Review: Kate Emery – The Not So Chosen One

The Not So Chosen One
Kate Emery

Lucy’s keeping her cool – she’s got homework, friends and needs to be at home on time. She just won’t think about the fact that she’s pregnant. To top it off, she’s suddenly been offered entry into the prestigious Drake’s College – but she doesn’t seem to have any magical abilities?

This book was fantastic… right until the last 10 pages or so. How can this book not have a sequel? Then I thought back along the book and went.. uh, enough plot holes, anyone? I received an ARC of this novel, but the ending made me so disappointed I couldn’t bring myself to review it. Maybe it was improved further before going to publication?

I liked Lucy, even if she was really quite an idiot at times. Seriously girl, get yo’sef together! She definitely could have done a better job at paying attention and putting clues together. Maybe she has baby brain? I could have done with a bit more in terms of context and some of the plot twists just seemed to be twists for the hell of it rather than actual useful storyline. That said, I was really realy invested in the ending!

I’m giving it 2 stars, although I considered giving it only 1 star. The ending is so terrible that you shouldn’t let yourself read this book unless a second is published. And I’d want that sequel to be published, not just ‘in writing’ before committing. I’m still sad about the ending…

Text Publishing | 5 July 2022 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Sarah Steel – Do As I Say

Do As I Say
Sarah Steel

“At the heart of being human is the desire to belong. It can make us unspeakably vulnerable to the manipulations of others. Cult leaders prey on this desire, but so do many unscrupulous operators hiding in plain sight. In Do As I Say, Steel tells the human tale behind the sensationalism. Sharing deeply personal stories, gathered over years of interviews with survivors, and some shocking tales about the world’s most famous cults, she sheds light on the high cost of unchecked coercive behaviours to individuals and communities at large.”

This non-fiction book was exceptional. I found myself both amused and appalled at the same time for what cults get away with, and what people think while they are in them. It really resonated with me that noone thinks that they are joining a cult! In fact, I could easily see several people I know joining one. It’s terrifying to me that some people are dumb or delusional enough to think that a dead person can rise again tomorrow (not just Christ, but also assasinated US presidents!).

It’s weird to think of some of the cults in the book as ‘cults’. Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons for example, I had always thought of them as religions – granted, very time-intensive and all-encompassing religions, but not cults. What is shown in this book though is that almost any group that begins to treat others as outsiders (even shunning them) and has a charasmatic leader could be considered a cult.

I read this book at the same time as I was due to give my students a leadership workshop. I found myself drawing on parts of the story, and some of the famous cult leaders within it (Apple fan, anyone?) while teaching. Cults generally have leaders, and even though most (all?) cults are ‘bad’ we can definitely learn something from the leaders. They tend to be charismatic, and often the group doesn’t start as a cult but then moves that way.

I admit that at some points it seemed as if the author was pushing her own political agenda just little bit too obviously. It was nice however to have a book totally aimed at Australians rather than a USA audience. I’m keeping this beautiful bright red book on my shelf, and recommend it as reading to anyone who has a friend or family member in a cult or who has an interest in leadership.

Pan Macmillan | 28 June 2022 | AU$34.99 | paperback

Review: Jimmy Soni – The Founders (S)

The Founders
The Story of Paypal and the Entrepreneurs Who Shaped Silicon Valley
Jimmy Soni

“Today, PayPal’s founders and earliest employees are considered the technology industry’s most powerful network. Since leaving PayPal, they have formed, funded, and advised the leading companies of our era, including Tesla, Facebook, YouTube, SpaceX, Yelp, Palantir, and LinkedIn, among many others. As a group, they have driven twenty-first-century innovation and entrepreneurship. Their names stir passions; they’re as controversial as they are admired. … The Founders is a story of iteration and inventiveness—the products of which have cast a long and powerful shadow over modern life. This narrative illustrates how this rare assemblage of talent came to work together and how their collaboration changed our world forever.”

I’m a little mixed on this review. There were some good parts and some bad. The book takes you through the whole journey of PayPal. I found it rather slow at the start. It gave the back stories for the main characters but I felt this could have been condensed a lot. The author wanted all of the PayPal employees to have their experience and share their story. At times I felt this wasn’t relevant and whole pages could have been cut out. In saying that, there were some funny parts and parts that you just had to keep reading to know more.

It picked up as it went. The book definitely went into a lot of detail. I felt that it could have ended differently, but it’s not like you can change what actually happened! Regardless, it still ended abruptly after four years had passed from the founding. It would have been nice to hear a bit more in the later years and what it looks like now.

If you are after a business book on the story of any startup in actual detail, this book nails that and is the book for you. The only downside is it drags on at times. 3.5 stars

Allen & Unwin | 1 March 2022 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Seth Godin – Purple Cow (S)

Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable
Seth Godin

“You’re either a Purple Cow or you’re not. You’re either remarkable or invisible. Make your choice. What do Starbucks and JetBlue and KrispyKreme and Apple and DutchBoy and Kensington and Zespri and Hard Candy have that you don’t? How do they continue to confound critics and achieve spectacular growth, leaving behind former tried-and true brands to gasp their last? … In Purple Cow, Seth Godin urges you to put a Purple Cow into everything you build, and everything you do, to create something truly noticeable. It’s a manifesto for marketers who want to help create products that are worth marketing in the first place.”

I can’t believe it has such good reviews and ratings on GoodReads! Honestly, it’s not that bad of a book – my issue with it is that it was written 20 years ago (first published in 2003). As such, it’s very outdated. The companies and examples it uses are very outdated and not relevant anymore. A lot of the companies I think must be in America only and are therefore not relatable to other people in the rest of the world. The style that it’s written in is also very Americanised.

There are some good things. The author has a short but sweet point, and sticks to this same topic throughout which is great. I hate it when an author is trying to say too much and everything gets lost in the end. It’s a nice quick short book and everything is related. It’s not really in chapters, just all mini case studies and topics about the same thing. I just felt a bit lost at some points and not interested and not wanting to keep reading.

I was really looking forward to reading this book, but it didn’t live up to expectations. I also expected the updated version to be a little more updated, but it was pretty much the same with some extra bonus bits at the end. A quick read, but I don’t feel like I came away from this book with anything new. Nonetheless, it’s still a good point to be reminded of, to be a Purple Cow! 2 stars.

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

Review: Dinesh Palipana – Stronger

Stronger
Dinesh Palipana

“A puddle of water on a highway changed Dinesh Palipana’s life forever. Halfway through medical school, Dinesh was involved in a catastrophic car accident that caused a cervical spinal cord injury. After his accident, his strength and determination saw him return to complete medical school – now with quadriplegia. Dinesh was the first quadriplegic medical intern in Queensland, and the second person with quadriplegia to graduate medical school in Australia.”

I didn’t really expect to enjoy this book, but Dr Palipana brings a hint of humour into everything. You’d think reading a book about someone who lost almost all his physical abilities would be quite depressing. Instead, this book is a tribute to the author’s resiliance and persistance. To some extent, it also exposes some of the negative aspects of living across different countries and having family that you aren’t sure how to work with.

This was quite easy reading, despite being a potentially tough subject. I finished it off in two sittings, and didn’t really need a brain-break in between. I wasn’t rushed to finish it, but I did want to know the ending. I still don’t know how he manages to get enough sleep!

The fact that the Australian medical system can change even a little to prepare an excellent Dr is amazing, and I hope to see more evidence from the author creating change from his experiences. I meet many doctors in my work, and I know that they are scarily smart! But, as Dr. Palipana says, it’s less about smarts, and more about the emotional connection that you can form with patients. Being a doctor isn’t about being ‘able-bodied’, being a doctor is a vocation and needs someone with compassion. Let’s hope for more of that in the future.

Pan Macmillan | 26 July 2022 | AU$32.99 | paperback

Review: Alice Boyle – Dancing Barefoot

Alice Boyle
Dancing Barefoot

Patch has crushed on Evie for forever! Unrequitedly, of course. Patch knows she’s the least likely person for Evie to get involved with – but that doesn’t mean she can’t ogle Evie when she gets the chance. There’s only the tiny hurdle of not having even admitted to herself that she’s gay, her terrible hair and trans best friend. Can Patch make it past the things working against her?

This novel was phenomenal, and I don’t use that term lightly. I’ve just finished reading it and I’m still having happy thoughts and feeling a warm cuddliness towards the characters. I loved Patch, I loved Evie and I loved Edwin. I even loved Abigail just a slight bit too – even if when her motivation came out it didn’t actually make sense with the time chronology of the novel. I read an ARC, so maybe that’s been ironed out by the time this review goes live.

I’m not 100% in love with the title, but the cover makes up for it I think. It nicely reflects that even if you’re in love for the first time, it can’t just be about two people. Patch knows she has great things in life, but that doesn’t mean that she isn’t nervous. Most of the action time in this book really is action time without too much ‘this is highschool and it sucks’.

What I particularly liked was the treatment of Edwin being trans. Some other authors make a huge deal out of it and their main character often struggles to remember the right pronouns for their best friend. Here, Edwin is already one of the guys. It’s a fact. I also like how Patch still feels awkward to come out to anyone, even if it’s probably that Edwin won’t care.

Is it too niche for Patch to be gay, with a single dad, a trans best friend, a scholarship kid at a swanky private college and amazing at art? Have I read too many novels where the lesbian main character is special in some way? Ok, maybe. But this novel makes it into my top of the list for lesbian teenage romances.

In the same way that I loved Jack of Hearts (and other parts) and Camp for their ‘real’ dramas, this novel creates a genuine Melbourne feel and an Australian-ness that isn’t overdone and beachy. I want to spread my love of this novel as far as possible! I want it to be on recommended reading or as a highschool English text.

I feel so distracted and unable to stop thinking about this novel. I don’t feel ready to leave Patch’s home turf – maybe I’ll just have to read a non-fiction book next instead. 5 stars from me.

Text Publishing | 30 August 2022 | AU$24.99 | paperback

Review: Megan Whalen Turner – The Thief

The Thief
Megan Turner

Gen has been rotting in a cell for what feels like forever. Caught for boasting about his thieving prowess, the only way he will escape is to be transferred – or perhaps there will be an impossible mission to undertake. Slung along with the magus’ apprentices and a body guard, Gen is sure he will go hungry on the way to the treasure (if it even exists).

I knew Gen was up to something, I knew it! This is definitely a novel about the journey, and not about character development. I don’t know why I was quite so invested in Gen – maybe because I just knew there had to be some reason behind everything that seemed to be reasonable at face value?

I wanted something physically small to take with me to read, and also wanted something light that didn’t require much brain power to enjoy. This book fit it perfectly, and I really enjoyed it. I actually think that I’m going to read it again in future, although the twists won’t be quite the same.

Imagine my horror at getting to the end, and then discovering there was a next book! Then, backflipping, because it appears this book is old (in book years at least – 1996!), and so all the other books already exist for me to read! I’m very excited to go and find the others, and very grateful that this book made its way to me so that I could discover a new author.

This is light, innocuous reading that’s suitable for perhaps ages 10+ depending on the maturity of the reader. There’s some violence, but it’s not gratuitous or particularly vivid (although Gen’s aches and pains following it are nicely described!). 4 stars from me.

Hachette | 1st March 2022 | AU$19.99 | paperback

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.”