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Interview with John Searancke

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In the hotseat today is John Searancke, author of Dog Days In The Fortunate Islands, Prunes for Breakfast, and recent release, The Reluctant Hotelkeeper

Welcome to Rainne’s Ramblings, John.
Would you please start by telling us a little about yourself and your background?

JohnMy name is John Searancke and I was born in 1943 at Derby Royal Infirmary, England, and thus a war baby. I lived my early life in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, a market town in Leicestershire, and was sent away to be educated at Kings Mead Preparatory School, Seaford and afterwards at Rugby School one of the great famous English Public Schools. Later commissioned into the Territorial Army, I have been variously an hotel and restaurant owner, director and chairman of a marketing consortium, and latterly a partner with my wife in a commercial legal services company. I have enjoyed a long working life in England and Switzerland and now live with my wife Sally in West Sussex and northern Tenerife, where for five years I occupied my retirement as restaurant critic for a Canarian newspaper.

 
You became an author late in life. How did your journey as a writer begin?

I had always wanted to write a book, but never either had the time, or felt that I possessed the skillset to do so. Only after retirement came the moment to make the dream come true.

 
What do you enjoy most about writing?

Peace and quiet on the one hand, and the taxing of my limited mental ability on the other.

 
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?

“The Reluctant Hotelkeeper” is my third book, and forms the prequel to my first. It charts the calamities that befell me as I struggled to keep an old family hotel going, save it from bankruptcy, and turn it into a profitable and well-known concern. I wrote it because readers of my first book asked me what I had done with my life.

 
What is your favourite scene that you’ve written? Can you give us a peek?

Excerpt:

Meanwhile, for my part, I recalled the tale of how one morning, on the way to the new kitchen, and walking through what remained of the old original hotel kitchen, I thought that I had been transported into another lifetime, a cross between Dante’s Inferno and a Victorian Christmas. I had stopped dead in my tracks.

There at the far end of the room was an unrecognisable person covered almost entirely in feathers. Any feathers not attached to that person were swilling around the room like a cloud, all but obscuring the far doorway, before landing softly to form a light covering on the floor tiles, much as I imagine the interior of a duvet to be.

On closer inspection, the mystery person turned out to be my mother! What had got into her mind I do not know, but she had, unbeknownst to anyone else, decided that her contribution to that particular Christmas was going to be the plucking of all of the pheasants that had just been delivered. Swooping on the box of birds and snatching them away from the hapless potboy, she manoeuvred herself into a spare space, which happened to be adjacent to the top of a chest freezer. Clearly, tidiness was not going to be her watchword during this process. Feathers were pulled out, legs and heads were chopped off with gay abandon, and finally, the right hand was plunged into the bloody interior, emerging clutching a large handful of intestines, slimy heaps of which adorned the top of the freezer. Cleaning up after her was a bit of a trial, but I was glad that she had made the effort. I suppose that she could identify that with long bygone times and tasks that she had undertaken all those years ago.

 
The Reluctant Hotel Keeper

The Reluctant Hotelkeeper is being made into a movie, what music would you use as a soundtrack?

I used to play some classical music very softly in the background at one time in my hotel. When any of the staff queried it, I told them it was from Swan Lake, where everyone looked serene on top but were paddling furiously down below, unseen to our guests. Just as the staff should be!

 

 
Why do you think this book will or should appeal to new readers; what makes it stand out?

If you enjoy reading about one man’s trials and tribulations in turning an old building into a successful hotel, then this is for you. There were some hard times, and these have not been glossed over.

What has amazed me is that a number of readers have told me how humorous this latest book is. I did not set out particularly for humour, but I can see the funny side now.

 
How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?

I have written three books, all of which have been published. My favourite is “Prunes for Breakfast”. People have been kind enough to say that the wartime story of my father from enlistment in 1940 to capture in Normandy and then incarceration in a German Prisoner of War camp touched them deeply. It moved me too, particularly the main battle scene, which I had researched in depth on the battlefield in France.

Here are 3 very brief synopses of my books:

My first book, Dog Days in The Fortunate Islands, tells the stories of moving my family and dog to live on a small island in the Atlantic Ocean. It received much acclaim and is available in paperback and e-book formats.

Prunes for Breakfast is my second book and records the life and times of my father throughout WW2, including a cache of unpublished personal letters with details of his landing in Normandy, fighting through the bocage and later capture and incarceration in a German POW Camp. It is available in paperback, e-book and audio formats.

The Reluctant Hotelkeeper is my third book and forms a prequel to Dog Days in The Fortunate Islands. How to (and sometimes how not to) bring an old building back to life as a country house hotel. It is available in paperback and e-book formats.

 
Who designed your book covers?

All three book covers have been created by my very talented brother in law. I gave him a brief requirement of what I was looking for, and he has interpreted my thoughts into splendid covers.

 
Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors.

51KI4UnREXL._SX296_BO1,204,203,200_At the moment I am reading the Boudica trilogy by Manda Scott. I simply cannot put it down, and I am in awe of her writing skill.

 
What advice would you give to your younger self?

You are only here once, so make the most of it.

 
How do you spend your free time?

We are lucky to have two small homes, one in West Sussex, England, and the other in Puerto de la Cruz, Canary Islands. We move between the two and there never seems to be a dull moment.

 

If you were ever stranded on a deserted island what would you miss and which three books would you take along?

Can I please be stranded with my wife? If so, then plenty of tea and coffee need to be landed with her. Those 3 Boudica books by Manda Scott can go along too, because I am sure that I shall read them.

 
A genie grants you three wishes: what are they and why?

I would like to see a bit more of the world, and I would like to take a holiday with my son and my grandchildren. Wives can come too, of course!

 
If you had to move from Tenerife where would you go, and what would you miss the most about it?

We love the weather and the people in Tenerife. I could imagine living for a spell in Italy though, to explore that country.

 
If you could change one thing from your past, what would it be, and why?

I regret not being closer to my father. We were estranged. All very sad.

 
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

Here are my three book front covers, together with the links to them. If you happen to read one, please do leave a review…I am still learning this new craft.

Dog Days In The Fortunate Islands      •      Prunes for Breakfast      •      The Reluctant Hotelkeeper

Thank you very much for joining us today, John.

 

Find out more about John Searancke and his books:

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Interview with Edward Cohen

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My guest today is Edward Cohen, a low-vision entrepreneur who found a need in his daily life and went on to fill it.

 
Hi Edward, thank you for joining us here on Rainne’s Ramblings.
Would you like to kick off by telling us a little about yourself and your background?

Edward CohenWell, in my late 60s, I have a lot of background. I grew up in Indianapolis. I’m married and raised two children. We now live in Southeast Minnesota near our daughter’s family and her two sons.

I’m fortunate to have had many careers. While dealing with vision impairment of RP, I still drove until I was 45. This made many things possible. My careers ranged from media production to home weatherization and training energy auditors.

Before retiring in 2010, I worked 26 years for the State of Indiana in the areas of energy, recycling and information technology. Many of those last years were spent working to make electronic information comply with accessibility guidelines.

I’m active in my community and enjoy getting outside.

 
How does your declining eyesight affect your daily life…?

Dealing with late-stage RP means my acuity and peripheral vision are greatly limited. I require my CCTV or another person to access printed text.

I was a bicycle commuter but gave up riding my trusty 10-speed when we moved. Frankly, giving up the bike was harder than giving up driving.

I’ve always lived in a city, so I’ve always had many options for getting around. When we moved, we found a house within a 10-minute walk of the edge of downtown. So, it allows me to maintain a degree of independence.

 
…and what changes have you had to make to your day to day living to compensate?

Wow, where do I start? Of course, I use a white cane when traveling alone. I’ve switched to a 3-speed, 3-wheel bike. It is working for me. Our city has a good set of bike trails and I’m rarely on a city street or sidewalk. It lets me slow or stop when I’m uncertain about the way forward.

In my house, I have placed tactile bumps on appliances that need them so I can operate them independently. Since I still have some useable sight, I’ve placed night lights in outlets in strategic locations. At night they help to me navigate from room to room.

On my computer, I use the High Contrast setting screen. I use Fusion which combines ZoomText and JAWS which gives me high magnification and speech. I could go on. In fact, on the Blog on my website, I describe many tips and habits that make my life easier and less stressful.

 
You designed your calendar for yourself out of necessity. What was that necessity?

Well, there were actually two types of necessities. The first was, like all Baby Boomers, I grew up using paper calendars. I prefer them to be 8 and a half by 11 inches. That size gives me plenty of room to write big. I continue to prefer them.

My life is still busy enough that I need a weekly planner style calendar. A wall calendar type just wouldn’t work for me.

The second necessity was that, as my eyesight worsened over the past 10-years or so, I couldn’t find a weekly calendar that met my low-vision needs. Believe me, both my wife and I looked long and hard in stores and on the internet to find one.

I needed a weekly calendar I could easily see, yet nobody made what I needed.

 
So, at what point did you decide to go into business?

Well, in the Spring of 2015, I was already using the prototype calendar I had made. People would see it, since I took it with me to all my meetings and appointments. Folks with and without vision issues who saw it, asked where I got it. They’d either say that they could use one like it or knew someone who might.

I’d often hear, “You should start a business and start making them”. As nice as it was to hear such things, I had a happy and busy life. I didn’t need a job. Plus, I had a healthy respect for what it would take to start a business; not to mention making it a success.

But as the comments continued, it dawned on me how many people might find it helpful. After a couple of months, I came to see this could be my way to give back to my low-vision community.

I had been sharing the feedback I was getting with my wife. Finally, I told her what I was thinking of doing. She had always supported me in all my efforts but this could end up being a big one. I also knew that somehow, she’d get dragged into helping me in some way, so I wanted to hear she was okay with me doing this. She said ok, but before she said she was okay with it, she said, “Just so you know, this is your business, not mine.” As it turns out, though, she has become an invaluable help.

Then by the fall of 2015, the company was up and running.

 
And you’ve continued making them since?

Yes, since that first 2016 edition, I’ve put out three more editions and sold several thousand of them. Each year I get more repeat customers. In fact, as we’re talking in early 2019, I’m already working on all the things that have to be done to make and sell the 2020 edition.

 
What’s different about your calendar compared to other large print calendars?

One of the things that’s been fun about doing this is, because I’m also a customer, I’ve incorporated unique features that are lacking in all the weeklies I found.

Sorry for that long build-up. Ok, let’s flip through it and I’ll describe what I’m showing.

Since I’m into my calendar multiple times a day, I use a heavier-weight paper and laminate the covers.

Its size is 8 and one-half by 11 inches tall. It’s black spiral-bound so you can fold it in half if you wish.

All the content is in black ink and at least ten times the size of newsprint– nothing small and hard to read.

I use a proprietary font that is a bit easier to read.

The first inside page is where you may write your contact information. If you leave it somewhere, when it’s found, they have a way to reach you.

full month viewAfter that are twelve pages each showing the full view of that month. The upper half of the page shows the entire month. On the lower half are rows listing that month’s major holidays. There are always one or more rows to list days that are important to you.

Now we get to the weekly pages. These are what cause people to really react. What jumps out at you is, how much uncluttered, writing space there is for each day. There’s so much space because only the date and the initial of the day are in each cell. People really like how much writing space there is. I wanted the maximum amount of writing room since I write big.

If there is a holiday, it’s tucked up at the top of the day’s cell. Another unique thing this calendar has, if it’s a holiday that starts at sunset, it’s listed on the day it starts at sundown. Then I put a note by it, saying “at sunset”.

Like other 2-page weeklies, with it open to see the full week, you see Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday on the left page and the rest of the week on the right.

Image of a weekly pageEach weekday is in its own row. Each row or “cell”, runs the 8 inch width of the page and is a bit over 3 inches high. Do the math and that’s nearly the size of 2-3 by 5 cards. The biggest possible uncluttered, writing space available.

Saturday and Sunday share half the bottom right row. Some people tell me that their weekend is as busy as their weekday. They might wish it had more weekend space. So far, no one has offered a good solution. If we had a 6-day week, things would be easier for us calendar makers.

But wait, there’s more. Just kidding. But actually, there is one more element on these pages that sets it apart. For those of us prone to writing off the edge of the paper because we can’t see the paper’s edge, there is a thick black page border. You won’t be writing off this paper!

Then at the end are six bold-lined pages, like you see in bold-lined writing pads. Use them any way you wish.

And to top it off, it’s only as thick as a wooden pencil.

 
Wow, it does sound unique, I could probably use one myself. How do you market your calendar?

While I started with Lighthouses for the Blind and online catalogue companies, I’ve expanded my reach. I’m starting to reach out to offices of low-vision eye doctors, state departments of education, health and senior services. I’m now on Amazon and I’m reaching out to state affiliates of the large national organizations. I’ve contracted with a good social media person who helps spread the word that way. I’m working hard to get into veteran’s rehabilitation centers.

There are so many places I could approach. My challenge is time. There is only so many hours in a day and I can only do so much. If there is a sales and marketing person out there interested in talking to me, please do so!

 
Ok, Edward, we’ll give your contact information out at the end. Now tell me, who are your customers?

Well I joke that there are only two types of people who buy my calendars. Those who have a vision problem and those who don’t. But seriously, I’ve got three types of customers.

One is people dealing with some inherited condition can use and who prefer a weekly-print calendar. The second group is those who, later in life start dealing with low-vision. The last group is two segments of the general public. One group buys it for themselves. They might personally have demanding schedules. They might want a family calendar or manage the schedule for their kids, their parents and themselves. Some just use it as a journal or record book. The other segment is those who buy it as a thoughtful gift for a loved one. Look at the Testimonial page on my website to read some really touching examples of all of these sorts of customers.

 
Where can we buy an EZ2See calendar?

Well, of course you can buy it on my website. You can also get it on Amazon, at Independent Living Aids and Blind Mice Mart. Plus, check my website to see if there is a local retailer in your community.

 
Have you any other products in the pipeline?

Absolutely, there are other helpful items that I need, but nobody makes them. So, once I get some additional help, they will move from the drawing board to reality. Sales and marketing person, where are you?

 
What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Well that is quite rare since all this business began. But when I can, I really enjoy being out in nature where the only sounds are natural. I feel my batteries get recharged by that.

 
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

As a kid, I liked building plastic models and later constructing elaborate erector set projects. At some point, I became fascinated with submarines and what could be built underwater. My direction in school was towards math and science classes. I had thought of a job helping build underwater habitats and the like. Obviously, that didn’t happen!

 
As someone who more often interviews authors, I have to ask…

Do you read / listen to audio books and if so who are your favorite authors.
Like I said before, time for such pursuits is largely limited to the rare vacation. We do listen to audio books when my wife and I are on driving trips. I do download books from BARD and take them with me on those rare vacations.

I tend to lean towards nonfiction. Books about what’s happening now or in the past or the future I was once a big science fiction fan and occasionally work one of those in. The reality is that I have a half dozen half-finished books sitting in my portable device. I look forward to my next trip to finish off one or more of them.

 
If you could travel to any time in history, when would you visit?

I’m sort of a practical guy. When time travel is part of a plot theme in books I’ve read, things usually don’t go so well. I better stick to reading about history which I do enjoy.

 
What is your most treasured possession?

I’ve never really thought about that. But I’d have to say some objects my dad gave me that he made and used while serving in the Royal Canadian forces during World War 2.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

Edward & CalendarWell yes, we should give out my website so people can contact me and my Facebook page. Would that be okay?

 
Of course, go ahead.

Ok, the web address is EZ2SeeProducts.com. My Facebook page is found at Facebook.com/EZ2SeeProducts.

On my website you’ll find the “contact me” page and links to other pages including my Blog posts. There’s even a page containing all the online, radio, TV and newspaper interviews I’d had.

Oh yes, you can also order the calendar from there.

 
Thank you ever so much for your time, Edward. Best wishes for all your future projects.

 

Interview with Phyllis Staton Campbell

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My guest today, on Rainne’s Ramblings, is Phyllis Staton Campbell.

Phyllis, who was born blind, writes about the world she knows best. She calls on her experience as teacher of the blind, peer counselor and youth transition coordinator. She says that she lives the lives of her characters: lives of sorrow and joy; triumph and failure; hope and despair. That she and her characters sometimes see the world in a different way, adds depth to the story. She sees color in the warmth of the sun on her face, the smell of rain, the call of a cardinal, and God, in a rainbow of love and grace.

Although she was born in Amherst County, Virginia, she has lived most of her life in Staunton, Virginia, where she serves as organist at historic Faith Lutheran church, not far from the home she shared with her husband, Chuck, who waits beyond that door called death.

 
Phyllis Staton CampbellHi Phyllis, welcome to Rainne’s Ramblings.

Would you like to start by telling us how your journey as a writer began…?

I think my journey as a writer began before I could actually write. My sister and I made up stories, and acted them out before I even started to school

 
… So have you always been a creative soul?

Yes, I have.

 
What is your top writing tip?

Set realistic goals, and stick to them, raising the bar for yourself, as those goals are reached.

 
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?

It depends on what I’m doing. I completely outline an article. When working on a book-length project, I do a beginning, decide where the conflict at the beginning is taking the end, and then often the middle, the how we get to the end sort of finds itself.

Do I stick to this beginning end middle method? Not always, sometimes things become clearer as I work.

 
Who Will Hear Them Cry -Book Cover
Which, if any, of your personality traits did you write into your characters?

Probably my determination. Kate, for instance, in Who Will Hear Them Cry, once she gets started, so to speak, is determined to get to the bottom of the deaths at the school, and protect the children.

 

 
Which writers inspire you?

That’s really hard to say. For my recent title, Where Sheep May Safely Graze was definitely inspired by Jan Karon.

 
You write columns for the National Braille Press, and for The Blind Post. What subjects do you cover?

I do a crafts column for both The Blind Post, and NBP. and a sort of general column for NBP. It covers hobbies, interesting people, book reviews, origins of holiday customs, almost anything.

 
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I’ve written six books, with both traditional and self-publishers. I’ve also done a true-crime book, under contract to the victim’s family. I’m not sure that I actually have a favorite.

 
Out Of The Night -Book coverWhich of your books was the most fun to write… ?

I think probably Out Of The Night.

 
…And which of was the hardest?

Friendships in the Dark, my memoir. It took me back to walk in memory with many whose voices I’ll never hear again on this earth.

 
When you consider your future, what would you like to make happen for you?

In a general sort of way, to live out the rest of my life with dignity and peace. As a writer, I’m not foolish enough to wish for a bestseller, but I wish for a really successful book.

 
What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t take life, and myself so seriously.

 
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

I wanted to teach, becoming a writer came later, although I think it was lurking there in the background.

 
What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?

To be able to talk again to those afore mentioned people who walk in my memory, to tell them again that I love them, and ask forgiveness for hasty words or things not done.

 
If you could be any age again for a week, which would you choose?

Not so much a particular age, but the time between adolescence and adulthood. A time when life stretched before me with its hopes and dreams untarnished by life; a time when to a degree, life is ruled by passions; a time when the senses are sharper, the taste of wild strawberries, the scent of lilac and honeysuckle, sweeter; and a time when friendship and love rule one’s life.

 
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

Only to thank you for giving me the chance to do this interview, as well as to say thanks to those who read what I’ve said. You and the readers are among the best.

 
Thank you very much, Phyllis, and thanks for dropping in to talk with us today.

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You can catch up with Phyllis on Facebook, and find her books on Amazon

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Interview with N. Lombardi Jr

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My guest today is N. Lombardi Jr.
Nicolas is the author of The Plain of Jars, Journey Towards a Falling Sun, and the soon to be released, Justice Gone.

Hi Nicolas, would you please begin by telling us how your journey as a writer began?

author pic N LombardiI wrote my first novel in 1985. It was a catharsis for a broken heart, and it was therapy for getting over what I considered, at the time, the loss of the love of my life. It’s also a story about cultural confusion in East Africa. In the 1980’s it was much easier to get an agent, which I did, but after she submitted the manuscript 15 times, with rejection after rejection, I put it on the shelf for 30 years. It was finally published in 2014 as Journey Towards a Falling Sun, a romance adventure set in Kenya.

I began my second novel, The Plain of Jars, in 1998, and worked on it for 15 years while working as a groundwater geologist in various countries. I had no intention of writing again, but when I visited Laos and learned about the secret war the US waged against that small country (without an official declaration of war) and discovered that more bombs were dumped on that country than all the munitions dropped in World War II, I felt I just had to write about it. The novel was published as my first, in 2013.

 

What gets your creative juices flowing?

Relaxing and pondering about the story, certainly not while in the mechanical process of writing. I might be sitting with a glass of wine, and start daydreaming, and that’s the state I’m in as the narrative takes form.

 

What do you enjoy most about writing?

In the process of creating the story, I inevitably find myself getting lost in it, as if I were watching a film, and this gives me a very pleasant buzz which I carry around throughout the day.

 
JG cover jpeg

 
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?

My latest novel is Justice Gone, and was inspired by a true event, the fatal beating of a homeless man in a small Californian town. This was such an extreme case, and one which did not include any racial elements, that it exposed the utter abuse of authority in which an outraged public reaction was inevitable.

 

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

When I get the idea to write a novel, I know what it’s generally going to be about, but often my initial ideas are wiped out as I go along and the story takes on a life of its own.

 

Do your characters ever seem to have a life of their own or an agenda of their own?

I guess I can interpret this question as “do my characters ever get away from me, following paths I can’t control?” This is difficult to answer, but there have been occasions when they do seem to do something in my head that I hadn’t planned on. This happens when I’m daydreaming about the story.

 
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Do you use your personal experiences in your writing?

Journey Towards a Falling Sun contained many of my own personal experiences, but this is not true of anything else I have written.

  

Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?

Justice Gone could be considered a mystery/thriller combined with a courtroom drama, and such stories are usually categorized as legal thrillers. However, I wanted this book to have broad appeal because many topical issues such as homelessness, troubled vets, and the legal system are imbedded in the story.

 

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Watch an intriguing film, or just sit in my backyard gazing at the mountains.

 

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

Marketing is really tough. I feel like I’m in the Land of the Giants, competing against the Big Five publishing houses, leave alone the thousands of Indies who are trying to get their book noticed. While a writer has to go with what works, the book has to stand out on its own as a unique entity.

 

Thank you for joining us today. Best wishes for the release of Justice Gone.

Justice Gone is available for preorder and is due to be released on February 22nd.
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Interview with Ann Harrison-Barnes

Publication1I’m delighted to welcome my guest for today, Ann Harrison-Barnes.

Ann has published four books, so far, under the names, Ann Harrison and Ann Barnes; A Journey of Faith, Inner Vision, Maggie’s Gravy Train Adventure and Stories Outside the Box. She also has short stories in the Anthologies; Awethology Light, December Awethology – Light Volume, and Gems of Strength.

Hi Ann, welcome to Rainne’s Ramblings.
Would you like to kick off by telling me a little about yourself and your background?

my profileI’m am a writer who is blind. I am also the single mom of a ten-year-old daughter who talks all the time about being taller than her mom. I have taken college courses in the field of communications, and I love to write Christian mysteries with a bit of a romantic twist.

 
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Although I’ve been writing since I was in about fifth or sixth grade, I came to the realization in 2003. The introduction to New Stories from the South 2001 was the inspiration I needed to kickstart my writing career.

 
What motivates you to write?

Sometimes the characters in my story can be motivation enough, while at other times I need music, a specific podcast or something else to get me going.

 
What are the hardest and easiest parts about being a writer?

The easiest part about being a writer is creating a story, but this can also be the hard part. I say this because there are times when my story eludes me. The hardest thing I’ve found about being a writer is the revision stage, although this is becoming easier and fun too.

 
Tell us about your writing routine; what’s a typical writing day for you?

It depends on the time of year. In the winter I’ll get up, go have a cup of coffee and breakfast, take care of my normal morning routine, turn on some music and sit down to write. However, in summer, I love to take some time out on the front porch to muse first thing in the morning, as it gets quite hot in the afternoon. Then I get started on my writing day.

 
Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?

Yes, because if you don’t have a cover that highlights your story, readers will overlook your book and move onto the next big thing. Although I’ve been told “don’t judge a book by its cover”, all my life, many people do the very thing I’ve been advised against.

 
Is there a message in your novels that you want readers to grasp?

A Journey of Faith ebookThat depends on what novel you’re talking about. In A Journey of Faith, I want people to know that no matter what happens in their lives, God will get them through these situations. I also want them to take away the message not to give up on accomplishing their goals and don’t let fear hold them back from the things they love to do. Each novel has a special message.

 
For those of us who are thinking of reading A Journey of Faith, could you tell us what to expect?

In A Journey of Faith: A Stepping Stones Mystery, the protagonist takes her own heros journey to discover why she has had so many nightmares the past sixteen years of her life. You’ll find intrigue, mystery, and more. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, so you’ll have to read to find out what tragedy she witnessed.

 
Tell us about your favorite memory related to reading or writing?

When I was about five-years-old, I remember getting my first three talking books from the library for the blind. My favorite book was King Emmitt’s Pig. I don’t remember how he got his live pig, but I do remember that Emmitt had glass pits, paper pigs and pigs of all shapes and sizes. I am surprised I still remember that book nearly 40 years later. LOL

 
When you consider your future, what would you like to make happen for you?

I have to be honest, I’m working on making my future happen now, because I’m doing what I always dreamed of doing or at least the second dream I had. When I was a little girl, I dreamed of being a professional singer when I grew up. Although I love music, it turns out that I like writing even better.

 
Which, if any, of your personality traits, did you write into your characters?

InnerVisionEEcoverIn my novelette entitled Inner Vision, An Electric Eclectic Book, my character Kelly has my attention to detail and she learns how to use her inner vision as I have done.

 
How do you spend your free time?

Reading, listening to music or podcasts, spending time with my family, singing in my church choir and crocheting.

 
What is your biggest fear?

Getting lost in an unfamiliar place.

 
Which fictional character, book or film, would you like to meet and why?

This is not one character, but I’d like to meet the Bjorklund family from Lauraine Snelling’s Red River series and other books that she wrote featuring this family and their relatives and neighbors. They seam like such a wonderful family. As I read their stories, I fell in love with them.

 
A genie grants you three writing-related wishes: what are they and why?

I would ask for a stand-up desk, a front porch alcove with windchimes hanging nearby and someone to drive me to a café or gathering place where I can hang out with other writers.

 
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

I’m currently working on two projects. One is a nonfiction book written to help writers self-publish their books on Amazon and the other is a sequel to my full-length novel. Thanks for having me on your blog and I look forward to chatting with you soon.

 
Thank you for your time, Ann. It’s been lovely talking to you.

Pop back tomorrow to find out more about Anne and her books on my Five on Friday post, which for tomorrow will be Four on Friday! 😉

Interview with Trish Hubschman

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I’m delighted to welcome my guest for today, Trish Hubschman.

Trish is the author of the Tracy Gayle Mysteries.

Hi Trish, welcome to Rainne’s Ramblings.
Would you like to start by telling me a little about yourself and your background?

51pzajzhmylMy name is Trish. I’m 55 and live on Long Island, NY with my husband and two rescue dogs. I recently published a romantic suspense novel called Stiff Competition/Miss America (A Tracy Gayle Mystery).

 
When and why did you decide to become a writer?

I wrote poetry in 6th grade and my first short story in 7th. I was a shy and lonely kid. Creating characters gave me friends.

 
What gets your creative juices flowing?

I tend to daydream when I listen to music. Sometimes a new story emerges.

 
What does writing mean to you?

It’s my way to express myself, get my feelings out and deal with them if need be. It’s the best way for me to communicate. I also love to create, imagine and daydream.

 
Do you have an office/allotted space for writing?

I have my own computer room in my home where my desktop is set up.

 
Do you use your personal experiences in your writing…?

I’m multiply disabled and rarely do I have a disabled character, but I might do a spin-off of some incident that may happen in my life.

 
..and do you develop characters from your personal experiences or draw from that of others?

I would say Danny and Tracy are combinations of other characters in fiction with my own special touch added.

 
Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?

They say don’t judge a book by its cover but people do, in every way. The book’s cover is supposed to catch the reader’s eye, draw them to it, make them pick it up.

 
Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?

Adult women. Stiff Competition is a romantic suspense. It’s an excellent mystery with 2 assaults and 2 murders on the Atlantic City boardwalk. There’s also a juicy romance. It’s different than the usual theme. It’s not a private eye with a cop, though the cop’s right there. My PI’s sidekick is a rock and roll musician.

 
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

My favorite author is Lisa Gardner, but the private eye in my book is most like Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone.

 
What are your writing goals for 2019?

I want to publish the next book in the Tracy Gayle mystery series, Ratings Game.

 
It’s time to relax! What do you do?

Read, do yard work, sleep, exercise, listen to music.

 
What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?

Having to put our last dog Cookie down.

 
I’m so sorry, Trish.
I have a cat called Cookie.

20170616_141942_9443_994989
What three music cds would you take to a deserted island to watch over and over again for a year?

Styx is my favorite band, so I’d take 3 concert CDs with me.

 
If you had to choose a fictional character from one of your books to have lunch with, who would it be and why?

Danny Tide. He’s a gorgeous rock star and a great guy.

 
If you were given a one-way ticket to anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Personally, I’d like to hole up and hide somewhere. I like the peace of the mountains, the fresh air, etc. Maybe the Poconos.

 
I’m with you on the hideaway hole, Trish

Before you leave us, is there anything else you’d like to share?

I’m deaf/blind. I have a cochlear implant. I do okay hearing computer speech but I don’t do as well with human voices, especially in crowds, or on the phone.

 
Thank you for joining me today, and sharing a little about yourself and your writing. Best wishes for all your future projects.

The Tracy Gayle Mystery series:

Book One – The Fire
Book Two – Unlucky Break
Book Three – Stiff Competition: (Miss America)

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Interview with Tom Vater

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My guest today is Tom Vater. Tom is a writer and publisher specializing in crime fiction and Asian subjects.

Tom VaterHi Tom, thank you for joining me.

Would you like to kick off by telling my readers and I a little about yourself and your background?

I have walked across the Himalayas, dived with hundreds of sharks in the Philippines, and witnessed the Maha Kumbh Mela, the largest gathering of people in the world. I have travelled with sea gypsies and nomads, pilgrims, sex workers, serial killers, rebels and soldiers, politicians and secret agents, artists, pirates, hippies, gangsters, police men and prophets. Some of them have become close friends.

I’m a journalist and author of books, both fiction and non-fiction, and have lived and worked in Asia for more than twenty years. I haven’t slept in the same place for more than three months since 1994. Always on the road.

 
How did your journey as a writer begin?

I was living in a cheap room in a cheap guest house on Freak Street in Kathmandu in the mid 90s. The couple in the room next door had cycled from Europe to Nepal and were trying to sell stories about their adventures. I was in Nepal recording indigenous music, I had a tiny grant from the British Library to do this. The couple’s English wasn’t great, so I helped them edit their stories and then went to a local newspaper with them. They sold one of their stories and I asked the editor if he’d buy a story by a foreigner about Nepali music and he said yes.

I don’t think I’ve done anything else professionally since then, other than writing. I wrote a few articles for the paper in Kathmandu and then went back to the UK and was interviewed by Rough Guides and then sent to Thailand to write part of a guidebook. Once in Thailand, I started working for local magazines. Then international ones. Now I’ve been a journalist for more than 20 years, covering cultural, economic stories across South and Southeast Asia for a bunch of media outlets. And I write crime novels and co-own a crime fiction publishing house, Crime Wave Press .

Incidentally, that couple, I met them again a year or so later in Thailand and by that time they’d been on the road for so long, they’d gone crazy. They thought everyone was out to get them. We spent a couple of days together in the south and had planned to travel to a remote island by the Thai Burmese border. But then they suddenly accused me of having stolen some of their money and broke into my hotel room to beat the crap out of me. They didn’t find their money of course and scuttled away eventually. I lifted that moment into my first novel, The Devil’s Road to Kathmandu.

 
What motivates you to write?

It puts food on my table. I like telling stories. I have travelled a fair bit, met a lot of interesting people. I tell their stories or stories about them or about people like them. A magazine article is one way to do this, my bread and butter way. My crime novels are another way to do it, a totally different way of story-telling with different techniques and different priorities.

 
What are the hardest and easiest parts about being a writer?

As the market has consolidated around a few huge publishers, it has become more difficult to find publishers for fiction, in whatever genre, that’s a little niche. And it has become harder for smaller publishers to sell books. So I think making a living from fiction is a real challenge.

Finding an idea, a spark tantalizing enough to invest in a book that will take six months to produce, is also tricky. I only have those kind of ideas every now and then.

The easiest part of being a writer is letting go of your book once it’s published. Usually I am already working on something else. In some ways it feels like it is no longer mine, it belongs to the world. Of course books published with small press need continued nurturing once they are out, a job writers are rarely made for.

 
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?

The Devil's Road To KathmanduI’ve done both. I mapped out my first novel, The Devil’s Road to Kathmandu, on a wall in the room I wrote in, with little colour coded papers to control the pacing, have an over view and to flesh out the characters in their own charts etc.

I still follow this technique to some point though it now all happens on my screen. That said, I never stick to the outline, no matter how detailed it is. I get ambushed by my own ideas, and change course and then spend ages to find simple, natural and plausible ways to get back to my original route. Or abandon that altogether.

 
Tell us about your Detective Maier series and what inspired the first book?

The Cambodian Book of the Dead was largely inspired by my own experiences in Cambodia in the early 2000s. The country was chaotic and unruly, a few years after the long civil war had ended. The genocide of the Khmer Rouge communists which had taken place in the mid to late 1970s still dictated a lot of life and politics there at the time. The country was awakening from a terrible nightmare and for a while there was a dark but also hopeful vibe there, very raw, that permeated everything. I had been wanting to write about a German detective, a former conflict journalist, solving cases involving Germans abroad. And I had been a German correspondent in Southeast Asia by then for some years. I wanted to write about familiar territory. So I sent Maier to Cambodia, in search of the young heir to a Hamburg coffee empire who’d gone off the rails and disappeared.

 
Monsoon Ghost Image is the third book in the series, can you tell us a bit about it?

The Monsoon Ghost Image 3When award-winning German conflict photographer Martin Ritter disappears in a boating accident in Thailand, the nation mourns the loss of a cultural icon. But a few weeks later, Detective Maier’s agency in Hamburg gets a call from Ritter’s wife. Her husband has been seen alive on the streets of Bangkok. Maier decides to travel to Thailand to find Ritter. But all he finds is trouble and a photograph. As soon as Maier puts his hands on the Monsoon Ghost Image, the detective turns from hunter to hunted – the CIA, international business interests, a doctor with a penchant for mutilation and a woman who calls herself the Wicked Witch of the East all want to get their fingers on Martin Ritter’s most important piece of work – visual proof of a post 9/11 CIA rendition and the torture of a suspected Muslim terrorist on Thai soil. From the concrete canyons of the Thai capital to the savage jungles and hedonist party islands of southern Thailand, Maier and his sidekick Mikhail race against formidable foes to discover some of our darkest truths and to save their lives into the bargain.

 
What is your favourite part or scene in the Monsoon Ghost Image? Can you give us a peek?

There’s a lot of gripping actions scenes as well reflective moments in the novel. In this particular scene, Maier meets Dr Suraporn, a plastic surgeon for the first time, as he traces the movements of Martin Ritter, the photographer has been tasked to find. He encounters a little more than he can chew.

The Good Doctor

The reception area was dressed in hushed beige. A glass fridge bulged with small cartons of cold mineral water and vitamin juices, complimentary for waiting patients. TIME Magazine and the local English language papers sat neatly stacked alongside fashion magazines on the glass table in the center of the room. Ambient music hummed from invisible speakers. It was cool, rather than arctic. A framed photograph of the Thai king holding a camera graced a wall.
A photo of the doctor taken in front of the Statue of Liberty, accompanied by his wife, shirt unbuttoned and vivacious, and three kids, faced Maier. It looked like an ad for American family values. Except that the doctor was Thai.
The remaining walls were bare.
Dr. Suraporn, one of the country’s leading plastic surgeons, would have time for Maier in a few minutes, the lady at reception had told the detective in lilting but flawless English. Maier judged, by the professional attention she was bestowing on him that dropping Ritter’s name carried weight.
Hans had furnished Maier and Mikhail with the doctor’s identity in the early hours of the previous night, dead drunk and psychologically strong-armed by the detectives to help find the photographer. A wad of cash, Vitamin M as the Thais sometimes called it, had smoothed the passage.
Despite the crushing hangover, Maier felt optimistic. He was closing in on Martin Ritter. This was bigger than a man’s disappearance. This stank of the serious stuff – life, death, dignity, history. Maier also knew he was back, doing what he did best. He wasn’t sure whether he wanted to be back, but at least it was more agreeable than waking up in his apartment in Altona, surprised to be alive. Maier had risen from a dark slumber. Bangkok had a rejuvenating effect, it seemed. For a split second the detective wondered whether he was deluding himself in the same manner as the Fellinis on the street.

“Good morning. Let’s get right to the point as I have a consultation in fifteen minutes. What can I do for you? You’re not a prospective patient, I understand. You are here to inquire about someone else’s surgery? ”
Dr. Suraporn was reasonably handsome, 40ish, almost tall, sharp grey suit and hair cut out of a 90s John Woo movie, an expensive but rather small and effeminate watch on his left wrist and a pair of almost square rimless and impossibly delicate glasses on his nose. His face looked like it enjoyed the world’s best moisturizers and spa treatments.
“Thanks for taking a moment to see me, doctor.”
Shaking hands, Maier detected something unsettling in the doctor’s radiant expression, the same undercurrent he’d felt when he’d studied the family picture outside. Suraporn welcomed the detective with a curious, apparently open smile momentarily grounded in utter fakery before turning into seasoned and earnest professionalism in a matter of nanoseconds. A small shock passed through the detective. This man was very dangerous. He’d shown his true face, on purpose.
Maier tried to look detached and at ease.
“So you are here about the famous war photographer who blew up in Thailand. Incredible story, Detective…Mr. Maier. I read all about it.”
“When was the last time you saw Martin Ritter?”
Suraporn waved Maier onto a leather couch so white, the detective was sure he’d leave part of his shadow behind when he got up again.
“Even if Mr. Ritter had been my patient, I am sure you understand, I am not in a position to divulge information about any procedure he might have had here. It would clearly be unethical. Even, I should say, if you come to me in the name of this man’s widow.”

Maier chose conversational, though he felt increasingly uneasy in the too cold office.
“You have a great reputation for skin grafts and cosmetic surgery, Dr. Suraporn.”
The doctor let the question drop to the dead ground as if it had never been uttered.
“By the way, who told you that your Mr. Ritter has anything to do with me?”
Maier didn’t answer. This was as far as he was going to get here.
For a moment nothing happened. Smiles on both sides of the table started to wane. The doctor leaned forward. His presence moved the glacial air which had gone stale around the office.
“Mr. Maier, in a few seconds, you will get up and leave my office. You will never return. We will never meet again. I don’t know what you want but I understand very well what you are. You are trouble. And trouble invites more trouble. But you have a choice. A little bit of a choice. Because we take these haters who trouble us to the afterlife, where they will be dealt true justice in the afterlife court.”
The doctor didn’t blink.
“And sometimes, very rarely, we get them into the afterlife court before they have died.”
Maier waited for more, short of breath, on the spotless white couch.
The doctor grew across his desk towards the detective.
“Where is it?”
Maier managed a faint stammer, “Where is what?”
“The image. Where is the image? The Monsoon Ghost image? Where is it?”
Suraporn leaned back and began to bark, like a small dog. Maier was suffocating. Whatever air hadn’t been used up by the barking was toxic. As the doctor grew hoarse, his vocal efforts grew in intensity. Maier rose to leave. He swayed, his eyes on Suraporn. The man’s face looked twisted. Sweet, but wrong. As the detective turned with effort, he noticed that a part, a small grey sliver of his soul remained imprinted on the surface of the couch. Perhaps he’d been drugged, he couldn’t be sure. He had to get out. He never wanted to meet this man again. Back on the street, he vomited his breakfast into a rubbish bin.

 
Give us some insight into Detective Maier. What does he do that’s special? What motivates him?

He’s a middle aged former journalist who grew up and started his career in East Germany before the Berlin Wall came down, and then went on to become a conflict journalist for international media. He retires in the opening chapter of The Cambodian Book of the Dead, in 1997 and then returns to the country in 2001 as a detective. Maier tells himself that detective work is less compromising and compromised than media work. He no longer has to tell a story, he just has to find out what the story is and then do whatever his client asks him to do. Maier is motivated by experience and curiosity and as the series goes on, by loyalty to his boss, his colleague Mikhail, a former Russian hitman who’s gay, and his detective agency which he sees as his family.

 
Do your characters ever seem to have a life of their own or an agenda of their own?

They do while I write the book, yes. Sometimes I finish writing a chapter late at night, go to bed and when I come back to the text in the morning it feels like the protagonists all moved around in my absence. At other times, they fight me while I am writing and I have arguments with them about where they should go next, what they should say or do next. I always win of course.

 
Which, if any, of your personality traits did you write into your characters?

xWAhM4rH_400x400Maier is an ex journalist a few years older than myself, with many years spent in Asia. So those are the very, very obvious parallels. But in other ways he is quite different. He drinks a lot, especially in the first two books. I don’t drink at all. That may seem like a small thing but I think it forms the character to quite some degree. He is a little more morose than me, though some friends of mine would probably dispute that. In the first two books, he has a moustache. I don’t. Ever. In any case, he’s not me, he’s totally crazy. Like all writers, I am a perfectly well adjusted, well balanced human being…

 
How many stories does Detective Maier have in him? Will the series be a long-running one?

This third novel is the last for now. But I have an idea for a short story.

 
If your books were made into a Film/TV Series, who would you cast as Detective Maier?

Ryan Gosling

 
You’re stranded on a deserted island and you can take three people who would they be and why?

My pragmatic side would take three farmers. That would increase my chances of continued existence. My romantic side would take my partner and those two of my best friends who don’t mind sitting round on sun-kissed beaches for an indefinite time.

 
And finally a quick fire round:
1.Favourite food?

         Lebanese, Indian

2.Favourite flower?

         Orchid

3.Favourite Animal?

         Shark

4.Favourite film?

         Gummo

5.Favourite singer / band?

         The Rolling Stones

 
Thanks again for your time, is there anything else you’d like to share with us before you leave?

Thanks for letting me ramble. Buy The Monsoon Ghost Image. What would the world be without great story-telling?

 

Find out more about Tom and his books:

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