Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Featured Book: Unexpected Gifts

Sarah Mallery was here in June to talk about her novel Unexpected Gifts. To read that interview, click here. Today, I'm happy to have an excerpt from the book for your reading pleasure!

About the book

Can we learn from our ancestral past? Do our relatives behaviors help mold our own? In Unexpected Gifts, that is precisely what happens to Sonia, a confused college student, heading for addictions and forever choosing the wrong man. Searching for answers, she begins to read her family s diaries and journals from America s past: the Vietnam War, Woodstock, and Timothy Leary era; Tupperware parties, McCarthyism, and Black Power; the Great Depression, dance marathons, and Eleanor Roosevelt; the immigrant experience and the Suffragists. Back and forth the book journeys, linking yesteryear with modern life until finally, by understanding her ancestors' hardships and faults, she gains enough clarity to make some right choices.

Excerpt from Unexpected Gifts 

by Sarah Mallery

Chapter 2:  Sam––Living With Fear

     [From Sonia’s father’s letters]

    “...crack-crack-crack! Everyone froze.  “Get the f*** down!” yelled our squad leader, Sgt. Carbini.

    We dropped like stones, trying to listen for snipers over our pounding chests...”

    “...Nearing the village, we passed women in their beige tunics, black pants, and Sampan hats…Most kept their heads lowered as they walked, but the few who didn’t, stared up at us with dead, black-brown eyes and pressed lips...”

    “...Carbini was first. He marched over to a hooch, flipped on his Zippo, and carefully lit the underbelly of its thatched roof.  It smoldered for a few seconds, a thin, rising wisp of smoke twisting in the tropical air.  From that, a flame grew, nibbling at the straw with a low, blue heat before suddenly bursting into a torch, arcing up towards the sky in a yellow-hot blaze...”

Chapter 10:  Tony’s Demons

     [from Sonia’s great-grandfather Tony’s journal]

    “...In 1930, the big city breadlines expanded by the hour, snaking around buildings like a python slowly choking the life out of its victims, but the farmers stayed smug; they thought they were the bee’s knees…..but when record droughts, the likes of which had never been seen, ravaged the Great Plains, farming became impossible. By 1936, storms had picked up, slamming the entire country with heavy rains, blizzards, tornadoes, and floods, and if that didn’t beat all, giant black clouds of rolling dust and grit darkened the sky over the Midwest, cocooning it like it was the end of the world...”

Chapter 12: Daria––Living With Proverbs

     [written in Sonia’s Irish great great-grandmother Daria’s bible]

    “...And they say I was born at an inconvenient time.  The year was 1902, and the moment, the wee hours of a rain-soaked morn in County Kerry.  A terrible storm it was, with lightning that crackled the sky and hoarse winds that rattled the trees.  If it be true that St. Patrick had banished all the snakes from Ireland, it sure was a shame he didn’t bother with the rain.  But maybe that was too big a job even for the likes of him, who knows?”

Chapter 14: Adriana––Guilty Freedoms

     [from Sonia’s great Aunt Adriana’s journal]

    “...Eleanor [Roosevelt] surreptitiously pulled me aside…” 

    “I want you to go down to Alabama…”

    “...speeding off, I looked behind us at the Spanish Moss swaying in the sultry summer breeze, the porch lights on, the fireflies sparking, the cicadas sawing their song, and the memory of…double-edged gentility.  We both breathed huge sighs of relief and agreed how we could now fully commiserate with the Negroes in our country, not only in the South.

    BANG! My body lurched forward, my head hitting the windshield.  I could hear Jim swearing.

    “Dammit!  They’re comin’ after us!”

Chapter16: Adriana––Sentinels Amongst the Hoi Polloi

    [From Sonia’s great-great aunt Adriana’s journal when she was a young suffragist]

    “ the nurse jammed a twenty foot tube, topped off with a funnel on one end, far up into my right nostril, all my senses heightened.  I could smell the stench of urine in my underwear, feel the ties on my hands digging into my skin, the hard chair under me prodding my backbone, and just before the steady flow of liquid food descended into my nasal cavity, I heard the nurse heave the tiniest of sighs.”

Chapter 18: Andrei––Escaping Icons

    [From Sonia’s great great-grandfather Andrei’s journal working at the Ford Factory in 1915 Detroit]
    “...The first couple of rooms were filled with drive train assembly lines, the large, metal chains hoisting and lowering engines onto chasses.  The next couple of rooms were only for women building spark plugs by hand, their backs hunched over in awkward positions that foreshadowed major arthritis at too young an age...”

Book Trailer

Coming soon!

Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads.

The eleven short stories in Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads combine history, mystery, action and/or romance––from drug trafficking using Guatemalan hand-woven wallets to an Antebellum U.S. slave using codes in her quilts as a freedom message system; from a wedding quilt curse dating back to the Salem Witchcraft Trials to a mystery involving a young seamstress in the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire; from a 1980’s Romeo and Juliet romance between a rising Wall Street financial ‘star’ and an eclectic fiber artist to a Haight-Asbury love affair between a professor and a beautiful macramé artist gone horribly askew, just to name a few.

Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads
by S. R. Mallery is due December 1. Don't miss it! And of course...A Blue Million Books will feature it.

About the author:

S. R. Mallery has worn various hats in her life. Starting out as a classical/pop singer/composer, she worked in clubs and churches while composing for educational filmstrips. From there, she moved on to having her own calligraphy company, a twenty-year quilting and craft business, and teaching English as a Second Language/Reading. Finally, she tried her hand at fiction writing and it was like an all-consuming drug. She's been happily writing ever since.

She has had eleven short fiction pieces published in "descant 2008," "Snowy Egret," "Transcendent Visions," "The Storyteller," and "Down In The Dirt." Several of her stories have appeared in different anthologies through Scars Publications. Before that, she had articles published in "Traditional Quiltworks" by Chitra Publications, and "Quilt World" by House of White Birches when she was a professional quilt artist/quilt teacher.

Connect with the author:
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads 

Buy the book:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Featured Author: Jayne Denker

CLP Blog Tours brings Jayne Denker here today to talk about her chick lit/contemporary romance novel, Unscripted, published by Kensington Publishing. 

About the book:

One of Hollywood’s hardest working women is about to discover there's a lot more drama behind the camera than in front of it...

Faith “Freakin’” Sinclair probably shouldn’t have called her boss a perv...or grabbed his “privates.” But as creator of the hit dramedy Modern Women, she’d had enough of his sexist insults. Now she’s untouchable in the industry—not in a good way. The only way to redeem herself is to convince Alex, the wildly popular, wildly demanding former star of her show, to come back. But there’s one obstacle in her way—one very handsome, broad-shouldered obstacle...

Professor Mason Mitchell is head of the theater department where Alex is studying “real” acting. The only way he’ll let Faith anywhere near Alex is if she agrees to co-teach a class. It’s an offer she can’t refuse—and as it turns out, the professor just might end up teaching Faith that there’s more to life than work—and that real-life love scenes are way more fun than fake ones...

Interview with Jayne Denker

Do you have another job outside of writing?
Oh heck, I’m a mom, so yeah—about a hundred other jobs outside of writing! Nanny, housekeeper, landscaper, laundress (oh what a nice archaic word), shopper, tutor-—on and on!

I hear you! It's one of the toughest, but best, jobs around. How did you create the plot for this book?
It actually came from a little tantrum I had, when I found out that yet another one of my favorite TV shows was destroyed when the show’s creator (and primary voice for the scripts) either left or was booted out by the network. It happens far too often, to save money or exert creative control or whatever, and then the show turns into some horrific, pale imitation of the original. I worship Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore Girls, Bunheads)—I love her dialogue, pop-culture references, and humor—and I thought it was a travesty of the highest order when she ended up on the outs of Gilmore Girls, I did too! and the new showrunner kept insisting that the show would be fine without her. The last season was an unmitigated disaster without her voice and vision. So I started wondering what that was like from the creator’s point of view—having a show taken away from you. And off I went with Unscripted.

I totally agree with you. Sounds like a great premise for a book. Do you outline, write by the seat of your pants, or let your characters tell you what to write?
I’m a complete pantser. Some characters pop into my head, and then some random scenes, and some dialogue. I start writing, not knowing how it’s going to develop. Sometimes I think I know what’s going on, but then my characters do something completely different from what I had planned. My editor asks for an outline before I start writing a new novel, and I give him one, but it’s a total lie. He knows it, I know it, and still we go through the motions. It ends up working out eventually. As they said in Shakespeare in Love, “Strangely enough, it all turns out well.” “How?” “I don’t know. It’s a mystery.”

Do you have imaginary friends? When do they talk to you? Do they tell you what to write or do you poke them with a Q-tip?
Most of the time, a character shows up in my head first, before I even have a story to go with him or her. That character becomes my imaginary friend, taking up residence in my cranium. Then other characters show up, and it gets pretty crowded in there. While they don’t talk directly to me, they start living this life in a parallel universe in my head. I just eavesdrop and scramble to write it all down. If I get it wrong, they poke me with a Q-tip.

Ouch! Which character did you most enjoy writing?
I absolutely loved writing Faith, the heroine. She has more chutzpah than I’ll ever have. She knows what she wants, and she just goes for it.

I’m constantly on the lookout for new names. How do you name your characters?
I try to make the names mean something, to illustrate their personality a bit. I named my main character Faith because I wanted to give the sense that despite her jaded, seen-everything attitude, she’s rather an innocent, and an optimist, at heart. Originally, her last name was Underwood, because I wanted her initials to be F.U., in homage to her attitude. But then I realized a minor character from my first book had Underwood as a last name (I have no idea why I like that surname so much), so I changed Faith’s last name to Sinclair. When she calls herself “Faith Freakin’ Sinclair” her initials are F.F.S., which is almost as good as F.U.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.
Of course I enjoy any scenes with my main characters, Faith and Mason. I adore them together. But I also love any scene where the minor characters take over. I actually still giggle at the scene at the studio gate, where Bea, the crude, obnoxious guard, takes Faith down a peg or ten. You just get the sense that Bea has this wild backstory, that she’s seen and done more than Faith ever will. I also loved scenes with Faith’s stepfather, Dominic. I never knew what was going to come out of his mouth, plus I got to use my Italian family’s peculiar way of speaking—broken English and unusual cadence—-which is always fun.

Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
Whenever and wherever I can! Most of my writing is done between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m., in bed, when the house is finally quiet. When my son’s at home, he’s got the TV, the Xbox, and the computer going, plus he’s narrating a Lego scene in the middle of the floor. Writing is just not gonna happen! Sometimes, when I get too distracted by housecleaning and other chores screaming for my attention, I decamp to a local coffee shop. Food, drink, bathroom, wi-fi—what else do you need? I can spend half the day there, and sometimes I do.

Ditto! Tell us one weird thing, one nice thing, and one fact about where you live.
I’ve lived in my small village (population approximately 2,000) for less than ten years, which makes me a total newbie, a stranger most likely not to be trusted. I should note that you don’t earn trust until you’ve lived here for at least three or four decades. (I’m guessing on that—-could be longer.) Most people’s families have been here for generations. So the weird thing (which is also the nice thing, which is also a fact) is that, in a matter of five minutes, anyone you speak to can —and will!— give you about a hundred years’ worth of their family history that entwines with everyone else’s. It’s fascinating...and a little alarming. Oh—and everyone’s related to everyone else. But not in a “Dueling Banjos” kind of way at all.

Is there anything in particular that you do to help the writing flow? Music? Acting out the scene? Long showers?
I love music so much—-and singing in particular-—that I can’t listen to music while I write. I end up focusing on the music, always singing along, which prevents me from writing. My best practice is to zone out—doing boring things like washing the dishes or taking a shower or driving somewhere—-which lets my mind slip into the creative alpha brainwave. Then the ideas come. And then I need to stop doing what I’m doing and write it all down.

You and I are very much alike! If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Internationally, London. I’m a ridiculous anglophile. I’ve been to the U.K. twice, which is nowhere near enough. Within the confines of the States, New Orleans. “Colorful” doesn’t begin to describe it.

What are you working on now?
I’m writing a fourth novel (no title yet), which will be a second story taking place in the small town from my third novel, Down on Love (publishing November 21). The main character is the very nice ex-girlfriend of Down on Love’s hero, and the new hero is a movie star. Because I can never hold off my fascination with Hollywood for long!

Sounds great. I'd love to hear about them all! Please come back!

Book trailer


Guest Post: Ooh, I Just Had a Brainwave

by Jayne Denker

When I graduated from college, I was a bit adrift. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my creative writing degree, so I ended up back at my parents’ house, in my teen bedroom (egad), and working at a bookstore (naturally). I had so much spare time and excess creativity that I figured it was the perfect time to write a novel.

So I holed up in my bedroom after dinner and booted up my graduation present, an Epson computer roughly the size of a future Smart Car (hey, it was the late Eighties), with the intent of writing a YA ghost story. Although I never finished it, I went at it great guns for a while.

I only remember bits and pieces of the plot, but I can recall one thing very clearly: almost every night, just as I would get into a creative groove, my bedroom door would open. My dad would lean in the doorway and say, “Whacha doin’?”


Don’t get me wrong—I loved my dad. He was a sweetheart, without a mean bone in his body, never a bad word for anyone. I never wanted to hurt his feelings. But I just wanted to break things when he derailed my train of thought like that. Still, because he only wanted to chat with his kid, I’d stop typing and talk to him for a while. Then he’d say, “I’d better let you get back to work,” and with a sigh of relief I’d turn back to my story. Sometimes I regained my momentum; most of the time I didn’t. Then I’d give up, make some tea, and turn on Knots Landing.

I felt guilty about getting angry at my dad, but now I know why I always had such a visceral reaction whenever he interrupted my creative process. I wasn’t a bad person—instead, it was just my brain waves being messed with.

If you engage in meditation, you’ve probably heard about different brain wave patterns; if you haven’t, this bit is for you.

Humans have four main brain wave patterns: beta, alpha, theta, and delta. (There are more, but let’s stick with four.) Each is connected to a different type of brain activity.

Usually we’re in beta—that’s the pattern our brain produces when we’re fully alert and aware, engaged in daily activity, thinking and multitasking and bustling around.

But when we focus on one thing, like reading, getting “really into” our favorite TV show or a good movie, writing or creating other forms of art, listening to music, etc., our brains slip into alpha. We’re still alert but relaxed and imaginative. It’s this brain wave pattern that’s present when we’re being creative, when ideas slip in and our imagination soars.

(Theta and delta are indicative of slower and deeper meditative states and deep sleep, respectively.)

All very sciencey, right? Perhaps. But this science stuff was my salvation. When I found out about the different types of brain waves, and how humans can’t switch immediately from one to another (it takes a few moments to make the transition), I realized that there’s a physiological reason I get really, really cranky when I’m interrupted! I’m not a brat! I’m not self-centered! (Well, no more than usual.) Instead, for me—and everyone—it’s truly like missing a gear while driving a stick. For a few seconds I don’t know where I am and I flail to regain control.

It’s not my fault-—it’s biology! Cool!

Excerpt from Unscripted

Randy’s phone rang; he immediately answered it and walked a few steps down the sidewalk into the shade, indicating he was done with me. He took a moment to snap at the guards, “Get her out.”

I let them lead me to the studio gate, where I had left my car. As I passed the good-looking guy, still watching with concern, I called, “It’s okay. Thanks, though.”

He stayed where he was. The guards turned me away from him.

At the gate, they let me go, then stood by as I rounded the barrier and headed for my car. I kept my face impassive, but I was absolutely dying inside.

Bea called after me, “What about your stuff?”

I didn’t know what she was talking about until she yanked my box of personal items out of the guardhouse and dropped it in the doorway with a thud. I thought I heard something fragile shatter, but Bea didn’t bat an eyelash.

She nudged the box forward with her black-sneakered foot. “Whaddya want me to do, gift wrap it for you?”

The dusty Toyota I had hidden behind pulled up on the other side of the guardhouse in the exit lane, and Bea turned away from me. It was like everyone at the studio was done with me; I was suddenly invisible.

Bea leaned closer to the car. “How’d it go, honey?”


The driver handed back a visitor pass through the open window. A dirty-blond head followed. “I don’t know, Bea. All right, I guess.”

“What’d they say?”

“They’ll ‘be in touch’?” He squinted up at the guard with a queasy smile.

Applying for a job, eh? Hm. That response could have been a kiss-off, could have been a promise to call soon. I wondered what he’d been interviewing for.

“You keep your chin up, honey,” Bea answered, more warmly than I’ve ever heard her say anything in her life. Even “Merry Christmas” sounded like an epithet coming from her.

“Thanks for all your help. You’ve been great.”

Now I’d heard everything.

“Good luck to you.”

“Thanks, Bea.” Then he looked at me. “Everything okay, Ms. Sinclair?”

Aw, that would have been a nice, chivalrous moment, if Bea hadn’t snorted with derisive laughter, then coughed up a loogie that she spit into a tissue she drew from her pocket.

“Fine. Thanks for asking.”

He hesitated, then nodded, rolled up his window, and drove off.

I should have just picked up my box and left too, but I couldn’t help asking, “Who was that?”

Bea turned away and dug a cigarette out of her bag. She mumbled an answer I couldn’t make out.


She straightened up, tugged at her blouse, then lit the cigarette. “I said, ‘a nice guy who deserves to be treated better than what he’d get at this place,’” she snapped, blowing the first puff of smoke straight into my face. “What’s it to you?”

“Gee, I dunno, Bea,” I answered, my voice dripping with sarcasm. “If he’s looking for a job, maybe I could help him out.”

“Not anymore you can’t,” she grunted, giving my box one last shove so it was perilously close to teetering over the lip of the doorway. “You got no pull here. Everything you are now is in this one box.”

“You’ve been waiting for this day for three years, haven’t you?”

She eyed me with her lizard squint. “Maybe.”

“Bea, why do you hate me so much?”

“I hate everybody.”

“You seemed to like that guy who just left.”

“He’s not a Hollywood asshat.”

I couldn’t argue with that. I picked up my box of belongings—it couldn’t have been any more clichéd if there had been a giant coffee mug and a sad-looking plant sticking out of it—before it could pitch out of the guard station and hit the ground.

“You think I’m a Hollywood asshat, Bea?”

The woman actually stopped and thought about it for a minute. My hopes rose. Maybe she didn’t hate me. Maybe she saw the good in me—the good that most everyone else recognized. The good in me that I was darned proud of, that I had cultivated over the years, making sure I wasn’t like every other jackass in Hollywood, despite my upbringing, despite the fact that I’d spent my whole life around showbiz people.

Bea delivered her verdict. “Yeah. I do.”

I sighed. “Thank you for your honesty.”

“Still,” she went on, pinching out the end of the cigarette and squirreling it away behind her (she wasn’t supposed to smoke on the job), and my hopes inched up again, “from what I hear, you got dicked around pretty bad.”

Apparently Bea, when she was talkative, liked to use quite colorful language.

“You’ve seen a lot of people come and go, haven’t you, Bea? I mean, in the business, not just in and out of the gate,” I finished lamely.

She grunted assent.

“You probably hear a lot too.”

“I hear enough.”

“So what do you think?”

“About you?” She considered, then let out a strangled sound that I think was supposed to be a laugh. “If I were you, I’d get outta town for a while.”

About the author:

Jayne Denker lives in a small village in western New York with her husband, son, and a very sweet senior-citizen kitten who loves nothing more than going outside, where she sits on the front walk and wonders why she begged to go outside. Jayne is the author of three romantic comedies, By Design, Unscripted, and Down on Love (publishing November 21), plus she’s hard at work on a fourth, a sequel to the small-town rom com Down on Love. When she’s not hard at work on another novel (or, rather, when she should be hard at work on another novel), she can usually be found frittering away stupid amounts of time on social media, where all her friends live.

Connect with Jayne:

 Blog | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter

Buy the book:

Featured Author: Dan O'Brien

Dan O'Brien is back to promote the release of his latest publication. Water is a novella in the B-Sides universe, which follows people in a post-apocalyptic world. While each story is a standalone adventure, together they form a deeply intricate web of action, drama, and hope. Here is a brief summary of the novella:

The next installment in the B-Sides series follows a father and son living out a quiet life in northern Arizona. A strange occurrence at the border, and a series of events that turns the world upside down, plunges society into a spiral from which it might not be able to recover. Having to flee from their home with a band of unlikely friends in tow, the open road beckons. 

Can they survive?

And here be an excerpt for your enjoyment:


His phone vibrated as it slowly ventured toward the edge of his nightstand. Shaking and spinning, it was a ballet of electronic futility. James had left it behind; it wasn’t even an afterthought as he neared the valley of sand and heat that he had passed through only the night before. There were two reasons to live in the desert: sunsets and sunrises. 

This particular morning was no exception. 

The valley was formed of a crimson pastel rock that from a distance looked like the mountains at the entrance to some unknown world. But in the morning and just before the wisps of night grab a hold and smother the day, there was an explosion of colors. It was a beautiful cornucopia of blistering and beautiful art. 

The sun crawled just above the sand dunes, flooding the valley in sunshine. The splashing light tumbled across the rock formations, and iridescent stones ignited the walls of the basin. 

This was the part of the day James loved the most. 

This was when his life felt less worthless. 

There was purpose here. 

The sun came into the valley each day to create this beautiful marvel, and each day he was here to witness it. The twisting serpent of the road wove in and out of the majesty of nature, until the paved parking lot of his daily grind came into view. 

A grotesque sign was perched just off the road. 

It read: Our Stuff. 

The door of the jeep creaked as James closed it. He pulled his red vest over his black t-shirt and ran a hand through his short hair. 

The parking lot was mostly empty. 

A beat-up Buick had been parked there since the late 90s and had never moved. By this time, it was a makeshift homeless shelter for local transients. It was an important component of his duties for the day, driving off the homeless when they panhandled in front of the store. 

Silence permeated the morning––a rare treat James relished in the early mornings. She walked in from the other side of the parking lot. A blue Honda with a dented door and missing hubcaps was parked some distance away. She was his dream girl, of a sort. She was married to––or had been, it was a strange situation to be sure––a local drunk and abuser. 

Light brown hair to her chin: It was often combed over one eye, mirroring a childhood memory. There was too much eye shadow to hide indiscretions, long shirts to hide bruises. 

She was a broken doll. 

“Hey Violet,” James mumbled as he got closer, chancing an awkward wave. 

She rarely looked up and when she did, all he was struck by was the wide eyes that looked at him in gratitude for recognizing her existence. This day, she smiled weakly. Dimples in her cheeks deepened as he got closer. 

“Hello, James,” she whispered back, her voice small. 

He felt protective of her.

As he neared, he smiled widely, invitingly. 

“Did you bring Julie with you today?” 

Julie was her eight-year old daughter who often frequented work with her mother when her father was away on a binge, or more violent than usual. James felt defensive of her as well, much to his detriment. 
She shook her head. Most of the time she wore an over-sized coat with a faux fur lining and hood that was often the barrier of her hidden face. 

“Her father took her today.”

James nodded absently, as he could not imagine what that man could do with a child. He could barely take care of himself. Too often, he would barrel into the store––half-drunk and yelling––and would have to be dragged out by the police. The automatic doors at the front of the store did not open as they approached. 
Reaching out, James pulled them open and gestured for Violet to go first. She bowed her head, making an already smaller person even more diminutive. The interior of the store was still dark. The echo of the speakers played elevator music, water-downed versions of songs no one wanted to hear. As Violet disappeared into the aisles of the store, James turned and shut the front doors and locked them. 
“See you later,” he spoke, trailing off at the end.


The morning passed as it often did. 

The sun rose. 

Heat sweltered in the desert and the fringe humanity of Miranda sought air-conditioned shelter. James was a walker, a transient employee who sauntered through the store. Seeking out customers who required help, he sometimes cleaned the bathrooms. Often, he attended to those duties that fell between the cracks of other employees. As the morning gave way to the afternoon, there was a palpable tension in the air.

Customers were more curt than usual. 

People left angry. 

It was not until James had the distinct pleasure of interacting with a deranged desert degenerate that he began to understand what it was about that day that was enraging people so. 


James did not register the cruel tone at first. 

“Nametag,” he repeated, this time drawing James’ attention. “Nametag, I’m talking to you. Turn around.”

James turned, his grimace dissipating into an even line. 

It was his best attempt at a smile. 

The man was a caricature of a person. His chin disappeared into his pocked neck and his bulging brown eyes seemed to be of two different sizes. Crooked teeth were revealed as he opened his mouth to speak once more. 

“Hey, what about customer service? C’mon, nametag.”

“What can I help you with, sir?” mustered James. 

The man’s face twisted into a sneer. 

He was wearing a shirt three sizes too small, his hairy belly exposed from just beneath the dirty white shirt. Putrid breath radiated from the man. It was an odor that could have risen from a trash heap in the Mojave Desert. “Attitude? You giving me attitude now, nametag? Time like this, in a crisis and what not.”

“I’m sorry that you feel I am being discourteous…”

The man sneered again. His voice, though masculine, broke as he spoke again. “Using big words on me now, college dropout. You think you’re hot shit, selling commodities to us lower folk.”

James looked at the man in disbelief, his behavior was deplorable. “Perhaps if you can just calm down, I can help you find whatever it is you are looking for.”

The man moved in closer, the scent of body odor was overpowering. “You some kind of wise guy? Why do you think I’m here? You retarded? Don’t you listen to the news? Don’t you know what’s going on?”

James looked at him, bewildered. 

“Sir, I…”

“Water,” the man spoke clearly. “Water, I need water.”

“Bottled water? Is this about the Hernandez thing? The border?” queried James, making a connection slowly, though uncertainly. “Are they peddling hysteria already?”

“Hysteria, boy, you must be living under a rock. It’s coming. That border thing’s old news. Poison is in Texas now, parts of New Mexico. They’re talking about rationing and sanctions on tap water. You believe that shit?”

James looked around the store. “I really don’t.”

It had evaded him previously. 

The scampering populace of Miranda bustled about the store, arms full of plastic water bottles and greater containers. One woman had another by the hair, dragging her away from the last water bottles on the shelf. People screamed at each other, pointing accusing fingers, claiming water as their own. 

“It would appear you aren’t the only one looking,” replied James, as he pointed to the pandemonium. “Best of luck to you.”

The man glowered at him as he passed by, but James could not believe his eyes. Lines were backed up, people nearly climbing over each other to get water and carry it away in the heat of the day, to survive. 

He stalked over to the throng of people who had begun to congregate around the empty shelves. As he approached, the masses turned as one. Their bleary eyes and angry words were upon him before he could even speak. 

“Where is the water?” one cried.

“Is there more?” queried an elderly woman shakily. 

“What do we do?” screamed another.

James held up his hands, trying to calm them. 

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he began, but they continued to bicker. Each voice rose above the others. Some shoved those smaller than themselves, like a rabid mob. He raised his voice. Some mumbles remained, but most had directed their attention at him. “Let’s all calm down for a moment. I will go in the back and see what we have.”

He moved away from them, not giving them time to object or grow ever angrier. The store was packed. Never in his eighteen months there had he seen such a rush on the store. He wondered what it was he had missed to which everyone else was reacting so intensely. Pushing open the double doors that led into the warehouse, James sighed. 

The madness was tangible. 

It permeated the air, made it thin. 

Other employees had congregated in the back, seeking shelter from the madness. Two of them talked loudly with each other. One he knew, the other was a new employee or perhaps someone with whom he had never crossed paths. The first was dressed in a style that could only be described as early fuckup. The other was the kind of person who you would not give another look, as average as they come. 

An unevenly mounted nose ring, jagged teeth, and a tone that was filled with ignorance: The younger man James did not know spoke in an overbearing tone.

“This is epic. All these fucking hillbillies running around like the skies are falling in. I’m surprised the fat ones aren’t screaming Chicken Little. Epic.” He held his hands up demonstratively. “Epic.”

Average Bob watched the less-than-eloquent fellow employee with a listless gaze. “The news said it was serious though…”

“The news? You can’t trust the news, man. They are trying to pull some bullshit over our eyes. Always, trying to force your hand,” he continued to rant. 

James moved past, making sure not to make eye contact, as he did not wish to engage them in some kind of rhetorical conversation. As he moved out of earshot, he could not help but shake his head at the redundant movie references that took the place of grammar and syntax. There was only the replacement of actual thought with recycled thought. It had become the repetition and regurgitation of the words of another. He was not necessarily bitter toward fan worship, but was simply irritated by the lack of thought most other people his age seemed to show. They were more content in the safety of what other people thought––more concerned with their small shell of a world and not the greater picture. 

His face twisted into a scowl as he moved past racks and racks of brown boxes marked in black permanent marker with various numbers designating position, quantity, and retail-related mediocrity. As he reached the back, where normally there were pallets upon pallets of shrink-wrapped water cases, he swore.

Reaching down, he picked up the wayward bunched band of plastic that had once held the pallet in place. There were seven empty pallets, the entire back stock of what the store carried. 

Where had he been? 

How had he not seen this?

The voice startled him. “Pretty intense, huh?”

James rose slowly, turning to face Violet. “Yeah, wild. How did I not notice all of this water going out?”

She moved next to him, folding her arms across her chest. “You’ve been in a daze lately, moving around as if you didn’t notice anything, anybody.”

They lingered like this for a moment. 

Neither spoke––nor breathed really––except in fractured, shallow breaths. Finally, letting out a burst of air and licking his lips, James shifted his feet and ran a hand through his hair. “I should check on those people out there. They were acting like fucking animals.”

Violet nodded, tucking her hands inside her sleeves. 

“Yeah, my break is almost over. I should be getting back.”

James nodded again, awkwardly. 

Turning away, he disappeared into the racks once more, leaving Violet to her thoughts. He shook his head and mumbled to himself in mock anger. Whenever there was a moment when he and Violet seemed to connect, they both froze, neither making a move. She was scared, but was looking for a way out. 

He knew that. 

He could be there for her. 

Smacking a hand against his forehead, he whispered to himself angrily. “Stupid.”

A psychologist, author, editor, philosopher, martial artist, and skeptic, he has published several novels and currently has many in print, including: The End of the World Playlist, Bitten, The Journey, The Ocean and the Hourglass, The Path of the Fallen, The Portent, and Cerulean Dreams. Follow him on Twitter (@AuthorDanOBrien) or visit his blog He recently started a consultation business. You can find more information about it here:

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Featured Author: John Gaspard

John Gaspard is a filmmaker, writer, and blogger. His blog, Fast, Cheap Movie Thoughts, has been named “One of the 50 Best Blogs for Moviemakers.” He has also written multiple books on the subject of filmmaking, but put all that aside for a moment. He's here today to talk about his newest book, an Eli Marks mystery titled The Ambitious Card, part of the Henery Press Mystery Series Collection.

About the book:

The life of a magician isn’t all kiddie shows and card tricks. Sometimes it’s murder. Especially when magician Eli Marks very publicly debunks a famed psychic, and said psychic ends up dead.  The evidence, including a bloody King of Diamonds playing card (one from Eli’s own Ambitious Card routine), directs the police right to Eli.

As more psychics are slain, and more King cards rise to the top, Eli can’t escape suspicion. Things get really complicated when romance blooms with a beautiful psychic, and Eli discovers she’s the next target for murder, and he’s scheduled to die with her. Now Eli must use every trick he knows to keep them both alive and reveal the true killer.

Interview with John Gaspard:

John, how did you come up with the title The Ambitious Card?

As soon as I decided to write a mystery about a working magician, I discovered that I had way too many cool options for the title. Magic is filled with fun words and phrases, and the tricks alone could offer a full series of titles: The Balducci Force, The Hindu Shuffle, The Linking Rings, Six Card Repeat, The Double Lift, The French Drop … just lots and lots of great titles, just waiting for stories.

After doing a ton of research, I landed on The Ambitious Card. It sounded like a great title and was a trick that would lend itself to leaving clues after each murder because in the trick, the same card keeps turning up again and again. I thought that would be a fun clue that is found at each murder site.

How did you create the plot for this book?

It came to me in bits and pieces, while doing the research or just walking around. In researching psychics (all the victims in the story are psychics), I came across the term Askashic Records – that sounded like a record store to me, so I made one of the characters a psychic who runs a new-agey record store. The use of helium was important for the plot, so I created a character who is a children’s magician, knowing that he would have a need for helium for his balloons.

Once you stir all the ingredients together, the story starts to form itself and tell you the direction it wants to head.

Which character did you most enjoy writing?

The main character, Eli, is divorced and has moved back in with his Uncle Harry, an old magician who runs a magic store. Harry spends much of his free time hanging out at the bar next door with his performing cronies, old-time magicians and mentalists, who spend their days playing cards, reminiscing, and trading barbs. They call themselves The Minneapolis Mystics, although Eli’s aunt Alice dubbed them The Artful Codgers. They were great fun to write, because of their crusty banter and playful personalities.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.

Many, many favorites, but one in particular: Eli is forced to perform a magic show for children (a notoriously tough audience) at the last minute, without the proper props and no time to really prepare. Uncle Harry steps in with a solution that is both lovely and magical and really helps to give Eli a glimpse at what an amazing performer his uncle had been.

Who are your favorite authors?

In the mystery genre, my favorite would be Lawrence Block – his Burglar books were a great inspiration for The Ambitious Card. Jasper Fforde is a favorite as well. For newer writers, I like Simon Rich; older favorites are James Thurber and Robert Benchley.

You get to decide who would read your audiobook. Who would you choose?

Neil Patrick Harris. I would love to see him do a movie version of the book as well. He brings just the right mix of sarcasm and sensitivity to his work – plus, he already knows how to do all the magic!

What’s one of your favorite quotes?

From Groucho Marx: “Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.”

I love that one too! Okay...spill it--what are you working on now?

I’m in the thick of the second book in the Eli Marks mystery series, The Bullet Catch, which picks up a couple months after the conclusion of The Ambitious Card and puts Eli and Uncle Harry into two murder investigations – one current and one from 25 years before.

Can't wait to hear more about it. Puleease come back!

Excerpt from The Ambitious Card


Ask anyone and they’ll tell you I’m generally a positive person. But even I had to admit, this was a bad situation.

After the heavy wooden door closed behind us with an unforgiving finality, I’d come to a sudden insight—when it comes to being in the dark, there’s dark-dark and then there’s inside-a-cave dark.

We were definitely in the latter.

I’d never been in a place so dark, where the blackness of the space jostled up against us like an aggressive, surly crowd on a subway during rush hour.

My head was spinning from the lack of oxygen, and even though I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face, I was starting to see spots in front of my eyes. My lungs ached with each breath I took, the carbon monoxide that filled the cave a poor substitute for the oxygen I’d foolishly taken for granted until this relatively late point in life.

We shuffled and slogged through the inky darkness. My foot slipped on a loose rock, hurdling me forward, where a stalagmite—or is it a stalactite?—connected with my forehead, breaking my fall. My head was now covered with small scrapes and contusions, and in the darkness I couldn’t tell whether it was blood or sweat running down my face. I imagine it was a pretty even mixture of both.

Oh, and did I mention the bats? Well, I don’t know how I could have forgotten them.

The flurry of winged pests had been just as surprised to en-counter us as we had been to encounter them, leaving us the warm and sticky recipients of a rich shower of bat guano. It covered our hair and shoulders, a warm stream that slithered down my spine, making me wish I could actually remove my skin and send it out for cleaning. And as luck would have it, moments after the first battalion departed to points unknown, we were hit with yet a second wave of bat pee, the furry winged bastards slicing across the tops of our heads while their piercing screeches whizzed past our ears.

Even though I had more pressing concerns at the moment, I once again rebuked myself for getting us into this situation. It could have been avoided, I really think it could have.

Things would have turned out quite differently, I’m convinced, if I’d closed my act with something other than The Ambitious Card.

Had it been the cups and balls or the linking rings or a cut and restored rope or any of a hundred other tricks, I might be sitting home in front of the television right now happily munching popcorn, instead of asphyxiating in a cave while marinating in bat pee. But, as they say, hindsight is twenty/twenty, a lesson I appear to be learning and re-learning every day—even in the deadly pitch blackness of this stupid cave.

About the author:

In real life, John’s not a magician, but he has directed six low-budget features that cost very little and made even less – that’s no small trick. He’s also written multiple books on the subject of low-budget filmmaking. Ironically, they’ve made more than the films. His blog, “Fast, Cheap Movie Thoughts” has been named “One of the 50 Best Blogs for Moviemakers” and “One of The 100 Best Blogs For Film and Theater Students.” He’s also written for TV and the stage. John lives in Minnesota and shares his home with his lovely wife, several dogs, a few cats and a handful of pet allergies.

Connect with John:
Website | Blog | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter

Buy the book: 
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Henery Press

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Featured Author: Will MacMillan Jones

Will MacMillan Jones was here in March to talk about his book, Bass Instinct. I'm happy to have him back today to tell us about his latest novel, The SatNav of Doom, a comic fantasy, published by Safkhet Publishing Limited.

About the book: 

Once again, the Dark Lord has a cunning plan. And once again someone else is going to have to carry it out for him: that's what henchmen are for, isn't it? To hench? Oh, and to be sent on the risky missions...

Not that this one should be risky. What could be easier than secretly inserting computer spyware into a laptop, using a Banned Underground gig as a diversion? The Tax Office probably does it all the time. But the Tax Office is not normally being chased for an unpaid credit card bill for a huge round of drinks. (That's the politicians. And the henchmen, of course.) 

And it isn't just any laptop the Dark Lord wants to spy on either. The Government is struggling to find the way out of the Recession without a road map, and what better aid than a SatNav linked to a computer? If the Dark Lord can get inside information on future economic policy, maybe he can clean up and buy a new Mercedes.

Then there is a mystery: where did the time-traveling SatNav come from in the first place? What if the original owner wants it back?

Magic, mayhem and macro-economic policy collide in the latest surreal installment of the acclaimed comic fantasy series, The Banned Underground.

Book trailer: The Amulet of Kings

Interview with Will MacMillan Jones

How long have you been writing, and how did you start?

I’ve always been interested in writing, I think. I was lucky enough to have an English teacher at school who encouraged all of his class to write, and I enjoyed it at school.  Then I wrote my first book in my twenties.  And awful rubbish it was as well. But it formed the basis (after a lot of reworking!) of the first book I had published, The Amulet Of Kings - the first in The Banned Underground series. I’ve been lucky enough to be signed by Safkhet Publishing to write a series of eight of these comic fantasy books for them.  Which I think means that they like the books.

I'd say so. The SatNav of Doom is a very interesting title. What’s the story behind it?

Over the last couple of books in the series, I have been more than a little abusive towards my SatNav character. I have a bad habit of taking inanimate objects that have a big influence on our lives and giving them personalities of their own. SatNavs have come a long way since they first started, and one night I was listening to an inane politician (I can’t recall which one, there’s so many to choose from isn’t there?) going on about a Road Map. Then I realized that he wasn’t involved in the transport system, but the economy – and a SatNav seemed a perfect fit! And as neither SatNavs (I refuse to own one) not politicians are particularly helpful to us in our daily lives, Doom was a natural fit too. Anyone who has ever been misdirected down a narrow country lane their SatNav believes to be a four lane superhighway (on the grounds that one was proposed fifteen years previously but abandoned unbuilt when the funding was used instead on a fact-finding mission to Barbados) will connect with the idea.

How did you create the plot for this book?

Amy, I think I’m in love with you for this question! The idea that I actually create the plots is wonderful, you need to go out into the world and tell everyone! (Especially the publisher, who often makes urgent inquiries about this very question.) Truthfully, I start with the germ of an idea and then I let the characters loose on it. After a while, we all meet up over a drink or two. I tell them what they are going to do to bring the book to a successful conclusion, and they tell me to get lost. After eating the pizza and drinking everything I’ve laid on, of course.

What’s your favorite line from a book?

I have to say, it’s still one from my first novel, The Amulet of Kings. I love writing one-liners, and I love misunderstandings, word play and puns. Plus a bit of surreal humour now and again. This line is still so good that it needs no introductions. You don’t need a scene, a setting, a background. It doesn’t matter who delivers it. I reckon that five books later, I’m still looking to top it. Oh, I shouldn’t say that, should I? Actually, there’s a gag in book 6 (the current work in progress) that might manage it, but for now:
“I know it’s live yogurt, but is it meant to come when it’s called?”

I love it. How do you get to know your characters?

I meet them in the pub, of course! I’m a writer! Observation. People watching. These things are vital. I don’t go heavily on the character descriptions, you see: I like the readers to fill in the details in their own imaginations. So a hint here or there, a small character trait, is enough for me to pass along an impression. Gloria, for example, is a dragon receptionist. (Really a dragon, this is a fantasy!) I leave her as tall, dressed in grey, and her heels click aggressively when she walks. Now who hasn’t met a receptionist/PA like that? 

Well, I've never met a real dragon as a receptionist, but the other description certainly fits with some I've seen.

I always have my Moleskine on me for notes of people I’d like to write, too.

Which character did you most enjoy writing?

In this book, it is one of the less central characters: Gloria, the love-lorn dragon receptionist. People can be so prejudiced, can’t they? Just because she’s got a teenage attitude to live, despite being a couple of hundred years old, and has a bit of a secret thing for her Boss, the less than competent and unhappily married Dark Lord. It’s not easy being grey, you know. And people are so easily offended by casual incineration, too.

Go figure. What would your main character say about you?

This one I can escape. You see, I don’t actually have a main character. Some reviewers have found this a bit awkward when reading the series, but I actually have quite a regular cast list. In fact, the publisher (demonstrating undue sagacity) insisted from the first book that I write a cast list for every novel, to help those readers who have a bizarre desire to understand what’s going on. I mean, I hardly know so why should they?

But this is the epilogue to book 6, coming sometime next year. It’s a conversation (yes, in a pub – they are musicians!) between two of the characters. One has been reading a local paper.

“It says here that one of the author’s shorts has won a literacy prize.”
“It’s not news that his underwear has a life of it’s own. Sounds like it writes better than he can too.”

One of your characters has just found out you’re about to kill him off. He/she decides to beat you to the punch. How would he kill you?

As a humourist, particularly in the comic fantasy field, I’m not allowed to kill the characters. The uproar from the regular readers would be too much to handle. So, I’m safe from that. But they already like to get their own back. The musicians took me out drinking, and left me on my porch, fast asleep (yes all right, insensible through excess drink. I’ve confessed. Happy now?) and naked, having thoughtfully dropped all my clothes in the pond. The Dark Wizards drove past when I was asleep – this time is after midnight, so I had an excuse – and magically bricked up my front door before driving off. I’ve heard there’s something being planned for the next book, but I’ve no idea what.

My, your characters are devious little boogers. Where’s home for you?

At the moment, I live in Wales. A lovely green verdant land, full of myth and magic and legend...and great rugby and wonderful micro breweries, too. What’s not too like? But my heart lies in the Lake District, and I have firm plans to go and live there once my daughter finishes college and heads off to University to do something so insanely complex and technical that I certainly cannot spell it, and can barely pronounce it. Such is progress.

What would your dream office look like?

I’ve got it already! Nya,nya,nya. A smallish room, with a large window overlooking fields, and a wall completely covered in bookcases, full of my favourite books. No idea how many there are, I’ve never counted them. In one corner is my treasured hi-fi, and a collection of proper vinyl records, and some cds and tapes. The chair has molded itself to the shape of my bum after many, many years of use. Perfect.

How did you find Safkhet Publishing, and how long did your query process take?

Like everyone else, I was just lucky getting publishers. And I’m greedy, because I’ve contracts with more than one company. Safkhet Publishing, who picked up my humour/fantasy do not do horror. They don’t like reading it, so will not publish it: which I think is actually pretty cool of them really. They decided in the end not to take my children’s work, as they felt they couldn’t do it justice, so (cross fingers) that may yet have a third home!

All authors get a lot of rejections. I was still getting rejections from earlier queries after my first book had been released. One problem a lot of authors have is that they rush the query process, and end up sending their work to unsuitable agents/publishers. Take the example of my horror work, which does very well. I offered it to my fantasy publishers first because I trust them and we have a good relationship: they were happy with me sending it elsewhere because it isn’t their cup of tea. But if that had been my first book, I could have sent them the submission, and waited eagerly for a reply...which would have been negative of course, however good the work was. You must, as an aspiring author, do your research first. But if you believe you have written a good book, you owe it to yourself to try the query process before jumping into self publishing, however attractive that option may seem.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

Easy one! I’m either hiking, messing about with my beloved Les Paul guitar, or out doing research for the next book. That’s the thing really, once you buy into writing as a way of life, it soon takes over everything else, doesn’t it? And you never stop looking around and getting ideas for stories.

That's very true. What are you working on now?

I’ve got two books that I am concluding at the moment: Have Frog, Will Travel which is the sixth in the Banned Underground series, and The Picture: that’s the sequel to The Showing and is another paranormal/horror adventure. In addition, I am always writing short stories, and several of them have the potential to be turned into full novels in time.

Other books by Will MacMillan Jones:

The Banned Underground series was described in a review in the Guardian newspaper Books Review site as:
Lord Of The Rings as written by Milton Jones to the Soundtrack of Led Zeppelin IV...

The books are:

The Amulet of Kings
The Mystic Accountants
The Vampire Mechanic
Bass Instinct

All of these are available through any bookshop, specifically Amazon, Smashwords, KOBO, and Nook.

His first horror release:
The Showing, available in print or ebook on Amazon.

Book trailer: The Vampire Mechanic

About the author:

Will lives in Wales, a lovely green verdant land of myth and legend. He does his best to support local culture by drinking as much local beer as he can, and shouting loudly at the TV during international rugby matches. In between, he writes fantasy to keep sanity at bay.

Connect with Will:
Website | Blog | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter      

Buy the book:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Waterstones 
Coming soon:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Featured Author: Robert Bartram

Today I'd like you to meet Robert Bartram, the author of the historical drama Dance the Moon Down. Get to know him in the interview, and then read an excerpt from the book.

About the book:

In 1910, no one believed there would ever be a war with Germany. Safe in her affluent middle-class life, the rumors held no significance for Victoria either. It was her father’s decision to enroll her at university that began to change all that. There she befriends the rebellious and outspoken Beryl Whittaker, an emergent suffragette, but it is her love for Gerald Avery, a talented young poet from a neighboring university that sets the seal on her future.

After a clandestine romance, they marry in January 1914, but with the outbreak of the First World War, Gerald volunteers and within months has gone missing in France. Convinced that he is still alive, Victoria’s initial attempts to discover what has become of him, implicate her in a murderous assault on Lord Kitchener, resulting in her being interrogated as a spy, and later tempted to adultery.

Now, virtually destitute, Victoria is reduced to finding work as a common laborer on a rundown farm, where she discovers a world of unimaginable ignorance and poverty. It is only her conviction that Gerald will some day return that sustains her through the dark days of hardship and privation as her life becomes a battle of faith against adversity.

Interview with Robert Bartram

Robert, I love the title Dance The Moon Down. What’s the story behind it? 

I read an article in The Nation, a now obsolete periodical, for June 1914, written by John Galsworthy, the author of the Forsyte Saga. Basically it was a critique of the younger generation, of whom he wrote-“they had been born to dance the moon down to ragtime.” In hindsight we now know that they, in fact fought the bloodiest conflict of the twentieth century and paid a terrible price. The irony of  Galsworthy’s  remark made such an impression on me that I took it for the title of my book.

How did you create the plot for Dance The Moon Down?

An enormous amount of fiction has been written about WWI, almost exclusively about the men and even the animals that fought on the front line. It occurred to me that very little had been done about the people, most particularly the women, who had been left behind. I didn’t want to write a war story, in fact Dance The Moon Down is a romance, so the woman’s angle was perfect. The rest was pure research. I took two people passionately in love, separated them by a global event, and then left them with only their courage and faith to see them through.

What’s your favorite line from a book?

That’s easy. Page 227, line 16-20. “As she made her way back to the farm, she wondered if the world would ever become what people in their heart of hearts truly wanted it to be, or if it would remain as it was now, the creation of their greed, anger and stupidity.”

How do you get to know your characters?

Rather in the same way as I get to know “real” people, little by little. Gradually I come to love and respect them (my characters, that is) I explore their strengths and weaknesses, applaud the former and make allowances for the latter. Whilst you might think  I have the “God-like”  ability to do anything I want with them, I simply don’t, for their sake, the novel's, and mine.

Which character did you most enjoy writing?

Victoria, of course. She displays such a wide range of emotions, everything that’s best, and worst, in all of us. She’s vulnerable and strong, both naive and wise, it’s how she balances it all out that makes her such a joy to write about.

She sounds like a strong character. What would she say about you?

Happily, Victoria is a lady, so she’d resist using the expletives she’s entitled to, after what I put her through. I rather hope she would say, thank you for bringing me into being and thank you for seeing me through. Now please leave me alone to live in peace.

Is your book based on real events?

Very much so. About 75% of the novel is based on actual events. Naturally I changed the names of those involved and made slight alterations to some events so they fitted the novel, but other than that, there’s less “fiction” in it than you might think.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.

One of several is where Victoria is finally persuaded by her girlfriends on the farm to go skinny dipping in a pond in a nearby wood one swelteringly hot summer's night. Her uninhibited friends strip off and jump straight in, but she is much more cautious. Even though she’s been implicated in an assault on Lord Kitchener, accused of obstructing a Scotland Yard inquiry, interrogated as a spy, and come close to committing adultery, she considers that taking her clothes off in a public place is the most daring thing she’s ever done. Then the Zeppelin arrives...

What song would you pick to go with your book?

When Gerald finally has to leave for France, Victoria stands at the gate and watches him go. She puts a brave face on it, but her heart is breaking. All I could think off when writing this scene was Catherine Jenkins singing “Time to say Goodbye.” Play it when you read it and see what happens...

Who are your favorite authors?

Henry James, Ernest Hemmingway and Herman Melville, among others, but these three really impress me as writers.

Do you have a routine for writing?

I prefer to write at night, it’s much quieter then, and I can hear my thoughts. I usually work from 11am to 3pm seven days a week. I tend to start with a basic idea and then write the parts I enjoy most until I have chunks of disembodied plot, then it’s a process of marrying them together. After that it’s rewrite after rewrite, until I  have the draft I want. I always write at the dining table, next to a window which looks out on my large secluded garden. My muse lives there.

You’re leaving your country for a year. What’s the last meal (or food) you would want to have before leaving?

Fish and chips (French fries) with lashings of salt and viniger.

You’re given the day off, and you can do anything but write. What would you do?

I’d probably stay in bed all day. Come on, be honest, wouldn’t you?

I just might. Why did you decide to publish with Authors Online?

The harsh truth is that nobody in mainstream publishing wanted the novel. To be fair to the book, they never asked to see more than ten pages which, I feel, hardly gave them the opportunity to reasonably assess the novel. Nevertheless, that’s the way they do things, so I decided, like many others, to go it alone. Was I right to do it ? Well, I’m only half way through my promotion campaign and the novel has already notched up 30 five star reviews and was nominated book of the month on “Wall to Wall Books.” You tell me.

Those are excellent results. What’s one of your favorite quotes? 

It’s by Oscar Wilde. “I was working on the proof of one of my poems all morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.” I can really relate to that.

Oh, I can too. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love natural history. I take any opportunity I get to stroll through the countryside and make observations, many of which end up in my writing. I also enjoy gardening and going to the Globe in London to watch Shakespeare preformed at its best.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I’m already here. I thank God for my health, my strength and letting me live in England.

What are you working on now?

It’s a story set against the background of the American Civil War. This one also has a female central character (my favorite) and I think, as with Dance The Moon Down, I’ve found a new slant on how to write it. Before you ask, no, it won’t be anything like Gone With The Wind, but that’s all I’m saying for now.

I hope you'll say more when it's finished and that you'll say it here! In the meantime, best of luck with Dance The Moon Down.

Excerpt from Dance the Moon Down

Victoria heard someone pass close by, approach the desk and stop.  After a moment, not having felt a hand on her shoulder, she opened her eyes to see a young officer standing in front of her. He bore such a striking resemblance to Gerald that for a moment she thought that it was actually he.

‘This is Lieutenant Fairchild,’ Colonel Bass informed her bluntly, ‘temporarily assigned to this department. I’ve put him in charge of investigating your husband’s case. In future, you’ll direct all your questions to him.’ Closing the file, he handed it to the lieutenant.

‘Carry on, Fairchild.’

The lieutenant took the file, turned to her, smiled and gestured that she should follow him.

Victoria was only too glad to do so, but as she rose to leave, Colonel Bass had one last word of warning.

‘In future, young woman, I suggest that you confine your activities to the appropriate channels. If you persist in pursuing your original course, you may discover that this department is no longer disposed to offer you the leniency it’s shown today.‘ With that, he looked down and began writing again.

With an outstretched hand, Lieutenant Fairchild reaffirmed his invitation for her to follow him. Victoria couldn’t wait to get out of the room. She was shaking from head to toe and in such a state that, by the time she reached the corridor, she was desperate to confide her feelings to just about anyone.

‘That man,’ she told the lieutenant, her voice wavering with emotion, ‘that awful man is overbearing, rude and insensitive!’

‘He’s a colonel in the British army,’ Lieutenant Fairchild pointed out. ‘He’s supposed to be.’

His candour did nothing to alleviate her distress. ‘Do you know, he accused me of being a spy?’

The gravity of her statement merely seemed to amuse him. ‘My dear Mrs Avery, if he’d ever once thought that you were actually a spy, then you’d never have been allowed into this building. At this moment, you’d be languishing in His Majesty’s Prison Holloway, awaiting execution.’

Victoria drew a huge gasp, her eyes widening with incredulity; she could hardly believe her ears. ‘You mean to say that he put me through all that, knowing all the time that I wasn’t a spy?’

‘Believe it or not, he did you a favour,’ Lieutenant Fairchild told her. ‘It could have been far more serious had he wished to make it so.’ Victoria was incensed. She felt completely humiliated.

Disregarding his remarks, her agitation began to boil over. ‘That’s despicable!’ she fumed.  ‘I don’t think the corridor is the best place for this conversation,’ he advised. ‘I’m certain we’ll be much more comfortable in my office.’

The lieutenant’s office was tiny in comparison to the baronial hall occupied by Colonel Bass, but it was far more inviting. It was hardly bigger than a cupboard, lined with filing cabinets and cluttered with stacks of paper that further reduced its size.

‘Sorry about the mess,’ he apologised, ‘but lowly lieutenants don’t rate a lot of space.’ He paused, studying her for a moment. ‘May I offer you some tea?’ he asked. ‘You look as though you need it.’

When the tea arrived, Victoria was grateful to receive a cup. Her ordeal had left her parched, and it was all she could do to stop herself from gulping it. Nevertheless, to her acute embarrassment, each time she tried to replace the cup back onto the saucer, her trembling hand made it rattle conspicuously, and in spite of trying not to, she slurped when she drank.

Lieutenant Fairchild waited patiently for her to recover enough to continue. Eventually, Victoria put the cup down and eyed him warily. Despite his good looks and easy charm, she was still paranoid about military conspiracies. ‘It won’t work, you know,’ she told him.
The lieutenant folded his hands on the desk top and smiled indulgently. ‘What won’t work?’ he asked.

She was certain that he knew exactly what she was talking about, but if he insisted on continuing this silly charade, then she would tell him anyway. ‘I’ve made a nuisance of myself, and after frightening the life out of me, that colonel of yours thinks to distract me by putting a pretty face in my way.’

 It took him some moments to comprehend what she was alluding to. Then suddenly, his eyes widened in surprise. ‘Oh, I see. You mean me. I can honestly say that I’ve never thought of myself in quite those terms before,’ he admitted, still somewhat bemused by her remark. ‘Do you suppose Colonel Bass sees me that way?’

Victoria was only too well aware that his amusement was entirely at her expense, and was determined not to be the butt of the joke.

‘You know precisely what I mean, Lieutenant,’ she remarked coldly.

‘Please, call me Alan,’ he invited, taking her by surprise, ‘and may I call you Victoria?’

He had a beguiling way about him that easily disarmed her caution, and after an appropriate pause required by formality, she nodded her consent.

‘Excellent,’ he beamed. ‘I’m sure we’re going to be great friends.’

Under any other circumstances, his remark might have been considered presumptuous. Perhaps the harrowing events of the last few hours had tired her, wearing down her resistance, making her susceptible to his overtures. In any event, Victoria found the suggestion not altogether unattractive. Maybe Colonel Bass was a better judge of character than she’d given him credit for.

About the author:

Born in Edmonton, London in 1951, Robert spent several of his formative years living in Cornwall where he began to develop a life long love of nature and the rural way of life. He began writing in his early teens and much of his short romantic fiction was subsequently published in various national periodicals including Secrets, Red Letter, and The People’s Fiend.

Never one to let the necessity of making a living get in the way of his writing, Robert has continued to write for most of his life whilst holding down a succession of jobs, which have included, “Health Food Shop Manager,” ”Typewriter Mechanic,” and “Taxidermist” – Yes, you read that correctly.

His passion for the history of the early twentieth century is second only to his love of writing. It was whilst researching for another project that he came across the personal diaries and letters of some women who had lived through the trauma of the Great War. What he read in them inspired him to write his debut novel Dance The Moon Down, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Robert is single and lives and writes in Hertfordshire.

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