Press Release: Bend Me, Shape Me

New Libri Press announces publication of the second Street Stories suspense novel, Bend Me, Shape Me, by author Debra R. Borys, available in ebook with trade paperback to follow. Contact Stasa Fritz (above) with review or interview requests.

www.BendMeShapeMe.net

Painted BlackBend Me, Shape Me is the second novel in the Street Stories suspense series and tells the story of Snow Ramirez, a bi-polar street kid about to turn 18. She’s convinced that psychiatrist Mordechai Levinson is responsible for one kid’s suicide, and may be targeting her brother Alley as his next victim. Once again, reporter Jo Sullivan finds herself the only person willing to listen to one of Chicago’s throwaway youth.

Snow Ramirez hasn’t trusted anyone in a very long time, not even herself. Memories of her childhood on Washington’s Yakama Reservation haunt her even on the streets of Chicago.

When her squat mate Blitz slits his own throat in front of her, she knows it’s time to convince someone to trust her instincts. Blitz may have been diagnosed bi-polar, like Snow herself, but no way would he have offed himself like that if the shrink he’d been seeing hadn’t bent his mind completely out of shape.

Normally she wouldn’t care. Who wasn’t crazy in one way or another in this messed up world? After all, she’d gotten out from under the doctor’s thumb weeks ago and it was too late for Blitz now, wasn’t it? Snow’s little brother Alley, though, there might still be time to save him. If only she can get reporter Jo Sullivan to believe her story before Snow loses her own mind.

EXCERPT:

Squatting with her arms tight around her legs and forehead pressed to her knees, Snow rocked on the balls of her feet. To the south, the hum of traffic along the Eisenhower Expressway. Nearer, beneath the dumpster, the scurry of rats looking for supper. That feeling in her center, the one she couldn’t describe except to say when she was a kid she thought it meant she was going to die, tightened her chest, filled her mouth, made it hard to breathe. “You must learn to trust,” the shrink had told her. “You must learn who to trust. Your brother is learning that, even if you can’t.”

AUTHOR BIO

Debra BorysDebra R. Borys is the author of the STREET STORIES suspense novels.The first book in the series, Painted Black, was published by New Libri Press in 2012. A freelance writer and editor, she spent four years volunteering with Emmaus Ministries and the Night Ministry in Chicago, and eight years doing similar work at Teen Feed, New Horizons and Street Links in Seattle. The STREET STORIES series reflects the reality of throw away youth striving to survive. Her publication credits include short fiction in Red Herring Mystery Magazine, Downstate Story and City Slab.

deb@debra-r-borys.com
www.debra-r-borys.com/

Praise for PAINTED BLACK

“Painted Black is about the young faces we see on the streets, covered in dirt, wearing worn out clothes, shrouded in looks of hate, pride, and fear…. There isn’t a part of this book you don’t feel, it reaches into your core…. There are many enjoyable books out there, but there aren’t many that make you feel, make you think, make you sit back and contemplate the uglier side of life we try so hard to ignore its existence. This was a very well written book on all accounts.”
—Darian Wilk, author of Love Unfinished and Reinventing Claire

“Painted Black has a Silence of the Lamb’s feeling about it…..there’s something dark and ominous going on here.…. Fiction can be a great vehicle for exposing the darker side of the human experience in ways that are both important and meaningful and I think that Painted Black fits into this category.”
—Quinn Barrett, Wise Bear Books All Things Digital Media interviewer

“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.”
—Latham Shinder, author of The Graffiti Sculptor and professional memoir ghostwriter

New Libri Press | http://www.NewLibri.com

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Larry Constantine

Larry Constantine is  a professional member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the author of a number of science fiction short stories. He writes thrillers under the pen name, Lior Samson.

Please tell everyone a bit about yourself.

Larry ConstantineLarry: The older you get, the harder it is to be brief, to condense the lifetime journey into a paragraph or two in a biographical sketch. In your twenties, you pad the resume; by your forties, the thing stands on its own; by the time you are looking back at your sixties, radical compression and redaction are in order. What’s important, what irrelevant? What’s of interest? What is a boring distraction? I tell my students at the university where I teach that I am not a real professor but that I am a real industrial designer. Both parts are true — in part. What they reveal is a complexity hidden behind brevity. I have been a pioneer in software engineering, in family therapy, and in interaction design. I divide my time between Europe and the US. I am deeply entrenched in academia and in industry and fully belong in neither. I am a novelist. I write under a pen name, but my official identity is no secret. I do most of my writing evenings and weekends in my apartment near the University of Madeira. My loving wife and kids put up with my long absences. I love to cook. I am a composer and would write more music if I were not so busy writing novels.

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

Larry: I have been writing professionally all my adult life, but nearly all of that was technical non-fiction. I was good at it — even won awards — but I can’t say I enjoyed it all that much. I really started writing with passion and pleasure when I began work on my first novel, Bashert. I have never been one to color within the lines, so, although my novels are nominally in the thriller genre, they frequently break out of the boundaries of genre conventions. My forays into fiction actually began decades earlier with science fiction short stories and a couple of novellas. Those earlier works have been republished in Requisite Variety, which takes its title from my last published SF short. My recent novel, The Rosen Singularity, might nominally be called near-future science fiction, but it violates the terms of engagement that SF readers expect and is probably more literary thriller than SF.

Is there a message you want readers to grasp?

Larry: If I had wanted to be a preacher or rabbi, a long-form journalist or a self-help guru with a message, I would have taken a different path. So, no, I don’t have a message for readers. But I do have a mission. I want to challenge my readers, to get them thinking, to leave behind semantic seeds that grow into fresh inspiration and insight. Thoughtful thrillers, provocative page-turners, intelligent intrigue—these are among the phrases that have been used to describe my novels. I want to raise questions more than offer answers. What is the nature of extremism and its connection with terrorism? Who are the good guys and who the bad in a world of shadow and deception? What are the unintended consequences of medical advances? And I want readers to have a great time and a grand ride on the road to the last page.

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

ChipsetLarry: My most recent novel is Chipset, which is both part of The Homeland Connection series and can be read on its own. Readers who missed the first three novels — Bashert, The Dome, and Web Game — will not be lost, but those who go back and catch up will be doubly rewarded.

Like its predecessors, the story turns on a real threat, in this case malicious computer code actually embedded in the very hardware on which the entire world now depends. Like the other novels, it centers on ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances, not superheroes or larger-than-life figures, but people you could know dealing with outsized challenges. Let’s just say that Karl Lustig, an American technology journalist, and his British-Israeli wife, Shira Markham, a jewelry designer and all around smart lady, are in for an adventurous holiday when Karl uncovers a secret within the computer chipsets he is delivering to colleagues at the University of Madeira.

Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?

Larry: I really like all my characters, even the bad guys and walk-on players are lovingly crafted. In Chipset, I have to admit to having developed a special affection for Karl’s mother, whose story-within-a-story in a packet of letters takes Karl back to World War II Poland, Germany, Portugal, and England. She was an amazingly resourceful lady, as Karl finds out.

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

Larry: Perhaps it is the influence of my career as a designer, but I write much as a portrait artist paints, moving from one place in the canvas to another, filling in details here, sketching broadly there, painting over something that doesn’t look right one place, adding an element for balance someplace else. I make lots of notes but do not work from a strict outline. Instead, just as the painter steps back from the canvas, I keep going back and approaching the work as a whole, as a reader, taking on the perspective of the reader’s experience. Does it hang together? Is the pace and rhythm satisfying and engaging? Are there holes or is too much given away or at the wrong time? Then I go back and rewrite. And revise. And rewrite.

Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?

Larry: Every writer, even those who mimic others, has a writing style. In my case, I confess to writing in a fashion that echoes not some particular writer or writers but broadly fits the sort of writing I like to read. I enjoy reading rich description, insightful exposition, and colorful, clever narrative. I like hearing the voice of the writer as well as of the characters. I enjoy the poetry of language, the music of well-crafted sentences, and the rhythm of flowing paragraphs. These are the things I aspire to. Others will judge how well I reach those aspirations. In any case, I strive for something more classical than contemporary, despite the thematic currency of my thrillers.

And while we are on the subject of style, if I read one more self-appointed expert blogger cajoling modern writers to “show not tell,” I am likely to reach violently through the screen with malicious intent. It’s called storytelling for a reason. The language has adjectives and adverbs for good reason. The passive voice is useful. I see it as the writer’s job to master and use it all.

I have always favored third-person POV because of its flexibility, but I have no religious orthodoxy about acceptable incursions into the inner thoughts of characters. I am more interested in spinning a good story than purity of viewpoint. I try not to throw readers for a loop as I take them around curves and through twists, but I am not writing to please some professor of creative writing. I am telling stories.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Larry: My environment and upbringing are as different as land and sea, but I suppose both have colored my writing. From my growing up, I would have to credit my mother, a newspaper columnist and editor, for instilling in me a love of words and a healthy respect for the craft of writing, in which it has taken me a lifetime to develop some craftsmanship. But my environment, which spans the globe and washes me with life’s complexities, is far the more direct influence. I often use familiar places to anchor my fiction. The Rosen Singularity is centered in the North Shore communities of Massachusetts near my home, but also in London and outside Moscow, where I have worked and visited numerous times. Chipset is largely set in Madeira, my second home. But I also go far afield, as far as the wholly invented African country of Busanyu, where the long lived dictator Edgar Jabari Mbutsu rules with brutal efficiency and plays a pivotal role in The Rosen Singularity.

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

Larry: 

“Few thriller writers can match Samson’s ability to deliver a gripping story. In previous reviews, I have compared him to John le Carré and Tom Clancy. As an Indie writer, he probably doesn’t have the same name recognition or sales, but he is equal to or better than both those authors. His work deserves to be on the New York Times Seller list.” That from mystery writer James A. Anderson.  More than I deserve, I am sure, but to soar in such celebrated company, even for a paragraph, is delicious.

What are your current projects?

Larry: I like that you end this question with a plural, because I have two novels in progress. I imagine that writers are not supposed to do that, but there it is, the confessed truth. I am just not ready to commit fully to one or the other. Both are quite daring, in a sense, and each represents an entirely new literary direction for me. The one that has the tightest grip on me at the moment is my first murder mystery, although, as with my other works, it jumps the genre gaps and might be thought of as a love story except … Well, it’s still in progress, so exactly what it is remains an open question. Literary fiction? The other novel, which is also well under way but temporarily simmering on a back burner, is a work of quiet terror. So maybe it’s horror, except… These novels are quite experimental, stories that defy expectations and take the reader in new directions. I am excited. And scared.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Larry: My author page at Amazon.com/Amazon.co.uk is the best jumping off point. And it makes it easy to purchase the books with One-Click!

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Norene M. Moskalski

Dr. Norene M. Moskalski writes about the intrigues and perils of university life. She strives for authenticity in her writing by visiting and researching all of the international places and university settings that she describes in her novels. Each novel presents a variation on a theme, using literary techniques and musical innuendos to move the action forward. Her plots revolve around the unexpected: what if the most beautiful things in the world turned out to be the most dangerous? Iridescent bubbles of sea foam – what exactly is sea foam? Your best friend next door – what does she actually do for a living?

Tell everyone a little about yourself, Norene.

Norene: I enjoy walking the beaches of the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, collecting sea glass, minerals, unusual shells, and artifacts from colonial shipwrecks. A naturalist and environmentalist by nature, and a medical diagnostician by avocation, I have a Ph.D.  in University Administration from Penn State University, a Master’s Degree in English from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Slippery Rock University. I’ve presented my peer-reviewed, published research on faculty work at international business and engineering conferences, and served as administrator, professor, researcher, grant writer, and mentor at research universities for over fifteen years. I am a member of various writing and environmental organizations, such as The Eastern Shore Writers Association, The Nature Conservancy, The Sierra Club, The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, The National Wildlife Federation, and The Smithsonian Institute.

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

Norene: I fell in love with the idea of writing a novel in elementary school when my English teacher taught us how to recognize the literary elements in the book she assigned for our class to read. The hunt began! After that experience, reading novels held a whole new dimension for me, not only reading for enjoyment but analyzing how skillfully the author used those techniques. When I became an English teacher, I realized we needed more contemporary novels suitable for classroom use that held the students’ attention while they learned how to analyze a novel. I often thought, “I really ought to try writing one,” but as a working Mom, my time constraints were prohibitive. Once the children were grown and off on their own, though, I began writing in earnest.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish?

Norene: My goals for writing during my professional career very much depended upon the current task, whether writing a successful grant proposal or a doctoral dissertation.  My goals for writing fiction are very different: I seek enjoyment in wordsmithing, peace in passing on life’s lessons, and inspiration from God.

Is there a message you want readers to grasp?

Norene: Each novel I write in the Kate and Jake Connors Series will examine critical contemporary issues through multiple perspectives. I want my readers to understand that there are many variables in life that affect a person’s decisions to act the way they do.

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

Norene: The Kate and Jake Connors series begins with Nocturne, Opus 1: Sea Foam, an international eco-thriller. Kate and Jake are university research professors at Atlantic University’s Institute for Public Policy and Safety in Dover, Delaware. They are also covert operatives for a secret, scientific subdivision of the Institute known only as the Agency. While vacationing at Venice’s Lido Beach, they witness the collapse of Kate’s sister on a sea foam covered beach. Her illness propels them into a seventy-two hour race against time and across continents to find the cure for Bacillus nocturne, the rogue scientist who created it, and to stop the bacteria from contaminating the world’s aquifers.

How do you draw your characters?

Norene: I draw my characters from real-life experiences with people I have met recently or known a very long time. Usually my characters are a composite of all those intriguing personality traits people have.

How do you develop the settings in your stories?

Norene: My settings are all places I have visited and researched in order to make them as authentic to the reader as possible. I want my readers to feel like they are in the scene right beside the character.

Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?

Norene: Kate is the most likeable character in the story because she has achieved great heights in her career, yet inside is just like everyone of us coping with life’s variables and having our own flaws.

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

Norene: Oh, no, I wish I did! Because I write from inspiration, I often have to rearrange scenes to put them into a more exciting order. That takes considerable time because suddenly, a statement in Chapter 32 doesn’t fit the story line anymore. I’ve never been big on outlining, so I’m always looking for a way to handle this problem. A seminar that Lisa Gardner gave at ThrillerFest a few years ago helped me a great deal. I adapted it to my “flat filing system” (on the floor), and now spread out printed chapters on my office floor, moving them around to get the best order of events and to see where I need to add a few more chapters.  What fun! What a mess!

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Norene: Immensely! We’re always taught to write about what we know, and I always thought that nothing really adventurous was occurring in my life, so how could I write about what I know? Now I understand–that statement really means to put what you know about in the descriptive details of your story. If you know what the sun feels like shining on your face on a very cold winter day, put that in your scene. If you’ve driven a clunker of a car driving on fumes past Empty, have a character do that. If you know about rocks and minerals, add a few to your scene details. If you love gold gemstone jewelry, wrap your character in it. It works and you get to write about some of the things you love.
Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.

Norene:

 “I forgot I was reading a work of fiction. The characters were so real.”

What are your current projects?

Norene: The next novel in the series and a nonfiction book about cats. Hmmmm. Maybe I can combine the two!

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Norene: My website is www.NoreneMoskalski.com and my publisher’s website is www.DivinityPress.com
My book is at http://www.amazon.com/Nocturne-Opus-1-Sea-Foam/dp/0988381176

Thanks for joining us today, Norene.

Norene: Thank you for the opportunity to answer your interview questions.

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Patricia Crandall

Patricia Crandall has published numerous articles and short stories in various magazines and newspapers. In July, 2012, she was named an Honorable Mention Honoree in the annual short story competition for her story “The Crazy Jug.”

Please tell everyone a little about yourself, Patricia.

Patricia: I have published a vast number of poetry/haiku, numerous articles and short stories in small press magazines, a variety of newspapers and web sites. I have won poetry awards and have four books in print, Melrose, Then and Now, a historical volume, I Passed This Way, a poetry collection, The Dog Men, a thriller which draws the reader into a tempest of animal abuse, lawlessness, and kidnapping within the confines of small-town happenings, and Tales of an Upstate New York Bottle Miner, – seeking adventure in abandoned dump sites and the challenges of entering flea markets.

I live with my husband, Art, at Babcock Lake in the Grafton Mountains near Petersburgh, New York. My children and grandchildren live nearby. I devote time to my family, writing and community work. I enjoy reading, skiing, golfing, knitting, walking/hiking, swimming, exercising and traveling.

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

Patricia: In the nineteen fifties, my interest was captured by the Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene. Each holiday, I would request the latest Nancy Drew title and upon receiving it, I would curl-up in an over-sized chair and begin reading the fast-paced adventure.

I dabbled at creating my own mystery stories at an early age. My first effort detailed a long, frightening chase by a sinister man. A dark tunnel appeared, leading to (of course) a haunted mansion. The not-so-brilliant ending had me saved by the man of my life at the time – my Dad.

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

Patricia: My latest book is The Dog Men.

The Dog Men is a stand-alone Adult/YA book, although readers have requested I write a series. They bonded with the characters, particularly Lester Cranshaw, and want his adventures to continue. I am writing a new thriller, The Red Gondola, to include Lester Cranshaw.

The Dog Men: Ten-year-old Wyatt and eleven-year-old Hannah uncover the dark world of illegal dog fights when they trespass at a Vermont farm and peep through a barn window. And when crotchety old Lester Cranshaw’s dog, Paddy, turns up missing, there is no holding him back from investigating the situation and the kids join in. In the dead of night, after the trio are captured and held hostage at the Inglis farm, Wyatt will need all of his wits and courage to escape in order to save the lives of his friends. The Dog Men draws the reader into a tempest of animal abuse, lawlessness, and kidnapping within the confines of small-town happenings. A chilling plot and a peerless relationship between kids, adults and pets.

What’s the hook for the book?

Patricia: I have delved into the horrific world of illegal dog fighting. One editor considered my book then titled Missing Children.  He requested a change in subject matter, stating, “I just can’t add to the deluge of fiction about children, kidnapping and sex. Whereby, I researched the sordid sport of dog fighting and the characters that inhabit it. It became The Dog Men.

How do you develop characters? Setting?

Patricia: My characters develop themselves. I create them using a combination of real and imagined people. I’ll admire one person’s hair color, another’s features, still another’s body language and put them together. Any attempt I make at molding a character does not work. If I force a character to act against his/her will, the story is all wrong. I will sit back and think it through, letting the character direct me. I have read other author’s essays confirming this dilemma. It is a fact. A character will lead and the writing flows until the next hurdle due to plot, scene description, etc.

Who is the most unusual/most likeable character?

Patricia: My unusual/most likeable characters are (1) Lester Cranshaw of The Dog Men. See description above. (2) Gert Carver and Nina Westakott are two favorite characters from my bottle mining stories. Gert and Nina, friends for many years, now share a common passion – bottle mining. Nina was a homemaker and a widow. She and her husband raised four daughters and had been active in the community until his death. Gert, a spinster, had spent productive years as a beloved schoolteacher who started her career in a one-room schoolhouse and ended with her retirement at a district high school. These days, the two women have time to nurture their newest hobby, searching for antique bottles in the local dumps.

Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?

Patricia: My writing styles are varied. I write mainstream, mysteries, non-fiction, historical, flash fiction, young/adult and poetry. I work on several stories at once. This pace keeps my thoughts fresh. I continually submit my work for publication and enter contests. My ultimate goal is to write well.

I consistently learn from the unique style of other writers. I pay attention to the voice they use. When a writer captivates me, I do not wish to imitate his/her writing. I want to achieve what they have accomplished by leaving a reader satisfied and anxious to read more of their books.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Patricia: My parents and teachers would often tell me, “Patty, you are a dreamer. You have a vivid imagination. Put it to good use.” It was at that point, in lieu of playing with friends or watching the new small-box-wonder – TV, I sat at an old desk in the kitchen and wrote mystery stories. I also drew stick figures to illustrate the action in the stories. The discovery of boys replaced pen and paper. The telephone became my favorite instrument and I lost interest in reading and writing until a formidable nun taught me English in High School. With a revival of interest, I picked up where I left off, writing salable poetry and a variety of articles, essays, and short stories. Presently, I am taking a writing course and penning novels.

Share the best review that you’ve ever had.

Patricia: Comments for “The Garden of Love,” a flash-fiction story published in Flash-Fiction World, include:

“Awesome piece! The ending adds another whole dimension entirely.”
“Good story”
“I want more!”
“Amazing!”
“Loved it.”
“Clever!”
“Great end.”
“Fantastic.”

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Patricia: Visit my blog at: www.authorpcrandall.blogspot.com. Visit me on facebook and twitter. Visit my Editor and Virtual Assistant Manager’s blog: www.lindabarnett-johnson.blogspot.com. Go to Amazon and for my books, The Dog Men and Tales of an Upstate New York Bottle Miner.

Lastly, my pattern for a writer’s success is Winston Churchill’s famous quote: “Never, never, never give up!”

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Warren Bull

Warren Bull has won a number of awards including Best Short Story of 2006 from the Missouri Writers’ Guild, Great Manhattan Mystery Conclave short story contest, The Mysterious Photo Contest in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and Best short story in Strange Mysteries Anthology. He was a finalist for the Young Adult Discovery Award and a Derringer Award.  He has more than forty short stories published, novels Abraham Lincoln for the Defense, Heartland and Murder in the Moonlight, and a short story collection, Murder Manhattan Style.

Please tell everyone a bit about yourself, Warren.

Warren: I spent my childhood in Rock Island, Illinois, which is along the Mississippi river. I attended Knox College, where one of the Lincoln – Douglas debates took place, and the University of Illinois. My graduate training was at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and what is now Alliant University in Fresno, California.

I was first licensed as a psychologist in 1983, and have worked for agencies and in private practice with people of all ages as a therapist and as an administrator. I worked as a clinical psychologist for more than twenty-five years but still claim to come from a functional family.

I blog at Writers Who Kill. I’m a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime and an active member of Mystery Writers of America. 

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genres?

Warren: I had a very good writing teacher in the fourth grade and I’ve been writing ever since.  My mother used to read letters I sent her from college to the neighbors, which I discovered to my deep embarrassment during my first visit home from the holidays.  As a psychologist, I shared an office with Casey Dorman who wrote e-novels long before they became popular. Casey’s an excellent writer and a good guy, but I thought if he could do it so could I.  I write mostly mysteries because I enjoy mysteries and I’ve written essays, memoirs, general or “literary” fiction, historical fiction and fantasy.

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

Warren: Good question. My initial goal was to get published. Once I got published, my goals evolved and they continue to evolve over time.  I’m not very interested in “solve the puzzle” mysteries. I like to read and write about characters in a variety of setting facing life challenges.  I’d like readers to identify with my characters and share their experiences. I’ve written about Abraham Lincoln as a great man who is flawed and fully human.

Tell us about your latest book.

Warren: Heartland available at Avignon Press is a Young Adult novel recently chosen as the Book of the Day by Killer Nashville.  The paperback edition is available at the link above. Please support the publisher who supported me.

Sixteen-year-old Tom Allen life is imploding. His father has all but vanished from his life; Tom’s stepfather is entirely too involved. Tom’s beloved grandmother suffers a stroke, which leaves his mother emotionally distant. Meanwhile his sister is too sophisticated to worry about his concern.  When Tom reads an old family memoir from his grandmother’s cedar chest, he becomes intrigued by his ancestors’ struggle to form one united family from two shattered families. They face man-made and natural dangers while they battle to survive the smoldering conflicts in “Bleeding Kansas” that will soon erupt into the bloodiest war in American history — the Civil War. With the help of friends and family, past and present Tom eventually comes to terms with the pain and possibilities of his own family.

What’s the hook for the book?

Warren: When the two riders appeared out of nowhere, I knew they came to kill my pa.

(The opening sentence.)

How do you develop characters? Settings?

Warren: With historical stories and novels research is essential.  There are readers who know all about things like shooting a black power rifle or men’s trousers in the 1840s so if I refer to “cordite” before it was invented or write about a man putting something into his non-existent rear pants pocket, I am going to make readers angry They are going to throw my book against the wall and never buy anything else from me again.  I like to have three independent sources for everything. 

Who is the most unusual character?

Warren: I have a number of characters who keep popping up in my work because they keep popping up in my head. One of them has been in half a dozen short stories in various venues but he never gives his name.  I know it but he wants to keep a low profile.  I don’t know that anyone except me knows how often I write about him.  He is a veteran of World War II who fought in the battle of the bulge, like my father.  He has a post-traumatic stress disorder and a deep – set distrust of authority.

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

Warren: I use a timeline and a list of characters.  I also make a few notes of events that I want to use.  Every time I try to use an outline I get bored with the story before I get the novel written. I wish I could use an outline but I can’t.

What colors your writing?

Warren: I worked as a psychologist for more than twenty-five years, which gave me the opportunity to know and work with a wide variety of people I would probably never have met otherwise. I worked with people of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, religions and social classes.  My clients had many unusual life experiences.

Also, although I am a male Caucasian, I have lived and worked in settings where my ethnicity and gender made me a minority. 

 Share the best review that you’ve ever had.

Warren: I’m grateful that Murder Manhattan Style has garnered some great reviews. The stories have been compared to the works of Damon Runyon and Raymond Chandler. New York Times Bestselling author Nancy Pickard wrote, “Warren Bull is a short story master, and this collection shows him at his best with quick stories told in crisp, clear prose. There’s variety, drama, history, humor, pathos, compassion and even Shakespeare here, along with surprising and satisfying endings to every story.”

What are your current projects?

 Warren: I am working on two very different projects at the moment. I am waiting for copyediting on a short story collection of very dark stories tentatively titled, No Happy Endings, and I am about 1/3 of the way into a middle grade novel about the adventures and misadventures of three sisters whose mom has run off with a rock bank.  I am busily researching television schedules, mimeographs and dial telephones in the early 1960s.

 Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Warren: I have a website http://www.warrenbull.com/

An author dashboard on Goodreads Goodreads Author Page

And an author page on Amazon.com  Warren Bull’s Author Page

 Thank you for joining us today, Warren.

Warren: Thanks for the opportunity.

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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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Ivana Hruba

Ivana Hruba specializes in writing bold, quirky and outrageously entertaining fiction. So she says.

Shelagh: Hi Ivana, please tell everyone a bit about yourself.

Ivana: I am the author of A Decent Ransom, a thriller about a kidnapping, which was published by Kunati in 2008. Apart from writing, I love to draw cartoons.

Shelagh: When did you first begin writing and in what genre(s)?

Ivana: I’ve been writing stories since childhood; first in my native Czech, then in English. I don’t have a particular genre I write in; for me, it’s the plot that influences the genre of a particular story.

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

Ivana: I have always wanted to entertain with my stories. As a reader I am most drawn to deeply human, meaningful stories told with a good dose of humor, and that’s what I try to accomplish in my own writing.

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

Ivana: A Decent Ransom is a story of a kidnapping gone right. It’s a stand-alone thriller told in multiple perspectives.

Shelagh: What’s the hook for the book?

Ivana: A Decent Ransom deals with a kidnapping in which nothing happens according to plan when a woman gets kidnapped for ransom which never arrives, creating a moral dilemma for the kidnappers who are left with the kidnapped girl. Everyone’s motives are gradually revealed to the reader through the multiple points of view. And just as you think you’ve got it all worked out – here comes the surprise ending.

Shelagh: How do you develop characters and setting?

Ivana: For me, character development is a gradual process. It is something that happens as the story progresses, although I do have an idea how to position the characters from the outset. I like complex, morally sound characters who are, nonetheless, capable of great evil if properly motivated. I usually have a good idea of the setting as I need to be able to start the story from there.

Shelagh: Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?

Ivana: In A Decent Ransom the most likeable character is the young kidnapper Phoebus. He’s the one true innocent in this story. Phoebus is a fifteen year old boy who’s been forced to take part in the kidnapping. He’s then charged with taking care of the kidnap victim and has to cope with all the unexpected turns in the situation.

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

Ivana: In this story, the multiple perspectives move the plot along from one event to another. It keeps the reader engaged and the story moving at a quick pace.

Shelagh: Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?

Ivana: I like to tell a story ‘after the event’ rather than ‘in the moment’ as it allows me to draw conclusions and show consequences. In A Decent Ransom each of the four main characters who get to ‘speak to the reader’ have a particular style – some are telling the story in past tense, others are showing it to the reader as if it were just happening. In my new novel, I have an omniscient narrator ‘telling’ the reader rather than ‘showing’ the action.

Shelagh: How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Ivana: We all draw on our experiences to make meaning of our lives. It is inevitable that a writer will draw on their own environment when writing a story; not so much in terms of plot, setting or action, but certainly in character development. I find that my ‘heroes’ are essentially the same person, imbued with pretty much the same characteristics – witty, good-natured, a lot of fun to be around but with a dash of the unexpected thrown in. When I’m developing a character, I spend a lot of my time in that person’s company so I like to give them the human qualities that I like.

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

Ivana: I’ve been lucky to have got some great reviews for A Decent Ransom and I’m grateful for them all, but my favourite line is … “Told in multiple character points of view, the author somehow has designed a story that elegantly presents each character’s viewpoints without the need to label or overtly lead the reader.” I love the ‘somehow’; to me it show that the reader grasped the story but couldn’t quite work out how I did it, which is exactly what I had intended to happen. To read this review and others, please go to my website listed below.

Shelagh: What are your current projects?

Ivana: I am currently finishing a novel based on my life. As a child I lived in then communist Czechoslovakia which my family left in 1983. We escaped by walking across the Alps from the former Yugoslavia to Italy and we stayed in a refugee camp in West Germany before eventually ending up in Australia. The book is about my childhood, the escape and the refugee camp, and our resettlement in Australia. I am also developing a comic book series for children. For all the details, please see my website.

Shelagh: Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Ivana: Currently, the best place is my website www.ivanahruba.com . I hope to see you there. Otherwise, A Decent Ransom is available in lots of libraries worldwide.

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