Tag Archive | Author

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.

 

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Interview with Michelle Peach

Michelle Peach

Last week it was the book, Gazelle in the Shadows, that was in the spotlight. This week I turn the spotlight towards the author, Michelle Peach.

 
Hi Michelle, and welcome to Rainne’s Ramblings. No rambling from me this morning, so if you’d like to start by telling my readers and I a little about yourself and your background, that would be lovely.

Michelle Peach - Author HeadshotI’m a stay-at-home mom, married with three children and love volunteering for school activities and animal rescue. In between time, I love to write. I am a graduate of Durham University with a degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies. I worked for many years overseas in the British Foreign Office and as an executive PA for a Dubai company. I met my future husband while working in Dubai and soon after moved to America. That was twenty years ago! How time flies!

 
When and why did you decide to become a writer?

I had procrastinated about writing the book for many years but the catalyst came when my children started to ask me what I had done before marrying their father and I felt a need to tell my story for them in addition to the urging of many friends.

 
What gets your creative juices flowing?

There’s not any one thing I can pinpoint as my creativity can be sparked by listening to the radio, reading a book, taking a long walk or even in the moments before sleep.

 
What is your top writing tip?

As a visual thinker, what helped me tremendously was a story planner. I created my arc on a cork-board with index cards pinned in sequence. It was easy to switch things around and play with the chapters until I was happy to begin the writing process.

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

Hands down, the hardest part has been the marketing after my book was published. I’m not much of a salesperson so it has been a steep learning curve to push my book forward.

The easiest part was receiving my first printed paperback. Holding it in my hands, feeling the weight and texture of the pages gave me immense pride and fufilment.

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

I don’t have a typical day. Some days I might write but as a general rule, I enjoy writing at night when the house is quiet.

 
Gazelle in the ShadowsHow did you come up with the title?

I searched for a title that would point to the Arabian setting of the story and remembered that the gazelle has been used to symbolize femininity and love in Arabic literature and music since pre-Islamic times. I also liked it because the gazelle, much like the protagonist, Elizabeth, is preyed upon by many predators. The second part of the title “in the shadows” depicts how Elizabeth faces the unknown where her predators operate in the clandestine world of betrayal and espionage.

 
You say the book is ‘largely based on your life’, how much is fact and how much is from your imagination?

If I were to quantify it, I would say that two thirds of it is true and the rest fictionalised.

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

I enjoyed writing about the hammam which I visited in Damascus. It brought back many memories.

      We entered the reception area through a heavy, dark curtain used for privacy from passersby in the street. The room opened out unexpectedly into a cavernous space. There were seats along the walls furnished with rich, although threadbare, oriental carpets. In the centre, directly under the dome, there was an octagon fountain inlaid with blue, mosaic tiles. From the inside, the dome was transformed into a light show. Cracks within the bricks allowed shafts of sunlight to shine through. The illumination made me feel relaxed. Unfortunately, it didn’t smell as relaxing, as the vapoury air invaded my nostrils with tobacco and must from wet carpets.
      There were two women who were assisting us in the lobby area. One of them, a plump, short woman, was dressed in a long, black robe and colourful
hijab. She handed out some minshafa, thin towels. The other, a tall, slim woman, handed us glasses of rose water.
      “Get undressed,” Fatima told me. “And wrap this around you.”
      I timidly undressed feeling embarrassed by my body. I wished I had packed my swimsuit now. I clung onto the towel as I awkwardly struggled to pull my clothes off and then wrapped it tightly around me. I was relieved that it was large enough to cover me from my breasts to my knees. Na’imah and Suheera disrobed, unabashed by their nakedness and tied the towels around their waists.
      I was freezing as I stood almost naked in the lobby area. Fatima saw my chattering teeth.
      “This is the
barrani chamber, the coolest room. Let’s go into the next one which is warmer.”
      I happily followed her into the next, warmer chamber. Suheera and Na’iamah stayed in the
barrani chamber. I sat on the wet, stone floor next to Fatima and felt the sweat run from every pore in my body. Fatima took out some soap and face cloths, which she had brought, and began to wash herself. I began to scrub myself as well.
      In the steamy mist, I saw other women in the room. Many small groups were chatting and socializing while washing their hair and bodies. They walked around without towels. I was shocked at how open they were with each other. I couldn’t help but reflect on the two extremes of womenfolk: being concealed in the homes and covered in black when out in the street compared to the freedom and nudity in the
hammam. I could understand how they must cherish the time they spent together and the community it helped them create.
      I was eager to chat about Hama with Fatima and hear about her and Naguib. I hadn’t had a chance to catch up with her. I hoped she had changed her mind about Hussein. After all, she seemed to have enjoyed her time with Naguib.
      “The trip to Hama was great,” I said. “I hope we can go on another with Naguib and Hussein.”
      “I had a good time, but I don’t think I’ll have time to go again.”
      “Is that because Naguib and you have to work?”
      Fatima paused and looked thoughtfully at me.
      “Yes.”
      “I’m so glad that Hussein can spend so much time with me.” I suddenly realised how insensitive that sounded and corrected myself. “I mean, I’m not glad that his father died, but I’m glad he is not working right now.”
      “What do you mean?” she asked.
      “Isn’t he still in mourning?” I wasn’t entirely sure how long he would be in mourning, and I had supposed he still was.
      “I don’t know,” she said, but her tone was abrupt. It was strange that she didn’t know about Hussein’s father and I sensed she didn’t really care to talk about Hussein.
      I bit my lip, frustrated. Fatima got up and gathered her things.
      “Let’s move onto the
jouwani, the hottest chamber.”
      I had thought we were already in the hottest one, but I was extremely mistaken. The third room was like a kiln. The furnace was situated in this room. Heat and smoke passed in pipes under the floor from there into the other middle room. I realised I had not drunk enough, as I felt very thirsty and had probably lost a pint of sweat already.
      Fatima was listening in on some women talking. She was bemused by their conversation. The women were cackling loudly at each other. There were four of them, all middle-aged, round and fat. They sat in a huddle, washing each other with a clay substance. I had noticed that they occasionally looked at me and cackled more.
      “What are they talking about?” I asked, thinking they had made a joke about me, and hoped Fatima had heard them.
      “Those women are gossiping about a girl that the mother is arranging for her son to marry.”
      “What’s so funny?” I asked.
      “She brought her here.”
      “Why?”
      “Mothers-in-law always like to check out the bride-to-be. She wants to make sure she’s not got any serious, physical faults,” she explained. “One of her friends thinks the girl is too ugly for her son.”
      “That’s awful,” I said, but I laughed anyway.
      “Then the mother asked if they noticed anything about the body of the bride-to-be being ugly, and one of them said she thought she saw she had three nipples.”
      “No,” I splurted. “That’s so funny.”
      “I don’t think it’s true, but they love spreading rumours.” Fatima was laughing hard.
      After that room, Fatima took me into a cold one, which I disliked very much. It was meant to cool you down, but I found it too chilly. The stone was slippery. We returned to the middle chamber to find Suheera and Na’imah. The second lady from the reception was sitting with them, still dressed in her black robe. She was scrubbing Suheera down with a black scrubbing cloth made of goat’s hair.
      “Elizabeth, you need to be scrubbed by the
muqashshara,” Fatima said, indicating the woman with the cloth.
      The darkly clothed exfoliator beckoned me over. Her pruned and puckered hands were covered in henna designs and her nails were orange. It seemed ominous, as I lay, almost naked, in her shadow, on a rubber mat. I thought I had washed myself and scrubbed my skin, but she scrubbed harder, so hard that I could feel my skin sting.
      
“Baqraa qadhra. Ya shamootah. Ajnabia qabiha.”
      Dirty cow, I translated. Prostitute. Ugly foreigner.
      She doused me in hot water and lathered my skin with soap. Then she pummelled my skin, squeezed my muscles and pinched my flesh. I felt like a rag doll in the hands of a mischievous toddler.
      I wanted to respond to her insults, but honestly, I didn’t have the energy, or feel in a position to defend myself with barely any clothes on. When she had finished with one side of my body, she slapped me on the arm and indicated to turn over.
      The women around us clucked like hens, as they watched me squirm and gasp while I was vigorously scoured like a burnt frying pan. Strings of black dirt accumulated on my stomach, arms and legs. Obviously, I hadn’t washed myself as efficiently as I had thought. I was embarrassed, but not surprised by all the grime as I hadn’t had a decent shower since I arrived. When the woman had finished inflicting pain, both verbally and physically, I felt like a freed convict and rushed to the cold chamber to rinse off.
      “She was so rude to me,” I commented to Fatima, as I rinsed.
      “I am sorry for what she said. She is not used to seeing foreigners in this
hammam.”
      My spirit was somewhat bruised, but I stroked my fresh and clean skin while getting dressed. Within a few minutes of waiting, Hussein arrived to pick us up and deliver us back to the house.

 

For those of us who are thinking of reading your book, could you tell us what to expect?

The reader will enjoy a fast-paced story with romance, friendships and betrayals weaved around an increasingly dangerous and threatening story which culminates in an unforeseeable ending.

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

I look forward to continuing to be as content as I am now.

 snowman
What is your earliest memory?

One of my earliest memories is from when I was a toddler. After a night of heavy snowfall, my brothers and I woke to a garden transformed into a winter wonderland. We bundled up in scarves, coats and gloves to play in it and I built my first snowman with them; carrots, currants, twigs’n’all.

 
How do you spend your free time?

I enjoy family time. We enjoy vacations, walking, especially with our three dogs and sometimes even our cat follows us, boating on Lake Allatoona, camping and gardening.

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

I enjoy reading although I don’t get the chance to read novels as much as I would like. I spend a lot of time reading articles, blogs and news in general on the internet. Amongst my favorite authors are Philippa Gregory, Amy Tan, and Stieg Larsson.

 
Your book is being made into a movie, which star would you cast as Elizabeth?

That’s a great question as it’s my dream that the book be made into a movie. I’m not very au fait with current young actresses but I imagine a young Meg Ryan would make a great Elizabeth.

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

crowdLike many British subjects, I love the Royal family. I was especially fascinated by Princess Diana, who was only 5 years older than me. If I could travel back in time, I would travel to 29th July 1981, to witness the Royal Wedding celebrations along with the multitudes of enthusiastic well-wishers outside Buckingham Palace in London. As a young teenager, her fairytale wedding was one of my happiest historical memories. Sadly, as we all know, her story is tragic. I was working in Dubai the day I heard about her tragic death and visited the British Embassy to place flowers outside. Her legacy lives on in her children and I miss her humanity and grace.

 
 

Quick fire round:

Favourite Season?

Spring

 
Dream vacation?

Maldives

 
Favourite quote?

“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief and unspeakable love.” Washington Irving

 
Something unique about you?

I traveled around the world alone when I was 23 years old.

 
Favourite song?

Storms in Africa Parts 1 & 2 by Enya

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

I hope the reader will enjoy learning about some of the culture, history and beauty of Syria in my story which, in many ways, has irrevocably changed due to the ongoing war. I find myself often thinking about the places I visited, saddened by the fact that much has been destroyed and about the kind people I met and whether they and their families are still alive. My deepest wish is that somehow Syria will one day miraculously return to be a country travelers can visit and be enthralled by the centuries of history and ancient cultures within its boundaries.

 
Thank you ever so much for spending this time with us, Michelle. Best wishes for any and all future projects.

Find out more about Michelle and Gazelle in the Shadows on:

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Interview with Joan Schweighardt

Joan Schweighardt

 

My guest today is Joan Schweighardt. Joan is an award-winning author, who’s books include The Accidental Art Thief and The Last Wife Of Attila The Hun.

 

Hi Joan, thank you for joining me today. I’ll dive straight in with the first question, if that’s ok?

How did your journey as a writer begin?

Joan SchweighardtI started writing when I was a kid. I wrote poems, and later short stories. I won second prize in a college short story contest the first year I took a creative writing class. And then I had a few stories published in literary magazines. In addition to my own projects, I was always looking for jobs where I could write—press releases for a PR company, copy for an ad agency, resumes for a resume company, local newspaper articles. At some point I realized I had become a “pen for hire.”

 

What gets your creative juices flowing?

In the case of my most recent novel, Before We Died, it began with a freelance job I took speed reading backlist books for a publisher and then writing up a paragraph or two about each book for their website. One of the books I was asked to read was a thin diary of a rubber tapper working in the South American rainforest in the early 1900s. I knew nothing about rubber tapping before this little book, but after a second read I had to know more, so I made two trips to South American and began to research everything I could find on the rubber boom, the tapping process, the indigenous people of the South American rainforests, Manaus, Brazil, the hub of the rubber boom, the time period, and on and on and on.

 

What do you enjoy most about writing

Being really engaged in a project takes me outside of myself. I think we can all relate to that. When we can get the ego to climb into the backseat, the subconscious has a chance to slip into the front. And suddenly it seems like ideas are coming from out of thin air. Not all writing experiences go like that, but some do.

 

Describe what your ideal writing space looks like.

We have a sizeable den, and my desk is in one corner. Friends ask me all the time why I don’t set up in the back bedroom where there is a door I could close for complete privacy. I’m claustrophobic, I guess. I like being out in the traffic area.

 

Where do you find your inspiration?

I always worry when I’m wrapping things up on one book project that I won’t have an idea for the next one. And sometimes that happens… there’s a gap of time where I seem to be looking and looking and can’t find a single thing to inspire me onto a new project. And then something shows up, usually when I least expect it.

 

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

Before-We-Died800x1200The great thing about writing historical fiction, which is what I have been doing in recent years, is that you are gifted a setting—a time and a place—right off the bat. Boom: Amazon rainforest; early 1900s. Women did not travel to the Amazon to tap rubber trees in the early 1900s, so boom again: narrator has to be a man, a tough man who can endure the hardships of working in the jungle, probably youngish. My knowledge of the setting kind of dictated the details I would I would need to develop the plot. On the other hand, researching the historical setting also got in my way at times. By the time I was ready to write I knew almost too much about the rubber boom and life in the rainforest. When I reread my first draft I thought I was reading a text book. I had to delete a lot of the historical stuff and focus in on the characters and plot for the next draft.

 

How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?

I am very bad at choosing names. I wish someone would come along and pick out all the names for me. And while I like the titles I usually end up with, it takes me forever to come up with each of them.

 

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

I’d love to see Before We Died and the other two books in the series (Gifts for the Dead and River Aria) be made into a movie, or better yet a TV series. The books collectively cover 1908 to 1929, and they move back and forth between the New York metro area to the jungles of Brazil. WWI as seen from the docks of Hoboken, NJ, the Spanish Flu, and the lead up to the great depression are all accounted for, as are events going on in South America, including Henry Ford’s unsuccessful attempt to start a rubber tree plantation in Brazil. So that’s all happening in the background of the three books, and in the foreground my characters, Irish emigrants who settled in Hoboken, NJ and their offspring, are trying to deal with personal challenges regarding issues of love, loyalty, betrayal, power… all elements of the human condition. Great stuff for a TV series!

 

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

Read, hang out with my husband, hang out with family and friends. I love to travel. I spend hours painting, but I’m not great at it.

 

How many books have you written? Which was the most fun to write ?

81X1YZaP1VL._SY300_I’ve written eight books to date. The first three were rather similar—darkly humorous contemporary novels with female narrators. My first historical novel is entitled The Last Wife of Attila the Hun. It took a long time to research and write because it was informed by both Nordic legend and the actual history of fifth century Hun, Roman and Germanic tribes. But I loved writing that one and I’m very proud of it. When it was completed, I wrote another darkly comic contemporary novel and also a memoir. I published the latter under a pseudonym so that I could go all out and divulge all my secrets. Then I started on the trilogy, of which Before We Died is book one. During the time I was writing the trilogy, I had a zebra dream, and I woke up and wrote a children’s book based on it, and I’m excited to say that No Time For Zebras will be published by Waldorf Press in the near future.

These are all my books that I’ve written for myself. There are also several books I’ve ghosted for other people as part of my freelance work.

The most fun books were the Attila novel and this new one, Before We Died, because I love research so much.

 

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

I was very creative as a kid. I always drew, and after my father bought me oil paints, I always painted. I wrote; I tried to learn to play the guitar; I made houses for my paper dolls and filled them with items from magazines. I was always doing, living more often in that state of engagement that I describe above than not. But what I wanted to do most was go to an art college and become a better artist. That didn’t work out; my family did not have the money to send me to the school. So I started taking college classes at a community college and working part time to pay for it, and after a few English lit classes, I changed course.

 

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

I have given so much thought and attention to the early 1900s that I suppose I would visit then. I’d head right to the docks of Hoboken, where my characters are from.

 

What movie or book character are you most similar to?

Elisa Esposito(Sally Hawkins)The Shape of WaterI’m going to say Elisa Esposito, the mute janitor that Sally Hawkins plays in The Shape of Water. I’m not mute, and I’m not a janitor, but I identify with Elisa in other ways. Elisa is a bit clumsy, a bit short on social graces and self-confidence, but big on heart, always dreaming, and adventurous enough to be able to step outside her comfort zone. (I love the movie, and I love the writer and director, Guillermo del Toro.)

 

What would your warning label say if every person was required to have one?

Do not put the enclosed woman on a small overcrowded tour bus filled with strangers under any circumstances or for any length of time.

 

Quick fire ‘this or that’ round:

◊ Ocean or Mountains?

Ocean

◊ Pancake or Waffle?

Neither

◊ Tablet or Computer?

Computer

◊ Jogging or Hiking?

Hiking

◊ Couch or Recliner?

Couch

 

Many thanks for your time, Joan and best wishes for the upcoming release of Before We Died!

Catch up with Joan and her books:

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 Joan Schweighardt

 

Interview with Eve Lestrange

Eve Lestrange

Eve Lestrange, author of The Christina Lafage Chronicles, has joined me here on Rainne’s Ramblings, to answer a few questions about herself and her books.

Hi Eve, and welcome.

Would to like to start by telling us a little about yourself and your background?

A1bydGUdukL._UX250_I was born in New York but now reside in Pennsylvania. I originally wanted to be a musician & I was for a while, playing bass for the Empire Hideous. When the band broke up, I turned to writing for a creative outlet.

 
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I always liked to write, but playing with the band didn’t leave me a lot of time. I had written some poetry but started writing books after the break-up of the band.

 
What gets your creative juices flowing?

Music, definitely music. It is an essential tool for me & I can’t write without it.

 
What’s the best writing advice you’ve been given?

Aside from a few technical things, I don’t think I’ve been given any.

 
What do you enjoy most about writing?

Writing is truly my own; I can do whatever what I want & don’t have to worry about creative differences or time restraints.

 
The Christina Lafage Chronicles is a horror series set in the eighteenth century, what drew you to this genre and time period?

The character of Christina Lafage is based on a woman named LaVoisin. She was a poisoner & held black masses for Seventeenth Century French aristocrats. The story was an interesting one, but I thought it would be more interesting is I made the character younger & moved the timeline to the Eighteenth Century.

 
Do you develop characters from your personal experiences and/or draw from that of others?

No, not really.

 
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?

Names are very important. You want a character with a distinct name that readers will remember. I chose the names mostly because of the way they sounded & they were memorable.

 
Widdershins

Tell us about the covers and how they came about.

The cover of Widdershins was done by an artist named Jose Pardo.

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

Fans of horror, the occult & the supernatural are my intended audience. My books are written for them, because I am also a huge fan of horror &the occult, so I know what the fans are looking for.

 
Which book of the series was the most fun to write?

They were all fun to write, the series just seemed to write itself.

 
In a perfect world where you could cast your book for a movie, who would you pick to play Christina?

I’m not really sure, maybe an up-and-coming actress.

 
What can we expect from you in the future?

Right now, I’m working on a ghost story set in Baltimore, but I am also thinking about a prequel to Widdershins. Christina & Madame Duchamp are not done yet!

 
What advice would you give to your younger self?

Be patient, but I’m actually still not patient!

 
How do you spend your free time?

I like to read. Listen to music & hunt for odd antiques.

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

My favorite memory is discovering HP Lovecraft. His tales are very well written & have definitely shaped my own storytelling.

 
Name three things you consider yourself to be good at, and three things you consider yourself to be bad at.

Well, I think I’m good at writing, proofreading & trivia, I have a vast wealth of useless knowledge! I’m not very good at math, art or technology, I’m lucky I can work my cell phone!

 
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

To have a little more patience.

 
81rZEqVhA0L._UY200_If someone gave you a free plane ticket to anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Egypt, Italy & all of the other places that Christina Lafage has been.

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

Thank you for the interview & I hope your readers enjoy The Christina Lafage Chronicles!

 
Thank you for your time, Eve.
 

Author Links:

WebsiteFacebookGoodreads • Amazon

 

If, like me, you enjoy a good horror, check out last weeks feature on
The Christina Lafage Chronicles.

 

 

Patty’s Pick

pattys pickCampbells World

For Patty’s Pick this month, Patty and I have chosen this fabulous story from Jo E. Pinto.

 
Jo E. PintoJo E. Pinto is a magnet for underdogs! Early in her married life, her home became a hangout for troubled neighborhood kids. This experience lit the flame for her first novel, The Bright Side of Darkness.

Jo’s Spanish-American roots grow deep in the Rocky Mountains, dating back six generations. She lives with her family in Colorado where she works as a writer and also proofreads textbooks and audio books. One of her favorite pastimes is taking a nature walk with her service dog.

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Back Eyes

I don’t remember exactly when it happened. My daughter might have been three or four years old. She may have been climbing up on the kitchen counter, quietly trying to snitch a cookie, while I was in the living room typing away on my computer. Or she may have been easing open the bottom drawer in her dad’s workbench, intent on swiping his screwdrivers for the thousandth time.

In any case, I called out to her, “Sarah, I know what you’re doing. The eyes in my face are broken, but the ones in the back of my head work just fine.”

I was halfway goofing around when I said it. The fact that I had rock star hearing was already well-known in our house. Blind people don’t necessarily hear better than those with sight, but they rely on the sounds around them, so they tend to pay attention and notice what they hear more than sighted people do.

eyes

My daughter, however, took me at my word. She rushed over to me and started examining the back of my head, combing her fingers through my long dark hair.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Looking for your back eyes,” she said in that matter-of-fact tone kids get when they are answering grown-ups who ask dumb questions. “They must be really small. I can’t find them.”

“They’re hard to see,” I answered quickly. “They move around in my hair. They don’t want to be found.”

“Oh. I won’t look then. They’re secret.” Sarah was intrigued. “Have you always had back eyes?”

“Nope.” I thought fast. “I got them at the hospital when you were born. Only moms have them. Like Santa’s phone number, and the magic way to know if a kid has a fever by kissing her cheek. Back eyes are just for moms.”

Over the years, my daughter’s understanding of my blindness has become more clear. First, she realized she had to use her words instead of pointing and whining when she asked me for M&M’s or fruit snacks at the store. Over time, she has figured out that when we play Candyland or Snakes and Ladders, the game goes more smoothly if she reads the dice and moves the colored tokens around the board for me. She knows I stick braille labels on canned goods in my pantry and use a screen-reading program on my computer so I can listen to e-mails and navigate the Internet. Describing our surroundings when we go out together has gotten to be almost second nature to her.

But now and then, when she has created a particularly exceptional art project or perfected a super awesome dance move, she’ll still say, “Mom, Mom! Look at me! Look with your back eyes!”

Not wanting to disappoint her, I’ll turn my head, face away from her, and say, “Wow! That’s incredible!”

After that, I’ll ask her to describe her art project or give me the details of her dance move, but she seems to need me to have that first quick look, so my imaginary “back eyes” live on, somewhere under my hair.

I keep expecting them to fade away like so many other adorable childhood fantasies have. But a few days ago, when Sarah got a fabulous new Barbie doll for her ninth birthday, the first thing she said was, “Mom, check this out! She can move her hands and feet and everything!”

When I reached for the Barbie doll, she put her hands on my cheeks, turned my face away, and ordered, “Look … no, look with your back eyes!”

This piece first appeared on Holly Bonner’s Blind-Motherhood blog

♦♦♦

The Bright Side of Darkness by Jo E. Pinto

The Bright Side of Darkness won a first place Indie Book Award for “First Novel over Eighty Thousand Words,” as well as First Place for “Inspirational Fiction.” The novel also won several awards from the Colorado Independent Publishers Association: First Place for “Inspirational Fiction,” Second Place for “Audio Book,” and First Place for “Literary and Contemporary Fiction.

The Bright Side of Darkness.jpgRick Myers, an orphan without much faith in the future, and Daisy Bettencourt, a blind girl who is running from an alcoholic father and a set of overprotective foster parents, cross paths at a high school baseball game and make their way together. Daisy becomes the bright spot in Rick’s universe as he and his four lifelong friends–Tim, Mark, and the twins–battle the forces of poverty and hopelessness. Mark’s grandma dies of heart failure, and Tim’s stepdad is arrested on felony child abuse charges, leaving them, like Rick and Daisy, with no authority figures in their lives.

Rick and Daisy are trailed by a fat man in a battered green jeep who makes Rick more and more uneasy as the weeks pass. Then, just when Rick discovers an interest in the culinary field and decides to complete his education, the bottom drops out of his world.

The Bright Side of Darkness is available in Kindle, audio, and paperback formats.

Amazon

Excerpt:

         There’s nothing a damn bit bright about sunshine when you’re seventeen and you see it from the wrong side of a jail cell window.
         It isn’t that I’m moping for my lost freedom or anything. I wouldn’t give a half a crap for my life anymore now that the crew is scattered to the four winds, and all I have left of Daisy is her parting note in the waistband of my jeans and a wilted dandelion dangling between my fingers. But it seems to me that the Man Upstairs could have marked my downfall with a terrific thunderstorm or at least a few nasty black clouds out of the west.
         When there’s a war or a funeral or some other sad thing going on in the movies, the sky usually turns dark and ugly, and the rain pours down in buckets. The longer I stare at the square of sunlight streaming through the tiny window of my cell and stealing across the floor, the lonelier I feel. August 27, 1986, is slipping by the same as every other hot, heavy day, and I’m the only one in the world who knows that nothing will ever be all right again.
         It hasn’t always been this way. I ought to have known better than to believe I could reach out and snag a piece of paradise, but for a little while I had it on my fingertips. Breaks are hard to come by for kids from the projects, though, and sure enough, all I ended up with at the last second was empty hands.
         I’m doing my level best to hold off a flood of memories, but my mind keeps drifting back to the sweltering summer evening when the chain of events began that shattered my world into a zillion pieces. First thing tomorrow morning, some juvenile court judge will decide if my life is worth rebuilding. Maybe he’ll have better luck with my future than I did with my past.

 

 

Tangible Spirits by Becki Willis

Tangible Spirits Blitz

 
Title: Tangible Spirits
Author: Becki Willis
Genre:  Suspense, Paranormal Suspense
Date Published:  May 2017

 

2018 First Place Best Paranormal Fiction by the Association of Texas Authors
Crowned Heart Recipient from InD’Tale Magazine.
Nominee for InD’tale Magazine’s 2018 RONE Awards in the Paranormal Long category.

“Becki Willis blends bits of history with bits of fancy, and weaves a tantalizing tale you won’t soon forget.”

 
Tangible SpiritsReporter Gera Stapleton has a difficult choice to make: write the story of a lifetime, or save the legacy of a town—and a man—she has come to love.

Assigned to an impossible story in Jerome, Arizona about a “ghost” named Mac, Gera knows it’s a fluff piece, at best, until a local man is murdered in the middle of town. When the townspeople blame Mac, she knows the killer is getting away with… well, murder.

Seeing the opportunity for a cover-worthy piece, Gera sets out to find the real killer. In a town filled with curiosities, she befriends a lonely old woman, butts heads with an ornery sheriff, falls for a sexy hotel owner, and uncovers an amazing tale about greed, deception, and family honor. And when the killer targets her as the next victim, an unlikely savior comes to her rescue.

Will she write the story that launches her career? Or will she honor a family’s legacy from the past?

Smart dialogue, plenty of action, and a touch of the supernatural make this a must-read novel. You’ll find yourself wondering Is it possible?Are there truly such things as tangible spirits, after all?

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From readers like you:

Tangible Spirits front and back.jpg

“A delicious read. It has ghostly whispers, a brave leading character, bad guys, fun, danger and love. “

“Loved this book!”

“What an interesting, captivating cast of characters!”

“The setting and the ghost legends all added to the atmosphere. The story was good and so were the characters.

 

 

About the Author:

Becki Willis - Tangible Spirits AuthorBecki Willis, best known for her popular The Sisters, Texas Mystery Series and Forgotten Boxes, always dreamed of being an author. In November of ’13, that dream became a reality. Since that time, she has published eleven books, won first place honors for Best Mystery Series, Best Suspense Fiction and Best Audio Book, and has introduced her imaginary friends to readers around the world.

An avid history buff, Becki likes to poke around in old places and learn about the past. Other addictions include reading, writing, junking, unraveling a good mystery, and coffee. She loves to travel, but believes coming home to her family and her Texas ranch is the best part of any trip. Becki is a member of the Association of Texas Authors, the National Association of Professional Women, and the Brazos Writers organization. She attended Texas A&M University and majored in Journalism.

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Guest Post by Hollie Thubron

816EUGtF5hL._UX250_Hollie Thubron is a singer, songwriter and author from the outskirts of London and has been writing novels since she was child. It has always been her dream to be a published author and that dream has been achieved, with Insane being her debut novel.

She is fascinated by the psychology of serial killers as well as the debate about morality and so she is studying Philosophy at the University of Bristol.

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Guest Post by Hollie Thubron:

 “Bringing hope to the innocent.”

When you wake up in the morning. Get dressed. Put on your coat and shoes. Go to work. Do you expect to come home, to find the police in your living room? Because you fit a profile. Because no one can confirm that you went out for a run that one night. Because they want someone to blame.

It is a common misconception that wrongful convictions are a rare and infrequent occurrence, that have only happened in the well-documented cases such as the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four, Stephen Downing and other well-known cases.
Unfortunately, this is not the case – miscarriages of justice have simply faded from the political agenda. the system doesn’t just sometimes get it wrong, it gets it wrong every day, of every week, of every month of every year.

Not only are these peoples lives ruined whilst they are in prison for a crime they didn’t commit, but they are also permanently tarnished if and when they are finally exonerated. this is because even though they have been cleared of the crime and are declared innocent, society still judges them and looks down on them – sure they are guilty of something.

Wrongful convictions can happen for any number of reasons – the most common being inaccurate eyewitness testimonies and also false expert and forensic evidence. The Justice System seems to have their priorities set with seeking justice for the victim of a crime – however, the wrongfully convicted are victims too.

The Miscarriages of Justice Organisation, MOJO, is a unique human rights organisation dedicated to assisting innocent people, who are in prison, and following their release. Their objective is to offer advice and support to people in prisons throughout the UK who are fighting to establish their innocence.

The organisation was founded in 2001 by Paddy Joe Hill, one of six innocent men wrongfully convicted in 1975 for the Birmingham pub bombings. The Birmingham Six’s convictions were finally quashed, and they were released in March 199.

MOJO’s work falls into two categories. Supporting those in prison fighting to clear their names, and supporting those who have had their convictions quashed and are trying to put the pieces of their lives back together.

They currently support over 55 individuals, together with their family members; both in prison and in their communities, and process over 100 new inquiries a year.

Miscarriages of justice are often overlooked in favour of giving closure to the victim of the crime. But this is not justice. This is why 50p of every copy of Insane sold is being donated to MOJO, to help bring hope to the innocent.

Find more information on MOJO here:Small-MOJO-LOGO-Transparent-e1454086615417

 

The Book:

Insane is a psychological thriller about a serial killer. She kills because she enjoys it. You might call her insane, but who are you to judge?

51Qpcg7NUvL._UY250_

 

One person’s crazy is another person’s reality, with so much in this world being left to interpretation, is killing really wrong? Are serial killers really insane? Anyway, who are you to judge?

The locals of Southhurst would never dare wonder the streets alone at night, since there has been a serial killer terrorizing the area for fifteen years. But Avery Blake isn’t afraid.

Avery Blake is a serial killer. She kills because she enjoys it. But how long can she go on like this, before someone catches on?

Insane is a psychological thriller addressing the different perceptions of morality and what influences them.

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