Simon Sion Ebrahimi

Simon “Sion” Ebrahimi  is a retired Iranian Jewish accountant and author who was held hostage for many months in his office in Tehran during the Iranian revolution. Simon’s office was located across the street from the U.S. Embassy. In November 1979, when the embassy was taken over by armed revolutionary thugs, Simon and his partners were also held hostage inside their offices by his armed employees. Now in his seventies, he resides in Los Angeles and has penned a fictional, multi-generational family saga loosely based on his family’s life in Iran.

Please tell everyone a little about yourself, Simon

Simon: I was born and raised in Jewbareh, the Jewish ghetto of Esfahan, Iran. I studied management and finance in England before returning to Iran, where I was a partner to an international accounting firm. In 1979, I was taken hostage by my employees at the same time as the American Embassy compound was overtaken by the Islamic Republic. I left Iran with my wife and two daughters after the revolution to settle in Los Angeles, California. For over fifteen years, I was the editor of Shofar, a monthly magazine published both in English and Farsi by the Iranian American Jewish Federation, with an international readership of about fifty thousand. I have also had popular television and radio programs in the Persian media.

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?

Simon: Although I was an economist by profession, writing had always been the passion of my life. I began with short stories and ended up writing a multi-generational family saga of five generations of Iranian Jews. Veiled Romance is the last of the five generations; the other four are waiting in the line.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?

Simon: For as long as I remember, I’ve been writing. Once you commit your feelings and thoughts to paper and people read and appreciate it, you’ve already accomplished your goal. Iranian Jews have over 2500 years of history in Persia which is unknown to many. If you’re curious about the life stories of a Jewish minority in Iran, you are my reader.

Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?

Simon: The novel Veiled Romance begins as Leila Omid writes her memoirs from an Iranian prison. As she struggles to survive in hellish conditions, she sets down the story of  how she was educated in the United States, where she met and fell in love with Cyrus, a fellow Iranian Jewish student. Separated for years, they were reunited in Tehran and their love was rekindled, but when the revolution erupted Cyrus was taken hostage by Islamic fundamentalists and … Well, please go to my website (www.Simon-Writes.com), read the first two chapters of the book and if you’re interested, buy the book (either on the site or Amazon) and read the rest.

What’s the hook for the book?

Simon: An Iranian young, American educated, brilliant woman, in love, writing her memoirs from Islamic Republic jail.

How do you develop characters? Setting?

Simon: By making them learn from their experiences. Setting? What better than having been taken hostage during the American Embassy hostage taking in Tehran (which is what exactly happened to me.)

Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?

Simon: Leila.

Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?

Simon: In Veiled Romance, I have used the technique of flash backs.

Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?

Simon: First person POV, for you can wear different hats of your characters.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Simon: The story of the male character in the book is mostly based on my own life story. A Jew in a Muslim country with Muslim friends and enemies both!

Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.

Simon:

On Nov. 4, 1979, Islamist students and militants loyal to the Ayatollah Khomeini took over the American Embassy compound in Tehran and captured 52 Americans — a diplomatic crisis that lasted 444 days.

Simon Sion Ebrahimi, a local Iranian Jewish author, remembers that day well. It was the same day employees at his accounting firm, which faced the American Embassy, took him hostage.

Now a 73-year-old retired banker living in Woodland Hills, Ebrahimi has incorporated his hostage ordeal in Tehran as well as other experiences before and during the Iranian Revolution into “Veiled Romance,” the first in a planned series of novels depicting the multi-generational saga of an Iranian Jewish family.

www.jewishjournal.com

What are your current projects?

Simon: I’m reviewing the past five generations of this family saga.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Simon: As I mentioned above, they can read the first two chapters of my book and all the feedbacks I’ve had on my website (www.Simon-Writes.com

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Sondra Smith

Sondra Smith is the author of  Unicorns and Rainbows, and Harry the Snail (a series for the adventurous reader).

Hi Sondra, please tell everyone a little about yourself. 

Sondra: I live in Elkton, Virginia with my husband Troy. During the many long hours waiting for Troy at the hospital, while he received radiation treatments for cancer, I started working on the research for my fourth book, Write the Right Word.  Having the desire to give something useful to help the people in this world who are learning and using the English language, I’d already  started working on finding same sounding words (homophones and homonyms); findings that led to the writing of  Whata Ewe Mean Bye That? (What Do You Mean by That?). 

Besides writing, I love to paint (oils on canvas), garden, and watch the abundant wildlife around our home. We also take care of eight feral cats that came to us for food and shelter.

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?

Sondra: I knew in high school that I wanted to write. It seemed to be a natural for me. I started out writing children’s/young adult novels, packed with adventure. The first published was Unicorns and Rainbows, followed by Harry the Snail. Whata Ewe Mean Bye That? and Write the Right Word are about writing the correct homophone and homonyms properly, when writing the English language. They are for anyone writing the English language.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?

Sondra: Unicorns and Rainbows, and Harry the Snail (a series) were written to entertain readers. To give them a story that would take them away from their current environment and put them into a make believe world, excited to learn, what’s going to happen next? Whata Ewe Mean Bye That? and Write the Right Word were written to help and teach people around the world to  learn, understand and use the words properly when writing English. I understand homophones and homonyms are taught in school, but have been told by numerous teachers that there is not enough time to teach the subject in depth. So, students are left to study on their own, to find, learn, and use homophones correctly, often with great confusion and not knowing how to find the other word(s), especially if they are unsure of how the word is spelled correctly.

Is there any doubt left within your mind as to why there are so many misused same sounding words?

Sondra: I was one of those guilty people. I had a lot to learn on my own.

What about students that are learning English as a second language?

Sondra: They are challenged with learning a new language, then someone tells them about writing same sounding words … oh my. There are only 2,680+ such words to learn and use properly when writing English. No big deal! Right? I truly felt there is a need for such a book and an app, because spell checkers did not correct homophones if the word was spelled correctly. The writer may not have any idea that they have misused a same sounding word. If they did know there was a possibility of using the incorrect word, how would they find it in the dictionary? The same sounding words do not necessarily begin with the same letter, therefore giving the writer stress and confusion. For example, often a reader will see the misused homophones, such as, affect and effect. They sound almost the same when you say them, but mean  two entirely different things when written. Actually, all the words have different meanings.

Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?

Sondra: Write the Right Word is a stand-alone app, to be uploaded and used on Apple devices. The reader can put in part of a word or the whole word, using the keypad. It will go immediately to the group of same sounding words to review and reveal a detailed description and meanings of the words in the group, including if they are nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. For example: CHOIR n., an organized company of singers adj., professed to recite or chant the divine office v., to sing or sound in chorus QUIRE n., 24-25 sheets of paper, same size and quality. The reader may also click on any letter of the alphabet and the entire chapter with the homophones will come up to review. This will help the reader to become aware of all the same sounding words and use greater caution when writing. They now know the differences. My goal is to teach people to learn and use the same sounding words properly. It is quite educational, fun, and easy to use. I have taken out the “guesswork” of using the correct words when writing English.

What’s the hook for the book?

Sondra: To teach/help people worldwide to write the right word when writing English.

How do you develop the skills of writers with this kind of problem?

Sondra: By using the incorrect homophone, writers are often judged by the way they write. The app will help them to overcome their problems and improve their writing skills.

Are there other ways that the app can be used?

Sondra: Yes, teachers often misuse same sounding words on purpose to demonstrate how the app can be used to find the correct word. It is also useful to avoid the embarrassment of using a misused same sounding word that might be brought to the attention of their boss after writing and publishing that important report.

How much effort went into producing the app?

Sondra: It took months of research to locate the 2,680+ words, but the experience was worth the effort and gave a great feeling of satisfaction now that it is complete.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Sondra: As I matured, I understood the importance of a good education. As a youth I could have cared less about education. I was very bored with school and did not apply myself. We moved several times and I was unable to take any electives I would enjoy. The classes had already been filled by students who had been attending the same school and had first choice on their selections of electives. I had nothing to keep my interest in going to school. One day I was thrown to the wolves and realized how immature and thoughtless I had been. I grew up and realized I had to support myself! Then the desire to do something constructive and of importance came into being of interest. I faced many challenges and searched my soul to do something of importance. I lacked an education about knowing how to do many things. The teaching of one’s self began and continues today. My goal is to make one thing in the list of life’s challenges easier for those who want to learn. I was one of those who would write the incorrect homophone. I was embarrassed more than several times by my mistakes. Being a lousy speller definitely added to the challenge of using the proper words. Thank goodness computers came along and have spell check. When I started the project to find all the homophones and homonyms, I thought there would be only a couple hundred. To my surprise, I found over 2,680! I soon enjoyed the challenge of finding the words for myself and others. There had to be others out there in the world that were as uninformed as me, so I worked to find all the words that I possibly could for them as well as for my own knowledge.

Share the best review (or portion) that you’ve ever had.

Sondra: Thus far, I have not had a review for Write the Right Word. Once the app is published, I do hope to have some. The review from Meredith Green – Reviewer, The San Francisco Book Review, reads…

“I had the privilege of reading and reviewing Sondra Smith’s Book ‘Whata (What do) Ewe (You) Mean Bye (By) That?’ and found it a well-thought-out resource not only for students and writers, but also those learning English as a second language. Not merely proffering a dry text-book, the authoress manages to make navigating English homonyms interesting and–at times–quite amusing.” May 23, 2010

What are your current projects?

Sondra: Which one? My next top project is…to have the game I invented about homophones published and on the market, as a boxed game, available in retail stores and as an app, online game. It is quite fun, challenging and educational. Even the simple words (there/their) can be quite a challenge in this game and sure to help teach/learn same sounding words. The game is on three levels. There are more than enough words to do a couple games on each level without repeating a word used prior. 2nd. To separate the 2,680+ words into groups for the grade schools, middle school and advanced. For the grade schools and middle schools, I will have an animated app made to go with a lot of the words to retain the users’ interest in the words. As we all know, a picture is worth a thousand words. I have numerous skids on the drawing board to use in the apps, in hopes the skits will help teach them the words. 

Where can folks learn more about your books and events.

Sondra: Write the Right Word is available at the Apple store  for the reader’s I-Pod/Pad. There is also a possibility to be published on Kindle later on. My email address is, writetherightword@yahoo.com My book, Whata Ewe Mean Bye That?, may be found on my website, www.whataewemean.weebly.com and I can be contacted at whataewemeanbyethat@yahoo.com The publisher for Unicorns and Rainbows is no longer in business, but can be found sometimes on Amazon.com. I am actually considering republishing it and perhaps make it into a screen play as well. I still own the copyright to it; therefore can go for it if I choose. Harry the Snail can be found on Amazon.com as well. You may buy it as an e-book or hard copy. Both Unicorns and Rainbows and Harry the Snail are under the name of Sondra J. Short (I have remarried and became a Smith).

The app can be found here: Write the Right Word

Thanks for joining us today, Sondra.

Sondra: Thank you so much!

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Baye McNeil

Baye McNeil was born in Brooklyn, New York, but currently lives in Yokohama, Japan. He recently published his first book, Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist.  Baye’s  motto is: … and if the elevator tries to bring you down, go Loco! 

Hi Baye, Please tell everyone a little about yourself.

Baye: My name is Baye McNeil and I’m a freelance writer and blogger from Brooklyn, New York. I currently live in Yokohama, Japan, where I teach Junior High School English.  I’m a fervent connoisseur of Japanese Hot Springs and Ramen and spend my free time taking photos of trains, and life in the subways and stations of Yokohama, Kawasaki and Tokyo.

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?

Baye: I think the first bite was in the genre of poetry when I was in elementary and junior high school, as a way to attract girls. By high school, screenplays gave me quite a charge. I wrote a couple including one horror movie that garnered me my first applause. After that it didn’t resurface until university.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?

Baye: I wasn’t really aware of any particular message or goal aside from “I’d like to meet you after school and take you for a long walk in the botanical garden holding hands and stealing coins from the wishing pond …” By University, one of my writing professors informed me that I had unsuspected depth and “a voice the reader loves to hear …” Shouldn’t have told me that! Started writing like a mad man. Around that time I came across a writer by the name of James Baldwin and from that point on my unstated goal became to write something he might read and say, “That’s not bad.”

Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?

Baye: It’s a stand alone book called, Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist. It’s about how my bitter responses to the behavior of people here in Japan (whether it is due to their racism, xenophobia, or any other fear-based feeling my presence inspires) informed me in no uncertain terms that I was a racist, and that if I wanted to be rid of this dark social virus — that I believe many of us are afflicted with whether we’re aware of it or not — then I had better locate its source and confront it head on!

Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?

Baye: That title would probably go to Aiko, the woman the book is dedicated to and the inspiration behind its writing. She taught me so much about Japanese people and culture, upon my arrival in Japan, but eventually she became like a mirror that when held up reveals not only the person you are but the person you have the capacity to be. She taught me about love and hate, about the meaning of strength and the proper use of power. She is a mortgage I will gladly pay until the day I pass on, and probably still be in debt once I’ve gone, and this book attempts to pay homage to the woman she was and will forever be in my heart.

Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?

Baye: Since this book is a non-fiction memoir of sorts there isn’t a plot really, but I did need to keep each chapter related to the theme and reveal more not only about myself but about how I viewed and what I was learning from the world around me in digestible nuggets. I also had to modulate my story so as not to overwhelm the reader. This I learned how to do, ironically, through blogging. I’ve kept a blog, www.locoinyokohama.com, for the past three years where I floated a lot of the ideas I intended to include in the book just to see how they would be received and how to present them with just the amount of intensity to engage the reader without inundating them with too much raw emotion (something I had a tendency to do before I learned the extent of the force I write with quite often … it’s a hell of a challenge!)

Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?

Baye: Again, this was something I discovered via my blog. I tend to write first person … but I lacked the confidence at the onset of blogging to stand behind my feelings and thoughts full on. I often write very confrontationally, delving into issues that make people uncomfortable…including me at times. I feel wary and vulnerable to attacks while at the same time I feel like I’m doing the right thing because certainly these issues deserve the light of day and were just waiting for a voice to emerge with the courage and dare I say skill to address them in an honest, direct and provocative way yet keep it entertaining and educational at the same time. I feel my style and voice accomplish this and my blog readers would concur, as do, thus far, the readers of my book

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Baye: Oh man, in every way imaginable, particularly with this book and the issue of racism. Being raised in Brooklyn new York in the 1970s, before New York became the kinder, gentler metropolis it is now, when it was a still a Buppie /Yuppie-free neglected, gang and drug infested ghetto, replete with corrupt racist cops and an angry black populace striving to maintain dignity and gain respect … yeah, I was influenced quite a bit by being brought up amid this. I was basically a child of the Pan African/Black Power Movement, my playground was on the front lines of boycott and demonstrations against the white power structure. My first school was an all-black private school formed by educators fed up with a public school system that set black children up for failure and low self-esteem and taught them to capitulate before the Eurocentric train of thought. I was raised to be a warrior in a war against white indoctrination and brain washing. And this colors the writing in this book and most of the writing I’ve done over the course of my life.

Any advice you’d give to aspiring self-publishers?

Baye: Yeah. Make sure the product is as good as you can make it and then some, because word of mouth will be the kiss of life or death. And before you even think about self-publishing anything, you had better build up some solid relationships founded on mutual respect and admiration. And preferably some that are willing to help out with those above mentioned tasks … or go out and learn about them on your own because they are realer than real. And don’t count on friends to help you out of the kindness of their hearts. Some will of course but plan around that. Whatever they do ought to be gravy. They should not be part of the meal. That includes family, as well. You are the rudder. Give people a good reason to help you, like for example they stand to benefit as well, then you’ll get a more robust response. And learn how to be grateful. How to stay humble and say please and thank you, and SHOW appreciation. We writers are quite often hermits and spend a lot of our time alone with a keyboard and our thoughts and feelings. So, wearing the social hat often takes us out of our comfort zone. Try to learn to be comfortable in that discomfort zone BEFORE you publish! And never make the mistake of believing ten bucks or five bucks is nothing and people will just part with it for your product like it’s nothing. The onus is on you to make them feel that it’s nothing. The value of the product they’re getting for that price is what makes the money easier to part with. And that, my friend, returns us to the product. Make it great!

Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.

Baye: This is from the book’s Amazon page:

I was genuinely caught off guard by this book in so many ways. I didn’t hope to laugh as much as I ended up doing, but I never expected to cry. The book blew me away on three different levels. The first is that Loco completely succeeds at drawing you slowly into his world, talking to me about things I thought I knew about or was familiar with, but learning I was not. Showing me a whole different life experience through his own eyes. The second thing that got me about the book was Loco’s writing style. His narrative is fluorescently vivid. Some of his turns of phrase and sentences really made me actually wish I could stop and mark the page. So many quotables, and so many brilliantly and succinctly put insights. The third thing about the book is the structure of the book – I’ve read his blog before and found it a bit jarring to go straight into, as indeed, I think jumping straight to the third or fourth chapter of this book would be. But the narrative is set up so well, and you are eased into it, and then led through a dance between sadness and joy, geographies and timescales, each contrasting and complementing the last before finally and gently returning the reader to the motif used in the beginning of the empty train seat, and the thought piece at the end. I expected to read a really long blog about Japan made into a book. I got the best damn read I’ve had in the last 10 years by a man who has proven to me beyond any doubt that he is a uniquely talented writer.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Baye: I have a website set up for the book here: www.himynameisloco.com.  There folks can find info about me, about the book, excerpts, reviews, and info on upcoming readings and events. For the time being most will be in Japan, but hopefully they’ll be some in the US and elsewhere in the days to come. I’m currently working on my second book about teaching and living in Japan as an African American from New York, called: Loco Was Here!

Anything else you’d like to say?

Baye: Yes, there is. Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist is essentially a mission statement. I AM a racist. There’s no doubt in my mind of that, but that’s not the end of my story. And I don’t think it needs to be the end of anyone’s story. I think most of us deal with these types of issues at some point in our lives and I believe it’s essential that we face them and not lurk in the shadows like pedophiles or some other kind of degenerate. Demonizing racism only chases it underground. Surrendering to these proclivities, like it’s human nature and thus inescapable, only perpetuates it. We can’t concede victory to this social virus. I’m of the mind that it CAN be beat, and with constant vigilance and conscious abstinence it WILL eventually go into remission. We may even find a cure. That’s my personal mission and I ain’t ashamed to say it out loud.

Thank you for joining us today, Baye.

Baye: Thanks a lot!

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Susan Wingate

Susan Wingate, award-winning, bestselling author, has written nine novels, two short story collections, a few plays, one screenplay and tons of poems. Her latest novel Drowning (contemporary women’s fiction), won 1st place in the 2011 Forward National Literature Award and was a finalist  in the 2011 International Book Awards.

Hi Susan, please tell everyone a bit about yourself.

Susan: I co-host the very popular talk radio show, “Dialogue: Between the Lines.” I was born in Phoenix, Arizona and graduated from AZ State University in 1994 with an undergraduate degree in accounting. Three years later, I moved from Phoenix to an island in Washington State where I began to concentrate fully on writing. After the writing “bug” bit me, I quit accounting to write full-time. Since then, I’ve  written several plays, one screenplay, two short story collections and nine novels. My amateur sleuth series entitled The Bobby’s Diner Series has received acclaim from reviewers and in book competitions. My pseudonyms include, Myah Lin (literary fiction) and JJ Adams (noir mystery). My gritty novel, A Falling of Law (JJ Adams) is often described as Chandleresque in style. Writing as Myah Lin, my novella, Camouflage was a Finalist and received an Editor’s Choice Award in the 2009 Textnovel Writing Contest. 

As a lover of education and the arts, I teach writing,  draw and paint abstracts using oil as my favored medium. I still live in Washington State with my husband and a bunch of crazy animals.

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?

Susan: My passion for writing really took hold in my thirties. I guess you could say I was a late bloomer. I always enjoyed writing but had some negative writing experiences very early on that colored my ambitions to the point of quelling the longing to write all together — for a while, that is. Then, it seemed nothing could keep me from putting pen to paper. At first I wrote poetry, then short stories, then on my move from Phoenix to Washington State, I formulated an idea for a novel, for the entire 1900-mile drive. The moment I set foot into my new home, I dragged out my ring-bound notebook and started to scribble. It felt like I hadn’t been alive before that moment. I knew writing would be my life from then on.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?

Susan: Well, our goals change as we grow in writing but my very first goal was to write a novel. It was like baby steps. I’d never written a novel and I really had no right to be writing one then! Only three years before my move, I’d gotten  my bachelor’s degree in accounting but my life was undergoing a big metamorphosis. I honestly believe that the urge to write in me was so strong that I somehow created this metamorphosis and moved (under the guise of different reasons) in order to get to a place that would feed my muse and could free me to write. By the way, this is the first time I’ve ever expressed what happened to me, in words, written OR thought. So, thank you for the reveal — to your readers and also to me.

A message for readers? Yes. Always do what you love. Grab that brass ring. Now!

Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?

Susan: I’m nearing the close of a year-long book promotion for Drowning, which did remarkably well in sales and in competitions — Thank you, God! And, now my publisher is getting ready to release my debut YA novel entitled Spider  Brains. We’re serializing Spider Brains chapter-by-chapter on my blog “Writing from the Couch” at www.susanwingate.com. Spider Brains is the first in a series of four companion books.

What’s the hook for the book?

Susan: Addition Problem: If you have one teenage girl plus a spider bite, what does that equal? Answer: Transformation!

If one were to bake the story Spider Brains into a cake, they should sprinkle in Charlotte’s Web, toss in one Jellicle Cat, then stir in a little Spiderman — but as a girl and not in that goofy latex outfit! A tale of hope, transformation, transition and inspiration.

Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?

Susan: In Spider Brains? I happen to think Matthew is the most likeable character.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Susan: Well, my father was a very funny, loving person. He was also a writer. So, I guess you could say that I have inherited my father’s funny gene. He loved words and their usages. I remember many days whether sitting around the table talking or taking long drives through the Arizona desert, my dad would play this game — to make up new words and then give them definitions. I still play it today. In fact,  Spider Brains has a few original words slipped in just to keep people on their toes. But, in  Spider Brains, Susie Speider loves words too and longs to be the editor of the high school newspaper. The current editor, Tanya, is Susie’s idol.

Today, I live in a home that sits on five acres of lush water-soaked land on an island in the Pacific Northwest. I look out my windows and see snow spattering the ground and patches of grass sneaking through the icy layer. Deer visit each morning, each afternoon for rolled oats, corn and pellets. Eagles perch on an enormous Noble Fir and they peer down into the massive pond for fish and ducks. My windows create a total encapsulation of nature at every turn of your head. It’s like heaven here and I get to sit and write about it. That’s my environment.

Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.

Susan: One that stands out from the crowd just happened, for  Spider Brains , I’m happy to say. It was written by another Amazon bestselling author and award-winning novelist, Joshua Graham. This was what he had to say about  Spider Brains:

Simply put, Susan Wingate is a master of the written word.  In  Spider Brains, she weaves a heart-warming tale full of wit and intrigue: a nod to Kafka’s Metamorphosis in a quirky blend with The Princess Diaries.  There are laugh out loud moments with the teenage protagonist, Susie Speider, whose voice was well executed and credible.  But there are also moments that tug at the heartstrings and even bring a tear to the eye, as we see Susie’s angst when she faces pain from the past, as well as redemption through the relationship with her mother. Whether or not you’re a fan of YA literature, you’ll love  Spider Brains.  But don’t expect anything ordinary!

 I kind of like that one! OMGeee. Who wouldn’t? Right? Thank you, Joshua. J

What are your current projects?

Susan: I’m currently working on an Apocalyptic Thriller entitled Eschatos: The First Witness. I love this story. It will be such a joy to put the final period on this one and then send it out to publishers.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Susan: They can find me all over the internet: at my website www.susanwingate.com, on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Goodreads, EZRead.com, Amazon.com, B&N.com and Smashwords. My print books can be found in libraries and bookstores across the country as well.

Thanks for joining us today, Susan.

Susan: Thank you so much for hosting me! I’m thrilled to have been asked to contribute to Literature & Fiction.

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Debra R. Borys

Debra R. Borys has over ten years experience freelancing for a wide assortment of clients. Her experience ranges from fiction to articles, feature stories, press releases and radio spots.

Please tell everyone a little about yourself, Debra.

Debra: I spent eight years volunteering with the homeless on the streets of both Chicago and Seattle. In addition to having short stories published, I am also a freelance writer who specializes in fiction projects—editing, ghostwriting, and collaborative work. 10% of any author profits from Painted Black will be donated to the Night Ministry in Chicago and Teen Feed in Chicago to promote solutions for homelessness.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?

Debra: In Painted Black, I called upon my real life experiences as a volunteer with homeless kids and adults to bring life to the characters and setting of the suspense story. My goal was to lure the reader in with a great suspense plot and characters the reader cares about, yet nudge their empathy button while they are reading so that they come out at the end with a broader understanding of homelessness. My hope is to show people that homeless people are just PEOPLE — who just happen to be homeless — not someone to fear or despise.

Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?

Debra: Painted Black is intended to be the first in a series of suspense novels featuring reporter Jo Sullivan as she helps the homeless kids she meets get out of serious jeopardy and try to recover from the blows life has dealt them.

In Painted Black, Jo works with a graffiti artist to try to find his missing friend, a fifteen-year-old girl named Lexie Green. When Jo and Chris investigate Sloan and Whiteside’s funeral home, they put themselves in danger of becoming part of a bizarre collection of freeze dried corpses.

What’s the hook for the book?

Debra: The original idea for the Painted Black suspense plot came from a news article I read years ago in the Chicago Tribune. It was about a new method of preservation being used by taxidermists who freeze dried people’s pets to produce lifelike replicas that would last indefinitely. One person they interviewed stated that freeze drying could be used on people as well, and compared the process to cooking pizzas in an oven. He sounded so bizarre and unconcerned about it. In my research, I actually found an article in a mortuary magazine about a firm that did preserve a man in this manner.

How do you develop characters?

Debra: The street characters in Painted Black are inspired by the people I met on the streets of Chicago. In some cases, they are loosely based on specific encounters I had, or may be composites of people I grew to know fairly well. Jo herself is perhaps a reflection of the person I would like to be, good hearted and tough, someone who wants to make a difference in the world even if it can only happen one person at a time.

Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?

Debra: While Jo Sullivan is the “main” character and the one I plan to carry the series, it is graffiti artist Chris (known by CRY as his tag) who seems to capture everyone’s heart. He’s a sixteen-year-old kid just trying to survive on the streets as best he can. While he may resort to questionable methods sometimes, his caring nature and loyalty to his friends tug at your heartstrings. He is a perfect example of so many real life homeless kids I’ve met.

Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?

Debra: I discovered a great software program called Storylines, which is part of a powerful set of tools found in the Writer’s Café. The ways the program helps are too many to detail here, but what I find most helpful is a virtual corkboard which allows you to pin or rearrange “index cards” in rows and columns that can be customized like a storyboard. I refer to it often when I want to see how the overall tension is building and what scenes need to be written next.

Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?

Debra: My Jo Sullivan series books will always be told from three different POVs. Jo will always be the main one, of course, since she is the continuing character. The second will be the street kid Jo is trying to help, and the third will vary depending on the story. However, books that hop from one head to another in the same scene drive me crazy, so I never switch POVs within the same chapter.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Debra: The darkness and immediacy of living life homeless on the streets of Chicago adds a tension and tone that makes it clear there is more at stake for these characters than just solving a mystery. They are fighting for more than a solution to finding the missing piece of a puzzle; they are struggling to survive and thrive despite the darkness they fight against.

Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.

Borys gives us a glimpse into the vagaries of street life for teens without wallowing in sentimentality or false compassion. The mystery here is not who did it, but how finding the truth will change the life of a street kid we’ve come to care about. There are no innocents in this Windy City, just real people trying to make a difference.
— Latham Shinder, author of The Graffiti Sculptor and professional memoir ghostwriter

What are your current projects?

Debra: I am mainly working on the second novel in my the Jo Sullivan series, Bend Me, Shape Me. However, I also spend a full work week on freelance projects or looking for freelance projects. I am editing a business ebook, ghostwriting a series of mystery stories, editing a collection of sci-fi stories, and just recently signed up with a personalized novel company to write novels that can be personalized with the reader’s details.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Debra: Details and news are always available at my websites: www.debra-r-borys.com and www.paintedblacknovel.com. The book can be found for download or purchase at many locations, including Amazon.com or Barnes&Noble.com.

Thanks for joining us today, Debra.

Debra: Thank you once again for this opportunity.

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Gay Partington Terry

Gay Partington Terry blends the real and the fantastic in an imaginative and mischievous way; her contemporary fables present remarkable characters trapped in unusual situations.

Hi Gay, please tell everyone a bit about yourself.

Gay: I’m a Manx insomniac who grew up in northern Appalachia, I assisted my dad in his magic act as a teenager and since then worked as a waitress, factory worker, welfare worker, catalogued tribal arts for Sotheby’s and volunteered in Margaret Mead’s office before she died. I’ve had poetry and short stories published in e-zines, fantasy magazines and anthologies, and wrote screenplays for The Toxic Avenger II and III (and worked on the original). I’ve spent over thirty years studying tai chi, qi gong and yoga; have two married children, three and a half grandchildren, a long-suffering husband and I’m watched over by the ghost of a loyal (canine) Australian Shepherd. I lived in NYC for thirty-two years, moved to Brooklyn for seven, and back to Harlem where I’m pretty much a slacker who enjoys teaching my grandkids “weird stuff.”

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?

Gay: I’ve been writing off and on since childhood. Sometimes life interfered and sometimes I gave it up thinking I was wasting my time. I got a job, raised my children, took up embroidery (a disaster), tried to perfect my pie crust (a more tasty disaster)…but always went back to writing.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?

Gay: I started writing because I was compelled to do it. Everyone needs a creative outlet and I can’t dance, sing, or play an instrument. I was laughed out of art class in the seventh grade.

If there’s a message, it’s that “reality” is relative, and it doesn’t matter that you don’t have a firm grasp of what others say it should be.

Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?

Gay: Meeting the Dog Girls is a collection of short stories, some of which were published in fantasy magazines, anthologies, & e-zines. The title story, when first published, got a lot of positive response so I extended it and made it into a novel–yet to be published.

How do you develop characters? Setting?

Gay: Interesting characters are all around. They sit across from me on the subway, they peek out at me from behind corners, they stand in line at the post office… They choose their own setting and do what they do. I can’t tell them anything.

Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?

Gay: Oh, boy, plot! I’m not a good plotter. I see life as random and haven’t figured out the plot yet.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Gay: I grew up in a “patch town” near the West Virginia/Pennsylvania border, so I write about mine subsidence a lot. When you’re unsure about what’s going on under your feet, it brings up all sorts of things. I was a shy only-child with plenty of time to read and daydream. My dad was a magician so the line between real and imaginary was blurred.

Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.

Gay: Someone, a complete stranger, wrote a review on Amazon and compared me to Neil Gaiman. Also, my two-year-old grandson said he wanted to sit near me because I was “cool.” Nobody ever called me cool before. Does that count as a review? This was cool too:

… I found myself quickly turning pages of short little snippets that came to feel like personal friends. I both did not want each story to end and could not wait to get to the next one to see what else Terry had in store for me.

Terry’s gift is in presenting the crazy, the abnormal, the other-worldly with subtlety and elegance.
— A. Allen

What are your current projects?

Gay: I’ve written a novelized autobiography and illustrated it with old family photos and I’m always writing short stories.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Gay: I have a website: http://www.gaypartingtonterry.com/

There’s an interview and an excerpt on the NonStop site: http://nonstop-press.com/?s=Meeting+the+Dog+Girls&x=40&y=9

reviews on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Meeting-Dog-Girls-Gay-Terry/dp/1933065303/

Thank you for joining us today, Gay.

Gay: Thanks so much Shelagh. I really appreciate the exposure.

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Gunnar C. Garisson

Gunnar C. Garisson is an old soul, warrior poet living well out of his time. He spends his days fiercely defending his family from all manner of threats and demons that probably do not even exist, while expanding his practice of writing fiction, music, and the fine art of mead making.

Hi Gunnar, please tell everyone a bit about yourself. 

Gunnar:  First and foremost, I am a husband and a father of two wonderful children. I am an Engineer and General Contractor by trade who has recently shifted careers from running my own remodeling company and working with various Engineering and Surveying firms as a consultant, to freelance writing online and writing Science Fiction/ Fantasy novels. I suffered a bad accident on a rooftop that rendered me unable to continue in my previous line of work, but gave me all the excuse I needed to start writing full time. Using a wealth of life experience and related knowledge, I’ve been fortunate to have an arsenal of fuel for the creative fire at my disposal. It’s as they say, when God closes a door, he often enough opens a window, and what a glorious window indeed!

I have always felt the compelling need to vent my creativity publicly, and did so mostly through my crafts, such as music, custom woodworking, martial arts and sword making, as well as the brewing of fine mead through the refinement of an Old Norse recipe that has been handed down for generations. Though I am truly a starving artist in a very literal sense, I am finally able to dedicate the time I never had to pouring the vast reservoir of creative energy inside me into a new vessel: my new Science Fiction/ Fantasy trilogy.

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?

Gunnar: For me, it’s always been about Sci/Fi and Fantasy writing. I grew up obsessed with life outside of this plane of existence, and looked for any and all means of egress one could drum up at an early age, never really feeling like I truly belonged here. Playing many different RPG’s at a young age led to the writing of content and scripts for gaming, then was followed immediately by the outright designing of whole worlds and characters, many of which are still alive and well, living within my stories….

Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?

Gunnar:  I am currently starting work on Book III of an epic Sci/Fi Fantasy Trilogy that stemmed from my debut novel, Critical Mass. The sequel, Planeshifters, was just released as an eBook and both are being typeset for print as we speak.

How do you develop characters? Setting?

Gunnar: As an Engineer, my mind is always on the lookout for problems and their potential solutions. That being said, it didn’t take me long, living deep in the concrete jungle of the Greater Seattle area, to foresee an overpopulated world where the quality of life for our grandchildren suffers for the lack of planning in our and our parents’ time. Living on the cusp of homelessness since my accident has also given me an intimate perspective as to the ostracizing of the poor by the rich, and where the future of that phenomenon lies as the middle class is slowly eradicated and the sociological plot thickens. This very possible reality is the setting for the beginning half of the first book, however, where it goes from there is the product of several recurring dreams from my youth, as well as the influx of my overactive imagination and quite a bit of self indulgent, dark humor.  

Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?

Gunnar: I would say Kaitlyn or Sky, as she’s called later; a very strong, yet unmistakably honest and sensitive warrior who is caught between worlds trying to find her true place alongside her soul-mate, Thorsson Krey, who has known her in two separate lives, witnessed her losing her parents in both, and also strives to redeem himself from the dark past he emerged from to be worthy of such a woman. She is wise beyond her years, empathic, a leader, and nearly unstoppable in a fight (yet unseen by everyone else, she is very frail at the core and needs him more than she will admit).

Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?

Gunnar: This being a very complex, multi-faceted and nonlinear timeline type of story, that is a very tough question. I’m glad you asked it. Ritalin! Wait, that’s not really a technique& Well, for a start, I only write in the wee hours of the morning. About 3 am every day is my starting point, mainly because I have no office, and that is the ONLY time that it’s even remotely quiet around my place! I used to keep tons of outlines, but in the end I just found myself pouring over them repeatedly without any obvious benefit over merely setting myself up with a “zero distraction” atmosphere from which to collect my thoughts. Most of my stories have already written themselves within my mind, been daydreamed about repeatedly, and are simply inside my head waiting for me to yell, “Single file!” The rest of the details come out as I go, which is what makes writing so exciting for me!

 Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?

Gunnar: I am definitely a child of the cinema, so for me, a book needs to flow like a movie. If a movie stalls and loses my interest because of a ridiculously long part that has no driving effect on the story as a whole, then I get out of my seat, go get popcorn, get distracted by shiny objects, start a conversation with the ushers, then eventually forget what theatre number my movie was in, and leave unfulfilled. Many books are set on the coffee table and never picked up for this very same reason. I look at all of my sections in a story as if they were scenes in a movie& I actually visualize part after part, building the entire novel up in my mind as if it was a movie prior to writing down anything. This has led to many on the job injuries, many bumps and bruises, lost objects, and two completed novels!

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Gunnar: My environment colors my work right into the Rated R section, posthaste. While I wouldn’t dream of being pretentious enough to use profanity merely for shock value or vulgarity merely for the sake of being vulgar, I am a staunch advocate of non-censorship and honesty on every level, especially art! I would no more censor my art as censor my own thoughts, as to do so is to live some kind of a dishonest existence, or “half-life.” The world I live in is hard, and so are many of its inhabitants. The colorful depiction of this same place, nearly fifty years from now, is even harder.

Harsh language is rampant in our urban dialect even now, but after rampant overpopulation bringing on a swift decay in the sociological condition on Earth, mainly in the big cities where people are already pretty intolerant, this is likely to get nothing but worse. That being said, I consider the profanity that arises in much of the early dialogue in Book I of my series to be nothing but brutal honesty. My intimacy with this environment only serves to make it more genuine. This is the world I have lived in and continue to endeavor to break free from; it is not contrived or manufactured in the least.

Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.

Gunnar: The books are very new, so there really haven’t been many reviews yet, but a purchaser on Smashwords named “carolina63” wrote the following about Critical Mass and gave it a five out of five star rating!

Garisson has made a Sci-fi book seem a reality. This book makes you visualize what you are reading as if watching a movie. The language is a bit ‘iffy’ for those of us not accustomed to it. The read was worth it! The bonds between friends comes together with an interesting love story. I do hope there will be several sequels. Garisson is a top notch writer!

What are your current projects?

Gunnar: I am currently working around the clock to prepare both books for printing for inclusion at Comic Con Dubai in April, where my extremely talented cover artist, Remy Francis from www.rembrandz.com will be showcasing both of our works to tens of thousands of Middle-Easterners. I’m very excited! It is a rare opportunity that I am honored and privileged to be a part of!

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Gunnar: My author site, www.gunnar-garisson.com is under construction but will be back up within a few days to a week. I always pre-release previews of my novels on HubPages at: http://shape-shifter.hubpages.com/ chapter by chapter, with a clickable, user friendly Table of Contents from which to browse. The first two books in the Trilogy, Critical Mass and Planeshifters, are published as eBooks at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/49222 and https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/136124 respectively, and are downloadable in any eReader or on screen format available. Critical Mass is already available at Barnes and Noble, Sony, Apple’s iBook store, and many, many other retail outlets, very soon to be followed by Planeshifters. Both titles are being typeset for print and will very soon be available on Amazon.com and many other retailers worldwide.

Thank you for joining us today, Gunnar.

Gunnar: Thank you, Shelagh, for this great opportunity to be noticed!

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