Ghost Maven

 

Ghost Maven cover

Author, television producer, award winning documentary film maker, and world traveller, Tony Lee Moral, has just completed work on his second published novel, Ghost Maven, and has generously offered to share a bit of insider scoop on his new book, what drives and motivates him, and what he has planned next. Despite an increasingly busy work life, as with everything Tony takes on, he remains focused and grounded while enjoying the creative journey he rides with each new project and challenge. Welcome Tony!

Interviewer: Debbie A. McClure
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Q: Your work spans several genres, including documentary film-making with your own production company, journalistic interviews with celebrities, and author of several books. Is there a common thread or arc in each of these endeavours? If so, what would that be?

A: Story! Story! Story! Whether it’s making a documentary film, writing a novel, or interviewing your subjects for a non-fiction book, each has the common thread of having a good story at the core. If I have something compelling to say, I will write, direct, produce, or find an outlet to tell my story.

Q: Your latest project, Ghost Maven, is a YA novel, which is quite a departure from your previous books on Alfred Hitchcock and murder mysteries. Can you share a little about this story to whet a young reader’s appetite?

A: In Ghost Maven, I blend mystery, with suspense and the supernatural. The central character, Alice Parker, moves to Monterey, California, with her father and little sister after her mother dies. Whilst kayaking in the bay, she paddles towards a mysterious island, but capsizes and is drowning when a young man, Henry Raphael, magically appears, delivering her safely to the beach. Against all rules, they begin seeing each other. It’s a love story with a twist.

Q: Why YA at this point in your career?

A: I’m inspired to write different genres, and as a compulsive communicator, I wanted to reach out to as many different readers of all ages as possible. The Young Adult readership is especially appealing to me, as I read many books in my teens and can identify with the hopes, fears and aspirations of being a teenager. It can be a very uncertain time for many teens, but I hope they identify with the characters in the book and want to share the journey with them.

Q: Have you ever encountered a ghost or spirit form in your personal life or travels? If so, what happened? If not, do you believe in ghosts?

A: I haven’t experienced ghosts or spirit forms, but I have had some intuitive dreams. Like Alice, I have experienced personal loss, and I use those feelings to create an atmosphere of reaching to the after life. I do believe that some things can’t be explained and science is still trying to unlock the answers.

Q: What surprising correlations or similarities have you discovered between film-making and writing?

A: Good storytelling is at the heart of both film-making and writing, whether it be shaping well-developed characters, creating emotional arcs and creating compelling situations. A good film or book takes the viewer or reader on a journey of discovery, enlightenment, or good old-fashioned entertainment.

Q: What dissimilarities have you discovered between film-making and writing?

A: With film-making, one should think in visuals, rather than relying on words or dialogue. You have a rectangle to fill with a succession of images to create an emotional response. Hitchcock said he wasn’t interested in photographs of people talking in his films, so I try to rely on visuals to tell my story when directing. In fact, I often think my novels are more like screenplays as I’m always thinking of the mise-en-scène, where the characters are, how they are dressed or what expressions they have on their faces. The advantage of writing is that you can really get inside your characters’ minds, what they are thinking and feeling, which you can’t quite do in a documentary film.

Q: What would you say fuels your imagination in writing?

A: Definitely travel – I’m lucky to travel with my day job as a film-maker, and I have been to some extraordinary places and have had access to some incredible situations and people. I’m like a sponge, absorbing human behaviour and thinking of how I can translate stories to the page or screen.

Q: How long does it take you to write a novel from first draft to final edit?

A: It depends on the publishing process. I first wrote Ghost Maven in 2010, so six years later it is being published. The last 18 months has been especially productive, as the novel was honed through various drafts, and I had some wonderful input from agents and copy editors.

Q: You are represented by a literary agency, Loiacono Literary Agency, in an age when many writers are choosing to self-publish. What has been your experience in working with an agent?

A: One of support and encouragement, which is invaluable as writing can be a very lonely process. The great screenwriter Jay Presson Allen, who I interviewed, described writing as a “divorcement from life”, which I can totally identify with. But having an agent is having someone to share the rewards and accomplishments with. What’s the point of being successful, if you have no one to share that success with?:

Q: Can you tell us a little about your production company, Sabana Films, and what you are trying to accomplish with your films?

A: I won the Special Jury award last year at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, which was an incredible, inspiring moment, and has reignited my love for natural history. I’ve started filming a documentary movie which I’m very passionate about called ‘The Cat that Changed America’. It’s about P22, the mountain lion who is trapped in Griffith Park in LA, and the wonderful conservationists and Angelenos who are trying to help him.

Q: If you could sit down and spend an evening chatting with three people, dead or alive, who would they be, and why?

A: Alfred Hitchcock, because I’ve written three books on the Master of Suspense, and currently writing a fourth on his reputation. His films have inspired me and are text book examples of film making and screenplay writing.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, as he is my favourite author, his prose is elegant, simple and elegiac. I love The Great Gatsby, the world Fitzgerald lived through and created, and the characters who populate that world.

Winston Churchill, because he epitomizes everything great about being British, what I love about England, and the country where I was born. His stoicism and heroism is something to be admired.

Q: What’s next for you, Tony?

A: I’m looking forward to my book tour for Ghost Maven. On Labour Day weekend, Saturday 3rd September 2016, at 2 p.m., I will be in the Old Capitol Books store in Monterey, California, signing copies of the book. It’s very special to me to launch the book in the place where the novel is set and where I lived for two inspirational years.
Q Where can our readers find you online?

http://www.ghostmaven.com
http://www.tonyleemoral.com
http://www.alfredhitchcockbooks.com
http://www.thecatthatchangedamerica.com
http://www.sabanafilms.com

https://www.facebook.com/tonyleemoralfans/

 

Seeing Things

Nancy Young cover

“True love is like ghosts,” wrote Francois de La Rochefoucauld, ” which everyone talks about and few have seen.”

Over the years, film, television and fiction have given us a bounty of stories in which star-crossed soul mates discover themselves up against the greatest divider of all – that pesky line separating the living and the dead. Whether it’s the hero who longs to be reunited with a beloved bride that was snatched from his arms too soon or a wistful heroine who has reconciled herself to the belief that all the best men are married, gay or a possible figment of their imaginations, author Nancy Young delivers a fresh twist in her latest novel, Seeing Things.  When you’re out to debunk the existence of ghosts – as well as deny your own ability to see them– what’s a girl to do when the sexy techie whose attention she has attracted is, quite literally, out of this world?

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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 Q: So tell us a little about your journey as a writer and who (or what) was the greatest influence on your quest to become a published author?

A:        I was hooked on writing from the time the teacher posted my lion story outside our first grade classroom. Even my research reports in school tended to morph into narratives. In the college where I worked, a group of us met weekly for critiquing sessions, which helped me grow out of that awkward beginners’ stage, rife with poems about butterflies and roadkill.  Drafting up to 17 stories a week when I was a reporter gave me confidence as a writer. Once I quit teaching, I had the time to publish poems, short stories, and plays. I started the novel because everyone in my writing group was working on one, and I didn’t want to feel left out!

Q: Were you a voracious reader when you were growing up? If so, what book titles might we have found on your nightstand?

A:        I grew up in the local library—literally. My mother was a librarian, and after school I’d hang out, sometimes helping alphabetize cards, but most often working my way through the collection, graduating from the children’s floor to the adult section by the time I was in middle school. (It was a very small library.)

As a girl, I read and reread The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, as well as Mary Stewart novels, Victoria Holt novels, Poe’s and Vonnegut’s short stories, and an assortment of folklore anthologies. My guilty pleasure was those Gothic paperbacks—the ones with a nightgown-clad woman running in terror from a brooding castle. My favorite of that genre still sleeps in my bedside table: Moura by Virginia Coffman. From the list, you can see that I’m drawn to a mix of supernatural/ fantasy elements, strong characters, and dark humor.

Q: You’ve described your newest release, Seeing Things, as a romance with paranormal elements. What’s your attraction to this particular genre?

A:        The two genres are a perfect balance of light and dark. I love the tensions of romance—the friction, the rising stress, and the eventual capitulation. With paranormal elements, I can introduce unpredictability—a plane where intelligence and logic have no impact. Since I prefer strong characters, the complications they face have to be out of their immediate control.

Q: What was the inspiration behind Seeing Things?

A:        This book started out to be anti-genre. The central character is neither innocent nor naïve. She doesn’t want to be rescued.  Her love interest isn’t a taciturn alpha male, either. I took a sly delight in having Mary Catherine reject the typical hero.

Q: Have you ever had any ghostly encounters similar to those experienced by your intrepid heroine?

A:        When I was a T.A. in grad school, I shared an office with a folklore expert. He was often called upon to investigate odd phenomena and invited me along on investigations. At a plumbing supply business in Northeast Philly one bright winter afternoon, I heard bells chime in a wall where there were no bells, saw a clock run backwards when its power source had been cut off, and looked over a strange arrangement of paper plates and a dead bird on a breakroom floor. Since the business owner was anxious to keep the investigation secret lest it hurt business, a hoax seemed unlikely. This scenario found its way, in a different form, into a chapter of Seeing Things.

Another example occurred when I lived in a hundred-year-old farmhouse. In the attic (accessible through a trap door in my bedroom), hats, tools, and an old Royal typewriter had been left behind by the original owners. That typewriter would periodically have a new line of type on the tattered, yellowed sheet rolled into its platen. My kids were under five and couldn’t have accessed the attic without help—nor could they spell, for that matter.

Out of curiosity, I participated in an EVP study at Rhine Research Center, a parapsychology center that was originally part of Duke University.  Though most of what I heard in the controlled study was static, two voices sounded loud and clear. I have no idea if those were “control” sounds or actual examples of paranormal recordings.

Oddly enough, things like this fail to bother me. Put me in heavy traffic on the Beltline, though, and my palms will sweat.

Q: What governed the choice to pen this story in the first person? For instance, do you feel a special kinship with the narrator?

A:        I actually wrote the first few chapters of Seeing Things in third person before recasting it in first. The first-person POV won out with everyone who read both versions. So many of the great Gothic narratives are written in first person—Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” du Maurier’s Rebecca. First person narratives bring immediacy to a story and create a close bond between narrator and reader. Most importantly, this point of view allows for dramatic irony; the reader sees more than the narrator does. I loved playing with that notion with Mary Catherine, my protagonist.

Some readers hate first person novels, and I knew I was taking a risk. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s the easiest perspective to write in. When it’s done right, it’s amazingly challenging. For instance, readers want to know what a character looks like, but real people don’t describe themselves. Finding innovative ways to impart such information’s like a literary game.

Early on, I thought my narrator had little in common with me, but as the book progressed, I realized we suffer from some of the same issues. My local librarian even remarked that the woman on the book cover looks like me.

Q: Unlike typical romances that are formulaic in nature – as well as predictable – you opted to incorporate unexpected twists in character and plot. Why did you decide to go this route?

A:        When I was browsing the in the public library two years ago, I picked up book after book with the same basic plots, the same interchangeable, tiresome characters. When I started writing my own novel, I set out to create a book I’d like to read—one with a funny, complex central character, an atypical love interest, and a plot that pokes into unexpected places.

Q: Would you call yourself a plotter or a pantser and why does this your choice of development style work well for your personality?

A:        I’m a pantser for most of the writing process, at least until I write myself into a dilemma and have to type my way out of it. Even though I like to feel in control of the worlds I create, my characters develop minds of their own, veering off in unanticipated directions. A good writer, like a good director, has to be flexible. In the editing process, however, I’m meticulous.

Q: Have your characters ever surprised you?

A:        They often say things I didn’t expect, and then I have to rethink the plot line. My novel characters turn out to be every bit as complicated and contradictory as real people. Developing their arcs is like watching a child mature.

Q: Tell us about the title of the book and what it means to you.

A:        Seeing Things hints at much: questioning what is real, what is imagined, what is true. People constantly close their eyes to things they cannot face. I remember teaching Oedipus Rex to a class of students who thought that Oedipus should have closed his eyes (pre-poking them out) to the evidence of his guilt, remaining happy in his ignorance. I never understood how anyone could do that.

Q: What’s your favorite novel or movie about someone falling in love with a ghost?

A:        I watched The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (Gene Tierney, Rex Harrison) when I was little, along with the old Dark Shadows TV show. And my husband and I still dance to “Unchained Melody” from the Ghost soundtrack.

Q: If, hypothetically, one day you return as a ghost yourself, where would you most likely be hanging out and why?

A:        I’d be in my office—the tower room of the Victorian house I live in. The current residents would hear the faint tapping of my keyboard late at night, and the cat would refuse to cross the threshold.

The writer might die, but the words live on.

Q: How did you go about finding a publisher for this project?

A:        I had submitted my novel to two or three big publishing houses, and it languished in the slush pile. After reading a NYT article, I aimed instead for a small publishing house and had my work accepted.

Q: “Home” for you is a small town in North Carolina. How has this influenced your life as a writer and the interactions with your non-writer neighbors?

A:        When you ask a question around here, you get a story in response. The South teems with unusual people who speak in colorful metaphors and act unpredictably. Many of my poems and short stories stem from local lore: the lost woman walking the streets twirling a hula hoop, the church organist who suffered a breakdown when faced with a new electronic keyboard, the raging diva displaced from a local singing group.

My close friends are writers and artists. To keep myself grounded, though, I joined my neighborhood book club. Most of the other members are literal people who work with computers. Unsurprisingly, we have different tastes.  I often think their book choices would benefit from the addition of a zombie, especially those dreary stories about the Episcopal priest. They find me quirky. I consider that a compliment.

Q: What would most people be surprised to learn about you?

A:        I like heavy metal.

Q: If you could summon the ghost of any famous person in history to have a chat with, who would it be and what question would you most like to ask?

A:        John Donne. As a young teen, I’d daydream about him while I studied his picture on the cover of the Norton Anthology. Donne was such a fascinating mixture of passion and intellect, and he gave up everything for love. I’d ask him if he thought it was worth it.

Q: What are you working on now?

A:        So many things—the third book in the novel series (the second’s awaiting publication) , another novel featuring a minor character from Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, a scene for a Regency play, and a short story about a pregnant woman going quietly insane.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you?

A:        My bio is published on Amazon and Goodreads, as well as on my publisher’s site http://www.worldcastlepublishing.com/author-nancy-young.html . I also have a Web site, http://nancymyoung.com.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A:        The sequel, Hearing Things, should be out in 2015.

 

 

 

The New Mrs. Collins

collins_promo_(1)

Oh, what a tangled web we weave…when first we practice to deceive. ― Sir Walter Scott

A beautiful woman with mysterious powers. One stolen man and two southern gals with different agendas. In Quanie Miller’s second novel, The New Mrs. Collins, set in a small Louisiana town, a broken heart sends Leena Williams digging into a world of buried secrets. Based on her suspicions about the graceful yet ruthless Adira Collins, Leena soon finds the old adage to be true: looks can be deceiving, and deadly as well.

Interviewer: Christy Campbell

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Let’s talk about Quanie Miller, personally and professionally.

I’m a married mother of one. I’m from New Iberia, a small town in Southwest Louisiana that sits right on the Bayou Teche and is rich in history. I spent most of my youth reading so many books that my cousins would look at me like I was crazy. “You aren’t gonna play outside? And you’re gonna read that whole book?” Then, they would shake their heads in amazement. I love writing about strong-willed women who can’t keep themselves out of trouble and setting my stories in fictional, Louisiana towns.

What moved you to write about this plot?

I wanted to explore what would happen when a woman pulls the veil back on the seemingly normal world she lives in. The main character, Leena, has lived her whole life in this small Louisiana town, never once suspecting that there are people in the world with mystic powers, and all of a sudden, not only does one such woman come into her life, but the woman is beautiful, has stolen her fiancé, and is now the stepmother to her son! In an attempt to solve the mystery of who this woman is, Leena ends up going down the proverbial rabbit hole. I was intrigued by how I might get her out of it.

Is there one fact about your book that stands out more than any others?

When I sat down to write the first draft of The New Mrs. Collins, a funny voice took over and it turned into a comedy! I was going to tell the story from the point of view of a nanny who discovers that her boss’ new wife is a sinister woman with mystic powers. This is how the story was going to go: the nanny, because of a flat tire, would get stranded in an affluent neighborhood without a cellphone, end up knocking on a random door, mistaken for an interviewee, and land the nanny job by mistake. But when I put the character on the page, this humorous voice took over, and the nanny-to-be never made it into the house. That character ended up being Jasmine T. Peacock, the protagonist of my first novel, a romantic comedy called It Ain’t Easy Being Jazzy.

What if I asked you to summarize your latest book in one line?  

When Leena Williams suspects that there’s something otherworldly about her son’s new stepmother, she goes digging for answers and discovers a little too late that some secrets are better left buried.

Based on your experience, what has been the best part of the writing process?

I think it’s the feeling you get when the story in your head (finally!) matches what you put on paper.

Is there something you wished you’d learned earlier as a writer?

That you should get as much feedback on your work as possible so that you can learn what you do well and hone that.

We all feel that buzz of confidence when our work is done and that feeling of accomplishment abounds. What have you found your greatest strength as a writer to be?

I’d have to say my ability to infuse humor into pretty much anything that I write. It’s not even something I try to do. It just happens.

Sum up a few interesting tidbits about Quanie Miller that make us go hmmm.

I trip getting inside of my own car. I’m probably the only person in the world who hasn’t taken a selfie. And not because I’m against them but because I’ve tried to do them but somehow, in the images, all I can see is a bright flash of light and the tip of my thumb. Also, while growing up, one of my aspirations was to be a rapping psychologist!

Okay, as an interviewer, that’s the most unique aspiration I’ve heard to date! How about your own feelings as a newly published author-did you have cold feet at some point?

I had doubts about whether or not I could even write a paranormal novel but then I asked myself: what kind of story do you want to see? I knew I wanted to write about a main character I could relate to, from my neck of the woods (Southwest Louisiana!) who discovers that there is a bit of magic in the world. So I re-evaluated the The New Mrs. Collins (whole new plot, page one rewrite), set it in a fictional town in Louisiana called “Carolville,” and it was full speed ahead. It took some time, but I’m so glad I didn’t give up on it because writing it proved to me that if you push through fear and doubt, you can accomplish exactly what you put your mind to.

Do you have any advice for new writers that you’d have given yourself on the journey to self-publishing?

My advice is to hone your craft. Do it any way you can and multiple ways. Take classes on writing. Read books on the craft of writing and study the work of writers that you admire. Study, study, study! And also, believe in yourself, even when nobody else does.

And last but not least. Let’s imagine your book was in the works for a movie. Who do you envision playing your main characters?

Love this question! I could totally see Taraji Henson or Jill Scott playing my main character, Leena. And of course, my BFF in my head, Kerry Washington, playing the villain, Adira.

Find The New Mrs. Collins, and more about author Quanie Miller, at: http://www.amazon.com/New-Mrs-Collins-Quanie-Miller/dp/1502489252/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1415717314&sr=8-1&keywords=the+new+mrs+collins

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7218800.Quanie_Miller

 

 

Vampire in the Scrying Glass

VampireInTheScryingGlass

Vampires, mortals and forbidden love sound juicy when it comes to R.E. Mullins’ delectable yet thrilling series, Blautsaugers of Amber Heights. With her latest debut, Vampire in the Scrying Glass, just released on Halloween, vampire lovers will eat up the action, romance and secrets that abound in this fantasy tale of the living and the undead.

Interviewer: Christy Campbell

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Let’s start by telling readers about how your creative journey as a writer first began.

I’ve lived most of my life inside my head. Even as a young child I was always daydreaming and weaving fantasies to entertain myself. I would tell my mother bizarre stories—always with me as the lead doing something outrageous and heroic—as if they’d really happened. In an effort to make sure I understood the difference between fantasy and reality, she’d always bring me back to earth by asking, “Is this something that really happened or something you’d like to have happen?”

I was faced with this wild imagination in my second child. Once he came home from preschool and told me there’d been a fire but he’d put it out using water from a puddle and saved everyone. It was then I understood how my mother must have felt when listening to me.

When I got a little older, I started making up episodes for my favorite TV shows and characters. I think the very first ones were for The Partridge Family and The Mod Squad.

Where did you get the ideas for your novels?

I worked as a phlebotomist for ten years. Consequently, I’ve been called a vampire, bloodsucker, and, my personal favorite, a tick. I’ve heard about every vampire joke ever written and it got me to thinking… What would happen if a phlebotomist was turned into a vampire? That story turned into the first novel I ever wrote called: It’s a Wonderful Undead Life. It’s the story of Cailey Kantor and how she meets the Blautsauger family and gets turned into a vampire.

My second novel: Vampire In The Scrying Glass which came out on Halloween 2014 can be read as a standalone but also deals with the Blautsauger family. It is the romance between Cailey’s friend, Morgan Maguire and the youngest Blautsauger son, Rafe.

Did you start with an outline or simply wing it as you went along?

Ha! I always try to start with some type of outline but it never lasts long. The characters in my head (which I call my voices) are too demanding and obstinate. They go their own way.

Is there a lot of research involved during the writing process?

Yes, I must say research is one of my favorite things to do. I can get lost in researching names, Wiccan philosophy, magical tools, demonology, and poisons. In Vampire in the Scrying Glass, I tried my hand at doing some scientific research while trying to devise the artificial blood formula Michaela and Morgan are working on. Hopefully, it sounds convincing enough—though I’m sure it’ll make a real scientist cringe.

I also do a lot of research on historical timelines and style. Whenever I refer to the one of my vampire’s past, I want to make sure they dress and act accordingly.

Was anyone in your circle of family and friends allowed to read chapters in progress or did you make them wait until the whole thing was done?

Ah, poor Melanie. She was one of my co-workers and I chose her (okay blindsided her) as my very first reader because I thought she’d give me an honest opinion. I was afraid closer friends or family members might be too worried about hurting my feelings. Let me say, Melanie turned out to be a great choice. She was a real trooper, read it all, constantly encouraged me, and corrected a lot of punctuation.

I heard you like to include names with hidden meanings and other trivia in your books?

Yes, I’m guilty of that. I use the term Nosferatu to refer to vampires of European descent and Toltec for the vampires coming out of Mexico and South America. Of course Nosferatu is a 1922 German Expressionist horror film and the Toltecs were a bloodthirsty and warring ancient tribe from central Mexico.

Blautsauger is the Bavarian word for bloodsucker. I named the vampire siblings: Gabe, Michaela, Metta, and Rafe based on the angels of prayer: Gabriel, Michael, Metatron, and Raphael.

Ixchel is the Mayan Moon Goddess, and Eztli gets her name from the Nahuatl dialect word for blood. At the back of Vampire in the Scrying Glass my editor put in a short glossary of how to pronounce several of the names and their meanings.

Since I always like to learn new things when I’m reading, I also try to include something my readers might not know. For instance, the actual name for a blood pressure cuff is a sphygmomanometer.

In Vampire in the Scrying Glass, I also include an account of one of my more disastrous blind dates.

Swapping to the personal side of things, we live in a world where technology is abundant. Readers have become addicted to electronic means so they can devour their favorite books. What is your preference – an old fashioned hardback, paperback or eBooks?

I love books. I like holding them. As my daughter once put it, it’s nice to physically feel and watch as one side of the book decreases and the other side increases as you progress through the chapters. I like the sturdiness of a hardback and the slickness of a paperback. I held out against eBooks and then my children sent me a Kindle for mother’s day… Now it goes with me everywhere. I love how I can adjust the font size when my eyes are tired and how I can carry hundreds of books in one compact package. It makes it ideal for travel and I appreciate how my suitcase no longer weighs a ton with everything I want to read while on vacation.

As an adolescent and teen reader, what were some of your favorite titles and authors that had the most influence on your personal style as a storyteller?

I have always been a voracious reader. Books opened up a whole new world for me starting with See Spot Run. I graduated from Dick and Jane to Dr. Seuss, Little House on the Prairie series, the Boxcar kids, Robinson Crusoe, Swiss Family Robinson, Moby Dick, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and My Side of the Mountain. I always had a book in my hands. I still do.

I read most of the classics starting in Junior High: The Scarlet Letter, Stoker’s Dracula, Shelley’s Frankenstein, Gone with the Wind, and Hunchback of Notre Dame to name a few. I went through a period where I read every biography I could get my hands on. I loved the ones on Henry the VIII and each of his wives, Gypsy Rose Lee, and Marilyn Monroe. Then I read Harwood’s So Merciful a Queen So Cruel a Woman about Queen Elizabeth the first. I read it right after reading Good Queen Bess by Diane Stanley and Peter Vennema. This was an eye opener for me. One book portrayed the Monarch as all sweetness and light while the other painted a much darker picture of her motives. It was at this time I began to understand that everyone, even our most revered heroes, are flawed. These differing viewpoints presented an uncomfortable and challenging dichotomy for my young mind.

I know I’m forgetting many wonderful of the wonderful books I read during my adolescent and teen years but I’ll stop here. I will say that as an adult I mainly read romances and want my “happily ever after”. These days I rarely read anything too weighty and want my escapism.

Last but not least, give us the scoop on where readers can find out more about you and your series.

Twitter handle: #REMullins

Facebook page: www.facebook.com/…

Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/REMullins

Go to Goodreads and enter the drawing for a free copy of VAMPIRE IN THE SCRYING GLASS

Buy links:

Amazon link: amzn.to/ZQ8n5Y

Wild Rose Press: http://www.wildrosepublishing.com/maincatalog_v151/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=195&products_id=5867

Blog: http://remullins.blogspot.com/

 

 

Thirst of the Sea

Scarlet Hunter

No matter the genre or medium you embrace, telling total strangers that you’re a published author typically elicits a response of “Wow!” For a lot of people (many of whom believe they have a book inside of them and yet have neither the time nor skill sets to actually sit down and write it), authors are often perceived as having crossed a threshold of awesomeness that completely defies gravity. I still recall a woman in the 1970’s who remarked, “I had no idea that you people lived right here among the rest of us.” I’m not sure if she thought that all the authors of the world inhabited their own special island or lived in a mist-shrouded fortress in the Himalayas (which is actually a lovely idea) but it became especially amusing over the years whenever word leaked out in the workplace that a certain brunette three cubicles over was leading a double life: mild-mannered coworker by day and prolific raconteur on evenings and weekends.

I was, thus, delighted to discover kindred spirit Scarlet Hunter whose fictional foray into the dark, sexy and sensual realm of paranormal fantasy romance with titles like Thirst of the Sea is far removed from what she does for her mortal day-job.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Scarlet Hunter is such a great name for someone who writes fantasy romance! So, of course, I just have to ask: is it the name you were born with?

Actually, no. To be honest, it’s a combination of things. I love animals and have had cats my entire life. When I was a little girl, I named my first kitten Scarlet. When I needed to come up with a pen name, Scarlet instantly popped into my mind. Since I was writing books about vampires, I thought…umm, vampires are blood hunters…the word Scarlet also means red or burgundy…so why not Hunter for the last name—Blood “Scarlet” Hunter—So Scarlet Hunter it was. LOL

Q: Tell us about your journey as a writer and the moment you first realized that this was what you wanted to do as a career.

Ever since I was old enough to hold a writing utensil I’ve been jotting down things in my head. Funny, I still have the stories I wrote in elementary school, and of course they were about cats…Haha. So I’d say the passion has always been there. The moment I realized I wanted to make a real go at it was after I joined a writing group and became great friends with those who were already published authors. Then one day I finally decided to write a full length story from start to finish, and see if I’d get published, and I did. It was the best day of my life!

Q: Were you a voracious reader growing up? If so, what are some of the books we might have found on your bedroom nightstand?

Surprisingly, not at all. Growing up, you had to force me to read, and only because they were books required for school. I loved to play around with paper and pen, but asking me to sit still and read? Yeah, that wasn’t gonna happen. J As I got older, I was still always on the go; never stopping to find the time to sit and read a book. Not until 2010. My life changed all due to one book— Lover Avenged by J.R. Ward. (I’ll explain after the next question LOL)

Q: Which authors – past and present – have influenced your own style of storycrafting?

Gena Showalter, Richelle Mead, J.R. Ward, and actually a good friend of mine, LaVerne Thompson. LaVerne has helped me become a much stronger writer. She was and still is a great mentor. I’d also say Nicholas Sparks. I’m a hopeless romantic and one of my hobbies is collecting autographed books he has written. His style of writing helped me open my mind even farther when writing sensual relationships between my Hero and Heroine. He is also the reason I am experimenting with writing my first contemporary story.

Q: What attracted you to the paranormal/fantasy romance genre?

Like I mentioned above, I was someone who never sat still. Always running around doing something. Well one day, I was with my mother browsing around in Walgreens and came across a book by J.R. Ward called, Lover Avenged. After reading the blurb, I bought it, went home, and that day starting reading it. Let’s just say I couldn’t put the book down. When I was done, I went straight to Barnes and Noble and bought every single book available in that series. Hahahaha From then on, I was hooked on that genre. And now, four years later, you should see my library. It’s filled with books of Paranormal, Sci-fi, and Fantasy Romance. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Q: Books, movies and even television shows these days are delivering a steady stream of plots that involve the undead, the unreal and the wickedly supernatural. In your opinion, what accounts for society’s longstanding fascination with characters that aren’t of this Earth?

I think it’s the fantasy of it all. Characters and creatures unlike us mortal humans are so interesting and exciting. Super beings with powers and abilities we wish we had, or at least I do. LOL. That’s why I love writing about either vampire, angel, demon, or fairy characters. The imagination is endless as to where you can take and do with them.

Q: If you could be a witch, a vampire or a ghost, which would you choose?

One hundred percent vampire, baby! I would kill to have immortality, not to mention some of their powers. Speed being one of them. I think vampires are just pure sexy!

Q: Give us a teaser about your latest release, Thirst of the Sea.

With a lustful gaze, his eyes drifted to meet hers; he stared directly into a pair of translucent pearl-like eyes. Every section of his monstrous frame froze as they stared at one another. Every muscle in his body tensed. Trying to find his voice, all the while, his mind screamed inside his head.

MINE…Take her…she is yours…why do you hesitate?

Swallowing hard, he tried to regain his self-control.

He needed find some kind of inner gallantry, being rusty on the treatment of a beautiful female who shockingly provoked something raw within him. A feeling unusual and most unexpected, for no female in his lifetime had affected him in such a way. “My name is Alaois. What is your—”He suddenly felt unable to continue when a feverish swell of the glands inside his mouth and throat exploded from a much stronger scent coming from her…Blood!

Moving his gaze toward this mouthwatering aroma, Alaois spotted the blood. On the inside of her arm, a large cut bleeding out from its binding. His whole body began to quiver. The bloodlust rose within him to take what flat out invited him over into temptation. Grinding his teeth, Alaois had to hold his breath, for any moment his body and mouth could easily seize this female prey, fully consuming what now seemed to be graciously offered before him.

While she would be nothing but food to others, his instincts told him so, yet all his senses shouted, Mine. Protect!

He raged a battle to hold himself back, fearing he would hurt her. Alaois collapsed on his knees at her feet. He brought his hands up covering his face, shielding his exposed fangs and shouted for her to run. Perceiving her feet moving closer toward him, he did the only thing he could do. Alaois removed his hands from his face, glared up at her locking his pained gaze with her innocent one and bared his fangs. He roared out in a hiss of hunger, “I. SAID. RUN!”

Q: Which character was the hardest for you to write

Umm. That’s a good question. One of the characters in a book I’m about to release, titled Heaven’s Sacrifice was challenging for me. It’s an Inspirational, Fantasy, and New Adult Fiction. Without giving too much away, it involves two sisters. They are total opposites. It was fun to write one of the sisters because of the way she is. I had to try and write her personality as perfect as I could so readers would connect and really feel the difference between the two. She was the most challenging to write and ended up being my favorite of all the heroines I’ve written so far. Her name is Brianna. When the book comes out, you’ll know who I’m talking about.

Q: Conversely, which one was the easiest?

Wow. I’m not sure on that one. I guess in the book Dust of Darkness, Raina seemed easy to write for me. She is a fairy and her character is so feminine and cute.

Q: Are your characters fashioned after anyone you know (including yourself)?

Yes to both. I recently started writing my first contemporary and one of the characters is based on a friend of mine. She is spunky and bouncy and well – the craziest person I know. And I mean that in the best way possible. LOL The character will be so much fun to write, and readers I hope, will spend a lot of time giggling – I’ll just say that.

As for myself – Another work of mine that’s still in progress I did put a lot of myself in the heroine. Some of her characteristics and life events she encounters actually happened to me in my own personal life.

Q: If Hollywood came calling to do a film adaptation of Thirst of the Sea, who’s your dream cast for it?

Oh no doubt, Joe Manganiello for Alaois. I actually had him in my head the whole time I wrote Alaois’ character. Joe was my inspiration. Long hair, deep voice, his overall sex appeal—OMG is all I can say! However, I must add, the guy on the book cover would be perfect for Alaois as well. Bad ass vampire sums him up perfectly.

As for Aretha, the heroine, I’d like to see Diane Kruger play her. She’s not as famous as some A-list actresses, but her overall look is very much like the goddess Aretha is in the book.

Q: You have two other titles on the market in addition to this one. What are they about?

Dust of Darkness is the first book in my series called The Reign of Darkness. This series is about Lucifer’s mission in hopes of turning the world into darkness. Lucifer and his demons fight every obstacle they can to triumph. Dust of Darkness takes place mainly in the woods where one particular species stands in Lucifer’s way—Fairies.

Curator’s Curse is Book One to another series, Legends of the Immortal Bloods. Vampires trying to keep their race alive. Curator’s Curse is the journey of a vampire named Larken. After losing his parents at a young age, he is forced to grasp who he was born to be. He is guided by his mentor, Seamus. Larken struggles with unknown powers bestowed to him and because of that, he cannot have the woman he seeks.

Q: Your day-job as Director of a TPA company for Section 125 benefit plans is worlds apart from the dark realm of cursed goddesses and vampires. What do your colleagues think of the paranormal flip-side of your business personality?

They were very surprised. I’m all business at the office and when they heard I wrote books, especially paranormal/fantasy romance, made a few eye-brows go up. I loved revealing that secret side of me…keeps them wondering – what else does she have up her sleeve? hahahaha

Q: Have you ever threatened to put one of them in your books if they annoy you? (spoken by someone who turned several former bosses into chalk outlines on the fictional floor…)

I’ve thought about it – yes, But no, I have never threatened to do that…yet. LOL Thankful all my co-workers and bosses are the best to work with.

Now I can’t rule out some “former” bosses as you have mentioned above. Oh goodness ~runs to get pen and paper~ You just gave me an idea!

Q: A lot of aspiring writers lament that they don’t have the time to pen a book because they’re working full-time and that they’re just going to wait until after they retire. What’s your response to that?

Everyone’s lifestyles are different. It’s easy for me to juggle my professional day job and my writing career because I’m not married, nor have children. Now I’m sure there are authors who do work full-time, are married with children, and manage to write – I admire those. It’s a personal decision one must make for themselves. For me personally, writing is not a job to me. It’s a way for me to journey to another place after a long day at work. It might sound crazy to some people, but writing relaxes me. I’m on the computer eight hours a day at the office and then I come home and get on my laptop and write for hours. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Q: Do you allow anyone to read your work in progress or do you make them wait until you’re completely done?

I have friends who ask me to send them some of my work when I’m in the middle of writing a story. I’ll send them a couple chapters I know will leave them hanging, begging to know more…But that’s when I make them wait until it’s completely done. LOL I’m a stinker, I know.

Q: When you’re not in front of your computer, what do you do for fun?

I like to travel when I can. I try to go to the beach every chance I get. I’ve been to Washington, DC to visit some friends of mine and last year went to New York and caught a Broadway Show, Phantom of the Opera. It was an unforgettable experience. Other than traveling, I make time to read of course. But I have a strong passion for wine ~snickers~ so my friends and I always try to find restaurants we’ve never been to before in hopes of experiencing new kinds of wine.

Q: Any new projects in the works?

Oh gosh, where do I start?

I’m currently co-writing a ghost story with LaVerne Thompson. I’m very excited about the storyline and we hope to release information about it soon.

I also have a few stories I hope to have release dates in 2014

–          Heaven’s Sacrifice

–          Burning Salvation

Q: What would readers be the most surprised to learn about you?

I used to play ice hockey.

Q: If your philosophy of life were on a tee-shirt, what would it say?

Love and Be Loved!

Q: Where can readers learn more about you?

My official website: www.scarlethunter.com

I am always on my Facebook Page posting new book cover reveals and video trailers, as well as all my upcoming release dates, etc. It is one of the best ways to keep in touch with me J https://www.facebook.com/ScarletHunter11?ref=hl&ref_type=bookmark

Twitter: ScarletHunter11

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

THANK YOU for having me here today. I was overjoyed when you asked me to come and be a guest and this has been so much fun.

I’d also like to mention that since I’m an indie author, there is an Indie Author Celebration currently going on from now until July 18th. My promotion day is July 5th. Throughout this celebration, there will be hundreds of dollars in giveaways. You can find the link of information and how to enter the raffle, by going to my website – www.scarlethunter.com

 

In the Spirit of Love

Debbie McClure

Can a sensibly modern young woman on holiday find everlasting love an ocean away with a dashingly handsome aristocrat who may or may not be a murderer and, oh by the way, has been dead for 150 years?

In her debut paranormal romance, In the Spirit of Love, author Debbie A. McClure not only channels those feelings of déjà vu that so mystify even the most grounded among us but also demonstrates just how hard it is to “give up the ghost” when Fate is determined to fuel the fires of passionate reunion.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Tell us about your personal journey as a writer and the mentors who encouraged you along the way.

A: Well, I gotta tell you, this has been a looong journey. Although I didn’t start writing until I was nearing fifty years of age, writing had been a life-long dream of mine. But as with so many people, life gets in the way. Years struggling with poverty as a single parent post-divorce, re-marriage, blending a family of five teenagers (yes, five!), and assorted jobs to pay the bills, had me holding back on the dream. Finally, I decided to do what I wanted to do, not just what I could do. Along the way I was encouraged by my parents, who always saw the potential and encouraged me to follow my heart. My mother has always been an avid reader, a pioneer in business, and a tremendous source of encouragement and mentoring for me throughout my life. When it comes to my writing, she, my father, and my husband have never faltered in their unwavering support. I’m one lucky woman!

Q: What books would we have found on your nightstand when you were 10? 20? Today?

A: At ten I was reading Nancy Drew and other youth-focused mysteries. I’ve always been intrigued as much by what I didn’t know, as what I did. In my twenties I had started reading Danielle Steele, and later, Nora Roberts, and J.R. Ward. Today, I still love the same authors, and have added a new favorite I discovered two new favorites via my middle sister; Kristin Hannah and Tatiana De Rosnay. In addition, I love to read Clive Custler adventure books, and have read lots of Stephen King and Dean Koontz. I have pretty eclectic tastes when it comes to reading.

Q: If you could have lunch with your three favorite authors of all time, who would they be, where would you go, and what questions would you most like to ask?

A: I’d love to lunch and learn with Kristin Hannah, Nora Roberts, and Clive Custler. My preferred lunch spot would be at a restaurant on a beach. I’m the biggest beach fan, and I love seafood! The questions I’d most love to ask each of these esteemed writers is; how do they see each book before they start to write, in progress, and at the end. Each one of these writers creates characters so full of real personality and intricate relationships, that I wonder how they keep it all straight. I’m not an outliner, but I do keep notes as I go to help me keep characters, places, and events in line. I’d love to know how they approach their writing, and whether they’ve ever been surprised by an ending or character.

Q: What was the moment when you first decided, “Aha! I’m going to sit down and write my first novel!”

A: People often ask me this when I’m doing a speaking presentation or book signing/reading. I actually remember it very clearly. It was during a Christmas break when I was working in real estate sales. I’d booked two weeks off, and had really been struggling with what I wanted to do with my life. I was nearing fifty years old, and even though the thought of taking on such a massive project scared the living heck out of me, I was determined to at least give it a shot. So, one day I told my husband I was going up to my office to “write”. He just nodded and said, “Go for it.”. That’s all I needed. I wrote that entire day, and by the time I pulled away from my computer, I knew I was hooked. I had no real plan, no outline for characters or plot. I just let my imagination go with the germ of an idea I had. From that day to this, I sit down every day and write for as much as 5-7 hours. In the beginning, I was still working a full time job in sales, so set my alarm 1-1/2 hrs early. Now, I write full time, having given up my job in sales.

Q: What attracted you to the genre of paranormal romance for your debut as a novelist?

A: Ah, good question. I guess I’d read a lot of paranormal romance over the years, and had always been intrigued with the idea of the paranormal. To me, as a writer, it allows me to explore situations and adventures not available to us mere mortals. In particular, I love pairing the “normal” with the paranormal characters. Of course my paranormal character, the ghost of a grand English country estate, has to embody all the elements of a traditional romantic protagonist, with a little dash of something extra. He has also had the advantage, or curse, of having witnessed a century and a half of history, people, and as a result, has developed a unique outlook on life. Because of the strong mystery aspect to this book, I was pleased to learn that several men had also really enjoyed it, and claimed they hadn’t been able to figure out “who done it” before the end. The leads are all there, but I’m glad readers of both genders have enjoyed this first book.

Q: Tell us how you came up with your title.

A: Because of my background in sales and marketing, I knew I wanted my title to indicate the genre, by including the word “love”. Because this story involves a ghost as the male lead, I chose to include the word “spirit”. In The Spirit Of Love just seemed to pull together all the elements I wanted in one tidy phrase.

Q: Would you say your work tends to have a running theme or message, and if so, what would that be?

A: Most definitely. I’d have to say that the running themes, or message, through my work is that life is full of mystery, we need to value each of life’s experiences, and love is worth fighting for. I also try to remind readers that friendship and family are the most valuable assets we have, and aren’t to be taken lightly.

Q: Who was your favorite character to write?

A: The ghost of Kent Estate, Sir Richard Abbottsford. As a result of his spectral existence, he’s had to learn a lot of very difficult lessons the hard way, and he continues to evolve as he begins to connect with the people, places, and events of the present.

Q: If Hollywood came calling, who’s your dream cast?

A: Oh, easy one! I’ve always envisioned Sir Richard, the ghost, as either Hugh Jackman (tall, dark, and handsome), or possibly Leonardo Di Caprio (suave and debonaire). I’ve envisioned Claire as fellow Ontario Canadian, the multi-talented Rachel McAdams. As for supporting cast characters, I’m much more flexible, and haven’t nailed down exact Hollywood representations for them. I’d like to be surprised on that one.

Q: Aspiring authors often assume that once they have written (and sold) their first book, they are automatically on Easy Street. Speaking from your own experience, what have been some of the challenges of sustaining a writing career once you embark on one?

A: I guess due to my background in commissioned sales, I knew it was going to be a looong haul, and my writing wasn’t a get-rich-quick thing. Still, I’ve learned that writing has a learning curve the size of a tsunami, and it’s really easy to get swamped and overwhelmed. The biggest challenges new writers face is getting the word out about who we are, our work, and our brand. I’m also amazed at the number of new writers who don’t realize that writing (and publishing) is a business, and consequently, they must be the CEO of their new venture. Learning to market and promote yourself and your work is a massive daily undertaking, and can be wearing, to say the least. Because the money doesn’t just flow in, writers also have to juggle the dream against the realities of life, and making a living. This means looking at either maintaining a day job in addition to writing, or turning your writing into part of a platform for additional revenue streams, such as paid public speaking gigs, workshops, freelance writing, etc. Someone recently posted on Facebook that many people say they could write a book, if only they had the time. I replied that if time were all it took, more people would walk this walk. There’s just so much more to it than that, talent and perseverance included.

Q: When and where do you get your best writing done?

A: Oh, I’m a morning writer. I’ve tried other times, but for me, I write best in the mornings, in my office. It’s then that my brain is clearest, I’ve had my morning coffee, I’m dressed (yes, dressed in proper day clothes), and ready to get to work for the day. If it’s a gorgeous, sunny summer day, I’ll take my laptop outside and sit in the gazebo at the patio table and write from there. It gives me the illusion of having gotten outside and away from my office.

Q: The publishing industry is undergoing a massive shift as new technologies are being developed and perfected. What do you see as the future of publishing and writing?

A: As those in the business will attest, this is a remarkable time to be a writer. So much is changing, and so quickly. I see writers, publishers, and agents, having to step up to working collaboratively to capture the benefits of current and upcoming technologies. The “gate-keeper” mentality of publishing just isn’t working for many of today’s writers, and as more writers move into the realm of self-publishing, and very successfully in some cases, each party is going to have to come to the table with open hands and a willingness to create the best product together, with the writer being treated as a valuable player. Fair compensation and contract terms for a writer’s work are becoming more of a hot topic, which is why I think we’re seeing more “hybrid” writers evolve. Technology isn’t going anywhere. In fact, I think the future is going to see a greater shift towards technology, as our next generations come to expect and rely on it for a number of reasons (that’s another topic entirely). I believe print books will always be available, perhaps more via POD, but I also see a shift in favour of new technologies in the future. Bricks and mortar stores are going to have to adapt to accommodate the coming changes, or risk failing completely.

Q: Do you believe it’s harder or easier for new writers to get published today than it was a generation ago?

A: Without a doubt, easier. With the advent of digital publishing, more and more writers are choosing to go the route of self-publishing. After all, they can hire the same professional editors, cover artists, and upload their work to the very same e-venues as the big publishers do. As a result, getting published isn’t as difficult to achieve today. But make no mistake, self-publishing carries a ton of work, and it all rests on the shoulders of the writer.

On the other hand, I think traditional publishers are even more careful about the writers they choose to work with. With limited distribution channels, overhead costs, etc., I believe publishers are looking for writers who are willing, and able, to approach their writing in a professional, serious manner. Creativity is certainly necessary, as is talent, but so is a business mind-set to persevere over the long haul.

Q: What’s your best advice to a writer who is just starting out, insofar as preparing for the challenges that await them?

A: In the beginning, just have fun! Explore the limits of your imagination. Don’t worry about the outcome. But in the meantime, start learning everything you can about the business of writing and publishing. Because if you decide to persevere in this crazy business, you’re going to have to be prepared to really dig in and learn. Also, connect with other writers, at all levels of their career. Build relationships, and help others build their own careers while building your own. Especially in these changing times, learn and share with each other. I’ve met some amazing people along the way, including you, Christina, and I hope they’ve learned as much from me as I have from them. Oh, and with regards to social networking, never post something unprofessional, derogatory, or something that labels you as less than professional. This means pictures, expletives, political, and religious view points. Set up an author fan page, and keep business and personal pages separate. People are watching and forming opinions on who you are and your message, whether you like it or not.

Q: What would readers be the most surprised to learn about you?

A: I failed both Grade 7, and typing! I’ve learned that failure doesn’t mean stop. Sometimes it just means pay attention, and try again. I now type as fast as I think, and that’s a real advantage when writing for hours at a time.

Q: What’s next on your plate? Give us the inside scoop!

A: After the success of In The Spirit Of Love, I decided to write the sequel, In The Spirit Of Forgiveness, which is slated for release later this month, May, 2014. Continuing the story of Claire and the ghost of Sir Richard, Forgiveness follows the two protagonists as they solve yet another mystery of Kent Estate. Magic, mystery, and love are all part of the spell woven throughout this exciting new story. I’m really excited about this next release, and hope readers enjoy this next book as much as the first. Who knows, I may even begin penning a series based on the first two books.

I’m also extremely excited to share that I’ve started a new novel in an entirely different genre; a fact-based historical fiction. The King’s Consort-The Louise Rasmussen Story is the story of a woman who rose from obscure poverty as an illegitimate child of a seamstress, to marry the King of Denmark. It is a true love story set in the mid-1800’s amid immense political intrigue and change. Despite severe opposition and open hostility from the aristocracy, Louise and her king are determined to be together, and as a result, change the course of a nation forever. I’m hoping to have this next project released sometime in 2015/16, but haven’t decided the publishing route for it yet. Time will tell.

Q: Where can readers discover more about you, your books, and ongoing public speaking or workshop events?

A: Website: www.damcclure.com

Blog: http://the-write-stuff.me/

Twitter: @debbiemcclure59

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/DebbieA.McClure59

 

Thank you so much for your invitation to chat today, Christina. I’ve really enjoyed the thoughtful questions you’ve posed.

 

 

 

The Witch’s Hand

The Witch's Hand

There’s no question that people have had a fascination throughout history with fantasy, magic, and the supernatural. In her new book, The Witch’s Hand, author Wendy Joseph demonstrates that she’s adept at stitching all three together against a compelling – and terrifying – backdrop. We also have it on good authority that she has performed on stage and in film, been chased by pirates and typhoons, can splice a 12-strand line, and can even say “Argh!” in six languages.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: What was your inspiration to develop your plot about a witch, an unwilling apprentice, and a flawed Crusader with PTSD?

A: The Witch’s Hand started with a vision in 1985, that of a hand, suffused with light and emanating power. What did that suggest? Magic, witchcraft. When and where was the heyday of witches? Medieval France—they reputedly burned more witches than any other country. How could I make a really good story out of this? Nothing is worth writing unless it’s a good story. How about a powerful witch who wanted to do humanity some good, but was rebuffed? How about an apprentice who is scared of her own powers and doesn’t want to be a witch? Who could help her? Somebody unlikely. Everything in the story came out of this.

Q: You’ve indicated that The Witch’s Hand is “the thinking person’s sword and sorcery.”

A: I wanted to not just tell a good story, but give the tale more depth and philosophical meaning than the usual hero-must-conquer-the-evil-sorcerer-and-save-the-princess saga, with 3-D characters, not just the good guys and the bad guys. I wanted to look into the deeper parts of people’s motivations and mental processes, and raise questions of right and wrong and how to choose between them. I wanted to take an accurate look at the Church’s good and bad sides, at everybody’s good and bad sides. So Jettaret struggles with his moral demons and quotes medieval scholars and Malaxia justifies her actions as working toward a greater good. How does one successfully deal with power like hers?

Q: What was your primary attraction to this genre?

A: The genre came along because of the nature and setting of the story. I don’t intentionally write in any genre. The story is first, and if it happens to be a murder mystery with a film noir detective, then it’s in that genre.

Q: Were you a voracious reader as an adolescent and teen?

A: Voracious? I was insatiable! I have loved words from my first reading lesson in the first grade. When Mrs. Sechler pointed to the big black letters on the big white poster board and said “Look. L-O-O-K,” I sat up straight and knew This Was Important. And it’s been important ever since. Every time we ordered Scholastic Books in elementary school, I would get seven or eight when everyone else was getting one or two. In junior high I read the Norse Eddas. In high school I read Don Quixote, War and Peace, and Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Hamlet, and King Lear. Biography was fascinating then and now; I read bios of Madame Curie and George Washington Carver, people who had to overcome great odds to achieve what they did.

Q: Tell us about the research that went into crafting the magical elements and historical backdrop for The Witch’s Hand in order to stitch them into a plausible and compelling tableau.

A: Ah, historical research in France! Getting picked up by men with questionable motives at the Gare de Lyon in Paris, then tossing them out of hotel windows—I had to work, after all—having visions of the Virgin at 3 am after sleepless nights in a furied frenzy of composition, walking the ground my characters walked, catching up on medieval French history at every tiny local museum, many of which had an astounding amount of information, and scoring a coup-de-grace with the discovery of a twenty volume collection of medieval legends and tales. How exactly did they make brooms and wooden pitchforks in 1206? What kind of locks and keys did they have, and how big exactly were they? What kind of crops did they plant in the Auvergne region, and when? And on and on. Know where the phrase “to point the finger” at a criminal to identify him came from? A long time ago, a robber murdered a man and cut him into pieces, then continued down the road to an inn. The severed finger of the victim inched its way down the road after the murderer, leaving a bloody trail, went inside and pointed at him. The authorities followed the bloody trail, found the victim, and nabbed the murderer.

And while ensconced in a hotel near the Louvre to consolidate my research, I luxuriated in the knowledge that I was playing American expatriate writer in Paris, like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Gertie Stein, et al. Yum. The poor cleaning girl wanted to come in and vacuum—she was under pressure from the dragon lady manager—but I had papers carefully strewn over everything and wouldn’t let her. Finally I opened the door and pointed to a space about one foot square. “Vacuum there.”

I studied up on Tarot and other medieval occult fields, grabbing every book I could find on medieval magic and devouring it. I even attended a contemporary witch’s gathering, complete with boiling cauldron and magical chants. This was on April 30, 1986, four days after the Chernobyl nuclear plant blew. It was sending a plume of radioactive particles north toward the pole, which were expected to come down over Canada and the US. So the chants were in the vein of “Go back! Go away! Begone!” And the next day the plume started to turn around and head back toward Chernobyl. I am not a practitioner of or believer in magic but that was a “Whoa!” moment. At any rate, I got a feel for how witches view the magical arts.

Q: How has technology impacted how, when and where you write?

A: In 1985 I wrote the first draft of The Witch’s Hand longhand, on several 6”x9” notepads, working through the night for several nights. I later typed it up on an electric typewriter reluctantly, not being the world’s greatest typist; my reading is fine but my typing is dyslexic. Finally computers with autocorrect programs came along and I don’t mind typing anymore. I have no set time for writing, but I used to work on The Witch’s Hand early in the morning. I don’t get up early anymore.

Q: How long did The Witch’s Hand take you to write from start to finish?

A: Twenty-five years. It’s a long time to give birth. It staggered and stopped and picked up again throughout the process.

Q: Do you prefer to work from an outline or let your muse guide you from one chapter to the next?

A: I get the ending clear as soon as I have the beginning down, then the fun part is deciding how to get from one to the other. I don’t use an outline as I don’t want the story to be too tied down to going in one direction in case it doesn’t work. Sometimes I work from scribbled notes.

Q: Have your characters ever done anything that surprised you?

A: Alberge was supposed to only play a minor role; introducing him as Jettaret’s former comrade-in-arms was to help flesh out Jettaret’s background, nothing more. But I walked into the inn and there he was, a total rascal, and I knew I wasn’t going to able to drop Alberge after only one scene.

Q: Did you allow anyone to read your chapters in progress or did you make them wait until the project was completed?

A: Nobody reads my stuff until it’s done. I don’t need somebody else’s mind messing up my work. As a matter of fact, I don’t like anyone messing with it after it’s done.

Q: Who’s your favorite character in the book and what aspects of his/her personality are a reflection of your personal hopes, fears and dreams?

A: Alberge is the character I most wish were real, because if he were, I’d run off with him. Have an attraction to rascals. I gave Alberge my sense of humor. After the story ends, I figure he dies in the gutter in Paris, but trust that won’t be my fate. I write seeing through the character’s eyes, or looking just over his/her shoulder. Everything they do is real to me. I worked out the swordfights by playing both combatants; I have swordplay training. I try to make all the characters 3-D, with a sympathetic side to even the worst ones. And if you’ve done your job right, the characters will resonate with the audience.

Q: What do you hope this book will accomplish?

A: I want people to read it, enjoy the story, love the characters, and think about some of the problems presented as they pertain to the reader’s life. Oh, and a few million copies sold, a movie, ballet and opera produced wouldn’t be bad, either.

Q: If Hollywood came calling, who would be your dream cast for a film adaptation?

A: I’d go back to Faye Dunaway’s Milady in Lester’s The Three (and Four) Musketeers for Malaxia, or Angelina Jolie today. There are a lot of good actors for Jettaret, but I’d want one that can do the pathos as well as the swashbuckling. Liana needs to have her feet on the ground and be scared and strong at the same time. Alberge needs a basso growl, and he’s short, stumpy and lame, but built like a blacksmith on top.

Q: In your personal life, you’re certainly no stranger to pulse-pounding, globetrotting adventures. Please share a few of these with us, along with the takeaway lessons that you believe best prepared you for the drama, uncertainties and euphoria of a writing career.

A: Somali pirates chased my ship in 2010. Here’s my report from my Sea Log, with some info on life at sea, the pirate chase, and a treatment of it in poetry. It’s a little long, but I didn’t know when to say “cut.”

We discuss pirate attack the same way you’d talk about bad traffic on the freeway. The ship has numerous barriers and obstacles to prevent pirates from successfully storming the ship, and you will understand if I don’t tell you what they are. We did one pirate drill, which essentially is to circle the wagons and wait for the cavalry. At the PA announcement, “Alamo, Alamo, Alamo,” we go to a secure room, and I’m not saying where that is either, with extra food, water, and a radio, and call the nearest coalition warship. Somebody aboard wondered why they chose a call word to get us to safety from a battle where everybody died.

Too many liability issues if we shoot back ourselves, though many would like to. I’d love to get one of the Lady Washington’s cannon off at them. We are trying to get Uncle Sam to give us, the US flagged commercial ships, a military unit aboard for protection, as the Military Sealift Command ships have (they are military cargo ships owned by the Navy but crewed by civilians). There is a Natl. Guard unit on those ships; during WWII the civilian Liberty ships that delivered cargo carried Naval Armed Guard units. If the war on terror is truly a war, shouldn’t we have the necessary protection against terrorists? The shipping companies don’t want to spend the money for armed private security units.

But pirates are nothing compared to what my dad went through in WWII; he had one ship torpedoed out from under him before Pearl Harbor, then on the Murmansk Run in ’42 he ran a 24/7 gauntlet against mines, submarines, air attack and icebergs. He came through all without a scratch. I have his Merchant Marine dogtag from then, and figure if that doesn’t bring us luck, nothing will.

Bad news from off of Cameroon, West Africa: The Northern Star, a 7,000 ton ship, was attacked by pirates near midnight Monday night. Twenty armed pirates in three boats came aboard, stole cash and computers, smashed all the communication equipment on the bridge, and took the Capt. and Chief Engineer with them as hostages when they left. No word on a ransom demand. All the other crew are apparently safe. Don’t know what flag she was.

5/26/10

Out into the Gulf of Aden. Commencing pirate watches tonight. I’m on as rover on deck from 00:00 to 04:00, after my regular 20:00 to 24:00 watch. Watch out, bad guys, Bloody Wendy is waiting. Grabbing some sack time so I’ll last through the night, then up again for my 08:00 to 12:00 watch. One warship was nearby

Leaving Colombo, Sri Lanka—Call out was 00:30 for 01:00 departure, after a long day and twenty minutes lying down but not sleeping. We stood to and waited. And waited. Didn’t get away till about 05:00, off watch at 06:00. Enough time to get cleaned up and lie down for another twenty minutes before bridge watch at 07:45. Third Mate had had the same hours so we pulled down all the window sun shades to spare our bloodshot eyes from the cheery morning light. No OT today; everyone catching up on sleep.

Flash! Zombies Take Over Ship!

Mindless maniacs sail ship in great circle off the coast of Sri Lanka, as long dead creatures rise up out of the sea, and with zombie riders, slosh ashore to steal popcorn and spread green slime around! Stay tuned!

6/19/10

Sat., 09:15. Off of Oman. Rough and choppy, many whitecaps. 40 kt. wind on the bow, a little to port. White water and spray over the forward port side; spray arcs up over the containers to starboard, sun catches it and makes rainbows.

I thought nobody in their right mind would be out in a small boat in this stuff. But then pirates aren’t in their right minds.

02:30. It was a very warm night/early morning on pirate watch, and I was on roving patrol on deck. We carry a hand held supercharged searchlight known as the Ronnie Ray-Gun, after the late president, and I was also armed with a radio, a knife, a Leatherman multiplex, a small flashlight and my keys. Those pirates better not mess with me. Got up to the bow where there was a bit of a wafting wind, and wanted to cool off, so I laid down, unbuttoned my shirt and let God admire His handiwork. Felt a bit like the Little Mermaid, or like pirate Mary Read, who, disguised as a man, killed another man in a duel. As he lay dying, she ripped her blouse open so he could see, to add insult to fatal injury, that the man who had killed him was a woman.

This is Pirate Central, where the Gulf of Aden joins the Red Sea, from about 12°12.5’ N., 45°47.5’ E., to 13°08.4’ N., 43°05.9’ E., between Somalia and Yemen. Collected some Genuine Pirate Water up on the bow at 12°24’ N., 44°16’ E., and put it in a bottle. Maybe I can sell it on E-Bay.

On the bridge, looking at our computer chart with AIS ship names and positions on it. Big cluster of ships ahead, so dense you can’t read the names. Feels like we’re at the back of the pack in the Indy 500. Shipping lanes are marked on the charts here so the pirates know where we’ll be. Still no sign of any. EU warship out of sight broad to port, six miles out; visibility poor, lots of haze. British by the sound of their radio calls. Nice to know they’re out there. Two choppers flew by as well.

16:00 to 20:00 pirate watch. It’s Rhonda’s 43rd birthday so I took her watch. Over an hour’s time, half a dozen very small launches, in ones and twos, sped toward us and tried to keep pace. None could, and they all fell away. There were two or three guys in each boat, no room for more, or for any artillery bigger than a shotgun; more then that and the recoil would capsize them. I was told they were fishermen. Fishermen? Drug runners? Or pirate scouts? They didn’t look like fishing boats; no room for any real gear or fish. The fishing boats around here are bigger, enough for five or six guys and a reasonably sizable catch, thirty feet long at least. These were much smaller. And if they were fishing boats, I’m Prince William.

I called their positions in to the bridge, from the forward catwalk on the bow. It’s between the forward mooring station bulkhead and the first row of containers, you get a good view to port or starboard, and it’s well protected. It was exciting, running back and forth on the catwalk to check both sides, and not scary.

They didn’t fire at us so technically we weren’t under attack. But were they pirates or drug runners or joyriding fishermen? Why would fishermen do that? Exciting anyway. Chased by pirates!

Pirate Chase off Somalia

Aboard the APL container ship

President Jackson, in the

Gulf of Aden off Somalia,

June 20, 2010

Run, run back,

Oh; no, run the other way,

they’re coming.

How am I going to call

pirate boats approaching from both sides

when they rush us at the same time?

Careful on the catwalk here,

narrow, narrow,

don’t slip, don’t trip,

slips-trips-and-falls-are-the-single-most-

common-cause-of-injury-aboard-ship.

Protected here,

bulkhead this side,

containers that side,

what about RPG attack?

Goddam they’re close.

Bridge, Bow Lookout,

two small vessels approaching

broad to port;

one small vessel approaching

three points to starboard,

Bloody hell these can’t be fishing boats,

vessels approaching rapidly,

Hey this is fun!

Two more vessels

approaching fine to port

Do they have AK-47’s?

Wouldn’t they have used them by now?

Hey the cook said

he’s got something hot for them

if they get below but we’d

all be in the safe room by that time

Hey, we’re getting attacked by pirates!

but is it an attack if

they aren’t shooting at you yet?

Bridge, Bow Lookout,

vessels approaching—

 

But you know something? None of this makes getting a rejection slip any easier. It still stings, and if someone hurts me in an interpersonal relationship, that is just as bad too.

Q: You’re also an accomplished playwright and actor. What aspects of penning theatrical scripts and treading the boards have enhanced your skills as a storyteller and novelist?

A: I wrote The Witch’s Hand as a play first. In play form, you can go straight to the conflict between characters and the characters’ inner conflicts. And you can’t depend on “take two” and CG effects on stage. The drama is there or it isn’t. In play format, scenery can be minimal and that focuses attention on the drama too. It’s the best way to get the bare bones of the story and character down.

Q: What would readers be the most surprised to learn about you?

A: Considering my job as a Merchant Marine deckhand on cargo and military ships, people might be surprised that I am 61, only stand 5’4” and weigh 110 lbs. But I get the job done. I also won a Bad Hemingway contest.

Q: So what’s next on your plate for 2014?

A: Oy! I have several projects in the hopper but work on them is slow. The Diary of Bobbie MacBride, nearly finished, is a War of 1812 swashbuckler. Irish lass Bobbie disguises herself as a boy and hops a ship in search of her Johnnie, who’s been taken by the King’s press gang to fight the war in America. They meet up with pirate Jean Lafitte and—but you’ll have to wait for it.

Of three plays, one is Mr. Jefferson Requests, about the famous dinner in 1790 with Madison, Hamilton and Jefferson in attendance. The Constitution is newly adopted but untested. There is no Bill of Rights. The government is deeply in debt. There is no consensus on where the federal capitol will be.

Nobody took notes at this dinner, but we know that the parties agreed to locate the federal capitol in the South in return for the Southern states, who had paid off their share of the Revolutionary War debts, helping the Northern states pay off theirs. And after that, the three worthies never agreed on anything again.

So how did they get there? And more enticingly, what else did the three greatest minds of the founding fathers talk about? What did they say? Jefferson was in the midst of his affair with Sally Hemings at the time; where do she and her chef brother James fit in?

Ulysses

A grad student in English Lit. is trying to figure out James Joyce’s densely written and enigmatic Ulysses. He is not particularly helped by the novel’s characters, who act out their parts, upbraid and cajole him into fits of rage, frustration and ecstasy.

Mein Kampf

How did Hitler do it, hoodwink a nation, and what were his deepest motives? JJ, a jaded American journalist, becomes a Greek Chorus and the conscience Hitler didn’t have, and confronts him repeatedly as the evil genius plots, manipulates and murders his way to power.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: Where can I get a winning Lotto ticket?