in book signing events in the Houston area. When (and where) can we expect to see you out and about again?

Nothing scheduled at the moment. But when Tepui comes out, I hope to have several signings. I’ll definitely let you know. Signings offer a unique opportunity to speak personally with potential readers, and I look forward to the next round.

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Interview with Jennifer Theriot

March 4, 2014 at 6:43 pm (Interviews) (, , , , , , )

P1010001Meet Jennifer Theriot, Texan, CFO, wife, grandmother, and AUTHOR!

1.  Describe your book and its inception. What was your muse so to speak

Out of the Box Awakening is a romance novel centered on middle aged lovers and stresses the importance of family and friends. I got the idea to write a book after reading the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. I had to read it 3 times to actually get the core of the story.

I took two of my closest friends to dinner one night and over a glass of wine casually mentioned that I was thinking of writing a book about middle-aged lovers. The actually dared me to do it with enthusiasm.

We all agreed that there just weren’t romance novels out there about women like us; hence the dare was accepted and the writing began.

My muse would be Kevin Costner. As soon as I started writing the book, he was hands down Ash Harper in every sense of the word.

2. You’ve written a romance.  Is this the genre you prefer to read? What are your favorite titles and authors?

Romance is my favorite genre. I love Maya Banks, Lisa Renee Jones, S.C. Stephens and Cherrie Lynn. I loved all of their books.

3. Writing romantic stories, I find, always invites quite an array of emotions from people in the real world.  How have your friends and family reacted to your story content?

For the most part, my friends and family are behind me one hundred percent. My friends have read the book of course but my immediate family (husband and kids) Ehhhh….out of the boxno.  And truth be known, I don’t think I want them to. There’s some things better left to the unknown.

4. Just like when I read, when I write I find myself drawn to certain characters more than others.  Did you have a favorite in your own work?

Oh goodness YES! Todd O’Malley is the tatted up, pierced good-looking rock star that resembles Adam Levine. In the book, he becomes best friends with the main character Olivia. Their relationship as he describes it: “Olivia is like having a mom and a best friend all rolled up into one smoking ass hot chick.” I have to say he’s by far the most colorful and fun character. Ash on the other hand is the Romeo every woman would want in her life. Those two are my dream guysJ

5. Many authors are heavily influenced by their environment when they write.  Where is your safe space? Do you have mood music?

My “space” consists of being curled up in my chair with my feet up on the ottoman, Mac Book Air in lap typing away with ear buds in listening to the playlist for my book. I find that I can still spend time with hubby that way and have the best of both worlds.

Music is a huge influence in my writing. I’d wanted to use lyrics from a particular recorded song in my book and quickly discovered the red tape and bureaucracy involved with permission to use. That being said, I wrote my own lyrics and I’m so proud to say, a dear musician friend wrote music to them and recorded it. It’s even on iTunes.

6. What do you find to be the easiest of the writing and editing process? What is the hardest for you?

The easiest is of course the writing. The hardest is during beta reads when the readers come back with their comments. It is probably the most intense part of the process for me. I have an incredible beta reader, who has also become a good friend. She knows my characters like the back of her hand and calls me out when she’s not feeling what she knows I’m trying to say. She and I have had many discussions and she pushes me to emotionally engage the readers with a scene. Her words are “Jen, you know what’s going on and how the characters are feeling….take us there in your words. Make us feel it with you.”

7. Did you learn anything about yourself or the world you live in by writing this book?

Funny you should ask that…. The answer is yes. This journey has made me much more confident about myself as a 59 year old woman who considers herself forever young. I’ve never felt better inside or out. If anything, my main character Olivia has given me the authority to express my feelings in the real world. I’ve talked to a lot of ladies in my age group who like me still enjoy sex, they like date nights with their husbands and significant others. They like to wear sexy lingerie and dress trendy. It’s an incredible feeling and I believe when you feel good about yourself, others can see that.

8. I’ve met a lot of authors with drastically differing views on this… would you ever be interested in a TV or movie deal for your series?  If so, how involved would you want to be? (There every step of the way? Or hand it over and let the film people do their thing?)

I could totally see the Out of the Box series being made into a movie…I’ve even got a dream cast put together. Probably every author visualizes his or her book getting made into a movie or TV series.

What a lot of authors probably don’t realize is how much of a long shot that is. A movie/TV series doesn’t just magically appear and the things that go into the making of a series or movie and moreover the likelihood of it actually coming to fruition is daunting. Finding investors to actually take a chance on financing a project like…very difficult!

I would definitely be a hands-on type. It’s my personality. I’ve got to have my hand in every detail which drives me crazy but that’s the way God made me.

P10009959. You’ve just started participating in book signings and are writing another book.  What direction do you see your writing career headed? Where would you like it to head?

I love doing the book signings. At first I was terrified!

I love interacting with people and meeting other authors.

I do plan to continue writing as long as people keep reading my books. I’ve finished the second book, Out of the Box Regifted. It’s currently in editing and I’ve started the 3rd and final book in the series, Out of the Box Everlasting. (The trilogy is called ARE. That way, readers will know what book is first and last in the series because it spells a word)

After Everlasting, I’ll do a book from Todd’s POV and then I’m on to a completely different series. I want to continue to write about middle-aged lovers. I feel there is a market for this. Women my age don’t always want to read about twenty-something characters…

10. Every reader or writer has a favorite bookstore (and if you don’t, please don’t spoil my delusion!).  Now is your chance for a shout out!  Tell us who you love and what you love about them.

I could sell my soul to Half Price Books! I’ve never gone into one and come out empty handed.

I also like Barnes and Noble.

Something about a good old bookstore just feels right. When you walk down an aisle, if you listen closely enough you can hear the characters in the books whispering “Buy me, buy me!”

Long live the bookstores!


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Interview with Comedian Jeff Hodge

March 3, 2014 at 2:48 am (Interviews) (, , , , , )

Jeff HodgeI’ve had the pleasure of reading Jeff Hodge’s Road Trippin’ over the last few months. I’ve been plucking through, taking my time with this delightful memoir, trying to get to know this comic and his world one day at a time. I’m so excited about this former Houstonian, I was able to talk him into doing an interview with me!

1. Describe your book and its inception. What was your muse so to speak?

My book, “Road Trippin…The Life And Times Of A Comic On The Run,” is pretty much a compilation of short stories of incidents that happened to me back when I was out on the road performing as a young comedian in the early 1990’s. Over the years, I would share these stories with friends and fans and people would suggest that I write a book. I never took it seriously until one day in 2011, a buddy of mine, who is a big Chelsea Handler fan suggested I read her book, “My Horizontal Life”. After reading the book, I said to him, every comic have stories like that. He suggested I write a book and so I did and that is how “Road Trippin…The Life And Times Of A Comic On The Run” came about.

2. Many authors are heavily influenced by their environment when they write. Where is your safe space? Do you have mood music?

I am a night person so most of my writing takes place late at night when everyone is asleep and I am up watching the ID Channel. Usually turn on soft music (I prefer love songs because they help me think better) and just get to pecking away on my laptop.

3. How does writing for the stage differ from writing for a book?

Writing for the stage is different from a book in that when I write for the stage, I get feedback immediately as I perform it. With a book, I have to wait until the book comes out. Some one reads it and then I get their feedback. The long wait time can be tedious and frustrating.

4. What do you find to be the easiest of the writing and editing process? What is the hardest for you? (Both in comedy and for publication.)

To me, the writing process is easiest because I just write the words as they come to me in my head. I hate the editing process because by the time the book is actually published, I have read my book 100 million times from reading and re-reading it making all the edits I need to make! (Hahaha)

road trippin5. Obviously, Road Trippin’ is a memoir and therefore a representation of your life. Is this an accurate representation of your whole life or just the parts that fed into your life as a Comedian?

Road Trippin’ is an accurate representation of just part of my life when I was on the road touring as a comedian back in the early 1990’s. I will be following up Road Trippin’ with more books on other aspects of my life.

6. Did you learn anything about yourself or the world you live in by writing this book (that isn’t included in the book itself)?

Yes. The thing I learned about myself while writing this book is that I have come a long way since I started doing comedy. Sometimes as comedians, we get so focused on defining success as being on a tv show and selling out auditoriums but we lose focus on the journey that we’re on and miss out on a lot of the little things along the way. Writing this book really took me back to venues and places I had performed in earlier in my career that I forgot about after all these years.

7. How have your friends and family reacted to your story content?

My close buddies took the book in stride because they had heard some of the stories in the book over the years. My other friends and family were shocked. They didn’t know one could do all those things on the road as a comedian if you weren’t a star. My mom is still waiting for her copy! (Hahaha)

8. You’re a very different sort of writer than I usually feature on my blog – most are novelists who are passionate for the written word in general. I know you are passionate about comedy and the stage, but are you a reader? What are your favorite books? Your favorite authors?

Yes, I am a reader, but I don’t get to read as much as I would like to. Too busy performing, producing shows, auditioning, writing, etc. I am what you may call a binge reader, I don’t sit down and read all the time, but when I do, I might read 2 or 3 books in one sitting. My favorite kind of books to read are autobiographies, biographies or military or spy thrillers by authors like Tom Clancy.

9. What have you been up to professionally and personally since the publication of this book? What are your future plans?

Since Road Trippin… has been released, I have been actively promoting my book by making appearances at book club meetings, doing interviews and doing shows in the LA area. My future plans include writing a couple follow up books to Road Trippin… that go more in details about my life living in Texas & California.

10. If there is ONE thing you’d want fans to know about you, what would it be?

One thing I want my fans to know about me is that I’m a hard-worker, funny and love to create and entertain.

Comdey Jam Jeff Hodge

Visit Jeff’s website and follow him on twitter.

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