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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.

 
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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.

***

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.

 
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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.

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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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Interview with M.L.S. Weech

My guest today is author, M.L.S. Weech, otherwise known as Matt!

Hi Matt, welcome to Rainne’s Ramblings.
Would you like to begin by telling us a little about yourself and your background?
Me

I’ve been published for about three years. I do that when I’m not enjoying my job teaching Sailors at the Defense Information School. I was raised in the desert southwest, and in my youth, there wasn’t exactly a lot to do because I essentially lived in a desert. My imagination was my most accessible toy. I grew up to join the Navy, and after ten years of service, I returned to where my career started as a civilian instructor.

 
When and why did you decide to become a writer?

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was about 8. I’d just watched what is still my favorite movie ever, and my favorite character died. Naturally, I cried, but my biodad sort of chuckled at me and told me to write a better movie if I didn’t like this one. So started work on the sequel, and I’ve been writing ever since. I finished my first book when I was about 17. I got genuinely serious in 2009, when I joined a writer’s group and committed to writing 1,000 words a day. I love stories. I love thinking about the plot. I love the crafting of words. It has simply been a part of my life for so long I’m not sure what my life would look like if I didn’t do it.

 
What inspires your books?

My posts are usually inspired by something random. My first book, The Journals of Bob Drifter, was inspired by my family dod and my dad. My mom had a nightmare she told me about, and that inspired my second book, Caught. My newest published novel is an anthology in which my contributing story was inspired by the riots in Virginia. So usually I see or hear something, and my brain, which is prone to flights of fancy, takes it to an extreme degree.

 
Are there any particular places that help you get the creative cogs turning?

I’m a believer in work habit and ethics. I can pretty much write anywhere, but I’m most productive on my couch with my laptop and cool elevating table. (I can pull the top up so it’s even with my arms). That’s where and how I’ve written for about five years, so that’s where my body is most conditioned to want to write.

 
What is the setting and genre of The Power of Words?

The Power of Words has four stories. The first is a science fiction novella set in a world where people can virtually swim in a social media world. That world is dominated by a group of speakers called Voices. This is a world in which social media and digital lives (in this case lived through visors known as omnies) rule, and bare faces are considered odd.

The second is a traditional fantasy set in Richard T. Drakes’ Hollow World series. The story takes place at a seedy bar, and it’s essentially a hostile negotiation between an entrenched criminal and a newly risen hero of the people.

The third is the first in a post-apocalyptic series. It’s a zombie survival story taking place in San Antonio. Some might roll an eye at the idea of “another” zombie apocalypse, but this story is unique in that the main character isn’t one who’s in any way suited to survive in such a place.

The last story is my own, of which I’m very proud. It’s a dystopian science fiction heist story. A mom, who’s essentially a former policeman, hatches a scheme to take out the servers for the planetary silence protocol currently enforced. She believes in the right to speak, and, more importantly, she wants her daughter to be saved from the ruthless enforcement policies currently in place.

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

The first reason would be that it’s great speculative science fiction in the vein of Hugo novels of old. There’s a clear message and meaning, which is nice in a world of popcorn scifi.

The other reason is that it’s all dedicated to the importance of communication. We live in a world where maybe sometimes people want to be heard, but they don’t want to listen so much. I think people need a reminder on the importance of hearing and speaking. Communication is what matters. These themes are wrapped stories that are engaging and fun.

 
Many authors state that their characters are portions of themselves. Is this true with you?

I don’t even hide from this. Part of my process when I create characters is that I give them one trait from myself. Sometimes it’s a good trait. Sometimes it’s a not so good trait. Every now and then, I take a positive trait to an obsessive degree to see what happens. I’ve has people ask me which character is most like me, and I do have a thought on that, but the fact is every character has a part of me. Those who know me and read my books often comment how much of myself they see in each character.

 
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Umm….(counts in his head)…five unpublished books and one half-finished.

 
What is your favourite part or scene in The Power of Words? Can you give us a peek?

I can’t give you the peek because my favorite part is the reveal in my contribution to the story. I’ve had many people complement me on the plot twist in Caught, and I think this twist is just so much better. That’s honestly my favorite part, but another part I enjoy is a scene in which the crew’s lifter, Laree, is trying to get a security badge. It’s just a cute little scene that makes me chuckle. Here it is:

A pair of glass doors whooshed open as she stepped into the lab. She kept her eyes down, but noticed a few technicians look at her. She pointed at the empty lab chair before snatching up a data pad, pretending she’d forgotten it.
Bad mark! she thought looking at the first person she saw. He didn’t have a red badge either. Bad mark! Bad mark! Two more employees displayed their green badges like wards against her plan, mocking her increasingly impossible timeline.
She walked around the monitors and holo-tables as if simply taking a leisurely route back out of the room.
Bad mark! For spark’s sake does anyone on this floor have a … there’s a good mark.
A spindly young technician in need of two meals and a gallon of anti-acne cream sat at a monitor. His red badge dangled from his white coat pocket like a pretty bow. She made a show of nearly dropping the data pad, and the helpful tech, who’d probably never seen a woman naked before, had his moment in the limelight. He heroically stood there while she plowed into him. He just managed to snag the data pad as she snatched the man’s badge.
He looked at her, and she could practically see the wedding play out in his eyes.
Oh, Sweetie, no! She hid her face with the data pad and winked at him before heading out of the lab.
That’s when her wrist communicator started flashing.
Come on, Laree! Did you really think it was going to go that smoothly?

 
Tell us about the cover and how it came about.

Power of Words Cover_FRONT_EBOOKAgain, I’m super proud of this one. I actually designed it myself. I knew I wanted a text-based cover because it was an anthology. So I took the title and played with some concepts. One of my favorite design techniques is the Gestalt principle of figure and ground. Silhouettes use this same principle. The idea is the contrast of one set of shapes on a simple background create the impression of an object or, in my cover’s case, words. I took this one step further because I used a very specific set of words as my figure (the text creating element). I keep it secret as to what those words are because I’d like to think people wonder what the words are and end up staring at them to figure out what publication they’re from. It’s a simple concept executed well. I’m not trying to boast. I’m not saying it’s the greatest cover or concept ever. I just assert it’s a solid idea done well. The real judgement of that would be the viewers though.

 
Have you done any personal appearances?

Ever? Yes. I’ve been in a few bookstores, and I usually do a book launches at a local comic book store. The owner (Bumper) is a great guy, and I like to hang out there. I don’t anymore because if I go in there, I’m going to buy rare comics, and they’re expensive. Most of my appearances (and the one I’m about to do) are at conventions. My next one (and last for the year) will be the Baltimore ComicCon Sept. 28-30.

 
What do you think makes a good story?

I honestly have a simple formula for that. Sympathetic, proactive characters + interesting plot + interesting world = good story. The key element there is the character. They can be reading a book or talking about the weather if they’re sympathetic and proactive enough. I do have to explain that sympathetic to me doesn’t necessarily connote “likable.” A character someone hates can be just as captivating as a character someone loves. The point is, the character evokes strong emotions.

 
Which writers inspire you?

Currently, I’m a huge fan of Brandon Sanderson. I think Peter V. Brett is the best with characters. Dan Wells is the most underrated author out there right now. Then there are the go-tos, Anne McCaffrey, Robert Jordan, Timothy Zahn, and Dean Koontz. I do want to give special attention to Michael G. Manning and C.L. Schneider, two indie authors who really are outstanding.

 
Do you have plans to, or have you already, released audio editions of your book(s)?

The Journals of Bob Drifter is already out on Audible, and Caught is nearly finished. In fact, the Audible version of Power of Words is in production, though I’ve hit a snag there, so it might not be out as soon as I want.

 
Writing seems to be a large part of your life. Imagine a future (if you can) where you no longer write. What would you do?

Well, I’m getting married in November, so I’d probably just be an annoying dad and (hopefully) loyal husband. I’d watch WAY more football (and THAT’S saying something) and play a few more video games too. I might take up sleeping as a hobby. I’ve heard good things about it.

 
Your blog is a mixture of books (news and reviews), Book Cover of the Month and your Mum/your faith:
How/why did you come up with the idea for Book Cover of the Month?

I love top ten lists and competition and brackets. I also love book covers. So I started out just picking covers I thought were nice because that’s actually how I discovered C.L. Schneider. After I started doing that, I wondered what to do the covers. The idea for a bracket came pretty quickly after that. I just like to talk about covers. I’d like to see more voters, and I would really like to have more (professional) debates about why this cover works and why that one doesn’t. For now though, it’s really fun, and I’d look at the covers regardless. This just gives me an interesting bit of content to offer my readers.

 
Has writing about your Mum’s illness and your ‘Trial of Faith’ helped you?

The testimony is first and foremost about giving glory to God. This trial truly shaped me. It saddened me. It broke me. It humbled me. But it also helped me improve my relationship with God. I struggle with pride so much in my life. I was raised in it. I was trained in it while in the Navy (Take Charge! Be a Leader! Be Assertive!). This event was humbling because here I am, a man committed to the idea of, “There’s always something I can do!” Then I’m placed in this situation where I was simply helpless. It’s put me in a place where I’ve realized I’m subject to God’s will and God’s grace, and I’m better for it. Life was hard when I felt like it was all on me. Now I realize my life is in God’s hands, and everything he does, even this, is for good. The testimony reminds me of that. I still struggle with pride. MAN do I struggle with it, but I hope I’m improving and growing.

It also helped me to open up more. As I said above, I already fail to see what’s “interesting” about me. Combine that with the fact that I’m honestly super private and generally selfish with my time, opening up like this has helped me grow as a person.

The greatest help would be hearing, thinking or knowing that my testimony has helped introduce more people to Jesus, and through him God. I fear now that what I’m doing might be brining too much attention on myself and not enough to God (which is the main objective). I feel this way because our faith and grace are evidenced (not granted!) by the fruits of our labors. I’m not honestly sure if’ I’ve born any fruit. I’m not sure if I’ve helped anyone find Jesus or even encouraged anyone going through something similar. That portion of the blog is almost over. I have ideas on what the Sunday blogs will be, but I want them (and everything I do) to glorify God. I may fail more often than I succeed (because we all fall short of the Glory of God), but I want to try.

 
It’s time to relax! What do you do?

I write. When I’m not writing or watching football, I’m playing video games. Reading is fun. But honestly if I had more time for writing, I’d be much happier. Marketing, editing, publicity, those things just really burn me out.

 
What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?

Favorites ever are: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BEST EVER), How I Met Your Mother, Stargate SG-1, and Supernatural (the first five seasons only). Current series would be Doctor Who, The 100, The Marvel TV shows, Game of Thrones, and Stranger Things.

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

Bob from The Journals of Bob Drifter. Sure, he might be there to take my soul, but he’s hundreds of years old. He’d have a ton of stories to tell me before I croaked.

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

I’m bad at sharing. Not because I’m unwilling, but because I’m really just sort of baffled at the sorts of things people want to know about. I think I’m pretty boring, so it’s hard to think about things because I just don’t know. I usually talk about my students or my kids (my fiancee’s kids, but I’ve pretty much already hijacked them).

 
Thank you for joining us today, Matt. Good luck with the release of The Power of Words in October, and best wishes for your wedding and the future.

 

Noémie’s Journey by Victoria Saccenti

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is proud to announce the release of her newest novel
Noémie’s Journey

 
Noémie's JourneyLove is waiting around the next curve…but trouble is never far behind.

Desperate to shake memories that stalk him like feral beasts, Richard Winters points his motorcycle toward the highway and twists the throttle—destination anywhere but New York. By the time he puts his kickstand down, he’s in Summitville, North Carolina, where, with a few annoying exceptions, one being an outlaw MC, he’s left alone.

Except there’s one woman who catches his notice and resurrects the protective instinct that cost him everything once before. A woman with stunning green eyes that haunt his dreams, and facing prejudice that makes him want to rise to her defense. But that would mean doing the last thing he wants to do—lower his guard.

Noémie Bellerose has heard times are changing, but in 1968 North Carolina, she and her younger brother are second-class citizens. The new bartender in town is temptation on two wheels, but in what world could the two of them connect? Not this one.

Despite their best intentions to avoid trouble, trouble finds them both—and so does an attraction that won’t be denied. But can love bloom where it is planted, or will they be forced to resort to desperate measures…before hate cuts them down?

Available for pre-order now at 99c

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Excerpt:

PROLOGUE
Mount Vernon, New York. April 1968

         Dickey entered his apartment, and before he could flip the light switch, the memories—feral beasts lying in wait—pounced from every direction.
         
Damn it. Stop. Stop. He stabbed his fingers into his face, but the self-inflicted pain had no effect on the barrage of angry whispers circling him. Taunting him, they grew louder…intensified to a roar of screams and jeers.
         He’d done everything to break the pattern, had changed his routine, rearranged the sequence and time of his actions and nothing worked. As soon as he was alone, the scene and participants came to life, clawing at him whether he played music, listened to the radio, or watched TV. No distraction, no entertainment on earth could end the torment or silence the voices. No. They pulled him, yanked him back to the moment…the god-awful moment.
         
No more.
         It was late, close to midnight, and still he reached for the phone—a pathetic jerk, a slave of the past. He loathed the lack of control, the outright weakness the call would reveal.
         “Hey, Skip. Sorry to wake you.”
         “Hmmm…yeah. Dickey?”
         “Got a moment, pal?”
         “Shoot. I’m awake now.”
         “You once offered to buy my share of the business. Are you still interested in going solo?”
         “It was a passing interest. But…why bring it up now?”
         “Because I’m getting out of Dodge. I refuse to spend another hour in this state. I’m done. Finito.”
         “Hold on, man. Vivian again? It’s been years.”
         “I can’t shake it. I see her…them… No more.”
         “What about that sweet young thing? She likes you.”
         “And she was getting too clingy. I don’t do girlfriends. Mind’s made up.”
         “Wait, Dickey—”
         “Nah, I’m packing. I’ll head west or maybe south. Not sure. When I stop, wherever I stop, I’ll call. Hopefully, a drastic change will do the trick. And Skip, when you see that girl, please tell her I wish her the best.”
         He dropped the phone on the cradle and swept through his place, tossing a few rolled items into the smallest duffel he owned. He didn’t need much. He’d tear into the road, travel light and long with a single purpose in mind: leave good old Dickey behind and forgotten. Hello world, meet Richard Winters.
         In a few strides, he closed the door to his last home in New York, mounted his bike, and, with a deep rumble, sped into the night.
         Ill or fair, he’d meet the wind head-on.

 

About the Author:

Victoria SaccentiAmazon Bestselling author, Victoria Saccenti picked up pencil and paper the moment her childhood book heroes started conversing with her. Sounds a little crazy, but there’s no rhyme or reason for inspiration. Back then, she wrote one-act plays and short fairy tales for simple amusement. Today–many…many moons later–her playful stories have grown into family sagas and retro and contemporary romances with an edge. An avid people watcher, she explores in her novels the twists and turns of human interaction, the many facets of love, and all possible happy endings.

Victoria lived overseas and traveled the world for thirty years, and she brings that experience and sense of adventure to her stories. She enjoys taking her reader on a private journey from America to Europe to Southeast Asia and back around.

Central Florida is home. She splits her busy schedule between family and her active muse at Essence Publishing. But if she could convince her husband to sell their home, she would pack up her computer and move to Scotland, a land she adores.

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Interview with Victoria Saccenti:
by Karina Kantas

-What made you want to be a writer?

My writing journey began decades ago. I plunged into the adventure-filled pages of Emilio Salgari’s Tigers of Malaysia and my imagination awakened. I started writing juvenile fantasies, kept a diary, progressed to short stories, then finally took on the big project, full-length novels.

 
-How important is it to read books when you want to be an author?

Read, read, and read some more. That is the main advice given by every major author. As other works expand the knowledge and style base. We’re exposed to new and different worlds when we read.

 
-Which character do you identify with most in your novel?

This may sound crazy, but I don’t identify with one specific character. I love and identify with all of them. When they speak to me, I listen.

 
-Is there a message you’d like to send through your book?

I don’t like to tell anyone how or what to think. I only present events, choices, and possibilities. The characters come up to the proverbial crossroad and learn from their mistakes. In the exchange I can only hope the readers take something of value.

 
-Tell us how the atmosphere needs to be for you to be able to write. Example, music on or quiet etc.

I hide out in my silent cave. LOL I can’t write with music. If I do, my mind wanders away, gets lost in the notes and I lose the connection to the character(s).

 
-What is one goody you must have at your desk when you’re writing?

My cave is an organized chaos. I have all sorts of necessary goodies. Affectionate notes from my dear hubby, photographs of dear friends, my special notebook, things like that.

 
-What is the worst thing you’ve had to overcome before publishing your novel? IF it’s too personal just make a generalized statement if you can.

The biggest challenge was to gather the courage to put your work “out there” exposing your soul to the public.

 
-When you need some extra encouragement who do you turn to?

I have a wonderful set of friends.

 
-How do you market your book?

Social media platforms are a great way to spread the word. I also advertise via Internet publications. Plus, I have a terrific VA.

 

-Have readers ever contacted you? If so, tell us the best thing they’ve said to you.

Yes, readers regularly contact me. Their compliments are extremely rewarding.

 
-Who do you trust to read your finished books before publication?

I send the manuscript to two fantastic Beta readers. My editor is also a wonderful barometer/critic.

 
-Tell us all about your very first book signing. Take us there with your description of people, place, food, décor etc.

My very first book signing took place in San Antonio, Texas, at the lovely Menger Hotel. I was a nervous wreck and didn’t know what to expect, or how many books to bring. Authors decorated the packed room with colorful pullout and table banners. Logo’s, quotes, and character images where everywhere. My table partner was sweet and funny. She was probably as nervous as I was, since that was her first event as well. The happy cacophony of laughter and conversation and the scent of fresh popcorn are indelibly etched in the memory bank. Who knew that would be offered at the door? I also remember the aroma of chocolate. I had swag Hershey’s bites spread out on my table. I have a feeling the bites had a lot to do with the readers stopping by. They might have sold a book or two. Hershey’s bites rule!

 
-What do you enjoy when you’re not writing?

Reading is my favorite pastime.

 
-Tell us your favorite novel?

I’ll take a different tack. My favorite writer is Dorothy Dunnett. I love her series The Lymond Chronicles and House of Niccolò. The best historical fiction books ever written, in my humble opinion.

 
-What kind of advice can you give to other aspiring authors?

Hire a good editor. Editors are worth their weight in gold.

 

WRITING 101

 

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