Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Authorsday: Steve Symes

Today my guest is Steve Symes.

Steven Symes has written dozens of articles on a variety of paranormal phenomena, including hauntings. Steven grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico and attended college in Arizona and Utah. He currently works as a full time writer of both fiction and non-fiction. Steven currently lives in Salt Lake City with his wife, children and dog. Steven is busily working on his next novel due in 2011.

1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I have told stories since I first began talking, literally. I know all kids tell “stories” but I told big, complex stories. For example, once when I was about three years old I told my mom how I would have rewritten Star Wars: A New Hope. She was dumbfounded since my plot flowed well. She didn’t write it down at the time and kicks herself for not doing so. In any case, I wanted to direct movies until I hit the fourth grade. I had just finished reading the Chronicles of Narnia, among many other books, and decided I really wanted to write books.

2. How long have you been writing?

Technically I have been writing stories since I learned to write. I used to write stories for my grade school classes just for the fun of it. I have a huge store of old stories I have never really shared with anyone, or with only a few people. I have only been sharing my fiction writing with the general public since January of 2010 and so far I really enjoy the experience.

3. How did you pick the genre you write in?

I have always had a taste for the paranormal. At the age of six I was absolutely convinced a group of werewolves lived in my bathroom. In my teen years I wrote stories about vampires and samurais and the like. My imagination for the paranormal really caught fire in college when I took a couple of folklore classes and my awareness was greatly enlarged.

4. Do you plot or do you write by the seat of your pants?

I am a habitual planner and strategist – just ask my wife what it is like to play strategy games with me. I usually spend a couple of months just prewriting and plotting for a novel. Despite that fact, once I am sitting in front of the computer it is me and the characters. I have had my carefully detailed plots completely altered by characters or by a gut feeling while I am writing, and so I go with it.

5. What drew you to the subject of Shadow House?

Haunted houses have always been interesting to me, having had some experiences of my own and having known quite a few other people who have lived in them. I live in an older house that was built in the 1940s and found all kinds of weird things in it. I admit at that time I was watching one too many horror movies and I said to myself “I can write a book about a haunted house that’s better than these movies!” and so Shadow House was born.

6. Tell me one thing about yourself that very few people know?

I actually enjoy a fair amount of “chick flicks.” I always protest when my wife wants to watch them, but some of them are actually pretty good. I just saw The Proposal with Sandra Bullock a few weeks ago and was pleasantly surprised. Some of my all-time favorite movies are Clueless (what a perfect adaptation of Emma!) and Legally Blonde. I am sure a lot of people would never guess I like those types of movies, but I do.

7. What’s your favorite thing about your book?

Overall I really like how I ratchet up the tension throughout Shadow House. More specifically, the preparation for and writing of the séance scene was a lot of fun, if not a little freaky. Come to think of it, when I was writing at night, I would constantly be looking over my shoulder since the book was creeping me out in parts.

8. What do you do when you are not writing?

Taking my dog Marshall on walks or runs, playing with my kids, hanging out with my wife, enjoying the beautiful outdoors in Utah, playing video games, watching old X-Files episodes or listening to music (I have a huge collection). I also do some art work on the side, and keep saying I am going to put some pieces up for sale, but so far I haven’t actually taken the time to find any buyers.

9. What would you like to learn to do that you haven’t?

I have had a strange fascination with playing the bass guitar ever since I was a teenager. I really love music that has a heavy or funky bass rift to it and really admire bass guitarists. I have no idea where I would fit in time to learn, and so my desire continues unrealized.

10. Where do you write?

Everywhere but the shower, literally. I always carry a little notebook with me just in case genius flashes into my mind, which it regularly does.

Scott Bennett leaves behind a successful career as a New York City attorney and a marriage ended by violence for the promise of a new life in rural North Carolina. Scott buys his dream house – an old Victorian – not realizing why it has sat vacant for years. Things for Scott seem to be looking up when he meets a younger woman, Rachel, and a spark of romance ignites. Everything changes when Scott discovers a locked box and a matching key on his property. Against the advice of an old friend turned healer, Scott opens the box and awakens an old evil. Scott is forced to lean on a decaying web of support as he is relentlessly assaulted by the unseen. Questioning his own sanity, Scott fights hopelessly for his life and very soul.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Recipe Wednesday: Lindsay Below

Dishwasher Fish
In honor of my new release, His Familiar Touch, in the Paramourtal anthology, I am going to share a verified Newfie recipe. Because in my story, Rikkita is a werecougar, I am sharing a fishy recipe. While I am a vegetarian, this recipe is for those who eat meat (or fish, in this case).
Note: Before you begin, you want to run your dishwasher without soap or dishes through a heavy cycle, to clean out any lingering soap, etc. Once will do the trick.

2 whole fish (Arctic char or salmon)

1 1/2 cups bread crumbs

2 medium green onions, chopped

1 tbsp savory

1 tbsp butter, melted

Using a large, sharp knife, cut the heads (to behind the gills) and the tails off the fish. Slice it in half lengthwise parallel to the cutting board. De-bone and gut the fish, leaving only the pink meat.
Mix bread crumbs, onion, savory, and butter in a large bowl. Stuff the fish with mixture.
Wrap the fish in at least three sheets of tin foil (5-6 is recommended). Put fish in the top rack. Set the dishwasher to run for one full cycle.
Uncover and serve.

L. K. Below writes romance and speculative fiction. Under her full name, Lindsay Below, she publishes young adult books. Visit her at

Want to win a signed copy of Paramourtal? Comment here or on any of the other stops on L. K. Below’s blog tour (schedule to be found on her blog) for a chance to win! Contest closes November 15th. Winner to be announced on

ExcerpTuesday: Ginger Simpson

Ginger and I have known each other online for a few years. I'm happy to welcome her to my blog today.

A hurricane! Just what Linda Morrison needs to welcome her to her new home in Florida. Fearing her recent purchase may end up a bundle of sticks, she’s relieved when a hero swoops in wearing a yellow slicker and offering help. Carlos Mejia is eye candy for sure, but she needs those muscles to help board up the window. Together they ride out the storm raging outside, but inside there’s more than a little electricity in the air.

Here's the excerpt:
Linda sat on the couch and hugged herself against the chill. She’d lit more candles to compensate for the covered windows and watched as Carlos knelt at the fireplace and held a match to the paper covering on her store-bought log. “I’m glad I picked up a few of those while shopping. I didn’t really expect to need a roaring fire in Florida, but I like the ambiance sometimes.”

The compressed wood caught fire and small flames flickered beyond the screen. Carlos came and sat next to her. “You’re shivering.” He tugged the afghan off the sofa’s arm and covered her.

She snuggled down and pulled her legs up under the crocheted blanket. “I think it’s more from fright than the cold. I can’t imagine a stronger wind than what we just experienced.” Carlos rubbed his arms. “It is colder than normal. Bet you think I’m pretty silly for wearing a tank top.”
“I hadn’t really thought about it.” She lied. Like any woman in her right mind wouldn’t think about those ‘guns’ and having them around her.
“It wasn’t this chilly when I got dressed this morning. I’d planned on going to the gym.”
“Well, I appreciate that you came here instead. I don’t know what I would have done without you.” She curled her knees under her body then adjusted her cover. “So tell me about yourself.”
“Not much to tell. I spent some time in the army, trying to be all I could be, like they advertise, but it didn’t work — don’t much like taking orders. Got married and divorced after finding myself hitched to a woman who could out-bark any drill sergeant, and I’m living with my sis to help her out. Her husband passed away a couple of years back.”
Linda lowered her eyes. “I heard.” She lifted her gaze. “It’s one thing to be left alone, but with a child…”
“What about you?” Carlos swiveled sideways and rested in the vee where the sofa back and arm met.
“It’s a boring story. I got married in my mid-twenties, but my husband wasn’t content with only one woman in his life. I stayed with him, hoping maybe counseling would help, but it didn’t.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Authorsday: Rich Brawer

Welcome Rich Brawer

How did I get started writing?

I began my writing career in the mid 1990’s, a couple of years before I retired. I lived at the Jersey Shore and commuted to New York City by train. I would read the newspaper in the morning and a book on the trip home. Occasionally I would read a newspaper story and wonder what would happen if?

One such story was about a father in Boston whose child was born with brain damage and he refused to take him home from the hospital. He thought he could return the child like a damaged piece of merchandise he bought in a store. The nurses were outraged and their disgust was quoted in the article. That’s when my imagination took over and I asked myself, “What if the child was misdiagnosed?”

With mysteries being my favorite genre to read, I took that thought and began making notes. The notes turned into paragraphs and the paragraphs into chapters. Thus my first Murder at the Jersey Shore mystery, “The Nurse Wore Black” was created.
So now that I had a book, but what do I do with it?

Being a complete novice, I did the usual things most new writers do. I sent out query letters to agents and received a stack of rejection letters. Lamenting my woes to a friend, he told me about a publisher, Vista Publishing, in Long Branch, New Jersey, the town next to mine that specialized in publishing books about nurses. Excited, I dropped in cold to their office. Two weeks later they said they wanted to publish my book. Wow!

When I saw the finished product, the “Wow” factor fell into the depression factor. The cover was not well done and leafing through the book I saw a number of typos. The publisher had never discussed the cover with me nor did they give me a proof of the typeset book to look over. At the time I didn’t know enough to ask for them. As far as I knew, I thought they would do the editing as well as create a proper cover. Needless to say, I did not push to sell this book. It was an embarrassment.

The moral to this story is, be involved in every step of the publishing process. View the cover. Don’t take it for granted. Demand a proof of the book. If you find poor editing, demand the publisher re-edit or pay to have it edited yourself.

My second book in the Murder at the Jersey Shore mystery series, “Diamonds are for Stealing,” was inspired by another newspaper article about phony diamonds. It was published in 2001 by Hilliard and Harris. With the above experience still weighing heavily on my mind I was totally involved in the publishing process, especially proof reading. Hilliard and Harris did a wonderful job editing and publishing this book. I could not find one mistake. So what happened that made me not want to give them my next book? It was in their contract, which here again was a learning experience.

As with Vista, Hilliard paid all the publication expenses to bring this book to market. However, they had a clause in their contract that said they do not pay royalties until they recoup their publishing expenses from book sales. Again, my naiveté let me pass right over this clause without a thought. (My daughter was not yet a lawyer.)

As we all know, writing is a dual process, creating the product and publishing the product. Neither party has anything without the other. Since I created the product and would be spending money to promote and sell the book, I felt I was entitled to some return from the sale of book one even if it was only a nickel a copy. (I did eventually sell enough books to get some royalties.)

Again, the moral: Read your contract carefully and get a lawyer to go over it. Study every clause. If you don’t like something try and get it changed. If the publisher balks you have two choices, agree or don’t sign, but at least you know exactly what you are getting into.

“Beyond Guilty” was published by L & L Dreamspell. I found them when someone on a Yahoo group I belong to mentioned them. Having had my fill of rejection letters from agents, I contacted the author published by L & L Dreamspell and was told they were highly reputable. I found that to be 100% true. They pay an advance as well as royalties from book one. However, I still had my daughter, now a lawyer specializing in contracts, go over the contract. After a few changes I signed and have found L & L has followed through on everything they said.

I don’t know what big publishers do for their writers, but L & L sends out review copies, sent me a number of review copies that I could distribute, and sent me posters to give away. My first statement came out not long after the book was published, and my promotion had not gone far enough to garner a lot of sales. I have been promoting the book actively and hope my next statement has covered the advance that L & L gave me, and that I have made some money for them.

What do you do with your book after it’s published?
In today’s world, even if you are published by a large New York City publisher, unless you are a major author you have to promote your own book. Thus you need a marketing plan. There are many ways to promote your work―social networking sights, twitter, book signings, mass mailings, through your website, joining internet book discussion groups, distributing flyers at conferences you attend.

You must create your own plan and work at it if you want to sell books, and you cannot be shy about promoting you book. For example, as I said I live at the Jersey Shore. In the summer, my wife and I go to the beach a couple of days a week. When I see someone reading a book I give him one of my promotional flyers which I always have with me. No one has rejected the flyer and often a conversation is struck up with a total stranger. Promotion is time consuming but when you see the reviews and get the feedback it is well worth the effort.

What is my writing process?

First: I form a major premise along with the ending of the story. In the mysteries it’s naturally "who-done-it." In “Beyond Guilty”, a suspense novel, it’s how to the protagonist gets out of peril.
Second: I create my protagonist and antagonist―their looks, quirks, and their experiences in life that affect their personalities and the way they react to events.

Third: I create a very rough outline as to how the story will progress from beginning to end. Note I said very rough as this changes as the story evolves.

Fourth: I try to create a captivating opening chapter such as finding the body in the mysteries, or putting the protagonist in jeopardy in the suspense novel.

Finally: I write from my opening chapter to the conclusion of the story. I strive to take the reader on a journey that is never a straight line, but more like the line of a gyrating stock market. I place red herrings in my mysteries, and adventure and jeopardy in my suspense novel. However, one thing remains constant―there is always CONFLICT. The most important aspect of a novel is the conflict between the characters. Without conflict there is no story.

How did I learn to write?

I read a couple of books and many magazine articles on writing, but in writing as in life, the most important lessons come from doing. Remember, I said I was an avid reader. If you want to write, first read, read, read. If you read books with the idea that you may want to be a writer, then you will consciously start analyzing how the author created his work. When you start writing, write the type of story you like to read.

Once you begin your writing try to find a critique group that will give you honest feedback on character development, dialogue, voice, plot, conflict and setting. But don’t automatically take anyone’s critique as gospel. Remember, it’s your story. Analyze the critiques to see if they have merit. Say you have a six person group. If one person criticizes something then it may or may not be valid. But if three or four say the same thing about a segment then you should take it under serious consideration.

I hope my experiences will help you with your writing and publishing efforts.

Richard Brawer

Beyond Guilty: Book Jacket

Teenager, Eileen Robinson, lives in an ideal African-American family. When her father is murdered, her sheltered life spirals downward into gloom. Her mother is forced to work nights cleaning offices. Instead of enjoying her carefree childhood years, Eileen is relegated to babysitting her two younger sisters. One night she sneaks out on them. Trying to cook something, they die in a fire. Tormented, Eileen runs away from home. Befriended by a drug dealer, she moves in with him. At twenty-one she is a single mother, falsely convicted of murder. At thirty-two she is executed. Or is she?

“Beyond Guilty” was inspired by a screen play written by my daughter. In her script, the protagonist is an African-American male wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to death. He escapes and fights to prove his innocence. Despite her being a lawyer in the movie industry and the screen play winning a number of awards including $1000.00 from a “Writer’s Digest” contest she was unable to generate interest from her associates in Hollywood. I said to her, “Let me write it as a book with an African-American female protagonist as there are many African-American actresses looking for a strong, leading role.” Thus “Beyond Guilty” was born.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Recipe Wednesday: M.E Kemp with Apple Pie

Bio: M. E. Kemp's ancestors landed in Salem in 1636 and settled the town of Oxford, MA in 1713, so her roots go back. Kemp believes American history is just as bloody and colorful as medieval Britain and she has set out to prove it in a series featuring two nosy Puritans, Hetty Henry and Creasy Cotton. Kemp is a graduate of UMass Worcestor and has a Master's degree from Siena College, a small Franciscan college with a big basketball team in Upstate NY. Kemp lives in Saratoga Springs, NY with her husband Jack Rothstein and two cats: Boris and Natasha, who help her with her editing.


2 Pillsbury pie crusts, prerolled

4 generous cups apples - Northern spies, Cortlands or Crispins are good for this pie

3/4 cup sugar

4 Tblspn. flour

1 teaspn. cinnamon

dash nutmeg

pinch of dried orange peel

pats of butter

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Peel and slice apples into a large bowl, add sugar and flour; mix well. Place one pie crust in bottom of a 9 inch pan, add apple mixture. Sprinkle with spices and a pinch of dried orange peel. Top with little pats of butter (about a tablespoon) and the top crust. Crimp and flute crusts with fingers. Prick top crust with fork to vent. Bake in oven at 425 degrees for fifteen minutes; lower heat to 350 degrees and bake for thirty more minutes or until crust is nicely browned.


DEATH OF A DANCING MASTER: Hetty Henry is one nosy Puritan who likes to solve crimes. Her partner, young minister Increase "Creasy" Cotton, is trained to ferret out the guilty secrets of the human soul. Boston's magistrates and ministers have done their best to harass the new dancing master from the Shining City, so when he is found with a sword sticking out of his gut, Hetty and Creasy have plenty of suspects. Who killed Boston's bad boy? (DEATH OF A DANCNG MASTER, to be released by L &L Dreamspell on November 20th.) ###

Monday, October 18, 2010

ExcerpTuesday: Carolyn J. Rose

Carolyn J. Rose and Mike Nettleton share an excerpt of their latest Sometimes a Great Commotion.

“Thank you,” Elspeth Hunsaker said as Shelley Perkins set the plate in front of her and topped off her coffee. It was important to display good manners, even if Shelley was performing a paid-for service and not, in the strictest sense, doing a favor.

“You’re welcome.” Shelley totaled Elspeth’s lunch bill. Coffee and the crab cake special: $4.69. Elspeth had already done the math and planned to leave a thirty-one cent tip. Fifteen percent, she rationalized, was merely a guideline, not a law. Besides, the crab cake looked a little scorched.

Shelley set the check beside the salt and pepper shakers. “Can I do anything else for you?”

Elspeth couldn’t pass up that invitation. “You could stop consorting and cohabiting with the boy who sells that blasphemous ice cream.”

Shelley rolled her eyes.

“I’m sorry to be so blunt,” Elspeth said, well aware that she felt not a scrap of remorse. The girl needed to know. . . “I have it on good authority that you two even shower together.” Good authority being a strong pair of binoculars and the gauzy curtain in Ichabod Ferris’s bathroom window.

A slow smile lifted Shelley’s full lips. “But Miz Hunsaker, you voted for water conservation, didn’t you?”

“I most certainly did.” Elspeth sat up straighter, proud of having done her civic duty. “Before I cast that vote I asked myself ‘What would Jesus do about the water situation?’”

Shelley tugged at one crystal earring. “Walk on it?”

“No! Not waste it,” Elspeth snapped.

Shelley nodded. “Showering with a friend means less waste.”

Elspeth felt blood throbbing in her temples, but before she could retort, Shelley sashayed off. . . She eyed the jumbo-sized crab cake that sprawled across her plate next to a mound of French fries, a scoop of coleslaw, a paper cup of tartar sauce, and a sprig of parsley. . . Her breath caught in her throat. Jaw dropping in disbelief, she stared at the grill marks on the crab cake’s golden breading, rotated the plate a quarter turn, leaned closer and stared some more. Yes, there was his hair, his nose, his chin. As she gazed upon it, the crab cake seemed to glow with an inner light and Elspeth was certain that, faint and far in the distance, she heard a celestial choir.

Who would have thought a sign from above would appear in the Devil’s Food Café?

Again she leaned close, cocking her head to better hear any utterance emanating from the scorch marks between chin and nose, the scorch marks that—if she squinted—looked almost like lips. She listened with every fiber of her being, holding her breath until she felt her eyes bug out. And then she was certain she heard a wisp of a whisper. “Go forth.”

“I will,” she breathed. “I’ll go forth. But what shall I go forth and do?”

“Go forth and—”

Crash. Clatter.

“Oh, hell,” Shelley yelled from the kitchen. “I dropped the damn silverware tray.”

Suppressing a murderous urge, Elspeth calmed herself, cleared her mind, and listened once again. Alas, the crab cake spoke no more.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Authorsday: John Grant

Today John Grant is under the microscope.

How long have you been writing?
Since the early 1980s. I began my career in the late 1960s in book publishing, becoming an editor/editorial director before eventually being "downsized" from a company that was far from London – i.e., far from where, to an even greater extent than now, UK publishing was all happening. I had a small child, and thus no wish to move back to the big city. The options open to me were (a) writing and (b) freelance editing, both of them pretty precarious occupations, so I decided to try doing both and see which one turned out best. In the event, both strands of my new career took off simultaneously, and I never quite had the nerve to drop one or the other. The result was a couple of decades of gross overwork.

More recently, since I moved here to the States, the freelance-editorial aspect of my life has dropped off considerably – I don't have the bits of paper that US editorial managers like – but I've picked up a lot more ghosting work. Also, until a few years ago I was, even though based here, commissioning the books for the UK fantasy-art imprint Paper Tiger and being a general US stringer for that company.

How did you pick the genre you write in?

I don't know that any longer I write in such a thing as a genre – and certainly I don't write in just a single genre. I used to think of myself as a fantasy/sf writer (at least, when I wasn't writing nonfiction, which represents some two-thirds of my output), but I'm not so sure that's true any longer. Some of my stories definitely do still fall into standard categories, sort of – for example, my story "Memoryville Blues", which Pete Crowther and Nick Gevers recently bought for The Anthology Formerly Known As Postscripts, could easily be thought of as horror or urban fantasy – but a lot of other pieces tend to be a bit more confusing, especially when I'm playing with what people regard as genre tropes. My most recent novel, Leaving Fortusa, seems to have created exactly this confusion: it's kind of a series of linked cameos on dystopian/If This Goes On themes, which are normally thought of as being in the province of sf, but . . . well, as a friend put, I really threw everything in. The result really belongs to no genre at all – in my opinion it's a mainstream novel in the sense that, say, John Barth's novels are mainstream. Some of the reviewers got this. It was quite amusing watching others fail to do so. Then again, my Ed McBain homage The City in These Pages, while in essence a cosmological fantasy taking the form of a police procedural, got a very favorable review in one of the crime/mystery venues. My story "The Life Business", which appeared in the recent Gerard Brennan/Mike Stone-edited anthology Requiems for the Departed, is a psychological thriller, yet at least one of the crime-fiction reviewers has read it as a fantasy. And so on.

A quite different example would be "The Lonely Hunter", a novella that's coming out next year. Although this reads (I hope!) as if it were a fantasy and maybe also as a literary murder mystery, in the event it's really a mainstream story about writing, about imagination, and about wish-fulfillment/self-delusion. I love it to pieces! As it's coming from PS Publishing, who're more normally associated with dark fantasy and the like, it'll be interesting to see what readers make of it.

It's maybe no surprising that these days I'm reading a lot more translated fiction than I used to. Many of the authors working outside the anglophone cultures are far less worried about this whole genre business than we are. Where, for example, would you classify something like Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind? At the moment I'm reading The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez; the US publishers have tried to present it as a quirky murder mystery (and, to judge by the review quotes, many of the reviewers have tried to jam it into that mental category too), but that seems to me to miss its point(s).

What was the name of the first novel you wrote? Did you try to publish it?

The first novel I started writing was when I was about seven. It was called The Ghost of Horror Mansion, and I was maybe a dozen handwritten pages into it – representing some 15 whole chapters, you understand – when it all began to seem too much like hard work. My first full novel I wrote in my teens, and sadly the title is now lost to me. I do remember it was all angsty and acned and "clever", and that about 95% of the way through it dawned on me that this was all godawful. I finished it for the sake of being able to say I'd finished it, but I never looked at it again and somewhere along the line it found the landfill of its dreams.

My first actual published novel was The Dark Door Opens, which was the first in a series of 12 I wrote as a companion series to Joe Dever's Lone Wolf game books. I'd published a bunch of nonfiction books by then, of course, but at most a handful of stories, so when I was commissioned to write these novels it was a bit of a jump in at the deep end. At the time I never thought that, 25 years later, those books would still be around. As it is, Joe and I are expecting their latest reissue – from DarkQuest – sometime soon. (They were due to start reappearing this past spring, but there've been delays.)

What do you know now that you are published that you didn’t know pre-published that you wish you knew?

How difficult it is to make a living doing this.

How many rejections have you received?

About a billion, I should think – and that's even before you start counting the ones I got in my teens, when I was busily beavering away writing short sf stories that mercifully never saw the light of day. As soon as I finished one – and that was quite often, because 2000 words was in those days a major epic as far as I was concerned – I'd send it off to the magazine New Worlds, whose staff were inordinately kind and encouraging in their rejection letters. I used to keep a collection of those letters, from Mike Moorcock et al., in a hardback binder, which unfortunately I lost over the years: I'm sure it'd have been of interest to some scholar somewhere to see quite how generous these good people were with their time. Anyway, back from New Worlds the stories would eventually come, and so off I'd send them at once to the other Brit spec-fic mag that was running at the time, Science Fantasy (later Impulse and SF Impulse). This meant that to my collection of kindly rejection letters I could now add similar ones from the likes of Keith Roberts!

There were giants in those days, I tell you, and most of them rejected a few stories of mine at some stage or another along the way . . .

What other time period besides your own would you like to experience?

I used to really, really, wish I could visit the wonderful hi-tech future we all thought was coming down the line – flying cars! 3D television! starships! jetpacks! inexhaustible sex robots! What was there not to love? Nowadays, alas, I don't think we have a future.

What is the one thing your heroes would do that you wouldn’t?

My heroes and heroines do all kinds of stuff that I wouldn't. When I'm writing a piece of fiction, one of the first things that happens – sometimes it's the first, even before the story idea occurs to me – is that the focal character pops into my mind. There's then a period when I'm trying to get into that character's head, find out what makes them tick – become that character, in a sense . . . which can be a bit frightening for those around me, depending on the character! (Obviously the setup's not quite that simple, because most stories will have more than one focal character, but this is the gist of it.) I think it's because of this way of progressing that I most often write in the first person.

Later, when I'm writing the story, really it's a case of my following that character to see what s/he does – and often these are things I'd never dream of doing myself. For example, I'm a very convinced pacifist, yet some of my characters can be pretty violent. To stick with the obvious, there are different romantic/sexual attractions too, especially when my focal characters are female or, as in one story, male but gay. I suppose one of the big attractions of writing fiction is to find out what it would be like if you were a completely different person.

Do you plot or do you write by the seat of your pants?

A bit of a mixture, really. As I say, it's usually a matter of my characters taking me along for the ride, so my fiction can go some pretty unexpected places – unexpected to me, at least. That said, I generally have a fairly clear idea of the end of the story before I begin writing, so it's not an entirely unguided process. I think, though, that if it ever became a matter of just following a preconstructed skeleton – a sort of paint-by-numbers exercise – I'd do something else instead. Even when I was writing those old Lone Wolf novels, where necessarily a good deal of plot had been worked out in advance, I was still allowed to introduce fairly centrally a few loose-cannon characters so that I never quite knew how I was going to match up the fiction to the pre-existing plot.

One of the more minor of those characters was a parody S&S barbarian warrior called Thog the Mighty. By a very complicated process, he gave his name to the Thog's Masterclass feature of Dave Langford's newszine Ansible.

What are you working on at the moment?

I'm due to deliver by the end of the year a nonfiction book called Denying Science, which Prometheus will publish next fall. It's proving to be an immense labor, for the very good reason that science denialism has been reaching a kind of crescendo in the past few years, with the USA at the forefront. People don't like the fact that science says we've got to change our ways in a hurry or climate change is basically going to put an end to our civilization PDQ, so, rather than take constructive action, they convince themselves there must be something wrong with the science – just like there had to be something wrong with the science that told us smoking causes lung cancer and heart disease. It's all very kindergarten. Of course, climate change isn't the only field in which people are busily denying science: we have the anti-vaxers rejecting the science that demonstrates conclusively there's no connection between vaccination and autism; there are the people who'll swear blind AIDS is exclusively a "gay plague" and anyway a manmade virus; there are the creationists and the IDiots, as ever busily denying the science of evolution; and so on and on and on. You even get state governors, for purely political reasons, denying scientific evidence in order not to pardon wrongfully convicted prisoners, as happened – disgustingly – in the Cameron Todd Willingham case a few years back. And then there's . . .

In what I laughingly describe as my spare time, I've just finished doing an extended essay on time-travel literature for a scholarly book on sf subgenres that Keith Brooke's putting together for publication next fall by Palgrave-Macmillan, The Sub-Genres of Science Fiction: Strange Divisions and Alien Territories, and I've been asked to do all the art entries for the massive new online third edition of the Clute/Nicholls (now Clute/Nicholls/Langford) The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, for whose second edition I was dogsbody editor 'way back when. I'm making notes for a book on failed predictions of the end of the world and a big encyclopedia of film noir; trying to finish a short story; and spurring my agent on to sell a "for children of all ages" bedtime book called The Velociraptor who Came for Christmas, fabulously illustrated by Chris Baker.

You've won two Hugos, a World Fantasy Award, a Locus Award and a bunch of others. Any recent developments on the awards front?

Under my real name, Paul Barnett, I ran the fantasy-artbook imprint Paper Tiger for a while, and for this work I was lucky enough to earn a Chesley Award and a nomination for the World Fantasy Award. I suppose I should add that just recently the title of my 2008 novel The Dragons of Manhattan won the Meager Puddle of Limelight Award – an annual piece of fun organized by writer Jon Gibbs.

Actually, I say The Dragons of Manhattan came out in 2008, but that's really just the year of its book publication. I originally wrote the novel as an online serial for the (alas, now deceased) international journalism site BlueEar. I had to produce a new piece of text, short or long, for them three times a week until the book was done, and so devising a structure for the novel that could accommodate those times when I was up to my eyes in other things proved something of a challenge. Then, once the book was finished, it was bought as a three-part serial – novella-sized parts – for the fiction magazine Argosy, which sadly folded after just one episode. And then finally came the printed book.

But I digress . . .

Author Bio:

John Grant is author of some 60 books, including novels like The World, The Far-Enough Window and most recently The Dragons of Manhattan and Leaving Fortusa. His Dragonhenge, illustrated by Bob Eggleton, was shortlisted for a Hugo in 2003. His first collection, Take No Prisoners, appeared in 2004. His anthology New Writings in the Fantastic was shortlisted for a British Fantasy Award. In nonfiction, he has coedited with John Clute The Encyclopedia of Fantasy and written all three editions of The Encyclopedia of Walt Disney’s Animated Characters. Among recent nonfictions are Discarded Science, Corrupted Science and Bogus Science. His website is at

Book Blurb: since Dragons has just won Jon's award ...

The supposed leaders of a nation remarkably like today's America hope the populace never discovers who’s really in charge – ancient shapeshifting dragons that regard our species' survival as an item somewhere near the bottom of the agenda.

Sacked editor Norris Gonfalcon and femme fatale Jasmine Frimhalt investigate the apocalyptic schemes of the most powerful of all the dragons, Buster Maltravis, pillar of Wall Street. Aided by a depressive arms fetishist with fundamentalist convictions, an investigative journalist with Attitude, a self-styled “panhandler’s panhandler” and a pair of implausible virgins (as bait), Norris and Jasmine head for an inevitable showdown upon whose outcome depends . . . something.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Recipe Wednesday: Joanna Aislinn

Hello everyone! Many thanks to Chris for allowing me to drop in again. This time I’m sharing an “accidental” summer recipe (chicken-zucchini stuffed tacos) that can easily be made all year. (This one surprised the heck out of me. Guess it’s that creativity-thang spilling into other areas. )

I love zucchini—especially fresh from the garden (nothing else like it); it works so well with other flavors. While making beef tacos for my kids, I made a base recipe (zuch and onions, see below) and was thinking about using it to top grillled chicken breast. (Use store-bought/pre-cooked or your own–you can even use leftover chicken from a rotisserie or home-roasted bird.) I wound up stir-frying fresh (raw) chicken breast (cut into one-inch thick strips) in the same pan I made the base recipe, adding the base at the end to heat it through. I seasoned all of it with taco seasoning, stuffed my (crunchy) taco shells (soft will do, too; it’s a preference), topped it with mild salsa and shredded Mexican style cheese–OMG! Delicious!

Base recipe: zucchini-onion sauté: Small to medium zucch are best; vary amounts based on how many people you’ll be feeding. (Make extra and use it for something else—it keeps in the fridge, cooked or not.) A small zucch will feed one person; a medium 2-3 depending on how you use the base. Heat about 2-3 tablespoons of oil (canola or olive oil are my preferences) in a large non-stick frying pan. Cube zucch (about one inch in size), chop a medium or large onion and sauté both to desired level of tenderness. Season to taste with any/all of the following: salt, pepper, Adobo, seasoned salt, salt-free seasoning. The base is done! (BTW, this recipe lends itself just as easily to roasting. Heat your oven to at least 375˚F. Spray a glass or metal pan with cooking spray, add the veggies, spray them and stir to coat, add your seasonings and roast until the mix is tender and even a little browned. Well-cooked onion carmelizes and has a sweet flavor to it. Done! (The latter, roasted version is particularly suited to any diet—both veggies are considered ‘free’ foods, meaning, you can eat unlimited amounts.)

Using the base: (1) Eat as is—you just made a side dish. (2) Use it to top any kind of pasta, ravioli or perogies—a vegetarian special. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and grated cheese, add a quick tomato salad* or grilled tomato oreganata* as a side and an elegant lunch or light dinner is on the table in a very short time. (3) make chicken-zucchini tacos or (4) stuff the Bam-Bam club*!

*See my new blog page for these recipes and don’t forget those at my website.

BTW, I’m always thrilled to have reader-feedback from anyone who tries my culinary concoctions—I mean creations, lol! And I love when people share theirs.

Again I express my heartfelt thanks to Chris for allowing me this visit in her corner of the World Wide Web, and to all of you who stopped by today.

Trust and stability are empty words to Carrie Norwell. Her brothers were murdered; her father died upon arrival at the scene. Five years later, her heart remains impenetrable. Billy Jay Eldridge believes Carrie is the right girl but is clueless his noble career aspirations will be the biggest obstacle to getting Carrie to accept what she wants and needs most.

Joanna Aislinn is an avid reader whose writing roots stretch back to her early teenage days. Life got in the way until ten years ago, when the story playing out in her head insisted she put it down on virtual paper. She's been writing and honing her craft ever since. No Matter Why (The Wild Rose Press), Joanna's debut novel hit the virtual shelves on January 15, 2010. At present, she’s busy revising its sequel, learning all she can about promo, building her web presence and finding time to work a day job and manage a home along with everything else!

Monday, October 11, 2010

ExcerpTuesday: Melanie Atkins

Today welcome Melanie Atkins.


Melanie Atkins a multi-published author of romantic suspense, a fan of crime dramas, and an avid reader. Writing is more than an escape for her -- it's a way of life. She grew up in the Deep South listening to tall tales and penning stories about her cats. Now she writes gripping stories of love, suspense, and mystery with the help of her furry little feline muses.


Detective Kevin Jacobs believes integrity is the most important trait a cop can possess, until a beautiful doctor accuses him of murder and he's forced to take her hostage in order to clear his name. Rebecca Daniels cooperates with Kevin, and soon finds herself in a fight for her very life -- and also for her heart

BUY LINK: Orleans/Detail.bok




He gritted his teeth. "We're going to get up together and you won't make a sound. Got that?"

She didn't answer. Didn't move, didn't breathe. Silence filled the space around them so completely Kevin forgot to breathe, too. When he did, he drew in the bitter tang of blood. The coppery scent caught in his throat.

He gripped the back of her neck and squeezed, careful to keep his fingernails from digging into her tender skin. "You hear me?"

She nodded slowly, and a lone tear dripped down her cheek. Her pulse skittered wildly beneath his hand.

He tamped down the urge to be gentle with her slender, quivering body. He needed her to fear him so she wouldn't cause a commotion as they left the courthouse. How he'd get away without leaving a trail of blood, he didn't know. But he had to try, and she was his best hope.

"Get up." He rose and pulled her with him.

She held herself rigid. He grabbed her arm and propelled her toward the window. The light hit her face and he reeled from the animosity written there. Her eyes were the color of a clear summer sky. They snapped with rage.

"You killed Judge Boykin." Her sharp words made him blanch.

He tightened his grip on her arm. "It wasn't me."

"Oh, no? I saw you." Her accusing gaze slid down his black-clad body and he suddenly realized he and Fowler could be mistaken for twins -- except for the blood now soaking his shirt and jeans.

She tried to wriggle free, but he held her fast.

"I can't let you go. I need your help."

"Are you crazy?" she demanded, gaping at him.

A wave of dizziness washed over him, and he swallowed, hard. "I have to get out of here. I'm losing blood fast."

She looked at his side and her eyes widened. "Oh, my God."

"He stabbed me."

"Who did?" Her gaze jerked to his. "The judge?"

"No." There wasn't time to explain further. He eyed the window.

"There's no way out," she said, "except the door."

"We'll see about that." He lifted the Glock to her head. "Walk over to the window. Now."

"Surely you're not planning to--"

He glared at her.

The blood drained from her face. "You are."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Authorsday: Cherish D'Angelo

Interview with romantic suspense author Cherish D'Angelo

Thank you so much, Chris, for hosting me during my Cherish the Romance Virtual Book Tour, which launches my contemporary romantic suspense, Lancelot's Lady.

What was the name of the first novel you wrote? Did you try to publish it?

Beckoning Wrath. I would have tried to publish it, but Beckoning Wrath was stolen. I'd brought it to school to show my high school English teacher and someone broke into my locker. The only thing missing was my manuscript, which had been typed. Since this was back in the early 80s, it was the only copy.

What do you consider your strengths in terms of your writing?
I have a very firm grasp of my characters and the plot before I even start writing. That I see as a definite strength as many writers I know, haven't got a clue what's going to happen or how their book will end. I always know. My other strength is the ability to really get into my characters' emotions.

What do you consider your weakness and what strategies do you use to overcome it?
My biggest weakness is that I can be distracted from writing by other things that may seem important. Like laundry. Or dishes. Or shopping. I've learned to let some things go in the interest of accomplishing my goals. Goal setting is the key for me. I set my goals early in the day. When I accomplish them, I can move on to other things. Like laundry. Maybe...

How many rejections have you received?
I've received hundreds of rejections. I've been submitting manuscripts since my early 20s. I haven't counted them, but I have enough to wallpaper my home office, probably twice.

What was the worst advice you've been given? Did you know it at the time?
"Don't EVER self-publish a book! It'll ruin your career. No one will take you seriously. A traditional publisher will never pick you up and they'll never publish any self-published book. And you won't get an agent." That was the advice given to me years ago by various people, most of them traditionally published writers. At the time, I believed them, so I sent out query after query and followed the "rules". (See above question and answer.)

That advice has proved to be the very worst advice I've ever been given―in my life. Not only did I successfully self-publish a book, I've successfully self-published many. It has definitely NOT ruined my career; it kick-started it. People take me seriously because they know I'm a serious writer who dedicates herself to the craft and the business. I'm respected in the industry, have been called a "marketing whiz" by many and have spoken at conferences in Canada and the US.
AND I went on to be published by a traditional publisher. AND they published Whale Song, a previously self-published novel. AND a very respected New York agent signed me on as his client. I'm so glad I stopped listening to that terrible advice.

Where do you write?
My writing location changes depending on my mood and my living situation. When we were living in our old home, I wrote in my office about half the time. The other half I spent writing at a couple of local Starbucks. We're now living in a rented home; we sold the old house and are building a new one, which should be ready in November.

I don't have an office in the rental and much of my stuff is still packed, so I write in the living room most of the time. I lounge in a recliner with my laptop and my Pomeranian. Since hubby is at work as well as my daughter, this works for me. But every now and then, I take off to Starbucks. They make better coffee than I do. In my new house, I will have a huge office with a very large window. I can't wait.

What three things would you want with you on a desert island?

My husband, a boat and my laptop.

What place that you haven’t visited would you like to go?
The Bahamas. Especially since doing the research for Lancelot's Lady.

Who is your favorite character in Lancelot's Lady?
Winston Chambers, the evil, blackmailing private investigator that is determined to have Rhianna―at all cost.

You're working on a new novel, SUBMERGED, under your suspense pen name Cheryl Kaye Tardif. Can you tell us about it?
I can. But then I'd have to kill you. ;-)

Author Bio:
When romance author Cherish D'Angelo is not busy relaxing in her hot tub, sipping champagne, eating chocolate-covered strawberries or plotting romantic suspense with scintillating sensuality, she is ruthlessly killing people off in her thrillers as bestselling Canadian suspense author, Cheryl Kaye Tardif.
Cherish's debut romance, Lancelot's Lady placed in the semi-finals of Dorchester Publishing's "Next Best Celler" contest and went on to win an Editor's Choice Award from Textnovel. Currently living in Edmonton, Alberta, Cherish enjoys long walks on the beach, except there aren't any around so she has to make do with trips around the hot tub. And margaritas.

Book Blurb:

When palliative care nurse Rhianna McLeod is given a gift of a dream holiday to the Bahamas from her dying patient, billionaire JT Lance, Rhianna has no idea that her 'holiday' will include being stranded on a private island with Jonathan, an irritating but irresistibly handsome recluse. Or that she'll fall head over heels for the man.
Jonathan isn't happy to discover a drop-dead gorgeous redhead has invaded his island. But his anger soon turns to attraction. After one failed marriage, he has guarded his heart, but Rhianna's sudden appearance makes him yearn to throw caution to the wind.
Lancelot's Lady is available in ebook edition at KoboBooks, Amazon's Kindle Store, Smashwords and other ebook retailers. Help me celebrate by picking up a copy today and "Cherish the romance..."
You can learn more about Lancelot's Lady and Cherish D'Angelo (aka Cheryl Kaye Tardif) at and Follow Cherish from September 27 to October 10 on her Cherish the Romance Virtual Book Tour and win prizes.

Do you have a question for Cherish?
Leave a comment here, with email address, to be entered into the prize draws. You're guaranteed to receive at least 1 free ebook just for doing so. Plus you'll be entered to win a Kobo ereader. Winners will be announced after October 10th.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Recipe Wednesday: Laura Vosika


Laura Vosika spent years as a freelance musician, private music teacher, and band director, before returning to her first love, writing. She is the mother of 9 children, and lives in Minneapolis.




Servings Size: always enough for a family of 11

• 1/2 lb lasagna noodle

1/2 lb ground beef or 1/2 lb turkey

1 onion

1 green pepper



1 (6 ounce) can tomato sauce

1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

1/3 cup margarine

1/8 teaspoon onion powder

1/3 cup flour

• 2 cups milk

Change Measurements: US


Prep Time: 25 mins

Total Time: 1 1/4 hr

1. Boil and drain lasagna noodles.

While noodles boil, brown ground beef or turkey and chopped onion.

Add to meat: green pepper, salt and pepper, tomato sauce, garlic salt, basil, oregano, sugar, and parmesan cheese.

White Sauce: Melt margarine. Combine onion powder, pepper, salt, and flour. Stir into margarine to make a paste. Slowly add milk, stirring constantly over medium heat until thick.

Layer white sauce, noodles, meat sauce, parmesan cheese. Repeat.

Cover and bake for 45" at 375 degrees.

2. Let sit 10-15" before serving.


Shawn Kleiner has it all: money, fame, a skyrocketing career as an international musical phenomenon, his beautiful girlfriend Amy, and all the women he wants--until the night Amy has enough and leaves him stranded in a Scottish castle tower.

He wakes up to find himself mistaken for Niall Campbell, medieval Highland warrior. Soon after, he is sent shimmying down a wind-torn castle wall into a dangerous cross country trek with Niall's tempting, but knife-wielding fiancee. They are pursued by English soldiers and a Scottish traitor who want Niall dead.

Thrown forward in time, Niall learns history’s horrifying account of his own death, and of the Scots’ slaughter at Bannockburn. Undaunted, he navigates the roiled waters of Shawn’s life--pregnant girlfriend, amorous fans, enemies, and gambling debts---seeking a way to leap back across time to save his people, especially his beloved Allene. His growing fondness for Shawn’s life brings him face to face with his own weakness and teaches him the true meaning of faith.

Blue Bells of Scotland is both a historical adventure and a tale of redemption that will be remembered long after the last page has been turned.

Thanks for that yummy lasagna recipe Laura and for stopping by.

Monday, October 4, 2010

ExcerpTuesday: Mary Manners

Mended Heart


“What are you doing here?”

Shane slid two English muffins into the toaster and pressed the lever to warm them. “Claire let me in an hour ago. She had to get to the hospital.”

Jade brushed fingers through long strands of wavy hair and tossed her head to work out the tangles. Her eyes glittered beneath sunlight that streamed through the window over the sink, and she pulled the edges of her powder-blue terrycloth robe tighter before cinching the belt. “I’m not a charity case. I don’t need a babysitter.”

He let the comment slide. “Nice slippers.”

She glanced down to see two fuzzy bunny heads staring back at her.

“Claire bought them for me--a gag gift last Christmas.” The pink of a blush crept up her neck. No matter she wasn’t wearing a lick of makeup and that her hair was matted and tangled--she still looked beautiful.

“I made you breakfast.” He reached for the muffins as they popped from the toaster, nicely browned. He gave each a healthy slap of butter as Jade looked on. The aroma of eggs and crispy bacon filled the air.

“I’m not hungry.” Like a traitor, her stomach chose just that time to let loose a rumble that could have rivaled an earthquake.

“Your belly begs to differ. Did you eat anything at all last night?”

She crossed her arms over her stomach and ignored the question.


Shane Calkin is a former bad-boy-wannabe fighting to raise his spunky niece and a rambunctious puppy.

Jade McAllister nurses a wounded heart as she struggles to escape her mother’s rejection…and Shane’s.

Nine years have passed since they last saw each other, and a terrible secret looms. Will the secret destroy them, or have the years taught them how to trust…and to love?

Mary Manners Bio

I live in the foothills of the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains with my husband, Tim, our daughter Danni, and the cherished pets we’ve rescued from local animal shelters…dogs Molly and Abby and cats Lucky and Gus.

I’m active in my church, where I help cook Wednesday night meals and work with the trustees on church construction and beautification projects. I’m also active with the youth, and help raise funds for mission projects through our breakfast table.

I also teach 7th grade math and English at Seymour Middle School. I love working with teenagers, and have been blessed to know many wonderful children and parents during my 25 years of teaching.

I enjoy the outdoors and am looking forward to cooler autumn weather. I enjoy cultivating flowers, taking long walks with my wonderful husband, and reading romance books while lying in a hammock beneath our century-old shade trees.

Ten percent of every sale of Mended Heart goes to charity.

Thank you Mary for stopping by.