Interview with James Michels

An Interview with James Michels, author of Icebox, Ice Rising and The Ballad of Jonny Carlo

My name is James Michels, and I’m a crime fiction writer from Michigan in the United States. To date, I have two published novels and one that will be published soon. I’ve always had an interest in the world of crime fiction and true crime and have worked for seven years as a corrections officer in state prison.

What is your favourite dragon in literature?

My favorite dragon in literature would have to be the three dragons from Game of Thrones, Drogon, Rhaegal, and Viserion.

I’m not going to be reviewing your newest novel, but from your other published novels, is there one that is your own personal favourite?

I’m not sure if I have a personal favorite book that I’ve wrote. I’d say that The Ballad of Johnny Carlo would have the most appeal to a wider audience.

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

I actually started writing a story when I was in high school once, but that story is pretty much shelved indefinitely because I didn’t follow through on it back then, and that was when my mentality was different. I wasn’t devoted to becoming an author back then. I didn’t even knew I’d like writing.

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

I’d say that the ability to use different words and expressions has improved. I’m working more on my showing/telling ratio.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

I try to get at least one book out a year. My goal is to have at least four by the time I’m thirty. I write as the idea comes to me, so even I don’t know how long it will take me to write a book. Ice Rising took a year to write, The Ballad of Johnny Carlo took maybe a year and a half, and Icebox was less than a year.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

I write on my phone, so I can pretty much write anywhere except at my day job. I prefer to write on my recliner at home in the morning on my days off or in the evening during a work day since I work mornings. With three kids, my writing schedule is not always consistent.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

I am lucky enough to have people close to me who will give honest opinions. My betas are usually my wife, my mom, and a good friend which also edits my work. He’s never steered me wrong on my editing, so I trust his judgment.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

There is a local book store that I enjoy going to, but I absolutely love Barnes and Noble. I could spend a whole day there. I do read eBook from time to time, but I prefer paperback.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

My favorite reading genres have to be true crime and crime fiction. I have picked up urban fiction, romance, some more fantasy, dystopian, and classics over the recent years. Also enjoy horror and dark fantasy. As of right now, the only two genres I have not ventured into are erotica and western.

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

I do manage my own social media. My preferred platforms are Twitter and Facebook. I only spend maybe an hour on them a day, usually to keep up to date on some Facebook groups that have helped me out, post some content to Facebook and Twitter for my followers, and to connect with readers and other writers.

Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next? 

I think it depends on the question being asked if I recycle my answers. I tend to find out more about myself as I answer them, so there is usually a different variation of answer even if the question is the same.

Thanks for your time today, James. I find it so inspiring that you are able to bust out a book a year as well as a day job and kids! Keep up the writing. ~ Rose

Interview with Louis J. Ambrosio

An Interview with Louis J. Ambrosio, author of A Reservoir Man

Louis J. Ambrosio ran one of the most nurturing bi-coastal talent agencies in Los Angeles and New York. He started his career as a theatrical producer, running two major regional theaters for eight seasons. Ambrosio also distinguished himself as an award-winning film producer and novelist over the course of his impressive career.

What is your favorite dragon in literature?

The unnamed dragon Beowolf captures and kills at the end of the tale.

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external hard drive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

This is my first novel, I was busy doing dissertations, reports for graduate school, and then grant applications for my theaters. I do have a collection of poetry from that time which still sits on my desk.

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

Microsoft 365 Word has made a major difference, though I always had a command of syntax and I was always a competent writer.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

Writing “A Reservoir Man,” took me one summer working 2 hours a day, 4 days a week. I approach the book by writing “stream of consciousness,” a way of writing I find inspirational and freeing.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

I imagine I can write anywhere, some places are more pleasant. My office which overlooks my garden is where I enjoy writing currently while being underscored by Mahler, Beethoven, and disco.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

I don’t believe in giving too many people my work, too many opinions spoil the pot. I was fortunate to have 2 friends, one distant and one close to read my book. The close friend, read chapter by chapter. The distant friend read the first pass and urged me to keep editing, which I did, many more times. With my close friend, I was able to share my metaphysical thoughts and inspirations.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

I don’t like ebooks, I want to be able to keep the physical copy with me, I could not agree more with you. I find the most inspiration from hardcover books and I love Barnes and Noble. I get my source material from the classics and the internet.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

My favorite genre is drama and the classics. Anywhere from the 17th century to the 20th century. My tastes have never changed, these books have taught me and showed me my truth and my freedom.

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

Social Media has its place in today’s world but I think it has overreached it’s bounds.  I use ads and reviews on platforms.

Thank you! I hope you enjoy my new book “A Reservoir Man” available now on Amazon

Interview with Frederick Douglass Reynolds

Interview with Frederick Douglass Reynolds

Frederick Douglass Reynolds is a retired LA County Sheriff’s homicide sergeant. He was born in Rocky Mount, Virginia, and grew up in Detroit, Michigan where he became a petty criminal and was involved in gangs. He joined the US Marine Corps in 1979 to escape the life of crime that he seemed destined for. After a brief stint in Okinawa, Japan, he finished out his military career in southern California and ultimately became a police officer with the Compton police department. He worked there from 1985 until 2000 and then transferred to the sheriff’s department where he worked an additional seventeen years.

Frederick retired in 2017 with over seventy-five commendations including a Chief’s Citation, five Chief’s commendations, one Exemplary Service Award, two Distinguished Service Awards, two Distinguished Service Medals, one city of Carson Certificate of Commendation, three city of Compton Certificates of Recognition, one city of Compton Public Service Hero award, one California State Assembly Certificate of Recognition, two State Senate Certificates of Recognition, a County of Los Angeles Certificate of Commendation, one Meritorious Service Award, two city of Compton Employee of the Year Awards, and two California Officer of the Year awards. He lives in Southern California with his wife, Carolyn, and their daughter Lauren and young son, Desmond.  They have six other adult children and nine grandchildren.

What is your favourite dragon in literature?

Lisbeth Salander’s dragon tattoo. Just kidding. Actually, I think my favourite dragon is Smaug, from The Hobbit.

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

Black, White, and Gray All Over is my first novel, but I definitely reshaped it over the years. There came a time early on that I knew I wanted to write a book, because I had seen so much misery and had experienced so much trauma. And this was even before I became a cop. I knew what the title was going to be, because that is what I felt my life had been. I messed around for a little while, jotting down ideas and notes on line-loose leaf paper that I kept in a green colored binder with the title written on a post-it affixed to the front. But I put it away when life got in the way. When two of my colleagues were murdered in 1993, I knew that I would write about that night one day. When I retired in 2017, I started writing again, only now the murders weren’t going to be the focal point of the book. They were certainly going to be a huge part of it, though, as they were such a seminal point in my life.

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

Being able to hold the reader. For years as a police officer and then as a Homicide Detective, especially as a detective, writing is a huge part of the job. You have to be able to convey the story to the district attorney. What you write may one day be read and discussed in the Chambers of the Supreme Court. I worked hard on my writing, being as descriptive and detailed as possible. Before I became a cop, my ideas were a bit jumbled and in disarray.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

Well, my first novel was drawn from true-life experiences. I do know whether writing about yourself is easier, or harder. I do know that I cried several times while writing this book. I think the next book will be easier. I’m going to write a science-fiction crime novel, I think. But its going to have to get put on the backburner. A long-retired detective, who is approaching 80 years old, just dumped about 300 pages of handwritten notes about his life on me, and asked my if I could ‘fix’ it for him. So, I guess I’m going to be a ghost-writer, first. It will probably take me a year to get his notes straightened out and typed up. But I love him, and I am going to do it for him because I know how expensive ghost-writers can be.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

I won’t have that problem. I love to get up early in the morning, make a cup of black coffee and have a slice of cheese and toast in my backyard while looking at the hummingbirds feed. I named two specific ones ‘George’ and ‘Orwell’. I can easily identify them because one has red on his chest and the other one has yellow. After eating, I will break out my lap-top and begin typing. I do love writing with a thick lead pencil, but my hands and fingers stiffen rather quickly and start hurting so I don’t do it as much anymore.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

I didn’t have a beta-reader. There was so much that I didn’t know about this business! My wife, although she has infinitely more education that I do, doesn’t really like to read. She prefers watching sports. However, she would read certain parts of what I wrote. When it held her attention, I knew that perhaps I had written something worth reading. I knew I had her when I caught her crying as she read one part.

The publication company that I went with did editing, and we went back and forth for about two months with suggestions and changes. It was really important to me that I had the book published on August 18, because that is the date my father died and the book is dedicated to him. I got the last version back from the publishers about four or five days before, and I saw four mistakes. I asked the publishing company if the could correct those mistakes and still have the book published by the 18th. When they said it couldn’t be done, I told them to go with it as is. It was more important to me to have that publication date than it was to correct those mistakes. They cost me an award from Feathered Quill, it turns out. Someone who works for them told me that my book was one of the best ones in the contest, but their editors are sticklers for grammar. She commented on a mistake that I didn’t even catch: A quotation mark is missing from the back cover!

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

I love physical books. I have hundreds of them at my house, and even more in storage. E-books just don’t hold the appeal for me, either. I guess you and I are relics of the past. I don’t like the big box bookstores. I like the mom and pop bookstores, where there are one or two people working, both wearing eyeglasses, and at least one of them sitting behind the counter next to a cash register that is surrounded by dusty old books with yellowing pages. Unfortunately, these stores are fading fast and they are hard to find now. I always spend at least fifty dollars whenever I go in one.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

My favorite genre is fantasy and science-fiction novels. I am a big fan of George RR Martin and Aldous Huxley. I worked in True Crime for so, so many years, and I would often escape from that sobering reality by reading fantasy and science fiction. Although a graphic novel, the Watchmen by Alan Moore covers both genres and is one of my favorite books.

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

I use a delightful lady by the name of Monica Kelly, and she has created a very nice author’s page for me. I chose to publish my book with Mindstirmedia, and part of that package included the services of Monica for a few months. Other than that, I post information about my book on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I spend quite a bit of time on my phone now, much to the dismay of my wife, who gets livid if she is talking to me and I pick up my phone and start scrolling. And understandably so.

Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?

Boy, am I! But I realize that hardcore readers are a close-knit bunch and tend to read up on everything about an author they like or a new author that they want to get to know. Because of that, even though a lot of interview questions are similar if not the same, I try my best to give the same answers if only phrased differently.

Thanks so much for your time, Frederick! True crime always facinates me, and it’s fantastic to have you add more diversity to the books out there.

You can find out more about the author here (link) and the book on Amazon (here).

An Interview with Biff Mitchell

An Interview with Biff Mitchell, author of Murder by Coffee and other works

Biff Mitchell lives in a hovel at the edge of the world. He has no life. He has no friends. Neighborhood children throw stones at his hovel. At night, Biff throws stones at his hovel.

Someday Biff plans to write a book about a man who lives in a house that is stoned daily by neighborhood children who—through some magical twist of events—turn into snowmen.

When Spring arrives, the man’s house melts.

What is your favourite dragon in literature?

The only dragon I like is the one I keep in my refrigerator.

I’m not going to be reviewing your newest novel, but from your other published novels, is there one that is your own personal favourite?

My second novel, Team Player, is my favorite. It was the easiest of all my novels to write and the most fun. It’s a satire on the IT industry in which a man who lives in a tree in his office helps 30 naked pagan women save the universe. I work in the IT industry so I had lots of ammunition for this one.

I wrote Team Player so long ago that the illegal software the bad guys want to put on everyone’s computers is a reality and it’s not illegal. We call it malware or any other name that makes it seem like a minor irritant. But when I wrote the novel, I was certain that anyone who would plant something like that would go to jail.

Also, apparently neutrinos have mass. They didn’t while I was writing the novel.

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

I burned my first novel because it was so bad. I had some second thoughts almost as soon as it started peeling off ashes, but it was written on a typewriter with no copy, so I just stared at the flames and tried not to think about what I was doing.

I might try to re-write is some day. It’s a hippie story…so…maybe I’ll just leave it as is…ashes.

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

I’d have to say that my writing style became more relaxed as time marched on and I no longer gave a damn what people thought of my writing. The relaxed style goes well with the sardonic humor and all the nasty things that happen to the characters unfortunate enough to be in one of my stories.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

I do almost all my writing in coffee shops. As soon as I sit down, slurp some coffee, and turn my laptop on, I start writing because I’m in the place where I write.

The only thing that bugs me is people talking on their cell phones. They don’t talk, they yell. This is why I take an expensive pair of Bose noise cancellation headphones with me when I write. They’ve saved so many annoying cell phone addicts from getting a coffee stir stick in the eye.

I even put together a workshop on writing in coffee shops and it’s free here (link).

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

I spent several years as a quality assurance specialist so I do my own editing. BUT…I put the finished manuscript away for up to a year and no less than six months so that I’m coming into the script as fresh as possible.

This isn’t really what I should be doing though. It’s what I tell my writing students not to do and there’s a price to be paid for doing this.

My novel, The Weekly Man, was rejected by 5,309.05 agents because of a typo type error on the first page where I wrote, “he noticed noticed that.” I didn’t notice the double “noticed” but the agents did, and that’s when they stopped reading.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

I like the convenience of my Kindle reader. I can carry as many books as I want anywhere in the world and it comes in handy when I’m waiting for a dental/doctor/shrink appointment.

I get nasty glares from people with their heads buried in their cell phones. It’s like they’re saying: “Who the hell do you think you are? That’s not a phone! Put it away! Be us!”

At which point, I double down on the reading and sometimes read aloud and see if I can make their teeth grind louder than I’m reading.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

I’ve always been attracted to speculative fiction in all its many strange forms, but not just science fiction and fantasy. I like the stuff that dips itself into an impossible story and drowns itself in a barrage of magical realism and humor.

I’d mention my favorite writers but then you’d buy their books and not mine and I’m just not that big-hearted.

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

I use social media until it drives me crazy. I was already pretty far gone before social media taught me to swear like the world was on fire, which is probably will be soon.

I have a main website that’s sort of a portal to everything else. I have website specifically for my writing. I have 1, 2, 3, 4 blogs at WordPress and one somewhere else that I can no longer locate, but the blog is still there. I also have a Facebook page for myself and for each of my novels and my writing in general. Facebook just changed its interface and put me back a year or two.

I also use other social media to promote my writing; for instance, Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit and Pinterest. It never stops and it’s merciless. They change the interfaces and they change the rules.

It drives me just a little bit crazier every day. In fact, I can’t believe I’m writing this without swearing and jumping up and down on my laptop.

A word of warning: If you’re going to use social media to market your books, start with one or two and get to know them inside out before going on to others. Or, just jump right in and go crazy like I did.

Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?

Every single word here has been recycled from hundreds, maybe thousands, of interviews I’ve done. Unfortunately, those were all done for my photography, so some of the words might not make sense in the context of writing. But it saves time.

About Biff’s latest novel

We live in a world teetering on mass extinctions, including humans. Blowing Up dives into both the good and the bad in this out-of-control world with a big dose of surreal situations and dark humor. The book begins with Sleeping in Ditches, the story of a man who epitomizes our increasingly fatalist attitudes towards life in the 21st Century. He attends cocktail parties, office talks in the lunch room and anti-abortion rallies (for the free food). At night, he sleeps in ditches:

“I’ve slept in ditches full of needles and condoms and barking spiders. I wear two wide swatches of red on my back from a slick of bubbling something-or-other at the bottom of a ditch by a chemical plant. I’ve seen small things flitter and flap in the darkness around rusted tin cans while they debated whether to leave me alone or eat me.”

The collection gets its title from the story 100 People, 10 Bats and 1 Car Blowing Up. This story gets into the minds of the people, the bats and the cat in that instant in which they’re blowing up in a nuclear holocaust. Their thoughts are sometimes more disturbing than the explosion:

“There were no walls, no windows, no floor. It was certainly a much different environment than it had been a few minutes before. Chloe’s Coffee Crisp bar was gone before she’d had a chance to finish it and she felt a little ripped off by the timing of things. The nerve: blowing a city up before people have a chance to finish their chocolate bars.”

A Q&A with Lynne Christensen, author of “Aunt Edwina’s Fabulous Wishes”

Q&A with Lynne Christensen, author of Aunt Edwina’s Fabulous Wishes

Lynne Christensen is a world traveler who enjoys visiting museums and archives. She grew up roaming around graveyards in Europe with her genealogy-loving parents in search of elusive ancestors. A lifelong learner, she earned both Master of Business Administration and Bachelor of Commerce degrees plus has over twenty-five years of experience in marketing and corporate communications. Her writing is published in numerous magazine articles, case studies, advertisements and technical manuals. She lives on the West Coast of Canada in a house full of fascinating books.

What inspired the Aunt Edwina series?

One day, I was standing in our vast home library packed with topography, genealogy, travel, archives and museum books and thought that it was a real shame more use wasn’t made of it. It dawned on me–I am the daughter of a world-renowned genealogist and have spent my life visiting archives, historic places and museums all over the world. As a writer, it became instantly obvious that I was in a unique position to write a new uplifting series about family history. I’ve been a writer all my life, mainly in the corporate world, and saw a unique chance to write a novel series like no other.

Your cover is so colorful! Why did you put a 92-year-old woman on the front?

It made sense because she is the foundation of all that follows. Her family looks to Lady Edwina Greymore for guidance, composure and how to best serve the community. Of course they are a privileged family, but they know how to give back and include the people in their village and greater county. On a higher plane, ageism in entertainment needs to be halted, and it’s so scarily unusual to see a senior on the cover of a novel.

Do you have to be an expert genealogist to understand this book?

Absolutely not. It’s actually written for beginners, someone who’s starting to discover family history records, interviews, build a rudimentary family tree etc.

What kind of fact-checking had to happen for this book?

My mother, Penelope Christensen, PhD, has written 38 nonfiction research methodology books and is a world-renowned genealogy expert. I was fortunate to have her to rely upon for checking that the research sections were correct. I am by no means a genealogy expert myself but am extremely interested in historical lives, family heirlooms, social history etc.

Who is your ideal reader?

Readers today, I believe, are looking for an uplifting escape from all the challenges our world is experiencing. Aunt Edwina’s Fabulous Wishes is humorous family history fiction. It’s a niche category for those who love family history and all its twists, turns and eccentric characters. This book is a fun read filled with characters who will become friends.

Is this a clean read, safe for all ages?

Yes, there is no erotica, violence or profanity in this novel, making it easy to share with your children or grandmother without worrying about any dodgy bits! I understand that clean reads with substantive stories are in demand.

When can we expect more from the Aunt Edwina series?

Book 2 is already at the publishers and should hopefully be out late 2022. The Greymore team is in full action helping two new characters pursuing more family history adventures and knowledge.

Connect with Lynne at www.auntedwina.com and on Twitter (@LVChristensen), Instagram (@lynnevchristensen), and LinkedIn.

Aunt Edwina’s Fabulous Wishes will be available wherever books are sold.

An Interview with Brittany Severn

An Interview with Brittany Severn, author of The Camellia Manifest

Brittany Severn is a writer from Fort Riley, Kansas. She currently lives in Alabama with two rescue dogs, every season of The Golden Girls, and a tortoise named Phil.

What is your favourite dragon in literature?

I know a lot of people are going to pinch me for not saying Smaug because I was so obsessed with Tolkien growing up (LOTR Trivial Pursuit grand champ, here), but I’m going with Saphira from Eragon. She was so damn cool.

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external hard drive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

Oh, it was abandoned for sure. I tinkered with it for years, but it just didn’t work out. And that’s okay. Not everything you write needs to be published. I learned from it, if anything.

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

Practice, but also, reading. 100%. You get to know dialogue and characters, world building, what works for fan bases and what doesn’t. Reading definitely makes for a better writer.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

I’d love to be the kind that can pump out novels faster. I published four last year and got burnt out. One to two is my goal, but it’s slow going because I really want to get these stories and characters right.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

If I’m out and about, I always use my Notes app for ideas, one liners, etc. But when I’m home, I write on my laptop on the couch. It’s the most comfortable spot.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

My parents always read my stuff first. Except for the erotica – I put that out and didn’t say anything to them because I can’t imagine them reading it and then being able to look me in the eye. But my parents and some friends do a read through and give their input. Once I have a more polished draft I have a couple of beta readers it’ll go through. I fix what they find grammar-wise, and then I usually do another run through on my own. I haven’t had anything of mine edited by anyone but me (not the best thing, I know), but I look forward to someone else doing that for me one day.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

I always use the local library. I’m not a huge fan of eBooks and I don’t own an e-reader. It’s just not the same. I like to hold a physical copy. I rarely buy books, which surprises a lot of people, but when I do it’s usually from a used bookstore. Like you mentioned, that smell just draws you in. We have some here in Alabama that are nice, but I went to one in Charleston a few years ago and it was the best, complete with books from the floor to the ceiling, an archway of books, and wandering cats.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

I think I’ll always be a YA reader. It’s my favorite genre. But I have gotten into more mystery/thriller lately, true crime, and other non-fiction books. I just finished Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks and it was fascinating.

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

I am so bad at social media. Even my personal account goes months without a post. I post stories on Instagram a lot because they’re easy, short, and fun, but I don’t post as much as I should. It’s something I’m working on, but it’s definitely not my favorite thing. I can’t even remember the last time I updated my Facebook page. Anything marketing-wise is not very fun for me.

Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next? 

I try not to, but I’m sure I do. It depends on the questions, really. I like out of the box questions. The weirder, the better. I feel like my tone should be more proper in interviews, deeper and with longer answers and probably less cursing and the word, ‘dude’, but it is what it is.

About The Camellia Manifest

Sisters Echo and Ava know about loss, but now they are about to lose everything…

Grieving the loss of their grandmother, Echo and Ava only have each other now. On the day of her funeral, catastrophe strikes as natural disasters begin to rip the Earth apart. The world is coming to an end, but there may be hope. Teaming up with some unlikely allies, including an apocalypse obsessed radio host, the sisters seek safety. With the world in chaos, it won’t be an easy journey and they are in for a hell of a ride. As they reach their destination, a single flight headed to safety, the sisters discover that not everyone is on their side and they will have to fight for their survival. Can they make it to the plane? Or will they be left to die on the ground?

An Interview with JV Hilliard

An Interview with JV Hilliard, author of The Last Keeper

The Last Keeper is the first book in The Warminster Series. With gripping, epic action and heart-pounding adventure, you’ll love this new adventure series.

What is your favourite dragon in literature?

As unoriginal as it may be, I fell in love with Smaug as a child when I read The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien. Smaug was the classic dragon, and he set the scales (no pun intended) for the rest to be measured against in the epic fantasy genre.

However, in book three of my Warminster series, I introduce a new dragon which I may be partial too (no spoilers here).

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

I finally published the Last Keeper last December and that was the “first novel” that I started back in my college days. When COVID reared its ugly head, I was out of work for over a year, so I was able to steal a silver lining from it and dust off my old drafts and finally launch it.

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

For my day job, I write speeches, legislation, policy papers and the like. When I started to write the Warminster series, I needed to flip the switch from non-fiction to fiction, so story related items like dialogue and pacing were an issue for me in the beginning. I am still getting better at it with each new novel, and I depend on my editors and beta readers to help where I may fall down.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

Now that I am writing every day, I don’t have a problem with story creation. I believe that since I’ve had some stories bottled up for so long, it’s more a firehose than a spigot for me. My first book took me a year to write, but my second (which is in editing now) I finished in six months. The third (which is about half completed) should be done in four months and released around the holidays. It feels good to release the creative energy that was penned up for so long.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

I do my planning with graph paper and a white board in my den, but all of my true writing is digital. I do find I can write anywhere, but I am more comfortable in my den, later at night or at a local bookstore/café nearby. Something about surrounding myself in my private library or sitting in a bookstore is motivating. Staring at the spines of books from some of the greats is motivation enough.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

I have secured my beta readers through lifelong friendships or from those I’ve played Dungeons & Dragons with over the years. They all understand and appreciate the genre and most write themselves in some capacity for their careers. But I did focus on finding a few editors that specialize in the Epic Fantasy genre to be helpful Sherpas. I believed this was necessary for a first-time author.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

I L-O-V-E bookstores. I worked in one while still in high school and then worked at my university library when I was at college. I go to my local Barnes & Noble store to write during the week and then for pleasure on Saturday mornings (when I don’t do work—and just pick a book I will read that weekend).

While I appreciate the e-book, there’s nothing that can replace that hardback or paperback in your hands. I will admit however I do use audiobooks often when I travel and have downtime on planes or cars.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

Fantasy is my favorite and that has never changed, but I do really enjoy Science Fiction and Horror, especially the gothic. I am hoping one day to write my own vampire novel.

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

I forced myself to learn the process as it is necessary in this day and age. Readers use them as resources for discussions, referrals, reviews and groups to share books. And if you put in the work, it is “mostly” free (save for your own time) and global. In my first month of sales for The Last Keeper, I had readers buy my book and ask for signed copies from places like India, Serbia, Romania, Tasmania and the like. Without social media, I would have never reached them.

I manage my profiles myself, but I do have several people that help. In part, I have a day job that dominates my time an often I need someone to manage requests or respond to inquiries when I am away.

I spend about two hours a day on social media, including promotions, sales, newsletters, adding followers and researching what is working for other authors (and what is not). Using author groups have been helpful to learn best and worst practices.

Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?

It’s tempting, as sometimes you are asked the same questions, but I’ve learned that it’s best to just be original in each response. Canned responses read as if they were pre-programmed and that’s no way to connect with readers.

About J. V. Hilliard

Born of steel, fire and black wind, J.V. Hilliard was raised as a highlander in the foothills of a once-great mountain chain on the confluence of the three mighty rivers that forged his realm’s wealth and power for generations.

His father, a peasant twerg, toiled away in industries of honest labor and instilled in him a work ethic that would shape his destiny. His mother, a local healer, cared for his elders and his warrior uncle, who helped to raise him during his formative years. His genius brother, whose wizardly prowess allowed him to master the art of the abacus and his own quill, trained with him for battles on fields of green and sheets of ice.

Hilliard’s earliest education took place in his warrior uncle’s tower, where he learned his first words. His uncle helped him to learn the basics of life—and, most importantly, creative writing.

Hilliard’s training and education readied him to lift a quill that would scribe the tale of the realm of Warminster, filled with brave knights, harrowing adventure and legendary struggles. He lives in the city of silver cups, hypocycloids and golden triangles with his wife, a ranger of the diamond. They built their castle not far into the countryside, guarded by his own two horsehounds, Thor and MacLeod, and resides there to this day.

About The Last Keeper

A young boy’s prophetic visions.

Blind at birth, Daemus Alaric is blessed with the gift of prophetic Sight. Now, as a Keeper of the Forbidden, he must use his powers of the Sight to foil the plans of a fallen Keeper, Graytorris the Mad.

An elven Princess with a horrifying secret.

Princess Addilyn Elspeth travels from Eldwal, the magically hidden home of the Vermilion elves, to begin her life as a diplomat to the human capital of Castleshire. During her journey, she stumbles upon a mystical creature foretelling ill tidings.

A terrifying force of evil.

Daemus’ recurring nightmare vision threatens to catapult him into a terrifying struggle that will leave the fate of the Keepers—and the realm—hanging in the balance. Daemus and Princess Addilyn must set out to face the menace that threatens their very existence.

Will the entire realm fall to its knees?

The Last Keeper is the first book in The Warminster Series. With gripping, epic action and heart-pounding adventure, you’ll love this new adventure series.

Interview with Kim Hays

An Interview with Kim Hays, author of Pesticide

Kim Hays lives in Bern, Switzerland. Her police procedural Pesticide, the first mystery in the Polizei Bern series, will be published on April 19 by Seventh Street Books. Award-winning author Deborah Crombie has called it “a stand-out debut for 2022.

What is your favourite dragon in literature?

My favorite dragon was created by a great science fiction and fantasy writer, Ursula K. LeGuin. He appears in the third volume of her Earthsea Trilogy, The Farthest Shore, as the companion of Ged, the Wizard of Earthsea, and his name is Orm Embar.

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

I haven’t abandoned a novel—yet—but I have abandoned a non-fiction book I wanted to write about child-raising with my mother; it was going to be full of anecdotes about both own experiences as mothers. I wrote five chapters, we made a little progress, and then it became clear that my mother was developing dementia. That was eighteen years ago, and I can’t imagine going back to the project today.

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

I’d say that I’m not as likely to fall in love with my own words. Now that I’ve done extensive revisions on my manuscripts and seen how much editing improves a book, I’m better at criticizing my work and accepting criticism from others. Part of why I’m less defensive is because I’m more confident in my ability to edit, which means that I can write faster and more assuredly on a first draft, knowing that I’ll be able to identify and work on problems once I’ve gotten the whole story on paper.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

Many well-known and very successful mystery writers—including authors whose books I enjoy very much—are able to produce a book a year (or more!). I am awed by this talent. I can’t imagine producing anything worth publishing in less than two years. It’s not so much a question of letting ideas percolate as taking the time to revise drafts.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

In this respect I’m extremely prosaic. I always write at my desk on a keyboard in front of a computer screen; just about the only thing I ever write by hand is a letter of condolence! I can still remember how hard it was during my senior year of college to switch from writing an essay longhand to composing on a typewriter and how proud I was when wrote my senior essay on my little Olivetti.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

My sister is a lovingly dedicated reader of my manuscripts and is happy to read several drafts of the same book, which is way above and beyond the call of duty.  The only problem is that she almost never objects to anything.  So she’s terrific for my self-esteem but not necessarily the best person to ask for critical feedback. Luckily, I also have a wonderful writer friend, Clare O’Dea, who is an excellent beta-reader, because she has more distance.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

I have a husband who hates clutter, and an apartment with too many books easily becomes very messy. So I buy 90% of my books from Amazon for my Kindle, and they take up no space at all.  Now it’s easy to bring a selection of books with me in my purse, onto an airplane, or on vacation, and my bookshelves are still full but not spilling over.  Library books are another great solution. My mother was a librarian, so perhaps that’s why I love libraries.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

I think it would be a good thing to be able to say that my tastes have changed as I’ve grown older and wiser, but it wouldn’t be true. I gobbled up mysteries, romances, fantasy, science fiction, and just-plain-novels as a teenager, and that’s what I read today. I even read some contemporary young-adult fiction, since it can be as well-written and gripping as any adult novel. The only difference is that since I have much less reading time as an adult, I’ve become pickier: if I’m not absorbed after fifty pages, I move on to something else. So many books, so little time! [Rose’s note: Yes! So many fabulous books out there, and never enough time to read them all.]

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

Because I’ve never used Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, or any other social media platform in my private life, I’m having trouble integrating even one of them into my professional life as a mystery writer. I’m happy to have a website with a blog to post on regularly, but writing on these other platforms doesn’t seem meaningful to me. Who exactly am I speaking to and what is my purpose? But I’m hoping to change my mind over the next year or two and get more comfortable with the idea of tweeting. At least I’ve stopped calling it “twittering.”

About the Novel

Murder. Forbidden love. Social upheaval. Kim Hays debut novel Pesticide has it all. . .

Bern, Switzerland—known for its narrow cobblestone streets, decorative fountains, and striking towers. Yet dark currents run through this charming medieval city and beyond, to the idyllic farmlands that surround it.

When a rave on a hot summer night erupts into violent riots, a young man is found the next morning bludgeoned to death with a policeman’s club. Seasoned detective Giuliana Linder is assigned to the case. That same day, an elderly organic farmer turns up dead and drenched with pesticide. Enter Giuliana’s younger—and distractingly attractive—colleague Renzo Donatelli to investigate the second murder. Giuliana’s disappointment that they’re on two different cases is tinged with relief—her home life is complicated enough without the risk of a fling.

But when an unexpected discovery ties the two victims into a single case, Giuliana and Renzo are thrown closer together than ever before. Dangerously close. Will Giuliana be able to handle the threats to her marriage and to her assumptions about the police? If she wants to prevent another murder, she’ll have to put her life on the line—and her principles. Combining suspense and romance, this debut mystery in the Polizei Bern series offers a distinctive picture of the Swiss. An inventive tale, packed with surprises, it will keep readers guessing until the end.

Interview with Alex Robins

An Interview with Alex Robins, author of The Broken Heart of Arelium

Alex Robins hails from the sunny Loire Valley in western France, surrounded by imposing castles and sprawling vineyards. The Broken Heart of Arelium is his first novel. He’s generously offered to answer some review questions

What is your favourite dragon in literature?

Hi there, Rose, and thank you for putting these questions together!

This is going to sound terribly cliché so I apologise in advance, but probably Smaug. The Hobbit was the first fantasy novel I ever read, drawn to John Howe’s brilliant depiction of the dragon on the cover.

For a more unconventional answer, my second favourite is Silvara, a silver dragon in Weis & Hickman’s Dragons of Autumn Twilight. Silvara’s tragic romance with Gilthanas is truly heart-breaking and it was probably the first time I realised that fantasy novels could tell character-focussed stories that are just as deep and meaningful as any other genre.

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external hard drive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

I do have a couple of false starts sitting on a hard drive, yes! Neither has been abandoned nor are they anywhere close to being presentable.

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

It’s only been two years since I started writing regularly, but already in that time, I feel I’ve improved in leaps and bounds. In fact, I was rereading part of my first novel with my editor recently and we both remarked that it almost seemed like it had been written by a different person compared to the subsequent books in the series!

I think the most important thing that’s changed is that I’ve managed to find a style that accommodates the type of story I want to tell. I love fast-paced novels, yet when I started writing the first book in the series I was under the (false!) impression that epic fantasy had to be at least 800 pages and full of long, descriptive paragraphs. It doesn’t. Epic refers to the story being told not the length of the book! My later novels flow a lot faster and, in my opinion, make for better reading.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

A bit of both. The idea for this series of novels has been percolating for a while, which means that now I’m finally ready, writing it down comes fairly easily.

I think it also depends on the type of prose. My prose is, by choice, the opposite of lyrical. I want it to be fast and snappy. This style of writing is generally easier than a more poetic, deeply descriptive style.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

Definitely digital. What’s great about having a laptop is that you can write almost anywhere. My favourite place by far is in a comfy armchair by the fire, my feet propped up on a stool and my laptop on my knees.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

I am exceedingly lucky! I have loving family members who not only read my books but also seem to really enjoy them (or they are amazing actors). That was especially important for my first novel when I hadn’t yet established a fanbase of any sort.

I now have 4 or 5 readers who have been following me from the first novel and who are the first to read my latest efforts.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

I never, ever read digital. Unfortunately, living in France means I don’t really go into bookshops any more (unless travelling to the UK), but I order physical copies of everything I read. It’s also why I’m adamant that all of my books should be available in paperback as well as digital, despite the additional cost and hassle that involves. Some readers may not know this, but an indie author like myself will probably make more money from the digital version of their novel than the paperback, and this is more likely to be true the longer the novel (more pages mean higher printing costs). But not having a physical version at all just doesn’t feel right to me.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

Absolutely. Fantasy was my first love and will probably always be my favourite. But it would be crazy to close yourself off from all other genres, wouldn’t it? There’s so much great stuff out there! Over the years, I’ve been reading more and more sci-fi, historical fiction, and horror.

Historical fiction in particular fascinates me. The time authors must spend on research to make sure everything is correct (or what most historians believe to be correct) is mind-boggling. And some real-life historical events are far more epic than a great deal of fantasy!

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

I think that makes two of us! I’m very bad at social media in general (probably because I’m over forty), something not helped by the fact that living in France means I’m in a different time zone from a large part of my reader base. I use social media very sparingly and mostly to promote current and upcoming projects, not to post pictures of my Christmas tree or my garden …

Strangely enough, the most fun I have is writing and sending out my monthly newsletter (which you can subscribe to from my website at http://warofthetwelve.com). I feel it’s easier to engage with people who like your work enough to sign up to receive information about it. The newsletter allows me to talk a bit about my personal life on top of the obligatory promotions.

Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next? 

Hah! Great question! Not necessarily recycle word for word, but some answers will of course be similar. The book that drew me into reading will never change, neither will my difficulty at mastering social media 😊

Interview with Cheryl Campbell

An Interview with Cheryl Campbell, author of the Echoes Trilogy

Cheryl Campbell is the award-winning author of the Burnt Mountain fantasy series, consisting of five novels published between 2013 to 2016, and the Echoes Trilogy, which concludes in November 2021 with Echoes of Fate. Her varied background includes art, herpetology (the zoological study of amphibians and reptiles), emergency department and critical care nursing, and computer systems. She is a New England resident that lives a wandering lifestyle with her laptop and dog.

What inspired you to write the Echoes Trilogy?

Cheryl Campbell: When I was wrapping up my Burnt Mountain fantasy series, I had a wee hours of the morning dream about a young woman that had died and was told she could go back to Earth and live again to fix her mistakes—with a catch. She couldn’t take her memories with her and she’d already been through this process several times without success. Her other choice was to move on to the afterlife. I woke before I learned her decision, but I was so captivated by the idea that I wrote down the basics of the dream and it turned into a trilogy.

Echoes of Fate invites discussion of what makes someone “human”. How do the elements of science fiction serve that larger narrative?

People, myself included, tend to put labels on things and keep them organized within those categorizations, but there are a lot of gray areas that are hard, if not impossible, to reconcile. Dani is an alien Echo but she shows more kindness and humanity than some of the humans around her. Leveraging a science fiction story with aliens against the definition (whatever it is) of human made it easy to push and blur those gray areas even more. It was a way to challenge myself and my ways of thinking about things. It also changed how I view the world now.

What do you hope readers will take away from the final book in your Echoes trilogy?

One of the topics that all three books touch on is mental health including suicide. Dani has moments of darkness that make her consider taking her life. We need to talk more with each other about these things. Speaking about mental health should not be a hush-hush topic. I’ve lost friends to suicide. I don’t want to lose any more.

Echoes of Fate takes place in the New England region. Why did you choose this setting for a sci-fi story?

I grew up in the Deep South, but I found home in northern New England. Residents here are hardy folk that I’ve seen come together in beautiful ways to help out neighbors and even strangers. I wanted to capture that in my stories.

How did you develop your characters? And which of them do you have the strongest connection to?

I usually start with a general idea for main characters and supporting characters then they grow from there. At times it feels like they become their own individuals and change in ways I did not predict or even intend. Sometimes the supporting characters become much more and bubble up to become main characters. I love Dani and who she is, but I think I identify most with Mary. Mary was supposed to just be a supporting character, but she had a chemistry with Dani and this fun personality that I couldn’t ignore. My nature is to support and protect others, and that’s exactly what Mary does for Dani. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that Mary turned out that way too.

Find Cheryl on Instagram and Facebook and her website  www.CherylsCreativeSoup.com