dinsdag 28 februari 2012

Interview with author John C. Brewer

Hello again!

My latest interview is with author John Brewer who lives in Huntsville, Alabama where Dr. Werner von Braun designed and built the Saturn V rockets that carried men to the moon. He worked there as a rocket scientist and physicist but he is not originally from Alabama. His father was a naval aviator and he moved around a lot growing up, going from one naval air station to the next. It was fun and John lived in some cool places but it left him with no roots so he was ready to settle down. Huntsville is a nice town and he has raised three sons here, two are in high school and one is in college. His wife makes sure all four of her boys stay in line.

Books & Writing:  Do you remember the first story you wrote?

John C. Brewer: Interesting question. Why yes! I do remember it. It was The Silla Project. It took me six years of research, writing, and revision.

Books & Writing:  Were you inspired by someone or something?

John C. Brewer: Very much so. It was in late 1998 and I was doing a lot of secret work in closed, government facilities. I still can't talk about what I was doing, though the reality of that isn't as exciting as it sounds, trust me. At any rate, the nation was shocked at some of the things that were happening during the Clinton Presidency. The Waco Massacre. The Ruby Ridge killing. Vince Foster's 'suicide.' I was wondering where my country was headed. Wondering if it was still America. And I asked myself what I would do if the government came and did terrible things to my family and then imprisoned me. If a foreign power then offered to bust me out in exchange for information, would I do it? Somehow that transformed into an idea that rapidly grew into a passion and I realized I LOVED writing and was good at it.

Books & Writing:  Can you tell us a bit about the book “Multiplayer” which I believe is part of a saga.

John C. Brewer: Multiplayer is a lot of things. I've read some books lately and they are mostly just one thing. Multiplayer has a lot more depth than you get from an ordinary book. On one level, on the simple level, it's the story of some teenagers who are playing a massively multiplayer online game and stumble on terrorists using the virtual world to plan and train for their next attack. It's an action adventure story.

On a deeper, more meaningful level, it is the story of a young man who is struggling with the death of his father in Iraq. His father was in the army and was killed by insurgents. As a result, Hector is bitter and angry and blames all Muslims, lumping anyone from the Middle East into the same, stereotypical terrorist category. And it just so happens his next door neighbors are from Iran and they have a son, Sanjar, who is Hector's age. Hector doesn't react very well at first, and neither does Sanjar. Ultimately they have to learn to trust one another.

Going deeper yet again - human interaction has never been subjected to such rapid change. We can talk to anyone, anywhere in the world whether we want to or not. This is changing the way we interact faster than we are developing the ethics to manage these new abilities. At the same time, the virtual world is becoming more real every day. The 'Saga' aspect of Multiplayer delves more deeply with each book into this blurring of difference between real and virtual that is happening. The second book is called Non-Player Character or NPC, and the third, Uploaded Intelligence or UI.

Books & Writing:  How did you come up with the main character Hector West and can you tell us something about him?

John C. Brewer: Well the name came from my youngest son who is a magnificent storyteller and artist and actually did the cover for the book. His name is Daniel, but when I was just beginning the book he was mesmerized with the names Hector and Isaac. I don't know why or where he got them. But I chose the names for him. The character grew organically from the story as I developed the plot and came up with necessary motivations for the main character. As a military brat myself, he was also someone that I related to easily. Of course, as the father of three boys, there are bits and pieces of all my sons lurking there in Hector. And then, there's this national psychosis we have about Middle Easterners. I know some and they are... well, no different than anyone else I know. So it's a dumb stereotype that I wanted to deal with.

Books & Writing:  Is your book inspired by the Netforce Explorers from Tom Clancy?

John C. Brewer: This is a little embarrassing but I'd never heard of that book until you asked me this question. To be honest, all three of my boys are a total of about 30 months apart. I didn't read much of anything from 1994 until 2008 so I guess I missed it. Between potty training, not sleeping, writing, working, and coaching three soccer teams there wasn't time. So I'll have to say "no" it wasn't inspired by that book! 

Books & Writing:  How did you come up with the idea for the book?

John C. Brewer: Two ways here. I used to play a lot of HALO with my sons. HALO the XBox video game. I still play sometimes. We got our start on HALO I, or HALO Combat Evolved - the original. It had multiplayer maps but you couldn't play over the internet. HALO 2 came out with XBox Live and suddenly we were battling people all over the world and you could hear them talking. We were hearing British accents, German, Australian, Japanese, you name it. It was astonishing! And there were times when I would meet friends online and we'd stand around and talk between battles. Using this kind of interface for bad guys to get together to not only talk, but to train together, was a no-brainer. And it isn't being tracked by the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, or any other three-letter agency.

The second motivation is a peeve of mine. I like the idea of mixing real and virtual. And it's been done a number of times. TRON and Ready Player One are recent attempts at this. But it's always bugged me that the plots are so contrived. People don't and can't get sucked into computers line in TRON. There isn't coming a time when everyone plays video games all the time like in ReadyPlayerOne. These stories are fun but are, to me, fatally flawed. I wanted to build a story where real and virtual mixed in a way that made sense. In a way that could happen today. As far as I know, Multiplayer is still the only story that does this and has real stakes. 

Books & Writing:  I understand you also wrote a techno thriller called “The Silla Project” which will come out in April I believe. Can you share a bit about the book.

John C. Brewer: As I said earlier, Silla is my first book. As such it will always be special to me. The Silla Project is the story of Mitch Weatherby, a nuclear bomb scientist at the top of his game, living in Los Alamos with a hot wife and a cool car. Life is perfect. Until the Feds show up and raid his house. His wife gets killed in the raid and the Feds convict Mitch for building a nuclear bomb in his basement. Of course, he wasn't doing that and doesn't understand why any of this is happening to him. The only thing he knows is that guys like him don't do well in prison, but that's where he's headed for a life sentence behind bars. That's when the North Koreans show up and bust him out. They take him to North Korea and ask him to help them finish their bomb. And at the beginning, Mitch is pretty angry and about half crazy about the way things have gone. The story is about his journey back and the struggles he faces.

I researched the book for three years before writing it and when you're done reading it you'll understand why we think North Koreans are crazy but they actually aren't, why they keep having leaders who really are crazy, and you'll know how to build a nuclear bomb. It's a fun read. And like Multiplayer, there is nothing out there like it. Nothing. Which I find astonishing.

Books & Writing:  How did you come up with the story for that book? 

John C. Brewer: As I mentioned above, it started with thoughts about the political situation facing my country. I'm a rocket scientist and, since I've done work for the government, didn't want to write any missile fiction. Nuclear weapons made sense, and being a physicist I already understood how they worked. I initially thought of setting it in Iran or Iraq but there were so many books already set there. In hindsight it was probably a mistake not to put it there as it would no doubt have been a lot easier to sell. Regardless, I started looking at the rogue states and North Korea jumped out right away. And as I started to study the situation there, it was far more interesting than anything going on in the Middle East. It is a very fascinating place with wonderful people. I hoped, and still hope, that The Silla Project might popularize the plight of the North Korean people - probably the most oppressed population on Earth. I'm not sure why the Korean situation tends to get forgotten so quickly but the West should be ashamed that they've not worked harder to keep the plight of these oppressed people more in the public eye.

Books & Writing:  Where do you see yourself in a couple of years in relation to writing?

John C. Brewer: LOL! Boy, you ask tough questions! When I was done with Silla I passed it around to people who read it and said I was going to be the next Tom Clancy. So, if you'd have asked me that question then, I'd have said, "I'm going to be the next Tom Clancy!" Turns out I missed it by a few years. And I'm not writing the kind of books Tom Clancy wrote anyway, so I can't be the next Tom. For good or ill, my books are deeper than his, and my characters more flawed.  And my physics is accurate, I guarantee it. But if sales continue to track my predictions as well as they have up to now, I suspect I'll be spending more time writing than running missile simulations as well as doing a lot of speaking at conferences. 

Books & Writing:  Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

John C. Brewer: Grow a thick skin and find yourself a partner or group who isn't afraid to tell you what is crap and what is not. Your friends and family will always smile and say, "I love it!" While that might make you feel good, it doesn't do you any real good. You need someone you can trust to be honest with you about your work. And don't expect to get picked up by an agent or editor. Expect to be in this for the long haul.

Books & Writing:  Which author inspires you?

John C. Brewer: This may sound trite but, J.R.R. Tolkien. And not because of the movies. They were visually stunning but that is all. No, I respect Tolkien for the way he lovingly crafted not only his stories, but his backstories. And he met with but little monetary success during his lifetime. He wasn't in it for the money. Yet imagine how the world would have been lessened had we never known of Hobbits, Orcs, or Middle Earth. I'm glad he kept at it and the fact that he did inspires me.

Books & Writing:  What is the last book you read?

John C. Brewer: Ready Player One. Read the review on my website. 

Books & Writing:  Where can people go and read your work?

John C. Brewer: The easiest place is Amazon where they can click on the cover and read the first four chapters for free, though I'm adding the first four chapters to my website as well. They can buy a Kindle version on Amazon or a paperback. It's also available for the Nook and from iTunes. By the end of February it will also be available through Barnes & Noble and while some stores will undoubtedly carry it, any of them can order it. In fact, you'll be able to order it from any bookstore anywhere.

Books & Writing:  Where can people find you on internet?

John C. Brewer: My website is www.JohnCBrewer.com where I blog, review books, and make posts about rocket science and other fun stuff. You can also follow me on twitter: @JohnCBrewer, and on facebook: www.facebook.com/authorJohnCBrewer, or feel free to drop me a note at john@plotforge.com.

Books & Writing:  Is there anything else you want to share with the readers?

John C. Brewer: Don't accept junk. There is an incredible amount of junk out there hiding behind hardcovers, colorful dust jackets, and premium labels. But as the great Sufi quote goes, a donkey with a load of holy books is still a donkey. You already know that if you want to listen to great music, look at the indie bands. If you want to watch great movies, go to the indie directors. So, where do you find great books? lndie publishers, of course. Get yourself a Kindle, or a Nook, or an iPad, and load it up with indie fiction. You won't be disappointed

Below is an excerpt from his book "Multiplayer"!

The line inched forward slower than an amusement park queue and Hector began to sweat. His mother got really mad when he pushed his gaming. She already thought he took it all to seriously, but he knew perfectly well it was just a game. The only real danger, he laughed to himself, was his mother. But it had been more than five minutes already and was getting close to her second warning. He wasn’t quite inside yet.

“Hector…” she called a second time.

His heart jumped. If he logged off, Izaak would collapse on the floor as if he’d passed out. He felt beads of sweat break out across his forehead. “Almost done. One more minute. Trying to get my character put away.”

Finally, Izaak made it to the doorway. Then inside. The dome arched high above a polished stone floor ringed with columns and Islamic icons. At the head of the chamber, apart from the line, several characters clustered around one who looked like a priest or at least someone in charge. The tall man with a dark beard was dressed in a white turban and a long white robe, and there was a dagger thrust through the belt around his waist. Like one of those terrorists on TV. Izaak froze. Standing next to the man was Mal-X. And on his back hung a huge rifle with a long, sinister, black barrel.

Vera!” Hector hissed.

“Hector Franklin West,” said his mother with a darker note in her voice, “don’t make me come up there.”

“Just a second,” he called back, captivated by the image on the screen. “This is important.”

He watched as another character strode to the middle of the Mosque and promptly vanished with the same flash as a slipgate. Hector was glad his real jaw wasn’t tied to his character because he sat there with it hanging slack. A slipgate? With no arch? He glanced around but there was no slipgate hardware anywhere. No arch. No dissipaters. Nothing!

“Hector!” It was a bark this time, and he knew it was his final warning. He was now, officially, in trouble whether Izaak survived or not.

Mal-X turned and scanned the room casually and Izaak suddenly realized Mal-X knew what he looked like. He slipped behind the character in front of him to breathlessly watch as another approached a small box with a handle. The top hung open, exposing a set of controls that looked like a standard slipgate interface.  A portable slipgate? He’d never heard of such thing! Then it hit him – that was how Mal-X had cheated!

zondag 26 februari 2012

[Guest post] Author Alex Nye

Alex Nye was kind enough to do a guest post for Books & Writing, where she talks about herself and the inspiration behind the two books, CHILL and SHIVER.

Hi Everyone, my name is Alex Nye.  I was brought up in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, not far from the sea, and loved books and writing stories from an early age.  I always knew that I wanted to be a writer. I had a teacher called Mr Grant at my first primary school, who let me read my stories out to the rest of the class every week when I was about 8 or 9.  They were always loosely based on Enid Blyton books I had read.

There are two books in particular which have inspired me – Wuthering Heights by Emile Bronte was the first adult novel I read, when I was 13. We were studying it at school, and I absolutely loved it.  Midnight is a Place by Joan Aitken was the most influential children’s novel I ever read, and I was delighted to re-discover it again about 6 years ago.

When I was nineteen I studied at King’s College, London, and afterwards took various jobs that would sit well with being a writer, as I was determined to get my first novel published. I worked in bookshops, libraries, cafes, as well as for a literary agent. In 1995 I moved up from London to live in Scotland, and stayed in a remote cottage on an atmospheric moor next to a large spooky house with a tower.  My son was a baby at the time.  This was the inspiration for the award-winning CHILL and its sequel, SHIVER, books for 9-12 year olds.

‘Samuel is trapped by huge snowdrifts in an old, remote house. And that’s not the only thing causing a cold shiver to creep down his spine.  He feels like the ghostly figure in the locked library has a message… but who is it for? Fiona lives in the big house, but will that help the two of them to break the curse on her family?  As the ice sets in, they uncover a deadly tale of betrayal and revenge.  Set on bleak Sheriffmuir, near Stirling, this is a spooky tale of the past coming back to haunt the present… He stared up at the dark mass of the house. Then he thought he saw movement in the library window to the right of the drawing room.  A shadow moving, backwards and forwards… then it was gone.’ (CHILL)

Excerpt from SHIVER, the sequel to CHILL.

‘A child sat alone in the darkness. No one knew he was there. On the floor before him was a group of clumsy-looking toy soldiers, roughly carved from wood. The red paint on them was faded and peeling, but the boy didn’t notice.  He moved them around, dragging them through the dirt, pretending to march them across an imaginary battlefield. It was a way of keeping his misery at bay. He was pretending, entering a world of make-believe, where his only comfort was to be found. They were primitive-looking toys, scarred and marked by their great age. The boy’s loving hands had worn them smooth with handling. They were all he had: the only souvenirs from a life long since faded away. Everything the boy had once known had crumbled into disrepair, leaving nothing but this forlorn little corner of the building, where he and his sister had slept for so many hundreds of years, like children in a fairy tale, waiting to be woken. And now that they were awake… what then?  Were they to be forever haunted by their own dreadful memories?  He let go of his toy soldiers so that they fell, unsupported, to the ground. Even the world of make-believe could let us down, sometimes.  Eliza found her brother in the dusty room they inhabited together. He was still crying.  With a rare touch of compassion, Eliza put her arm around him. “Cease that noise. I have returned.” “But you will leave me again,” he whispered. “I know you will.”

In 2007 CHILL won the Royal Mail Award, and was voted best Scottish children’s novel by pupils around Scotland.  The sequel, SHIVER, was published in 2009.  Both books are used as set texts in schools. I have called the house in the books Dunadd, but in real life it is a place called Cauldhame.  In 1715 the people who lived in the house at that time watched the Battle of Sheriffmuir from their drawing-room windows, as it swept from one side of the moor to the other.  The setting and atmosphere described in the books is very much based on this real place, my visual memories of living there in the cottage during the blizzards and snowstorms of a very bad winter.  The books were written after I left Sheriffmuir – I moved down into the nearby town – but I missed the moor so badly that I wrote the books sitting at the kitchen table while my kids were in bed, and where I could glimpse a distant view of the moor on the horizon. 

I’m not particularly attracted to the horror genre so much as ghost stories.  It is these in particular which appeal to me, because of the sense of mystery and because of the fact that they rely so heavily on a profound use of atmosphere and setting. 

At the moment I am reading The Greatcoat by Helen Dunsmore.  Another favourite of mine is Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black – an excellent piece of literary fiction, much better than the film.  A film can’t really do the book justice. My favourite horror/ghost film is The Others, again because of its great use of setting and atmosphere.

As well as writing, I now teach English in secondary schools, and have been reading my new ghost story DARKER ENDS (for 14+ years) out loud to the pupils of St. Mungo’s in Falkirk, who are great kids and all really supportive. I love getting them inspired to write their own original stories.  I’m currently writing an Art in Holocaust novel called THE COLOUR OF BIRDS.

You can visit my website at www.alexnye.com, or follow me on www.twitter@alexnye1

You can find my books in www.waterstones.co.uk, on www.amazon.com or www.amazon.co.uk or at



If you also want to write a guest post about your books and/or writing, drop me a line. Find my info at http://www.books-writing.com/contact/

Interview with author Candace Mountain


Today I am talking to author Candace Mountain who is originally from Nova Scotia which is in the eastern part of Canada, right on the Atlantic Ocean.  It really was a terrific place to grow up and you may just find some of that maritime influence in her books. She is currently living in Calgary in the western part of Canada and it is a beautiful city, though she does often miss home.  She have lived a very colorful life and the journey from Nova Scotia to Alberta has been filled with many interesting experiences which she can draw on when she is creating stories.

Books & WritingDo you remember the first story you wrote?

Candace Mountain: When I was a kid I wrote a story in elementary school about a family dealing with the tragedy of losing a family member when they fell through the ice and drowned at the local hockey rink.  After I submitted the story, my teacher informed me that there wasn’t any water under the ice at the hockey rink but rather cement.  I learned that research was very important from that first story.

Books & WritingWere you inspired by someone or something?

Candace Mountain: I think inspiration comes from everyone I meet and everything I see as I pull on everything to make my stories come to life.  Obviously, there are fragments of people that I have met in some of my characters, but that is not always the case.  The Burned One, for example, has some elements of my father in him as well as some elements of me when I go to a darker place.

Books & WritingHow do you overcome writer’s block?

Candace Mountain: I like to dance in a room by myself when I need to work out a story or plot piece.  I crank up the music and then enter into an almost day dream state where I let the characters do their thing.  Amazingly, some of my most brilliant story arcs have come out of this dance.

Books & WritingCan you tell us a bit about your book “The Daughter of Man”?

Candace Mountain: ‘The Daughter of Man’ is classified as horror though to be honest it is not a scary book in the normal sense.  It is more of a thrill ride than a jump out and scare you story.  The action sequences in the book are very plentiful and in a way possess the same sort of pace you might expect from an Indiana Jones movie.  The story is very plot driven and you can expect some twists that you will not see coming. 

The major theme of the story is good vs. evil though that boundary is often not so clear in some of the characters.  Gerald Beck, for example, is one of the main good guys who will often cross a line or two that you may not expect to see from a hero.  In his case, it is his desperation not to lose his daughter that motivates him to dismiss any sort of ethical approach to his plan to save her.

Books & WritingHow did you come up with the idea for the book?

Candace Mountain: I had been toying with the thoughts of The Burned One for years and knew that I had the makings of a great villain.  I also had a bit of an obsession with hurricanes as they truly fascinated me and the idea to have a big bad controlling weather and creating the ultimate storm felt right.  Once I decided that The Burned One was going to somehow control a hurricane, Florida became one of the obvious locations for the setting.

I spent an entire summer in Florida researching the settings that my characters would be coming to life in and during that time a lot of the story began to flesh itself out in my mind.  The alligator scenes were born as well a few of the back stories.  The rest came to me as I was writing and the story began to take on a life of its own.  I originally had a climax in store and it does happen about a hundred pages before the book ends as the climax turned into an opening salvo in an ending that takes 100 pages to tell.

Books & WritingCan you tell us something about the main character Nora Beck?

Candace Mountain: Nora Beck is a different sort of hero as she dies within the first few pages of the story.  However, her ghost is very influential in the story as she tries to uncover the plot against her family.  At the same time, she is attached to a seemingly ordinary girl named Jennifer who is being dragged into the conflict between her husband Gerald and The Burned One.  Nora knows that there are many things going on behind the scenes that she has to try and sort out and then find a way to communicate them to Jennifer and Gerald.

Books & WritingWhat attracts you in Horror?

Candace Mountain: I like the genre a lot as growing up scary movies and books were a regular part of my diet.  I have always come up with some sort of supernatural slant on my stories and it is almost natural for me.  Someday I plan to write a really scary book that will make people afraid of the dark again.  I have ideas already though I have a few stories I need to get out before I force all of my readers to sleep with the lights on.

Books & WritingWhere do you see yourself in a couple of years in relation to writing?

Candace Mountain: Right now I am working on my next novel which is set in the same universe as ‘The Daughter of Man’.  The next book is tentatively called ‘Polly Woggins and the Nanobot Nightmare’ and it is essentially a vampire story with a huge spy subplot.  After that, I have another Polly Woggins book to do before I begin to write ‘The Daughter of Man: Phoenix Rising.’

Books & WritingDo you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Candace Mountain: Read and write constantly, it is really the only way to become great at writing.

Books & WritingWhich author inspires you?

Candace Mountain: Stephen King is one of my influencers and there is a little bit of him in my writing though we greatly differ on the speed of plot advancement.  Stephen likes to take his time while I tend to move plot much faster.

Books & WritingWhat is the last book you read?

Candace Mountain: The last book I read was called ‘The Thirteen’ by Susie Moloney.  I enjoyed it quite a bit and would recommend it as well as ‘The Dry Spell’ one of her older books that I absolutely adored.  I had always been a fan of hers since that book and I was really delighted one day when I discovered that she followed me on Twitter.

Books & WritingWhere can people go and read your work?

Candace Mountain: My book is available exclusively through Amazon as a trade paperback, kindle version, or as part of Amazon Prime.

Books & WritingWhere can people find you on internet?

Candace Mountain: I am all over but the best thing people can do is visit my xeeme to see my full footprint and decide how they want to connect to me from there.


Books & WritingIs there anything else you want to share with the readers?

Candace Mountain: I love feedback in the form of reviews, tweets and even emails.  Please feel free to connect with me as you never know maybe you will be that next interesting person that inspires me to create a character based on a fragment of you. 

Below is an excerpt from her book "The Daughter of Man "!

Prologue One: The Death of Nora Beck

The clouds thickened and bellowed up towards the heavens in the characteristic anvil shape that was a common afternoon feature in the summer skies over Florida.  These afternoon thunderstorms were not at all out of place.  They were as normal as the constant heat and humidity that stalked the long summer months in the ‘Sunshine State.’  These storms tended to roll in very fast and then let out their fury in the form of lightning and near torrential rains.   They would then dissipate almost as fast, leaving a lovely clear and vivid blue sky.  If you were lucky, the storms would cut the humidity down a little bit and even then it was only a temporary reprieve.

Nora Beck glanced casually at the darkening sky as she left the small coffee shop.  She had just enjoyed the rare treat of catching up with her old friend Henry Stanton.  Henry was a professor at the University of Florida, a fairly well known, especially to college football fans, university located in Gainesville.   Nora lived in Orlando with her husband and their daughter Julia and this meant that she did not get to see her old friend very much as Gainesville was about a two hour drive north.

The not so distant sound of thunder echoed in the darkening sky which focused Nora’s attention back to the approaching storm.  She smiled briefly as she thought about how much Julia would love to be there to watch the storm develop.  Her daughter was currently in Gainesville studying meteorology and for all she knew she was enrolled in one of Henry’s classes, though neither of them mentioned anything to her about it.  There was a chance that Julia wouldn’t mention it because she was often a little private with her life which was a trait she definitely inherited from her father.

There was a bright flash and then another crack of thunder followed almost instantly indicating the storm was really close.  Nora felt a drop of water hit her hand and she knew it was going to rain sooner than later.  She glanced around quickly to see if there was any place she could duck into for shelter as she did not particularly want to get drenched from the rain.  She was not really concerned about the lightning as there were enough tall buildings nearby that made better targets than someone on the ground.

Most lightning strikes were completely preventable with a good amount of common sense which sadly enough not everyone seemed to possess.  You would expect people living in Florida to be very weather wise when it came to storms but that was not always the case.  Nora had known since she was a little girl that you simply avoided open areas such as a golf course or any other field.  Your car was the safest place you could take shelter as a lightning strike would travel along the outside of the metal and then ground through the tires.  It was referred to as a Faraday cage at least she thought that was what Julia called it. 

Nora first suspected that something was not quite right when her perception changed and the rain seemed to be falling in slow motion.  It was odd to see the precipitation moving so slowly through the air as if it was in no real hurry to reach the pavement.  She wanted to figure out what was happening except something else began to captivate her attention.  She was feeling a tingling sensation on the top of her scalp that almost felt like the pins and needles you experience when your foot falls asleep but less sharp. The tingle quickly grew stronger and she knew on some level that she was in serious trouble but yet she could only be fascinated by what was happening. She also knew that she should be afraid but she didn’t feel any fear as she recalled a conversation she had once had with Julia.

“So what did you learn last week?”  Nora asked.

“Oh Mom, it is so cool.  We really got in depth on lightning,” Julia replied with a small sparkle in her green eyes.  “Did you know that it actually starts on the ground?”

“I may have seen something about it on the Discovery channel,” Nora replied as she tucked a strand of her red hair behind her ear.

“Well, it starts as a charge called a positive streamer that actually reaches up towards the sky,” Julia stated.  “The thundercloud has a negative charge that reaches down towards the ground called a stepped leader.”

“Let me guess the streamer says, ‘take me to your leader’,” Nora said with a playful tone.

“Yup, when the two meet they form a closed circuit and boom,” Julia said with an emphasis on her last word.

zaterdag 25 februari 2012

Interview with author Gillian Rogerson


This time i am talking to author Gillian Rogerson who was kind enough to answer my questions.

Books & WritingCan you tell us a bit about yourself?

Gillian Rogerson: I write children’s picture books. I have been doing this for 12 years now and still love writing them. I live in Yorkshire, England with my two daughters  (both now teenagers). I work part time as a teaching assistant at a local school. I work with the younger children who constantly give me ideas for my stories. Last year my first non fiction book was released, which was a history book of the town where I live. It was written for children so it was quite a challenge to get all the interesting bits of history in. It was also a challenge to have to write the truth instead of making things up.

Books & WritingDo you remember the first story you wrote?

Gillian Rogerson: I had my first story published in the local newspaper when I was about 7 or 8. It was about two paintbrushes talking to each other. I vaguely remember writing it. I do remember being pleased about it being published.  At that age I also made one of my stories into proper books i.e. by folding pieces of paper in half. I tried to sell them to my neighbours for two pennies – but no one bought any.

Books & WritingWere you inspired by someone or something?

Gillian Rogerson: I loved Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree. It was about some children who climbed this magic tree. There was a different land at the top of the tree every day. Sometimes a good land and sometimes a bad one. I tried to find such a tree near my house, but I never found one. I was inspired to write picture books by my own children. I used to read these kind of books to them constantly when they were young and I loved the magical sharing time that these books represented.

Books & WritingCan you tell us a bit about your children’s books.

Gillian Rogerson: I like my characters to do something that is unexpected. For my first book, The Teddy Bear Scare, I thought what would happen to a teddy that didn’t want to be cute and cuddly, what could he do to make himself scary instead? My latest books have a character called Princess Spaghetti who is independent and brave, she doesn’t wait to be rescued, she’s the one who does the rescuing. I wanted to create a character that today’s girls can identify with.

Books & WritingHow did you come up with the idea for the books?

Gillian Rogerson: It could be anything, a remark on the television, a line in a book or conversations from my own children and the children I work with. It helps to take a certain character e.g. witch, dragon etc and think of really silly situations for them to be in. Or if a certain character wants a certain thing but everyone tells them ‘no’, what will the character do to get or be  that thing? A good thing to keep asking myself when writing is, ‘What if?’

Books & WritingWhat attracts you in Children’s stories?

Gillian Rogerson: It’s the magic and the fact that anything is possible. Children don’t think in limits, they know that anything is possible. When you see children at play they have such magnificent imaginations and a wonderful sense of fun. Unfortunately, we lose this as we grow up as we are told to ‘sit down and keep quiet’. As a children’s author I get the chance to think again that anything is possible. It’s a lot of fun making things up.

Books & WritingAre you planning to write for a mature audience in the future?

Gillian Rogerson: I don’t know if I could, I would be tempted to throw in impossible situations and unlikely characters that do ridiculous things. I don’t think this will go down well for those people who prefer serious books or books that have a well defined genre. However, I am currently writing stories for an older age range than 3-7, I’m breaking into the 7-9 age range! The kind of short chapter books that are suitable for children who are becoming more confident in their reading.

Books & WritingWhere do you see yourself in a couple of years in relation to writing?

Gillian Rogerson: I’d love to do more picture books and create strong enough characters that could develop into more stories. I like the idea of doing more chapter books and perhaps one day, novels for older children. I have this reoccurring idea for a longer book but I don’t feel ready to write it yet. I would also like to develop adventure stories that encourage reluctant readers to read. I think reading is so important to children. It doesn’t just increase their imaginations, it gives them more confidence in themselves. I’ve seen this in children that I’ve worked with, how they feel so proud of themselves as they read books on their own.

Books & WritingAre you working on something new at the moment?

Gillian Rogerson: I’ve got several picture book texts out with publishers at the moment and I’m waiting for their response. I sent a new story to my agent yesterday for her opinion, if she likes it she will send it out to publishers. I’m halfway through a chapter series and I’m getting some ideas together for ebooks which I will upload to Amazon Kindle. Of course, this leaves me no time for house work whatsoever.

Books & WritingDo you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Gillian Rogerson: The big one is never give up, even if it takes years. It took me 5 years and over 60 rejections before my first book was published. I saw each rejection letter as one step closer to success. I think it’s important to imagine your success too. I used to go to bookshops and libraries and find the place where my books would go. I imagined who I would donate books to, who I would dedicate them to etc. I even did Google searches on my name, there were no results years ago but now there are thousands ( not that I’m constantly checking). If you can imagine your published book – then you can make it happen.

Books & WritingWhich author inspires you?

Gillian Rogerson: All those authors who struggled to get published but who persisted anyway. If you read Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ you will see that his road to success wasn’t easy. One of the nicest writers I’ve met is Jacqueline Wilson. She had hundreds of fans queuing to get their books signed but she she had time for every single person and was so friendly.  Unfortunately, I have met authors who are dismissive of their fans.

Books & WritingWhat is the last book you read?

Gillian Rogerson: One of my favourite authors – James Patterson’s ‘Alex Cross’s Trial’. The books, as always, are wonderfully written with the right amount of descriptive and narrative parts. I like the way his books are set out in short chapters, it seems to keep the plot moving at a wonderful pace. Although, it does make you think, ‘I’ll just read one more chapter. Okay, just one more. Perhaps two’. I admire the fact that James Patterson is doing great work to encourage reluctant readers with his children’s books.

Books & WritingWhere can people go and read your work?

Gillian Rogerson: My books are available in most shops and on Amazon.  There seem to be a plentiful supply in libraries too. My local libraries have been so wonderful in supporting my books.

Books & WritingWhere can people find you on internet?

Gillian Rogerson: www.gillianrogerson.net

Books & WritingIs there anything else you want to share with the readers?

Gillian Rogerson: If you want to write, then you absolutely must. No one anywhere has your writing voice as no one anywhere has had your life experiences. Don’t imitate anyone, just be your own wonderful, unique self.  Due to ebooks you can now publish yourself – there are no excuses!

The following excerpt is from her book, ‘You Can’t Eat A Princess!’ It was some of the first lines that popped into her head as soon as she came up with the character of Princess Spaghetti.

Princess Spaghetti landed neatly on the nearest planet.

A group of aliens were looking up at her and smiling.

“Hello, I’m Princess Spaghetti,” she said with a polite curtsey.

“Welcome to our planet,” said one alien. “We love princesses here.”

“I like mine with chips,” said another alien.

“I like mine on toast with a bit of ketchup,” said a third. “Yum, yum.”

Interview with author George L. Cook

Hi again :)

This time I am talking to author George Cook who lives in New Jersey. He has served in the United States Army and the New Jersey National Guard. He is involved in politics and he currently serves on his local board of education. George is President of the Board this year. He is maried with one child. He loves sports, action movies, and of course writing.

Books & WritingDo you remember the first story you wrote?

George Cook: It was a very bad science fiction story I wrote right after seeing Star Wars for the first time. Actually it was an outright Star Wars ripoff except that my bad guy wore a Samurai helmet.

Books & WritingWere you inspired by someone or something?

George L. Cook: I always loved writing essays and short stories in school but I think that my father belonging to a science fiction book of the month club is what got me into books and later into writing.

Books & WritingCan you tell us a bit about your books “The Dead War Series”?

George L. Cook: The Dead War Series is about humanity's battle to take back the earth from the dead. I describe it as The Walking Dead meets Black Hawk Down. It focuses mainly on the soldiers that fight the war. Sergeant Richards is the hero of the story but he is one of many valiant men and woman that fight to save the Earth. But the story is not as cut and dry as that. As the war rages on Sergeant Richards and the others begin to realize that the biggest threat to humanity is itself.

Books & WritingHow did you come up with the stories for the books?

George L. Cook: The stories came easily and some came after watching the news and all that was going on in the world. I also have a vivid imagination and already have the whole series mapped out. 

Books & WritingCan you tell us something about the main character Sergeant Richards?

George L. Cook: Sergeant Richards is a former Newark police officer who joins the army to fight back against the dead after his family is killed and Newark is over ran by the dead. After joining the army he soon becomes a special forces scout. These men must often traverse cities alone to deliver messages from one base to another as all communications such as radio, television, and Internet are now gone.

Sergeant Richards has a sense of values which are constantly challenged as he fights to save humanity. He struggles within himself constantly as is not to proud of some of the things he has to do at times to save himself and to complete his missions.

Books & WritingI understand you also wrote some short stories which are part of the series. What attracts you in short stories?

George L. Cook: The short stories were based on characters in the main story that were not that fleshed out and had some interesting scenes in the book. A favorite of mine is Private Smith. i may go back and write a prequel featuring him.

Books & WritingWhere do you see yourself in a couple of years in relation to writing?

George L. Cook: I hope to be a more prolific writer and of course a much better writer. I hope to be able to expand the universe of "The Dead War" and to have a loyal following.

Books & WritingDo you have any tips for aspiring writers?

George L. Cook: Write, write, and write some more. Also although criticism hurts take it in and learn from it. Some critics and reviewers on web sites may not have much tact in their reviews but what they write can be useful. 

Books & WritingWhich author inspires you?

George L. Cook: I would say Stephen King but hen again I am inspired by anyone who has the courage to write and put their work out there for all of the world to see.

Books & WritingWhat is the last book you read?

George L. Cook: Zombie War Z but I have about 10 books by independent authors on my kindle that I have yet to read.

Books & WritingWhere can people go and read your work?

George L. Cook: The book is available at Amazon.com here: 

Books & WritingWhere can people find you on internet?

George L. Cook: I'm on Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/gcook1 and twitter here: https://twitter.com/#!/thedeadwar

maandag 20 februari 2012

Interview with writer Steve Martino

Hello all :)

My latest interview is with writer Steve Martino about his upcoming book “The Final Reality”, who was kind enough to answer my questions.

Steve Martino: First, I’d like to thank you for having me here on your website. To begin with, I’m a physician in New Jersey and also oversee a five-hospital stroke center. If that wasn’t enough, I also have five lovely, healthy children that I taxi around during my free time. Between running them to cub scouts, soccer, basketball, girl scouts, CCD and karate among other things, I somehow find time for myself. This may be at 5 in the morning but I use this time to unwind and focus my thoughts. It is during these early hours that I enjoy writing the most.  Whether it is something ethical, political, economic or medical that recently piqued my interest, I am able to articulate my feelings (unusually frustration) down into words.

Books & WritingHow do you overcome writer’s block?

Steve Martino: Though throwing my computer against the wall or opening a bottle Jack Daniel’s would be my first instinct, I deal with this problem in a much more pragmatic way. Usually stepping away from the computer, doing something completely different or trying to better visualize what I am writing about has worked for me.

Books & WritingWere you inspired by someone or something?

Steve Martino: Every time I read the news or watch something on the History or Discovery channel I’m inspired.  The world has a wealth of information and endless stories to tell. The difficulty I have as a writer is picking just a few on them to elaborate upon in my novels. As a result my house is inundated with piles of eclectic books with topics ranging from genetics all the way to megalithic structures of primitive man. I feel as if there is so much out there to learn, yet so little time to do it.

Books & WritingCan you tell us a bit about your upcoming book “The Final Reality”?

Steve Martino: Before writing, I first ask myself a hypothetical, yet thought provoking, question that I can expand upon. When I wrote The Final Reality I posed this question:

What makes one person smarter, faster or even more athletic than another? Is it their upbringing or is the answer hidden within millions of years of genetic evolution. What if mankind found the answer and in the process, doomed humanity to extinction?

After 2 years of research and 6 months of writing The Final Reality answered this question as follows:

Focusing on both our current politically charged environment and world-wide economic crisis, my well-researched thriller follows Alex Pella on a tumultuous journey that projects a potential path of human existence in the 21st century. After a virus hidden within our genetic code inadvertently gets released upon the planet, no country is financially prepared to deal with such a disaster. Only the brilliant neuroscientist, Alex Pella, and his intellectual equal, Marissa Ambrosia, have the audacity to attempt finding a cure while simultaneously fending off mercenaries sent by a fascist dictator, proclaiming to be the anointed one. Guided by an ancient code concealed within the Old Testament, they must traverse ancient lands and solve an age-old biblical riddle to save mankind from its own inevitable destruction. With a humorous flair, the book smoothly tells an important story that reflects on the uncertainties which mankind currently faces.

Books & WritingHow did you come up with the story for that?

Steve Martino: One major theme throughout my novel is the potential consequences of interfering with human DNA. While in medical school I saw firsthand how “gene therapy” directly led to the untimely death of its young patients. Just like in my book, scientists conducted human studies without fully understanding the consequences of their actions. Though this study was small-scale, it involved a deadly virus and gene manipulation, just like that described in The Final Reality.

I also incorporate in The Final Reality my frustration with America’s current economic and political situation. Over 15 trillion dollars in debt, the vast expansion of government, increased taxes, higher unemployment and a president who seems completely out of touch with the rest of the country boggle my mind. I ask myself, “What type of country are we leaving for the next generation?” The answer is: one we can’t afford.

Books & WritingCan you tell us something about the main characters?

Steve Martino: There a many characters in the book, each with their own unique characteristics and quirks. The main character is Alex Pella. Both cunning and handsome, he heads the largest neuroscience department in the world. Built using sheer ingenuity and charisma, it has become the envy of the biotechnical industry. Although extremely successful, Alex yearns for life’s deeper meaning. Sitting behind a desk and attending executive meetings had long lost its novelty. To keep his sanity he spends his recreational time dabbling in extreme sports. When the disease written of in The Final Reality manifested itself as threat to all humanity, he viewed it as an opportunity to escape his mundane, daily grind to pursue an adventure. Unfortunately, he found more excitement than he expected while attempting to discover the cure. Alex is aided in his search for the cure by Marissa Ambrosia. Both stunningly attractive and brilliant, she immediately caught his attention the first time they met. Although slightly distracted by his physical attraction, he finds her quit wit and medical knowledge both refreshing and vital during their search. Despite all obstacles, she proved to have both the physical and mental endurance to rally them during their trek.

Books & WritingDo you remember the first story you wrote?

Steve Martino: Yes, as my mother reminded me it was back in 4th grade. I had written a short story for Thanksgiving about a turkey that would not gobble. Though comical to read now, it portrayed a turkey who kept quiet in order not to end up on the dinner table.

Books & WritingWhich author inspires you?

Steve Martino: My favorite author is James Rollins. His books are well-researched and well-written. Plus, his characters are both believable and captivating. I highly recommend him.

Books & WritingWhere can people go and read your work?

Steve Martino: I plan to first publish The Final Reality through Amazon this summer while my agent and I work on obtaining a major publisher.

Books & WritingWhere can people find you on internet?

Steve Martino: I have a blog at http://stephenmartino.blogspot.com.

Books & WritingDo you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Steve Martino: Write what interests you. If there is a topic which really garners your attention, it will be easier to write about. In other words, I don’t think I could write a successful novel about the mating habits of the North American Caribou. On the other hand, a medical thriller would fit my writing style much better.

Books & WritingIs there anything else you want to share with the readers?

Steve Martino: I think everybody has something positive to say. Writing enables all of us, even the shyest, to get their word out.

Books & WritingIs there an excerpt from The Final Reality you would like to share with the readers?

Steve Martino: During an early scene in the book an entire town was euthanized by the government in fear that their disease would spread across the country. The final paragraph reads as follows:

Modern science had failed them and all those afflicted with The Disease. There was no cure and more concerning there was no source. When science becomes man’s God and science fails, all that is left is fear and irrationality. There was no reason to destroy this town and others like it throughout Turkey. The Disease had affected them all, even those not afflicted by it.

donderdag 16 februari 2012

Interview with Author M.G. Edwards

Hello again!

This time i am talking to author M.G. Edwards who grew up in the rural western United States, where the beautiful scenery inspired him to let his imagination run and to write. He loved to write fantasies, mysteries, and stories for young adults. After he finished high school, he postponed his dream to become an author and went to college to study business and international studies. He worked in the private sector for companies like Boeing and Intel and later joined the U.S. Department of State. The experiences he had as an American diplomat in Africa, Asia, and South America inspired him to write travel adventures. His passion to write rekindled, he decided in 2011 to leave the diplomatic corps and write full time. Last year he published a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories and is now writing a book called Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill about his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain. Kilimanjaro will be released in March 2012. He now lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife and young son and is living his dream.

Books & WritingDo you remember the first story you wrote?

M.G. Edwards: When I was ten years old, my teacher asked our class to write tall tales in small groups and present them in class. Some groups chose to tell the story of Paul Bunyan and other well-known legends. Inspired by the 1981 eruption of Mount St. Helens, I wrote a tale called "How Little Big Chief Calmed the Mountain." Featured in my book Real Dreams, the story tells of how Little Big Chief made the ultimate sacrifice -- offering what was most precious to him to appease an angry volcano. The role of Little Big Chief went to a good friend with cerebral palsy. His amazing performance is one of my fondest childhood memories.

Books & WritingWere you inspired by someone or something?

M.G. Edwards: The beauty of the area where I grew up -- the mountains, forests, rivers and lakes -- inspired me to write. I'm also grateful to the teachers who assigned school projects that unleashed my creativity and gave me the freedom to transform them into fantastic stories. One teacher asked the class to turn a list of vocabulary words into a short story, so I wrote "G.I. Ants," another story featured in Real Dreams about a group of superhuman army ants that escape from a military laboratory.

Books & WritingWhat do you love about writing a story?

M.G. Edwards: I enjoy letting my mind wander and bringing ideas to life for readers to enjoy. I love to write books and stories that leave readers with something to ponder.

Books & WritingHow do you overcome writer’s block (if you experience this, of course)?

M.G. Edwards: Whenever writer's block hits me, I take a "constitutional," which is a fancy word for a "think" break. I take a walk, go on a short bicycle ride, or read a book. I take a notepad and pen with me so that I can write down any inspirations or breakthroughs that come to mind.  I do what I can to get my mind off writing so that I feel refreshed when I write again.

Books & WritingCan you tell us a bit about your book “Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories”?

M.G. Edwards: My pleasure! Real Dreams features 15 short stories I wrote between 1981 and 2011. The book is a story sampler. The stories reflect changes in my writing style and interests over time, and I grouped them by genre to help readers identify each style. Many share themes of hope, dreams, light, darkness, and perseverance. It's quite an eclectic collection.

Books & WritingWhat attracts you in short stories?

M.G. Edwards: I enjoy short stories that make me think and challenge me to ponder their deeper meanings. I love stories that make great movies. My hope is that some of the stories in Real Dreams will leave readers saying, "That would make a great movie!"

Books & WritingI understand you will soon release the book “Kilimanjaro: One Man's Quest to Go Over the Hill,” which is about your attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. First off, why did you decide to attempt that? And secondly, what made you decide to write a book about it?

M.G. Edwards: Thanks for asking. My wife climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 2010 and inspired me to attempt my own climb the following year. At the time, I was approaching middle age and felt a mid-life crisis coming on, so I decided to do something challenging to jump start my life -- climb Africa's highest mountain. At almost 6,000 meters (over 19,000 feet), Kilimanjaro is one of the world's tallest peaks. Although the mountain is technically easier to climb than its peers, it's very difficult for would-be mountain climbers like me. I decided to write a book about my climb for those who have tackled Kilimanjaro or aspire to climb it. It's a book for anyone who feels "over the hill" and needs some encouragement to make a major life change in the face of difficult odds. The book will be published in March 2012. Visit the Kilimanjaro web page to sign up for my newsletter, and I'll update you when the book is published.

Books & WritingDo you have any tips for aspiring writers?

M.G. Edwards: Follow your passion. If you have a passion for writing, strive to become the best writer you can be and stay the course. For those pursuing traditional publishing, I recommend finding the right agent and focus on writing with them in mind. Your agent will help sell your book to publishers. For those who self-publish, be sure to spend time marketing your books through social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook. However, don't forget to strike a balance between writing and marketing. There's no better marketing tool than a great novel.

Books & WritingWhich author inspires you?

M.G. Edwards: Khaled Hosseini is an inspiration to me. His books The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns are among the best contemporary works I've read. Born in Afghanistan, his family fled to the United States when he was a youth. He's an incredibly talented writer. That he writes such beautiful prose in his second language, English, is amazing. Not only is he a bestselling author, Hosseini is also an accomplished physician and a Goodwill Envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). His efforts to raises awareness of Afghani culture and improve the lives of the people of Afghanistan are admirable.

Books & WritingWhere can people go and read your work?

M.G. Edwards: My books are available to purchase in print or e-book format from many sellers, including Amazon, Apple iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Kobo Books, and Smashwords. Readers can also purchase books from my web site, www.mgedwards.com. Links to other booksellers that carry my books are available at my online bookstore, The Wordshop.

Books & WritingWhere can people find you on internet?

M.G. Edwards: My home on the internet, www.mgedwards.com, is where you'll find links to my blog, books and stories, travelogues, travel videos and photos, and more. Contact me at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, or Google+, or on Twitter as @m_g_edwards. I would be happy to connect with you.

Books & WritingIs there anything else you want to share with the readers?

M.G. Edwards: Thank you, dear readers, for reading my books and stories. It means a lot to me. My books Real Dreams and Kilimanjaro are the first of many to come. Stay tuned for more travelogues in the World Adventurers Series and books in the fantasy/science fiction and mystery thriller genres.

maandag 13 februari 2012

Interview with author Sonia Meyer

Hello all!

Today i am talking to author Sonia Meyer who was born in 1938 in Cologne, Germany to a highly anti-Nazi mother. Before she was 2 years old, they had to flee the Nazis leaving everything they owned behind. They kept moving at first from small town to small town never long enough to be questioned, then into abandoned country inns and the woods of Germany, at times across the Polish border, to end up along the Czech border when Patton’s army arrived. They escaped capture, and although they survived many attacks, witnessed massacres, the time that marked her most, was the aftermath of the war, crossing the killer fields left behind, and to return to Cologne to a people in total denial. After a suicide attempt before age 12, she was rescued at last by a wealthy part of her family, who had residences both in Italy and the United States. After a short, early marriage, Sonia chose a nomadic life. she earned her living as an interpreter/translator, radio acting, modeling, marketing research, and kept moving from country to country, all across Europe, the United States, and the Middle East. She finally settled and remarried in the U.S. and started a horse-breeding farm, trained as a dressage rider, before turning full-time to writing. 

Books & WritingDo you remember the first story you wrote?

Sonia Meyer: The first story I wrote was in High School in Germany, a writing contest about depicting our families. It was at a time when my mother was unable to recover from a total collapse after the war, my father had left me with a mother who believed she was dying, there was nothing to eat, Cologne still lay in ruins. I got first prize for depicting the perfect family. From then on I understood the power of writing to re-shape a life, or create a vision to lead into the future. 

Books & WritingWere you inspired by someone or something?

Sonia Meyer: My mother’s family consisted of mostly artists and eccentrics. All of them went underground during the war. They were by nature human rights activists.

Books & WritingWhat do you love about writing a story?

Sonia Meyer: It takes a deeper look at life already lived. It’s like a deep analysis that lifts underlying, overlooked truths to the surface. It enriches experience.

Books & WritingHow do you overcome writer’s block(if you experience this of course)?

Sonia Meyer: I did have 15 years of writer’s block. It was at a time that I had one stepson, 2 sons of my own, I was breeding horses, dogs, cats were breeding out of control and had to be caught and neutered. My husband, a professor at Harvard University, consulted for major corporations all over the world, which meant travel. I got up at 4 a.m. to write, but couldn’t maintain it. I wouldn’t change any of it. Life at its peak you only live once. You can write when life slows down, when you are older.,

To get out of writer’s block, my recommendation is: don’t ask perfection of yourself, at first. Go to a coffee shop with a block of paper and just let your thoughts freely roll out. The rest will come. You can’t totally force it.

Books & WritingCan you tell us a bit about your book “Dosha”?

Sonia Meyer: Dosha combines two themes that are close to my heart. The first is war. In order to survive emotionally I knew I had to put a distance between the war and my later life. I also knew, at some point, I had to look back and make sense of it. I decided to revisit my childhood years during the war, but seen through the eyes of peace-loving Gypsies, now called Roma. Gypsies, nomadic and settled have been in my life from very early on. They are Europe’s most misunderstood minority. To fight the prejudice that keeps killing them, I wanted to offer an insight into their culture by looking at our own but seen through Gypsy eyes. I chose the Lovara tribe, because on the one hand they were the keepers of the horse, sacred to many Gypsy tribes, and two within the Lovara men and women share different, but equal power. A combination I feel is essential to a truly democratic society. I chose to frame it within the visit of Khrushchev to Helsinki, because I was there that day and witnessed the most perfect example of passive resistance by an extraordinary people, the Finns. Theirs was the only country along the Baltic to remain free and outside the iron curtain. While living in Finland and later in Paris, I befriended several Russian aristocrats in exile, became interested in Russia then and under the communists. Russia under the czars was the one country in Europe where Gypsies were appreciated as artists and free spirits, where they were loved. Only under Khrushchev’s Thaw were they targeted for persecution for the first time.

Books & WritingHow did you come up with the story for that?

Sonia Meyer: I had a great friend in Paris, a Russian Gypsy of the Kalderash tribe, the largest of all Gypsy tribes. Matteo Maximoff, now deceased. He was a writer of many books on Gypsy life and legends. I found his name in a self-published book of his in Harvard’s Widener Library. It listed his phone number in Paris, and I called him. It is thanks to him that I was able to penetrate the Gypsy soul and able to write the story.

Books & WritingIs the main character Dosha based on someone you know?

Sonia Meyer: Dosha is based on me. The first part of the novel is fictionalized autobiography. Most characters in the novel are based on relatives of mine. The stallion Rus, was a Dutch warmblood, who belonged to and was ridden by Dorothy Morkis, U.S. Olympic Rider. The rest was 10 years of research.

Books & WritingAre you working on something new at the moment?

Sonia Meyer: I am working on a sequel. Dosha is now in the West. Keeping her Gypsy past a secret, she moves within the jet-set of the Sixties in Europe.

Books & WritingDo you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Sonia Meyer: Learn the craft, then forget all you’ve learned and follow your own instincts.

Books & WritingWhich author inspires you?

Sonia Meyer: Kafka, Joyce, Marques, Fitzgerald.

Books & WritingWhere can people go and read your work?

Sonia Meyer: Amazon is the best place. It has been best-selling there for over one year.

Books & WritingWhere can people find you on internet? 

Sonia Meyer: www.soniameyer.com

Books & WritingIs there anything else you want to share with the readers?

Sonia Meyer: Writers cannot exist without their readers. The two are married for the good of our culture. A writer should seduce the reader into a world not his own, a reader can help the writer by spreading his message. They form a team..  

Below is an excerpt from her book Dosha!

Call Of The Owl

Lengthening shadows trailed the slow-moving line of caravans and wagons as they climbed the steep rise to the outer edges of the taiga. By then the blood red of the late fall tundra had bleached into lifelessness. Up on the plateau the ground had hardened. Birch trees stood starkly bare and white against the dense conifers that created shelter from fast-sweeping winds and the deepening cold. Winter was about to invade the desolate arctic vastness with killer force. The soft ground was covered with an icy crust that gave way under the weight of the passing wagons and caravans.

To camp for the night, the Lovara chose a marshy clearing encircled on three sides by dense forest and bordered on the north by a swift river. Night was falling like a heavy curtain across the fading glow of the early afternoon sun as the caravans positioned themselves in the shape of a semicircle open to the river.

A subtle but distinct physical separation from the rest of the tribe had gradually evolved between Azra and the rest of the kumpania, like the distance that will develop between a dying horse and its herd. Azra’s caravan was securely positioned in the lineup, but with empty space on both sides. The Lovara walked close to one another. They spoke in whispers, careful to stay out of earshot of Azra’s only child. “Her time has come,” they said. “Azra is dying.”Observing their suddenly secretive behavior, Dosha guessed their thoughts and words. Eyes flashing elligerence, she walked up to them and stated out loud: “My mother is not about to die.” 

Dzumila threw them damning glances, “Hush,” she said, stepping close to Dosha, “Azra could hear.”The rom and romni scattered to prepare for the night. The children fed and watered the goats and geese before walking to the edge of the forest to gather firewood. The rom fed and watered their horses, never losing sight of Dosha, who insisted on looking after her own two horses.

Suddenly the stallion snorted, spun around, and stood tense as a bow. Several voices shouted, “Watch out!”

Like a dark, spread-out sail, a silent shape came billowing from the gloomy height of a fir at the edge of the tree line. The stallion’s head snapped up. With dilated nostrils, ears pointed forward, the white of its eyes showing in fear, he followed the steep drop of an owl. A few hands above ground, the silvery bird broke flight and hovered for a second or two in place. Eyes gleaming, it swiveled its head from side to side before it flew on with a powerful upswing of its widespread wings, skimming the marshy surface. Reaching the river, the arctic owl slowly, with deliberate control, descended as if to land, its dark claws briefly touching the rushing water. Instead it drew its legs back toward its body with the same slow control and headed downstream in soundless flight, searching for prey.

”Mulesko chiriklo,” Dosha whispered, “the bird of death!” She watched the last glimpses of the snow owl’s flight reflected in the sudden stillness of her stallion’s eye. All eyes were on her. “It’s passing us by,” she said, “this time.” She defiantly looked up into the circle of eyes. In awkward silence, adults and children alike returned to their chores. The rom now started to tie their haltered horses by their lead ropes in circles around some of the bigger nearby trees. 

This left their hind legs free to strike out should wolves get hungry and move in for an attack. It also prevented them from bolting, should sounds or movements frighten them. Dosha tied her own horses to a tree closer to her caravan.

zondag 12 februari 2012

Interview with author Albert Holl

Hi again!

This time i am talking to author Albert Holl about his upcoming book West Oak and about his other writing.

Books & WritingCan you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Albert Holl: I live in New Jersey with my wife, Jane.  I enjoy bicycling, walking and an occasional poker game.  I worked for over twenty-five years in the corporate world, the experience for my novel, “Is It Friday Yet?”  During those years I wrote two novels which were assigned to the waste basket when completed.

New Jersey has over a hundred miles of beach and dozens of shore towns.  Probably one of the more well known ones is Atlantic City.  When I visit one of its casinos I always bring an extra shirt - in case I lose the one I’m wearing.  There is also Cape May where my wife and I will take a few of the grandchildren for vacation.  The food there is great and the waves gentle.

Books & WritingDo you remember the first story you wrote?

Albert Holl: It was a short story about a man who was so uncoordinated that he literally couldn’t chew gum and walk at the same time.  He wanted desperately to be one of the gang and thought that smoking cigarettes would allow him to join the gang.  The story is about the inept and hilarious attempts the man makes to simply to learn how to inhale a cigarette.

Books & WritingWere you inspired by someone or something?

Albert Holl: Reading O’Henry’s short stories in school. 

Books & WritingWhat do you love about writing a story?

Albert Holl: You start with a thought about something, develop it into a rough outline and begin writing.  So often the words flow in ways you never thought of and before you have scenes, dialog and a story.  Many times I sit back and wonder where it came from.

Books & WritingHow do you overcome writer’s block(if you experience this of course)?

Albert Holl: I get away from the typewriter and read the newspaper or a novel or play a game of solitaire.

Books & WritingWhat does your family think about your books?

Albert Holl: They like them but don’t think they will ever be best sellers. 

Books & WritingCan you tell us a bit about your book “West Oak”?

Albert Holl: A 200 year old skeleton is removed from its grave disturbing the spiritual energy of two residents of West Oak, Michael Robinson, the editor and owner of the West Oak Chronicle and Ethel Lawson, eighty-six years old and a descendent of the town’s earliest settlers, who receive psychic impressions of an impending assassination.

The man responsible for unearthing the skeleton and the visions is Mark Storm.  He hates the town for all the perceived slights and insults heaped upon him growing up.

The assassination will take place during the town’s 225th anniversary celebration.  Mark is planning to kill Daniel Berkley, a New Jersey Associate Supreme Court Justice.

As the psychic visions become stronger and the planned assassination becomes clearer to Ethel and Michael, they know they should do something… but what?

As they ponder what to do, Ethel Lawson suffers a heart attack and Michael Robinson is left by himself to prevent the psychic vision of the impending assassination from taking place.

Books & WritingHow did you come up with the story for the book?

Albert Holl: One day I drove past a very old, abandoned house with half its roof missing and most of its windows broken and its shutters askew.  It stood in the middle of a big empty field and I thought that would make a good scene for a movie.  And from that thought the idea of West Oak was born.

Books & WritingCan you tell us something about the main characters?

Albert Holl: Michael Robinson – A disbeliever of things not of flesh and blood is troubled by a vision of a house that he sees in an empty field. A house he later learns once existed nearly two hundred years ago.  As the owner and editor of the West Oak Chronicle he wants facts based in reality. But the visions keep coming portending some is going to happen.

Ethel Lawson – Eighty six years old, a widow for many, many years.  She is the last surviving member of her family that can trace its roots back to the founding of the town.  She also receives visions and they are very troubling and tries to block them but is unsuccessful.

Mark Storm – The town’s bad boy.  He has a deep hatred for the town because of all the perceived slights he received as he grew up. Although unaware of it, he can also trace his roots back to the founding of the town.  He and the members of the Alpha/Omega club are responsible for increasing vicious acts of vandalism around the town.  But Mark feels the vandalism needs to be stepped up and so he is planning to kill the guest of honor at the town’s 225th anniversary celebration.

Books & WritingI understand you also wrote some short stories for the book Dreams, Death and Deception.. What attracts you in short stories?

Albert Holl: Usually, in 3000 words or less you must tell a story that is compelling with sharply defined characters.  Unlike a novel in which the characters and story can evolve at a more leisurely pace in a short story almost every word must advance the story.

Books & WritingWhere do you see yourself in a couple of years in relation to writing?

Albert Holl: Hopefully to have written a few more books, the nature of which I have no idea as of yet. 

Books & WritingDo you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Albert Holl: Don’t be like me.  Set aside time each day to write.  Don’t wait for inspiration to strike.  Like everything in like writing requires discipline.

Books & WritingWhich author inspires you?

Albert Holl: As I mentioned earlier O’Henry was the writer who peaked my interest in wanting to write.  I liked the way he wrote and how he always ended his stories with an ironic twist.

Books & WritingWhat is the last book you read?

Albert Holl: I read between one and two novels a week.  They range from thrillers, suspense, historical novels and history, especially the American Civil War and WW11.  One of the last ones I read was - Water For Elephants

Books & WritingWhere can people go and read your work?

Albert Holl: West Oak is not published yet.  Dreams, Death and Deception and Is It Friday Yet? can be purchased on Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble

Books & WritingWhere can people find you on internet?

Albert Holl: www.albertholl.com

 Below is an excerpt from the upcoming book West Oak!

            It wasn't an image as much as it was sense, a feeling, and a mood.  And it was not a comfortable one.  It was unsettling and sinister and it kept Ethel Lawson from falling into a deep sleep.  There was a power lurking in the shadows, encased in an aura that was both depressing and frightening.  It was filled with such hatred that Ethel moaned aloud.

            She tried to dispel the nightmare (although it was early afternoon) to put her mind at peace, to get some undisturbed rest but to no avail.  The feeling persisted and intensified.  This power was evil and it frightened her.  Annoyed, knowing that sleep was now beyond her, she sat up in the chair.

            A mood of depression surrounded her and her bright blue eyes temporarily lost their sparkle.  She hoped her psychic powers, so long suppressed, were not coming to the forefront of her mind.  Receiving psychic impressions was a very draining, extremely exhausting, energy sapping experience and she was too old to allow them to enter her mind.  It had been a long time since she had felt so strong an impression.  Indeed, she couldn't remember any time when an impression had such force.  It was very unsettling and she feared bringing into focus whatever it was.

            Her ninety pound body wanted to stay put but her mind said otherwise.  She struggled out of her chair and stretched.  This feeling was becoming very irritating, she thought. I need my nap.  I'm going to become an old grouch if this continues much longer.

            She went into the kitchen and put the kettle on the stove and paused.  The warm humid air mass that had settled over the area made her think for a moment of making a glass of lemonade.  Hot humid weather normally didn’t bother her but to have this type of weather at the beginning of November was quite unusual and was uncomfortable but she shrugged it off and went ahead with her tea preparation.  When the kettle began to whistle, the sound was mixed with that of a motorcycle as it passed the house.  For a moment, an image sprang into her mind but receded as quickly as it appeared.  She tried to recall it, but failed and went back to the task of preparing her tea.