Monday, August 31, 2015

Interview with Roy A. Teel, Jr. as he introduces a new crime series

I'm kicking off a new week with an interview with Roy A. Teel Jr. He's created a new 30-book crime series and is touring the first novel, Rise of The Iron Eagle.

On May 11, 1995, at 30, Roy’s life was irrevocably changed. After walking into the hospital, he was admitted and later received the worst possible diagnosis – Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. His doctors gave him two years to live, and he left the hospital in a wheelchair. After battling Multiple Sclerosis for nearly 16 years, Roy began devoting his energies and passions to the full-time art of storytelling. His disability has brought with it an unforeseen blessing. He can finally take medications to alleviate some of the pain from his MS and focus on the pleasures of character creation and the joys of putting words to paper.

As an author, Roy A. Teel Jr. is very diverse, and his works include both fiction and nonfiction. His previous works include The Way, The Truth, and The Lies: How the Gospels Mislead Christians about Jesus’ True Message (2005); Against The Grain: The American Mega-Church and its Culture of Control (2008); Light of Darkness: Dialogues in Death (2008); and And God Laughed (2013).

In 2014, Roy began publishing his latest and largest project – a 30-book geographically-centered hard-boiled, mystery, suspense, thriller crime series: The Iron Eagle Series. The main character, a former Marine Corps Black Operative turned rogue FBI agent, hunts serial killers in Los Angeles. Each novel addresses different subjects, and while fiction, all titles deal with real world subject matter. The Iron Eagle Series is not about things that can’t hurt you. What happens in these novels can happen to any one of us if we let our guard down and/or are in the wrong place at the wrong time. To learn more, go to

Roy lives in Lake Arrowhead, CA with his wife Tracy, their dog Sanford (Sandy), and their Tabby cat Oscar, who runs the house.

Welcome, Roy. Please tell us about your current release.
Rise of The Iron Eagle is the first book in The Iron Eagle Series.

The city of Los Angeles is no stranger to violence. It has both a colorful and grotesque history with it. Sheriff's Homicide Detective Jim O'Brian and FBI Profiler Special Agent Steve Hoffman are also no strangers to the violence of the sprawling metropolis, but in the past decade, something has changed. There's a serial killer preying on other serial killers – some known by law enforcement, others well off radar. "The Iron Eagle," a vigilante, extracts vengeance for the victims of Los Angeles' serial killers. His methods are meticulous, and his killings brutal. With each passing day, "The Iron Eagle" moves with impunity through the streets of Los Angeles in search of his prey. O'Brian and Hoffman create an elite task force with the sole purpose of catching "The Eagle" and bringing him to justice. But the deeper they delve, the more apparent it is that he may very well be one of their own. As the two men stare into the abyss of their search, the eyes of "The Iron Eagle" stare back.

Is The Iron Eagle a psychotic serial killer or a new breed of justice?
*Content Warning: The Iron Eagle crime novel series contains mature subject matter, graphic violence, sexual content, language, torture, and other scenes that may be disturbing to sensitive readers. This series is not intended for anyone under the age of eighteen. Reader discretion is advised.

Praise for Rise of The Iron Eagle:
“Rise of The Iron Eagle is a gripping crime fiction that is both brutal and hard hitting, and will keep readers glued to the very end. The narration is descriptive and spine-chillingly honest… The story leaves readers gasping with its horror, killings and crime. The scenes are raw and riveting, and the plot is fast paced. This is a must-read for all those who like crime fiction.” - Reviewed by

Mr. Teel, Jr.’s writing about criminals is like what Stephen King does for horror – leaves a lasting impression and horrifies while weaving a tale that one can’t step away from… Rise of The Iron Eagle is dark, gritty, compelling and powerful.” – Reviewed by Long and Short Reviews

“Dexter fans may find their new anti-hero in Roy A. Teel Jr.’s pulpy crime thriller… Jeff Lindsay’s classic novel, Darkly Dreaming Dexter, gave rise to a completely new kind of protagonist – a serial killer that hunts serial killers. Roy A. Teel Jr.’s “Rise of The Iron Eagle” is proof that even the best ideas can be improved upon.” - Reviewed by

What inspired you to write this book?
The Iron Eagle was birthed by my imagination through tragedy after one of my schoolmates and friends was murdered by serial killer William Bonin, aka The Freeway Killer, on Memorial Day, 1979. From that moment on, I imagined a person who could protect people of all ages, sexes, races, and creeds from predators. The idea for the series would elude me for over 30 years until several life events encroached on my own life and people who are close to me. I was also inspired by the men and women who work in law enforcement, both state and federal. I was a partner in a commercial collection agency and repossession company for over three decades, and in that time, we worked alongside law enforcement, executing judgments and court orders, and because of our deep connections in the world of skip tracing (finding people), we would often find people that law enforcement was looking for, and we would often pass information on to assist in their investigations. After being forced to retire on disability in 2011 due to progressive multiple sclerosis, I was able to sit down with those experiences, and The Iron Eagle series of novels was born.

Excerpt from Rise of The Iron Eagle:
From the Opening of Chapter 8

John walked into Starbucks at the corner of Topanga and Lassen just before six thirty a.m. He got a coffee and a copy of the Daily News, and the headline said it all, “‘Billy the Kid,’ Crips Gang Member and Serial Rapist, Body Found in Legion Park: Iron Eagle Said to Be Killer.” He shook his head, “I should really start looking for the people who leak this stuff.” He walked to a flower shop a few doors down to purchase a dozen long-stemmed red roses. His truck was parked in front of Country Deli, a local landmark for nearly fifty years. He knew the area very, very well, but he knew it for all the wrong reasons. He pulled out of the lot and headed west through the neighborhoods of oak and eucalyptus trees, following Lassen as it turned from a busy thoroughfare into a quiet neighborhood of post-World War II homes and horse properties, until he reached the entrance to Oakwood Cemetery.

He parked his truck outside the large black wrought iron gates and the ivy covered brick walls of the cemetery and walked through the entrance and up the steep incline of the main road. He walked past a blue and white striped tent; a small backhoe sat quietly where fresh earth had been moved, and a concrete burial vault sat on the ground next to the newly-opened grave. He walked out into the cemetery grass and stopped in front of a grave marker set beneath a huge California Live Oak. He looked at the gray and white granite and its inscription, ‘Amber Lynn Swenson.’ He knelt and brushed away the fresh cut grass, so the whole inscription was revealed. ‘Loving Wife and Beautiful Soul. April 8, 1978 – March 20, 2003.’ Placing the flowers on the stone, he sat down, leaning his back against the tree. “I miss you, honey. I miss my best friend. I’m sorry I’ve been away for so long.” He heaved a sigh as a tear rolled down his face, and he whispered, “I’m still looking for him, Amber Lynn. For the man who took your life and our life together away.” He wiped the tears from his eyes, his lower lip quivering. “I know I’ve told you, and I don’t know if you are somewhere where you can hear me or not, but I’m sorry. If I had just been on time that night, he wouldn’t have gotten you.” He wiped the stone with a handkerchief from his pocket and laughed. “You always made fun of me for being old fashioned … but you were glad I had it the night I asked you to marry me. How could I know that this same piece of linen that dried your tears of joy at our engagement would later dry my tears of sorrow at your funeral.” John paused for a moment, his anger rising up. “He’s still out there, Amber, hurting women and children. I can’t let that continue. I will find him…and I will avenge you and all the others he’s tortured and killed. He’s a sly one; so far below the radar not even law enforcement sees his pattern or knows that he even exists. The randomness of his killings and the large area that he covers is his protection. I thought I had him with Roskowski. He was evil but wasn’t the man who did this to you.”

He stood up and walked toward the unmarked piece of land next to Amber’s headstone. “This is my spot, baby, right next to you. I’m not afraid of death…I’m afraid of dying before I catch him and bring him to justice.” He leaned down on his hands and knees and gently touched his lips to her name. “Rest, my angel. The next time I come back, it’ll be to tell you that I got him.”


What exciting story are you working on now?
The Iron Eagle Series is scheduled to span 30 novels. I am currently writing book 14, tentatively titled, Equality in Mercy. The novel takes the characters in The Iron Eagle series into the dark and sinister world of psychology and psychoanalysis, as well as hypnotherapy, where a killer (or maybe more than one) lurks, preying on unsuspecting victims by manipulating their minds and emotions. The novel, while fiction, deals with real world issues of what can happen when those that are supposed to help heal the mind and emotions don’t, and instead use their powers of persuasion and their education to the detriment of their patients and society. It is a diabolical thriller that will keep my readers on the edge of their seats and perhaps make them look a little more carefully at those in the psychological profession.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I have been writing my whole life. I am a musician. I have played drums since I was six years old and started writing song lyrics in my preteen years. Now, looking at the fact that I just turned 50 this past March, I am feeling really old. I started to write professionally in 1996. It was a daunting task to write both fiction and nonfiction works in what little spare time I had while running a multi-million dollar company. I worked very, very hard to gain both a publisher and agent through hundreds of queries for over ten years, hitting nothing but walls of rejection.

In 2004, I was completing my dissertation for my Doctorate in Biblical Studies and was being rejected by all of the major Christian publishing houses, and a friend suggested that I self-publish. Now, let me tell you, that was one hard pill to swallow, but I also realized that the only way the world would hear my voice was to take the leap. So, in December of 2005, I started Narroway Publishing LLC/Imprint: Narroway Press and published my first book. Since then, I have published 15 titles (including the first 11 books in The Iron Eagle Series); however, I did not recognize myself as a professional author/writer until quite recently.

On December 30, 2014, I was accepted as a member of the Authors Guild. I had applied for membership several times over the years. Being accepted into the Guild is no easy feat. You have to be a proven author, who has had success in writing, who writes quality books, and has a proven track record of both publications and earnings (and my earnings just met the Guild’s standards.) So, after a very, very lengthy vetting process, I was notified on that date that I had been accepted into the Guild. To me, that was the turning point. I was being acknowledged by my peers as a professional author/writer, and that was the day I became a professional author/writer.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write, and how do you find time to write?
I am now a full-time novelist after retiring in 2011. Living with a wasting disease like MS has its own challenges. My wife (the love of my life and my caregiver) and I have a daily routine to help me get my feet on the floor and get my hands and fingers moving in order to write and get around. I am fully ambulatory, and most people who meet me have no idea I have MS. This is both blessing and curse. So, our day starts off with certain exercises and stretching to wake up those parts of my body ravaged by the disease. I usually begin my writing day around one p.m. The very first thing I do is READ! I can’t write a word until I have read. I take an hour to read news, fiction, and nonfiction, so that I am current on the day’s events worldwide and have allowed my mind to exercise and begin the creative process.

Then, my wife and I have lunch, and I put my butt in the chair, and I write. In the case of The Iron Eagle Series, I have written 13 novels in a little over a year. The secret to writing is quite simple. If you park your rear in the chair with whatever down time you have, the words will come, and before you know it, you will have a manuscript. I try very hard to stop writing by eight p.m., but my wife and I tend to run over that, and I also tend to write at night. One of the curses of MS is the inability to sleep due to pain, so I am usually up until three or four a.m.

During that time, I try to catch up on fan email, respond on social media, read, and write. I have to be careful writing at night, though. I tend to stay glued to my seat, and there has been many an occasion when my wife has woken up from a full night’s sleep and found me still sitting at my computer. She scolds me then sends me off to bed to get what sleep I can with the help of my pain medication.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I write linearly, meaning I write all of my books from the beginning to the end. I don’t know who is doing what. The characters show me as I write my books. My crazy writing quirk is that I write all of my novels on the front and back of return envelopes that come in the mail. My outline, my characters, my scenes, all on a single plain white window envelope. It drove my wife crazy at first. She would just look at me and my scribbled envelopes and ask, “How on earth can you keep anything straight?” I don’t know, but it works for me. My wife earned her MFA in English and creative writing from UC Irvine in 2001, the third best writing program in the country at the time. She is my editor and harshest critic, but now she just laughs at my envelopes, which fill a black binder, in their protective sheet holders, each with a single envelope outlining each book.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
At first, an astronaut. There was only one problem – I was afraid of the elevator that would take me to the capsule. It was a strange fear that I grew out of, but as a little kid, being launched in a rocket into space was a cool idea. The elevator, not so much. Then, as my interest and love of music evolved, I wanted to play professionally as a musician, a dream I did accomplish from 1979-1983 as a studio drummer in Hollywood. I didn’t really have a childhood (that’s a story for another time), and for those few years I was living my dream, which had to be halted when my son was born in 1983. From 17 on, I wanted to be in business, a goal I succeeded at and am proud of.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
No matter what your situation might be, I am living proof that with hard work and determination you can move mountains. Will you fall and fail? Of course, but through those experiences you get stronger. Accept constructive criticism. Use it to better yourself and your craft. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. There will always be those who want to bring you down and beat you up. You must rise above it. Despite your background and/or upbringing, if you have struggled your whole life like I did, continue to dare to dream. Ignore the ignorant people. You can accomplish great things, and you can overcome even the darkest of situations as long as you surround yourself with positive people and role models. And even if you are walking the road of life alone right now, walk it with your head held high and your eyes clear and focused on your dreams and goals. If you do that, you will achieve more in your life than the majority of people ever do.


Thanks for being here today, Roy! Happy writing!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Interview with mystery author Stephanie Gayle

Mystery author Stephanie Gayle is here today talking about all things writing, as well as her new novel, Idyll Threats.

Stephanie Gayle is the author of My Summer of Southern Discomfort. She’s twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize for her short fiction, which has appeared in Kenyon Review Online, Potomac Review, Minnetonka Review, and elsewhere. She co-created the popular Boston reading series, Craft on Draft. When not writing, she is often playing board games. Her Settlers of Catan skills are exquisite.

Welcome, Stephanie. Please tell us about your current release.
Idyll Threats is the first in the Thomas Lynch mystery series.

In the summer of 1997, Thomas Lynch arrives as the new chief of police in the sleepy town of Idyll, Connecticut. The citizens are shocked when young college grad Cecilia North is found murdered on the town’s golf course. By chance, Chief Lynch met her hours before she was killed. With that lead, the case should be a slam dunk - but there’s a problem. If Lynch tells his detectives about meeting the victim, he’ll reveal his greatest secret—he’s gay.

So Lynch works angles of the case on his own. Meanwhile, the mayor is applying pressure to solve the crime before the town’s biggest tourist event begins. Lynch must also cope with the suspicions of his men, their casual homophobia, and the difficult memories of his former NYPD partner’s recent death.

What inspired you to write this book?
I knew I wanted to write about a cop in an extreme situation where he had to keep secrets. But until all but the penultimate draft, one of the secrets was that the murder victim’s ghost talked to him. Inspiration came from decades of reading mysteries and watching a lot of police procedurals on TV. When I was in high school, a man was brutally murdered in my small town and I think that informed some of my story, though I didn’t realize what an influence this was until I reviewed the case in old newspapers.

Excerpt from Idyll Threats:
In my office, tilted back in my chair, I contemplated options. How to get them to the cabin. Call in a tip? Or cut out the middleman? Leave a pink slip on Wright’s desk, saying Cecilia had been seen at the cabin. He wouldn’t check who took the tip call until he’d swept the cabin. My gut rumbled. Manufacturing evidence. Did I want to start down that path?

“Needs must,” my gran used to say when I’d complain about chores.

I used the phrase on rookies, years later, when they’d moan about having to interview a drunk whose pants stank of his own filth. “Needs must,” I’d say, and the men would laugh and say, “Ah, lay a little more of that Irish wisdom on us.”

I missed that camaraderie, the quick laughter at jokes heard a hundred times. Idyll wasn’t friendly despite the locals’ insistence to the contrary. Newcomers were subject to suspicion. And I had secrets to guard. I didn’t trust my men here to keep them. Not yet. Maybe not ever.

I could put the pink slip on a desk before any of them arrived tomorrow.

Needs must.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m working on the second novel of the Thomas Lynch series. In this one there’s less murder, more kidnapping. I like to keep my criminal skill set varied!

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I told people I was a writer after my first novel, My Summer of Southern Discomfort, was sold. But I was a writer before that. I just didn’t feel like I could claim the title without a published novel. Psst, aspiring authors, you can!

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your workday like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I work in the Finance department of the MIT Media Lab from 8-5, Monday to Friday. I sacrifice a lot of my after-work and weekend hours to write. Occasionally I’ll take a “vacation” day and stay home and write. I tried writing before work a few times in the early morning hours. It did not go well.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I type with two fingers. Quickly! But two fingers.
Hee hee. That’s funny!

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Astronaut, writer, teacher, Wonder Woman, cartoonist, mother, spy, lawyer.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Read what you love, and never apologize for it!


Thanks, Stephanie! Happy writing!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Guest post about Writers' Conferences from writer Jennifer Roland

Today I have a special guest post on how to get the most out of a writer's conference. Jennifer Roland is doing a virtual book tour for 10 Takes  Pacific Northwest Writers: Perspectives on Writing.

So, first, a little about the book:
From novelists to poets to playwrights, Jennifer Roland interviews a variety of authors who have one thing in common — they have all chosen to make the Pacific Northwest their home. Covering a diversity of disciplines — from comics, fantasy, and detective novels to long-form poetry and illustrated children's series — 10 distinguished authors provide unique perspectives about their craft, provide helpful writing advice and tips for success, and share their passion for living and writing in the Pacific Northwest.

Readers, leave a comment below to participate in a giveaway where one lucky winner will take home this fabulous book for their own collection. 

Writers Conferences by Jennifer Roland

A few weeks ago, I did my annual stint as a volunteer at the Willamette Writers Conference in Portland, Oregon. I always have a great time, leaving tired but full of new ideas.

Here’s what I’ve learned about finding a good conference to attend — and how to get the most out of it.

Plan Ahead
Once you decide that you want to attend a conference, start out with the boring stuff. Make a budget for what you can afford and decide how far you can travel. Then list the five topics you want to learn more about at a conference.

Then go to your good friend Google. Search for writer’s conferences in the areas you can travel to — something like “writing conference washington -dc” should get you a good set of results for the state of Washington. Look at the program of workshops and the speaker lists to see if they match your list of topics. (Tip: If this year’s program isn’t posted yet, look at the previous years. They tend to be similar in their mix of fiction, nonfiction, screenwriting, self-publishing, and other topics.)

Finally, I know I had you focus on finances first, but the cost of attending should be the last thing you look at. Add up the cost of conference attendance, add in $10-$20 per meal, and add in the cost of the hotel stay. You can save money by staying in a different hotel, but it is much easier to get to all of the workshops and events if you just grab a room in the conference hotel.

If this price tag is out of your budget, don’t give up — I know a way to save a ton on conference attendance.

Consider Volunteering
As a volunteer at the Willamette Writers Conference, I save about 80% of the fee for attending. Meals and other travel costs are on me, but I live in the area and I can eat cheap food if I need to.

Volunteering has more benefits than just money. I interviewed Mary Andonian for Pacific Northwest Writers, and she shared about how her work with the Willamette Writers group has helped her make connections in and out of the northwest as she pursues screenwriting. Andonian has served on the board of the organization and has chaired various portions of the program over the years.

For me, serving as a conference volunteer gets me out of my shell a little. I am an introvert, so though I love getting into deep conversations with people, I’m not quick to approach them. As a volunteer, I must speak to attendees, visit with presenters, and often introduce them to the class.

My tip for volunteering is to ask to serve as room monitor as much as possible. That puts you in sessions during your shift, so you get to absorb the information while working to earn your discount. You likely won’t get to pick your sessions, but there is good information to be found even in genres you don’t write in. That’s another thing I learned from Andonian — you learn a lot more about structure in screenwriting sessions than in novel or short story writing sessions, and structure is key to writing a well-paced story.

You may also have the opportunity to work with the agents and editors who are accepting pitches at the conference. Use this power wisely. Be nice and helpful, but only pitch during your pitch appointment.

Prepare for Pitching
One of the big reasons these conferences exist is to provide writers with the opportunity to sell their work to agents and editors. You can purchase short appointments to sell your story. Preparation is key.

First, go back to your budget and see how many pitches you can afford. Then carefully read all of the bios, paying careful attention to what the agents and editors are looking for. You want to maximize your opportunities to sell your work within your budget — and you don’t want to waste the time of the person you’re pitching to by trying to sell YA fantasy when they only work with memoir and nonfiction.

Then work on your pitch. Some appointments are as long as 15 minutes, but other conferences limit you to as few as 5. You need to know your project inside and out, and you need to be able to convey what is important in as few words as possible. Write it down, edit it, and practice it in front of the mirror and any writer friends you have. Take their criticism in the spirit it’s intended — they want you to do the best pitch possible, so if there’s something they say doesn’t work, assess that criticism and make adjustments when necessary.

I love volunteering near the pitch rooms. It’s totally motivating to see people come out with a big smile on their face because they picked the right person to pitch and they honed that pitch to make it perfect.

Have you attended a conference? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Jennifer Roland is a freelance and marketing writer with more than 20 years experience in newspaper, magazine, and marketing environments. Jennifer also works as a virtual assistant to writers, helping them build their online presence and connect with readers so they can focus on what they love — writing.

She loves fiction and writes that under the name Jennifer C. Rodland. She hopes to put all of the lessons she learned writing this book into getting more of that published.

Jennifer can be found online at her Website | Twitter | Instagram

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Interview with mystery author Silvia Villalobos

Mystery author Silvia Villalobos is here today. She’s chatting about writing, and her literary mystery novel, Stranger or Friend.

Silvia Villalobos, a native of Romania who lives immersed in the laid-back vibe of Southern California, is a writer of mystery novels and short fiction. Her stories have appeared in The Riding Light Review, Pure Slush, and Red Fez, among other publications. She is constantly drawn to premises filled with questions which arouse feelings that are often beyond imagination yet seem real. When not writing, she can be found hiking the Santa Clarita Woodland Park trails or preparing and giving speeches for Toastmasters International.

Welcome, Silvia. Please tell us about your current release.
Stranger or Friend is a literary mystery sparked by secrets and distrust. It’s the story of a woman’s journey back home, to her ailing mother. The story of a place Zoe Sinclair no longer recognizes; a town where her best friend was murdered, where outsiders make life uneasy. A place where the sheriff is inept or unwilling to help and the county investigator is more interested in politics.
In many ways, Zoe is an outsider herself, particularly when she starts pocking around and disturbing “the way we always do it.” When her city-lawyer experience kicks in, the questions multiply, but the answers put her in the same danger that befell her dead friend.
The story speaks to the hidden story inside all of us, fears that lie deeper than we know, secrets causing irreparable harm. And at what cost? Stranger or Friend answers this very question while looking beyond, to what comes next.
What inspired you to write this book?
It all began with the concept of “new arrival,” people giving up the familiar for a new and hopefully better life. Some twenty years back, when I moved from Europe to the U.S., I embraced the new with some trepidation — new home, new culture – and have been absorbed by the idea ever since.

Also, the theme of universality in fiction has always been of interest to me. The idea that no matter where we are — big city, small town — we deal with the same issues: love, hate, fear of the unconventional. Crime.
As a lover of books, I’m immediately pulled into stories with strong yet flawed characters, people from different backgrounds, different cultures, the effect of such amalgam on us all, and that is what I worked hard to accomplishing in Stranger or Friend.

Excerpt from Stranger or Friend:
Across the gravel road Zoe’s childhood home looked smaller, as if shrunken under the weight of life. Smoke from the chimney caught the moonlight in a slow dance, blurring into the night sky. A place of happiness, but Zoe knew better. She pushed the car door open and stepped out, ready for her final visit home.
The porch light illuminated the road cracked by time and weather. Beyond it, darkness stretched over the wilderness. She shut the door and walked to open the trunk, her heels poking the frozen ground. How can it be so cold and dark?
A twig snapped behind her. Zoe turned but saw no one. Sounds carried through the cold air from the distance. A rustle of branches. Someone wheezing? Another glance over her shoulder showed only the woods she’d explored as a child, the winding paths of apple orchards stripped bare by winter. She opened the trunk. Having been away from the nature so long, wildlife rustling unsettled her nerves.
All right, loosen up. You’re home.
A shaft of light escaped between the window curtains. She should’ve called, but Mother often misplaced the phone. Last time, Zoe found the handset in the pantry. She pulled her carry-on out of the trunk, and shut the cover loud enough to chase the memories away.
A light turned on at the new neighbor’s house, followed by a series of distant shrieks. Must be the winter wrens; she never tired of their wilderness call.
The front door opened and Mother, leaning on a cane, waved. “Hello, dear.” She grabbed the doorknob to steady herself. “I’m glad you didn’t get caught in traffic. Radio man said it’s messy on Old Highway.”
Zoe dragged her carry-on up the dirt road to the house. “I must’ve missed it.” She matched Mother’s smile but her heart sank at how frail she appeared. “You look good.”
“I’m getting my strength back.” Mother let out a sigh. “Get the rest of your bags. Must be piles of papers.”
Atop the steps, Zoe put her right arm around Mother’s shoulder. “Work’s in my computer.” She kissed her cheek. “This is everything.”
The wrinkles had deepened into scars on Mother’s face, carved by the mark of life. She flashed her proudest smile, then turned to lead the way. “Let’s go inside, dear, before icicles drip from our noses.”
Hand on the doorknob, Zoe turned to face the road, listening. That sound a minute ago, so strange. Nothing but stillness lay over the countryside now. She shut the door, turned the lock, and followed Mother into the kitchen.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I am working on several projects as ideas come, make themselves comfortable, then fly away for some time. Most actively, I’m working on the next Zoe Sinclair novel, a story that will take the reader from California to Wyoming to Europe and back to California. This is the most ambitious writing project for me so far, in terms of setting but also character. Every day, I’m letting it build like a jazz riff, with the melodies of one word playing off the melodies of the others, until the composition is complete.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I knew early on that writing was my passion by the way I jotted notes on anything that would make, in my mind, a good story. However, writing became more than the act of shedding thoughts in high school, when my English teacher singled out an essay I wrote on Mihai Eminescu’s Evening Star. She said something to the effect of seeing promise there, and encouraged me to push the creative envelope with each paper I wrote. And so I’ve been trying to do ever since.
Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I write all the time, but I don’t have an office-type schedule or structure where it’s my responsibility to produce copy every day. For me, writing is more than the physical act of putting pen to paper or typing. I think about writing a lot. I spend time researching, outlining, changing my mind, and going from there. When nothing comes to me, I sit down and write a bunch of nonsense, sentences that may or may not make sense. After a short break, I read the mess and try again until the story takes shape.
If it were a matter of “finding” time, I would probably never write. I have to make time for writing, just like I make time for anything that matters in life.
Outside of writing, I love spending time with family, hiking, and last but not least, preparing and giving speeches for Toastmasters International.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Oh, I love fun questions.
Let’s see. 1) I am a lover of words. In the genre I write, the story must be fast-moving, but slowing it down to enjoy the whisper of each word, the image it evokes, that’s a must.
2) I form strong bonds with characters. It can get strange when I find myself having audible conversations with them, sometimes in public places if an idea strikes. But I’m learning to save my character conversations for the privacy of my home.
3) I become distracted in the middle of a conversation because a great idea just popped up in my head. However, the image of the recluse, antisocial writer doesn’t fit me. I’m very social, and highly opinionated. Then again, I think most writers are opinionated. Writers are informed beings, in possession of an encyclopedic range of ideas on every imaginable topic, but more so on writing.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Wish I could say that I had a clue. Early on, I went through the usual dream-job list: teacher, doctor, mostly because I loved my teacher and had a lovely pediatrician. I don’t remember my mom ever asking or pushing in any direction. She made sure we had lots of books around the house. We spent an inordinate amount of time telling stories, fostering ideas, playing alphabet games -- where someone starts telling a story with the first letter of the alphabet, the next person continues by beginning her sentence with the next letter, until, inevitably, someone uses the wrong letter and is eliminated.
Thank goodness I was never pressured into picking a career. The idea was that if I do well in school and go to college, everything would take care of itself, career and hobbies.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I’d like to invite everyone to visit me at Please leave a comment, and if you would also include your link, I’d be happy to connect. Also, for more on Stranger or Friend (about the author, media, a free short story, and behind-the-scene information) visit

I hope you enjoy the story and take a moment to share your thoughts on it with me. Hearing back from readers is what keeps us writers going.

And many thanks, Lisa, for having me on. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.

You’re very welcome, Silvia! Thank you for joining my blog!


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Interview with mystery author Mary E. Martin

Today we are being visited by a virtual blog tour celebrating the completion of author Mary E. Martin's second series, The Trilogy of Remembrance. The books are: The Drawing Lesson, The Fate of Pryde, and Night Crossing.

I’d like to welcome followers of the tour joining us from Book Musings, and from other sites on the tour.

As part of the tour, the author is sponsoring a $200 Amazon gift card giveaway, as well as to receive a purchase incentive package donated by the tour sponsors.

Entries in Mary's $200 Amazon gift card giveaway will be accepted until midnight on August 31, 2015 with an announcement of the winner posted from Mary's Blog on September 1, 2015. Anyone submitting a proof of purchase entry in the giveaway draw will receive as an added benefit the tour purchase incentive rewards package of free e-books and discount coupons donated by tour hosts.

For a full tour schedule of events, as well as details on how to enter the lottery drawing for the gift card and receive the purchase incentive rewards package, visit Mary E. Martin at

I encourage you to follow the tour further by visiting The Book Bag for reviews of Mary's work.

Graduating from the University of Toronto in Honours History in 1968, Mary E. Martin obtained her law degree from Queen’s University and began practice in Toronto, primarily in wills, estates and real estate from 1973 to 2001. Since then she has worked full time as a writer and photographer with six novels and six shows to her credit.

As an author, Martin has published two trilogies, The Osgoode Trilogy and The Trilogy of Remembrance, which have garnered many awards and much critical acclaim in almost fifty reviews. The Osgoode Trilogy, set in the corridors of power of the legal world, was inspired by her many years of law practice.

The Trilogy of Remembrance is an exploration of the art world where questions of creativity abound. The novels have attracted popular attention and praise with readers through social media recognition. Martin’s popularity has grown with readers through internet promotion activities, as a featured novelist with Wattpad, as a popular guest for podcast interviews, and as a blogger often on topics of art and culture.

Welcome, Mary. Please tell us about your current release.
Night Crossing the third in The Trilogy of Remembrance.

What inspired you to write this book?
Night Crossing is the final novel of The Trilogy of Remembrance and is “built on” or inspired by the two preceding novels, The Drawing Lesson and The Fate of Pryde.

My earlier writing in The Osgoode Trilogy, [Conduct in Question, Final Paradox, and A Trial One] featured a Toronto lawyer, Harry Jenkins and was inspired by my many years of law practice in Toronto. In that trilogy, I found that amid murder and fraud, I was also exploring other quite different issues of love, forgiveness and compassion. And so, I’d say the first trilogy really did inspire the second.

After completing The Osgoode Trilogy, I wanted to continue exploring those kinds of issues and so, realized I needed a new leading man, Alexander Wainwright, Britain’s finest landscape artist. I’ve had a lifelong love of all the arts and thought that I should view the world through the eyes of this artist. And so, my love of the arts and my desire to explore quite different issues including the BIG questions.

What sort of BIG questions? These are just a few: Do we inhabit a random universe or one which is governed by mysterious forces we don’t yet understand? How can the very worst and the very best of humankind thrive in one man’s breast? Can there be a love so strong that it transcends death?

Would you like to meet Alexander? Here he is at the beginning of Night Crossing desperate because his muse has abandoned him.

Excerpt from Night Crossing:
Chapter 1
Sharp rays of sun illuminated tubes of paints set out in orderly rows. Brushes stood upright in tins like sentries organized by size and rank. A dirty rag, smelling of turpentine, dropped to the floor and a stony-faced artist gazed at his half-finished canvas. Suddenly, with an anguished cry, he flung his palette at the canvas.
What he then saw froze and silenced him. The palette did not strike the canvas
but veered willfully off in a wild arc of its own creation. The spinning palette appeared to take aim at the long, elegant neck of a mannequin he sometimes used for still-life drawing. It struck it with full force. At first, the mannequin seemed suspended in time and space but then it clattered downward onto a tin of bright red paint. The tin spilled over dripping paint from the table to the floor where it congealed in a massive red pool. The mannequin lay face-up with a bloodied nose.
Witnessing such absurdities unfolding before his eyes, the artist gave an angry bark of laughter. Surely some unseen hand had mysteriously directed the cascade of events! How could one tin of paint flood an entire studio floor? Astonished to witness such unnatural events, the artist glanced warily about his studio. Shaking his head, he rushed to sop up the mess with a rag.
 Even inanimate objects seemed to mock him. Although there was nothing to do but laugh, he did not. Throwing aside the rag, Alexander Wainwright, Britain’s finest landscape painter, glared at his canvas and shouted, “Disgusting! Stupid and trite!”
Scowling, he stared out the high windows of his studio. Beyond them, twilight crept over the Thames dotting it with tiny pinpoints of light. A ferry churned across the river just beyond Tower Bridge and shadows fell softly across his studio. His foot tapped out a staccato rhythm.

But this artist is about to be shocked by a vision rising up before him—one that will set him on his journey from London to Paris and St. Petersburg

What exciting story are you working on next?
Have you ever seen a trilogy morph into a quartet? I’m thinking about turning The Trilogy of Remembrance into a quartet. Throughout the trilogy there has been a strange rivalry between Alexander Wainwright and his “friend and nemesis” Rinaldo who is a conceptual artist. In terms of personality, world view and their art, these two men are polar opposites. I think they are fated to collaborate in their art in the next story. That raises a lot of fascinating questions such as what might be lost and what might be gained in such an artistic collaboration? Somehow I don’t think I’m finished with these two characters.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Probably when I was in my early teens. But later, I realized I might actually have to earn a living. So, I studied History and English at University and then went to law school. That led me to practicing law for almost thirty years. I really liked the practice of law and in particular, the clients with all their troubles. Only later did I understand that this was the way to become a writer. I had a wonderful window on the world of humanity and found inspiration for The Osgoode Trilogy which is set in the world of Toronto lawyer, Harry Jenkins, and protagonist of the trilogy.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I do write full time now but only after retiring from law practice. One of the greatest challenges that a writer encounters is promotion. It makes writing of the novel look easy! One of the most effective means of this is blogging from my website.

What to blog about? I’ve been having a lot of fun allowing some of my characters to be guest bloggers. Alexander Wainwright, artist and star of The Trilogy of Remembrance, has taken to exploring Cyberspace. Lately, he has visited quite a few famous personages such as the artist Marc Chagall and writers such as Dostoevsky and the poet Lord Byron. He time travels in Cyberspace and is astounded to find that sometimes these long since dead artists know him. Lots of fun! Please visit my blog at

I have a rule which works well for me. I don’t try to work on a novel [especially a first draft] unless I feel I have something to say. If I do, usually poor quality writing comes out because it’s forced.

Other activities? Travel, photography and playing with my grandchildren.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
If frustrated with the results of my writing efforts, I might well take a nap. This isn’t laziness. It gives your subconscious, where all the good creative stuff lives, a time to speak up. And so, often a writing question is answered after a good nap.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A writer and at one point, a filmmaker, but I didn’t get into films and the writing only much later.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I’m frequently asked about writing advice. It’s simple—don’t ever give up. NEVER!


Thank you, Mary!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Interview with young adult urban fantasy author N.R. Allen

I’m kicking off this new week with an interview with N.R. Allen about her young adult urban fantasy novel Lot’s Mountain.

N.R. Allen grew up in Dooms, VA, and currently lives in Blacksburg, VA, with her husband and family. While this is her second full-length novel, she has written and published poems, short stories, and flash fiction, including "Teddy Bear Heads," "That House at the End of Carver Street," and "A Song for Miss Cline".

Welcome, N.R. Please tell us about your current release.
Magic isn't gone, only hidden. For countless centuries monsters, men, and things in between have fought hidden battles over the fate of magic … in a small rural town in Virginia. Now their skirmishes threaten to explode into open war, with the entire world held in the balance. Dylan Caid, a troubled misfit whose secret just might hold the key to victory, finds himself thrust into the center of this ancient conflict. With both sides urging him to join with them and threatening death or worse should he not, Dylan must seek out an ancient force that even monsters fear.

What inspired you to write this book?
I actually wrote a poem about ghosts living in a house. After that poem was published, I couldn’t get my mind off it. I also wanted to write about the myths and monsters of Appalachia, as well as other legends.

Excerpt from Lot’s Mountain:
"There's a reason that we're afraid of the dark. A lot of things in it are pretty dang nasty," I tell her. "But there's a lot more in the dark than you know, and they're asking for help, Jamie. Our help."
That seems to spark something in her. She looks up and slowly nods.
"I wish you could see the good things." And then I realize something. She can.
As soon as I pull out the orb-thing Grim gave me, it starts to glow and pulse with orange light.
I don't know if it's because I'm thinking of Grim or if it's just something that the orb thing can do, since it’s a wisp’s map, but all of a sudden, light splashes against one of the walls of the theater and we see something. It's just a glimpse, but we see it—Belle Lake. I can hear soft music that digs down to my soul. Jamie hears it, too. Shimmering trees rise from the floor as a breeze brushes warmly by us. The water ... it isn't really there, but Jamie leans over and watches it glow next to her. And I know that she feels how I felt the first time I saw the lake. She feels like she finally belongs somewhere.
And Jamie smiles. Well, that's not saying much, since most smiles always mean that I'm shit out of luck. But this one ... well, this one is a whole lot different. It isn't Diane's pity smile, or Shard's I'm-gonna-eat-your-heart-when-I-can smile, or the sheriff's creepy, possessed smile. This one really makes me want to smile back, and I do.
"Jamie, this is what we have to save."
After the mirage of Belle Lake fades and the orb becomes just an orb again, Jamie and me just sit there on the theater floor. Then, for a few minutes, we forget about the war looming over us. We forget about Stone and Glass.
Looking at her face, I want to say a thousand different things, but I don't say anything at all.
And neither does she.
But that's okay. That smile of hers is enough.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m working on a new edition of my first novel, Blood of the Revenant. I also have several novels lined up to explore Urban Fantasy in more Appalachian settings and also want to weave in a few more Cherokee myths.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I was five, I was totally in love with Smokey the Bear and wanted to be a forest ranger. But I kept making up stories and by age seven I just knew that I wanted to be a writer.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I have three children so I usually take summers off from writing. But when they’re in school, I write full time. I have several chronic illnesses that keep me from working.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I talk to myself when I write and do the voices of the different characters out loud.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Forest Ranger, definitely.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I first started writing horror stories, but then found that Urban Fantasy was really where I belonged. I love blending in myths and legends. I also love working with different languages. I’m part of a medieval reenactment society and try to weave in little tidbits here and there.


Thank you, N.R.!