Tag Archives: author publicity

Interview with Vincent Tuckwood, author of “Family Rules”

About Vincent Tuckwood

Vincent Tuckwood NewVincent Tuckwood is a story-teller working in fiction, song and verse. At any given point in time, he’s proud to be a father, husband, son, brother, cousin and friend to the people who mean the world to him.

He is the author of the novelsEscalationFamily RulesKaraoke Criminals and Do Sparrows Eat Butterflies? as well as the 2010 poetry collection, Garbled Glittering Glamours. His screenplays are Team Building and the screen adaptation of Family Rules, Inventing Kenny.

Vince regularly connects with his audience at VinceT.net and at his story-teller page on Facebook, often writing poetry in response to their prompts, and encourages everyone to get in touch there.

You can find out more about him and his work at http://vincet.net.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Vince. Can you tell us what your latest book, Family Rules, is all about?

A:  Sure, happy to be here.

Family Rules is the fictional memoir of Kenny Walsh, a former child star turned drug addict turned car thief, who decides to play Dad to a child he accidentally abducts.

As you can probably tell, Kenny’s doesn’t share the same sense of reality as you or I – and that’s really the core of the story: Kenny’s invented life. As this doesn’t come from mental illness, or sinister motive, it allows us to step into Kenny’s head and heart, so that we know why he makes these really questionable decisions.

The story has its own internal logic and poignancy and, in Kenny, a main character that we can root for even when he’s so far from our own normality.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

A: There are really two main characters in this story: Kenny, of course, and his junkie soul-mate, Ivvy. There’s also Bella, the child in the car, however she really acts as a mirror to Kenny and there’s not much more to say about her than that.

To understand Kenny, it’s really important to know that he spent the first five years of his life raised by a television-family, often being treated as little more than a prop or dummy. It’s also worth noting that his addictions began in those years, his minders giving him Valium in honey to keep him calm between scenes. The upshot is that psychologically, Kenny runs away from reality whenever it gets too close. He’s quite a poignant, tragic character; as a writer, he feels very real to me, more-so perhaps than any character I’d written before.

Ivvy is like the Yang to Kenny’s Yin. She’s a junkie cop, working undercover for Vice. Older than Kenny, she’s drawn to normality like a moth bashing its head against a porch light. This push-pull between Kenny and Ivvy is key to understanding their relationship. She’s clinging to him for some sense of a normality she can attain, while he’s repelled by her neediness because it feels too real.

The joy for me in writing Family Rules was to take these two damaged people and make them ‘parents’.

In terms of supporting characters, I think it’s easier to think of it as a story of three families. The first is Kenny, Ivvy and Bella. The second is Kenny’s make-believe television family, who we meet through Kenny’s flashbacks, each one adding further depth to our understanding of Kenny’s formative experiences. And then there are Kenny’s biological parents, who we never really meet as much more than Kenny’s perspective of them. I purposefully wanted them to be his caricature, so that the story stayed centered on him. They don’t seem like nice people… Though maybe that’s because I’ve only heard Kenny’s side of the story!

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

A: I would challenge any writer to give a categoric one-way-or-the-other on this question.

For me, characters have a number of sources: stereotypes, people I’ve known, people I see in the street or just sketches that develop over the course of a story.

More often than not, I’ll use snippets of people I know within the overall context of a character, the odd mannerisms or quirks. But very, very rarely do I use a whole person I know as the basis for a character. Most often, it’ll be the energy someone has – what new-agers would call ‘aura’ – that informs my characters, that sense of ‘when this person enters the room, it feels like…’

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

A: Again, this isn’t an either/or for me. I’ve written a couple of my novels very, very intuitively – Family Rules and Do Sparrows Eat Butterflies? – whereas Karaoke Criminals and, most recently, Escalation, had a more structured plot. In all cases, I knew the critical pieces of the plot going in, the key decisions that the characters would make and the resulting impact. For me, the writing always aims to get the characters to those decisions and actions in way that makes us believe it when we get there. That said, the journey is always a voyage of discovery, even when the plot is defined.

In Family Rules, I had the elements of Kenny – the former child star, the addiction and the decision to play Dad to Bella – but all the contextual, formative experiences I described were discovered live in the writing – it’s exhilarating when such creativity happens, but I know it can take me to writer’s block if I’m not careful.

Conversely, with Escalation, I had the whole structure, chapter by chapter, with the players and outcomes that needed to happen. That way I got to enjoy fleshing out the intrigue and bringing the characters to vivid life. The writing was lean and focused, and the rewrite so much easier than when I’ve had to rework intuitive writing.

 

From my experience with Escalation, which was such great fun to write, I’ll very likely structure every story now.

Q: Your book is set in New York City.  Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

A: There are a few reasons.

Firstly, there’s something about the Big Apple that allows for weird things happening. It’s a very, very diverse and inclusive city, with a lot of people on the street, and so the idea of a guy being able to hide in the open with his make-believe child is more possible, I think. I needed somewhere for Kenny to get lost without hiding, and frankly, for someone looking to disappear, New York is ideal.

Secondly, I got the idea for Family Rules when we were living in Manhattan for a year. I’ve always been struck by real-life news stories where babies are deserted at hospital doors in the middle of winter and, while walking the streets in NYC the night before garbage collection, suddenly had a vision of a baby lying in amongst the garbage bags crying out. That became the initial “I wonder what would happen if…” that eventually grew into FAMILY RULES – with some additional ideas colliding in, of course, not least of which was having a child discovered by someone totally unprepared for it.

Finally, the city and I have something of a history. I worked summer camps throughout the late 80’s and my first experience of the city was being ripped off by an illegal cabbie and left in the middle of the city with only 3 dollars and a scrap of paper with a phone number of a friend’s sister. If you look carefully in the book, you’ll find that scene reflected specifically, though maybe only my guardian angel and I may know it for definite. But elsewhere, the sights and sounds of New York that populate the novel are all part of my experience set.

Although we’d moved out of the city when I wrote the majority of Family Rules, I was travelling in pretty regularly for work and getting my fix of the energy. I like to think of Family Rules as my own, personal take on a “New York Story”.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

A: Not so much in the development of character and plot. But in the landscape, both geographic and energetic, I think it’s critical. It’s a gritty, compelling, energetic city and I wanted that flow in the landscape of Family Rules; the press and commotion forcing Kenny to quick decisions that align with his invented life.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

A: It’s Chapter 16: ‘A Darkening Sky’, and one of the most telling scenes in the novel. Kenny and Ivvy are lying stoned in Central Park watching the stars come out. Ivvy – leaning towards reality as always – forcefully comes on to Kenny, who has a visceral, panicked reaction, fleeing into a flashback of his make-believe Mum and Grandad sparring on the set of ‘Family Rules!’

It’s one of those moments when their Yin-Yang is exposed. It’s a very sensate moment, sight, sound, smell all coming alive. Kenny’s panic in this chapter feels very real.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

A: I can’t tell you what’s the best, but I’ll give you one section from early in the book, which, I think, touches on how New York flows into Kenny’s experience:

“I lay on a bench in Washington Square one night, wrapped in desolation.

A wino was crashed out two or three benches along. There had been a minor scuffle earlier, when another guy tried to take his pitch. Little more than hair pulling, slapping and drunken, missed punches, but more than enough to bring my situation home to me.

I was tired, hadn’t eaten for a couple of days and didn’t know what I was going to do about the mess I was in.

I was scared.

It had been two weeks since I’d walked out of my parents’ apartment.

Two weeks. A pitifully short time to grow so despondent. I felt like I’d been alone for a lifetime.

Which, given my parents, was closer to the truth than I cared to admit.

Across the square, a drug deal was going down and I was sure it must have been a set-up, it was so blatant. But there were no flashing lights, no blaring sirens, no S.W.A.T. team dashing from shadows to take them out.

They faded away into the night, rejoining the gloom.

My misery deepened as I lay on the bench.

It was Spring, warm enough to stay out most nights; not like Winter, when my breath felt like it might freeze in my throat. Despite the evening’s warmth, though, it might as well have been ice, desperation and hypothermia, I felt so wretched.

Lying in the darkness, the wino snoring, dealers coasting, awaiting their next buyer, I was so close to tears it made me shudder.

Then it came from a stereo in an upstairs apartment, a minor chord drifting across the square like a whisper.

A guitar, electric.

B. B. King.

Unmistakable.

Soft horns in the background; Lucille lifting the darkness for a moment.

‘The Thrill is Gone’ filled Washington Square.

Everyone was still.

Shadows within shadows grew apparent, people I hadn’t even known were there, some of them sniffing back tears, some just humming along.

The guy three benches along woke up and railed at the apartment window: “Shut the f*** up, we’re trying to sleep down here!”

A rock came out of the darkness and hit his shoulder.

B. B. played on regardless.

By the end of the first chorus, some of the shadows were singing.

Me, I turned over and let the music soothe me to sleep.

B.B. King’s guitar melted the night into ice cream and shadows.

I dreamt of twirling carousels and red fairy lights, screaming wheels and ozone bitterness, of the yelps and screams of teenage girls; rough answers from over-protective boyfriends, all bravado and testosterone. My dreams left me spinning, dizzy with vertigo and confusion.

When I woke, in the early hours of dawn, the guy two or three benches along had been knifed and I was the only person within twenty yards of him.”

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Vince.  We wish you much success!

A: It’s been my pleasure – I hope to see you over at http://VinceT.net some time soon!

 

About Family Rules

Family Rules NewNew York. In this city that never sleeps, anyone could make a brand new start of it. Or so the song goes.

For some people, starting again is no option.

Kenny is adrift in the city, tormented by the scars and memories of his unique upbringing as a child star in the UK, chasing any addiction that can fill the void he carries at his core.

Increasingly unable to paper over the cracks, to numb himself with street corner narcotics, or build an abiding relationship with his junkie soul-mate Ivvy, he turns to stealing cars to provide momentary escape from his increasingly desolate life.

Estranged from his parents, Kenny has no hope or vision of a better future.

Until one night he steals a car from a gas station in New Jersey and is offered an unexpected, final opportunity for redemption; a radically different role to play.

Family Rules is an intense personal account of an invented life, where all the rules of family life are inverted, and of the damage done when the boundary between reality and television is truly no boundary at all.

1 Comment

Filed under Author Interviews

Legal Thriller Author Chris Shella on new book ‘Reasonable Facsimile’

Chris ShellaAuthor Chris Shella is a graduate of Morehouse College and the University of Texas Law School and started his legal career in Long Island, New York at the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office. He is admitted to the practice of law in New York, Maryland, the District of Columbia, and North Carolina. Shella is also admitted to the federal court in the Eastern District of North Carolina, the Middle District of North Carolina, U.S. District of Columbia, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, the Eastern District of New York, and the Southern District of New York.He is also admitted to the Bar Of The United States Supreme Court. He and his cases have been covered on Court TV, CNN, and in the New York Times, and other media outlets across the globe. He has represented everyone from lawyers to major drug traffickers to a serial killer in Baltimore. His two most famous case are the Vegan Baby Case and his defense of the Duke Lacrosse Case accuser for the alleged murder of her boyfriend.

Chris now resides in Durham, North Carolina, with his wife and son.

His latest book is the legal thriller, Reasonable Facsimile.

You can visit his website at www.reasonablefacs.com.

Reasonable FacsimileWebsite | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes & Noble | Lulu | Borders

About Reasonable Facsimile

Can Jasper Davis pull himself from his life of loose women, liquor, and general debauchery in enough time to win a murder case and possibly save his own hide ? Jasper Davis is a criminal trial lawyer in Baltimore who has slowly but surely become like the drug dealers and lowlifes he represents. He spends more time with hookers than clients and more time drinking Jack Daniels than studying the law books. Simply put. he is a shade of his former self. In Reasonable Facsimile, Jasper is in the middle of a first degree murder trial when he becomes the suspect in the murder of a DEA agent who was set to testify against his client. Jasper is so far gone on women and liquor he sees his trial skills deteriorate right before his eyes. Jasper is confronted by the situation is he gonna continue to be a reasonable facsimile of a human being or is he gonna become the man he once was.

Interview

Q: Thank you for this interview, Chris. Can you tell us what your latest book, “Reasonable Facsimile”, is all about?

Can Jasper Davis pull himself from his life of loose women, liquor, and general debauchery in enough time to win a murder case and possibly save his own hide ? Jasper Davis is a criminal trial lawyer in Baltimore who has slowly but surely become like the drug dealers and lowlifes he represents. He spend more times with hookers than clients and more time drinking Jack Daniels than studying the lawbooks. Simply put. he is a shade of his former self. In Reasonable Facsimile, Jasper is in the middle of a first degree murder trial when he becomes the suspect in the murder of a DEA agent who was set to testify against his client. Jasper is so far gone on women and liquor he sees his trial skills deteriorate right before his eyes. Jasper is confronted by the situation is he gonna continue to be a reasonable facsimile of a human being or is he gonna become the man he once was.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Jasper is a lawyer who has seen better days and is a shell of a man. He has lost the spark of life and is just trudging along toward the end of his life. His book is his crosssroads. Will Jasper continue on this path or will he choose a real life again.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

Well, it more of a mixture. Some characters are total fabrications. Others are a mixture of several people and several different life choices or traits that they have exhibited.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

I’m aware of the plot, but not how it will end.

Q: Your book is set in Baltimore, Maryland.  Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

Baltimore is a vibrant city that is living and dying at the same time. As a trial lawyer, I have never seen a courthouse and  its denizens as lively and wild as in Bodymore, Murdaland.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

It does. The trial in the book is based on Maryland Criminal Procedure and the quirks therein. 

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

Interestingly enough, that page finds Jasper indulging in an intimate fantasy with dreamgirls.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

PRELUDE: CRACKED BONES

`        The sickening crunch of a tooth being forced out of a jaw by a work boot was audible 50 feet from where it happened. Picture a 6’4 monster strong, malevolent, and angered, raining misery on a small 72 year old man without the strength to defend himself. Blood rolls down the streets in rivulets, coalescing on a bottle cap here and curb there. All of it fleeing the scene of the crime. Like the old man wish he could have. All the while this circus is going on; a throng of 30 + people watch this macabre dance of death. No one is doing anything to stop it. No one is doing anything to call the police. Faces mesmerized by the shattered bones and ruined shell of an old man.  Sounds of agony escape destroyed lips. Mercifully, the coup de grace.  A bullet snuffs out the pain, the agony, and the life of a man. With a laugh, the assailant puts away the gun, hails a hack and leaves the old man as an obscene monument to the end of life. Linwood White is dead. A murderer has fled the scene. Baltimore street justice or a reasonable facsimile?

Thank you so much for this interview, Chris.  We wish you much success!

1 Comment

Filed under Author Interviews

Interview with K.S. Krueger, Author of Traegonia the Ember Rune

Kim Krueger is a wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend. She is a writer, businesswoman, Reiki practitioner and spiritual person. She loves animals, nature and kids. Kim has lived in the Suburbs of Chicago all her life. She is creative and always tries to foster creativity in her own children as well as in others. Although her background has been in business, Kim has always loved to write. She has written poetry and several children’s stories originally for her eldest daughter. Kim enjoys the idea of seeing the world through the eyes of her imagination and finds herself submerged in the worlds she creates. Imagination has never been in short supply ever since she was a child.

You can visit Kim’s website at www.WorldOfTraegonia.com.

About Traegonia the Ember Rune

Welcome to The World of Traegonia where two young Traegons turn one boy’s ordinary world into something truly extraordinary. Where trees are homes, hawks are transportation, fairies exist and the creatures of the forests have their own stories to tell. Open yourself to possibility that just beyond the forest tree line a very different reality exists.

Traegonia the Ember Rune, the second book in the Traegonia series, continues the adventures of a young boy and a community of, mystical creatures of the forest known as, Traegons. These sixteen inch tall forest dwelling creatures, that resemble a cross between a troll and a wingless dragon, are wise and inquisitive. Although, they may appear scary at first they are actually quite kind and civilized. When Dino is faced with leaving, Karia and Juna, his two young Traegon friends behind when his parents decide to go on vacation, he decides to smuggle them on board a plane to California. His family vacation turns into an adventure of a lifetime when they meet two young girls and a bold and a bit wild young Traegon named Fletch. This Northern California Mountain holds danger, mystery and a path of learning for each of these new friends.  Faced with forces of nature, a rogue cougar and the evolution of their own journeys, the group of unlikely friends must believe in themselves and each other to uncover the meaning of the Ember Rune and get off the mountain safely. New friendships are made, old ones revealed and a new community of Traegons is introduced.  Join Dino, Karia and Juna on this second exciting adventure and decide for yourself…. Do they exist?

Do you Believe?

Q: Thank you for this interview, Kim. Can you tell us what your latest book, Traegonia the Ember Rune, is all about?

I would love to. Traegonia the Ember Rune, is the second book in the Traegonia series and continues the adventures of a young boy and a community of mystical creatures of the forest known as Traegons. These sixteen inch tall forest dwelling creatures that resemble a cross between a troll and a wingless dragon, are wise and inquisitive. Although, they may appear scary at first they are actually quite kind and civilized. When Dino is faced with leaving Karia and Juna, his two young Traegon friends, behind when his parents decide to go on vacation, he decides to smuggle them on board a plane to California. His family vacation turns into an adventure of a lifetime when they meet two young girls and a bold and a bit wild young Traegon named Fletch. This Northern California Mountain holds danger, mystery and a path of learning for each of these new friends. Faced with forces of nature, a rogue cougar and the evolution of their own journeys, the group of unlikely friends must believe in themselves and each other to uncover the meaning of the Ember Rune and get off the mountain safely. New friendships are made, old ones revealed and a new community of Traegons is introduced.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

There are three main characters in the Traegonia series. Dino, a young human boy who befriends two young Traegons, and of course the two young Traegons by the names of Karia and Juna. These three and their friendship is the basis of the series. They will always be at the center of the adventure and learning. The supporting characters are Dino’s mom and dad, his best friend Quinn, the community of Traegons who are where Karia and Juna are from, along with Jade and Autumn two young girls from California and a whole new community of Traegons. There are more characters like the team of smoke jumpers and a young couple who are smaller characters, but I believe that every character is really important to the whole of the book and the series.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

The characters are individual and unique, with their own incredible personalities. Most of the characters are not based off of any one person in particular, but a blend of bits of myself and others, some who I know intimately and others whose mannerisms may have inspired certain elements of different characters; possibly someone who may have simply walked into my booth at one of the shows where I sell my books or stood and talked with me at length about the sculptures, life or nature. There are a handful of characters that are truly based off of particular people and those are the people who have had Dino create sculptures that were made in their likeness or I like to say essence. It is of course not a perfect match; it is a Traegon who embodies a personality, passion, mannerism or maybe just a favorite color. I believe there are maybe four of them. There is also one human character in our first book, Traegonia the Sunbow Prophecy, which was named for someone who gave me permission to use a phrase that fit the story perfectly. He was from the Illinois Audubon Society and as we spoke, some of the things he mentioned oddly enough had already been worked into the story. Some of the characters have names that are based off of the names of mine and Dino’s children. Oh, and I suppose if you count the fact that the main human character is named Dino and the Sculptor and illustrator’s name is Dino, but you will have to figure out if they are one in the same. Because that just might make the book non-fiction. Hummm, is it real?

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

I have a general idea of the premise of what the book is going to be about as well as where it is going to go. But for the most part it in itself is as much a journey of discovery and a constant progression that changes and evolves. It is such an exciting way to write. It is also really fun that it is a series that is evolving as the first books have already been released, because you never know who or what may inspire a scene or a character.

Q: Your book is set in the mountains of Northern California. Can you tell us why you chose this area in particular?

I knew the second book would deal with the element of fire and California has beautiful dense forest, and wonderful plant and wildlife that make an awesome addition and perfect place where Traegons would live. There are also several forest fires every year that allowed me to work in the fire aspect to the story line.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Absolutely! For the Traegonia books the setting is an integral part of who the characters are, how they live, who the other creatures and humans they will meet will be and what will happen throughout each story. The first two books take place in rural settings, which is where most Traegons are found, but book three is going to be a little different and lots of fun, because we are going to have the opportunity to see Traegons in a very urban setting, one of the largest cities in the United States. Ever misplace or accidentally lose something on the train. Don’t be too hard on yourself. We just might be able to solve that mystery.

Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?

This is such a fun question, and what is even more fun is that this happens to be one of my favorite parts in the book. Oh and just for the record this is page 69 from the paperback. The pages are slightly different from paperback to hardcover. Anyway, here is what is happening.

In the baggage pick up area of the airport the animals are being brought out to the area where they will be picked up. Karia and Juna never made it back into Dino’s suitcase but hitched a ride in a large dog crate with a young hound dog with huge floppy ears named Fanblade. Juna reaches through the front of the crate and unlatches the door. They are waiting for the perfect time to slip out when Fanblade pushed them out of the crate as he escapes himself, into the crowd of people. This becomes the perfect distraction for Karia and Juna to find their way back to their friend Dino.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

I don’t know if this is the best but it is where Karia meets Kamara, for the first time. Kamara is a favorite character in sculpture form; she is a very nontraditional fairy godmother type character. You can see the sculpture of Kamara at our website at http://www.worldoftraegonia.com/meet-the-characters/

Juna pulled the wagon off to the side of the path, and Karia jumped out. She headed back in the direction they had come from. She walked slowly through the market, scanning each cart for the thing that had caught her eye. She stopped at a rickety old crooked wagon, obscured on either side by two large bushes. She looked carefully over the vast array of items on display. Everything lying on the L-shaped stand that jutted out at the back of the open wagon, looked to be very old and somewhat dull. Karia visually examined each piece, hoping that whatever it was that had caught her attention would show itself. She looked over the stand a second time and then wondered if it might have been at a different wagon. As she turned to look at the other wagons, a gravelly voice called her back.

“Is this what you seek, youngling?”

Karia turned slowly back around. Standing before her, shrouded in the shadows, was a Traegon whom she had never seen before, a she-Traegon who looked to be as old as the land itself. When the she-Traegon stepped forward, Karia could see that she was short and bent. She walked with a bit of a limp and had one milky white eye that startled Karia when the old she-Traegon turned her head. On the top of her knurly walking cane was perched a crooked blackbird. He was scrawny, and his feathers were separated, with many missing, as if he were in a constant state of molting. He was unkempt, and his color was dingy, unlike the sleek, shiny black feathers of Oracle Balstar’s raven, Sable. His chirp was more of a raspy squawk. Karia’s eyes followed down the she-Traegons crooked and outstretched arm to an even more crooked hand with long, wiry, bent fingers that held a shiny, circular object. It was flat but thick, a round silver amulet with crude markings and three curved grooves that came from the edges and met in the center. It was a simple piece, not anything stunning.

Karia knew at once it was what she had spotted, even though she had no idea what it was. Little did she know the power it held.

“Yes, that is it! That is what I was searching for,” Karia replied in a puzzled tone. “Was that sitting on this cart moments ago?”

“No, my dear. It has been in a box inside my wagon since I first came to possess it. This, youngling, is not for just any Traegon.”
The old she-Traegon coughed a bit. “I believe everything has one to which it belongs, and I believe this belongs to you.” Her crooked arm reached further out of the shadow of the shaded cart and placed the item into Karia’s hand.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Kim. We wish you much success!

Thank you, for the opportunity to share about our book series and sculpture collection. We invite you to drop by our website at www.worldoftraegonia.com and our Facebook at World of Traegonia to view our sculptures on our meet the characters page and our video clips on our sightings page. Maybe you too will believe!

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Interviews

A Conversation with NeonSeon, author of “Life of Shouty: Food and Fitness”

About NeonSeon

Creating Shouty Mack as a comic strip for a high school newspaper, NeonSeon developed Life of Shouty as a book series for children in 2010. NeonSeon grew up in Chicago’s Hyde Park community and currently resides in Atlanta. Honors include a Mom’s Choice Award for Life of Shouty: Good Habits.

For more information, visit www.SHOUTY.com.

The Interview

What is your favorite quality about yourself?

My ability to relate to others and see life through multiple perspectives.

What is your least favorite quality about yourself?

I can be too critical of myself.

What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why?

“What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” attributed to Robert H. Schuller. I love this quote because it frees me to think about a wide-open future.

What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?

I’m most proud of my ability to learn new things and acquire new skills year after year.

How has your upbringing influenced your writing?

My home was filled with positive and motivational books, and these themes are found in the Life of Shouty Series. My upbringing was also very creative, and without that, I probably wouldn’t have volunteered to be the cartoonist for the high school newspaper, and thus create the comic strip Shouty Mack.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

Certain books gave me so much joy that it was natural to want to elicit that in others through writing. I read Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” in eighth grade and it blew me away.

When and why did you begin writing?

I wrote short stories for fun when I was younger, and I had several writing internships in college. I was an English major so I was always writing papers. I have always enjoyed writing.

How long have you been writing?

The Life of Shouty Series came out in 2010, but I’ve been writing since I was able.

When did you first know you could be a writer?

I’ve always known I could be a writer.

What inspires you to write and why?

The human condition inspires me, and the journey of growth. Laughter. Play.

What genre are you most comfortable writing?

Non-fiction comes easiest but rhyming is fun.

What inspired you to write your first book?

My character, Shouty. I knew I had to write and develop a series for him. He is relatable, lovable and imperfect.

Who or what influenced your writing once you began?

I like to let the story unfold so I would say it’s more of a stream of consciousness process guided by rhyme. “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron helped to get me out creative blocks, as well.

Who or what influenced your writing over the years?

What has helped me the most over the years is looking at other people’s edits or suggestions of my work. For that moment, I get to see how their brains work and in so doing, it expands the possibilities I see in the act and process of writing.

What made you want to be a writer?

I didn’t necessarily want to be a writer or set out to be one. I just wanted to tell a story and bring a character to life, and writing was the medium I chose.

What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?

Getting over your own doubts to realize the project and developing a good arc for the story.

Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it?

I’ve struggled with making healthy choices most of my life and writing Life of Shouty: Food & Fitness taught me you can still contribute something of value in an area you’ve yet to conquer.

About Life of Shouty: Food and Fitness

Life of Shouty Food and FitnessShouty returns with a new challenge: his health. The second book in the Life of Shouty™ series by award-winning author and illustrator NeonSeon shows Shouty’s ups and downs on the path to wellness.

Like many of us, Shouty places a premium on being a productive person, and crossing items off his daily to-do list. While healthy food and fitness don’t make his list of priorities, Shouty is unaware of the impact this has on his declining health. Over time, Shouty becomes painfully aware that he must make lifestyle changes to improve his health, quality of life, and self-esteem.

Touching on themes of overeating, obesity, and inactivity, Shouty’s journey is illustrated in a way that captures his despair, as well as his ultimate triumph.

Debuting on Child Health Day, it is NeonSeon’s hope that this book affirms the importance of making healthy choices in one’s life and helps readers envision healthier versions of themselves. If you’ve ever found yourself on either end of the health spectrum, or are making your way somewhere in the middle, Shouty hits several notes on his path that will surely sound familiar.

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Interviews

A Conversation with Gregory Earls, author of “Empire of Light”

When Gregory Earls isn’t eating at Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles, he pays the bills by taking up space at 20th Century Fox in the Feature Post Production Department. He’s a proud graduate of Norfolk State University and the American Film Institute, where he studied cinematography. He’s an award-winning director who has amassed a reel of short films, music videos, and (yes) a wedding video or two. Steadfastly butchering the Italian language since 2002, he hopes to someday master the language just enough to inform his in-laws how much he loves their daughter, Stefania, who was born and raised in Milan, Italy. Gregory currently resides in Venice, California where he goes giddy every time he spots that dude who roller skates and plays the electric guitar at the same time. During football season, he can be found at the Stovepiper Lounge, a Cleveland Browns bar in the Valley where he roots for the greatest football team in the history of Cleveland.

Visit his website at www.gregoryearls.com.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Gregory. Can you tell us what your latest book, Empire Of Light, is all about?

A: Empire Of Light is kind of a coming of age novel. It revolves around an insecure film school student named Jason and his first trip to Europe. His voyage flips into mad adventure when his vintage Brownie camera magically unleashes all the sex, violence, religion and humor captured on canvas by the infamous artist, Caravaggio. During the journey, he finds the tools he needs to become a confident man and an artist.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

A: Besides Jason, there’s his film school mentor and Cinematography Dean, Howard Edgerton. Edge is an old Hollywood cameraman, and he reminds Jason of an older silver-haired, Cary Grant. He also talks and thinks fast, like he’s in a Howard Hawks film. His idiosyncratic trait is that he’s always tipping Jason a twenty, in hopes that he’ll use it to improve his crappy wardrobe.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

A: This effort is a bit autobiographical; and it definitely references celebrities behind the camera and in the art world. However, this is an aberration for me. Most of the time, my characters are made up.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

A: When writing screenplays I’ve been hyper aware of the plot, mostly because you have to be conscious of production logistics (depending on the project). I was a bit loose with having the plot nailed down before beginning Empire Of Light. After being pigeon holed all these years, it was nice to let the plot somewhat develop organically.

Q: Your book is set in Los Angeles, Paris, Rome and Naples. Can you tell us why you chose these cities in particular?

A: Don’t forget Cleveland! Ha! This reminds me of that famous Willie Sutton quote. When asked why he robbed banks Willie replied, “Because that’s where the money is.” Caravaggio doesn’t have a large body of work, but these three cities seem to have the most of ‘em. If I do a sequel, I might have to include Texas, Dublin and Sicily.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

A: Jason is a fish out of water, but he’s trying to evolve and grow some legs. He’s not the “Ugly American,” because the guy attempts to speak the language, even though he butchers Italian like it’s a side of beef. It’s funny and awkward to see him stumble through a new world and try to come out on the other end intact. His life, eventually, depends on him accepting his lot in life and embracing it.

Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?

A: Jason is on the plane headed to Paris. A rude Frenchman sitting behind him has just shaken the hell out of Jason’s headrest in protest of him reclining his seat too far back. A gorgeous flight attendant is on the scene to apply justice.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

A:

“There’s my little pyromaniac!”

Goddamn it. Edgerton is here.

Edge has been visiting sets all year, making sure we don’t do anything stupid (i.e. illegal Power Box tie-ins). I turn around and find him leaning on the camera, dressed as if he’s going to visit Hef at the Playboy mansion, fifty years ago.

“Tell me son, just what the hell are you wearing?” he asks, referring to my Flaming Carrot t-shirt.

“The Flaming Carrot? He fights crime while wearing this giant carrot mask with a huge flame shooting out the top of his head.”

“Why you little pervert. I know you little Neanderthals won’t wear ties on set anymore, but do you have to advertise your sick little desires on a t-shirt? This is the AFI! Leave the latent cock imagery for the hippies at NYU. What the hell did you do with that twenty I gave you?”

“You expected me to buy—”

“Would it kill you to wear a pair of chinos and a nice oxford?” he interrupts. “It could be a pink oxford if that turns you on.”

“I’m not gay.”

“Not my business and that’s the whole point, isn’t it?”

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Gregory. We wish you much success!

A: Thanks so much for the opportunity! Hope we can do it again someday soon.

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Interviews

Interview with Fantasy Author David Brown

About David Brown

David BrownDavid Brown was born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, and first conceived the idea of the Elencheran Chronicles at college in 1999. He spent ten years compiling the history of Elenchera, resulting in 47,000+ years of events, 500+ maps, 2000+ pages, several short stories and many much-needed acquaintances with Jack Daniels.

David also has a blog, The World According to Dave (http://blog.elenchera.com), which features reviews, stories and dramatic tales of the horrors of owning cats.

David now lives in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, with his wife, Donna, and their six cats.

Fezariu’s Epiphany is his first novel. David is currently working on his second.

Q: Thank you for this interview, David. Can you tell us what your latest book, Fezariu’s Epiphany, is all about?

The novel follows the character of Fezariu who suffers a disruptive childhood after being abandoned by his mother. He longs to escape from his past and turns to the Merelax Mercenaries – a prestigious force of hired hands. Fezariu becomes a success but the past refuses to let go and he has to face it once and for all.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Fezariu is the central character, a gifted mercenary but very withdrawn following the events of his past. He maintains contact with his childhood friend, Alycea, who works in a bakery and remains his only link to the past. In the mercenaries Fezariu has friends in his teacher, General Bayard, as well as three fellow recruits – Tessera, Vintaro and Arshea. Each character has a significant part to play in Fezariu’s journey, giving him the strength and belief to overcome his fear of the past and move on with his life. Finally, there is Fezariu’s mother, Jessamine, who abandons him when he is just a boy but continues to haunt him into adulthood.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

They largely come from my imagination but certain traits of people I have known sometimes creep in. Vintaro’s jovial nature and love of drinking could be attributed to many people I know. General Bayard’s selective hearing is based on a former work colleague.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

The main aspects of the plot are generally in place before I start writing but once I have begun I may find that the characters make changes and seem to decide for themselves how they want to get from A to B! Those are the best moments for me when writing. You almost don’t have to think as the characters take charge and you become a passenger, writing what they tell you to.

Q: Your book is set in Elenchera. Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

Elenchera is the fictitious world where all my novels will be set. Fezariu’s Epiphany begins in a city called Clarendon in Odrica but moves to neighbouring Merelax Island where the mercenaries are trained before heading overseas to the colonies of Emeraldon and Himordia where dangerous fighting takes place. I wanted to give the reader a good taste of Elenchera and I feel that the novel does that.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

The colonies are spoken of frequently in the early stages of the novel and they are the ultimate dream for every Merelax mercenary, full of potential riches and rewards. While Fezariu is training his mind is focused on the assignments out in the colonies but back home the city of Clarendon holds the key to his turbulent past and it is there that Fezariu must return to be free of the ghosts from his childhood.

Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?

Fezariu’s mother has abandoned him, leaving him with his stepfather and childhood friend, Alycea. The three people left behind are struggling to pick up the pieces following the departure of Jessamine. This is where Fezariu’s childhood begins to damage him severely.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

From Chapter 20:

From the stern of the flagship, Fezariu observed the mercenaries in the ocean closing on the harbour and immediately sheathed his sword.
‘Over the side,’ he said to the nearby mercenaries.
‘What do you mean over the side?’ Vintaro asked, incredulous. ‘They’re abandoning the city. There’s nothing we can do about it.’
‘We still have an assignment here and I am not going to let the cowardice of these merchants prevent me from fulfilling my duties. These ships won’t survive the night but we will if we abandon them now.’
‘I’m with you, Fezariu,’ Tessera said, securing her bow over her shoulder.
Together, Fezariu and Tessera leapt from the stern of the flagship and began swimming towards Redemption leaving behind a gathering of indecisive mercenaries.
‘He must be mad,’ Vintaro growled, before a projectile flew narrowly past the flagship and struck another merchant vessel, causing irreparable damage and a mass exodus of mercenaries into the ocean. Vintaro grimaced and looked back at the fading forms of Fezariu and Tessera before puffing his cheeks. ‘Madness has never seemed more appealing.’ With that, Vintaro secured his axe by his side and abandoned the flagship as well.
Arshea watched Vintaro initially struggle in the cold water before finding his rhythm and swimming quickly away from the flagship. To his left another of the merchant ships was struck by the valkayans’ projectiles and immediately capsized in the face of the mortal wound inflicted upon its hull.
‘This may be foolish,’ Arshea said, looking up at the fiery skies and thinking of Melea, ‘but I love you too much to see our story ended on this night.’
Arshea leapt from the stern into the ocean, descending briefly beneath the surface of the water before re-emerging to the sound of a heavy splash in the water. Another projectile had struck the ocean, almost hitting Mattias’ ship. Arshea whispered Melea’s name, promising he would give everything in Redemption for their future but would return alive.
Now only the flagship still stood though its sails had been torn by projectiles that had narrowly missed their target. The missiles continued to hit the ocean close to the ship, drawing ever nearer with every attempt from the meticulous valkayan rebels. On the stern the bulk of the mercenaries remained in a hopeless cycle of indecision. The farther away Redemption became the less inclined they felt about committing themselves to the dark and uninviting waters below.
On the prow Mattias had been desperately trying to regain control of his ship and steer her back towards Redemption but he was now sitting on the far side of the deck with his hands bound. He beseeched his crew to at least take the vessel away from its straight course but they saw no value in listening to the pleading words of one who would have sailed them into the cesspit of their own doom.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, David. We wish you much success!

Thank you for having me. I’ve really enjoyed the questions and hope that your readers have enjoyed learning more about Fezariu’s Epiphany.

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Interviews

As the Pages Turn Chats with Lynn Voedisch, author of “The God’s Wife”

Lynn Voedisch is a Chicago journalist and fiction writer with many years experience working for newspapers and magazines. She is a member of the America Society of Journalists and Authors and the Society of Midland Authors, where she is one the board of directors. She started out as editor of her college newspaper at Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa, and went on to work for WBBM-TV, Chicago; Pioneer Press in suburban Chicago, the Los Angeles Times, and spent a 17-year stint at the Chicago Sun-Times. She was an entertainment reporter and technology reporter there and helped develop the newspaper’s fledgling Web site. The site and staff won Best Innovation from the Inland Daily Press Association and the Dvorak Award for Web content.

She has been on television (“Chicago Tonight”) and radio (WBEZ-FM) talk shows, discussing arts topics that affect the city. After leaving the Sun-Times, she pursued a freelance career where she was published in the Chicago Tribune and in the Industry Standard, Grok and Connect-Time (all technology magazines). She also did arts stories for Dance Magazine and the Tribune. A short story of hers, “Wili,” was published inFolio literary magazine in Winter, 2001. She is now working on fiction. Her first novel, “Excited Light” (ASJA Press, $14.95) is available at Amazon.com, bn.com,booksamillion.com and can be ordered at any Barnes & Noble store. Her current novel, “The God’s Wife” (Fiction Studio Books, $9.99 e-book, $16.95 paperback) goes on sale Aug. 9.

Visit her website at http://www.lynnvoedisch.com/TheGodsWife-LV.com/Welcome.html

Q: Thank you for this interview, Lynn. Can you tell us what your latest book, “The God’s Wife,” is all about?

A: “The God’s Wife” tells the story of a 16-year-old girl who is chosen to become the God’s Wife of Amun, who in ancient Egypt, is a powerful priestess—second only to the pharaoh in power. However, she is poorly prepared for her role and finds herself mired in politics and sexual harassment. She begins losing her grip on her role. Meanwhile, millennia away, a young dancer in modern Chicago is dancing the role of an Egyptian and in over-reseaching her role begins to have fainting spells and vivid dreams of being in Egypt. She starts recognizing the world of the God’s Wife and soon the two start to see and speak to each other in an eerie dream world. What’s pulling these worlds together? Is it magic or science? And what does it mean to these two linked women?

Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

A: Neferet, the God’s Wife of Amun, is strong and determined in her character, but is being pushed around by her bossy mother, Meryt. She needs the high goals that her contemporary twin, Rebecca Kirk, sends to her across the centuries. Neferet also has a lover, Kamose, who is strong and soothing and provides a place for her to vent her fears. Rebecca’s boyfriend, Jonas, does the exact same thing for her. I tried to create symmetry between the lives of the two female protagonists.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

A: They are totally from my imagination.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

A: I always discover things as I write, but I did have a general idea of where it was all going. For one thing I knew how it would end, and worked the plot toward that finish.

Q: Your book is set in ancient Egypt and in Chicago. Can you tell us why you chose these places in particular?

A: I picked ancient Egypt because I wanted to write about the God’s Wife of Amun, which was such a fascinating concept for me. A woman that powerful in an ancient culture is something I needed to explore. Chicago I picked because it’s my hometown and I love writing about the city and all its wonderful, character-filled neighborhoods.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

A: Absolutely. Egypt casts a spell on you, and I know because I’ve traveled there. The hot sun, the statuary, the long avenues of sandstone, the ever-flowing Nile, all fill you with a sense of a civilization built for eternity. There is a serenity there. Chicago is lot more busy.

Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?

A: Nefert’s evil half-brother tries to attack her in the holy chapel of Amun, but she dodges him and sends him off down the hallway. Then she calls the royal guard

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

A:“From the primeval nothingness, proceeded Amun,” was the chant. Fewer people waved them on this time, but she sat still, with her back erect on the unforgiving wood sedan chair, balancing the wig with expert grace. In her confusion, she hung on to what the priests had taught her over her weeks of training.

Door after door gave way to the procession until they faced a hut-sized entrance with a red door allowing passage for only one or two persons at a time. She and Nebhotep had permission to touch it. She descended from the litter, aided by the priests, and stood, legs quivering under her linen gown, before the portal. She pounded once upon the wood, and the priests all bent forward prostrate on the floor. The way opened. She drew herself up, steadied her breath and faced the blue icon of the god Amun. He sat, life-sized, on a granite pedestal. His eyes, of the most uncanny stones, followed her every movement, even the shift of her eyes.

As instructed, she placed an armful of flowers at the god’s feet. Priests, bent over and mumbling apologies to the great Amun, handed her food to lay at the icon’s pedestal. Then, at the door, they covered Neferet with a great, gold-flecked robe and crowned her wig with a diadem. They sang a song of matrimony, and Nebhotep joined her hand to that of the great statue. It was as cold as the night waters. The priest read a long statement, detailing the lands and properties that the temple afforded to her, now that she was the bride of Amun. Her mind swam. All through these declarations, the heady incense threatened to knock her out. The sacred drug didi had her head swimming, because now the room was full of blue – the same color as the faience beads on her full collar necklace. She relaxed and couldn’t take her eyes off the Amun effigy.

Like fleet-footed beings of the night, the priests left. Closing the door behind them, they abandoned her with this husband of rock. In the moment his jewel eyes fastened onto hers, she knew her life was no longer her own.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Lynn. We wish you much success!

A: Thanks. This was fun.

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Interviews

As the Pages Turn Chats with Alretha Thomas, author of Dancing Her Dreams Away

 

An author, playwright, producer and director, Alretha Thomas is making her name through her pen. Award winning plays and wanting to help her community, Alretha’s background is as diverse as her personality. She started at the age of ten, when her 5th grade teacher picked and read her short story assignment in front of the class – that simple, loving act empowered a new writer. Continuing in high school, her numerous original oratorical conquests on the Speech Team led her to a journalism concentration at the University of Southern California. Upon graduating, Alretha soon realized that her interest in journalism was not heartfelt. While at the taping of a live sitcom, the producer noticed her and encouraged her hand at modeling. Modeling didn’t mean much to her, but it did lead her to acting and a NAACP Theatre Award Nomination (1993) for BEST ACTRESS. She feels that this acting stint gave her more fuel to write, and particularly, a better understanding of character development.

Alretha left acting and began to write full time. Her church gave her an outlet to fulfill her writing desires through their Liturgical Fine Arts Department wherein Alretha penned twelve theatre pieces – the community response was overwhelming. This led to full length plays outside of the church including Alretha’s play, Sacrificing Simone (2007) which had a successful run at Stage 52 in Los Angeles and was called “an inspirational crowd pleaser” by the Los Angeles Times and her most recent work, the ground breaking OneWoman, Two Lives, starring Kellita Smith (The Bernie Mac Show), directed by Denise Dowse, which garnered rave reviews from critics and audiences. In between plays, Alretha’s first novel Daughter Denied was launched in 2008.

You can find out more about her and her book at http://www.Dancingherdreamsaway.com.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Alretha. Can you tell us what your latest book, Dancing Her Dreams Away, is all about?

A:  Dancing Her Dreams Away is about a young aspiring actress named Shelia King who’s raised by her grandmother. Not having the love of a mother or father has left a hole in her heart, and Shelia is determined to fill that emptiness by becoming a star. Her dreams seem like they are about to be realized when she meets the handsome, rich, and powerful producer, Gregory Livingston III. But unbeknownst to Shelia, Gregory also has a dream, a dream that could become Shelia’s worst nightmare.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

A: Shelia King is a 1985, 21-year-old. I stress the year, because I believe there’s a difference between a 21-year-old today and a 21-year-old a quarter of a century ago. Young people are exposed to so much more now. In 1985, there was no World Wide Web, nor were there any social sites such as Facebook, Myspace, or Twitter.  There were no Blogs or celebrity gossip sites, and the only cable television news station was CNN. Shelia is an aspiring actress living during this time, has very little street experience, and is desperate to become “somebody.”

Nana is Shelia’s maternal grandmother. She’s a small-minded, religious woman, and raised Shelia after her mother died. Nana’s dream is for Shelia to become a successful reporter and talk show host like “Opie Winey.”

Gregory, Livingston III is rich, suave, powerful, and handsome. He’s a business man with a trust fund and a hidden agenda who’s dabbling in the movie industry. He’s searching for the perfect actress to play the lead in his new movie and Shelia fits the bill.

Edwina is Shelia’s ghetto fabulous best friend. Edwina’s dream is to become a fashion designer. At present, she works in a topless bar. She’s no nonsense, street wise, and like big sister to Shelia.

Heinz is the owner of the Flamingo club where Shelia works. He’s gruff around the edges, but has big heart and a crush on Shelia.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

A: Every character in Dancing Her Dreams Away is based solely on my imagination with the exception of Shelia. Shelia and I have a lot in common. Twenty-five years ago, I was an aspiring actress, and I took a job at a dance club, so I could be free to audition during the day. Like Shelia, I had little to no-self esteem and my drive to become an actress was fueled by a need to fill a deep hole within.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

A: I definitely have to have a plot in mind before forging ahead with writing my novel. Along the way, invariably I discover new things and take different paths to the end, but the overall structure of the novel stays intact.

Q: Your book is set in Los Angeles.  Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

A: I chose Los Angeles, becauseHollywoodis inLos Angeles, and the focus of the story is about a girl who wants to make it big in Hollywood. Moreover, I have spent the last thirty-six years living inLos Angelesand know my way around. It’s important that the descriptions of the city in the book are accurate and being a resident ensures that.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

A: Yes. There are four major settings in Dancing Her Dreams Away. The Flamingo Club, Greg’s world, i.e., his mansions and the movie set, the streets, and if I tell you the fourth setting, I would be giving away too much of the story.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

A: Gregory is apologizing to Shelia for “inadvertently” leaving the video camera on while they’re making love. She accepts his apology and the role in his new movie Dancing Her Dreams Away.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

A: I know it’s rude to stare, but Edwina’s pasties would make Stevie Wonder do a double take. Shaped like a penis, they’re decorated with glitter and an assortment of fake diamonds, rubies and pearls, topped off with a patch of foam. I lean back on her sofa while she shimmies, shakes, and gyrates. To be a big girl, Edwina is comfy in her own skin — sometimes too comfortable.

“How I look?”

I try to keep a straight face as I take in all that is Edwina. Double D’s, fifty-two inch hips, and butt for days. If she had been the muse for the Commodores when they wrote Brick House, they would have called the song, Ten Brick Houses. “Don’t hurt nobody,” I say.

“Girl, I made so many tips last night, I was covered in money. It’s only gonna be a minute before I’m able to enroll in design school. I tell you, leavin’ Flamingo was the best thing I coulda done. This topless shit is where it’s at.”

I give her the look.

“Don’t trip. I know it’s not for you.” She snatches a robe off her bedpost, throws it on, and attempts to tie it closed. Her outie belly button peeps out every time she makes the slightest movement.

“I’m not tripping, and I have never judged you. I just want you to be happy.”

She sits next to me and puts her arm around my shoulder. “I am happy. What I wanna know, is you happy?”

“I’ll be happy when I land a good part.”

“How’d the cattle call go?”

“Everybody and their mama was there. Girl, I had been in line for about thirty minutes when this woman comes out with a bullhorn and announces that everybody behind this one actress could leave, because they had too many people. And of course, I was behind that actress.”

“That’s jacked up.” Edwina pops up and pulls a lollipop from her robe pocket.

It’s getting so bad Stan is looking at parts with nudity.”

“What kind of nudity?”

“Topless and I’m not trying to go there.” I fold my arms over my chest for reinforcement.

“I don’t know why not. You have nice breast. They’re small, but nice.”

“You know my grandmother would have a fit.”

“You need to stop trippin’ on your granny. Don’t you wanna make it as an actress?”

“Of course I do.”

“But you don’t want it bad enough,” she says, pointing the lollipop at me.

“I do, but I don’t wanna sell my soul.”

“That sound like some bull your grandmother would say.”

Those are my grandmother’s words, and they haunt me like a hungry ghost wanting to devour my dreams.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Alretha.  We wish you much success!

A: Thank you and it’s been a pleasure speaking with you.

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Interviews

Interview with Bonnie Trachtenberg, author of “Wedlocked”

Bonnie Trachtenburg

Bonnie Trachtenberg worked as Senior Writer and Copy Chief at Book-of-the-Month Club and has written seven children’s book adaptations. She’s also written for three newspapers, and has penned countless magazine articles.Wedlocked is her first novel. She lives on Long Island with her husband, stepchildren, and cats.

Please visit her blogs at:

http://www.BonnieTrachtenberg.com

http://www.Wedlockedthenovel.com

and on Twitter athttp://twitter.com/WritebrainedNY

Q: Thank you for this interview, Bonnie. Can you tell us what your latest book, Wedlocked: A Novel, is all about?

A: Wonderful to be here. Wedlocked is the witty, engaging tale of a struggling actress named Rebecca Ross, who, after years of disappointment and heartache, finds herself catapulted into a disastrous marriage and onto a honeymoon from hell. Readers will find that the story is like a wild ride through Rebecca’s life, featuring zany, memorable characters; unique, unpredictable plotting; and lots of humor.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

A: Rebecca starts out as a perfectionist Pollyanna and talented overachiever but gets taken down quite a few notches by her experiences in life—so much so that she begins to doubt everything she’s ever believed and is compelled to make a desperate decision. Rebecca does what her dictatorial mother, an overzealous convert to Judaism, has always wanted her to do: she marries a Jewish man, namely Craig Jacobs. Craig is charismatic and persistent but brash and defiant too, and he comes into Rebecca’s life like a hurricane. But it’s not until her wedding day that she begins to realize just how wacky and destructive a man he is—and just wait for the honeymoon!

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

A: The characters in Wedlocked are closely based on real people, as the story is based on my first brief and calamitous marriage. Some characters are composites and most were amplified—but not all! I guess you could say that with a few changes, Rebecca is really me. In fact, friends who have read the book say they hear my voice in their heads when Rebecca narrates.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

A: In this case I was very consciously aware of the plot since it was inspired by actual events from my life. In my second novel, which is in the editing phase, I used an idea that had been marinating in my mind for a while. However, in both cases, I found that the stories took unexpected turns as I wrote.

Q: Your book is set in New York, Los Angeles and Italy. Can you tell us why you chose these places in particular?

A: I’ve lived in both New York and Los Angeles and therefore have a great affinity and good knowledge of both. Many of my life experiences can be tied to places and events in both cities. I chose Italy because I’ve been there three times and find it to be a paradise. What better place to set a disastrous honeymoon? Especially since that’s where mine took place.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

A: Yes, all three settings are like characters in what they offer and how they each affect Rebecca’s life. They also lend a certain richness to the story that only location can.

Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?

A: Rebecca is about to shoot her first national commercial and is practicing her lines. She wants to make sure absolutely nothing goes wrong since, thanks to her, all her other career opportunities have gone down the drain. Of course something will go wrong, but this time it will be totally out of her control.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

A: Sure. This is from the prologue and sets the stage for what’s to come:
“As we were announced into a resplendent ballroom filled with enthusiastic guests, it was as if a UFO had plucked me out of my should-be life, only to plop me down in some sort of bizarre alternate universe. For it had been less than a year earlier that I was this close to seeing my dreams of fame, fortune, and romance come to fruition, when they exploded in my face like a cruel joke.

With Craig’s hand gripping mine, and the Starbright Orchestra’s lead singer channeling Frank Sinatra, the glorious, Gatsby-esque room that had so enchanted me, began spinning even faster than my shell-shocked, post-nuptial brain. What some brides know is that when you find yourself sashaying down the aisle on what’s supposed to be the happiest day of your life, things can sometimes turn bafflingly surreal. Sensing something’s terribly amiss, you chalk it up to jitters, refusing to acknowledge a most unpleasant fact: the man standing before you in white tie and tails is far from the soul mate you hoped for.

If I could have seen this truth in real time, I like to think I would have mustered the courage to make a mad bolt from the chapel. But I was thirty-six—trampled, lost, and romantically bankrupt—so the only thing running away that day was the train I was riding, and I kept my seat, although I was destined to wreck.” —from Wedlocked: A Novel

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Bonnie. We wish you much success!

A: It was a pleasure. Thank you!

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Interviews

Interview with Dr. Jeri Fink, author of “Trees Cry For Rain”

OnlineJeriFinkDr. Jeri Fink is an author, Family Therapist, and journalist, with over 19 books and hundreds of articles to her name. She writes adult and children’s fiction and nonfiction, and has appeared on television, radio, book events, seminars, workshops, and the internet. Dr. Fink’s work has been praised by community leaders, educators, reviewers, and critics around the country.

To find out more about Dr. Finkhttp://www.drjerifink.com

Q: Thank you for this interview, Jeri. Can you tell us what your latest book, Trees Cry For Rain, is all about?

Thank you for having me!

Trees Cry For Rain is a gripping historical novel that tells the story of courageous individuals who fought to survive the lethal forces of their times. The novel begins with one woman who gives her life to protect her three young daughters. Five hundred years later, this past ruthlessly crashes into the present where the ghosts of yesterday await them.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

There are two “related” sets of characters – those who live in 15th century Spain and those who live in today’s New York City.
The story begins with Rozas, a Secret Jew in Spain. Secret Jews were people who went to church with their neighbors, professed to be Catholics, and secretly practiced Judaism – a crime punishable by death. They were known as “Conversos” or New Christians because they or their ancestors had been forcibly converted to Catholicism.

Rozas is facing a horrific fate. Someone has betrayed her to the Holy Office of the Inquisition. She has to act fast, or they will all be tortured and burned at the stake. Rozas uses herself and her husband Lucas as decoys so her three young daughters, Marianna, Catalina, and Zara can escape. She says a quick prayer:

“Please God, save the children.”

Rafael, a Christian friend of the family, arrives before the soldiers. He begs them to “run.” Instead, Rozas gives him the responsibility of leading her children to safety. Rafael chooses to protect the Converso girls rather than remain in the safety of his own family.

Five hundred years later, it’s August in Bryant Park, New York City. Shira, a young romance writer, is a loner – experiencing life through odd characters that see and hear visions from the past. She scans the busy park and several faces stare back. They’re strangers, yet oddly familiar. She’s drawn to them – as well as the priest who strides across the Great Lawn in medieval clerical garb. Shira listens as Cole, a street performer, sings old Spanish folksongs.

Trees Cry For Rain leaps through generations until time suddenly freezes. Something unthinkable is about to happen.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

My characters live within me. When the time is right, they reveal themselves. Each character is a blend of people I know, people in my imagination, my conscious memories, and perhaps most significantly, genetic memories. Their stories often feel more real than the people I see on the street.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

I love this question because every writer has her or his own unique way of constructing a story. My characters tell me their stories and I generate a loose outline after I know their basic plot. Since I like to incorporate metaphor, I often sketch out “hidden connections” to keep track of where I’m going. My most detailed plot outlines are after the book is written, when I check timelines, accuracy, consistency and plot strength. Ironically, editing and rewriting takes longer than writing the original draft. With that said, I allow my book to follow its natural path. If the plot changes or a character appears I have to adjust!

Q: Your book is set in 15th Century Spain and modern-day New York City. Can you tell us why you chose this?

Years ago, I read about a group of people in New Mexico who followed odd customs, similar to the Jews, in their Catholic community – lighting candles on Friday night, refusing to eat pork, and playing Christmas games with a four-sided spinning top. Local historians traced their ancestry back to Secret Jews who had fled the Spanish Inquisition. I was haunted by their experiences. What was it like to live a double life – going to church with your neighbors while secretly practicing Judaism – a crime punishable by death? How did it feel to risk everything for religious beliefs? What happens when people keep dangerous secrets – live schizoid existences that span generations? Lastly, what would they look like today? It took me four years of research, travel, interviews and writing to answer those questions.

I chose New York City as the point of convergence – where the past crashes into the present. As a native New Yorker, I have always loved the mystery, challenge and contradictions of the city. It was a natural environment for my characters to find closure.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

In Trees Cry For Rain there are several “major characters” that aren’t people. The most powerful is “time.” My other settings are also characters – Spain, Sao Tome, Lisbon and Bryant Park in New York City – all crucial participants in the story.

Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?

This is a great question! One might wonder whether its charming randomness has a meaning unknown to all of us? Page 69 in Trees Cry For Rain describes Rozas’ final torture by the Inquisitors. Today we call it “water boarding.”

Without warning, an unspeakable pain sears through Rozas – a red-hot iron burning everything within.

Tomás, the Chief Inquisitor, is trying to learn where Rozas’ daughters have fled.

“So,” Tomás grins. “Do you have anything else to tell us?”

Rozas cannot speak.

“Convicted,” Tomás says gleefully. “Heresy.”

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

Spain – 1492
At the end of the street is the entrance to the Inquisition
dungeons. I shiver. I’m nearing the most dreaded place in Spain, where
torturers use the name of their God to inflict pain and evil.
I try to control myself. I struggle to contain the fear. My body
denies my mind; my blood turns to ice and my knees buckle.
They drag me toward the dark, stone entrance.
My mind crumbles in terror. My feet scrape the cobblestones as
we approach. Five words break through the fear.
“Please God, save the children.”
I descend deep into the bowels of the Earth. Darkness and stench
surround me; cold, damp stone forms the deadly corridors of
dungeons. I hear the sounds of human misery – cries, moans, and
demented voices of people already broken. The soldiers pause; one
opens the heavy door that will be my home for the rest of my life.
Another soldier rips off my clothes, laughing loudly. He shoves a
coarse shift into my arms.
“That’s what you wear now, Marrano,” he taunts me. “Clothes
suited for a Christ-killer.”
They shove me inside and lock the bars.
I’m engulfed in complete dark. It holds me in a tightly wrapped
pouch. I wait, trying to understand what has happened. I cry; I wail; I
beg for God to hear me. The dark is unrelenting. Finally, I sleep,
exhausted. My dreams are wild and incoherent. When I wake,
fragments float through my head – pieces that I can put together into
a whole.
It’s still dark and I quickly discover that here, time passes without
meaning. I’m trapped . . . moving from coldness inside to hot terror
that lingers, like a wild predator, outside. I know the road, although
this is the first – and last – time I will ever travel it.

Bryant Park, New York City – present-day
Shira paused.
Where were the words coming from? For a brief moment she
was confused, as if strangers had invaded her mental space. She shook
her head angrily. Now she was even thinking like a horror movie
character.
She glanced at the clouds, distracting herself.
The tiny French Classical kiosks were busy with the crowds – tourists,
people leaving work early, others browsing, enjoying the midsummer
sun and the cool breeze. ‘Wichcraft was serving its usual sandwiches,
and ice cream. Dressed in summer business casual, office workers carried large plastic cups filled with iced mochaccino and bottles of yellow, pink, and blue Vitamin Water.
Shira smiled.
Bryant Park was like a window in time, moving in its own jagged frames.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Jeri. We wish you much success!

Thank you. It was my pleasure.

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Interviews