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Tell us about Beware of the Blue Haired Men:[Click above for some of S. A. Rasheed's other novels]When a woman is found dead in the bedroom of her locked apartment, detective Diana Young is convinced foul play is involved. But despite the lack of physical evidence to prove the blonde haired woman was murdered and with only a single strand of blue hair found near the body to go by, Diana sets outt on a mission to locate the last person to see the deceased woman alive. What detective Young soon uncovers isn't just a serial killer but a mysterious race of blue haired men; long time rivals to the demons who feed on human souls as well as souls of demons.
What do these blue haired men have planned for the human race?
Tell us a bit about yourself?
Born and raised in Alabama I've always expressed an interest in story telling. During my younger years I illustrated my own comics and shared them with my friends and family. I even attempted to get my work noticed by the big boys in the comic book industry at the time. Later in life I moved on to online comics where the idea for the race of blue haired men that star in one of my book series came to life. Besides writing I'm also an active gamer and cat lover.
A brief chat with S. A. Rasheed about her writing career:Since I’ve been self publishing for a year now the first question my older sister asked me recently when the subject came up was, “How many books have you sold?” My response was, “I’ve sold some.” I wasn’t about to tell her how much “some” actually is because it’s not very many and I only have my own inexperience to blame for that.
This past April marked the one year anniversary of my first self published book. The very first book I published on Amazon was Linaje ( it’s the Spanish equivalent for lineage and is pronounced Lee-nye ), a space adventure about a plasma cloud that devours everything in its path, including Earth. I’ve been wanting to put that story into words for a long time and, after a few weeks of typing, I was pretty excited when I hit the publish button.
I had a couple of sales here and there, nothing spectacular, so I kept writing more short stories. I remember selling 5 copies of one book in an entire month. I gave away hundreds more through Amazon’s Kindle Select exclusive program but I never got the user feedback that I was looking for. It wasn't until I listed my sci-fi drama, I'm HUMANOID, on Librarything.com for review last year did I receive a much needed and much appreciated, crtitisim.
They told me that my writing wasn't as good as it could be and that I was in need of a good editor. Of course, they were right. Re-reading and self editing my works wasn’t cutting it but finding an editor on my budget was impossible. That was when I seriously began to rethink being an indie. Do I have what it takes to be in this business? I could just fold up the lawn chairs and call it a day. I tried. I failed. End of story.
But I didn’t want to give up so easily. I couldn’t. I didn’t spend so many days and nights staring into my laptop just to throw in the towel. As some have said before, being a writer isn’t an easy task. Anyone expecting otherwise is just fooling themselves. One of the folks who reviewed I’m HUMANOID explained to me that the potential is there I just needed to change my style ( my writing at the time was too descriptive ) and ,of course, I needed a good editor. This was the most encouragement I’d ever received from anyone, as far as my writing was concerned so I kept going.
Late last year, I started doing things that I should have done from the start. I read books from others, and used their writing style as an example of how to improve my own. The Internet is alive with helpful resources for writers looking to hone their craft affordably.Critiquecorner.com is one of them; Google Drive is another. Finding beta readers has also been helpful.
I'm grateful for the critique I received for I'm HUMANOID. You probably won’t hear many people thanking critics for 1/5s or 2/5s but I’m glad the book received those scores. If not for it, I wouldn’t have changed my style so drastically. Being a writer is something I’ve toyed with a while back but never on a professional level. I rushed into it with my eyes wide shut in 2012 and got burned by my blunders. Knowing what I do now, I hope to make the most of 2013.
My beta readers have complimented me on my new writing style so have some reviewers but I still have some fine tuning to do. I’ve published two novellas so far this year and finished revising Linaje. I’m HUMANOID will be revised too, hopefully, sometime this year. A part of me wants to rewrite it but the other part wants to leave it as it is just to remind myself of how far I’ve come in a short amount of time.
In terms of sales, 2013 has been much slower than the past year but I’m not discouraged. Even if I only amount to a few sales a year, I’ll keep going. I love crafting stories from my imagination and sharing them with the rest of the world. And if just one or two people fall in love with my work then that’s a success story for me. This year is all about improving my skills even further. I plan to take a stab at writing a western steampunk novel and another part to both of my other novellas.
Tell us about Gastien:[Click above to purchase the paperback version]When young Gastien Beauchamp flees the farm for Paris, the late nineteenth century bohemian era is in full swing. Color has always called to him, beseeching him to capture it on canvas and show people a new way of seeing things. His father belittled his dream of being an artist and tried to beat him into giving it up. The dream wouldn’t die, but Gastien would have had he not left.
He also yearns to become a great lover. After the years of anguish he has endured at the hand of his father, it would be heaven to feel pleasure instead of pain.
However, the city of Paris has a ruthless agenda. Unless a man has money and connections, Paris unfeelingly crushes dreams and destroys souls. With neither of the required assets, Gastien faces living in alleys, digging in trash bins for food, and sleeping where a man is often killed for his threadbare blanket.
Left with only his dreams, Gastien stubbornly pushes on. He vows that absolutely nothing will stop him, not yet realizing what keeping that vow might mean. Sometimes the “impossible” is possible – but the cost can be extremely high.
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Some reviews for the Gastien Series:
[Click above for Caddy's blog]“This book is a very dark and emotional masterpiece. Many writers struggle with conveying emotional complexity but Caddy Rowland draws you in with it. You feel like you're on Gastien's journey with him! At times, you'll find yourself telling him in your head that what he's doing isn't very wise. I laughed, I cried and I felt proud of him all at the same time as this tragic storyline moved along. You will not want to put this book down and when it's over, you'll want to immediately buy book two because you will miss Gastien Beauchamp and seriously wonder what happens next for him.” –Misty (The Top Shelf)
“What is Gastien? What is a family saga? I didn't know either of these things at first, but it sounded interesting. It was so much better than interesting though. This review will never come close enough to how this book made me felt, but I will try…The highest I can rate it is five. However to me, this is one of the best books I have read in years. It will be a long time before another book will be able to take it's place.” –Trying to Live, book reviewer
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A Little Bit About Caddy:[Click to follow Caddy on Twitter]Caddy Rowland grew up in the Midwest with a stack of books that almost reached the ceiling before she was five. Books, along with her vivid imagination, have always been some of her closest friends.
She lives in Minnesota with her husband, who was her high school sweetheart. They are owned by two parrots. Besides being a writer, she is an artist. One can often find her "makin' love to the color" (painting) with loud music blaring.
Her goal as an author is to make readers laugh, cry, think, and become intimately connected with her main characters. She writes dramatic novels showcasing the sublime joy and bitter tragedy of being human.
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A Brief Chat With Caddy:[Click for Caddy's YouTube interview]Why I Wrote About a Wild Bohemian Artist
The Gastien Series is a dramatic family saga for both men and women beginning in late nineteenth century Paris, France. It is also historical fiction in that it revolves around the bohemian artists’ era of Paris and moves into other fascinating times in history. Besides being a writer, I am an artist; and this era of history has always enthralled me. The camera had recently been invented and, all of a sudden, artists had to find a way to stay relevant. It was obvious that very soon families would not be hiring painters to capture their family history, as the camera could do that much quicker. Also, for the first time, paints could be purchased in tubes! That meant that artists were no longer confined to studios. They could pack up and paint outdoors any day they chose.
Impressionism was born. Shortly after that many other styles of painting would come into existence and art would never again be the same. Imagine the excitement as artists grouped together in the parks and run down studios, sharing ideas and capturing the energy and color of their surroundings. Added to that was the fact that alcohol was legal, prostitution was legal, and drugs like hashish, opium, and others were not only legal but easily obtained and you get one of the wildest, most decadent times in history.
Still, it was not an easy time to be alive if you did not have money. There was a definite division of the classes and struggles were real and harsh. It was almost impossible for a peasant to own property and the rent was constantly being raised. No, life was not easy then for peasants. Still, although the artists were some of the poorest people in the city, they found a way to create and to party. Oh, how I would have loved to have painted with some of those artists in Place du Tertre!
Gastien himself was the son of a peasant farmer who abused Gastien emotionally and physically. His dream was to become a painter in Paris and, in spite of the slim chances, he left home to pursue that dream. Oh, by the way, he was also determined to become a great lover. The first book in The Gastien Series (Gastien Part 1: The Cost of the Dream) is about Gastien’s coming of age and his struggle to survive on the streets of Paris. It is a dark, very gritty, emotional novel.
Gastien Part 2: From Dream to Destiny picks up where Part 1 leaves off. In this book we see Gastien the artist. He is happy and has no desire to become emotionally involved with anyone or have his freedom taken away. Then he meets Sophie and his world is turned upside down. It is an age old question: How does a man driven by a calling also find time for love or a family? Gastien does his best, but refuses to cave in to what society expects. As he ages, he learns that the cost for freedom is high, and that no matter what he had decided once he met Sophie there would have been difficulties for everyone involved.
Tristan Michel: Bloodline of Passion is book 3. Gastien’s son promises himself that he will never be anything like his father. He had enough of watching his father pursue a hedonistic lifestyle to last a lifetime, and so Tristan Michel convinces himself that being proper and traditional is what really matters. However, as he ages, he realizes that a man cannot always deny the passion that runs in his veins.
Giselle: Keeper of the Flame, book 4, is about Gastien’s daughter. Hurt beyond belief by the circumstances of her first love, she gets a second chance of happiness by raising Tristan Michel’s son. She also finds that love is not easily destroyed, if one if strong enough to survive its pain.
Gastien: Circle of Destiny is book 5. The final book in the series, this is about Gastien’s grandson, named after him. A successfully artist at a very young age, he is face with the frightening knowledge that he is gay in 1940’s America. He eventually ends up back in Paris, where he hopes to find a man who will truly love him. He wants it all: money, fame, and love. Maybe that’s asking for too much.
Fasten your seatbelts and be prepared to be taken on an emotional ride when you read this series. You will laugh and cry, and you will both love and hate the main characters. These characters are not without flaws, just like most of us. At times you will want to pop them in the mouth, and then again, you will find yourself wishing you could wrap your arms around them and offer them comfort. Most of all, you will find that Gastien will stay with you for a long time after you put the books down. He is just simply that kind of guy.
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Tell us about The Serial Daters Shopping List:
[Click above for Morgen's website]31 dates in 31 days – what could possibly go wrong?
Isobel MacFarlane is a recently-turned-40 journalist who usually writes a technology column for a newspaper based in Northampton, England, but her somewhat-intimidating boss, William, has set her the task of meeting 31 men, via a local internet dating site, all within a month.
Having an active, though fruitless, social life with her friend and ‘Health & Beauty’ colleague Donna, she knows what she wants in a man, so creates a shopping list of dos and don’ts, and starts ticking them off as she meets Mr Could Be Right Except For, Mr Not Bad, Mr Oh My Goodness and Mr Oh So Very Wrong.
Follow the ups (there are a few) and downs (there are many) of the dating process and intertwined with her experiences, get to know her colleague and family, including her niece Lola who, apart from being an amazing storyteller, can eat ambidextrously whilst wearing a Princess glove puppet on her right hand, and Baby, William’s non-too-healthy African Grey parrot.
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Learn A Bit About Morgen:[Click above to view all Morgen's books]Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, Chair of NWG (which runs the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition), Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition and creative writing tutor for her local council. She is also a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry.
Like her, her blog, http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on Twitter, Facebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page).
She also recently created five online writing groups and an interview-only blog. Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List and she has six others (mostly crime) in the works.
Morgen Talks Writing Essentials:[Click above to follow Morgen on Twitter] American science-fiction novelist Jerry Pournell is reported to have said “I think it takes about a million words to make a writer. I mean that you're going to throw away.” I started writing for fun seven years ago and more seriously four years ago and with three NaNoWriMo novels, one-and-a-half novels in between, three NaNoWriMo story collections (a cheat on doing a novel November 2011 but I still made the 50,000-word minimum), part of a script, some poetry and loads of short stories under my belt, including one and a bit 31-story collections for Story A Day May, I’m pretty sure I’ve reached that target. How much of them I’ve thrown away I couldn’t tell you but it’s only a fraction, and if like me, you’ve dabbled before really knuckling down, you’ll feel better for it. It’s all about practice. If someone sat you in front of a piano, would they expect you to play a concerto? Would you expect that of yourself?
In my experience too many novice writers worry about finding their ‘voice’ and understanding their ‘craft’ early on. It can be a long journey, perhaps not as long as a million words, but providing you write regularly (daily is the ideal but when does life afford that luxury, although 300 words equates to 100,000 words a year so a great incentive) you’ll get there… and here are a few basics to put in your suitcase:
· Probably the most used phrase when teaching writing is ‘show don’t tell’. If you have a character who is angry for some reason, saying ‘Andy was angry’ is a classic example of ‘tell’. Simply put, you’re not showing us how. If you wrote ‘Andy slammed his fist onto the table’ you are.
· Dialogue tags – it’s recommended that you can only go up to six pieces of dialogue (between no more than two people) without attributing it to someone. And there's nothing wrong with ‘said’. Don’t be tempted to look at your thesaurus and say ‘Andy postulated’. You could also avoid tags by another character saying “Oh Andy, that’s…” or in the description; ‘Andy laughed. “That’s…”
· Character names are important as we often get a sense of their personality by what they’re called. A Mavis is likely to be older than a Britney and would, usually, act differently. Avoid having names starting with the same letter; if you have a Todd talking to a Ted, the reader can easily get confused. Bill and Ted would be fine and as we know, they had a wonderful time back in the late 1980s.
· I’m a big fan of repetition… of not doing it. Unless it’s ‘the’, ‘and’ etc, a word should only be repeated if the second instance is to emphasise or clarify the first. For example, ‘Andy sat in the car. He beeped the horn of the car.’ You don’t need ‘of the car’ because we already know he’s in the car. If you said ‘Andy sat in the car. He beeped the horn and the car shook’ that would be fine because you’re clarifying that it’s the car and not the horn (because it’s the last object you mentioned) that’s shaking.
· Stephen King’s writing guide / autobiography ‘On writing’ has been the most suggested book in the interviews I’ve conducted. Amongst other things he’s notoriously against adverbs (‘ly’) and fair enough – in ‘completely dead’ you wouldn’t need the completely because dead says it all, and a character doesn’t need to be ‘sighing wearily’ because the sighing tells us enough, but adverbs are necessary in the right context. Again it’s all about clarification and fine-tuning.
· Every word has to count; does it move the story along or tell us about your characters? If not, the chances are it can be chopped.
· If you’re having trouble with a passage move on or leave it and return later with ‘fresh eyes’.
· Read. It doesn’t matter whether it’s your genre or not (one of my Monday nighters writes amazing sci-fi but has never read a word of it) but reading will help you see how a story is structured and balanced between dialogue and description; short sentences speed the pace, long passages slow it down.
· Join a writing group, get your work critiqued. Read your work out loud. It’s amazing what you’ll pick up when you hear it outside your head.
· Subscribe to writing magazines, go to workshops, literary festivals. If you really want to write immerse yourself in all things literary.
There are many more examples I could give you but all you need to remember is that it’s not about clever words (because that ends up becoming ‘purple prose’) but just getting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard and having fun. When your characters take over (and they will) you’ll have the time of your life!
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An indepth interview with Glenn:[Click to contact Glenn]1) You refer to the term “Block Guns.” Could you describe these? I take it from one of your paragraphs, that they shoot some sort of inert charge (apparently made of wood) or blank round, but can also accept live ammo. Can you expound on that?Great question. I didn’t explain it well enough in Prison Riot. The prison guards in California State prisons have a supply of block guns in the gun towers. Each building has a gun tower that overlooks the interior of the building and also has a view of the yard where that building releases inmates. The block guns look like shotguns but only shoot wooden blocks. They don’t also shoot live rounds. The tower guards also have rifles that shoot live rounds that legally they are only supposed to use when inmates are using deadly weapons, not for fist fights. The block guns are used for fist fights. The wooden blocks are compacted into a circular shape about the size of a silver dollar but are a little thicker then a ping pong ball. The block guns are extrememly effective in part because of the noise. In the building, or on the yard, the echo “booms” so loud that inmates inside every other building on the yard can hear it. At Centinella State prison in Imperial Valley on the California and Mexican border, the prison yards are close enough together that inmates can hear the block gun go off on other yards. At Centinella it is an almost daily occurrence. As an inmate you become trained to expect it shortly after you hear the alarm go off, followed by the order by a tower guard yelling, “GET DOWN!! GET DOWN!!” and then, “BOOM!! BOOM!!”
To give you a feel for the prison politics at Centinella, the Mexican inmates are ordered not to stop fighting until the block gun has gone off. Most of the time they keep going for about 30 seconds after the “BOOM” for respect and effect. That means you can expect to see a fight or stabbing on the yard continue until the alarm screeches a whining noise that rises and falls in decibels, followed by the order to get down, followed by a swarm of a couple dozen prison guards running to the incident with about every third guard carrying a block gun. At close range block guns hurt bad and will knock the wind out of you and put you down. At more than around 40 feet the block begins to come apart. Seeing it up close so many times I can tell you that it breaks apart into circular rings and sizzles on the ground on fire from the explosion sending it.
2) I find it interesting that in your descriptions of the riot – you make it clear that the guards are seen as a lower priority then the “enemy” inmates. Did you find that to be the case? In other words, was it common that an inmate would attack even at a time when an armed guard was standing there?
With this question you are getting really deep into prison life politics. It is the most eerie feeling to know a prison riot is coming well before it comes. Now you are getting into a race riot or gang riot. I probably should have put the gang riot before the race riot because that is where the pressure and most of the decisions are coming from. I bring this up to answer what I think is your question, the prison guards don’t matter at all compared to orders. To give you a better understanding, pretend you are in a California prison and you are told by your race, “If you ever see another race attacking one of us, you have to help and fight. If you don’t, you will be considered weak and you will be attacked.” This is the common mentality of every single race and to me, an ex prisoner of over 10 years, understandable and respectable. I guess to fully understand this kind of thinking you either have to be there or have a deep enough imagination to picture being housed race by race as far as who is in each cell. To watch your own race get outnumbered and attacked and possibly killed while you are just watching, is a guarantee that you will be attacked by your own race later as a form of discipline and order. So in that regard, as an inmate, the guard with the gun in the tower, or even 10 feet away in the chow hall, isn’t there.
Since we are getting so deep into prison life politics amoung races and gangs I will explain it as it relates to other then race war and gang war situations. Lets say that I’m a White inmate and I watch another White inmate get attacked by a group of Black inmates and instead of rushing to his aid, I follow the guards orders to “GET DOWN!!” and just get on my stomach and watch the pummeling. For being in the area and not helping, I am in big trouble. In that situation, when the order is given to get me, the inmates will “pick a spot” to “handle the business”. That means that it will be done on the yard if possible as far away form the guards as possible. At times that just isn’t possible and we call those “suicide missions”. It gets much deeper but you get the jist.
3) There has been a lot of discussion in the tech world and the media – over the past decade – of use of non-lethal but highly effective methods of stopping this kind of thing. Stuff like foam, high-pressure water, low frequency sound and pancake bullets – that sort of thing. In your experience, was any of this newer technology ever employed, or did the guards stay within the older framework of guns and gas?
Finally an easier answer. While I was in prison from 1990 on and off through 2008 before I found a new path in writing books, I saw some changes in those deadly force measures. Keep in mind I’m talking California State prisons. First of all, the pepper spray works! It isn’t the kind of pepper spray you can imagine if all you are used to is what the police use on the streets. California prison pepper spray at one point killed a number of inmates because it was so pure that it stopped peoples breathing, caused shock and heart attacks. Somewhere in the mid 1990’s they finally toned it down slightly. Don’t picture a little pepper spray bottle, picture a small fire extenquisher. Picture inmates drenched in so much pepper spray that it looks like they have been painted orange. I’ve seen white shirt and bald heads completely drenched in dripping orange fire. The pepper spray is so strong that if a fight is going down in the building all of the inmates inside the cells will start coughing. They will stand at the cell watching with their faces covered with shirts like bandanas. The next level of force was the old fashioned billy clubs. New laws changed the shape of them from the same kind the police use on the streets to higher tech ones that are spring loaded and eject a thinner steel outward. Those dissappeared later. As mentioned earlier the guns start with the block guns and graduate to “LIVE ROUNDS COMING NEXT”, usually with that exact warning. I have finally got around to writing about life at Centinella, where I spent my last amount of prison time and will use an example of a respectable gun tower guard. I made it my business to develop conversations with gun tower guards because I figured they would see me in a human light. I tried to pick their brains and make them laugh. One prison guard I talked to was an ex military sharp shooter. When the Mexican inmates and Black inmates went off in a yard riot that everyone knew was coming, that tower guard never fired a live round. That riot was a very serious one and prison made weapons were scattered all over the yard. More than a dozen inmates had puncture wounds from being stabbed. He probably should have fired live rounds, even if he only fired into the ground. But he had a lot of pressure on him to dance that fine line of which inmates can I righteously say are trying to kill. Later he was laughed at by many of the other guards as weak. That Mexican and Black war was a long way from done. The next time they came off lockdown to wage another round that same guard fired a live round in a smaller riot. He fired it through the middle of the basketball backboards right where the red square is.
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4) You have that part right on. In a riot like that they take everyone in the area and sort it out in ad-seg. To be found guilty of “being a combatant” it takes the written reports of eye witness accounts from the guards, pepper spray proof dripping off the inmate, injuries, hand evidence from punching or using a weapon and the very rare testimony from another inmate.
5) It’s clear to me that the financial rewards benefit the guards in these situations. Overtime, Hazard pay, etc. Bearing in mind that neither of us are corrections professionals, in your opinion, were the guards complicit in these riots? Did they see the financial benefits as incentives to foster dis-harmony among the many inmate groups?
Fantastic queston and hard answer. Yes I have painted that picture in a number of my books that this is the case and does happen, and yes it does happen. However, it is rare where the guards do it in an evil way. For people who haven’t been there, this must be so hard to understand, but even the prison guards become affected by all the violence and pressure. There are so many examples I can use of this but to be fair to how hard their job is, they can know a riot is coming just as well as the inmates because a tiny percentage of the inmates send them written notes telling them it is going to happen, yet they can’t stop it. What are they going to do, ship hundreds of inmates to other yards every time? I have been on over 25 different prison yards. In my experiences I have seen guards get evil and instigate wars to continue by what they say while we are locked down. Win one side wins a yard fight in a big way, lets say the Mexican inmates are attacked by the Black inmates and get their asses handed to them, and a Mexican veteran prison guard says things in the building like, “You guys aren’t getting off lockdown for years. You know that if you mess with one bean you get the whole burrito.” That is putting pressure on both races to keep the war going. The prison guards and gun towers can pop cells open inside the building where both races are let out in those situations and the war reignites with what is called, “On site orders.” That kind of situation keeps the yard on lockdown and that hazard pay time and a half continues. Again, to be fair to the 99% of the prison guards who don’t deserve to be painted this way, it is a rare fact of California prison life. But, besides the extra money incentives, and overtime control, the prison guards are following a divide and conquer strategy because they would rather see the inmates fighting against each other versus fighting them!
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6) There are 3 reasons that I can see for becoming a prison guard. A) One could have an anti-crime hard-on. Say one’s family or one’s self were victims of crime, for example. B) Money. It’s possibly the best paying and most in demand area of law enforcement. C) A genuine desire to help people turn their lives around. However, several psychological experiments conducted over the last half century would indicate that regardless of the motivations for joining up, the tendency is to move towards a culture of cruelty and corruption. Based on your experience, would you say you found that to be true? Were there any guards that you thought highly of?
Yes I found many that I respected and thought highly of. Most of those either usually looked like they could have been in prison themselves, and or they were militarily trained pros. As mentioned earlier I studied them like my life depended on it and this became getting to know them through conversation. In California prisons you have regular prison guards, tower guards, free staff workers who work the clothing, food and other shops, Inmate Gang Investigators, Security Escorts, Special Teams for searches and cell extractions and Counselers that go all the way up to the Warden. They are hardly ever all on the same side themselves. Inmates are constantly studying this angle to find cracks in their structure. How do you think all the cell phones are landing in prisoners hands? How about a percentage of the dope and pretty much all of the tabacco? How about inside info? For the most part most of the prison guards are there to earn a paycheck. On the serious level 4 yards where the inmate population is more then half lifers, there isn’t much room for a prison guard with a hard on to be disrespectful to inmates because he knows he will get stabbed. In a place where violence and pressure are a constant moment by moment, 24-7 affair 365 days a year, the senses are hardened and the culture becomes emotionless.
7) What is the relationship between I.C.C. and the store? You waited for a long time to get I.C.C. so you could buy essentials like toothpaste and deodorant. Why is it viewed as necessary for an inmate to be classified before he’s allowed store privileges?
Because an inmate has to “Be classified “ to a certain level for yard and store priviledges. I.C.C. is a collection of prison administrators mostly made up of counselors who do the paperwork. That part of the process is where they determine special needs situations. Lets say that an inmate gets off the bus and enters a prison, that person has to be cleared for yard before they get to go to yard and get store. I.C.C. looks through the file to determine if there are any enemies or reasons not to put the inmate on the yard. For instance, a well know rapist, police officer doing time, or even Charlie Manson, can’t just be put on a mainline prison yard because they are all considered, “points to earn” and will get stabbed. For that and many other reasons, I.C.C. keeps inmates locked down, without privileges until that process is determined. Once determines and you are on the mainline and a riot or any form of discipline puts you in the hole-ad-seg (SHU) you have to go through that process all over again to get yard and store in there.
8) I get that it was terribly important for the I.C.C. to classify you as what you were – White inmates, but could you spell out for our readers why the Southern Mexican label would have been so detrimental.
In the true story I wrote, Prison Riot- I was involved in a massive riot that made the news at Solano in 1998. The southern Mexicans were outnumbered by the northern Mexicans and my friend Steve Smith, also known as Giant and myself decided to lend a hand to the southern Mexicans because we were friends with many of them. Let me make this very clear, I’m a White man who doesn’t gang bang, claim a gang and helped them because I don’t like to see people bullied or outnumbered. Giant felt the same way. The problem with being 2 White guys in the midst of almost 100 Mexicans at war in a riot is that the prison guards had to assume we were what is called, “Sleepers” who were Mexican gangsters. The massive problem for us as White inmates to be classified as southern Mexicans in the hole is that when our SHU term ( length of time in the hole for the riot ) ran its course, from that point on we were going to be housed as southern Mexicans. That is a massive problem. Imagine getting off the bus at a new prison and being put in a cell with a southern Mexican and having to tell him, “Look I’m sorry to disturb you but I’m a White inmate so please don’t tell me about who you guys are stabbing tomorrow.” You get the point. On the other side of that coin you are also going to have to explain to the rest of the White inmates that you are indeed a White inmate!”
9) I’d be very interested in some of your views regarding the impact of America’s drug war on these racial politics within the prison system. Could you give me a brief paragraph showing a connection between the Drug Culture in the U.S. and the struggle as it is currently playing out in Mexico – and could you tie that to the California prison system?
Perfect question to add to the last one to show you how crazy it is because of the drug war and the direct connection to it breeding more violence and gangs under the current policy where we incarcerate drug offenders! In California prisons southern Mexican inmates are under enormous amounts of pressure to straight up be gangsters, and that breeds an army of gangs. That is also the case for every other race, maybe to a lesser extent. The amount of gangs in southern california is staggering and their reach is long. By not getting to the root of the problem, drugs and poverty, prison is the breeding grounds. People see the news that the Mexican cartels are powerful and they don’t understand that in California’s prisons, those cartel members don’t have the most influence. So if I’m in a cell with a southern Mexican all of those polics are crossing into a White imates loyalties. Back to the drug war breeding gangs. By incarcerating low level drug offenders we are breeding an addiciton into an affliction much harder to escape, where gangs and violence are the calling cards. The problem gets bigger when these displaced, tattooed down, harder to get a job, mentally taxed from post tramatic stress, human being get released without any job training or housing placement. Now you mentioned Mexico’s drug war also. Most people don’t know this but in Mexico it is legal to have up to an ounce of meth, herion, cocaine etc, you just can’t bring it to sporting events or sell it! I used to hear this on the radio in my cell in Centinella on the border of Mexico and scratch my head in exasperation. But guess what, by decriminalizing drugs you take the power out of them! Look at Canada, their policing of drug addicts is more of a nursing program to get them into treatment. If we treat drug addiction as a disease, which it is now looked at like alcoholism, we are being not only smarter, but more humane. We shouldn’t call drug addicts criminals. For those of you with kids who have become addicted you understand.
10) Kind of a side note here, but the homemade lighter you spoke of is actually called a carbon-arc lamp. It was one of the first lamps used for film projection in the 1890s. Necessity truly is the mother of invention. Can you think of some other prison fabrications you created that were of equal technical interest?
The Asian inmates are the most advanced, go figure. They made lighters with batteries that were almost like a regular lighter! We also used salt water lighters. Inmates can make cell phone chargers and so much more but I personally am not that talented. Thanks for the review of Prison Riot, the interview and all you do for the Underdog.
A few places to connect with Glenn:
GoodReads - http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5025575.Glenn_Langohr
Twitter - https://twitter.com/rollcallthebook
Audio Book - http://www.audiobookprisonstories.com/
Tell us a little about your books:[Click above for Margaret's blog]
With the help of my husband, Ron, I have so far published six volumes: a series of four books of Short Stories entitled 25 Stories of Life and Love in Australia, A Taste of Life and Love in Australia, The Essence of Life and Love in Australia, and Reflections of Life and Love in Australia; a non-fiction, semi-humorous volume entitled 60 Questions, Insights and Reminiscences; and the latest, Long and Short Australian Stories. All these are highly readable and most entertaining. More importantly is that all of them have captured the essence of Australian life and our sense of humour.I chose to write Short Stories for several reasons. Sure, I’d studied the subject for four years, and therefore felt reasonably able to attempt a collection. Greater still was my own temperament which favours quick resolution. I don’t much like digression, either in written or spoken language, which I suppose is one reason that I lean towards this genre. Another potent, positive argument seemed to me to be today’s lifestyle of rush, which sometimes leaves readers with only snatches of time to fill.'A Taste of Life and Love in Australia' was reviewed in April 2012 by Australian author Jenny Schwartz, and she rated it five stars, and pointed to its humanity and Australian flavour. So review wise, I'm off to a wonderful start!
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Tell us a bit about yourself:[Click above to follow Margaret on Twitter]
I’m a happily married woman who lives with her husband in a quiet, leafy Sydney suburb. My husband is known around the world in pipe-organ circles since he is the highly respected creator of the Grand Organ in the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House. His name is Ronald Sharp.
Many years ago I studied Short Story Writing and Freelance Journalism, both as an external student. I liked writing, and my teachers were very encouraging, but unfortunately, family circumstances intervened and I had to focus on other, more mundane, things.
About a year ago I got the idea that I might, just might, be able to put together a book of romantic short stories. My local newspaper had been keen to publish almost every Letter to the Editor that I submitted, and I had sent in quite a number. Buoyed by this, and at Ron’s encouragement, I set to work.Ron greeted my work with boundless enthusiasm and support, and was more than excited and enthralled by a number of them. His favourite, I believe, is ‘A Song for Ellie’, which you will find in ‘A Taste of Life and Love in Australia.’ That said, he is, even now, constantly finding new stories in my fourth book (that he is spacing and editing) to praise greatly.
So, I’m trying my hardest to get the books read by others, and hopefully approved. Who knows, one day I may be well known, like my husband. Well, at least I can dream!
A brief chat with Margaret:[Click above to purchase one of Margaret's wonderful collections]In all our lives, something comes along and triggers change. Call it providence, perhaps: but the event that somehow engendered a re-think about my life and where it was going was my niece Kathy’s wedding.
The day she chose had already marked itself to be something special. After all, it was the birthday of her grandfather: my father. I can imagine his delight had he lived to be present.
Kathy getting married! A true milestone!
Somehow, it seemed to egg me on to do something new: something of significance. And then an idea popped into my head: I’d write a book: a book of Short Stories.
I set myself a goal: one year: to finish the project. Since decades had passed after I’d finished my writing courses, I started off more than a little rusty. But within three days, I’d written a tale: read it through, and promptly discarded it.
But at least that was a beginning: I really was on my way. Writing had become a normal, almost everyday, activity. The year that I’d allowed compressed readily into two months. I’d finished my first book: entitled ‘25 Stories of Life and Love in Australia’, it was published early in 2011 by the Amazon company, CreateSpace. Friends: and strangers: told me they loved it.
Praise is a powerful force. These words of encouragement caused me to overturn my previous resolve to stop at one. And so, a few months later, my second: and favourite: title emerged into the light of day, ‘A Taste of Life and Love in Australia’.
Australian author Jenny Schwartz discovered ‘A Taste…’ on Goodreads, bought a copy and reviewed it. She rated it five stars. I was overwhelmed.
Other lovely reviews followed, by well-known Australian book blogger, Shelleyrae, and U.S. readers Mark and Jeanette.
And so, I kept at it: page after page, book after book. Right now, I have seven available titles: the four volume ‘Life and Love’ series that started it all: the philosophical ’60 Questions, Insights and Reminiscences’: ‘Long and Short Australian Stories’: and, just released, ‘Encore’, another collection dominated by romantic vignettes and Short Stories.
Although some tales fall into the ‘human interest’ category, most are romances. Heroes or heroines can be young, mature, or in-between. Many tell their stories themselves. Frequently, to relate using the first person allows for greater empathy. The ‘Life and Love’ series is characterized by the last story picking up the threads of the first: usually bringing a happy outcome. Often, couples: real or potential: torn apart are re-united: and find the feeling is still there, waiting to be re-kindled.
My husband Ron has edited all these titles, and designed the covers. His daughter, Sandra, has also assisted in production, making these volumes true family affairs. Most cover photographs (I took the seventh) are taken by him, and show Australian landscapes.
We chose to self-publish because we relish the control it gives over all aspects of the work. It truly is our creation.
Many people find the creative process interesting, and like to discover an author’s particular habits.
I have no idea if others use this scheme, but actually a lot of my thinking is done whilst swimming. The combination of exercise and relaxation seems to help me work out the plot: I just wish that I could write in the water!
Occasionally I bend the rules of writing: the stuff I was taught seems not so vital, now. Am I becoming adventurous: or have times changed?
We are our style: individuality matters. In the final analysis, isn’t it better to follow your own ideals, regardless?
One of Margaret's beautiful landscape covers
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Tell us about The Stygian Conspiracy:[Click above to purchase Amazon UK]A solar system in turmoil. The mistakes and conflicts of the early twenty-first century peak in a clash of ideology and mechanized steel that spans across the planets of the inner sphere of Sol.
A contention of worlds ensues as the Earth Federal Republic and Solar Empire battle for solar supremacy.
On one side, caught within the currents of war, is a band of young spacemarines, the Sledgehammers, who quickly find themselves embroiled in a plot that transcends the politics of the struggle around them. A dark and ancient secret looms throughout Sol in a myriad of alien artifacts that are the intense focus of one man’s mad ambition.
On the other side, a revolutionary puts his own plan into motion as the would-be liberator of his people. Taking advantage of the conflagration, Alphonse Zhukov and his conspirators risk everything to free their proletarian brethren from the iron grip of the Solar Empire.
Both sides quickly find themselves immersed in a storm of lies, betrayal, love, and romance as plans within plans and schemes within schemes forge their individual goals into a common cause.
At the eye of the tempest is an alien warship that holds the key to finding the Goddess Device and unraveling the Stygian Conspiracy that surrounds it.
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Tell us about yourself:[Click above for Kodai's blog]A former New Englander, I currently reside in Colorful Colorado.
I served in the USAF at the end of the Cold War Era as a Thermo-Nuclear Weapon Specialist.
After the service I moved to Colorado and apprenticed to become a gunsmith.
I worked in the trade for nearly a decade and gained considerable knowledge of ballistics and the skill necessary to use firearms.
Currently, I'm a small business owner.
My passion for SF has been a lifelong one and is rivaled only by my passion for politics and philosophy.
I'm a political science junkie and am quite knowledgeable on many if not most of the -isms and -ologies that comprise current political thought.
My hobbies include shooting sports, Jeeps (wranglers and cherokees), reading (fiction and political books), writing, futuristic mechanical-art (drawing/creating SF mechanisms), historical research (for my writing), web-coding, and building customized computers.
A brief chat with Kodai:[Click above for the Nexus Arcana Forum]Mr. Okuda, What do you hope readers will get out of this novel?
It is my hope that the world of Nexus Arcana will be entertaining for those who enjoy a classic military science fiction setting with a twist of Lovecraftian horror and a dash of romance. The science fiction styles of many cultures influenced the genesis of this fictional world; from the space opera of Western culture, to the darker, hard SF of Russia, and finally the more mystic style of Asia, particularly Japan. Of course, my goal is for readers to have fun and enjoy reading this book and subsequent editions within the Nexus Arcana world.
Mr. Okuda, What inspired you to write this novel?
Many non-fiction influences contributed to the construction of the myriad of fictional philosophies, political organizations, secret societies, and alien powers within this book. The research for this world setting was arduous and took nearly fifteen years to complete. There is as much political science in the world of Nexus Arcana as there is “hard” science. Of course, fictional works of the past also contributed to the construction of this novel. The major fictional influences come from a wide variety of sources. From the horror angle, I have to say the most influential were H.P. Lovecraft’s Dream Quest of the Unknown Kadath, and Clive Barker’s Imagica. The science fiction influences are many and come from all over the world. A short list is as follows: Fred M. Wilcox’s movie masterpiece Forbidden Planet, Mario Bava’s fantastic film Planet of Vampires, Yoshinobu Nishizaki’s Space Battleship Yamato, Yoshiyuki Tomino’s Mobile Suit Gundam, Leiji Matsumoto’s various works including Galaxy Express 999, Space Pirate Captain Harlock, and Queen Millenia, Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, and Robert Mandall’s Galaxy Rangers.
Mr. Okuda, you describe your work as ‘Campbellian’, what do you mean by that?
What is meant by using that term is that the story of Nexus Arcana conforms to the standards set by senior editor ofAstounding Magazine (1939-1971) John Woods Campbell who essentially created what came to be known as the “Golden Age of SF.”
This “Golden Age SF” has specific elements to it that distinguish it from what is known as “Space Opera” and “Pulp SF” which came before Campbell, and the “futurian” movement that came afterwards. The basic elements of a work that are considered “Campbellian” are as follows:
Mr. Okuda, what is the scope of your novel?
- Ancient alien races, artifacts, or technologies are normally present.
- The use of military forces as the main protagonists (Heroes of the story) against the antagonists (who are usually alien, but not always)
- Strong characters (both male and female), who are clearly defined in detail (down to how stinky they are in Who Goes There?)
- No or very few fairy tale elements (like elves, vampires, werewolves, magic powers, dragons, etc.), with the exception of "scientifically" explained versions of these formerly supernatural beings. A good example of an explained version of a fairy-tale creature are the "sci-fi" vampires from Colin Wilson's The Space Vampires.
- Strong Individualism, (usually in direct opposition to collectivism)
- Hope for the future (no nihilistic themes)
- The evolution of mankind into a better race (mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally; or a combination of some or all of those)
- Pro-Capitalist/Liberty, and anti-communist/socialist. Although, the argument could be made that Heinlein was partial to fascism, Campbell was certainly not. In fact he (John Campbell) was so anti-Nazis/Fascist as to have been considered pro-Semitic during the 1930s and WWII.
- Agressive solutions, not peaceful resolutions.
- Psionic ability is a must.
- Supernatural is treated as preternatural in the sense that science will prove its existance and what it is (this extends to the concept of God as in the Japanese video game series Xenosaga which has most of the Campbellian elements in it)
- MacGuffins (non-essential elements used to move the story) are kept to a minimum.
From the onset, this world of Nexus Arcana was clearly going to be of an epic scale. Meaning its story would encompass several books over a series of trilogies and stand-alone novels in order to give readers the full scope of the story.
The first novel, The Stygian Conspiracy, introduces the reader to the primary characters and events that set the stage for the rest of the series. This made it the most difficult of the books to write since it builds the foundation from which all the other novels will grow. You can also find Mr. Okuda @ Shelfari or follow him on Twitter @ https://twitter.com/KodaiOkuda
Click image to read this short story for FREE on V. A. Jeffrey's website
Tell us about Rainfall: A man with a mysterious illness hears voices and sees strange visions - but only when it rains.
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Tell us about yourself: I grew up in Portland, Oregon and attended Portland Community College where I studied Graphic Design.
I'm an author and an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy. I also enjoy reading historical fiction and non-fiction. I have written three collections of poetry and some short stories. I am currently working on The Secret Doorway Tales, a middle grade fantasy series and intend to also begin working on an adult orientated science fiction trilogy.
A brief chat with Victoria: I wrote Rainfall in between writing the Middle Grade fantasy series, books five and six. It's funny because this short story started out years ago as a novel that just didn't quite work. It certainly works better to me as a short story piece. It combines different ideas, things I love and care about: the environment, space, mysteriousness, spookiness and the element I feel most strengthened by - the ocean. It's definitely an atmospheric sort of tale that reveals itself gradually. Atmosphere if something I love creating in my stories. It sets the mood and tone for what is to come.
Some things that haven't showed up in this piece from the old novel may very well show up in a future trilogy I plan to write later this year. In fact I know some things will. It's a good thing to be able to glean ideas and phrases from 'dead' work as I like to call it. A resurrection of ideas that didn't pan out the way you want can come back in different form and truly delight you.
Another transformation that came out of the bones of the old, dead novel was a work of fantasy to science fiction. The novel was a story full of the supernatural, first starting off subtle but spanning into grander themes, but like I said I didn't like how it turned how so I finished it and let it sit on my hard drive for a few years. When I came back to it to see what could be gleaned, a science fiction story with perhaps a small element of what some might see as creatures of fantasy creeps in. That kind of - in between genre bending - can be lots of fun and it was surprising how that idea came to me to combine that little element into the story. What element you might ask? Well read the story and find out. It was fun writing this story and in fact, took me only about three days. For some writers that might be slow but for me that's record time!
I've come to think of the story as environmental science fiction. There's definitely a theme of that in there, though it may not be what people expect. Anyway, it's free and I hope people enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
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Tell us about The Breadwinners:[Click above to purchase Amazon UK]When a penniless immigrant baker seduces the daughter of a wealthy South African businessman her subsequent pregnancy leads to a bitter family rivalry spanning three generations.
It is New Year’s Eve 1924 and the fiery and volatile Charles McGill is devastated when the woman he loves announces her engagement to Lucas Connelly, his friend and co-worker.
When Charles delivers the New Year stollen bread to the home of Manfred Richter, his daughter, Hilde mistakes Charles for a party guest and offers the handsome and seemingly unattached male a glass of spiced punch. Charles is soon drowning his sorrows in drink and later seduces Hilde. When she finds she is pregnant her father offers to set up the penniless Charles with his own bakery if he will marry her. Charles readily agrees and, unknown to Hilde, the two men draw up a contract. It is the beginning of a battle for supremacy between Charles, Lucas, and Miles Davenport, their former employer.
As the bakeries grow and prosper, acrimony begins within the families, pitting brother against brother, and Charles becomes increasingly dissatisfied, realising that success means nothing if he cannot have the woman he loves.
The story covers a period of sixty years and leads us through the successes and failures of the three families as they survive the great depression, the war years and the isolation of South Africa.
Click for Jan's website
Tell us about yourself:I was born in the UK and emigrated from Liverpool to South Africa in the 1970s. My experiences moving to a new continent were the inspiration for my humorous novel ‘But Can You Drink The Water?’ which was a semi-finalist in the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.
I worked in the R&D department of a large bakery for several years, and this gave me the idea for ‘The Breadwinners,’ a family saga spanning 50 years and set in Durban.
My first children’s book ‘Leon Chameleon PI and the case of the missing canary eggs’ was published by Gecko Books,and was one of Bookchat’s 1993 South African Books of the Year. This was followed by ‘Leon Chameleon PI and the case of the kidnapped mouse’ . ‘Leon Chameleon PI and the case of the bottled bat’ is awaiting publication. ‘Bheki and the Magic Light,’ which tells of a rural child’s fascination with a torch, was published by Penguin SA.
‘Jake,’ was published by Cambridge University Press.
I then wrote a Teen/YA novel, Mystery at Ocean Drive, which was a runner-up in the 2010 Citizen/Pan MacMillan YA novel award.
My writing also appears in ‘Edge Words’ (20 stories from the Cheshire Prize for Literature 2006) published by University of Chester, ‘Chicken Soup for the Caregiver's Soul’ and ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul 101 best stories On Being a Parent,’ and ‘Summer Shorts’.
I live in Durban with my husband, two dogs that are forever on the wrong side of the door, one elderly cat, and the occasional visiting troop of boisterous vervet monkeys.
A selection of Jan's other titles
Share a 'Day in the Life' with Jan:
8.00 am: Wash breakfast dishes, make bed while mentally plotting out new novel. Wonder if J K Rowling still does own housework.
8.15 am: Must get down to revising ghost story for comp. Deadline looming. Head for office (smidgling portion of spare bedroom). Sidetracked by meowing cat. Cat thinks underfed. Meow alerts dogs. Dogs think cat overfed, set off in panting pursuit. Cat streaks to kitchen. Dogs follow, lose footing on polished flooring, pile up in doorway like freeway horror smash.
8.20. am: Switch on computer. Where did I file Ghost Story? Can’t remember. Original selection done by inspirational logic. Discover story filed under ‘article’. Story began as article on Satanism.
8.25 am: Stare at keyboard. Notice biscuit crumbs lodged beneath shift key. Dust keyboard, screen and then begin on bookshelves. Come upon book of ghost stories. Put duster aside and flip open book at page marked by dog-eared envelope. Envelope covered in barely legible scribbled notations, something re using dental floss for strangling murder victim. Would minty odour be detectable? File envelope under miscellaneous. Read ghost story.
8.45 am: Return to computer. Dejectedly conclude my story not up to standard of those in book. Notice have used ‘terror’ twice in same paragraph. Consult thesaurus. Reject alarm, awe, anxiety, dread, fear. Type in ‘horror’. Discover have used ‘horror’ in following paragraph.
9.00 am: Dog No 1 scratching on door to go out. Let dog out.
9.03 am: Dog No 1 whining to come back in. Let dog No 1 in. Dog No 2 slips out.
9.05 am: Have brill idea for hilarious piece of dialogue for humorous short story. Chuckle all the way to office. Save ghost story, call up humorous story. Type in dialogue. Read through. Doesn’t sound a bit funny.
9.10 am: Dog No 2 yapping to come back in. Intermittent yap. Like waiting for tap to drip. Sets neighbour’s dogs off. Raise voice to dog. Dog raises voice in reply.
9.12 am: Angrily let in dog No. 2. Dog No 1 wants to go out again. Refuse permission – in strong terms. Dog No 1 original for adage, ‘whichever side of the door dog is on, it’s the wrong side’. Disgruntled dog pees on plant box.
9.20 am: Agent phones. Still not happy with ending of children’s book. Wants further changes. Now sick to death of ruddy Thembu and his wobbly bloody bike. Tempted to have him career downhill, hit rock, land in river, drown. Dig in heels and refuse to murder darlings in second to last paragraph. Agree (grudgingly) to change final paragraph.
9.30 am: Dogs barking. Could be postman. Waiting for cheque from Amazon. Peer through window. Two elderly ladies lurking at gate clutching what looks like bible. Jehovah’s Witnesses? Shrink behind curtain. Run through list of plausible excuses for getting rid of: on the phone, bathing baby, stirring rapidly thickening custard? Peep through curtains – gone. Postbox has glass door (tip picked up from fellow writer). Postbox empty.
Notice grubby marks on curtains where cat perches on windowsill. Decide to wash curtains. Change mind on recalling mammoth task involved in unhooking them.
9.40 am: Return to computer. Add two more atmospheric adjectives to ghost story. Read through. Decide overdone it. Take one adjective out. Can’t bear to part with it. Look for somewhere else to put it.
10.00 am: Glance at clock. Reward hard work with coffee and biscuits.
10.15 am: Contemplate prodding editor of overseas mag re short story submitted months ago. Would correspondence jolt a ‘maybe’ into a rejection? Decide to wait two more weeks.
10.45 am: Consider more profitable ways of earning money. Second-hand bookshop perhaps. Could even write during slow periods. Reject idea. Would probably spend entire day reading.
11.15 am: Wonder if Woman’s World on radio saying something sensible. Might be interview with famous author. Could pick up useful tips. Kind of Listen While You Work. Switch on radio. Someone rabbiting on about calcium and osteoporosis. Guiltily aware of slouching over keyboard. Hurry to medicine cabinet. Swallow two calcium, a B6 and a Vit C. Offer dog No 3 a chewable Vit C. Heard that it is best thing you can do for dog. Dog No 3 eats anything. Dogs 1, 2 and 4 spit theirs out with mournful betrayed looks. Return to office. Sit stiffly upright to delay onset of dowager’s hump.
11.30 am: Friend phones to say picking me up for committee meeting at 18h30. Thought meeting was next week. Frantically scan minutes in case supposed to have actioned something.
11.38 am: Return to ghost story. Grammar grappler. Should ‘owing to’ rather be ‘due to’? Alter it to ‘because of”.
11.40 am: Dogs bark. Postman? Glance through window. Not sure if that is buff envelope nestling against brown brickwork at bottom of postbox. Must get round to painting base contrasting orange. Consider possibility of getting to postbox and back in curlers without being seen. Return, panting, with dead-boring leaflet for pool cleaning service.
11.45 am: Re-read ghost story. Change comma to semi-colon. Remember advice about exotic punctuation. Replace comma. Something lacking in story. Stare out of window. Pool shimmering in morning sunlight, but pool cleaner on go slow.
11.48 am: Pace around house looking for inspiration. Decide postman’s late.
11.50 am: Wander into bedroom. Re-check postbox. Worry that something untoward has happened to postman. Lie on bed with head over edge. Sudden rush of blood to brain known to have worked inspirational wonders. Dogs think playing game. Dogs bound on bed. Dog No 4, (the shrieker) enthusiastically licks ear. Suddenly spots postman. Maniacal barking nearly bursts eardrum.
Airmail letter (small, thin) nestling in postbox. Could be from relatives – but could be from …? Notice publisher’s logo in top left-hand corner. Rip open envelope. “We have received your manuscript and will be replying in due course.”
12 noon: Watch Dr Phil. Usually plenty of conflict, ideas for plots, and I do the crossword while watching. All worthwhile literary pursuits. Besides, eat lunch at same time.
1.00 pm: News.
1.30 pm: Wash dishes. Glance out of kitchen window at drooping plant cuttings donated previous week by sister-in-law.
1.45 pm: Guiltily pot cuttings.
2.30 pm: Brisk walk to shop for bread and milk. Resolve to get on with writing on return.
2.45 pm: Hardly worth starting writing now. Decide to have half and hour with Jilly Cooper novel (reading is legitimate work – isn’t it?). Settee occupied by snoring dogs. Jostle dogs aside. Exhume several bones from beneath cushions.
3.30 pm: Reluctantly set book aside. Bring washing in before it gets damp. Do ironing while thinking up new ending for children’s book.
4. 00 pm: Now what should I make for supper?
It’s all go being a writer, isn’t it.
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Tell us about Fatal Embrace:[click above for Aris' blog]High-spirited horse trainer Jessica Stanson stumbles into the perfect job on one of the most elite ranches in Montana. Or at least it would be if her boss, ex-detective Michael Carven, stopped acting like he didn't want her there. Jessica has to prove herself to him on the ranch, and also try to penetrate his armor to get to the man inside. Michael Carven is a man who has left a difficult past behind him, and now works at his dream job raising horses under the Montana sky. But he knows that the past has a way of coming back to him, and soon enough, it does. A wave of violence hits the nearby small town of Riverside, nestled deep in the mountains, as a cunning serial killer preys on the population. Against his will, Michael finds himself both drawn into the case and coming to care for his independent new trainer. And if having a killer on the loose wasn't enough, his two worlds collide when Jessica becomes the only material witness in the case. Before it is over, Michael and Jessica will put everything they know and hold dear on the line to catch a vicious, cunning killer - and to protect each other as well.
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Tell us about yourself:I am primarily a romance writer. I write suspense, contemporary, and commercial woman's fiction. My debut novel, Fatal Embrace is a romantic suspense that was featured in Cosmopolitan Magazine as a Red-Hot Read. Foolish Notions is a contemporary romance that has just a touch a mystery too. Across Eternity is a beautiful love story that transcends time.
A Brief Chat With Aris:
One of the most asked questions I get is, “How do you pronounce your name?” Aris is pronounced heiress—and yes I wish I were one ;o) the next question is, “Did you always want to be a writer?” I never aspired to be a writer. However, I’ve always loved to read and write. Growing up, I would read anything from Readers Digest to Stephen King. When I was younger, I used to love to tell stories…my mom called them lies…but I considered it creative story telling… LOL. When I was 16 I picked up my first romance book (Once and Always by Judith McNaught) and I fell in love with the genre. When I was in college I wrote my first romance novel and it was then that I knew I wanted to be a writer.
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Tell us about the book:[Click above for more of James' novels] "What if they gave a war and nobody came?
Why, then the war would come to you!" Bertolt Brecht
Danny is a small town kid who believes in mom, the flag and apple pie. When all the people, things and institutions he trusts start to betray him, he starts to look for answers in the chaos of the 60's.
Drugs, race riots, and The Vietnam War---always The War--begin chasing him down the rabbit hole. Danny is desperate to find the light.
Finding the light means looking inside--the last place he wants to look. PLEASE NOTE: this book contains ADULT LANGUAGE and ADULT CONTENT. It is NOT meant for young teens or children. It will offend people who believe that war makes the world a better place.
Some Reviews:[Click above for James' blog]An early reviewer said, " This is an honest, candid recital of a naïve, mid-western college student propelled into the political turmoil prevalent in the early 1970's. Running from a controversial war that divided the country, Danny represents the generation that was torn between traditional patriotism and an ethical responsibility to his fellow man and to himself. The writing is authentic, his cynicism and derision reflective of the era, the topic ironically relevant, and the story innovative and compelling."
And another early reviewer said, "Once in awhile, a book comes along that has something new to say, and The Redemption of Danny Harper is just such a book. Not just a mere recounting of events, it showed me the heart and soul of a young man, growing up in the decade of Vietnam. This is the first time I've been privy to the real thoughts and feelings of a college-aged young man, faced with the possibility of being drafted into a war that makes no sense. An engaging, disturbing, and witty book, once you begin reading it's hard to tear yourself away."
Finally, this quote: "Elegant, brutal, I loved it. This book is like reading 'Huck Finn while listening to Steely Dan." William Logan Dewar 2011.
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Tell us about yourself:[Click above for James' Photography website]I become a new author at 60, after 35 years of running a commercial and retail photo studio. I always wrote, usually letters and poetry with some success, but never fiction--never a book. The book writing started by accident. I started with one little story I had been publishing orally over the years and then another and another. I realized I had a book of short stories in the making. And I realized they were all linked in time and character. Aha!--a book of linked short stories! From there, during my tenure at the prestigious School for Writers at Humber College in Toronto, Canada, I put the short stories together in my first novel, The Redemption of Danny Harper and published it through PublishGreen.
From there, after selling a few books, I went on to publish five more and have a few more up my sleeve now. I don't write in one genre. I like to write detective fiction, literary fiction and how-to books. My next project is a 20,000 word interview of a call girl illustrated with my photography. What genre is that?
I live in a cabin in rural Canada with my new wife Karen and our two dogs.
A Brief Chat With James:[Click above to email James]The Effects of the Digital Revolution on Two Professions: A Personal Perspective I was pro photographer, working full-time from 1977 until just recently. I never got rich, but did become modestly famous in Canada, always earning my keep. The business was fun, challenging and brought me into contact with hundreds and thousands of interesting people. The magic of guiding an image from my mind to a shutter click to final print, involved at every level with cutting edge technology and experimental techniques was a thrill. In the year 2000, I began the transition to digital and left behind my four enlargers and dry-to-dry colour processing machines. I left behind all the skills I had learned for printing art-level museum-quality black and white images. When I left the world of chemical photography, without bragging a bit, I was certainly one of the ten best printers in Canada and within the hundred best in the world. The quality of my work was not required or appreciated by my clients. Not complaining... I did it for me, not for them. I did it because it was right and not because I had to.
When I left my darkroom, I left behind $65,000 in precision technology backed by over 40 years of printing experience. I sold it all for $1700 and was glad to get any money at all.
I plunged into digital photography long before most of my colleagues and became a much more than competent digital photographer. I invested money and time into the new world of digital and for a while it paid off. I wowed my clients with tricks and fixes they could not believe. But slowly the business started to unravel, until now, stock photography has fallen in price to 1% of its former worth and wedding photography to 3% of what I charged in my heyday. Every soccer mom with a good camera and a laptop was in the game. And even printed pictures became secondary to screen images. The perceived value of professional photography became degraded to the point that I refused to be insulted by clients who were prepared to spend only a tiny fraction of what they were more than willing to spend just a few years before.
I quit. Not all at once, but let the business decline by half each year for enough years that it was no more.
And then I wrote a book. I sent it out to paper publishers and agents who ignored me or rejected me. Fine. I was not the first genius who was misunderstood by the gatekeeper in publishing. So I self-published it as an e-book and sold it for $2.99.
Does any of this sound familiar? What I am now doing in the world of publishing is exactly what the digital soccer moms were doing to me in photography. The soccer mom photographers did not have $65,000 in lab equipment and a high-street studio with $75,000 of sexy interior renovations and a staff of seven and a huge advertising budget and 40 years of experience. They just had a $500 camera, a night course in photography and a $500 laptop.
My pride would not allow me to stay in photography and earn peanuts with my skill level, which rivaled that of any medical doctor, but I had no sense of entitlement in the publishing world, as I had no track record or skill honed over five decades; so what did it matter to me that I was selling a 314 page novel for $2.99 instead of a hard-cover for $30.00? What did it matter to me if it was never printed on paper with an elegant font and beautiful layout with a dust jacket and creamy thick paper and solid traditional binding?
The digital sword cuts both ways and we love it or hate it depending on whether is in our hand or in our side.