Category Archives: Author Interviews

Interview with Patrick Stull, author of Encounters

American artist Patrick Stull has spent the last eighteen years mostly creating imagery about the lives of women. He searches for what lies beneath the surface of his subjects, empowering each one he encounters. He has recently ventured into the realm of surrealism, creating powerful imagery that reflects on our humanity while dealing with the meaning and power of art.

His latest book is the fine art photography book, Encounters.

Visit his website at

Book Description:

With photography at its base, Stull offers a nuanced explication of his encounters to allow the viewer an opportunity to form a relationship with his art. While looking within ourselves, exploring our own feelings, he hopes that he will inspire greater humaneness in response to his art.

ENCOUNTERS is the second in a series of six large-format books in which artist, photographer and author, Patrick Stull explores a wide range of experiences. Using light and the physical body, the written word and his artistry he creates imagery that examines aspects of the lives of women.

Compiled over the last 18 years, the images in ENCOUNTERS, Stull says, are meant to “inspire and challenge the observer while always empowering the subject.”

Stull brings a powerful sense of the surreal and the spiritual to his work as he plots a course along the many paths of the human experience. His imagery runs from the ghostly and ephemeral to the flowing and fiery.

As much as he concentrates on the human form, Stull never forgets to focus on the humanity of his subjects. His choice of the coffee-table style book format draws the viewer into an experience both intimate and universal.

Stull’s first book in his series, titled EVOLVE, was published in 2006. A third book, titled HIDDEN DIMENSIONS, is completed and awaiting publication. Future titles in the series include DHARMA, BEING DIFFERENT, and YOGA, A HEALING MOMENT.

Stull hopes that his readers come away from the book with “a love for art and a respect for the female who gives us life and challenges us to be better human beings.

Women seem to play an important role in your photography. What is it about women that makes your photography portraying them so unique?

Patrick: Women allow me into their lives in the most intimate, artistic ways. Then I use light, the camera and other elements to present their bodies and talents, while sharing their stories.

I haphazardly fell into photographing women, working with them and explicating their lives and bodies with the camera. Photographers dedicate their lives to many different areas of interest. I have spent almost two decades working with women, in all stages of life and in many circumstances. Women are the most amazing and fascinating subjects. They inspire me to continue my work. If they trust you, they allow you to enter their worlds of fashion, their moments of creating new life, their pain of being raped, the challenges of being a female dancer or performer and the misogyny to which they are subjected.

Of all your photography, what would you say is your very favorite?

Patrick: This is a challenging question. It’s like asking me to choose between my children.

My portrait work is the most exciting thing for me to create. A portrait is more intimate than photographing any other part of the body. Portraits allow me the privilege to peer into a woman’s soul. She exposes herself in a way that’s most intense. The face, the eyes, skin and hair tell all. If I had to choose the one image that has penetrated my artistic being, it would be the family portrait of three females, together. The image is a side perspective of mother, daughter and granddaughter.

The power of the image is that of presenting the passage of time, allowing one to connect to the process of life. The viewer journeys from youth to the aging matriarch. Everyone that views the image has different reactions. Some see it as confrontational, others love its power as I do. No matter what, the image penetrates my being and has a disruptive humanistic message that connects me to women, my nature and my ultimate purpose, that of discovery.

And what a stunning cover. Why did you choose this particular photo?

Patrick: The cover of a book is one of the most difficult things to decide upon. I think I had at least ten of them during the process. I wanted something that was mysterious like a woman’s personality.

Have you always had an eye for beauty through the lens of a camera?

Patrick: I think I was born with an interest in visual composition. My relationship to the camera began in my late teens. As long as I can remember, I was fascinated and intrigued by its magic and power. Needless to say, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” That said, my focus is to present something captivating and it is up to the audience to determine “beauty”.

What message are you trying to convey with your photography that you hope people will ‘get’?

Patrick: I would like the viewers to reflect on their humanity, the power of art and a woman’s uniqueness. Photography stops time, unveils our natures and most of all offers a voyeuristic relationship to the world. Encounters, as with any art, is about the viewer. It is what they bring to the viewing experience as their eye’s transverse the images. The reality and power of the images, hinge on how emotionally they impact the viewer’s psyche. My wish is that the viewer acquires a deeper appreciation and respect for their own humanity, their bodies and this amazing creature we call female.

Is there anything you’d like to tell your readers and fans?

I created Encounters to share my love of photography, the written word and the female form. The book is a labor of love – a letter to all from which I hope to inspire motivation toward a greater sense of our humanity – in thought and in our daily actions toward one and other. With the greatest respect, please enjoy.



Leave a comment

Filed under Author Interviews

Interview with YA Fantasty Author Shami Stovall: ‘I define success by the reaction people have when they finish a novel’

Shami Stovall relies on her BA in History and Juris Doctorate to make her living as an author and history professor in the central valley of California. She writes in a wide range of fiction, from crime thrillers to fantasy to science-fiction. Stovall loves reading, playing video games, entertaining others with stories, and writing about herself in the third person.






In a world populated by mythical creatures, those who bond with them are known as arcanists—their magic stemming from the connection they forged. Phoenix arcanists gain flames and healing, unicorn arcanists speak with horses and manipulate poison, or even basilisk arcanists who control flesh and stone.

But those wishing to bond must first prove themselves.

Gravedigger Volke Savan, desperate to leave his tiny home island and impress the most beautiful girl he’s ever known, breaks every tradition of the bonding ceremony just to become an arcanist. But when the only creature who will bond with him has a sinister requirement, Volke is put to the ultimate test of worth.

A fast-paced flintlock fantasy for those who enjoy How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell, Unsouled (Cradle Series) by Will Wight, and Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan.



Q: Thank you for this interview. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing background?

Thank you for having me!

My writing started when I began playing Dungeons & Dragons for the first time. If you’re the Dungeon Master (the person running the game) you have to make up the story. People thought my stories were so fun and engaging that they encouraged me to write novels.

At first, I wrote them for only my friends. I figured it wouldn’t go anywhere, but the more my friends read, the more they encouraged me to branch out. Soon I had an agent, and I was publishing with a full blown publishing house!

Life is crazy. Sometimes you just have to let it take you where it wants. That’s why I’m here to showcase my novel, Knightmare Arcanist!

Q: What fact about yourself that would really surprise people?

My father’s family is from Spain.

You see, I have the complexion of mayonnaise, and a bizarre first name, so people assume my family is from Scandinavia or something, but most of my family is Spanish.

Q: How do you define success in regards to writing and publishing books? 

I define success by the reaction people have when they finish a novel. If they liked it, they’ll let you know. If they thought it was okay, they’ll likely not say anything. And if they hate, they’ll also let you know! So, in my experience, I’m successful whenever someone gushes over my story or characters.

Q: Can you tell us about your new book? What’s it about and why did you write it?

My new book, Knightmare Arcanist, is about a gravedigger who just became an adult. He wants to wield magic (who doesn’t?) and be just like his hero, Gregory Ruma. But before he can become an arcanist, he has a pass a trial of worth.

I wrote the novel because I had a ton of great ideas for it. I thought, “What if it turns out Gregory Ruma was evil? And only the main character knew it?” – It created a lot of interesting scenarios in my head.

Q: When you are not writing, how do you relax?

I play video games or Dungeons & Dragons.

Q: Please tell us why we should read your book?

  • Because you want a good story.
  • Because you like action and/or adventure.
  • Because you like mythical creatures (phoenixes, dragons, unicorns, etc.)
  • Because you enjoy stories similar to “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Percy Jackson.”
  • Because my fortune teller advised you do it.

Q: What kind of advice would you give other authors just getting their feet wet?

Keep at it! Writing takes a lot of hard work and practice. And make sure to have beta readers and a writer’s group! Very helpful as well.


Leave a comment

Filed under Author Interviews

Interview with Michael Houtz, Author of Dark Spiral Down

After a career in medicine, Mike Houtz succumbed to the call to hang up his stethoscope and pursue his other passion as a writer of fast-paced thrillers. A rabid fan of authors such as Clancy, Mark Greaney, Vince Flynn, and Brad Thor, Mike loves series writing with strong characters, fast pacing and international locations, all of which explode into action in his debut novel, a 2017 Zebulon Award winner. When not at the keyboard, he can be found on the firing range, traveling for research across the globe, or trying out the latest dry-fly pattern on a Gold Medal trout stream.

He lives at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.

His latest book is the thriller/international/action novel, Dark Spiral Down.





Q: Welcome! Can you tell us a little bit about your writing background?

Wonderful to join you. Well, it’s a short story! Actually, my earliest memories of writing goes back to grade school. Somewhere in a box in the basement, I have a writeup from an early grade-school teacher asking where I’d come up with such a wild story on a prompt she gave the class. Most of the kids offered a three or four sentence response. Mine was nearly four pages. I dabbled here and there until my mid-twenties. I halted those desires for my medical career. I’ve been purposefully writing, after I took an early retirement, for three or four years now. I’m not ever winning any literary awards, but that same vivid imagination never left me. I’m trying to become the writer my imagination deserves.

Q: What fact about yourself that would really surprise people?

I’m a picture of contrasts. I suppose folks who don’t know me would form an opinion on my personality based on my practicing medicine and writing—cerebral endeavors largely populated by people of culture enjoying wine tastings. I ended my martial arts career undefeated in 5 years of combat competition. I have National titles in wrestling and represented our country in the sport. I’m a slightly polished knuckle dragger.

Q: How do you define success in regards to writing and publishing books? 

This is the most important question I’ve seen in all my interviews. Bravo. I tackled this subject on the first day I considered writing as a career. I also pose this very subject to every new writer I interact with. My answer, and everyone should have their own, started as a bucket list item. I wanted to check off that line stating I’d traditionally published a book. One. On day number two, I changed my mind. My current definition is I want to entertain and create emotional responses in readers. Nothing is more satisfying to me than when someone tells me in an excited voice about something in the story that shocked them or created an adrenalin rush for them. That’s my success.

Q: Can you tell us about your new book? What’s it about and why did you write it?

How many pages do I get?

The protagonist, Cole Haufner, is a twenty-six-year old professional mixed martial arts superstar. Considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport’s history he holds a unique attitude with his career—he HATES fighting. Growing up in a Shaolin temple in Southeast China, he carries a serene spirit and calm outward persona. Planning to attend medical school, his plans abruptly change when his newborn son suffers a congenital heart condition and requires extensive medical care. He turns to the one skill that can provide for his son—the employment of his renowned martial arts skill. At the peak of his success in the octagon, tragedy strikes and he’s left alone in the world save for his brother, an American Delta Force operator who goes missing on a mission. Cole follows a clue back to his childhood home and becomes embroiled in a desperate fight between the remnants of his brother’s Delta unit and North Korean commandos hell bent on acquiring a stolen device capable of changing the world or destroying it depending on who manages to escape with this invention.

A few years ago, I retired early from a career in medicine. No surprise, my first writing effort started with a medical thriller. I felt, and still do, the story has a strong premise and has the potential to do well. Somewhere around that same time, I read an appalling account of a child whisked away from his father to South America by his ex-wife. The courts in that part of the world were manipulated by the new boyfriend, an attorney, and the father struggled mightily against unsympathetic ears. From all accounts on subsequent research, I discovered the dad was a good guy with no history of violence, and he’d been a loving father to his son. His journey for the return of his son spanned years. Imagine dropping off your child with a spouse for visitation and never seeing them again. Having two sons around the same age, the account really hit me hard. I imagined someone rescuing the boy and bringing him back to the only home he’d known. I woke up one morning, shoved the medical thriller in a drawer, and let the anger and sympathy pour out into the novel. From that spark, my own personal life mission changed too.

Q: When you are not writing, how do you relax?

With my two sons, I don’t know how to relax. When not writing, I’m shuttling my kids to practices or traveling for their competitions, getting in a workout, or working with my German Shepard, Saber. Sometimes I can sneak in time at the shooting range or hit a Colorado stream for native trout. It’s a fast and furious life, but I’m grateful for all of it.

Q: Please tell us why we should read your book?

If for no other reason, you’re joining a growing group of people providing support to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children network. My mission is to bring light to the horrible crime committed upon children by an adult unlawfully removing them from their home and taking them to a country that does not recognize our laws on child custody. Every book sold supports that effort both financially as well as creating awareness.

Plus, if you’re anything like me, seeing a character employ a really nasty skill set in these horrible situations is very satisfying. When the courts fail, Cole begins his brand of justice.

Q: What kind of advice would you give other authors just getting their feet wet?

First, answer question three. How will you “know” when you’re successful. Everyone will have a different answer. Why are you spending hours, day in and day out, for years, writing? Is it a fun hobby or are you shooting for Bestseller status. Your answer will likely change over time, but you should have an initial idea.

Secondly, any timeline you’re giving yourself just double it. There are so many different factors to publishing out of your control. The industry moves like a glacier. I had one of the fastest turnarounds I’m aware of from the first sentence to book release, and it took nearly three years. If you’re a relatively unknown, prepare for a long haul.

Finally, the difference between published authors and those who don’t reach that mark is those published writers never quit. Take all the “no” responses and collect all the rejections into a nice big ball, because you will get them, and vow to shove it up their rear ends. Never surrender to other people’s failures projected onto you.

About the Book:

COLE HAUFNER is a reluctant superstar in the professional mixed martial arts world. After his latest fight, his wife and child perish in a car crash. His grief deepens when his brother, BUTCH, a Delta Force operator, is absent from the funeral and reported missing by two furtive strangers who show up unannounced at the burial. Despairing, and acting on a tip, Cole travels to his childhood home in southeast China, looking for his brother.

Butch and his teammate, HAMMER, are the sole American survivors of a gun battle between their unit and North Korean commandos, both sides fighting over possession of a stolen suitcase containing a miniaturized fusion device that could either provide unlimited clean energy or be converted to an undetectable bomb seven times more powerful than a nuclear explosion. Leading the North Koreans is the sociopath, Commander PARK. Pressed into helping the Koreans is a disgraced former CIA operative, BARRETT JENNINGS.

Cole meets with the uncle who raised him, MASTER LI, and is warned to stop his search for Butch. Barrett discovers Cole’s identity (with the help of a genius computer hacker, LILLY), which opens a twenty-year-old wound when Barrett was blamed for the disappearance of Cole’s father, along with the man’s invention. Barrett enlists the 14K organized crime syndicate to help capture Cole. Hammer, separated from Butch during the fight for the device, thwarts the gang’s attempt to kidnap Cole, and the two then set off to find Butch and the device. All parties converge on the city library where Butch, now disguised as a monk, is attempting to communicate with the Pentagon. Barrett and Park capture Butch, while the 14K gang nabs Cole.

Danger mounts as Chinese authorities begin investigating foul play within their borders. Cole fights his way free of the gang and reunites with Hammer.  Both men find Barrett’s apartment and discover Lilly (the man’s stepdaughter), who divulges Barrett’s identity and plan. Cole clashes with Hammer, who is willing to sacrifice Butch in order to recover the fusion device. Lilly offers her help in exchange for her and Barrett’s rescue from Park’s grip. Meanwhile, Barrett discovers the true nature of the case the North Koreans are pursuing and, sensing he and Lilly are to be assassinated by Park once he has the device, frees Butch. Butch, trusting Barrett was sent to rescue him, leads the turncoat to the site where he hid the device. Barrett, hoping to make a quick fortune selling it, shoots Butch before escaping with the case.

Cole, along with Hammer and Lilly, arrives at the location of Butch and finds him gravely wounded. Butch fingers Barrett for shooting him and for stealing the case. Cole wants only to save his brother but Butch makes him promise to kill Barrett and recover their dad’s invention. The revelation that the device is his father’s scientific discovery propels Cole forward to fulfill his brother’s mission. Cole is forced to abandon Butch at a hospital. Cole pursues Barrett to a remote dock where the ex-CIA man is planning to escape China by boat. With the Chinese military now actively looking for Cole, Cole confronts Barrett and Park sparking a gunfight. Barrett kills Park. As Barrett turns the gun on Cole, Hammer kills Barrett. Cole, Hammer and Lilly escape via the boat, and the fusion device is safely returned.



Leave a comment

Filed under Author Interviews

An Interview with Author Louis R. Negrete

Dr. Louis R. Negrete was born and raised in Los Angeles. During his distinguished career, Dr. Negrete served as Director of Project Head Start for the Council of Mexican American Affairs and was also a founding member of the new Chicano Studies Department at the California State University in Los Angeles. He served as professor of Chicano Studies for some 35 years at Cal State LA. CHICANO HOMELAND is his first book. Dr. Negrete makes his home in Los Angeles, California.

Web site for book at

Face Book:


1: Can you tell us what your book, Chicano Homeland, is about?

My book is about activist Chicano organizations that fought against anti-Mexican racism in Los Angeles during the 1960’s and the 1980’s. It describes how they opposed police mistreatment, schools that didn’t teach, and general discrimination in society. The organization and struggle of the united farm workers for just salaries encouraged community groups to oppose injustice. At the same time, reports of unfair rates of killing of Spanish Surname and Afro-American soldiers in Vietnam generated anger expressed in open opposition to the war. The Chicano movement, as activists called themselves, became an important part of the national civil rights movement. A younger generation of activists formed the Brown Berets to confront police mistreatment and the Chicano Moratorium Committee attracted thousands of supporters to movement events. Much protest events expressed defense of immigrant families. Other activist groups included in the book were also part of the growing movement.

2:         Why did you write your book?

I believe that all minority groups must fight back against racism in local and national politics. The Chicano movement was successful as evident by an increase in Mexican Americans and other Latinos now employed as police officers, teachers, government workers, medical staff, nonprofit agencies, business, all across the range of employment and careers, including election to public office. But persistence of continuing poverty and homelessness in Latino neighborhoods must compel the younger generation of activists to keep the movement alive. Anti-immigrant government policies popular today pose a major threat to democracy. The Chicano people and Latinos, especially younger generations, must fight racism. They must know about the Chicano movement as part of their own national history.

3:         What kind of message is your book trying to tell your readers?

All people who immigrant to America face hard times. They manage to overcome economic and social barriers to become true Americans. They also resist racial prejudice and assist other immigrant communities to survive as Americans. The national civil rights movement involved people from many immigrant origins, including Mexican Americans. My book tells the history of how Chicanos fought to claim an American identity like other minority groups. This is an important part of American history.

4:         Who influenced you to write your book?

No one in particular influenced me to write my book. My teaching experience as a university professor made me realize that I should write about what I learned based on what I observed and experienced. I marched with community activists and attended protest events off campus. I also dedicated much time to building the Department of Chicano Studies at California State University, Los Angeles.


5:         What kind of advice would you give to other non-fiction authors?

Enjoy your writing. Be honest in what you write about based in part on your own experience.


Los Angeles author-educator Dr. Louis R. Negrete lived and now tells the compelling, dynamic story of the movement for the rights of Mexican-Americans in the USA, particularly those In California.  In his riveting, powerfully written historical book, CHICANO HOMELAND,  retired college professor Dr. Negrete vividly describes the issues that sparked the Chicano civil rights movement, that saw unbridled police brutality, institutional poverty (that still even exists today, he says), demands for better schools, the  anti-Vietnam war protests and the support for undocumented immigrants.

Mr. Negrete’s CHICANO HOMELAND captures in its historical pages the early Mexican settlement in Los Angeles to the 1950s Zoot Suit riots in L.A. to where Chicanos stand today in the California culture. He gives us a colorful, vivid history of a people that every Hispanic should read, especially as he says, “Chicanos and Chicanas, so they can know where they came from, how they got here and be inspired to chart a course to a genuine, lasting political power for what is now the largest ethnic minority in the United States.”

Commented author Dr. Louis R. Negrete on his book, “I believe that Americans must fight back against racism and national politics. The Chicano movement was a success but resistance to racism must continue, especially with the anti-immigrant policies popular today. I wrote the book based upon my experience growing up in Los Angeles, aware of persistent demands for justice and an end to racism. Younger Mexican-Americans and other minorities should know this part of United States history.”



Leave a comment

Filed under Author Interviews

Sheila Roberts on Success, Relaxing and Advice for Authors


Best-selling author Sheila Roberts has seen her books published in a dozen different languages and made into movies for both the Hallmark and Lifetime channels. She’s happily married with three children and lives in the Pacific Northwest. When she’s not hanging out with girlfriends, speaking to women’s groups or going dancing with her husband she can be found writing about those things near and dear to women’s hearts: family, friends, and chocolate.

Her latest book is the women’s fiction/romance, THE SUMMER RETREAT.

Website Address:

Twitter Address:

Facebook Address:


Celeste Jones has plans for a perfect summer with her boyfriend (and hopefully soon-to-be fiancé)—until he dumps her to be with the woman he’s had on the side for months. Heartbroken and furious, Celeste resolves to move on. When the going gets tough, the tough…okay, the not-so-tough go to the beach.

As soon as school lets out for the summer, she waves goodbye to her first-graders, packs up her bikini and heads for Moonlight Harbor, where she knows her big sister, Jenna, will receive her with open arms. Jenna could probably use some help at the Driftwood Inn, and Celeste is happy to do chores around the place in exchange for a relaxing summer escape. She just needs something—or someone—to distract her from her troubles.

Finding The One can be tricky, and Jenna is determined to make sure Celeste gets it right this time around. Not that Jenna’s an expert. She’s still trying to sort out her own love life. But if both sisters listen to their hearts, eventually they’re bound to discover that life—and love—is good at the beach.



Barnes & Noble


Q: Thanks for stopping by, Sheila! Can you tell us a little bit about your writing background?

I’ve been writing stories since I was a little girl. Looking back, I feel sorry for my classmates, who were a captive audience. (My teacher thought I was the next Jane Austen and always made them listen to my stories.) I majored in music in college but took a ton of English classes and loved creative writing. Sold some articles to magazines when my husband and I were newlyweds. And then, somewhere along the way, I got an idea for a book. And that was that!

Q: What fact about yourself that would really surprise people?

I used to own a singing telegram company. Great fun!

Q: How do you define success in regards to writing and publishing books? 

That definition changes throughout a writer’s career. There’s always one more mountain to climb. At first it’s “If I could just get an agent,” then it’s “If I could just sell a book,” Then it’s “If I could just make a best-seller list”… “get a movie deal”… “make more money.” I think for me, now, it’s just, “Have people know who I am.” J Success is an elusive thing. Satisfaction, however, that’s a different animal. Satisfaction comes with having written a story well. Satisfaction comes when a reader tells you how much she enjoyed your book. Satisfaction lies in doing something you enjoy. Every author may not find the success she craves, but every author can find satisfaction.

Q: Can you tell us about your new book? What’s it about and why did you write it?

My new book is set in the fictional beach town of Moonlight Harbor, and gives a character who’s made several guest appearances the center stage. Celeste Jones, who’s kissed way too many frogs has run away to the beach. And there, she meets the perfect man. He’s a minister, for crying out loud. They don’t come any more perfect than that. But then there’s “the killer in room twelve.” And the town gossips. And … that’s all I’m gonna tell you.

Q: When you are not writing, how do you relax?

Reading, of course! Traveling with the hubs, hanging out with girlfriends and playing games. Loooove games.

Q: Please tell us why we should read your book?

For fun!

Q: What kind of advice would you give other authors just getting their feet wet?

Wade in hip deep, work hard, and enjoy the experience. This can be a frustrating business, but the rewards of being able to bring characters to life makes it all worth it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Interviews

Interview: Patrick C. Greene, Author of ‘The Crimson Calling’

Patrick C. Greene was raised in the rural mountains of Western North Carolina, where isolation and late night monster movies fueled an already fertile imagination. Excelling in English composition classes, Greene began writing horror short stories, complete with illustrations, and selling them to classmates as early as fifth grade. Delving into film acting, Greene learned the craft of screenwriting and then made the switch to fiction prose, scoring a publishing contract and glowing reviews with his first novel Progeny. He’s currently promoting the release of his latest novel, The Crimson Calling.

patrick headshot interviewsWelcome, Patrick! Tell us about The Crimson Calling.

Olivia Irons is a young lady fresh from a stint in the military, still reeling from the loss of both her child and lover, who is approached by a strangely alluring man named Vargas. The strange figure reveals himself to be a vampire, one of the last few hundred remaining on earth. And while his faction seeks peace with mortalkind, there is another growing sect who would prefer to subjugate us as slaves – and food.

Vargas introduces Olivia to the world of the modern vampire, asking her to lead them against his evil brethren while keeping a grave and potentially world-shattering secret from her.

What was your inspiration for it?

Two separate sources came together actually for The Crimson Calling. My wife Jennifer is not a horror fan but the one genre exception is vampires. When we first started seeing each other she introduced me to the Kindred series and we enjoyed other vamp flicks together, such as Shadow of The Vampire and The Vampire’s Kiss, though both of those films challenge the boundaries of the vampire concept. She was drawn to the tragic romanticism I think.

The other source was my affinity for kung fu films. Sometimes, the characters therein are capable of truly superhuman feats of combat, but of course, films force the action to remain within the confines of their budgets, so I was able to let my imagination run wild in imagining these insane fights between immortal creatures.

Crimson’s heroine Olivia is very vulnerable, almost still a child in some respects, forced into adulthood far too early. She’s more or less forced into immortality as well, so we have a bad ass vampire of nearly limitless combat capacity who is also an emotional wreck just beneath the surface, and that’s what made her so interesting and enjoyable to write.

What type of challenges did you face while writing this book?

There was some upheaval, some changes. I was getting settled from a move, starting a new job, dealing with an extended bout against depression. It was actually helpful to have the book distracting me from these issues but at the same time I had to push through the barriers. Writing when you’re on the edge emotionally can add passion and intensity to the project, no doubt, but it can also effect the focus. It became a balancing act and quite frankly, I hope I never have to write in that condition again.

crimsonDid your book require a lot of research?

A good deal, yes. I wanted to bone up on the vampire myth, past the image we have from movies. Like bigfoot and UFOs, it turns out that most cultures have some version of vampire lore. People were scared out of their minds over vampires. Angry mobs formed and unearthed graves, that sort of thing. Very interesting, so I tried to work some of that in and also connect the various legends. There was also some geographical research required, to capture the feel of being far up in the Balkans. Fortunately, there are some really good video and photographic references online.

How do you keep your narrative exciting?

Like many writers I start with an outline but in my case, I will tend to stray wildly from it on a mere whim, shocking even myself by going in, if not the opposite direction to what would be reasonable then certainly a direction where there isn’t a clear path or egress. So I paint myself into a corner. With blood.

Do you have a writing schedule? Are you disciplined?

Fairly so, but once I sit to write I do tend to goof around for a little while. But once I’m knee deep in the latest, I really want to get back into that world and bring it to life. Seeing the conclusion in the near distance makes it all the more exciting; it seems like I get a second wind. The later drafts might not be as exciting to write, but by then there aren’t as many problems to solve so I feel I can just have some afterplay with it, if you will, and add some spice.

What do you love most about the writer’s life?

Since I’m seriously introverted, I like that I can work without having a lot of people or distractions around. Don’t get me wrong; I like interacting with readers and other writers but I’m not one of those writers who can sit down in a coffee shop and get a lot done. I prefer to be in control of my environment a bit more, or at least have it predictable.

What is your advice for aspiring authors?

My advice for any kind of artist is to do it, or it will kill you.

George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Comments?

I really hate to take part in that “writing equals misery” mindset because, one, I have a pretty good time with most aspects of it, and two, there are certainly more painful and crippling pursuits. The comparison of writing to a “demon” might be pretty reasonable though, especially in my genre of horror. We are said to either overcome or learn to live with our demons, so that means we need them doesn’t it?

Photo and cover art published with permission from the author and publisher.

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Interviews, Uncategorized

Talking Craft with Horror Author Brian W. Matthews

085-EditWeb.jpgBrian W. Matthews grew up in a small town in southeast Michigan. The oldest of three boys, his days were occupied with school, friends, and when he got older, work. Lots of work. He has been gainfully employed every year since 1977, running the gamut from making pizzas to waiting tables to working in a hospital to being a child therapist. He currently works as a financial planner and writes in his free time. He is married with a daughter and two step-daughters. The Conveyance is his third book.

The Conveyance can be purchased directly from the publisher at or from Amazon.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, The Conveyance. To begin with, can you give us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?   

A: I loved watching horror and science fiction movies as a child. In Detroit, on Wednesday afternoons, one of the local channels would show a classic horror or sci-fi movie—Godzilla was particularly popular, but you would also see movies like see 20 Million Miles to Earth or The Fly. I would race home from school each Wednesday to sit in front of the television. This instilled in me a love for the bizarre, so when I started writing, I naturally gravitated toward speculative fiction and the supernatural. My first two novels were mash-ups of horror and urban fantasy and alternate history. When the time came for my third novel, I wanted to branch out. My mind kept returning to 20 Million Miles to Earth and its central question: how did life come to exist on Earth? For The Conveyance, I decided to approach that topic but with a twist, to keep the story fresh for the readers.

Q: What do you think makes a good horror or science fiction book? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A: First, don’t focus on the zombie/alien/monster element of your story. You need to start with people—vividly drawn characters—and their relationships. The zombies/aliens/monsters are simply vehicles to apply pressure on your characters; to test their strengths and weaknesses. That is what makes your readers care about your characters, how they end up rooting for your heroes. If they don’t care about your characters, you’ve failed.

Second, the true horror is not the zombie/alien/monster theme: it is the extremes to which your central characters are pushed by these creatures. What is more horrific, a zombie attack or how it forces a mother to kill her child rather than let him or her become an undead fiend? If you’ve done your job well—if your readers really care about the mother and child and their relationship—then that act of mercy will be gut-wrenching; your readers will be far more horrified by it than by any graphic description of a zombie eating a human. This is exactly what made Night of the Living Dead such a hit; the movie was more about the people in the house and how they reacted and interacted under stress rather than the zombies.

Front_Cover_Image_The_Conveyance.jpgThird, the readers’ imaginations are far more descriptive than anything you can write. Yes, you can horrify using literary tricks like shifting narrative distance and time expansion and such, but if you over-describe your scene, you rob the reader of his or her input into the story. They can’t make it their own. Find one or two or three (at the most) elements of a particularly frightful scene and describe them, but only allude to the other elements. Let your reader fill in the blanks. Not only will they feel more a part of the story, this will help keep the reader from becoming fatigued.

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A: I’m not big on story plotting. I typically have a beginning and an end, and I develop certain points I want to reach during the novel’s progression. Then I go ahead and write it. My main fear with plotting is that I will unintentionally telegraph what is coming. If I don’t know what’s going to happen next, how can the reader? In addition, discovering the novel as it progresses helps keep it fresh in my mind; I get excited by developments, my blood starts to race. Writing is a long, painful process, and this excitement keeps me writing with the energy I need to make the story effective.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

A: The main protagonist is Dr. Bradley Jordan, a child psychologist. I have a graduate degree in clinical psychology and spent many years as a child therapist. While Brad Jordan isn’t me, I used my experiences as a therapist to make him credible. I do utilize character interviews before I start writing, and I did with him.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A: This is a harder question to answer because the antagonist is more a concept than an actual person. There are a few big baddies in the story, and similar to Brad Jordan, I did a character interview for each one. But these are mainly highlights. I enjoy coming up with character idiosyncrasies while I’m writing. The trick is to keep them straight and consistent throughout the book.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A: Conveyance is written in first person. That’s a difficult tense to use because a writer tends to revert to telling and not showing what is going on. There’s a tendency to overuse visual cues, and this can result in stale prose. I made a conscious decision to show and not tell as much as possible, and to rely on two other senses (touch and hearing) to help expand the narrative stage. Also, I vary my sentence structure and paragraph lengths. Reader fatigue sets in quickly with the same five sentence paragraphs, all fully formed and complete. Vary it up to keep the reader interested.

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A: Well, as I said in the last question, a writer needs to include descriptions other than the visual. I do use visual as a core descriptor, but I also try to triangulate the narrative stage for the reader by using the senses of touch and hearing. This helps the reader obtain the necessary spatial sense of your setting; your world becomes more realistic. Also, try not to describe too much. (I was guilty of this a lot in my early writing.) Let the readers supply some of the context. This will help pull them into your story and keep them reading, which is the brass ring on this particular carousel.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A: I need a theme in order to begin. I can’t simply say “a monster invades a small town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula” (as in Forever Man). Instead, I need a central struggle for my main character: Izzy Morris, a wife, mother, and the town’s Chief of Police, has always struggled with her role in life, and when her daughter goes missing, she is forced to confront this conflict head-on and grow into the person she was always meant to be. You tell me, which one is the more compelling story? For me, the combination of the two—a basic plot arc and a central conflict for the main character—is what makes me decide to write the novel.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

A: For me, you really can’t separate the two. For my first draft, I go for the fences. I write like no one is going to read the story so it ends up as big and bold as possible. But what you have after that first draft is a hot mess. That’s fine. The editing is there to turn your hot mess into a logical, artful story. Don’t underestimate what thoughtful editing can do for your story. There is a book called Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. If you’re serious about writing, pick up a copy. Read it over and over. I helped my writing tremendously.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

A: This one is hard to answer, because success means different things to different people. My vision of success is first completing a novel. I put a year or two of my life into writing it, and finishing it gives me a sense of satisfaction. Second—having people enjoy what I read. I wouldn’t want to put in so much effort and sweat only to have it panned by everyone. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened…yet. I suppose third would be some sort of financial success. It is certainly a gauge of how well received a novel is, but so few people can make a living at writing, and I’m reluctant to emphasize the monetary aspects too much. For most writers, it may never reach the level they think and still be terrific authors.

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

A: I think he was 100% correct. If you want to be a writer, you need to write every day. For some, that includes holidays and vacations. It’s like homework. My wife is a teacher. Each evening, we sit down and do our homework: she corrects papers, and I write.

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

A: As I mentioned earlier, the book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers is an invaluable asset. Another is the book, Scene and Structure, which delves into the framework of a novel. Both are very helpful. Also, join whatever organization represents your genre. I’m a member of the Horror Writers Association and the International Thriller Writers Association. I attend their conferences. That is where I’ve met other writers, picked up ideas about writing, and generally received considerable support knowing you’re not alone with your writing.

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

A:  While there are many benefits to writing, it is a difficult and lonely endeavor. You sit for hours by yourself, typing on your computer or writing in a notebook. It can take months to years for your work to see the light of day. Be prepared and be disciplined. In the end, the payoffs can be amazing.

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Interviews, Uncategorized

The Writing Life with Dawn Brotherton, Author of ‘Trish’s Team’

The recipient of the Global eBook Bronze Award, Dawn Brotherton is the creator of Softball Scoresheet, a bookused for keeping score during games. She is also the author of two Jackie Austin mysteries, Wind the Clockand It’s the Right Thing to Do, and a contributing author to A-10s Over Kosovo, a compilation of stories about being deployed for Operation ALLIED FORCE.  Dawn currently serves at the Pentagon in Washington, DC. as a colonel in the United States Air Force. She enjoys coaching softball, working with the Girl Scouts, and traveling.  Dawn and her fighter-pilot-retired husband live in Virginia with their two beautiful daughters.

What’s inside the mind of a youth fiction author? I have written adult fiction also, but I really prefer youth fiction. I like trying to see things with my 12-year-old softball players’ eyes. Things don’t always make sense for them in the same way it does for an adult. I have to think of another way to explain it. It helps that I have 13- and 15-year old daughters.

What is so great about being an author? Pink fuzzy slippers. That’s what my husband and I always joke about. When I can work from home wearing my slippers, I am happy.

When do you hate it? When I have to make corrections from the editor. You reach a point that you just want to be done with a story and go on to the next great idea. But there is always more work to be done, and you have to look at it ONE MORE TIME.

What is a regular writing day like for you? There is no regular for me. I am in the Air Force stationed at the Pentagon. I have an apartment in Arlington, but my family is at home in Williamsburg, Va. I drive home every weekend to spend time with them. I try to get my writing done on weeknight evenings, but life gets in the way. Right now it’s a fundraising project for my daughter’s school.

Do you think authors have big egos? Do you? Not when it comes to writing. Sure, I can tell you the things I’m good at and that I have confidence in, but that mostly pertains to the Air Force. Editors have a way of keeping a writer humble.

How do you handle negative reviews?Defensively at first. I think that’s natural. Then I have to walk away and come back to it later. Then I try to dig out the nuggets that will help me, and let the other stuff go. For example, after my first murder mystery that has an Air Force setting, I had a reader say that the military would never send someone to an assignment for only one year…since I have spent a year in Korea, the rest of his comments rolled off my back. But it did make me go back and rewrite the sections about the military that I took for granted to give them a little more explanation for someone that has no military background.

How do you handle positive reviews?  They put me on top of the world. Seriously! I walk around with a smile on my face all day long, and I can’t wait to call my sister and tell her.

What is the usual response when you tell a new acquaintance that you’re an author?People want to know how I got published. I understand because it was one of my first questions when I met authors. Still is sometimes, but now it’s more about sharing lessons learned with peers.

What do you do on those days you don’t feel like writing? Do you force it or take a break? Take a break. I have too many other things going on in my life that distractions are never a problem. It’s making time for writing that is a problem for me. I spent a weekend in a monastery to finish my first Jackie Austin book.

Any writing quirks? No. I’m more of a night person than a morning person, but I can sit anywhere and write. I find white wine goes well with softball stories.

What would you do if people around you didn’t take your writing seriously or see it as a hobby? I think the only one that didn’t take my writing seriously was my husband. No one else even questioned my desire to be a writer. Now, after my fifth book, I think my husband is finally coming around.

Some authors seem to have a love-hate relationship to writing. Can you relate?  Not really. I love it. But even too much of a good thing can get old. Sometimes I get really tired of a storyline and tend to rush through to get it over with. Then I have to make myself go back over it several times to get it right. I should just do it right the first time. That’s one reason I think the kids’ books are working better for me. They are a length I can stay focused throughout.

Do you think success as an author must be linked to money? No.  Easy for me to say because I’m not famous yet. I track my expenses carefully and I know exactly how many books I need to sell to break even.  Then I consider it a success, because at least I haven’t lost money. But I think that’s different than being a successful author. Just to be recognized as an author is success for me.

What had writing taught you? That there is always more to learn. I am continually finding things I can do better, that I want to try, or that I can teach someone else.

Leave us with some words of wisdom.

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I will learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

Don’t be afraid to try new things.  You don’t know what you are capable of unless you try.


Title:  Trish’s Team (Book 1, Lady Tigers’ Series)

Genre: Youth Fiction

Author: Dawn Brotherton


Publisher: Blue Dragon Publishing

Purchase link:

About the Book: Trish learns what that really means when she tries to pull a fast one to get what she wants without thinking through the consequences. Her decision could affect the game, but more importantly—her friends. Trish has to learn the hard way that lying to get what she wants isn’t the way to go. She finds out that being part of a team isn’t just about what happens on the field

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Interviews, Uncategorized

Interview: Gin Price – Author of ‘On Edge: A Freerunner Mystery’


Gin Price is a young adult author who specializes in action mystery thrillers. She loves keeping readers flipping out while flipping pages and uses the street knowledge gleaned from being born and raised in Metro Detroit in her stories. A proud mother of two children, she balances being a mom, an author, and a companion to her biologist beau as they travel all over the States in search of amphibians and reptiles. Gin loves to visit young writers groups, so feel free to contact her about a visit in person or on Skype.

Congratulations on the release of your latest book, On Edge: A Freerunner Mystery. When did you start writing and what got you into young adult?

I’ve been writing since I was a kid. In the sixth grade, I just wanted to have something to say for Show & Tell. I liked the story I came up with and was writing in old diaries since that day. I got into Young Adult because I’m wicked immature. JKing. I can just relate more to teens and twenty-somethings because a lot changed in my life in those years. They are the years that shape who you become as an adult. The friends you gain and lose, the loves you experience. Everything is a new adventure and when bad things happen, you keep going without coming up with too many reasons to use caution.

What is your book about?

It’s a new twist on a Shakespearean favorite. Star-crossed love and all that puddle of madness using a graffiti crew vs. a freerunning tribe to show the hate. The main character, LL (Emanuella), is being stalked by a serial-killing graffiti artist and she has to find out who the culprit is, regardless of how painful the truth may be, before her death starts a full-on gang war.

What was your inspiration for it?

00001Years ago, on the news, there was a lot of violence in a public school area because some rival schools were forced to merge into one due to budget issues. I couldn’t help but wonder why no one anticipated that, knowing what they know about gang violence in the area. Kids were dying! And the looks on the faces of those kids on the news still burn holes in my brain. I wanted to spread the word about the possibilities of this happening elsewhere using my fiction.

What type of challenges did you face while writing this book?

This book came very easy to me once I employed the use of two of my favorite forms of expression. Graffiti and freerunning. The challenging part came in describing both expressions with truth and clarity. It’s not always easy describing a move or a painting with enough detail to get the real feel.

What do you hope readers will get from your book?

Hours of entertainment! LOL. I’d love for readers to finish the book and do research on graffiti and parkour. I’d love to get people to move their butts. I’d also love for people to stand up and say…find the money. Don’t shut down schools and put rivals in one building. Even one life lost is too steep a price to justify merging.

Did your book require a lot of research?

Yes!! I watched a ton of athletes from pro to amateur do there thang on YouTube. I watched a ton of artists throw up a masterpiece in a matter of minutes, which just boggles my mind. I hopped around on my hikes to get a sense of freerunning, I tried to paint things to get a sense of graffiti. I read what articles I could to make sure I used the right terms. It was a lot of work, but it was awesome. I enjoyed everyone who posted on YouTube. Even the ones others ripped on and down voted. Someone out there is watching and appreciates you all!!

Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about your work?

I do! I have two. I have a wordpress that you can find under and then I have a blog that I like to forget to write in at

What is your advice for aspiring authors?

The road is only short for the lucky few. For the most part, it is a very long and tedious road to publication, but if you truly love it, you’ll do your best by it. Join writers organizations so you can feed your writing with knowledge. Go out there and talk to people in the industry so you can learn the steps and how to climb them successfully. READ! Don’t follow what is trending on the shelf, write what speaks to you. Watch what you say and do on social media. Ripping on editors and houses that passed on your manuscript isn’t going to work out well for you in the end. I see so many people do this, I always wonder if no one told them it was a bad idea…so I’m just throwing it out there in hopes of saving someone.

Author photo and cover art published with permission from the author and author’s publicist.

This interview was originally published on Blogcritics.

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Interviews, Uncategorized

Interview with Ken Lizzi, Sci-fi Author of ‘Under Strange Suns’

lizzi_author_pix (1)Ken Lizzi is an attorney and the author of an assortment of published short stories. When not traveling – and he’d rather be traveling – he lives in Portland, Oregon with his lovely wife Isa and their daughter, Victoria Valentina. He enjoys reading, homebrewing, and visiting new places. He loathes writing about himself in the third person. Connect with Ken on Facebook and Twitter.

About the Book:

In the tradition of Edgar Rice Burroughs’John Carter of Mars, Under Strange Sunsbrings the sword-and-planet novel to the twenty-first century. War is a constant, and marooned on a distant world, former Special Forces soldier Aidan Carson learns there is nothing new Under Strange Suns.

Read Chapter One

Amazon / OmniLit / Twilight Times Books

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, “Under Strange Suns.” To begin with, can you gives us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?  

A: “Under Strange Suns” is the story of a burned-out, former Special Forces soldier hired to search for the lost inventor of the Faster-than-Light spaceship drive. You can blame this one on Edgar Rice Burroughs. ERB popularized the sword-and-planet genre with his “A Princess of Mars” back in 1912, the first of the John Carter stories. But what cut it with readers in 1912 might raise some eyebrows a hundred years later. So when I decided to dip my toe into the sword-and-planet genre, I knew that getting my characters to another world would require a bit more heavy lifting on my part. The resulting novel, “Under Strange Suns,” works the mechanism of space travel into the narrative itself, driving the plot (in addition to driving the characters to their destination.)

Q: What do you think makes a good science fiction novel? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A: As with every story, the primary consideration is to entertain. With science fiction, a secondary requirement is novelty, or at least some twist on a familiar theme. And finally, the story must entertain. Yes, I used entertain for two slots. That factor is twice as important as any other.

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A: I worked out a moderately detailed outline, broken down into chapters and describing the events each chapter must cover. Once I began writing, the outline became more of a mission statement or list of suggestions. But most of the events described in the outline made it into the novel in one form or another.

UnderStrangeSuns_medQ: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

A: Since the impetus for “Under Strange Suns” was “A Princess of Mars,” I knew the main character would be a soldier. Other than that, his character owes little or nothing to John Carter. I spent some time in uniform, many years ago, and did have the opportunity to train and hobnob with members of the Special Operations community. Aidan Carson’s personality is based to some extent on my foggy memories of those unique people.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A: My villains are fanatics, true believers. The primary step required to make them realistic was reading the news. Other than that, I needed to show sincerity, that the villains truly believed their actions were not only justified, but moral, even laudable.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A: Know when to end the chapter. Cliff-hangers never go out of style, because they work. Try to leave the reader with a desire to find out what happens next.

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A: With an alien landscape as a setting, I tried to reinforce the novelty and unique aspects of the place. I used frequent repetition to reinforce the unearthly lighting that two suns would provide. I also employed intermittent description of alien flora and fauna to occasionally remind the reader he’s no longer in Kansas.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A: I considered theme at the outlining stage and stuck with it. The theme, or related aspects, have cropped up in my other work, yes. But theme is secondary to the obligation to (say it with me) entertain.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

A: There’s a question for you. Something to hash out over a pitcher of beer. I’d suggest that from traditionally published debut writers up through the ranks of mid-list authors, craft predominates. Art dominating craft, for better or worse, is found among either the self-published or the best-selling traditionally published authors. In between those two poles, editors are going to push conventional narrative voice and technique. And in most cases, I’d guess, rightly so. But I’m just speculating here. And without that pitcher, damn it.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

A: A firm grasp of craft, perseverance, and the ability to entertain.

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

A: No one ever paid me to do homework. I like this writing gig better. Less math.

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

A: Any book on craft is useful. I’ve read several. The good advice stands out by repetition from multiple sources.

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

A: Pay close attention to your editor. Even if you don’t agree with a suggestion, consider the reason for it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Interviews, Uncategorized