Book Reviews & Giveaways

Book reviews, opinions, author interviews, book promos, giveaways

Author Interviews 2015

These are the new author interviews for 2015. Thank you for checking them out. Maybe you’ll learn something fascinating about your favorite author or just something new about a new budding author. Enjoy the interviews and thank you for stopping by.


 Interview with Robert Hemphill, author of Dust, Tea, Dingoes and Dragons: Adventures in Culture, Cuisine and Commerce from a Globe-Trekking ExecutiveDust, Tea, Dingoes and Dragons: Adventures in Culture, Cuisine and Commerce from a Globe-Trekking Executive


  • What inspired you to write this particular book?


>> This book is a collection of letters.  I started writing to my father about my international business experience because I thought I was doing such interesting things in exotic places and having such funny and peculiar experiences.  Dad was a smart man, but a fighter pilot in WWII and a career Air Force officer who knew nothing about business.  This was a way of explaining what I was doing, and, I suppose, justifying the fact that I hadn’t decided to become an Air Force officer myself.

  • When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?


>>I had an English teacher my sophomore year in high school who liked the stories that I wrote so much that she said to me, “Bob, you just sit in the back of the class and write.”  Actually it’s a wonder that I ever wrote anything again.  I was already singled out as one of the “smart kids” and this further level of acknowledgement was enough to make me want to crawl under my desk.  I suppose I knew I wanted to be a writer, but not by being the teacher’s pet and sitting at the back of the class while everyone else did the things called for in the lesson plan.

  • Who is your favorite author–or do you have an author who has inspired you?


>>Probably every male kid with any writing aspirations at some point wants to be Ernest Hemingway and I was no exception, except the part about using a shotgun and blowing your head off in Idaho was a bit less appealing.  My favorite book of all time is Catch-22, and Heller’s career after that makes one nervous about how you maintain an on-going level of excellence in the book writing profession.  My favorite authors who have maintained such a high level are Kate Atkinson and Robert Parker, author of the Spenser detective series.  I have read everything each of these gifted persons has written.

  • What is your writing schedule?


>>I write mostly in the morning, but only after coffee.  Sometimes in the afternoon while sitting on the couch.  Never really at night.  Often on airplanes until the computer battery gives out.

  • What has surprised you most about being a published author?


>>Because I didn’t know any better, I approached the publishing business like any other business opportunity, stumbling around and learning what to do, who to do it with, whose advice to take and whose to ignore.  I had to learn the business so I could understand what my role should be.  And it has been fascinating, given the enormous disruptions facing book publishers.  My biggest surprise is how caught unawares the traditional publishers have been by the digital book/Kindle/Amazon revolution.  It’s not like the Scribner CEO couldn’t have looked at the music industry and said to himself, “Gee, some disintermediation seems to be going on, I wonder if analog books could be at risk?”  And then apparently, having asked this question, the answer came back: “No, that could never happen to me.”

  • When you sit down to write is there a particular ritual you go through? Music? Something you must have on hand to drink? Etc.?


>>I used to write in long hand on yellow legal pads, but once I got my first computer, a pretty primitive Mac, it was goodbye paper and hello keyboard.  No particular ritual, but occasionally an outline is useful.

  • What do you like to do most when you are not writing?


>>Advise the President on middle east policy, cure cancer and eliminate world hunger.  My obvious success in these pursuits has led me to continue to focus on writing.

  • What is your best advice for aspiring writers?


>>Honestly?  I wanted desperately to be point guard for the Celtics while I was growing up, but eventually it became clear that a short, slow guy with no jump shot was not going to achieve that particular dream, no matter how many hours he spent at the Mount Vernon Elementary School basketball court.  If writing comes hard for you, this isn’t your game.  Try something else.


Jonesbridge (Echoes of Hinterland, #1)Interview with M. E. Parker, author of Jonesbridge

Where did the idea for Jonesbridge come from?

When I was a kid (late 70’s), fourth grade or so, I used to have an inexplicable fascination with drawing factories and chimney stacks belching smoke into the sky.  I drew them tall and short and in perspective, no drawing complete until the the smoke filled the page. Thirty plus years later, I ran across one of those drawings in a stack of keepsakes at my mother’s house, and my eye was drawn from the edge of the page to the world under the smoke, a future world in a dark age where technology has been lost and with it the information we’ve amassed in the digital realm. A love story in a world of  coal, smoke, rust, and salt.


Why do you think there is such a fascination with tales of a bleak

and dystopian future?

I think the idea of dystopia is familiar to us on a subconscious level. We read about it in the news, cry over it, squirm beneath the bureaucracies and injustices of police-state tactics and social inequality. The dystopian novel mimics microcosms of oppression found in all corners of our own world. Our own society would sound like dystopia if we were to describe it to someone in the 50’s. I think our attraction to stories of a dire future underscore our understanding of ourselves, that we are much more likely to overcome calamity than to avoid it.  Perhaps our passion for dystopian fiction is a glimpse into the doomsday prepper that lives in each of us, a way we reassure ourselves of our own human will and capacity to survive anything.


Would you consider Jonesbridge a post-apocalyptic novel?

Yes and no. In Jonesbridge there is only a present, the past is almost as uncertain as the future, and the present exists without the weight of how it came to be looming over it. When knowledge is lost only speculation remains. A dark age. The apocalypse is more of a decay of  a civilization that has rusted.


Why is salvage and repurpose such an important part of the novel?

Less and less of what the previous world, the Old Age, left behind survives due to repurpose and recycling, like the metal from an Old Age toy, when found, would have been melted down and used as a bullet casing. After a while, finding Old Age relics becomes difficult and makes them all the more valuable as a link to an unknown past.


Why Bora Bora?

Bora Bora is such a beautiful and far flung place, one that most people have never visited, that I could imagine it being less affected by the ills of the earth except for a rise in sea level, but it would be a great place to try for if you thought could make it.


If you could offer a bit of advice to a new arrival in Jonesbridge, what would it be? Work as hard as you can to get graduate out of the salvage pit.


If the rations commissary in Jonesbridge were to ever offer a soup of the day, what would it be?

Probably pumpkin stew, a local favorite, which varies by preparation but most commonly contains pumpkin rinds, brine tuber, and shin pine needles in goat fox stock.



Q&A with Michael Ransom, Author of  The Ripper Gene

The Ripper Gene: A NovelThe Ripper Gene: A Novel by Michael Ransom

  • How did you come up with the title for your novel, THE RIPPER GENE?


I find titles to be one of the most difficult undertakings involved in writing a book. It’s incredibly “tricky”, since you’re trying to capture so much with an extremely limited number of words: the hook for the reader, the faithful representation of the plot, the focus of the writer, the premise of the story, the setting, the mood, the genre, and the list could go on.  I don’t believe you should decide on a final title for your novel until you’ve finished it…although I think you should always work on a manuscript with a tentative title in mind.  


The Ripper Gene went through several draft titles. I can’t go into detail about the selection process because it would create spoilers here.  It was, however, extremely difficult to decide whether to give this novel a title that highlighted 1) its forensic aspects, 2) its scientific premise, 3) its moral conundrum 4) its philosophical side, 5)  its technological angle, 6) its religious underpinnings, or 7) its plot. 


I ultimately selected The Ripper Gene to highlight the interesting scientific premise that genetics can predispose individuals to psychopathic behavior, and to hopefully signal that the story would be about a serial killer (and presumably someone trying to stop them).  In the end, you have to hope that your title (coupled with the cover art) will be compelling enough that potential readers will look further and discover all the other important aspects of your story, since the title can only explain so much. 


  • How did you move from just a few sentences to a full blown book?


I don’t think about how many pages I will need to write when I sit down and begin writing those first few sentences…if I did, I’m not sure I’d ever start. I was actually going to say here that I don’t have a secret, but perhaps that’s my secret in and of itself: I just make sure not to worry about whether the words I write at any one sitting are going to make it into a novel or not.


I pull this off using the program Scrivener, which organizes everything I write into folders comprised of individual “scenes”. I only set out to write a single scene at each sitting, so once I’m done I just drop the scene into one of two types of folders. If I’m sure it’s a scene in an upcoming novel, I drop it there. If I’m not, I drop it into a folder full of various scenes that 1) may become part of a novel; 2) may become part of a short story; or 3) of course, may become nothing at all.  Doing it this way seems to take the pressure off, and enables me to not have to worry about starting on “Page One” of the next 400 page novel.


  • How many hours a week would you say you read?


Whatever the number is, it’s less than it should be.  I spend about 10 hours a week reading scientific-related materials- research articles, laboratory reports, textbooks, scientific abstracts.  I spend another 10 hours a week in a commute, so I’m able to either 1) listen to audio books or 2) listen to Great Courses, which are university courses covering a massive range of topics from philosophy to writing, from history to astronomy to forensic and so on).  I have to admit that I listen to university course lectures via the Great Courses more often than I listen to audio books lately.


I have about a dozen books open and in progress on my Kindle at any one time, and about a dozen more hardcovers/paperbacks scattered throughout my house and office that I’m reading, all concurrently.  I actually approach reading much the same as writing- I read many things in parallel until one just takes off and demands that I finish it before the others.  Most recently, I was reading numerous books as is my usual approach…until I got to a point in Dark Places (by Gillian Flynn) which demanded that I finish it, so I did.


All told I probably read for about 20-30 hours a week, depending on whether I’m listening to an audiobook that week or “taking a course”.


  • When it comes to editing and/or proofreading, what would you recommend?


The most important recommendation would be to maximize the number of full-length revisions you complete before you submit.  It took around 10 full-length revisions to The Ripper Gene before we had a version ready for publishers.  After revision #6 I convinced my agent that the manuscript was ready to go out, and in that round of submissions we didn’t have a single bite. Two years and four additional revisions later…including a particularly brutal one that brought the number of pages down from 450 to 300 pages… we wound up having three different major publishers express interest…and The Ripper Gene had a home a few weeks after that.  


For thrillers, the kiss of death is a lull in the pace.  You have to cut everything that doesn’t move the story forward…or that doesn’t move the story forward at fast enough of a pace!  


  • Reviews are important, but what about public libraries?


They’re similarly important.  I recently ran a book giveaway and was impressed by how many people were going to get their copy of The Ripper Gene through a library if they didn’t win.  The libraries have to purchase their copies, so if you’re book is in high demand, it generates sales and the revenue necessary to sustain future books.  More importantly, having your book in libraries helps simply by amplifying word-of-mouth… which is that often-cited, poorly understood phenomenon that seems vital to almost all the successes in this industry today.


  • Are there alternate endings you considered?


Not really.  I knew the ending I wanted for a long time so it was a matter of working backwards from a given ending and identifying different paths to get there…but never whether my novel would lead me to a different ending.  That was relatively locked down at the start. I like to build backwards so to speak.


  • Are you working on something new and can you share any details?


I am and I can! After I finished The Ripper Gene, I began a different series set where I now live, in northern New Jersey outside Manhattan, which is more of a futuristic biomedical thriller featuring NYPD detectives rather than FBI profilers.  I also began a more literary mystery set in the 1980’s focusing on the mysterious death of a minister trying to pass a referendum in a county in northern Mississippi.  


However I’ve also now been prompted to write a new Lucas Madden novel, and luckily I had a breakthrough in the plotting of that story a few months ago, during this year’s ThrillerFest.  I’m still outlining that novel, but am very excited to write it. It revolves around one of the FBI’s current initiatives.  I could say more, but then I would be letting too much cat out of the bag!



Karma Deception and a Pair of Red FerrarisKarma Deception and a Pair of Red Ferraris by Elaine Taylor

Q & A with author Elaine Taylor

  1. How did you move from just a few sentences to a full-blown book?

With KARMA, DECEPTION And a Pair of Red FERRARIS: A Memoir, it was easy! But that’s because it was my fourth book. With my first novel, FINAL BETRAYAL (completed in 1999), it was a five-year slog.

In the mid-90’s, two characters started a “what if?” in my head. What if Catherine, a high-powered businesswoman, owner of ETC (Emerging Technology Consultants), who had grown up a techie nerd always awkward with members of the opposite sex (especially when it involved getting nekkid!) … what if Catherine had a sex-only relationship with Stephen, a self-defined “sexual connoisseur”? How liberating would that be! And instructive …

What if, a year or so into her sex-doesn’t-have-to-be-as-boring-and nerve-wracking-as-dinner-with-the-in-laws tutorial, Stephen ended up dead; and Catherine was framed for his murder?

These characters nagged me in my dreams, hopped on the cable car and dogged me to my IT headhunting day-job in San Fran until I finally sat down to my word processor. (Remember those?)

I told myself I was not writing a whole novel—the mere thought perforated my ulcer and broke me out in hives! I mean, I had a life, right? Had to make a living. But you know how insistent these characters can be. So I started writing a few vignettes. Then I started linking them together and filling in the blanks. About a year later, I had 350 pages that essentially began with “once upon a time” and went all the way to “the end.” What an accomplishment!!

I immediately started sending out queries—not too many at first because I didn’t want agents fighting over me. (If you just busted into a loud guffaw then yeah, you’ve lost your query-the-agent virginity…)

Over the next few months, as the rejections staggered in, I heard about a course at UC Berkeley (across the Bay from where I lived) that was taught by a guy who was supposedly a genius at teaching aspiring writers how to craft a story. James N. Frey, author of the “How to Write a Damn Good Novel” series. Eh. What else did I have to spend my time on while I waited to be discovered? I paid the fee and showed up for his first class.

Guy looked like a garden gnome—what could a yard decoration possibly teach me?

(Here’s a hint: In my 350 page murder mystery, the murder didn’t take place until page 150—I mean, I had to write all the backstory so readers would know everything they might possibly ever need to know about my characters, right?)

First class, Frey talked about “conflict.” Hmmmm. I’m a peaceful kind of gal … but perhaps I should swish a soupçon of conflict into my novel. Gonna need some minor edits.

            Next class, Frey talked about pole-to-pole character growth. Hmmmm …

By the end of the third class I knew I had a really, really amateurish and unpublishable collection of coma-inducing pages.

Long story just a tad bit longer: Jim Frey invited me to join his critique group. I ditched the first draft 350 pages (except for the characters and some of the plot points) and went every-other-week to sit in a chair and be pounded (sometimes gently, mostly not so much) about all the story-craft elements that were missing from each successive submission. For the next ten years, Frey was my mentor. Absolutely the best thing that ever happened to me as a storyteller, as an author.

Now when I sit down to write a new book I can focus on story details, confident I know how to structure it. Now, it’s easy (if writing ever is) to get from those first few sentences, to the end of the first draft … as well as the subsequent ones.

  1. How many hours a week would you say you read?

Not very many.

I know that is counter to what “everyone” counsels; but I’m not that kind of learner. I read voraciously in my younger years; but when it came time to write, all my reading had taught me nothing about the craft elements of storytelling.

When I am deep into a writing project, I find that if I read someone else’s work I unconsciously lose my own voice and begin to mimic theirs. But when I have finished a project, my reward is to carve out weeks to sit in a comfy chair and read other authors’ books.

  1. When it comes to editing and/or proofreading, what would you recommend?

First of all, don’t expect your first draft to be publishable. (Beginners are certain they will be the exception to this rule (I was!!); telling it to an experienced writer is the equivalent of saying, “CAPS LOCK is on the left side of your keyboard:” they already know it.)

Editing comes in numerous phases. First, I edit for structure:

  • does it have a beginning, middle and end? (Logical, yes. Automatic, no.)
  • are characters multi-faceted (not flat), unique in some way, “wounded”, sympathetic?
  • does conflict build to create a page-turner? (plotline)
  • do main characters undergo pole-to-pole growth? (“character arc”)
  • does each scene incorporate all of the elements of good craft? (plot/character arc; scene setting/sensual detail that makes the reader feel he/she is witnessing the story like the proverbial fly on the wall; dialogue that moves the story forward [good dialogue is not “just people talking]; etc.)

Next, I edit for “the story”:

  • is it cohesive and logical, while also being interesting and unpredictable?
  • does each scene move the story forward; or is it extraneous—just the author (me!) enjoying the brilliance of my own words? (ugh)
  • is the voice/tone appropriate for—and does it enhance—this story?
  • have I accomplished telling the story I ultimately want to tell?

Not until I am completely satisfied with the structure and the story do I even begin to look at grammar, punctuation, etc.; because if the story/structure sucks, no one will ever be bothered that I failed to do what my English teacher taught me.

Proofreading? An absolute waste of time … until I finalize the last draft.

NOTE: If you are in a critique group where people correct your comma placement, find a new group! One that critiques on storytelling craft.

  1. Reviews are important, but what about public libraries?

It’s all important—critically important!

I read recently that approximately 7,000 books are published every day. Seven thousand!! Every day!! If we want our books to be read, they have to be easily available in any/every venue where a reader might possibly look for—or stumble across—them.

And, as always, word of mouth is your absolutely best sales tool.

  1. Are your characters based on people you know?

KARMA, DECEPTION And a Pair of Red FERRARIS: A Memoir, is, as the subtitle indicates, a memoir. So yes. Not just characters, but all the events are true.

For my fiction, I do not base the characters on people I know; but I am always on the lookout for personality quirks—or events—that might be used to build engrossing, riveting characters/stories.

  1. How did you come up with the title?

Good question!

The title and cover art are supposed to give the reader a good sense of what the book is about—the very first component of the author’s “contract with the reader.” For KARMA, DECEPTION, it is important for a reader to know this is not your basic memoir love story. (Normally I hesitate to use the word “unique”; but KARMA DECEPTION truly is just that.) There is a bit of “California woo-woo” (karma and a psychic); there is conflict/betrayal/drama (deception—which not only describes an aspect of the story, but also dilutes the woo-woo bit that might put off some potential readers); and something intriguing and surprising. (How many women have dated a guy who has a pair of red Ferraris in his multiple garages?)

The red heart, in the cover design, let’s the reader know it is a love story. The disconnected lines of the heart plants the subliminal message of broken- or incompleteness. Being separated at the top suggests a vessel that will perhaps be filled. 

  1. Are there alternate endings you considered?

Since KARMA, DECEPTION And a Pair of Red FERRARIS is a memoir, the only consideration about the ending was where did it feel natural for the storytelling to stop? I.e., when should the author shut up!

  1. Are you working on something new and can you share any details?

At this moment my publicist has me writing bylined articles that she is placing with various media. (I’m really enjoying writing these shorter pieces!) So most of my writerly attention is on that.

But in a simmering kettle on a back burner in my mind I am adding ingredients and cooking up my next suspense novel, which will be a continuation of the series that now includes FINAL BETRAYAL and FINAL CONSEQUENCE.

After the intense, years-long process of writing a memoir that is deeply personal and authentic—alternately laugh-out-loud funny and emotionally raw—I am quite looking forward to re-immersing myself in the world of page-turning, sexy fiction. 


Light Keepers

Author: Kelly Hall
Title: The Legend of the Light Keeper
Series: The Light Keeper Series
Publication Date: March 25, 2015

Before we get to the questions, would you please tell us about your book?
The Legend of the Light Keeper is about a not-so-normal girl named Lily, who has been living a pretty normal, comfortable life, until a tragedy changes everything and lands her in the middle of a haunted road, in a new home, with a soon-to-step brother that she’s immediately attracted to. Realizing she’s moved to a popular paranormal location, she learns more about its history from her only neighbors and their grandmother. Strange things start to happen and after she is given an old diary on her sixteenth birthday, she begins piecing together a century old murder mystery that will ultimately help her understand her powers, her lineage, and reveal how she’s connected to the road and the strange events.

1. What are some of the story concepts that interest you?
I love the idea of the setting on a real-life ghost road. Taking that legend and creating my own story around it and putting it in that setting was really fun. Creating the Light Keepers for the series was fun as well and I can’t wait to uncover more of Lily’s power.

2. Where did the inspiration come from for the characters in your book?
I never really base a character off any one person I know, but I take little tidbits and character traits in general and create my characters. I knew I wanted to write about a girl who was more than a pretty face and one that would be brave even if she was terrified, and learn to embrace her powers and be herself.

3. Do you have a favorite author or genre?
I’ve always leaned more toward paranormal of some kind though I do read others. My favorite author, that’s much trickier, I really admire J.R. Ward. I’d love to pick her brain for a day.

4. Do you have a favorite place or time to write?
I feel like I am always writing, whether I’m behind this keyboard or not. I love to take morning walks and think out what I want to write, and then I go home, pile up in my comfy chair with the laptop, and write it out. I feel my mind is much clearer then.

5. Do you listen to music when you write or brainstorm, and if so, what sort?
No, I only listen to music when I drive. Then I usually sing loudly and dance foolishly until I pull up next to another car. I listen to all kinds of music when I do this so no song is safe. I usually do well to write with everyone gone and the TV on low for background noise.

6. What do you feel is the hardest part of writing? The easiest?
The hardest part for me is working out the small details and tying everything together. That’s also the most fun, though. The easiest is creating character descriptions and names. I like simple names with simple spelling.

7. What advice would you give aspiring authors?
Write. Do it daily, do it for yourself, and don’t let anyone else’s opinions hinder you from writing what you want. Once you get it all written and you decide to edit or let someone else edit (which I highly recommend!) then you need to be brutal and brave. Some parts of your beloved creation will die. Kill them!

8. What future projects do you have planned?
I have a few, but one I am most eager for is Alyssa’s story. It’s a prequel to The Light Keeper series, and I have no idea when it’s going to happen or what it will be titled, but it will happen somehow. I might do something else with Light Keepers too, but we’ll have to see. I have more ideas for them.

9. When you begin to write how do you begin? With an outline, character idea, name, title, theme, plot…?
I decide on my concept and figure out my main character and their purpose.

10. Describe the process for your writing.
Well, once I have that general concept, main character, and their purpose, I decide on a setting and start figuring out those supporting characters, the conflict, and the villain. Then I just sit and write. I write everything I can and let the characters lead me. Then once I get all of that out of my system and onto the screen, I can begin dissecting it, adding to it, and reworking it like a huge puzzle making sure that everything has a point. If it doesn’t, I have to kill it. Whether it’s a character that has no purpose or a dead end plot line, it has to go. No matter how much I love it or think it’s cool or clever. Once I get everything just so, I read through it and purge it one more time. After many purges and flattening out the fluff, it’s ready to go to the editor, and then once it’s back, I polish it some more. It’s ready when it shines.


A while back I reviewed a really good book. The author generously offered to be interviewed for my blog. Here are my questions and her insightful answers, along with my original review. Please enjoy!

Elora of StoneElora of Stone by Jaime Lee Mann
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My youngest son and I love to read fantasy, although sometimes he prefers non-fiction over anything else. This is an adorable tale with easy to read writing and a fun adventure true to the genre. The whole plot thread flows nicely with no unusual jumps or dropped bits. The characters are fleshed enough for the intended audience with no unnecessary extras. After reading this together my youngest gave two thumbs up and said he wished it were in his school library and worth reading points. We received an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influenced our opinion.

1. What are some of the story concepts that interest you?

The concept that probably interests me the most in Elora of Stone is that things are not always as they seem. The story forces the reader to question themselves and I love that!

2. Where did the inspiration come from for the characters in your book?

The characters were primarily just dreamed up! But Ariana’s silver streak was inspired by my eldest daughter who was born with a little patch of white in her hair. Asher’s curious nature is very similar to my younger daughter’s personality. Novah, the lady Gwendolyn encounters in the village, was inspired by my own mother, Nova, who loves baking (especially pie).

3. Do you have a favorite author or genre?

I would consider Dr. Seuss and C.S. Lewis to be two of my key literary influences. Though they have different styles, both men were brilliant writers. The Lorax and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe are two of my favourite stories.

4. Do you have a favorite place or time to write?

Early morning is my favourite time to write. I would always choose to write outside under a shady tree. During the winter, when that’s not really possible in eastern Canada, I like to perch myself somewhere near a window. I’m very inspired by nature.

5. Do you listen to music when you write or brainstorm, and if so, what sort?

I love listening to the great singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell, John Prine, Gordon Lightfoot, John Denver, and Bob Dylan. I feel like their creative energy comes through to me through the scratchy vinyl. Their voices will almost put me in a trance.

6. What do you feel is the hardest part of writing? The easiest?

I would say creating the imagery is the easiest. Outlining is something that I really have to force myself to do, because I am a very outside-the-box person. I don’t like to frame things; I prefer a little bit of chaos. But that doesn’t work with a novel. You need plot lines and things like that to move the story along. So while I am capable of outlining and I’m pretty good at it, it is uncomfortable for me. But when it comes to the pictures I want the reader to see when they read my books? Well, I’m a very visual person, and it is quite natural for me to create vivid descriptions to pull readers into the world I see. I always write these scenes with my eyes closed so I am actually describing the pictures I’m seeing in my mind.

The hardest part of writing is finding the time to write it! Words pour out of me when I have the chance to sit down and focus, but with a successful business and a very busy home life, the challenge is finding those bits of time to sacrifice for creative writing. The writing process is a pure indulgent pleasure for me, so I try to honour that by setting aside at least two hours per day for creative writing; in the morning before everyone else wakes up, and in the evening when everyone else is in bed. I write a lot on the weekends, and I’m lucky enough to have parents who love taking my daughters for weekend sleepovers to let me work!

7. What advice would you give aspiring authors?

There are two things you must always do: read and write. If you read everyday and if you write everyday, as long as you believe in yourself you can become a writer. And don’t get discouraged if your spelling isn’t very good. That is what editors are for. Anyone can be a good writer with a good editor.

8. What future projects do you have planned?

This spring, you will see the second novel in the “Legend of Rhyme” series, Into Coraira, and by July, Teagan of Tomorrow, the third installment, will be available. For the younger audience, I also have a charming little picture book being released in the summer, A bug is a bug is a bug!

9. When you begin to write how do you begin? With an outline, character idea, name, title, theme, plot…?

I start with an idea and I mull that around in my head for a long time. When I am sure that it’s a good story, I sit down with my husband and talk it through with him. He helps me work through the overall plot (he always has brilliant ideas and I use most of them), and I scribble everything down. From there, I do a rough outline of the entire story and sketch out the characters.

10. Describe the process for your writing.

When my rough outline is done and I have character sketches written, I break the story down into three acts, plotting major points along the way. Then I storyboard the book, one scene at a time. Scenes become chapters, and so on and so forth. When the first draft is done, I send the story to my editor for a structural review. She sends it back and then the revision process begins. There are numerous back-and-forths like this. When I’m done, the story NEVER looks like it did when I started.


Author Interview with David Alan Morrison, author of Guild of Immortal Women

Q: What is the story of how you came up with the idea for GUILD OF IMMORTAL WOMEN.

In 2007 my father died. We had been estranged for most of my life and we had just spent the last couple of years rebuilding a relationship. I went to my best friend’s house to do some healing and she reminded me of the book idea she had told me about years before.  She convinced me to write it as a way of grieving.

Q: How did you pick the women who would be Immortal?

Holly wanted Joan of Arc to be Amelia Airhardt and had always been set on Eleanor as the head of the Guild.  As for the others, we literally sat on the phone – me in Seattle and she in southern California – and searched the internet for the most interesting women we could find.  I was surprised at the lack of information on famous females of ancient times!  

Q: What was the hardest part of writing your books?

Editing! That answer is easy – it’s always the editing.  As writers we put so much of our life and soul into these written pages! Many of us slave over specific words or phrases for hours. None of that matters in editing.  If it doesn’t work for the story or pacing, out it goes.  Books are so much like turkey at Thanksgiving – one knows about the preparation of an eloquent meal, but when you have to face the heat of the kitchen yourself….oy! Another story.

Q: What project are you working on now?

Once TRAVELS WITH PENNY and GUILD are out into the world, I’d like to take a short break first.  I feel pretty ragged about now…signings, book festivals and so forth take a lot out of you.  When I’m back at the keyboard, I have another work, ANGAKOK, with Booktrope, that needs some attention.  Tick tock!

Q: What is the most interesting part of your daily life?

Wow.  Good question.  I never saw myself as having a particularly interesting life.  But, then again, “interesting” is relative, isn’t it?  My day jobs are a sign language interpreter, instructor at a community college and theatre director.  I like to think that just by showing up I get a full plate of drama and entertainment.  

Q:  What is your writing process like?

I’ve always been one of those people who sees entire scenes in my head.  As soon as a scene appears, I try to rush over to the keyboard and get it down.  The problem is that the scenes don’t always appear in the correct order. I see the end of a book (or play, as I’m also a playwright) first, or the dramatic climax first.  Every so often I write down the scenes on index cards and lay them on the floor to see what piece of the story is missing.  Maybe this is why editing is so difficult.

Q: So you don’t pre-plan your work?

Not usually, no.  I follow the age-old advice of “write with the end in mind” as well as my characters, but not much else.  I’ve found this syle has pros and cons – like anything – but for me it works.  I set out with my characters’ having a goal, some personality quirks and things they are afraid of.  Then, I just throw obstacles at them.  It easier with something like TRAVELS, as it was a memoir and I didn’t have to invent anything.  If you knew my family, you’d understand.  Once I got over my anger at them, I learned to see them as an entire lifetime of entertainment value.

Q: What advice do you give new writers?

Write. Write what you see.  Write what you feel.  Somewhere, somehow, someone is going to love your stuff.  But always remember – someone is going to hate it as well.  Ultimately, you need to be satisfied with what you’re doing.

Q: Any last words?

Yes.  Make sure to have a life.    Let your art flow from your observations of the everyday; don’t lock yourself away in some dark, dank place with a bottle of Jack Daniels and a laptop.   We are on this Earth to engage with our surroundings; to love and experience this great thing called LIFE.


If Jack HadIf Jack Had by Steven Rappaport

Interview with author Steven Rappaport:

1. What are some story concepts or themes in general that interest you? Personal change and growth. Struggles with personality defects. Family. Loss of vigor and purpose as we age. Anger.

2. Where did the inspiration come from for the characters in If Jack Had? Most have their genesis in people I have known or met over the years, and I’ve then liberally expanded. Others are based on certain prototypes I have observed. And some are merely figments of my imagination.

3. Do you have a favorite author or genre? Spy thrillers because when well done, they are the perfect combination of art and entertainment. As in John le Carre.

4. Do you have a favorite place or time to write? If in the City, at 4 or 5 am. Whenever possible in Mirtos, a small fishing village on the south coast of Crete. I’ve just returned and have been going there since 1971. It is isolated, quiet, and barely changed in all these years, except the old ladies in black now sit with iPads.

5. Do you listen to music when you write or brainstorm, and if so, what sort? I like to brainstorm while walking, preferably alone, and preferably by the sea.

6. What do you feel is the hardest part of writing? The easiest? The hardest part is deciding on the theme, then on the story that illustrates the theme, and then the characters that move the theme along. Once I have that, the work becomes easy.

7. What advice would you give aspiring authors? Don’t ask for advice. Don’t ask for instruction. Just start telling stories.

8. What future projects do you have planned? A collection of short stories.

9. When you begin to write how do you begin? With an outline, character idea, title, theme, plot…? For me it all begins with a theme, an idea I want to explore. Then I invent a title, which for me, helps encapsulate what I want to say. Next, I work out, in my mind, a story that will bring the theme to life. And finally, I create some characters to populate the story and illustrate how the particular theme affects different people.

10. Describe the process for your writing. I think, I write, I edit, I write some more, and in between I stare into space. At a certain point the automatic pen takes over and stuff falls onto the page that takes the story into places I never thought of. After about two hours I have to stop and do other things. I can pick up later in the day, but only after I have reflected on what went on the page and where it might go next.


Sarah Elle Emm, author of the HARMONY RUN SERIES

Writing Playlist:

So…Music. Some authors swear by it. They have their playlist set in the background while they pen their latest manuscript. Me? Not exactly. Music is very important to me. I believe in dance parties, and by dance parties I mean cranking up my I-pod to the music fitting my mood, be this salsa, classic rock, blues, country, classical, whatever, and dancing alone in my room or kitchen. (Yes, I said classical and country in the same list). My kids may or may not be in attendance. They like to watch and laugh. Sometimes, they join in. But as far as my writing process goes, the music is sort of my warm up. So I might turn on some music that fits my mood for parts of the story and listen to it in my car or at my desk before I write, but not while I am actually writing. I need it to be quiet in the room, so I can tell the story…(Ahem, hear what my characters are trying to tell me). 😉 While I wrote Nacreous, and the other books in the Harmony Run Series, my favorite music warm-up to set the mood was Lorde. Specifically, the songs Team and A World Alone. In fact, if any of the books from my series could be made for film, I would beg producers to include one of those songs in the movies.

My Writing Process:

I can’t sit down and force myself to write everyday because it begins to feel too mechanical, but I am definitely one of those people who thinks about writing, story ideas, characters, scenarios all of the time, awake or asleep. I love using my dreams in my writing and have written a few of them into scenes in the Harmony Run Series. Back in college, the good ol’ stone ages, I had one of the most terrifying dreams of my life about a man with a triangular-shaped eye chasing me down a corridor, one door after the other, with this woman’s voice echoing all around us, telling him to kill me. When I got to the end of the corridor, I opened the last door, and he was standing there facing me. I woke up sobbing…About a year later, a psychology professor at my university asked some of us to share dreams with him so he could demonstrate dream analysis. I bravely raised my hand, (this was huge for me, since I am very shy in person), and shared my dream in vivid detail. After I finished talking, the entire class got eerily quiet and the professor told me I was dealing with issues beyond his realm of help, and went on to the next student’s dream. That student shared a dream about not being able to make a goal in a soccer match, and the professor dissected his dream in depth for fifteen minutes. Years later, I incorporated that dream, adding on some twists and turns of course, into book one from the Harmony Run Series, Prismatic. 

I also come up with ideas when I’m looking out of the kitchen window, when I’m walking, driving, cooking, gardening, taking my kids to martial arts, helping with their homework, basically, every waking moment. I take heaps of notes. I jot notes down for days. And when I’m ready, I sit down and type everything I can. I woke up the other night, and grabbed the notebook and pen beside my bed and wrote down an idea for another story. So my writing process is sort of a twenty-four hour thing. Oh, and probably the most important part of the process…How could I forget? My dog, Shorty, has to harass me to sit in my lap throughout the day. She eventually gives up and sleeps at my feet or nearby. She spares me the occasional glance or sighs every so often when I talk too much. Yes, I like to talk aloud to myself more often than not. If that dog could talk…Well, thankfully that’s not an issue.

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