Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Guest Blogger: Barbara Weitzer

Enjoy this short story and please pay no attention to any formatting issues this blog  has caused :)
Please Wake Up
A Short Story by Barbara Weitzner

Her bed is in the ICU.
I walk in on my toes. I hold my breath; my smile melts away. I have been warned that I will be shocked. Drowning in an ocean of grief, I take a deep breath and step closer to the bed, which revolves slowly from side to side. Her head is shaved. A pipe juts out from the center of her skull. I touch it and feel the cold of the steel in my hand. Machines hum and thump, recording her vitals and whatever else they do. I stand by her bed and watch the rise and fall of her chest. I lean over the bed, smell the starch and bleach in her hospital gown.
“Hiya, Aud,” I manage to croak in what I hope is a cheery tone. The doctor has told me that in her coma Audrey may hear and recognize voices.
Her hands, with their chewed nails and cuticles, are distorted, her fingers puffed up like sausages. I touch the little cushion pads on her fingertips, see the jagged scar on her arm that has been there for years, a reminder of the time Mother stabbed her with the sewing scissors. Her chapped lips are sealed around a breathing tube. She sleeps floating on a cloud. If her arm gets caught in an awkward angle, if her head tilts on the pillow, it doesn’t matter. She can feel none of it.
“Wake up Audrey. Please wake up,” I repeat.
Through my silent tears, I notice the heavy booties encasing her legs.
The monitor burbles, coughs, before it goes click, click, and begins to beep. The nurse comes in and adjusts knobs and things then leaves. The air is cool. Night comes, the moon slides by the window, clouds gather. The room is lit only by the dim lights trapped behind the dials.
My parents arrive, their words banal and pitiful. Dad works a crossword puzzle. Mother files her nails. In the machine-ticking silence, my hands clench into fists, and I feel skin-prickling rage. Loving her and hating her and wondering if she still has any feelings for me.
The memories of our beatings sweep over me like a chilling wind. Memories that make me break out into a sweat. We learned to protect our faces, to freeze our expressions, struggled stoically not to cry.
Our mother had rules for everything - don’t do this, don’t do that. I never knew what would precipitate her maniacal rage. Never knowing what she might do was the worst. If we didn’t cater to her inflexible demands she’d whip us with a thing she called a cat-o’-nine-tails, a leather multi-tailed whipping device that menaced us from a hook inside the broom closet.
One time, we came home from school and Audrey accidentally knocked over a potted plant. Mother grabbed a fistful of Audrey’s hair and pummeled and kicked her until she lost her balance and fell, blood gushing from her nose. Despite my seven-year old wish to defend my big sister, I remained silent, cowered helplessly, afraid to get involved, my knees knocking in fear that I’d be next, my heart doing giddy-yaps, wishing we could run away to a home where children were cherished.
We never told Grandma or anyone else. Thought if Spring 2012 Soundings Review 59 SR
we didn’t speak about it, we’d be like other ordinary families. It wasn’t true.
I look at my mother. Can’t she see how I feel? Doesn’t she know what I’m thinking? I wonder how she will answer for her sins.
My mind hops from one thought to another. My father is a withdrawn, disheartened wreck whose life has been blighted by a miserable marriage. Mother’s maniacal behavior has snuffed out the last vestiges of the man he had once been. Something important has left his marriage. He copes by staying away from the house as much as possible. His crimes are irresponsibility, cowardice and failure to wrap his protection around us. But then again, perhaps there was nothing he could do.
It is a week before my parents return. I hear them out in the hall speaking to a doctor and I open the door. My insides knot up. I’m scared. Mother’s perfectly plucked eyebrows are raised; Dad glances at me and makes a waving motion with his hand to tell me to go back to the room. Devoted parents.
I know better.
They stay for a half hour and leave.
I keep vigil at Audrey’s side. I watch a parade of nurses come in and out of the room. The room is cold. I tuck my hands underneath my thighs to keep them warm. My favorite nurse comes in.
“How you doing honey? Here, I brought you something. Don’t know anybody doesn’t like an ice cream pop.” She reads the machines, jotting stuff on Audrey’s chart, assures me the doctors are doing all they can for Audrey.
I like how gently she touches my sister. The sound of her soft voice so sympathetic, so alien to any experience I can remember, brings tears to my eyes - kind gestures affect me deeply. I thank her for the ice cream.
I had asked my parents to bring a box of chocolates for the nurses. The kind I like with the descriptions of the fillings in each candy so you could avoid the jellies and caramels. Neither remembered.
When I go home, the emptiness of our house feels intolerable. Luckily, school is over until September.
In the coming weeks I learn how to rotate each of Audrey’s legs slowly and carefully with my clumsy hands - each limb, forward and clockwise for twenty circles to help her circulation. Tedious and exhausting - each bootie weighs five pounds.
I wet a washcloth and gently wipe her face, angry over my inability to do anything more.
An orderly comes in. I hear him cleaning the bathroom, the swish of the mop, the flush of the toilet, the water sucked down the drain.
The next morning comes - and the next and the next. Milestones, headlines pass us by. My heart aches. To pass the time I tell Audrey stories. At a different time, at a different place, I’d have told her other stories. Now I speak only of good times, of the future, of a life with love and affirmation. I twist fact, flesh out fiction, just to keep her listening to my voice - something that may make her smile, a tale that may remind her of something funny - or not. I run out of themes, read to her from our favorite book, Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth. I’d spend the rest of my life here to keep love in this room.
Audrey, please wake up with a smile, freed of tubes and wires, and walk straight into my arms.
But my sister never moves inside her softly swaying cocoon. I lift her head to fluff the pillows. I have to be careful. I wonder about her brain aneurism. Is it because of my mother’s hair-pulling, the beatings … ?
Audrey is four years older than I. I adore her, have always listened to her and trusted her. We can communicate with a glance or a squeeze of the hand. I can go far back in memory and recall her many acts of kindness. She taught me to tie my shoelaces, checked my homework. On the nights our parents went out, she allowed me to stay up past my bedtime to hear the end of a TV program, or she darkened the lights, sat on my bed, and thrilled me with ghost stories or we’d play hide-and-seek, laughing as I screeched with delight when she allowed me to find her. She sat with me at the kitchen table, her nimble hands carefully cutting out paper dolls and their clothing as she unfolded all sorts of romantic and daring tableaus to shut out the daily cycle of fear and abuse that made up our lives.
It was Audrey who held my head when I was sick, wiped the blood from a scraped knee, comforted me when I suffered nightmares.
“I’ll give you three seconds to apologize,” she’d say when I did something naughty, although I have always been timid, inclined to obey the rules. Audrey was always a pillar in my bewildering world. She saw everything through a prism of fun. But because she too was a child, she couldn’t change our world much.
For all these things I thank her from whatever is left of my heart.
I open the window and ask the moon to light up her lifeless face. But when I look at her again, it is too late. I feel a hardness form in my throat. My sister has risen into clouds where evil cannot follow.
I sit wishing I could talk to her, dial heaven. Hear her laugh.

If you liked this story check out:

Fidelity and faithlessness. 

THE PARRADINE ALLURE begins as a romantic romp that segues into a tragedy. 

ANGEL CALIFANO has planned her life, laid it out with precision. But what she doesn’t expect is every possible circumstance. 

It is through her zeal for fame and wealth that Angel, Public Defender for the District of Colombia, attempts to define herself by marrying into a prominent Washington family. But the Parradine family does not accept her. Compounding her unhappiness, Angel realizes she is being stalked by a felon she has defended. Her marriage becomes a lie when she learns that there is no illicit pleasure without a price paid, no protection from catastrophe.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Guest blogger: Character from Lost Through Time




Northern Light Region Newspaper: It’s been a week since your release from the hospital, Kate. We heard the barn was a total loss. And we’re sorry to hear about your family’s loss.
How are you coping?

Kate Christenson: I’m angry. I’m in a lot of pain. There are so many questions that remain unanswered.

NLRN: Can you tell us what happened that night?

Kate: I know it was my Grandfather who pulled me from the barn, but I have no idea how the fire started.

NLRN: The police are saying the fire was a result of arson. Are you a suspect?

Kate: Like I said before, I have no idea how the fire started or how I came to be in the barn in the first place.

NLRN: You’ve been quite the center of attention around these parts this summer.  First, you were a part in solving the disappearance of your Aunt back in 1960? How is that possible?

Kate: I know there’s a ton of rumors about that. I can’t explain how I know – you wouldn’t believe me if I did. But the truth needed to be heard. The funny thing is, now I’m not so sure I got the story straight. There’s still an evil out there.

NLRN: That sounds threatening. Do the residents of Baudette need to be worried?

Kate: No, I’m pretty sure that person’s out for one thing and one thing only.

NLRN: Can I ask you something off the record?

Kate: I guess so.

NLRN:I have an inside source stating that you have some sort of connection to Travis Kochevar? That’s sort of a bizarre age difference don’t you think? An eye witness saw you enter his house earlier this summer to-

Kate: I have no comment on that. Ever.

NLRN: Noted. I’ve also heard another member of your family is staying at the Christenson residence; another victim of tragedy? Can you give me any details on that? That seems to be a lot of coincidence and tragedy for one family in one summer.

Kate: You could say that. I can’t really explain what our family is going through right now. We’re all trying to grieve and learn the truth at the same time. We would appreciate a time of privacy while our family makes arrangements for the funerals and decisions for the future.

NLRN: Will you be staying at the home of your grandparents until you are finished healing?

Kate: I’ll be staying here until I get some answers.

NLRN: Is there anything else you can tell us about the events leading up to this time period? Any thoughts on possible suspects? Any enemies to the Christenson family?

Kate: I definitely have thoughts but I can’t share them with you. I have seen too much these past few weeks. I have learned to believe in things I never knew existed and I have seen the past with my own eyes.

NLRN: Are you saying you’re some sort of seer? Or psychic?

Kate: I think I’m tired now. I need to rest.

NLRN: Would you be interested in a follow up interview in a few months when things settle down?

Kate: I think it will depend on if I’ve found what I’m looking for.

NLRN: And that is?

Kate: Let me show you to the door. We’ll be in touch…

Friday, December 5, 2014

Character interview with the boys from Hike Up Devil’s Mountain

Character interview with the boys from Hike Up Devil’s Mountain


Good morning everybody. I am here today, talking to Andy Thompson, and Jason and Danny Crew.

Me Good morning boys!


Andy Morning

Danny Morning


Me Oh, I thought there were three of you.

Andy Well, there is…or was

Danny We had a bit of trouble.


Me Uh oh. What kind of trouble and Danny, what is that sound coming from your pocket?

Danny That’s my brother, Jason. He is kind of a…uh…toad now.


Me OH! Is that the bit of trouble you were talking about?

Andy It wasn’t my fault. I was in the basement of this old house that is about to be demolished, minding my own business, and in walks, Jason and Danny. I found this awesome glowing stick and he tries to take it. So you can plainly see it was not my fault. He’s the school bully!

Jason I am not!


Me Wow! The toad talks?

Jason Yea, I can talk. We were having this little disagreement and then poof, out of nowhere, I’m a toad! He did this to me!


Me You boys are in quite fix. What’s the plan of attack?

Danny We are headed up Devil’s Mountain. There’s a witch there and we hope she can fix this whole thing. My parents won’t like it if Jason as to live at the lake.

Jason Not funny, Dude.


Me Boys, that’s a big mountain and I’ve heard some scary things about it, so be very careful and good luck on your Hike Up Devil’s Mountain!







Excerpt from Hike Up Devil’s Mountain

Jason was getting closer to Andy. His voice hissed through his teeth. “You must think we are some kind of stupid. We aren’t like the hicks who live in this town and if you think we would even begin to believe some story about an old witch who lived here, then you better think again!” Jason pushed Andy hard against the wooden cabinet.
Andy shut his eyes waiting for the first blow. Nothing happened. He squinted open his left eye and saw Jason’s head cocked to one side, trying to see behind Andy’s back. “What have you got there, Andy Pandy?”
Uh oh, the glowing stick. Andy wasn’t about to give that up. “Nothing,” he told him, trying to back away but there was no place to go.
“Oh I think there is something,” Jason sneered.
“It’s mine!” Andy shouted. “You will have to do your worst if you think you are taking this from me!”
“No problem,” Jason said, lunging forward. Andy tried to fake him out, pretending to run one way and then the other. That didn’t work. That never worked! Jason grabbed Andy’s arm that held the stick and tried to grab it. Something was going to break, and Andy wasn’t sure if it would be the stick or his arm. They both fell and were rolling on the floor. Andy knew he was losing this battle. No matter how hard he held on, he could feel his new-found treasure start to slip out of his grasp.
“Jason, stop it!” Danny shouted. “You’re acting like a big dumb toad!”
“Yeah…you’re … acting… like…a…toad!” Andy gasped between each word.
The stick exploded into a flash of light and then the fight was over. Andy jumped up, trying to fill his lungs with air. What happened? Danny came running over to where Andy stood. “Where’s Jason?” Andy couldn’t answer because he couldn’t catch his breath. Danny yelled, “Jason, where are you? Quit messing around!”
His chest still heaving, Andy stammered, “I don’t know. I . . . don’t know what just happened.”
They both looked to the floor. Under one of the boxes was what looked like a pair of pants. “Jason!” Danny hurried to lift the box. No Jason — just his pants. Lying close by were his nice Nike shoes, socks and a short distance away was his shirt. “What did you do?” he yelled at Andy.
“Nothing! I didn’t do anything! I . . . don’t know!” Andy had no answers.
Danny tried again. “Jason,” he screamed his name. “Where are you?”



http://www.amazon.com/Hike-up-Devils-Mountain-ebook/dp/B0058DE9YC


Monday, December 1, 2014

Guest Blogger: Vicki Ann Bush


                                         http://solsticepublishing.com/the-garden-of-two/

Please tell us about your latest book.
I have two actually. The Garden of Two, a historical romance, and The Fulfillment, a paranormal romance novelette. The Garden of Two centers around young lovers Lillie and Charlie. The back drop is  World War I and takes the readers from Long Island N.Y. to the front lines of Germany. The Fulfillment is a modern day paranormal filled with angels, arch angels and demons.
What can we expect from you in the future?
My latest manuscript is a sci-fi with an underlining romance.
How do we find out about you and your books?
You can find my books on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Solstice Publishers.
Why did you decide to write romance novels?
I am just a romantic at heart. I love the feeling when love is young and strong.
How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?
An large amount of me and what I am about, is contained in the stories and characters that I write about.
When did you first think about writing and what prompted you to submit your first ms?
I have been writing since I'm about thirteen, but it was my daughters, who prompted me to start submitting to publishers.
Generally, how long does it take you to write a book?
It depends. My paranormal trilogy, The Dusk Chronicles, took a few months. But The Garden of Two, has been cultivating for about five years.
Do you have a set schedule for writing or do you just go with the flow?
I've tried the schedule thing, but ultimately I just go with the flow.
What is your writing routine once you start a book?
First I get the title. Then the story grows from there. I like to write in the morning to early afternoon. Occasionally at night, but most of the time it's early in the day.
What about your family, do they know not to bother you when you are writing - or are there constant interruptions?
Most family members are good about leaving me alone. However, I must admit, my mom does not seem to grasp the concept. She wants to speak to me when she wants to speak to me. But she's mom, so I make allowances.
What do you do to relax and recharge your batteries?
A cup of coffee and gazing out the front window.
What truly motivates you in general? In your writing?
Music.
Where do your ideas come from?
Everything around me.
Do you feel humour is important in __put your genre here____ and why?
I think humor is very important in YA fiction. It's a brilliantly easy way to get an issue across, without boring the reader.
What are your thoughts on love scenes in romance novels, do you find them difficult to write?
I'm tame with my love scenes. I prefer the heat of the want to the actual instruction manual.
What kind of research do you do?
For The Garden of Two, I watched several documentaries on World War I and read many articles on line and in various publications.
Would you like to write a different genre than you do now, or sub-genre?
Right now, I'm comfortable with YA. But I started off with children books and have considered a few follow up stories.
What does your husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend think of your writing?
He tells me he is very proud of me and loves my stories. They pull him in.
Do you ever ask him/her for advice?
Yes. Sometimes with a technical issue. Ex. What would a teenage football team do when getting ready for a game?
Please tell us about yourself (family, hobbies, education, etc.)
I come from a very close knit Italian family. Originally, I was from New York, and now reside in Las Vegas. I have two grown daughters and a grand daughter who rocks my world. I enjoy music of many varieties, film and reading—I adore quirky dialogue.
Fill in the blank favorites - Dessert. City. Season. Type of hero. Type of heroine.
Homemade cooked chocolate pudding, New York, Fall, part nerd part intellect, strong and feminine. 
What are some of your favorite things to do?
Shopping, going to the movies, lunch with my friends and dinner with my family.
Do you have a favorite author? Favorite book?
Dean Koontz. Lightening, by Dean Koontz.
Who are some of your other favorite authors to read?
Ann Rice, Robin Cook, Stephen King.
What do you think of critique groups in general?
Can be helpful, most of the time damaging—everyone has an opinion.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully, writing full time and being able to support myself with my writing.
How long have you been writing - have you always wanted to be a writer?
I've been writing almost forty years, and yes, I always thought it was what I'd like to do. I just waited until my daughters were grown to actually do something with it.
How many books have you written, how many have been published?
I have written eight books and seven have been traditionally published. The eighth I am currently polishing for submission.
After you've written your book and it's been published, do you ever buy it and/or read it?
I have read the children books because of appearances, but I have not read the YA books.
Among your own books, have you a favorite book? Favorite hero or heroine?
My favorite is The Garden of Two, and I'm partial to the hero Charlie. He is based off of someone special to me.
What book for you has been the easiest to write? The hardest? The most fun?
The easiest was The Dusk Chronicles,.and the most fun is my current manuscript, The View from Room 629. The hardest was, The Garden of Two. It has the most of me poured into it.
Which comes first, the story, the characters or the setting? What are the elements of a great romance for you?
The story, the setting and then the characters. Adversity and complete soul sharing love.
What is the hardest part of writing/the easiest for you?
The hardest is the knowing when to walk away—it's finished. The easiest is the story formation.
Have you experienced writer's block---> If so, how did you work through it?
Not anything that has lasted more than a few minutes. Usually I step away for a moment and get a cup of coffee, change the music and listen. Then it fixes itself.
What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?
Meeting people who love my stories.
If you weren't writing, what would you be doing?
I'm not sure, film critic perhaps. Oh wait, I guess that's writing.

Are there any words of encouragement for unpublished writers?
Don't get discouraged. I have many rejection letters. I've saved everyone of them. Just keep doing what you love and let the rest happen.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Guest Blogger: John Guzzardo


http://solsticepublishing.com/paper-losses/


Just when James Allister begins to feel dead and trapped in a hopeless marriage, he receives word of a discrepancy in a circulation report at his newspaper, The Sun-Courier. When he digs into the error, his bosses tell him to leave things alone, which doesn’t sit well with James. He then embarks on a journey down a path through the darkest corners of his employer in an effort to ferret out the truth. 

James soon discovers the Sun-Courier’s publisher and owner, Alan Phelps, is too blinded by his own arrogance to see that the reporting errors could be discovered. Worse still, James believes that Phelps may, indeed, be the originator of the whole scheme in an effort to save a newspaper he cannot accept is in its death throes. Adding to all this, the family of one of Phelps’ trusted aides has stirred a controversy in the form of sexual misconduct allegations against James himself. 

Can James clear his name and save his career and The Sun-Courier, or will the losses be just too great to bear?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Guest Blogger: Angela Deppler



                                                        http://solsticepublishing.com/wendigo/




More than mosquitos are eating the good folks of Springfield, Tennessee. 

Joshua Constance, a detective for Nashville Metro PD gets asked to help Evan Stovall, a sheriff of a small town called Springfield, catch a killer that’s eating its prey. It’s a case where the dead are piling up and the killer can’t be caught. For Evan and Josh, with the help of Josh’s dead partner, Bruce Miller, and a sometimes angel named Brad, the chase is on and there’s Hell to pay.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Guest Blogger: Susanne Mathews


http://solsticepublishing.com/the-price-of-honor/




What price is a woman willing to pay to restore a man’s honor? 

When her husband is falsely accused of treason and murdered, Isabelle de Caen vows to find those responsible and see justice done. Of royal descent, Isabelle is stunned when the king orders her hasty marriage to one of his favorites, a man she detests. To save herself from a fate too awful to contemplate, she disobeys the king’s edict and commits treason of her own to find the truth. 

Childhood friend, Guy Poirier, an aristocrat in New France, has always loved Isabelle. When he discovers her hiding in his cabin aboard ship, he agrees to hide her from her fiancĂ© and help her clear her husband’s name. It doesn’t take them long to realize there’s more at stake here than her husband’s murder. With the fate of the colony in their hands, can Isabelle and Guy prevent a war and find love in the new world?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Guest Blogger: Missy Turner


http://solsticepublishing.com/the-push/


Detective Audrey Heller works for the Temporal time bureau in the year 3024. Framed for a murder she didn't commit, and on the run from a dangerous foe, she goes against all the laws she has sworn to protect. She is prepared to go to any extremes to save her partner and the man she loves. 

To Christian Deluca, Audrey Heller is most rude and angry woman he has ever met. She is also, apparently, someone he falls in love with in his future, or so she claims. With a murderer/mole in the police department, on the loose and a baby on the way, it's a race against time. The clock has turned back and circumstances are different. Can Audrey and Chris still make a future together, Or will the bomber erase their pasts.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Guest blogger: Mark Iles




Please tell us about your latest book.
The Cull of Lions is book II in The Darkening Stars series, and follows on directly from A Pride of Lions. In this my character Selena Dillon and her friends escape the planet that they crash landed on, after their successful attack on the alien home world, Mantis. The first order of the day is to try and rescue their friends Franks, his wife and child who were last seen in the rabbit holes of Loreen. There are also some surprising developments with the Manta.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I’m busy writing book III at the moment and also a Young Adult fantasy book.
How do we find out about you and your books?
I promote via the following social media, and I’m always happy to hear from readers and other writers:

How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?
A lot. I spent a great many years in the military and saw service in several conflicts. I use these real experiences to flavor my novels – the horror, dark humor, camaraderie and the effect it all has on ourselves, our relationships and family.
When did you first think about writing and what prompted you to submit your first MS?
I’ve always been interested in reading and as a child used to jot down stories and then bin them, before my parents found them. I wrote my first short story during the Falklands War. It was a scifi, based on my experiences there and it was published by Back Brain Recluse.
Generally, how long does it take you to write a book?
I wrote a martial arts book in 3 months and that was professionally published. My first novel, Pride, took several years and Cull about 7 months.

Do you have a set schedule for writing or do you just go with the flow?
I write most evenings but also when I want to. As you say, I go with the flow.

What is your writing routine once you start a book?
This is a difficult one. I used to write a chapter and then edit heavily, before submitting the BSFA Orbiter writing groups. This was quite slow, which is one reason it took so long to write my first novel. Orbiter submissions are limited to about 10k bi-monthly. With my second novel I took some advice and just wrote, editing on completion. The trouble with this was that I was unable to submit much to the writing groups for feedback but got around this by using more Beta Readers on completion.
Sometimes I’ll write without stopping for 12-14 hours, other days I find I’ve burnt myself out and can’t write for a while.

What about your family, do they know not to bother you when you are writing - or are there constant interruptions?
That’s not an issue with me, as I live on my own with my black lab, Bella. When I have my children for the school holidays I tend to spend as much time with them as I can, and write when they’ve gone to bed.

What do you do to relax and recharge your batteries?
I watch movies a lot but rarely watch the TV, in fact I believe I’ve only watched it about 3 times in 4 years. My dog and I will go for a long walk through the countryside, or along the beach and maybe I’ll stop and have an ice cream or a pint on the way home.

What truly motivates you in general? In your writing?
Once a story is in my head I just have to write it down no matter what, if I don’t it drives me mad. With that in mind I guess you could say my motivation is a quest for sanity, to not have things buzzing around in my mind all the time and driving me up the wall. The trouble is once you’ve one idea out of the way, up pops another.

Where do your ideas come from?
Generally it’s from nightmares, or a chance encounter/experience. A young lad I know once saw some star-shaped party favors on a table at a friend’s birthday bash and picked them up. When I looked at them in his hand it inspired me to write a short story called ‘A Hand Full of Stars’, which was accepted and published by the anthology Escape Velocity.

Do you feel humour is important in science fiction, and why?
Definitely, I feel it makes your readers relate to your characters more. The trick is not to use old jokes! I write primarily SF, fantasy and horror and, as I say, I served in the military and the dark humor stays with you. An example of this is during a conflict while under attack a friend of mine hit the deck and then said to his friend. “I can’t stand up. Why can’t I stand up?” The guy he was with looked at him and said, “because you’ve been shot, you twat.” Sounds horrible but it’s true, it’s how the military deal with real life situations. In the olden days the military used to be given a hefty tot of rum before their battles. Consequently if someone got injured they’d just laugh or get fighting mad, I guess that humor stayed with the armed forces after. Shame about the tot.

What are your thoughts on love scenes in romance novels, do you find them difficult to write?
I don’t write romance but I do have romance in my novels. I don’t find it difficult to write, I just touch on it more than anything.

What kind of research do you do?
I think about my book, what in it, where I have my characters go and what they do. If I have them visit a star system I research that and so can include as much scientific detail as I can. Likewise if I have someone visit a certain forest, I research what trees and plants are there, when they flower, what they smell like, climate at certain times of the year, the animals there and so forth. Everything is so important, if you don’t get it right you can guarantee that a reader somewhere will pick you up on it.

Would you like to write a different genre than you do now, or sub-genre?
I think with me my material often writes itself. I may have had a dream and then put pen to paper but then I go into auto mode. It may come out as fantasy, SF, or even occasionally poetry.

Please tell us about yourself (family, hobbies, education, etc.)
I was bought up in Slough and have two sisters. I joined the RN when I was 17 and since then have generally lived in the Portsmouth area, apart from a stint in Scotland and two tours of Hong Kong. I’m now divorced, my eldest daughter Sabrina lives in Blackpool with her husband Mark and 3 children, my son Robin lives in Bristol, and my two youngest in Teeside. One of my sisters is in Chichester and the other in Boston, Lincs. So, as you can see I don’t have much family near me. I do, however, speak regularly to them on the phone and visit when possible.
Education wise I didn’t leave school with much but took some GCE’s in the RN. A few years ago I decided to take an MA in Professional writing and it went really well. Since then I’ve passed Diplomas in Copywriting and Proofreading, working in both fields on and off since. Now, however, I’m focusing on my own writing and editing work.
One of my favorite places is the New Forest, particularly Lyndhurst. It’s steeped in history, you can feel it when you’re there. The NF is where Lewis Carroll wrote Alice in Wonderland, and the shops have lots of memorabilia to it. I love visiting the area and enjoy camping there in the summer months, spending the days down the beach and with a barbeque in the evenings. It’s my idea of heaven, and when I’m a bit stuck I find it all so inspiring.

Who are some of your other favorite authors to read?
These include Stephen King, Arthur C Clarke, John Wynham, Geoff Nelder, Kevin J Anderson, James Herbert and Brian Lumley. Then there’s some of Tolkien’s works, LOTR and The Hobbit.

What do you think of critique groups in general?
Online ones are great and a huge benefit to all concerned. The feedback from other writers improves your own work and you develop your critiquing skills by your feedback on the work sent to you in return. I’m not a huge fan of face-to-face writers’ groups. I find they limit any feedback on your work, perhaps giving you five minutes or 500 words to read, and then tend to try and give you a subject to write about for their next meeting. I write what I want to, not what others want me to and I’m not into writing about the inside of a ping pong ball, or a single given word.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
With a series of books behind me and hopefully a writing career that’s taken off, ha ha. I expect to still be working but if not I may consider moving abroad to live, perhaps Spain or Greece but somewhere near the sea.
How many books have you written, how many have been published?
To date I’ve one non-fiction book professionally published, a self defence app by Kiwa Media, a self-published short story collection, two novels (one due out any day) and three novellas.

After you've written your book and it's been published, do you ever buy it and/or read it?
Both. I always buy copies of my books, both as giveables or to sell. I read them to ensure I have all the details correct for follow on material.

Among your own books, have you a favorite book? Favorite hero, or heroine?
This has to be Selena Dillion, from my two novels. This is a woman who has had a tragic life, yet faced up to her issues, never given in and overcomes adversity.

What book for you has been the easiest to write? The hardest? The most fun?
The easiest book was my martial arts one. I hold an 8th Degree black belt in Taekwondo, and used to train up to four hours a day, seven days a week. Consequently the book was easy to write and I had a ball taking the photos. The hardest was A Pride of Lions. Jumping from short fiction to full length is a major move, and there was so much to learn.

Which comes first, the story, the characters or the setting?
That’s a bit like the age old question, which came first the chicken or the egg? It can be anything from the look in someone’s eyes, a sunset, a handful of party favorites, a gesture or memories of a true life experience.

What is the hardest part of writing/the easiest for you?
Making sure you have all the elements right. This can be anything from personal history and dislikes of your characters, their weapons, hair and eye color. Then there’s the editing at the end.
I’m a firm believer that all writers need someone else to edit their work, as a friend once said to me we stand too close to it to do this ourselves. But you still have to edit numerous times before sending to an editor, and then again after.

Have you experienced writer's block---> If so, how did you work through it?
Yes, I get this and all I do is leave it. Trying to force things doesn’t work for me, it has to come back on its own. I’ll watch movies for a while or go out, and after a while I can write again. This can take anything from an hour to a couple of weeks.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?
Seeing your work in print, something you’ve created from nothing using your heart and soul. To see your work published and people talking about it is the most wonderful thing.

If you weren't writing, what would you be doing?
I’d be a member of a starships crew. However, as they haven’t been invented yet it would be something sensible, like a pirate.

Are there any words of encouragement for unpublished writers?
Don’t ever give up, no matter how hard you find it. Join an online writer’s group and study the art of writing. Doing my writing degree was the best move I ever made. But remember that sharpening the pencil doesn’t make you a writer, writing does.