Some secrets are worth killing for. Some are worth dying for.
Five years after the brutal slaying of her husband, software executive Jill Shannon is ready to take the next step in her life. But with her wedding to prosecuting attorney Conner Manning just eight weeks away, her future father-in-law’s political ambitions for her fiancé threaten all her hopes. Jill’s past holds dark secrets. Secrets she can’t afford to have exposed under the relentless lights of a political campaign.
When Phoenix Detective David Shaw turns up at Jill’s door asking questions about a reporter's murder, he has no idea what a lethal Pandora’s Box he’s just opened. Was the womanizing reporter killed by a jealous husband, or was it related to his drug use? Or did it have something to do with the secret expose the reporter was working on? Jill Shannon looks like a dead-end lead but Shaw can’t shake the feeling the beautiful widow has secrets she’s not sharing.
Jill is caught between the sins of her past and the shattered hopes for her future. Shaw finds himself drawn deeper into a twisted labyrinth of lies and danger. One thing is clear: some vows are made out loud in front of witnesses. But some vows are made in silence, and witnesses can’t be left alive.
Why did you choose to write this series from the perspective of a female antihero?
I grew up loving antiheros from Dirty Harry, to Dexter, to Hannibal Lecter. I love writing complex, realistic characters. None of us are all good or all bad. We all have shades of the hero and the villain inside us, and Jill Shannon, the protagonist of this book, is no exception. Abused by her stepfather, Jill has a deep need to right wrongs and protect those who need protecting from people who would prey on them. But she is also driven by revenge. In this book, Jill has a deep need to create a family for her daughter, and find the peace that’s been missing in her life. But you know how that goes… In an intelligent and flawed woman, those motivations result in an unforgettable character doing some pretty unique things.
Is Jill likable?
Ah, it’s an interesting question. I like her. I doubt that anyone asked Thomas Harris if he thought Hannibal Lecter was likable. I often joke that Jill is my alter ego—I’m a nice, Canadian girl who is a rule follower, and Jill doesn’t believe in following rules. Whether you love her or hate her, the complexity of her character is compelling. Like all anti-heroes, Jill has her own moral compass. She’s smart, and brave. And she has a dark sense of humor that I love. These are the things my readers love about her too. And yeah, she does have a dark side…
What makes this series (and this book) unique?
Female antiheros aren’t as common in fiction as their male counterparts. Aside from the perspective though, one of the things I love about this book is the feeling that it is a puzzle inside a puzzle. I love writing multiple plot threads that weave together and make for a big bang ending that blows people’s minds. Vow is written from multiple points of view. Detective David Shaw, who is trying to solve the murder case. Jill Shannon who is desperate to hide her past and keep her family intact. Jill’s fiancée, Conner Manning, who is trying to keep the peace between his fiancée, and his powerful father who is pushing him into the family business (politics). And finally, Kat. She’s a wife and a mother who has a secret to hide, and becomes a suspect in Joe’s murder. The push and pull between all these conflicting motivations makes an action-packed thrill ride you won’t want to miss!
What are some of the themes in this book? Why do they matter?
The theme of family runs deep in this book and touches every character in unique ways. Jill wants her daughter to have two parents who love her and who she can count on. Jill’s mother and step-brother died in a car accident when she was young, so she went through her adolescence and much of her young adulthood without this sense of security. Trust and acceptance are the two family values that Conner holds most dear. He grew up in a family that had high expectations and demands. His needs were deemed less important than those of his family’s. For Conner’s parents, family means legacy. And, for Detective David Shaw, family means obligation. Though he loves his son, he is struggling to support his wife’s emotional needs. As we build our own families, the family values that we were raised with influence us in a variety of ways—whether it’s compensating for what we didn’t receive, or emulating the strong values we were raised with. These values and struggles are part of the human experience, and something we can all relate to.
The three-book series arc follows a deeper theme of redemption. Two of the three books are out now while the third and final one is percolating inside my head.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but the RESEARCH! I used to dread doing research, but over the years, I have overcome my shy nature and met a lot of fabulous experts through the course of writing my four novels. While writing Vow, I reached out to a guy who owns his own political opposition research firm in Portland, OR, and I learned so many interesting things about politics and online sleuthing. When I interview experts, I always start with some planned questions to kick things off, but the real fun begins when the experts loosen up and start sharing their “war stories” with you. That’s where the gold is, and this guy had some AWESOME war stories. The people who are attracted to politics as a career are interesting folks to say the least. I also did a lot of deep research into security and how to circumvent it. My browser history alone has probably landed me on an FBI list somewhere. And I’m pretty sure the CIA is spying on me through my microwave.
What was your favorite scene to write?
There were so many great scenes. Writing a series book means that you get to revisit characters, who are as familiar as old friends. But my favorite scene in the book, I wrote for my friend, Ginna. The Jill in book #1 (IndieReader Discovery Award Winner Deadly Lies) is a bit of a vigilante. In Vow of Silence though, Jill has a lot more to lose, and so she’s become more risk adverse. I set the scene in a dojo where Jill shows up in disguise to “teach a bully a lesson”. This scene was a blast to write. I watched a bunch of Krav Maga videos with my husband, who has his black belt in jujitsu, as I was choreographing the action. The scene is fast-past and tense, with more than a small measure of humor thrown in. My husband listened to the book on Audible, and he insisted I listen to this scene because the narrator (Emily Cauldwell) did such an awesome job!
What’s up next for you?
My next book is called Deception Bay, and I’m thrilled to say that it will be included in the Love Under Fire Boxed set along with 20 other bestselling and award-winning authors. It’s a romantic suspense book, which is a bit of a departure from the gritty suspense books I typically write. It’s set on Whidbey Island, WA (not far from Seattle), which is one of my favorite places in the Northwest. This book has a protagonist who I loved loved loved writing! I spent many hours hunched over my keyboard, grinning and giggling as I worked on this book.
As a writer, I’m always looking for ways to hone my craft. With each novel, I focus on one skill I want to improve. For Deception Bay, it was voice. The books I typically write are written from multiple characters’ points of view. This time out, I wanted to create a character with a great sense of humor and more than a little swagger. With this goal in mind, Deception Bay was written solely from Austin’s POV. I think readers are going to love his irreverent, smart-assed ways as much as I do.
Here’s a sneak peek into what the book is about…
She’s armed. He’s dangerous. Together can they stop a killer from tearing a small island community apart?
When wise-cracking cozy mystery author, Austin Martell, left his hometown on Whidbey Island for the bright lights of New York, he vowed he would never go back. But some promises are impossible to keep, and when Austin discovers that his mother has suffered a serious accident, he has no choice but to return. Austin soon learns that her accident may be no accident at all, and secrets that were laid to rest after his brother’s tragic death off the coast of Deception Bay, have now begun to surface.
Austin finds himself in the center of a real-life murder mystery, when Police Chief Ellie Sharpe uncovers a curious connection between the author and the death of a local businessman. Born and raised on Whidbey and trained as a New York cop, Ellie is smart, and tough, and determined to solve the mystery behind the killing before more people die. Sparks fly as the two pair up to figure out who is responsible for the murder. The closer they come to discovering truth, the more desperate someone is to keep the sins of the past from coming to light.
Someone close to Austin harbors a deadly truth. Can Ellie unmask a killer before Austin becomes one more secret buried beneath the waves of Deception Bay?
I love to connect with readers, so if you’re interested in reaching out, here are a few places you can find me.
The lure of supernatural, time slips, and mystery murmur untold whispers to Casi McLean and have since childhood, more recently swirling around the allure of #Atlanta's famous #LakeLanier. Join me as we reveal an intimate part of Casi’s soul through a series of questions and uncover the passion behind the magic of Casi McLean’s supernatural, mystery, and romantic suspense writing.
When did you decide to become a writer, and how did you decide your genre?
For as long as I remember, I’ve loved the idea of supernatural. Not gruesome horror stories, vampires, or sci-fi aliens, but rather how the notion of questioning “what if ” entices the imagination into believing there’s more than what meets the eye.
My fourth grade teacher nudged the author within me when she read aloud Madeleine L’Engles, A Wrinkle In Time. The enchanting story opened the door to my future. As a youth and teen, I read every time travel story I could get my hands on and watched every time slip movie, while questions niggled into my thoughts. If time travel was “a thing”…how would the concept likely occur?
Years later, when I heard about the eerie lore attached to Atlanta’s Lake Sidney Lanier, a man-made lake located in the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains, the lore fascinated me. Plagued with mysterious disappearances, freak accidents, strange phenomenon, and ghostly occurrences, the lake became the perfect setting for my passion to bloom.
What if the construction created more than a lake? What if the excavation triggered a seismic shift, which when given enough energy, opened a portal to a different dimension…a rip in time connecting past to future? I loved the possibilities. I envisioned a town that time forgot and the history and creepy tales attached to the rural area that sleeps beneath Atlanta’s famous lake became book one of my Lake Lanier Mysteries:
Tell us about some of the tales that inspired your series.
Book one in my series, Beneath The Lake, shares the story of a young attorney who, after walking in on her boyfriend in the arms of another woman, tears off through a treacherous storm. When her car swerves off the road, she’s thrown into the lake, but awakens in the arms of a stranger, in a place she’s never heard of…thirty-four years before she was born. Beneath The Lake won the 2016 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence for BEST Romantic Suspense.
With homes, churches and buildings lingering beneath the surface of the man-made lake––all abandoned by displaced families and businesses forced to relocate––the fodder was endless. The moonshiners of the 1940’s added built-in suspense and sparked the birth of NASCAR. Looper Speedway, a half-mile dirt track where bootleggers competed with their souped-up cars, bared its cement stands in a recent draught. And there’s a Lady of the Lake who haunts the ghost town. Some say she lures victims to her watery grave. The truth is, swimmers get trapped among the deadfall of sheered-off trees and town remains. Even expert divers get tangled beneath the murky surface, hence the lake’s unnerving label: Lanier never gives up its dead.
I moved to Lake Lanier last year and my home overlooks a beautiful cove. The glimmering lake is a solace for me. Taking walks on trails around lake, and talking to neighbors who have lived in the area for generations feeds my muse. There’s no telling how many tales Lake Lanier Mysteries will yield, but if this inspiration should ever dry up, my passion for a touch of supernatural will keep me submerged in mystery.
How did you come up with a sequel to Beneath The Lake?
That was easy. I opened book two, Beyond The Mist, where book one ended, and brought to life two minor characters from Beneath The Lake as my hero and heroine. Piper Taylor concedes she’ll never fall in love, until a treacherous storm spirals her into the arms of the handsome Nick Cramer. Unrelenting remorse over a past relationship haunts Nick, but he can’t deny the mysterious connection and hot desire Piper evokes.
The allure of a secret portal hidden beneath Atlanta’s Lake Lanier tempts him into seizing the opportunity to change his mistakes. But his time slip triggers consequences beyond his wildest dreams, spiraling them into international espionage and the terrorism of 2001 New York.
And now you have book three on the horizon?
Yes, book three, Between The Shadows, is scheduled for release this summer. This story set in Reynolds Cove slips back to 1865 Georgia at the end of the Civil War, where two more characters promise to lure you into their own romantic suspense. I hope you check out my stories as Lake Lanier Mysteries continues.
Do you have any other stories on the horizon?
Absolutely. My newest novella, Reign of Fire, is the first in my new political romantic suspense series, Deep State Mysteries, and one of the many fabulous stories included in the Love Under Fire Box Set scheduled for release in November of 2018.
Tell us a little about Casi McLean and your other writing.
As Casi McLean, I pen novels to stir the soul with romance, suspense, and a sprinkle of magic. My writing crosses genres from ethereal, captivating shorts with eerie twist endings to believable time slips, mystical plots, sensual romantic suspense, and political thrillers. But I also write nonfiction books that breathe life into my brand, while empowering others to live their dreams.
Insert Wingless Butterfly
The first of which was my memoir, Wingless Butterfly: Healing The Broken Child Within, a bittersweet tale that shares the transformational story of a lost child like the whispers of a best friend. I hope all your readers take a moment to check out my Amazon page, websites, and book trailers. And I’d love for everyone to connect with me on social media. Thank you so much for hosting me on your beautiful website.
Beyond The Mist ~ Star-crossed Lovers Struggle through a Cyclone of 9/11 Terrorism
Beneath The Lake Trailer ~ A Time-Slip Romantic Suspense
Destiny Trailer ~ Shorts With A Sprinkle Of Magic
Beneath The Lake Trailer ~ A Time-Slip Romantic Suspense
Destiny Trailer ~ Shorts With A Sprinkle Of Magic
Valerie J. Clarizio
Author of the
A Nick Spinelli Mystery #1
When and why did you begin writing?
The ‘want’ to write came to me about ten years ago. I had just finished the course work for my Master of Business Administration degree and found I had a boatload of time on my hands. I always held a full-time and part-time job while attending college at night. Now that night school was over, I had nothing to do at night. I was bored, but not bored enough to go for a doctorate.
An avid reading friend of mine handed me a Janet Evanovich book and I promptly said, “No thanks.” The last thing I wanted to do was read anything. I’d read enough text books to last me a lifetime, and up to this point in my life I had never read for pleasure. She pushed the book toward me and urged me to read it. I read that book in two days, and then I read every book Evanovich penned. When I was done with her I moved on to JA Konrath and Leanne Banks. I logged over 50 books read in the first year. They were much easier reading than text books I was accustom to. Anyhow, one night I dreamt up Detective Nick Spinelli and I thought to myself that he would be an awesome character for Evanovich to write. I told my avid reading friend about the hero I dreamed up for Evanovich to write and she looked at me and said, “Perhaps you should write it yourself.” So I did. Hence, my Nick Spinelli romance mystery series.
Tell us about Nick Spinelli and his series.
Nick is a manly man. He’s a thirty year old homicide detective in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In book one, his partner retires and because he’s working solo he gets assigned to the Child Services division of the Social Services Department to escort caseworker Shannon O’Hara to the less than desirable neighborhoods as she does home checks during the Christmas season. Being a manly man, this is not Spinelli’s area of expertise, but his ball-busting female boss won’t let him off the hook.
Spinelli and Shannon do not share the same philosophies for dealing with the clientele, so sparks fly for more reasons than one. Meanwhile, Shannon moonlights at the mall as Santa’s helper, and when and Santa and an Elf turn up dead Shannon appears to be next on the killer’s list. Spinelli goes undercover as Santa to protect his new love interest and capture the killer.
So, in book one, Covert Exposure, Spinelli goes undercover as Santa. In book two, Craving Vengeance, Spinelli finds himself dressed as a singing cupid in an effort to catch a killer. Are you seeing a pattern here? At 6’2” do you think he’s too tall to go undercover as a leprechaun? The only way to find out is to read book three, Crazed Reckoning.
What inspires your book ideas?
Several things, actually. I get a lot of ideas from watching the news and movies, and I read as much as time will allow. Additionally, my day job is at City Hall and ever since the police officers and firefighters found out I write romance they are quick to offer ideas for future books. Of course, many of them think they should be the hero of said book, but I can assure you and anyone reading this that won’t be the case.
What’s coming next, or what are you working on now?
Right now I am working on a romantic suspense novella called The Code Enforcer. It’s the first story in my Crime and Passion at City Hall series. It’s going to be included in a romantic suspense box set called Love Under Fire which is scheduled for release in November.
What do you do in your spare time?
The hubby and I have turned into hikers. We’ve made a list of national parks and we are checking them off the bucket list slowly but surely. When not hiking, I do some reading, snowmobile riding, and a bit of fishing.
Valerie Clarizio lives in romantic Door County Wisconsin with her husband and two extremely spoiled cats. She loves to read, write, and spend time at her cabin in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
She’s lived her life surrounded by men, three brothers, a husband, and a male Siamese cat who required his own instruction manual. Keeping up with all the men in her life has turned her into an outdoors enthusiast, of which her favorite activity is hiking in national parks. While out on the trails, she has plenty of time to conjure up irresistible characters and unique storylines for her next romantic suspense or sweet contemporary romance novel.
And other stories
Could you tell us about your new release, The LoveLock, in one sentence?
Put briefly, it's a sensual, suspenseful, and heart-wrenching romance centered on the impact of mental illness and thwarted love, and how the main characters find strength and healing through the dark path. (Wow! It's a long sentence.)
The main character, Violet—a promising actress, becomes a stripper. In the script, you use Carmen Electra's Aerobic Striptease as her stripper friend coaches her on the sexy moves. Where do you get your inspiration?
(Chuckling) I own several of Carmen Electra's Aerobic Striptease discs. I do all of my workouts at home; dance aerobics and weightlifting are my routines. I dance with Carmen's workout video occasionally. The moves are sexy and relaxing. I'm sure performing those moves, like rolling your body, privately for fitness is entirely different from doing it in public nearly naked for the sake of money!
The main character, Violet, becomes close friends with the strip club bouncer, who is gay. Is there any specific reason for you to plot it that way?
First of all, I am straight. I have no particular political or religious agenda. This inclusion is just an honest reflection of my real life. I have a few good friends and co-workers who have different views and preferences in terms of sexuality. It has never occurred to me that these differences could cause any conflicts in my friendships or work relationships with them.
You already have published three books. How does The LoveLock differ from them?
My first two books, Love: A Tangled Knot and FLIPPING: An Uplifting Novel of Love, are in the romance/inspirational genres. A Mother's Heart is a memoir in which I share my experience raising a special-needs child.
Even though it is still within the genre of inspirational romance, I approached my fourth book, The LoveLock, differently. It's a new venture for me and much darker and more spiritually involved than the other three books. There is more provocative language, even a few sexual scenes, and a touch of paranormal for the necessity of the plot and to enhance the depth of the storyline. (Don't get me wrong, it's not pornographic. However, it could make my pastor frown if he saw it.)
Let me put it this way: if Love: A Tangled Knot and FLIPPING: An Uplifting Novel of Love were movies, they would be rated PG-13. The LoveLock, on the other hand, would be rated R.
Tell us about your new release, The LoveLock.
The LoveLock is a suspenseful and sensual love story!
Life changes on a dime. Few understand this painful truth quite like Violet and Dylan, former college sweethearts united by their troubled childhoods.
When a gut-wrenching tragedy strikes in their adult years, they're torn apart—their relationship unable to survive the blow. Though they go their separate ways, they remain connected by a meaningful token: a locket, which Dylan bestows upon Violet on a blissful day by a gorgeous beach in Coronado, California—to which he holds the key.
This lovelock remains to be their only connection as they struggle to rebuild their lives. Violet, an aspiring actress, grapples with mental illness and ends up stripping for a living. In the meantime, Dylan faces his own challenges while trying to manage his past trauma with an unknown future. They each venture down their own dark path laced with drugs and manipulative, taxing characters. All the while, neither can shake off their longing for the love they once shared and endeared.
In spite of life's impediments, can they heal their past and find happiness alone, or together?
You describe yourself as an “optometrist by day, actress and author by night." Would you like to tell us more about it?
I started as a full-time optometrist in a corporate setup when my son was two months old. Entering the workforce with young children was challenging in every aspect, yet it was an undeniable reality that left me with few options at the time. Fortunately, my work was very close to both home and the kids’ schools during their youth. I genuinely love my job as an optometrist. I appreciate all my patients giving me the honor of examining their eyes, the “windows to the soul.” I’ve been fortunate to discover along the way that each soul is precious and unique. Every individual is traveling along the journey in his or her life with an amazing story to tell. During patient eye exams, I often hear their incredible life stories, and many are truly inspiring to me. Once I became an empty nester, I decided to pursue ambitions that I had been dreaming about for years. Acting was one of them. I have been in several short films, and an indie film in a supporting role. I have to tell you that acting is one of the most humbling experiences I have ever had; I encounter rejections and feel humiliated all the time. You could say that acting definitely pushes me to step out of my comfort zone and expands my life’s horizons. Writing is a highly enjoyable passion for me because I love telling stories. It’s my dream to tell inspiring stories of everyday people with a fun and easy-to-read writing style. So, all these three careers are actually complementary to one another. Acting and writing both stimulate my imagination and creativity, and my experience as an optometrist enriches and enhances my acting and writing through the stories I hear and the people I meet.
Paul DeBlassie III
What inspired you to write books?
Books are and always have been my thing. My lovely lady, Kate, kindred soul, wife and mother of our four adult children inspired me to move into dramatic fiction. She said, “You can write visionary thrillers loaded with archetypal gusto just like you write psychology except these’ll be even more compelling, captivating, riveting”! Kate’s my inspiration, and she says she loves the story of Goddess of the Wild Thing (anybody guess why?)!
What do you love about writing in general?
Words are a psychic narcotic, a real high. When I read good indie writers like Tamara Ferguson, Uvi Poznansky, Luna Saint Claire, Rayna Noire, David P. Permutter, and Lorraine Carey my mind is tuned in and turned on. When I wrote Goddess of the Wild Thing there was a sense of being transported to another realm filled with mystery, insight, and age-old wisdom. I loved it!
Have you ever felt that there was something inside of you that you couldn't control? If so what? If no what spurs you to reach for the unexperienced?
I can’t control the words that hit the page. They jump out of my creative unconscious. As in the Goddess of the Wild Thing, they take me and the reader by surprise!
Tell us a little about yourself and your work.
I am a psychologist and writer who treats patients in psychotherapy and creates phantasmagoric tales set in the mystic land of Aztlan. The Unholy conjures a spell about life, love, and religion gone bad. It’s a step into horror that chills, frightens, and then blows out clogged psychic pathways.
Tell us about your new release.
Goddess of the Wild Thing is a dramatic tale of one woman’s spiritual journey where magical happenings, unexpected turns of fate, and unseen forces influence her ability to love and be loved. Eve Sanchez, a middle-aged woman and scholar of esoteric studies, encounters a seductive but frightening man who introduces her to a supernatural world in which the wicked powers of a surrogate mother’s twisted affection threaten love and life. In the mystic realm of Aztlan del Sur, Eve and three friends struggle with whether bad love is better than no love and discover that love is a wild thing.
(AKA Judy Foster Phillips)
I know you have been writing poetry for years. Who inspired you to write poetry? And who are your favorite writers?
My Grandmother would spend hours writing poetry and reading it to me when I was a child. Through her love of poetry, she inspired me and I began writing as an outlet for my joy or pain at whatever happened to be going on in my life at the time.
I love to read and have many authors that I enjoy, but my favorites are Nora Roberts, Glenn Soucey and Mike Wells. I also enjoyed reading the series written by Martha Perez she is a great writer.
Describe the pleasure you get from coming up with a powerful composition of words to aptly express your emotions.
The majority of my poems were written when I was either happy or sad. I write from my heart and I put what my heart feels at the time onto paper.
If I am writing from happiness it is a challenge coming up with just the right words to express that joy. If I am sad then my heart takes over and I write what it feels.
Your book, Poems of Love, Romance, and Tears was written over the span of a lifetime. Describe the selection process you went through to include just the right material for this book.
When I made the decision to make my poems into a book of poems it was a fairly process for me. I read and re-read each poem and some I made revisions to at that time because they needed either more or less or just a bit of tweaking.
Then I started the weeding process, which ones do I want to share in this first book and which ones do I want to keep to myself and not share at all. You know we all have those that we want to keep only to ourselves.
I'd like to share this poem which will be included in my next book this is one I wrote about my son.
If Heaven Had Visiting Hours
I miss you my Son. Seems like only yesterday that you went away.
I imagine you in Heaven with Grandma and Grandpa and having
a good time with Janet the love of your life.
I can feel you with me from time to time and I picture you sitting there
with that little grin on your face watching something that makes your smile.
I miss you my Son, life just has not been the same without you here.
If Heaven has visiting hours I would certainly be there to visit on a regular basis.
I’d walk right up to the doors, knock and say I’m here to see my son.
He left us to serve as God’s handyman in Heaven and to be with all our loved ones who
Have gone before him.
I hope you are happy Son, I miss you every day it is just like you left me only yesterday.
What have you learned from the process of publishing your book? Any advice for new writers?
I have learned that there is a lot more to getting your book published and marketed than there is in just writing it.
If you publish it yourself you have to do a lot of research such as what type of paper and margins, etc as I learned all of that has to be just perfect in order for it to upload correctly. Which I do need to say was sort of confusing for me so I hired someone to do that for me, problem solved.
There is a lot of work that goes into getting it marketed so I would advise a new writer to do their research and start out small at first then branch out later.
What do you find exciting about writing fantasy at the moment?
Being a fantasy writer means I get to come up with story ideas and place them in all kinds of settings. The options are endless even though the elements of the plot can dictate what’s important when I do “world-building”. I recently started working on some proposals for new fantasy projects and had quite a lot of fun designing new worlds to fit the plots. To answer the question more directly, it’s being able to finish a current project and move onto new material.
Speaking of “world-building”, can you give us a behind-the-scenes view about how you go about it?
My recent efforts were for proposals only so both required setting up the basics. What’s the world like? From there, I get into the main setting and come up with suitable names of everything I can think of for the story. This includes characters, cities, rivers, continents and much more. Along the way, I have to decide what the magic system is like and whether the story calls for very specific rules or a more general approach. For instance, with The Bow of Hart Saga, I only needed more general rules to show the magic. But for my newer projects, each one requires a set of rules specific to the world and the plot so I have to write those down and use magic appropriately.
How to you come up with your covers?
I have the great privilege to work with a wonderful artist named Christopher Rawlins. I give him my ideas for the cover based on the book as well as basic descriptions of characters and he does the rest. Christopher has a good intuitive feel for what I want based on my genre and lets me know if my ideas are consistent from book to book. I think he’s done a fantastic job on both books since I receive a lot of positive feedback for them.
Do you ever see yourself writing any other genres?
That’s entirely possible but I can do that with fantasy. Lots of authors are hybridizing their books so that there are several genres represented in their work. I don’t want to give anything away, but I’ve actually incorporated the use of several genres into my newer fantasy projects that are in the works now. I’m looking forward to wrapping up my current series this year and moving onto these new projects for this reason. The current series was an excellent starting point for me as an author but now I’m ready to leap into newer material since The Bow of Hart Saga has been with me for decades.
With the release of the new book upon us, can you offer any insights into what will happen?
I don’t want to give anything away but I will say that there are even more twists of the unexpected in An Arrow Against the Wind and it will be an arduous adventure for all the characters. I can also say the events will become even more challenging for Athson, Limbreth and the rest of the characters during the last book, The White Arrow.
Links for An Arrow Against the Wind:
You wrote I Will Never Forget to profile your mother’s journey through dementia. Why do you feel it was so important to write this memoir?
My mother’s was a story that needed to be told. She was a kind, brilliant, accomplished woman all of my life until dementia took hold leaving a bewildered, agitated and compromised person in its wake.
In 1945, in the shadows of World War II, my mother graduated from Purdue University with a Bachelor’s Degree in chemistry! Years later she went back to college for her masters in education, and went on to teach high school math and advanced calculus!
Many decades later, however after numerous family tragedies, my amazing mom started her one way descent into dementia’s abyss. Her decline from Alzheimer’s was tantamount to falling off a cliff. Mom had exhibited a smattering of memory related issues including paranoia and word recycling for several years. But the last two were laced with drama, bizarre but enlightening hallucinations and a masterful Houdini-like escape.
Mom’s touching but warped delusion that she had to find her own mother launched a catastrophic sequence of events ultimately leading to her death. During her final months I started sketching stories from Mom's life that exemplified her wonderful character.
I was determined my mother would be remembered as the powerful and graceful woman I knew, not the mumbling old woman withered by Alzheimer’s.
The title is catchy. How did you come up with it?
How many times do we casually saw “I will never forget” that story, that day, etc.
Before my mother’s dementia controlled all of her, we took the train from her home in SW Michigan to Chicago to see my aunt and cousins. The outbound train was wonderful but en route home it broke down so many times that we finally got off along with many other passengers and made alternative transportation arrangements.
The sight of my diminutive pixie of a mom schlepping her little suitcase along the railroad tracks was hilarious.
From the book: My mom talked about our great train escape for a while. “I will never forget that train ride,” she would say. “That was really something.” Ultimately, however, she did forget it, like virtually everything else.
How do you think your mom would feel about her life being showcased in your memoir I Will Never Forget?
My mother was a more private person. She didn’t crave the limelight nor perceive herself as special. But she would’ve embraced helping others. To that end, I donate from each book sold to help support Alzheimer's research; making a difference through a great read.
She would be proud though to see so many personal adversities help others know they are not alone!
What sets I Will Never Forget apart from other memoirs on dementia?
Memoirs guarantee an authenticity, intimacy and personal depth that can’t be made up. The expression “fact is stranger than fiction” particularly applies to I Will Never Forget. My mother’s real life experiences and drama would not be believable, were they not absolutely true!
I unwittingly made endless mistakes, living in denial, dismissing Mom’s erratic, unsafe behaviors as a show of her fierce independence and autonomy. But when a cascade of bizarre events triggered my epiphany, I saw how compromised my mother really was.
Transparently I reveal my flawed perceptions, but more importantly I showcase strategies learned the hard way to dissolve outbursts, manage adverse behaviors and maintain connections when words become less meaningful.
Paul James Zack
Tell us about “An Eternal Melody,” and your inspiration for writing the novel.
“An Eternal Melody” is the story of cowboy singer Casey Beckett and western artist Victoria Ames. Casey, fast approaching the middle of his life, is a man out of place in a world run by clocks and computers. Bonded to the land with his Wyoming roots, yet driven by restlessness he can only vaguely understand, he travels the country singing songs and reciting cowboy poetry. Victoria, middle-aged and separated from her husband, is struggling to follow her dreams. She yearns to live in the infinite vistas of the western landscapes she creates on canvas, but wonders if her desires can ever be attained in a life where her every step forward has been matched by retreat. When Casey walks into Victoria’s art gallery on a hot June day, their lives are forever changed as they begin a passionate romance transcending the boundaries of time and place. Written in poetic prose, “An Eternal Melody” is an unforgettable tapestry of tenderness and yearning, defining what it means to dance to the music within one’s heart. Set in harmony with the lyrical soul of the land, this love story reminds us that hope can exist even at the darkest hours, at the final curtain, and that with courage and affirmation, a man and a woman together can fulfill their shared destiny.
I like to call this story a “philosophical romance.” As such, it appeals to women and men, with its themes of women with dreams, alienated men, wistful memories, unfulfilled yearning, and bittersweet love affairs haunting you forever. These are undercurrents that have played roles in my own personal experiences, and like other novels in this genre (The Horse Whisperer, The Bridges of Madison County), the themes resonate with anyone who has lived a “true” life, with its attendant joy and pain, passion and heartbreak, love and longing. I tapped into a deep well of universal emotion to find my means of expression to write this novel.
What is your writing routine? How often do you write and do you outline your work?
When I’m working on a particular project, I try to write at least three or four hours every day. Usually, I end up working longer than that. I sit down at the computer whether I am “inspired” on a given day or not. I’ve found that after a few minutes of contemplation and tentative pecking on the keyboard, inspiration always arrives from the universe. I will sometimes work from a loose outline, more of a scene sequence than a rigid playbook. Within that sequence can be dialogue, characterization, or plot points that I’d previously written down. Frequently, I’m surprised by what appears on the page as I create a story; a scene that I’d not planned simply flows out without any help from me. I call these awesome moments “downloads” from the universe.
Where do you get your story ideas?
Everywhere! A fiction writer is constantly observing, listening, thinking, questioning, conjuring. Ideas come to me as fully-clothed, colorful, grandiose, brass-band experiences, or arriving silently as the smallest wisp of an image or emotion, and anywhere in between. I receive inspiration from movie music (there is a post on my WordPress site about using movie soundtracks for writing inspiration), and spending time in wide-open spaces. For me, a certain amount of solitude is essential in order to keep the creative gears oiled. I get so many ideas and impressions that could become stories, I will never be able to write all of them. I always carry a notebook to record my thoughts when they come, because they can slip away as easily as they appear.
Tell us about your wide-ranging background.
That trait seems to be common among novelists. The variety of my experiences helps me understand people, provides material for story ideas, and offers a rounded view of the world and our place in it. I’ve traveled across the United States, and I’ve been a radio announcer, teacher, advertising consultant, actor, and stand-up humorist. As well, I have numerous interests, and I read widely across several fields (archaeology, history, railroads, art, metaphysics, and of course, fiction). A writer can never read too much.
What is the most rewarding thing about writing fiction?
Two things. First, the sublime satisfaction of creation, whether it’s a novel, short story, poem, or song lyrics. Second, interaction with readers who have enjoyed my work. For example, women have told me that I was able to accurately capture a woman’s point of view through the character of Victoria Ames in “An Eternal Melody,” and this surprised them since I’m a man. It has been gratifying to hear that from women readers.
Do have any advice for other writers?
Write every day. Read every day. Write without concern for the market. Write the book you would enjoy reading. Love your characters, but don’t be afraid to see them in pain. Eat, breathe, sleep, and immerse yourself in the beauty of creating a story. Don’t give up.
Please provide us with an excerpt from “An Eternal Melody.”
Why hadn’t she heard the bells?
The footsteps indicated that someone had entered the gallery, but the sleigh bells hanging from the brass doorknob on the front door hadn’t made a sound. Vicki twisted around in her chair and peered into the showroom. Half-hidden by a wall, she saw a tall man, wearing a blue and white striped shirt, jeans, boots and a black cowboy hat. Was this Joanne’s cowboy? She couldn’t see his face. He had his back to her, his hands in the rear pockets of his jeans.
Vicki swiveled back to her right, grabbed a rag and wiped her hands, removing a speck of blue from a long fingernail polished in pink. She stood and the smell of turpentine wafted through the air as she flipped the rag across the racks of paint tubes on her supply table. Anticipation tugged at her and she tried to suppress it. She turned and stepped from the studio to the showroom after pausing at a mirror to glance at herself. Why hadn’t she washed her hair that morning?
Her bare feet, toenails also glistening pink, were silent against the varnished oak as she padded toward the front of the shop. The cowboy was concentrating on a landscape of hers titled Mountain Morning.
In a quiet voice so he wouldn’t be startled, she said, “Can I help you with anything?”
The cowboy turned, and as she saw his face, something quivered high in her chest. It was him. His face and the image on the portrait merged.
He smiled gently, touched the brim of his hat and said, “How are you? I wanted to talk to the artist.”
His voice was kind, clear. Light and color danced in his blue eyes. Vicki hesitated, blinked. “I’m the artist,” she finally said. “What can I do for you?”
She guessed he was younger than her, around forty. There was a look about him, a certain wildness, telling her he wasn’t from the Midwest. It was in his eyes and the way he carried himself. His movements were deliberate and controlled, none wasted.
“This painting here,” he said, pointing toward Mountain Morning, “looks just like a special place I know, near where I live in Wyoming. It’s quite a ways off any of the regular trails. I thought I was the only one who knew about it.” He gave her an enigmatic smile.
It was difficult for her to look directly at him. She toyed with a pearl snap on the front of her blouse. After a second she said, “Where is this special place?” It sounded senseless and she felt her face warm.
“These mountains are at the north end of the Grand Teton National Park, near Jackson, but this view is a couple miles from any of the roads a-horseback.”
He lowered his voice. “It’s one of my favorite places because almost nobody knows where it is. At least, I thought that until I saw this painting.”
“I’ve never been there,” Vicki said.
“Then you have a rare imagination.”
She smiled and the cowboy added, “I have a horse that looks remarkably like that bay.” He pointed to the horse in the painting, and Vicki noticed a heavy turquoise and silver ring of Zuni Pueblo origin on his hand. “My other steed is a paint horse called Dutch Boy.”
Laughing, she relaxed, but her insides simmered. She introduced herself and extended her hand, hoping he wouldn’t think she was too forward. The cowboy hesitated, then reached his hand out and cradled hers firmly.
“Casey,” he said. “Casey Beckett.”
His warm grip enveloped her hand. She sensed strength, a kind of energy in his touch, and a spark passed between them, unlike anything she had ever felt. It was primal, hinting at the untamed fire she saw in his eyes.
Their handshake lingered for a moment as they looked at each other, then he blinked and released her hand, pushing his hands into the front pockets of his jeans. The connection broke but a filament of energy remained. Native American flute music floated between them.
“I’m pleased to meet you, Casey. Are you an artist?” She tossed her hair over her shoulder. A silver hoop earring glimmered in the glow of a ceiling spotlight.
He shook his head. “No ma’am. I’m a singer and cowboy poet. I’m doing a couple of shows over in Dubuque.” He pointed over his shoulder with his thumb.
Ma’am? No one had called her ma’am in a long time, except the kid behind the deli counter at the Hy-Vee supermarket. When he said it she felt old, but hearing Casey Beckett say it made her feel honored.
“How long have you been running this outfit?” He gestured toward the other paintings on the barn wood walls around them.
“Almost eight years. I’ve been painting all my life.” She smiled. “In my previous life, I was a Pinkerton agent, traveling the West, investigating underhanded salesmen who turned the odometers back on stagecoaches.”
Casey eyed her for a moment before laughing. “You too? I thought I was the only one doing that.”
She laughed with him. Then he said, “You do look familiar. Maybe we met back then at a saloon in Dodge City.”
Vicki took in the high cheekbones, the mustache and hard jawline, all of it familiar. More familiar than she could understand at the moment. She wanted to tell him. Perhaps he could explain why she’d painted a picture of him.
“I’ve never been to Dodge City,” she said, the usual trace of wistful longing in her voice. “I’ve always wanted to see it.”
“I was there last summer. Did a show for a cattlemen’s group.” He shook his head. “It was a hundred and three in the shade that day. Hot enough to wither a fencepost.”
“You must travel a lot.”
Casey shrugged and fixed his gaze on her. “It’s been my life,” he said. The look in his eyes confirmed his words, but a shadow slid past, as if something contradictory lurked beneath the surface. He looked away before she could see more.
Questions dashed through Vicki’s mind. She fought to find one or two on which she could focus. “Tell me more about Jackson. I’ve read there are quite a number of art galleries there.”
He nodded and described the town. She studied him as he talked. He had a solid, powerful-looking chest and broad shoulders, arms that looked strong and capable.
She thought the black hat and dark mustache were an intriguing contrast to the brightness of his eyes. The resemblance to the cowboy in the portrait was extraordinary.
He was over six feet tall, with long, sturdy legs. Even at her five feet ten, he towered over her. The expensive western shirt he wore was tucked neatly into his jeans. She liked that. The top two pearl snaps of the shirt were undone and she could see a fine silver rope chain around his neck nestled in a wisp of dark hair on his chest. An unusual gold watch with a black band circled his wrist.
Vicki admired the large, tarnished silver and gold oval buckle at Casey’s waist. In small capital letters that were almost worn away, the engraving on the buckle read CHAMPION BULL RIDER – PLATTE COUNTY RODEO – 1995.
A bead of perspiration rolled down the small of her back and into the waistband of her jeans. She realized she had been standing in the blaze of a ceiling spotlight. A circle of heat was branded on her shoulder. She absentmindedly wiped her forehead and stepped out of the light, closer to Casey. The scent of his cologne kissed her. Like him, it was feral, but pleasing.
You have a fascination with witchcraft, superstitions, secret rites and ancient beliefs. Tell us how you interweaved them into your story, The Blood Trilogy.
Africa is rich in superstition and ancient beliefs. I have always been interested in the myths and legends of the people of the land, and as for witchcraft and secret rites, well they still take place to this day as it is something that is buried in the African culture so for me, it just seem to come naturally when I write. For example in Book One of The Blood Trilogy, Blood Moon over Africa, I take the superstitions that surround the Hyena and the witchdoctor, much like the black cat and the witch in Europe and just let my “Dark Side” take over and capture my imagination. Witchcraft and witchdoctors form a very real part of African life…for example even a sneeze can be blamed on someone bewitching the one sneezing via some sort of spell or charm obtained from a witchdoctor, so as you can see as far as African superstitions go, it gives me a vast pool to draw inspiration from.
You write about something that is close to your heart: Africa. “The beauty and treachery of the land.” Tell us how growing up in South Africa inspired your writing.
As a child growing up my Father worked on the mines in Rhodesia and his job took him to some very remote areas. I was blessed to live in the heart of the Wankie Game Reserve where the school had a security fence around it to keep the wild life safe from the children. My Grandfather was a professional big game hunter in the early years and I reckon a lot of tall tales he told me as a boy made a deep impression on me...I have brought some of those stories to life in my books. Africa is a stunning country and to answer your question, growing up not only in South Africa but Rhodesia and Zambia and coming into close contact with the local people in the areas and hearing about their superstitions, the myths and legends sparked an interest that got buried by life and only resurfaced in August 2014 when I started on this awesome journey of writing.
You served in the National service in the South African Defence Force as an Ops Medic. Had this experience influenced your writing?
I suppose in a way it has had an influence as I can draw on experience from serving in the “combat zone”. Fourteen months of my two year service was spent in South West Africa...again in the bush and I sometimes find that when I am describing a camp at night, the use of a helicopter, gunfire, the chatter of the primates or the cough of a lion my mind goes back to those days.
I love the words you invent, such as “blood spoor.” How do you come up with new, imaginative language?
LOL...I just have to be very honest here...I have no idea. I guess that I have been very blessed as when I write the words just flow like a water tap that has been turned on...I really have no idea what is going to pop up next in my head...I go into another world and live with my characters... the plot sucks me in and I just let my imagination run wild.
You play the guitar, and music is a big part of your life. Do you find that it affects the way you write?
The only thing that is affected by my guitar playing is the neighbours and then I have problems with shouts of...”keep that racket down”...Seriously to answer your question I write my own material for the guitar and I would suppose that in some way it does influence my writing, but it is something that I have not noticed.
Give us an excerpt from The Blood Trilogy
Prologue from Book One: Blood Moon over Africa
The full moon looks down on the dry African bush, the wind plays with the leaves of the trees, and the shadows grow longer as the moon climbs in the sky. The howl echo’s across the vast African landscape, splitting the night in two. The leopard freezes in his tracks as he moves from the safety of the shrubs, silence descends like a blanket, the chirping of the crickets and the mating call of the frogs disappear as the howl echoes off the kopje behind him. The other watches as the big cat moves slowly around the corner of the deserted house. The attack is fast and deadly, the other launches itself onto the back of the cat, its strong jaws latching onto the thick neck of the leopard, just behind the head. The cat rolls onto its back, trying to dislodge its attacker, blood fly’s, bone is crushed and the spinal cord severed, the big cat now paralyzed is at the mercy of the other. The head of the leopard is torn from its body; sounds of ripping and tearing now fill the night as the other eats.
The other stands in the clearing; all is still; it lifts its head to the heavens and howls out its ownership of the night.
Nothing is safe when the moon is full.
What is your writing regimen? Any tips for keeping focused?
I took an early retirement package when I was fifty and immediately turned my efforts to writing professionally. After all, it was the beginning of the rest of my life and I had to take it seriously. Already having the work ethic from being in harness, I found it fairly easy to shift my focus and keep to the regime I had established over the previous years. Having said that, I don’t stick to the same hours. My buddy Wilson, the dog, gets a nice, long, leisurely walk first thing which gives me time to get my thoughts straight and then it’s home for breakfast. In summer, I spend time during the sunny days gardening and generally enjoying the time of year. That doesn’t mean I don’t work on those days, it just means the hours are pushed back, a little like Spanish time. On the days that slip back I work until seven or eight in the evening, as long as I put in four to eight hours, I usually feel satisfied.
As far as tips for writers just setting out go, I would recommend putting aside writing time that is easily achievable. I can’t put a number to that because everyone’s different; too much might sicken one while too little might bore another. Whatever hours you do plan, they will expand of their own volition along with the piece you just can’t walk away from right now. I suggest a time quota because I’ve read stuff saying you should write a given amount of words per day, but for me that isn’t realistic. Why? After I finish the final draft of a novel I give the work a thorough read through. If the book in question is 80k words, then I might spend several days without writing a word, but I am still putting the time in.
What is your next project?
If there is a weakness in my career, it would be marketing. While I always make time for writing, of late I have put some of it aside to study various marketing techniques. I have a new modern day series called A Destiny to Die for Crime Novels, the first two books of which are Angelita’s Story parts 1&2. The novels are written and ready to go, but I’m not rushing into publishing them until I have a better feel for getting the launch right.
Even then, while it’s a lovely thought that you might get everything right from day one, I won’t despair if it doesn’t work out that way for Angelita. And here’s why not to worry: A fresh cream cake on display becomes unsellable if it doesn’t leave the shelf after the first day or so, but a book has no sell-by date. I am three books down the line with the Birth of an Assassin series of novels and while I have been happy with the success they’ve enjoyed, there is a lot of life left in them yet. Probably ninety percent plus of the possible readership don’t yet know these books exist. So, like a dog, your novel is not just for Christmas, it is for life, so you always have time to get things right.
What drove you to write the A Destiny to Die for Crime Novels?
I read several articles online and in the newspapers regarding the true stories of women in Mexico and Columbia who had gradually worked their way into the drug cartels until they, unbelievably, took command of their respective gangs. Depressingly, the more I researched the possibility of writing a fiction novel that reflected what I’d read, the more I saw it had all been done before. But I didn’t want to give up, I had the bit between my teeth and I wanted to write that story. So, applying a little diversity and moving the location to Brazil, I looked at the bare outline I had written and played with its perspective, changed the demeanour of the plot and ended up with a story that I believe to be unique. I loved writing about Angelita so much, I am totally excited about getting it out there, but patience is the key and I must rein in my enthusiasm until the time is right.
Words of advice for those looking to indie-publish?
Don’t give up. Writers write, that’s what they do and they should remember that’s what is important. I say that because when your work goes out to the real world you have a shed-load of unrealistic expectations in mind and if those expectations aren’t met overnight, it can make you question why you bothered doing it the first place. It’s called disappointment. Dream yes, but don’t expect. And remember, success or failure is not a reflection of your work, rather a reflection of your marketing skills. Take your time, keep writing, and let the more worldly accomplishments develop with experience. Only time will tell and if you are not willing to put that time in, you might well fall by the wayside before you’ve given it a chance.
Do you consider yourself multi-genre or are you completely immersed in a particular theme?
Primarily, I think of myself as a thriller writer. However, I’ve done several interviews where I’ve stated that a writer should be able to write in any genre. That smartass answer bugged me a little, as thrillers have been all I’ve tackled to date. What I’d said had me questioning if that was really the case for me. I had to find out. By coincidence, it wasn’t long after having those thoughts that I had a nightmare I couldn’t shake off even after wakening. When I shared the story with my wife, she said, ‘There you go, there’s your different genre, write it down.’ Although the dream was frightening at the time, it boiled down to being about caring for someone. So, I tweaked the story, gave it width and depth, and produced a short story romance. I succeeded, yay, but was it a fluke? Luckily no, I’ve written another four short romances and have outlined three more, so I will have a full length romantic collection in the pot by the time the latest ones are complete.
How long did it take before you considered your writing style became your own?
A good question. In short, I think when you start out you look at the writers you admire and try to emulate them. When you have found your own style, you look at those same writers and think, ‘they should’ve done it like this.’ i.e. your way.
Tell us about your debut novel? Is your recent book part of a series?
My debut novel, Apollo’s Raven, is an epic Celtic tale that follows two star-crossed lovers and weaves Celtic mythology into a backdrop of ancient Rome and Britannia. In a story of forbidden love and loyalty, the Celtic Warrior Princess Catrin is caught in a political web of deception when the emperor Tiberius demands allegiance from her father, King Amren. When King Amren takes Marcellus, the great-grandson of Mark Antony, as a hostage, he demands that Catrin spy on him. As her feelings grow for him, she discovers a curse that foretells a future she desperately wants to break. Torn between her forbidden love for the enemy and loyalty to her people, Catrin urgently calls upon the magic of the Ancient Druids to alter the dark prophecy that awaits her.
Apollo’s Raven is the first book in a series that will center on the star-crossed lovers that spans from 24 AD to 40 AD.
How did you select your genre of your series? Or did it choose you?
Apollo’s Raven is multi-genre: historical fiction/epic fantasy.
The series is inspired by the legacy of Cleopatra and Mark Antony, but with a Celtic twist. I had originally envisioned the series to be a historical fiction of the star-crossed lover Catrin and Marcellus. The backdrop is based on a historical period in southeast Britannia from which few written records exist before Claudius’ invasion in 43 AD. Nonetheless, archaeological findings suggest powerful Celtic kings were expanding their power by conquering other tribes. Nonetheless, Rome’s influence on their internal politics was inescapable. This provides the perfect backdrop for political and romantic turmoil.
However, as I did more research, I became increasingly fascinated with the Celtic religion and mythology and began incorporating fantastical elements into the story. Thus, Celtic mysticism and magic are woven in the historical backdrop of Ancient Rome and Britannia.
What inspired you to write a story about a Celtic warrior princess?
As a young girl growing up in the 1950s, I was inspired by the myths and legends of powerful women warriors and sorceresses. In third grade, when most of my friends were reading Nancy Drew mysteries, I was devouring books on Greek and Nordic mythology. By eighth grade, I was reading adult historical fiction about the bigger-than life adventures of epic heroes and gods and goddesses that steered the fate of humans.
When I saw the statue of the Celtic Warrior Queen Boudica with her two daughters in a chariot prominently displayed in London, I was inspired by her determination to lead a resistance against the Romans in 61 AD. In the Victorian Era, Boudica’s fame took on legendary proportions as Queen Victoria became associated with Boudica's "namesake", their names being identical in meaning.
Modern readers can draw on the rich traditions of ancient civilizations where women owned property and could become rulers and spiritual leaders. Women fought with weapons, hunted, rode horses and used bows and arrows, just like the men, to maintain the integrity and protection of their family and society.
Will the stain left by Mark Antony and his descendents became a central theme in the series? Will history repeat itself with the star-crossed lovers, Catrin and Marcellus?
There legendary Mark Antony and Cleopatra inspired the Apollo’s Raven series. Though Marcellus is a fictional character, his father is based on the historical figure of Lucius Antonius, the grandson of Mark Antony and the son of Iullus Antonius. In an act of damnatio memoriae, Mark Antony’s honors were revoked and his statues destroyed. Lucius was banished to Gaul when his father Iullus was accused of treason for having an affair with Augustus’ daughter, Julia. When I began writing the series, I could image the anger and bitterness Lucius felt being punished for the sins of his forefathers.
The stain left by Mark Antony and his descendents directly impacts the story line that will unfold in the series.
What are the special challenges in writing a series?
The biggest challenge is the series continues to evolve as more scenes are written. Book1: Apollo’s Raven is actually the fourth book that I have written in the series. After I received feedback from agents and other writers on the first three books, I realized that I needed to create another book that that clearly sets the complex political situation and draws the reader into the fantastical world of the Celts. Apollo’s Raven had unexpected but exciting directions that I’m now trying to weave back into the original books I have already drafted. As I revise the first original three books, I’ve had to change some of the plot and characters to enhance the story. Also, each book needs to be kept fresh by introducing new characters, themes, and settings. The series has expanded beyond what I had first envisioned.
Please share an excerpt with us.
Catrin again hesitated. Once before, when she had melded and then disconnected from her raven, she lost consciousness. It took awhile for her head to clear after that episode. If that happened again, it could spell disaster so close to the precipice.
She stepped away from the cliff’s edge and stared into the raven’s eyes which were glowing like amber gems. The bird’s talons emitted a bolt of electric heat into her arm. A light flashed in her mind, and the raven’s essence permeated her core being. She knew then that she had entered the raven’s prescient mind.
At first, the landscape appeared blurry until she adjusted to the raven’s eyesight. Then brightly colored wildflowers dazzled her with purple hues that she was unable to detect with her human eyes. A thrill rushed through her as she sensed the bird’s breast muscles contracting to flap its wings. When the raven began its thrust into flight, she felt the misty air lift the bird’s outstretched wings.
Rae Leah’s Salvation is the second book in the Tales From Aelfyce Series and both books have included Rae Leah. Will she be returning again in another volume, and will you talk about her role in this volume?
I suppose there’s little harm in admitting that Rae Leah will be a constant throughout the series. Wesley, now that’s another matter. He seems to be operating under the idea that it’s better to burn out than to fade away. When they read Rae Leah’s Salvation they will understand what I mean.
Sure, I’ll give you a teaser of sorts, something different than the blurbs. I wrote Rae Leah and Wesley’s love affair to bond two people who have suffered alone before healing one another, together in the isolation of Steam Island, and I’ve left myself an avenue to see that it grows in volume three. That’s it for the teaser.
Aidan, what led you to create the Lourack as catlike, and will we meet other species in the series?
Oddly enough, they came from a tattoo on my forearm. Working late one night with another tattoo artist I held my arm out and said, “You decide.” He tattooed the head and shoulders of a cat lady on me. I wore the tattoo for many years before I created the first Lourack. In one of those daydream moments, I created Red who I introduced with Rae Leah in The Power of the Stones. At the time, I had just retired and my wife made it perfectly clear that being completely retired wasn’t working. I began writing the fledgling story of Aelfyce and the Lourack fleshed out as I wrote. I really enjoy the creation process of writing fiction. I enjoyed adding new facets to the Lourack.
In volume three, I introduce new animals and their habits, but no sentient species.
Do you have any idea how far you will go with the series?
I am long-winded, but no more than seven. Of course, now that I’ve said that the number will either shrink or grow. If I hit a place that seems a proper end to the series, I’ll quit. I also have two other books outside the series that I want to publish that I will squeeze in somewhere.
What authors have given you inspiration and why?
I’m a reader; I was in my early twenties before I looked at books as an inspiration to write something of my own. Anne McCaffrey inspired me to put arduous words into my books. I have to get something in there that people will need a dictionary to understand. In dedication to Piers Anthony I try to get a real belly groaning pun in. He is an author to emulate, being so prolific, and in so many genres.
I’ve read many indie authors during the last four years. I think a lot of good work is going unnoticed. Not every work is the next great American saga, but I’ve read and reviewed many as five star books. I found many have new devices to promote action, different ways to write descriptions, and other things that I will flat-out steal when I can use them.
In all truth, the author who will truly inspire me is the author who writes the next book I can’t put down.
What frustrates you when you write?
Many things frustrate me. Having a good idea while you can’t write it down stinks. People who think I’m crazy as I walk the aisles at the local grocery store repeating, “I will see him dead, don’t doubt it,” changing my tirade subtly until it sounds right. Having to walk the aisles of the grocery store repeating, “I will see him dead, don’t doubt it,” because, “Where was I that I couldn’t write it down when it was perfect.” (See line two)
Second guessing myself will eventually frustrate me. Sometimes I carve a vicious circle to get right back where I started. Writers block doesn’t frustrate me; it’s a great time to get ice cream.
Please share an excerpt with us:
They lay together in the snow laughing. Rae Leah snuggled next to him and began rubbing her head under his chin. Wess felt her become very still, and then heard her thoughts. “He is a good man. I hope he doesn’t forsake me in this place.”
Linda Lee Green
I have read in your biographies that you are a victim of Crohns Disease. While in no way are you thankful for the devastating illness, you credit it for showing you the way to your soul’s voice, and therefore to your life as an author. Will you share that transformative experience with us, please, Linda?
It was the morning of August 10, 2000. I was lying in bed suffering yet another severe flare-up of the Crohns Disease that had taken over my life utterly for nearly a decade. I was on an extended sick leave from my job as an Interior Designer with a local firm because I couldn’t work—I couldn’t be more than a few paces away from my bathroom—I couldn’t eat because food aggravated the symptoms—I couldn’t sleep because the steroids kept me awake almost perpetually. I was worn out, worn down, and downcast, and of the mind that I hadn’t a thing to look forward to in life anymore. But Fate stepped in that morning, put me on my feet, sent me to the shower, and while there, a story, a murder mystery, no less, flowed over me as if the words were contained within the molecules of the water. I knew without question that my soul’s voice had taken over, and it was a path it called me to follow. I returned to my bed with a notepad and pen, began to write, and in those few moments, my life, my purposeful life as an author of books began. That book became an Amazon best-seller.
Did the talent for writing come as a surprise to you with that experience? Or, was it always there, somewhere within you?
I had known since I was a very young child that I was an artist. I began drawing as soon as I discovered how to hold a pencil in my hand. The talent for interior design took shape as I approached adulthood, but writing stayed in the shadows, showing its face only in glimpses now and then—in college essays that earned high marks, in poems I wrote on the sneak. I suspected I was a writer at heart, but ideas for stories eluded me completely—until that fateful day in the summer of 2000. Since then, the stories come and come and come, like a water spigot that will not turn off...ha ha…as if I am still standing beneath the spray of water in my bathroom shower.
To date, you have released four books to the public, all of different genres. Do you intend to continue in this vein, or do you think you will settle into a specific genre as time goes by?
Your question reminds of my student days at the Columbus College of Art and Design (I live in Columbus, Ohio, by the way). My instructors there often found my love of diversity in my artwork infuriating. They admonished me to stick to one style, to create a recognizable signature if I ever expected to ‘make it’ in the art world. Such limitations were intolerable to me, and are to this day. The repetition bored me almost fatally, but I survived through diversity.
I don’t know if the same credo holds true in the literary world, but if it does, I guess I am doomed to everlasting obscurity as an author. ‘Jesus Gandhi Oma Mae Adams’ (http://amzn.to/VazHFG) which is my first book and co-authored by Debra Shiveley Welch, is designated as a ‘Mystery.’ That is the book that came to me in the shower. ‘Guardians and Other Angels’ (http://goo.gl/imUwKO) is a novel of ‘Historical Fiction.’ My book for young readers is ‘Rooster Tale’ (goo.gl/vNq32g). My latest book, ‘Cradle of the Serpent’ (goo.gl/i3UkAV), is labeled as a ‘Contemporary Romance’.
Like you, I am an artist and author. I have found that no matter the apparent dissimilarities in my work, as indeed in the work of all such prolific creators, there is an underlying element that is detectable, despite our own efforts to mask it, either deliberately or accidentally. Can you recognize some harmonious theme in all your books?
Well, I guess it takes one to know one, Uvi! You’ve found me out! Yes, the thread in my work, or ‘spine,’ in the words of the late Film Director Sydney Pollock, is relationships. I write about relationships. Enfolded in the murder mystery of my first book is a love affair between a man and a woman, why and how it began, and why and how it went wrong. ‘Guardians and Other Angels,’ this homage to my Southern Ohio ancestors of the early to middle 1900s, is the book that led me back home, that rooted me firmly in my and my family’s little patch of Earth, that brought to a halt, finally, my lust of wandering, my fear of establishing roots. My fun and happy little novella for young readers weaves a story centered on the love among siblings and their animals, and the sacrifices they willingly assume for the benefit of one another. My new novel, ‘Cradle of the Serpent,’ explores a crisis in a long-term marriage brought on by infidelity and catastrophic illness. How I managed to find a happy ending for that one, I will never know. Although, I must state that happy endings are never my goal. Truth is my primary goal—I must find truth, no matter where it leads, or ends.
Do you establish an outline before you begin writing a book?
Oh no, never! Never do I know where my stories are leading me. Writing for me is an adventure—about the only great adventure left to me in life considering my circumstances. I begin with a grain of an idea, sometimes with just an intriguing word. And I follow it to the place my soul wants to show me, to the concept my soul wishes to teach me, to the spiritual realm my soul wants to take me. Somehow I know I am charged with taking my readers on the adventures with me, to show them the place, to reveal to them the concept, to take them out of themselves and to ride the wave of their spirit for a time.
In addition to writing as a discovery of people, places, and things, it is a way of getting to closure in my own experiences. For instance, much of my own marriage showed up in ‘Cradle of the Serpent.’ It was completely unintentional, at least consciously, but that old reptilian brain of mine, my unconscious, had ideas of its own. It brought a conclusion to the story that was entirely different than the outcome of the crisis in my own marriage. It was a way of voicing my regrets over my own choices, of wiping my bad conscience clean, at last. Writing is therapeutic for me. It is my greatest wish that my books are similarly curative, and in the process, entertaining for my readers.
Thank you so much for inviting me to be a guest on your blog, Uvi. I hope your readers enjoy viewing my artwork, some of it having won awards. An extensive collection of it is on view at www.gallery-llgreene.com. I hope my responses on this post will inspire your readers to become my readers, too, and will post reviews of my books on Amazon and/or other retail outlets where they are available. I would enjoy hearing from your readers by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Totally my pleasure, Linda! Wonderful to talk to you and learn about your work!