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June 5, 2013 in Author & Celebrity Interviews | Tags: author, Bob Hope, Exposure Behind Closed Doors, Hall of Mirrors, Johnny Bench, Passed Down Through 4 Generation, Playboy Bunny, romance, romance writer, romantic suspense, Sean Young, The Lambert Series, The Shadow of Her Smile, Thief of Hearts, Victoria Taylor Murray, writer | by christytilleryfrench | 16 comments
Dames of Dialogue would like to welcome my dear friend, talented fiction and non-fiction author Victoria Taylor Murray.
Hi Christy, It’s very nice to connect with you again. Thanks for inviting me for an interview today.
Tell us about your latest book, The Hall of Mirrors, and the series this book kicks off.
The Hall of Mirrors is a new genre for me. My first attempt at a paranormal-suspense series. And, what a fun series it is at that. There are 4-books in the series starting with book-1, The Hall of Mirrors, followed by The Hall of Secrets, The Hall of Veils and ending with The Rock of Ages. The series is centered around one woman, Marna Lassiter – well at least that’s the name she goes by in this lifetime, and Jacoby Alexander, a handsome dark-stranger and visitor from the ‘invisible’ world, a man who knows the hidden secrets and truths of Marna’s past—the past she doesn’t remember. Jacoby has a mission and he will stop at nothing until his secret mission has been completed. With Jacoby’s seductive charm and manly, Mediterranean good looks, will Marna be able to resist the heated attraction she feels for the mysterious stranger—the very man that could lead to her demise? Can the ‘higher powers that be’ get to her before it’s too late—or will the ‘dark powers that exist’ win their ‘ultimate trophy’? The prize they have been seeking since the very beginning of time…
What a hook. I remember you sent me a snippet of The Hall of Mirrors back when you began working on it and I was impressed with the research you put into it. Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?
Well, Christy, you know me, I’m always working on more than one project at a time. I am currently working on the last book in my paranormal-suspense series as well as the second book in my family’s favorite recipes cookbook (my personal fav… desserts (yum!) Also, a work in progress, a how-to book on bartending/bar management with a special chapter on my personal favorite drink recipes—recipes I’ve created all by myself….without my famous chef brothers (smile.) Also, a book of poems. You know how I love poetry. Two of my poems are going to be turned into songs on one of my sister’s new music albums. As you might remember she owns her own Conscious Music Company. I also have in the mix of it all a few new romantic-suspense stories I’m pondering around in that brain of mine.
You’re absolutely one of the most prolific authors I know, Victoria. Where in the world do you find the time? I’m exhausted just reading that. You have an amazing and interesting background – a Playboy bunny and business owner to name two. Can you share that with us?
Sure, In the past I was crowned Ms. Fountain Square (in Cincinnati), Playboy Bunny both in the Cincinnati Club as well as the California Club. Offered Miss June Centerfold twice but turned down the offer both times. Later, becoming a mother, I was glad I turned the honor down (smile). I was a model for quite a few years and have done quite a few television commercials. And between modeling jobs, I was a professional singer in quite a few night clubs and cocktail lounges. Later, I owned in my own two-story (high-class) restaurant and night club. The upper level catered to middle-age and upward- types with a piano lounge, soft music, and good food while the lower level of my restaurant/club catered to the younger crowds with loud music, softball teams, bowling leagues, and dart tournaments. My favorite group (one of many that I sponsored) was my softball team “The Master-Batters,” cute, huh? What a great bunch of young guys (and gals) hahaha. I loved that place – we had a blast to say the least. I miss those days (sigh). I also managed several country clubs and high-dollar restaurants and in between all that I had going on in my life I managed to be a full-time mother to my beautiful son Michael. My husband died when my son was 16 years old and so I turned to my love for writing for solace. Later, what started out as a joke between two sisters and one of those sister’s favorite ‘soap-opera’s’ is what led to my love for writing romantic-suspense stories. While visiting my oldest sister during her favorite soap-opera, “Days of Our Lives,” one afternoon, my sister looked at me and said, “You know, Vickie, anybody could write a better storyline than the writers they have now.” She was clearly upset over the way the storyline was heading. She shook her head with distaste and then looked at me again and said, “Hey, I gotta an idea, why don’t you write a storyline for John Black (her favorite soap actor), and send it to the network?” I giggled and replied, “Thank you, I think!” Not quite sure if her remark was a compliment or not… One month later my very first book was complete followed by another three months and three more books. No one was more surprised than I…
I’m sure your many fans thank you sister for encouraging you. You have also published cookbooks and I believe have one or two chefs in your family. Tell us about that experience.
My father was a famous Cincinnati Chef. His father was also a chef. And all of my brothers (I have six) are fabulous cooks but only two brothers are chefs and I have two nephews that are also chefs. I come from a family of four-generations of male chefs. The first cookbook I wrote, Passed Down Thru-4-Generations: Victoria Taylor Murray’s Favorite Family Recipes and How It all Began, was written as a tribute to both my grandfather as well as my father. I co-wrote it with my brother, executive chef Joseph E. Taylor. As I stated earlier I’m currently working on my family’s favorite homemade dessert recipes. There are four books to the set. Soups, Salads, and appetizers are a work in progress.
You’ve hobnobbed with some pretty important celebrities, including Johnny Bench whom I had a huge crush on back in the day (thanks for the signed pic, BTW), actress Sean Young and several well-known producers. Of all the celebrities you’ve known, who is your favorite?
Oh wow…where to begin… Well, in the line of business I was in I have met and gotten to know some very impressive celebs. That much is true…to pick one would be impossible, but to name a few I will start with your old crush, Johnny Bench – what a GREAT guy. He is absolutely one of the nicest guys anyone could ever meet much less get to know. We used to go clubbing together. I was a singer and he loved to sing. I guess you could sort-of say we were like Donnie & Marie—Johnny used to sing a little country while I used to sing a little rock n’ roll. We had such a fun time together. And yes, we dated. I was the original “Vickie” in his life (smile). Johnny once told a movie producer who wanted to make a movie about his life that he couldn’t do it if he didn’t put me in it (singing, of course). He was (at the time) my favorite fan. Johnny has the largest hands of any man I’ve ever met.
Another favorite would have to be the late great Bob Hope. He was Johnny’s best friend at one time. Some of my favorite friends back in the day, the great Johnny Bench, Pete Rose and Joe Morgan. Sean Young is also a super lady as is movie producer John Savoy. I’ve met Bill Cosby, Tony Orlando, John Denver, Bob Seiger & The Silver Bullet Band, Liza Minelli, Trini Lopez, and the list goes on and on… such greats as Al Pacino, Hugh Hefner, Leann Rimes and Diane Sawyer and… Guess I’d better stop there, for now anyway.
Well, I’m impressed. Many of those celebs I’d like to meet myself. What has been your favorite job and why?
My favorite job would have to be bartending. I’m a people person and have met many different types in that line of work. Of course, I’ve enjoyed all the many, many, different types of employment I have had.
Okay, getting back to writing: what is a typical writing day like for you?
I usually like to do most of my writing at night. Since my husband passed away, I have trouble sleeping so I write while everyone is sleeping. I have a huge bedroom so I use it as both a bedroom as well as a study. I enjoy writing more in the late fall or winter because I enjoy the fireplace in my bedroom/study. The fire is so comforting and I get lost in my work. I don’t put a time limit on my writing projects. I write for fun. I always have. I enjoy blending truth and fiction. I’ve known so many diverse people in my lifetime that I have no problem creating the characters I use in my stories. When I’m in a creative mode, I can usually pen an entire book in a month or two.
My colorful cast of characters have full rein.
Most of the authors we’ve interviewed are on that side of the fence. I like that your books are a delicious blend of suspense, mystery and sensual romance. Of all the books you’ve written, do you have a favorite book or character?
That’s a hard one. At the time I wrote each book, I used to think that particular book was ‘the one,’ but I think my Exposure Behind Closed Doors, is probably my favorite. I love the sensual characters in that storyline especially the studly homicide-detective Grieco Storm. One word describes that manly “dick” and that word is simply, “yum”.
Oh, I remember Grieco. He sizzled. Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?
I suppose you mean besides the sensational Ms. Betty Dravis and the amazing Christy Tillery French (yes?) I enjoy many writers but I most enjoy the gifted pens of James Patterson, Dan Brown, and Vince Flynn. Of course I enjoy Janet Evanovich (she reminds me of you, Christy) except your stories are better. And no library would be complete without the wonderful stories of Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown and J.A. Jance. There are a lot more, of course. Too Many to list. I enjoy the bold character-types of the authors I choose to read. And all of the above authors give me exactly what I crave in stories that I do so enjoy reading.
You are too kind, Victoria. Thank you for such a wonderful compliment. I have to share that Victoria is one of the most generous authors I’ve ever met in promoting other authors. She helped me when I was first published and if not for her I’d still be floundering. Thank you, Vickie! In that vein, promotion is a big—and usually the most hated—part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?
You’re welcome, Christy. I knew that with the first book you had written, Chasing Horses, you were a writer worthy of making it big and I have to say I’m so very proud of you and your efforts. You’re on your way! Yea… Well, I used to have a lot of connections, people that I could really count on to promote my books. Now, after being on the mend so to speak after almost 4 years, I have a lot of catching up to do in today’s marketing arena. I utilize social networking, book signings, book readings, local newspapers and television and radio station interviews.
It’s still hard for me to figure what works and doesn’t work re; promoting but sounds like you’re doing the right thing. If you could talk for thirty minutes with any author (or person), living or dead, who would it be?
Oh gosh, there are so many! How would I ever be able to pick just one? Oh my… Off the top of my head I would say Vince Flynn. He’s so sexy (smile)…
Thanks, Victoria. For more information about Victoria and her amazing books, visit:
Mailing Address: Victoria Taylor Murray, P.O. Box 825, Covington Ky. 41012
Author of The Lambert Series: “Thief of Hearts,” “Forbidden,” “Friendly Enemies,” “Le Fin”
Other Novels by Victoria Taylor Murray: “The Shadow of Her Smile,” “Exposure Behind Closed Doors,”
“The Scarlet Ribbon,” “The Hall of Mirrors,” “The Hall of Secrets,”The Hall of Veils,” ” “The Rock of Ages,”
“Passed Down Through 4-Generations”
Victoria Taylor Murray’s Bio can be found on Facebook.com or Authorsden.com and her books can be purchased on Amazon.com (or) most any online bookstore
Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Olivia! Tell us about your latest book, Jaded Hearts, and share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next.
Jaded Hearts is the first installment of The Jaded Hearts Club Series. Right now, I’m almost due to release book #2 in the series. There will be at least four books in total.
Oh, I love series. What is a typical writing day like for you?
When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?
Definitely the characters! For instance, I had my second book all mapped out, but as I am writing, the main character is going in a different direction. I think it’s great!
I love it when a character takes over. I just sit back and enjoy. Promotion is a big—and usually the most hated—part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?
I’m still trying to get the hang of this promoting thing down. Initially, my Facebook page and a few groups I belonged to was the extent of it. Now, I’m reaching out to bloggers, radio show hosts and reader based websites. I had no idea about any of this when I decided to write my book, so I’m on a severe learning curve.
It’s hard finding exactly what works. I’d much rather be writing than promoting. How long have you been writing?
Since I was very young. In my pre-teens I learned that I had a talent for telling stories and writing was just a fun creative outlet. As I got older, I began to journal my thoughts and that lead to poems.
Who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?
I think my love of reading was the biggest influence. My parents had hundreds of books on the shelf, so I dove right in. I read anything I could get my hands on. That drives my creativity.
Most authors are readers and we can’t deny its influence. What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?
When someone says they enjoy your work. It never gets old for me, and no matter how great I think my piece is, I’m still blown away when someone else likes it.
Oh, I agree. Who were your favorite authors as a child? Have they influenced your writing career in any way?
Dr. Seuss books were my favorite! I also loved the Grimm fairytales. I think this is reflected in my writing by either the humorous tone I impart or the slightly dark elements. I don’t skim the surface on anything, and it’s not planned, but there are usually layers to my stories.
I’ve been reading the Dr. Seuss books to my granddaughter and enjoy them just as much as she does. Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
Oh boy! Everywhere!
Love that answer. What are major themes or motifs in your work? Do your readers ever surprise you by seeing something else in your stories than you think you wrote?
I tend to write about relationships and feelings, and I’ve been asked about my background in psychology…. I don’t have a background in psych, other than it was my favorite elective!
It may sound creepy, but I would love to chat with Edgar Allan Poe.
First time we’ve gotten that answer! What is your strongest and/or your weakest area in the creative process?
My creativity and openness to new ideas is my strong point. Organization and focus is where I have to kick myself in the rear.
I used to be so much more organized. It’s now frustrating to me that I seem to have lost that ability. How many hours a day do you write, where, any specific circumstances help or hurt your process?
I can write for up to four hours or struggle through thirty minutes. My mood and energy level has a huge impact on how long and what I write about.
I’m the same. What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know”?
I think that’s boring!
Love that answer! How do you classify yourself as a writer? Fiction or non-fiction? Specific genre such as mystery, short story, paranormal or more general such as women’s fiction, Appalachian, etc.
I really hate classification. I’m writing about “romance” now, but that’s not all I write about. I love mysteries and suspense thrillers also and hope to write one in the future.
Another good answer. I agree. I tend to cross genres and don’t want to be put into one category. Besides “writer,” what else are you; what is your “day job”?
Mom, Mommy, The CEO of ‘That’s not fair’ and ‘How come I can’t’. Lol!
I remember those days. What is your VERB? (This is a big poster at a local mall)? If you had to choose ONE verb that describes you and you behavior or attitude, what would it be?
Laugh! I am very animated and a jokester (so I’ve been told) and tend to laugh, A LOT.
A fun person to be around, I’d bet. Any family influences? Memoirs in the making?
I’ve been throwing the idea around about a pseudo memoir, but there would be too many names to change!
LOL. Any teachers who influenced you…encouraged you or discouraged?
My third grade teacher was very influential because she was the first person to really notice my writing and encouraged me to pursue it. I wrote a short story about a little boy on a wagon trail, and she was so surprised by it that she had the principal post it in the school’s main hallway.
Did the classics have any effect on you in your formative years? (Shakespeare? Alice in Wonderland? Gulliver’s Travels?)
I was a huge Shakespeare fan and loved the classics, especially the English authors. I had the Alice in Wonderland record and I remember listening to it all the time.
Love Shakespeare but never could quite connect with the classics. Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?
I have a Kindle Fire and I love it. It has re’kindled’ my reading habit because now I can get almost any book when I want it. I still love physical books, but I would never buy as many as I do eBooks. Electronic publishing has enabled writers, like me, to share our stories and lets the readers decide what’s good, not just publishers.
Yes, it’s opened up a whole new world to writers and readers. How do your characters “come” to you? Are they based loosely or closely on people you know?
I kind of build my story first, so then I have to build characters with personalities that would drive certain events.
Are you in a critique group? If so, how does it work and specifically how do the members help your writing?
I am part of a couple of writers groups. I think this keeps you sharp and broadens your scope when you share and see how other writers express the same idea differently.
Any good suggestions for overcoming writer’s block?
A glass of Pinot?
Great answer. Thanks for joining us today, Olivia. Fun interview!
By Laurel-Rain Snow
Welcome to Ruth Francisco, who is joining us today to talk about her latest book and her creative journey.
Title: Camp Sunshine
Author: Ruth Francisco
Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery
I tend to write novels that are a little controversial. I don’t intend to, but a question grabs hold of my mind—Do we have a right to say no to medical technology? What would it be like to be Jackie Kennedy? What would happen if you found out you were adopted as an adult? What would it be like to live with grizzly bears? Where is Islamic extremism taking us? What would it be like to live during WWII in America—and it won’t let go. I have to explore it, I have to write about it.I worked in the film industry for 15 years before selling my first novel “Confessions of a Deathmaiden” to Warner Books in 2003, followed by “Good Morning, Darkness,” which was selected by “Publishers’ Weekly” as one of the ten best mysteries of 2004, and “The Secret Memoirs of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.” I now have nine novels, including the best-seller “Amsterdam 2012,” published as ebooks. Whenever I have a chance, I write a short story for “The Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.” I currently live in Florida, U.S.A.
I read and loved the book about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Tell us about your newest book.
“Camp Sunshine” is based on the true story of Camp Gordon Johnston, a WWII amphibious training camp on Florida’s desolate Gulf coast. It is a tale about young men on the brink of war and a country on the brink of civil rights, a tale of soldiers and officers, daughters and mothers, death and redemption, and a man unyielding in his compassion and struggle for justice.
As the United States enters World War II, military commanders send their best officers to set up an amphibious training camp on the Gulf coast of Florida. Major Occam Goodwin anticipates challenges—swamps, snakes, alligators, hurricanes—and the daunting task of turning twenty thousand green recruits into warriors. But when his surveyors discover a murdered black family deep in the forest, he must dance delicately around military politics, and a race war that threatens the entire war effort.
Here, young recruits test themselves to the limit in love and combat; politicos and tycoons offer aid with one eye to profit; women patrol the coast on horseback, looking for German subs; a postmaster’s daughter, the only child on base, inspires thousands with her radio broadcasts; and a determined woman bravely holds together her family and the emotional soul of the camp. Amid tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the soldiers and their country hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to find his destiny.
I worked five years on this novel, doing research, interviews with WWII veterans, listening to 1940s blues, and spinning tales. There’s lots of great stuff about jook joints, Southern race relations, military politics, WWII color….and a mystery, of course.
What a fascinating journey! How do your characters “come” to you? Are they based loosely or closely on people you know?
Since this book is based on fact, some of the characters are based on real people. The postmaster’s daughter is based on my interviews with Vivian Hess, who lived as a little girl at Camp Gordon Johnston. Yet, as I wrote about her, the character separated herself from the real person, becoming increasingly impish and inventive. I wanted Major Goodwin to be a man of absolute integrity, but as I wrote him, he took on depth, becoming a man of great sorrow and great compassion. Vivian’s mother was somewhat based on my own mother, but soon she became this incredibly strong woman who’d made great sacrifices, yet still yearned to be adventurous and free.
In my experience, you have a vision for your characters, but then, as the story unfolds, they become their own person. Some take on characteristics of friends and family. The imagination works from what it knows. It is a little odd. Like giving birth to children—you don’t really know how they’ll turn out. Inevitably, they turn out more interesting than you could possibly imagine.
I can relate to that….Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?
This will make you laugh. I thought I should try my hand at comedy, some lighter fare, maybe boost my sales a bit. So I thought I’d write a spoof of James Bond—Jane Blond DD7. Well, I googled the title—turns out it’s a porno flick!!!
So, I don’t know what’s next. I originally envisioned “Camp Sunshine” as the first in a three-part series about the Florida Panhandle. I actually wrote and published Part 3 first, “Sunshine Highway,” about a corrupt sheriff in contemporary Florida. Now I have to write the middle volume about the “sixties.” It’s a stupid way to write a series, but that’s the way the stories came to me.
My readers of “Amsterdam 2012” also really want a sequel. I really want another trip to Europe. So perhaps that’s next.
I believe that the stories come to us in their own time. What is a typical writing day like for you? Describe your writing process once you sit down to write—or the preliminaries.
I have a set schedule. I write from 7AM to 12 or 1PM. I write in my office, which overlooks a canal in the Apalachee Bay.
I do several months of research for a book, develop a story, and start writing, turning out a first draft in four to eight months. I set it aside for a while, then do extensive editing. Well, in this book, I got hijacked by the research. It was like I was transported to another time for a few years.
But apart from the research, I wanted to use an authentic period voice. So I read a lot of fiction from the era, which was loads of fun—authors long forgotten. Their fiction is most interesting from a sociological viewpoint, picking up the way people talked, their clothes, apartments, etc. And I listened to a lot of WWII era radio, G.I. Jill, Command Performance, all those great WWII shows.
Great ways to research for a book. When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?
It’s surprising how characters do have a mind of their own. And the more latitude you give them, the more original and unique your story becomes.
This book is definitely character driven—told from the voices of an officer, a soldier, a little girl, and the wife of the postmaster. However, there were some factual events—like the drowning of dozens of soldiers in a training incident—that I had to include in the plot. And there were other historical elements I wanted to include, like the Black Regiments, and the pre-civil rights movement Double V.
I outline a story as I go, with a general idea of plot points I have to hit. I let the characters tell me how they want to get there. And if they have a better idea than me about where the story should go, I listen to them.
I like the idea of the characters leading the way. Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?
Some of my favorites are Philip Roth, Anita Brookner, and Patricia Highsmith, as well as Ruth Rendell, Joyce Carol Oates, and Stephen King. I guess my tastes run to the dark side. Beyond being great storytellers, all of these writers have characters who yearn for something greater than themselves, who challenge standard ways of thinking and behaving. And they use language beautifully.
Promotion is a big—and usually the most hated—part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?
You want my secrets? Just kidding. I’ve been incredibly supportive of writers, and have posted a guideline for self-promotion on Kboards. http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,42600.0.html
Even traditional publishers insist their writers do a lot of self-promotion. For my last traditionally published book, “The Secret Memoirs of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis,” my publisher asked me to hire a publicist, which would’ve cost around $20,000. I was astonished. So even if you have a big publisher, you have to do most of the self-promotion on your own.
Digital social media has made this easier. Twitter and Facebook. Start a blog. Do guest postings on other writers’ blogs. Find interest groups and pitch your book (e.g., if you have a book about dogs, pitching it to websites for dog lovers). Participate in various online writers groups and forums. Review other writers’ works. It’s very important to get reviews, and there are a lot of book review blogs out there. Do give aways. Blog tours.
Self promotion is extraordinarily time-consuming, time any writer would be rather writing. But if you do an hour a day, you can get a lot done. But do your writing first. Otherwise you risk getting sucked into the Internet.
I do enjoy the online world, and sometimes I get lost in it. Who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?
Since Roger Ebert died recently, I’ve been thinking how much he influenced me, which may seem strange because he was a film critic. But I remember listening as a child to his reviews, how he loved the story-telling aspect of film, how he explained the way technique enriched story telling. So naturally I wanted to write screenplays, which was my first love. Then I drifted into prose, where you have so much more control of the finished product. But even as I write prose, I see a movie in my head before I write. I think it makes my writing very visual.
What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?
I have to admit, I love the lifestyle of being a writer. Setting your own hours. Lots of time alone. I worked many years in the film business, which is wildly hectic—everything is an emergency. I think writers are very privileged to live lives of contemplatives, a rare thing in our culture. I am very grateful for it.
Tell us a little bit about where you live.
I moved to the Florida Panhandle from Los Angeles five years ago. I was smitten by the unspoiled beauty of the place. Thousands of monarch butterflies flitted around my car as I drove down to Alligator Point. The next morning I woke to mullet jumping in the canal and screeching great herons. I looked out the window and saw snowy egrets and bald eagles. White squirrels jumping between branches of the pine trees. I went for a bike ride and saw bob cat, deer, and boar. I went kayaking and saw turtles, and dolphin, and dozens of different fish. I felt like a guest in a land ruled by animals.
I knew then I had to write about this place.
Settings for a story are so important. Visualizing is what I enjoy most when I’m reading. Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
Soon after I moved to Florida, I met a fisherman throwing a cast net into the water and asked him to show me how to do it. We got to talking. When he heard I was a writer, he told me about several dozen soldiers who lost their lives during a training exercise while at Camp Gordon Johnston in WWII, and how the tragedy was covered up.
So a few weeks later I visited the WWII museum in Carrabelle, Florida and started doing research and interviewing people. I got completely sucked into the research, spending hours in the museum reading old newspapers on microfiche. Everything fascinated me—especially the newspaper advertisements—from girdles to hair tonic.
I started interviewing locals. Everyone had something to add.
What are major themes or motifs in your work?
I always explore identity, trying to reconcile the physical and non-physical worlds. What is honor? Betrayal and sacrifice. My characters respond sensually to the world as I do, they question and doubt. They try to do the right thing, but don’t always manage it.
Are you in a critique group? If so, how does it work and specifically how do the members help your writing?
I’ve never joined a writer’s group. I bounce around ideas with one or two friends. When I finish a first draft, I give it to a few others. I think a group might take some of the loneliness out of writing. But there’s no way around it—writing is a solitary endeavor.
Where can we go to buy your book?
Any other links or info you’d like to share?
I have a fun little cooking blog that I write for Mad Housewife Wine—little humorous essays with recipes attached.
and my author page is
Follow me on twitter:
April 10, 2013 in Author & Celebrity Interviews | Tags: author, Blood War, Dominio della Morte, Dylan J. Morgan, fiction, horror, horror writer, Hosts, October Rain, writer | by christytilleryfrench | 9 comments
–Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Dylan. Tell us about your latest book, Dominio della Morte.
The book is a collection of 19 short stories, the best I have to offer since I started writing seriously ten years ago. The stories are diverse, yet all include monsters in some form. There are vampires, werewolves, zombies, trolls, demons, sea creatures, ghosts, and the monster inside all of mankind. Some of them are long stories, over 6,000 words, yet others come in at a little under 500 words. There are three stories that are previously unpublished anywhere, written in the last six months. The others have all seen “print” before, either in magazines or online, and a few of the stories have been published more than once. At the end of the book are preview chapters to some of my longer works, teasers to my novel Hosts, my novella October Rain, and also the opening to my novella trilogy series Blood War. There’s something in here for every horror fan.
–As a horror fan, I’m hooked. Where did the name Dominio della Morte come from and what does it mean?
The name originally came from a novel I wrote a few years ago. The unreleased work tells the story of the End Times, a war between Heaven and Hell, and it had a scene with the demon Belphegor in his lair: a forest of charred trees upon which were tied the souls of those mortals he’d killed throughout his centuries of persecuting mankind. I wanted a name for this forest, and came up with either La Foresta di Morte (meaning the forest of death), or Dominio della Morte. I eventually chose La Foresta di Morte, but Dominio della Morte stuck in my head and I decided it’d be a great title for a collection of short stories. The title is Italian, and means Death’s Domain.
–Oh, I like that title. Perfect for a horror story. The cover of Dominio della Morte is very dark yet eye-catching. Tell us about it.
I love the cover, and the feedback about it has been very positive. It’s inspired by the book’s title, which in English means Death’s Domain. The title inspired me to write Death’s Domain, the opening story in the collection, which places a tormented man in a bone graveyard, an abandoned wasteland decorated with the skeletal remains of millions of dead people. The book cover is just that . . . a human bone graveyard.
–Sends chills up my spine! Why did you decide to release a collection of short stories?
Most of my stories have not been read by many people, as a lot of them were published years ago in venues that have now closed down. It just felt like the right time to gather up the best of these and put them out there to the public. I guess, with so many other projects I have underway at the moment I didn’t want the hassle of searching new publishers who took reprints—it was just easier to collect them all together and release them in one combined edition.
–A smart decision. Pick your favorite story and tell us why you like it so much.
A hard one because I love all the stories. The Passenger: this is a ghost story about the horrors of mankind’s past. I love this story because of its personal horrific nature.
–Where did you get your ideas for some of the stories?
Where most of my ideas come from: images from daydreams. I seldom have stories forming from proper dreams or nightmares, but almost always from my vivid imagination. Travelling through Poland once on a work trip and watching the countryside pass by, I had an image in my mind of murderous happenings on a train late at night—this became The Passenger (although not quite in its current incarnation). A family day out on a boat to a small island picnic had me sitting by the sea imagining voices of the dead rising from the surf—this became Melissa. The music used during the official trailer for the 2010 movie The Wolfman, gave me an image of someone trapped in a cabin surrounded by werewolves—this image became Beasts at the Door.
–You have a very creative imagination. Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?
Right now I’m editing a full length novel called Flesh, which I hope to release towards the end of this year. It’s a good ole fashioned monster horror about the Wendigo, a fun story to write and I hope a fun story for people to read. Also, you guys might remember my previous interview here which focused on my novel Blood War—well, unfortunately the publisher of that novel has been forced to close and as a result all rights for the book have now been reverted back to me. It’s by no means the death of this project, as the novel itself was divided up into three “novella-length books” that told the centuries-old conflict between vampires, werewolves, and hybrids. I will be releasing those novella-length sections in a trilogy of eBooks during this year, starting next month.
–So glad you’re putting it back out there. Any teachers who influenced you…encouraged you or discouraged?
Not really, no teachers who openly encouraged me to write, or influenced me in any way, but this does remind me of one episode in school when I was pulled up to the front of the English class and was asked from which book I’d copied a recent essay. Apparently the English teacher said the writing was so good for our grade, I couldn’t possibly have come up with the story myself.
–That’s a real compliment. Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
From reading other authors. Reading well written work makes me want to write my own stories, and likewise reading poorly written fiction makes me strive to better my own prose so I don’t end up letting myself down. Movies or the news or daily events do not inspire me at all—it all comes from the written word.
–Yes, I’m like you. I’m inspired by authors whose work I admire. Were books an important part of your household when you were growing up?
They weren’t important, not fiction at least. There was never a huge bookshelf in my family home as I grew up, and the majority of the books we had there were factual, or true life tales. My father was an avid mountain climbing fanatic and he had many books written by climbers about their expeditions all over the world. How the world of fiction, and horror fiction at that, came to me, I cannot remember.
–Are you in a critique group? If so, how does it work and specifically how do the members help your writing?
No, I’m not in a critique group but I understand the importance of one and why many people find it invaluable. Personally, I use proofreaders, valuable writers whose input I trust and who I know wouldn’t feed me a line just to make me feel good. It’s important to get told clearly what’s not working in any story so that you can make the correct adjustments to get the story as good as it can be, which is why other writers make the best critiquers. I would advise any author to get proofreaders they trust, or at least to join a critique group, as doing so will greatly improve your work.
–I agree regarding proofreaders. I never release a manuscript without having my sister Cyndi (Caitlyn Hunter) read through it. She has a great eye for inconsistencies in plot points as well as catching typos and grammar and punctuation mistakes. For those wishing to get a copy, where can people buy Doiminio della Morte?
People can buy the Kindle version from Amazon using these quick links:
The book can be purchased at Smashwords in all electronic formats:
It can also be bought at Lulu in eBook format (
) and print format (
Thanks for joining us today, Dylan. For more information about Dylan and his works: www.dylanjmorgan.com
Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Katherine! Tell us about your latest book, An Unexpected Gift.
An Unexpected Gift is a historical romance set in the Regency period. It’s available in both paperback and digital format.
Here’s the back cover blurb:
Known only as Lazarus to the band of cutthroats and thieves he leads, William Prescott will do anything to find his missing sister, even blackmail a fragile young woman into helping him. But he never plans to fall in love with this mysterious woman with a troubled past.
Haunted by the memories of war, Olivia St. Germaine wants nothing more than to live a normal life. But when her brother, a doctor, suddenly leaves town without a word, she is forced to use her medical knowledge to help an injured man who puts her life in danger. Can she keep herself safe as she tends Lazarus, or is her heart more vulnerable than she realizes?
–Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?
I’m writing my first contemporary novel and hope to have it finished within the next couple of months.
–What is a typical writing day like for you?
I work outside the home so for me a typical writing day begins between 3:30 or 3:45pm. I write for an hour and a half, then make dinner. After dinner, I work on the business side of writing, i.e. promotion for two hours or so.
–When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?
As much as I would like to say it’s me, in most cases it’s the characters. More than once I’ve had a scene planned out only to have the characters take me in a completely different direction.
–Tell us a little bit about where you live.
I live in upstate New York. We get all four seasons, though Winter seems to drag on for far too long. I’m centrally located where I can enjoy the Finger Lakes, a drive to Canada, or visit various art exhibits in the surrounding towns without more than a couple of hours drive at a time.
–If you could talk for thirty minutes with any author (or person), living or dead, who would it be?
I would love the opportunity to speak with Jane Austin or Georgette Heyer, to be able to ask if I am portraying the time period accurately. I’d love to know what was actually like to live during the Regency period instead of trying to imagine it from what I’ve learned through research.
–What is your strongest and/or your weakest area in the creative process?
I would say my weakest area is writing the first draft. I had to learn to give myself permission to write a less than perfect first draft. When I first started writing I couldn’t move forward until I thought each chapter was “perfect.” Now I know better. My strongest area is revisions or rewriting. Someone said it’s easier to revise a bad page of writing than it is to revise a blank page. I like the revision process because it give me a chance to go back and change things that don’t move the story forward, add in details to bring a scene alive, and/or add layers to the characters.
–How many hours a day do you write, where, any specific circumstances help or hurt your process?
I usually write an hour and a half each day during the week with a total page count of 25 pages per week. I write at the dining room table. I listen to classical music while I’m writing. It helps me concentrate and there are no words to the music to distract me into singing along with the song.
–What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know”?
In general, I think this is a good rule of thumb. That being said, one can learn a great deal through research. I also feel if you have the opportunity to have practical hands on knowledge you should take it. I’ve shot various types of pistols so when I write about firing a pistol, I have the direct knowledge of how heavy the gun is, how it’s loaded, the recoil when it’s fired, the acrid smell of the smoke afterward.
–Were books an important part of your household when you were growing up?
Books were a very important part of our lives when I was a child. We didn’t have a car so every couple of weeks or so, my mother, my 5 siblings, and I would walk twenty minutes to the local library. We were allowed to borrow as many books as we each could carry. I remember looking forward to those trips the library with anticipation. All of my family members are still avid readers and I credit my mother for fostering the love of reading in us when we were young.
–Are you in a critique group? If so, how does it work and specifically how do the members help your writing?
I’m not in a critique group, though I do have a critique partner. We meet every Friday after work and go over that week’s pages. She’s invaluable at pointing out holes in the plot or subplots I’ve left dangling.
–Any good suggestions for overcoming writer’s block?
As strange as it sounds, my suggestion is to write anyway. Sometimes if you take that scene that’s holding you up and write it from a different point of view, it will help get the words flowing again. If that doesn’t help, write anyway. You might end up throwing those pages out, but you might find the answer to what was holding you up.
For more information about Katherine and her works:
I still remember the night my novel, Dolls Behaving Badly, took a slightly erotic turn. It was winter, and late, and I was writing in a converted closet in my bedroom, the lamplight low, the wind howling against the side of the house. One cat was on my lap, the other at my feet, and I was hunched over my laptop, writing merrily and cozily away.
And then it happened. I began writing, not about sex exactly, but about topics that titillated. Topics that had to do with Barbie dolls in, shall we say, compromising positions.
I hesitated for a moment, my hands poised over the keyboard. It was almost as if I knew that once I began, I wouldn’t be able to stop. One part of me (the part that had been raised a good Catholic girl) inwardly cringed while another part (my inner bad girl) gleefully welcomed this foray into the unfamiliar.
Still, I fought it. I hadn’t set out to write a book with erotic themes or scenes. I envisioned a women’s contemporary novel, maybe a few racy phrases but certainly not anything as blatantly sexy or ridiculous as dolls with (how shall I say this?) anatomically correct parts poised in ways that easily displayed those same anatomically correct parts.
As the darkness lengthened and the Alaska winter raged around me, I escaped to my writing closet and took chances I may have not taken in the light of day, I gave my mind freedom to roam as it desired. Much of what I wrote those nights was unusable, and some of it caused me to blush, but I kept going. I blindly trusted that I was leading my book where it needed to go.
Of course, it’s impossible to carve “lady” parts on a Barbie doll (my character used pieces of Nerf football for the soft, outer lips), and I suppose this is what gave the writing an edge. It felt deliciously naughty and slightly rebellious, as if I were sitting in church in a tight dress and high heels.
Yet for all of the thrills, Dolls Behaving Badly is richer and deeper because I chose to include an erotic doll theme. Pushing the boundaries and introducing a ludicrous yet sexy subplot enabled me to push in other directions, too, which eventually resulted in opening up my characters up to vulnerabilities and choices that wouldn’t have existed in another context.
In a way, this makes perfect sense. We write to discover the unexpected, to dig deep into our psyches, to open ourselves to a vaster and richer existence. And by writing what makes us slightly uncomfortable, by putting our fantasies and desires on the page, in stark black type, we are allowing the hidden, shameful parts of ourselves to emerge.
We should all do this, at least as a writing exercise: Sit down and write about the things that embarrass or shame us, the things we’re afraid of, the things we’d be afraid for people to know about us. Think of what we could accomplish if we stopped worrying about convention or whether this works or that has a serious enough plot, and spent our time writing and embracing the unexpected instead.
Because if I can sit down in a closet in Anchorage, Alaska, and write about erotic dolls that run the Iditarod Sled Dog Race then you, my dear readers and fellow writers, can do anything.
Cinthia Ritchie is a former journalist and Pushcart Prize nominee who lives and runs mountains in Alaska. She’s a recipient of two Rasmuson Individual Artist Awards, a Connie Boocheever Fellowship, residencies at Hedgebrook, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts and Hidden River Arts, the Brenda Ueland Prose Award, Memoir Prose Award, Sport Literate Essay Award, Northwest PEN Women Creative Nonfiction Award, Drexel Magazine Creative Nonfiction Award and Once Written Grand Prize Award.
Her work can be found in New York Times Magazine, Sport Literate, Water-Stone Review, Memoir, Under the Sun, Literary Mama, Slow Trains Literary Journal, Sugar Mule, Breadcrumbs and Scabs, Third Wednesday, Writer’s Digest, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Cactus Heart Press and over 30 other literary magazines and small presses.
Her debut novel, Dolls Behaving Badly, released Feb. 5 from Grand Central Publishing/Hachette Book Group.
– Tell us one strange and provocative tidbit from your life that nobody has heard before.
When I was in fourth grade, I cheated in the spelling bee and won first place. The word was vegetable and I almost spelled it with an extra “a,” until a friend in the audience mouthed the letter “e.” I felt terrible about it for weeks. Perhaps that’s why I grew up to become a vegetarian.
–What is a typical writing day like for you?
Well, I write mainly in the evening and through the night so a typical day consists of straggling out of bed around 10 a.m., checking my email, working on freelance assignments, running, walking the dog, spending time with my partner and then, around nine o’clock, heading downstairs to my office. I usually write until three or four or even five in the morning. There’s something about the night, something dark and mysterious, that fuels my creative energy. I feel freer, less restricted; it’s as if in the safety and silence of the night, my real self emerges.
–When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?
Oh, my characters, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t outline or plan. I sit down each night and allow my characters to take over. This sometimes results in a mess, but as in real life, the best and truest moments often emerge from the messes we make.
–Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?
I have so many! Let me see: Margaret Atwood, I love her dearly and want to have tea with her. Kathryn Harrison. Mary Gordon. Gail Godwin. Lauren Slater. Barbara Kingsolver. I could go on, but I won’t. I love these authors (and so many more) because they’ve touched me in deep and indescribable ways; some have seared my soul. That’s no small thing. I love books, love to read, and often I reread my favorites over and over until I know them by heart, until it’s almost as if as I read, the words fall into the cadence of my heartbeat.
–Tell us a little bit about where you live.
I live in Anchorage, Alaska, which is a city surrounded by mountains and wilderness. I love it here, even though the weather is so often miserable. There’s an air of freedom that doesn’t exist elsewhere, and a feeling of expansiveness. I love the summer twilight, when the sun doesn’t set until after midnight and it never really becomes dark, and everything is bathed in lavender light. It’s beautiful and surreal, and I never, ever get over it. I’m a runner and my favorite thing to do is run in the mountains at night, no one else around, everything so green and damp and fragrant. There’s nothing like charging down a mountain in the middle of the night, the moon rising behind you, the air still light enough to see. It’s like nothing else.
–Who were your favorite authors as a child? Have they influenced your writing career in any way?
My favorite books were the “My Friend Flicka” series by Mary O’Hara. Oh, I loved those, read them over and over. I devoured Nancy Drew, Trixie Beldon and “The Black Stallion” series. Later, I read Louis L’Armour. We lived on a farm in Pennsylvania and my big dream was to move out West, which I did after college. I owe a lot to the books I read as a child, which fueled my imagination and gave me the courage to uproot myself and head out West, where I hitchhiked and traveled around for years, before finally settling in Alaska.
–Tell us about your latest book.
Dolls Behaving Badly is a quirky story—think of it as Northern Exposure meets Sex and the City. Here’s the blurb: Carla Richards is an Alaska waitress who secretly makes erotic dolls for extra income. She’s also a divorcee who can’t quite detach from her ex-husband, and a single mom trying to support her gifted eight-year-old son, her pregnant sister and her babysitter-turned-resident-teenager.
She’s one overdue bill away from completely losing control–when inspiration strikes in the form of The Oprah Giant. Suddenly Carla’s scribbling away in a diary, flirting with an anthropologist, and baking up desserts with the ghost of her Polish grandmother.
Still, getting her life and dreams back on track is difficult. Is perfection really within reach? Or will she wind up with something even better?
–Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
In the mountains and out on the trails. And there’s a lonely stretch of beach out behind Kincaid Park that I love, it’s very desolate and has massive driftwood washed on the shore. I used to live in Seward, a small rural Alaska community 135 miles south of Anchorage, and in the evenings I’d run the Lost Lake Trail with the dog, and I can’t begin to tell you what that’s like, to be out there with nothing but mountains and the wind. Late summer the wildflowers grew past my knees. It was wild. I wrote in my head almost every step.
–Beside“writer,” what else are you; what is your “day job”?
Right now I’m working on my second novel, also under contract with Grand Central Publishing, and I’m freelancing, too. For almost thirteen years I worked as an Alaska journalist, where I flew to remote towns in float planes, hiked on glaciers, got up close to bears and wildlife and traveled to amazing places and met amazing people. I’ve also worked as a waitress, bartender, secretary, apartment manager and exotic dancer, basically anything to pay the bills so I could expend most of my energy writing.
–Any family influences? Memoirs in the making?
I am struggling with a memoir. It’s difficult and beautiful and hideous and lovely, all in the same breath. It’s about my older sister, who died of an eating disorder over ten years ago. I have a few of her notebooks, a few photographs and not much else but memories. A few of the sections have been published in literary magazines. The writing process is very intense. It exhausts me. I feel as if I’m bleeding, not writing, over the page, and I suppose in some way I am.
–Did the classics have any effect on you in your formative years? (Shakespeare? Alice in Wonderland? Gulliver’s Travels?)
I read most of the classics, Alice in Wonderland, Gulliver’s Travels, Treasure Island, Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, The Wind in the Willows, Black Beauty, Little Women, Anne of Green Gables. When I became older I dived inside the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen. All of these books influenced me in one way or another though of course Laura Ingall Wilder’s Little House books were the ones that touched me the most.
– Why do you write?
Because I can’t not write. It’s as essential to me as breathing.
Visit Cinthia Ritchie at www.cinthiaritchie.com
March 6, 2013 in Author & Celebrity Interviews | Tags: author, children's books, children's fiction, children's fiction author, Dreamland, fiction writer, Lee-Ann Graff-Vinson, Love under Fire, military series, Queen Emily's Enchanted Kingdom, romance, romance author, romance series, writer | by christytilleryfrench | 6 comments
Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Lee-Ann. Let’s start off with the most basic question: Tell us about your latest book.
Well, I have two out (or close to) at this time. One is the third in my children’s picturebook series entitled Queen Emily’s Enchanted Kingdom. This is a moral series written with my eight-year-old daughter. She also draws some of the illustrations for the series as well.
The latest in this series is entitled Dreamland. Emily goes to sleep and awakens as Queen Emily the ruler of the Enchanted Kingdom. Only this time, she awakens inside her own dream and takes a trip on the enchanted carpet through her chosen dream door. There, Queen Emily and her trusty sidekick, Miss Bun-Bun, are taken straight to the Queen Mother at the Pink Castle. This dream is Queen Emily’s favorite because she gets to play and have fun with her mother all day long.
My other book due out soon is called Love Under Fire. It is the second in my military/romance series. Deployment to Iraq was both a dream and a nightmare for Corporal Erika Sigurdson of the US Army Intel division. Proving herself to her 1SG was no small feat. Neither was keeping the foolish boys, who thought they were man enough, at bay. Her tough girl image aside, she was about to discover that appearances are not always what they seem, especially her own. When the warrior unleashes from within, the mind and soul see with more clarity. Sometimes, those you push away are the ones you need the most.
I really love that you’re sharing part of your literary journey with your 8-year-old daughter. Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?
Currently, I am working on the first book in my new young adult series. Sibling rivalry is nothing new. This series showcases the more emotional side of a nine-year-old girl who has to endure the daily antics of her younger brother.
You’re very prolific. What is a typical writing day like for you?
My writing time occurs in the evening once the kids are in bed. My day usually consists of marketing my work and returning emails, various events at my children’s school, looking through student assignments and getting the errands done and house cleaned before I pick up the kids from school. There really isn’t time to concentrate on uninterrupted writing during the day, which is why I choose to write at night.
Been there, done that! When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?
I have no control. I am told what to write and how to write it. Most times, when I look back over a manuscript I’ve written months earlier, I don’t even remember writing half of it. The characters possess my mind and fingers. I guess they don’t think I can do a good enough job telling their tales.
That happens to me. Sometimes long after the writing is done, I’ll read a passage I’ve written and think, did I write that? What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?
There is no single aspect, there are several. I enjoy leaving for work and arriving at “my office” ten seconds later with my door closed and cup of coffee in hand. I love the feeling of getting so lost in my work that I never look at the clock and wonder “how much longer before I get to go home?” I greatly appreciate the chance to be a full-time mom and be able to take part in all the school activities with my kids. Writing is challenging and involves a lot of marketing to make any amount of money, but when I pair this against the ability to be there for my kids while doing what I love. . .well, I’m more than satisfied.
I quite agree. Mark Twain said, “Southerners speak music…” Do you have a favorite southern saying you can share with our readers?
I truly adore the way Southerners speak. The lilts and staccatos evoke a sing-song effect and I find myself almost humming along. Being Canadian, I have no accent. Oddly enough, I find almost everyone else outside of Canada does. I would have to say that my all-time favourite Southern saying has to be “Ya’ll come back now. Ya hear?” This is such a versatile statement. I say it quite often with varying degrees of accents. It also applies to my work. If you like one of my books, well. . ., “Ya’ll come back now. Ya hear?”
Being a Southerner, I truly love this accent but detest watching a movie or TV show where the accent is mangled and not done well. How many hours a day do you write, where, any specific circumstances help or hurt your process?
How many hours depends on what time my children let me get to the keyboard to write at night. When my head hits the keyboard, I know my time is up. Not getting interrupted helps. The needy nosing of my Brittany Spaniel pup, doesn’t.
What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know”?
Well, I think this statement is a bit restricting. I’ve never been one to be told what I can or cannot do. While it is true (and easier) that it’s best to write from personal experience, I find that the imagination is limitless if you just give it a chance to open up. Many books would never have been written if the authors simply stuck to what they knew. You may need to do a little research on your topic, but if you write what moves you and let your characters lead, there is no limit to your writing power.
Good answer. How do you classify yourself as a writer? Fiction or non-fiction? Specific genre such as mystery, short story, paranormal or more general such as women’s fiction, Appalachian, etc.
I am a writer of fiction. Romance, military suspense, erotica, paranormal (coming soon), young adult and children’s picture books are all genres I attach to my name. Like I said, I don’t like to limit myself. To quote my favourite movie, “No one puts Baby in a corner.” (Dirty Dancing, 1987)
Love the movie and saying. Beside “writer,” what else are you; what is your “day job”?
I am a wife and mother of two kids ages 5 and 8. Owner of a Brittany Spaniel (those of you who are familiar with this breed know they aren’t just pretty lap dogs who like to sit around and snuggle all day) who needs a lot of exercise. I tutor writing students for my “day job.” I am also on the PAC at my kids’ school where I do various weekly fundraising jobs such as Popcorn Wednesdays and Hot Lunch. The days can be very blurry at times, but I love what I do and wouldn’t change it.
You sound busy! What is your VERB? (This is a big poster at a local mall)? If you had to choose ONE verb that describes you and you behavior or attitude, what would it be?
A very good description, I think. Where do you get your ideas?
For the picturebooks and YA fiction, it’s my daughter. For all the rest, the ideas simply appear and will me to write. I have no control and never know when the knowledge of my next story will strike. I like it that way. It’s all very spontaneous and exciting.
Thanks very much for joining us today, Lee-Ann. I really enjoyed it. Below are links for more information about Lee-Ann and her works.
Gypsy Shadow Publishing: www.gypsyshadow.com/Lee-AnnGraffVinson.html
Great Minds Think Aloud Publishing:
Thank you so much for having me on Dames of Dialogue. I have enjoyed sharing a bit about myself with your readers.
I have been a fan of Christy Tillery French’s books for many years now and with each book she brings something new to the table. In the past it’s been suspense, thrillers, mysteries, and even romantic comedy. I’ve enjoyed them all but with her newest, Obsolete, she tops them all. Obsolete, a futuristic, dystopian nail-biter, is a cross between Stephen King’s The Stand and Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. It is Ms. French’s best yet and one I’m sure I’ll read over and over again (I’ve already read it three times!), just as I have the aforementioned novels.
After a Blue Pox pandemic nearly wipes out the human race, including 18-year-old Madison’s family, she goes looking for other people. She soon finds a horse walking down the middle of the interstate, names him Boomer, and takes him along as she continues her search. In time, she finds Katherine, a former anthropologist. The two team up and eventually arrive at a small college campus in East Tennessee where a group of women are living.
Katherine becomes the leader of the group and Callie, a former prison guard is made head of security. Callie hates men and before long convinces Katherine that the community would be better off with only women. They decide to imprison any men, or “others” as they call them, and use them for slave labor. The younger men will not only be forced to work, they will also be used in their procreation plan; mating young women of childbearing age with the men in order to increase the population of the community.
Madison doesn’t agree with their plans but can’t bring herself to question the woman who saved her life. She loves Katherine and considers her family, and she doesn’t want to go against her, but she’s reluctant to accept Katherine’s and Callie’s plans for the all-women community they’ve named Androk. And she especially doesn’t want to be a part of their procreation plan, until Sarah, heavily pregnant, and Seth arrive.
Seth, of course, is taken into custody while Sarah is taken to the infirmary to await the imminent birth of her child. When the baby, a boy, is born, Katherine and Callie threaten to take him away. Maddie and a nurse convince Katherine that the baby needs to stay with Sarah since her breast milk give him the nutrients he needs to fight off the blue pox. Maddie and Sarah both know it’s only a temporary retrieve and Sarah asks Maddie to help her and Seth escape.
Maddie agrees and she tells Katherine she’ll be a part of the procreation plan as long as she can pick the man she’s to mate with. She chooses Seth. Katherine agrees and Maddie and Seth spend their time together plotting an escape plan for him, Sarah, and the baby. The escape is successful and thanks to the help of some other women in the commune, Maddie’s part in the plan isn’t discovered.
Soon after, Jonah enters the camp and is taken into custody. Maddie sees him and is immediately drawn to him so when Katherine insists that she once again participate in the procreation plan, Maddie agrees with the same condition as before.
This time she chooses Jonah…and the rest, you might say, is yet to be written history. Well, actually, Ms. French has already written it but I don’t want to include any spoilers in this review so I’ll leave it to you to find out for yourself what happens.
Ms. French has an adept hand at writing characters the reader will become emotionally attached to. They are believable, likable, except of course, when they’re not—another thing she excels at is creepy villains!—and with her realistic dialogue, the reader often feels as if they could join right in the conversation happening on the page. Ms. French deftly interweaves several sub-plots which keep the reader turning the pages, and as always, her secondary characters, especially Micah in this book, are the absolute best and relatable enough that you feel as if they’re personal friends by the end of the book. Villain, heroine, hero, Ms. French creates characters who never fail to draw some sort of response from her readers.
The real story in Obsolete is, of course, the survival of the human race, with Maddie and Jonah’s romance playing out in the background. Will the human race survive and will men and women be able to exist in peace or will they turn on each other, therefore, almost guaranteeing the extinction of the species? Can Maddie and Jonah get past what he sees as her betrayal? Will they realize before it’s too late that there’s another of Katherine’s security women who wants them dead?
In Obsolete, CT French (aka Christy Tillery French) gives us a thrilling—or should I say chilling?—glimpse into a dystopian future where women—some of them, anyway—are mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore! This is one for my keeper shelf—er, my keeper file on my Kindle, it’s not available in print yet but I hope it soon will be!—and it comes highly recommended. If you liked The Hunger Games or The Stand, give Obsolete a try. I promise you won’t be disappointed!
By Laurel-Rain Snow
Today I’d like to welcome our guest, Alan S. Blood.
–Tell us about your latest book : ‘ONCE UPON A CASTLE’
Originally published in the UK (1997) the book has been republished in the USA by GMTA Publishing (August 2012) under the ‘MYTHOS PRESS’ Imprint and classified as ‘Fantasy Novella’
‘ONCE UPON A CASTLE’ BLURB Uncle Toby had said that there would be castles to explore, with ghosts and things. This helps to cheer up the glum twelve-year old Lovell twins, Tom and Mary, leaving their schools and loving parents to be evacuated to wild Northumbria during World War II. Then the adventure begins. They live with their Aunt Victoria and Uncle Leslie, meet the loveable ‘Mrs. M’, a strange dog called ‘Scamp’ and, worst, the terrible private tutor, Miss Urquart, from whom they run away to find a mysterious castle seen through an old telescope. Now they are drawn into bizarre supernatural events of a time-warp between the war itself and ancient warfare. They encounter dark forces, as the story twists and turns, and are even rescued by the Royal Navy. Yet, this is only the beginning of more unexpected tragedies before the twins begin to escape from it all.–
Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?
At the moment, I am writing a massive Historical novel set in 17th Britain about one of the greatest stories in English History which has never been fictionalized. Originally written as a Film Screenplay, I am converting it to a full-blown book – the details of which I am Keeping ‘under wraps’ until nearer the time when it will be published in the USA by my Publishers : GMTA Publishing.
--How long have you been writing?
I was told I was very good at writing by an English Teacher and first started writing stories/articles for my own school newspaper (aged 14/15). I continued the writing of such throughout my life. I am sixty seven and and a half years old and have had an amazing, highly stimulating and extremely varied life – which apart from my 25 year Teaching Career, has included many diverse jobs (not in chronological order) – ranging from builder’s/farm labourer to postman to office work – including Advertising/PR – to being PA to a Naval Commander ! I was an industrial Journalist and edited the ‘House Magazine’ of an electronics’ company involved in the early US ‘Gemini’ Space Programme. Exciting stuff ! At University, I edited my College (Tabloid) newspaper ‘Tombull’. Teaching highlights include an ‘Exchange Programme’ (1983) in American Schools and organizing a 2 day Industry/Education Conference (following a ‘post-graduate’ course at Cambridge University). I was amongst the first Teachers to organise ‘Work Experience’ for students on a massive scale and addressed a London Conference on this.
--Tell us a little bit about where you live.
I am very fortunate to live in a rambling Victorian (1873) house in a beautiful Welsh village by the famous River Severn below the foothills of the Cambrian Mountains. It is modest place with deep traditions and a sense of ancient belonging, where relationships amongst people and respect for others is still of paramount importance. I am a keen wildlife photographer and there is an abundance of mammals and birds from badgers and foxes to red kites and buzzards. Otters live along the river but it is rare to see them !
–Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
My huge range of experiences has provided a reservoir of real places, people, situations and ideas that I still draw upon to this day.
I am of the opinion that a writer is always at work and, apart from direct ‘contact experiences’ I make observations and take note of many things as I walk the passage of life. It could be the way in which a man sits looking apprehensively on train or how a lady nervously (or joyously) sips tea in a café – all manner of little things unnoticed by most people – how they are dressed, for example, in relation to age, surroundings, time of year – trivial stuff to most – but the source, maybe, of a character (major or minor) in a future novel, short story or even a poem !
Widely travelling around the world has furnished me with unlimited (visual imagery) ‘recall’ of myriads of locations, events and the associated personnel from watching a crowd enjoying the spectacular, Hollywood, ‘Disneyland Parade’ to a lone Chilean guitarist serenading travellers on a Santiago funicular or the visible fear of people climbing some of the quite formidable two foot high steps on the Great Wall of China. Whilst teaching in America I was fortunate enough to meet the Astronaut Rick Hauk and shaking hands with a man who has been ‘out there’ is truly memorable !
My village in Wales is also a constant source of inspiration and I have a wonderful view of the hills from the window of my study where I write.
–When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?
This is a question which I will attempt to answer with an interesting analogy. For a while, during a ‘subsidiary’ Art Course at University, I became hooked on ‘Sculpture’ and took myself to the Art Block where the opportunity and facilities enabled me to indulge in actually doing it.
I soon realized that what I had been told in Art lectures was actually true in that, with ‘sculpting’, the ‘end product’ is determined by a ‘battle’ between man and stone – in which neither is actually in control !
I feel that, when writing a novel, in particular, the same applies as the characters gain a ‘reality’ of their own in relation to the complex interaction between themselves, the Author and each other in the burgeoning (sometimes constantly changing) situations as the story develops – very often with fresh dimensions that were not originally envisaged ! As with the sculpting example, the result is often a ‘compromise’ in a kind of ‘battle’ between the Author (creator) and those that are created – where neither is in total ‘control’ – but the ‘end product’ is all the more exciting as a result ! Phillip Pullman has described this as going on an ‘adventure’ which makes the ‘unpredictability’ of writing so much more enjoyable for the Author – and, hopefully, in due course, for the readers !
–What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?
Writing for me has been a compulsion since adolescence. It is not ‘optional’ but something I continually have to do ! Given, therefore, that I seem to have no choice in the matter, the utmost satisfaction from becoming published is the sense of achievement by knowing that, potentially, innumerable people (sometimes worldwide) will read and hopefully enjoy my work.
The greatest pleasure I ever had was when my daughter (who was a ‘librarian’ at her school) told me that she had received a copy of my first novel into the Library for ‘classifying’ and was able to proudly show it to all of her friends. I felt ten feet tall, that day !
–How do your characters “come” to you? Are they based loosely or closely on people you know?
Apart from general observations of people (previously referred to) many of my characters can be directly or indirectly based upon real persons I have known – or, in some cases a character might be an amalgam of a few people’s ‘characteristics’ combined into one !
–Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?
Yes I do have an e-reader. I was opposed to the idea at first but when my novel ‘CRY OF THE MACHI…’ was also produced as an ebook I needed to purchase a ‘Kindle’. I find it invaluable for travelling, holidaying and reading in bed – whereby turning to pages of printed books, especially ‘large’ ones can (permit the ‘pun’) be a ‘nightmare’ ! I have previously split heavy books open and, therefore, the e-reader makes this so much easier – especially if you wish to turn pages back to reread them.
--How do you classify yourself as a writer? Fiction or non-fiction? Specific genre such as mystery, short story, paranormal or more general such as women’s fiction, Appalachian, etc.
I am essentially a writer of fiction with the paranormal/supernatural genre being present in most of my work which ranges from short ‘ghost’ stories to full length novels. My novel ‘CRY OF THE MACHI A Suffolk Murder Mystery’ crosses two genres as a ‘Supernatural Crime Thriller’. It is described below :
‘Cry of the Machi A Suffolk Murder Mystery’ by Alan S. BloodPublished by THE BOOK GUILDLike all English villages, the quiet and charming Thorpe Amberley in the heart of the Suffolk countryside has its secrets, its mysteries and its legends. It also has its traditions, such as the Tamberley Morris Men, a dysfunctional band of ‘blow-ins’, mainly professionals, who rehearse every Thursday and drink in the local pub. Nothing much has served to disturb the tranquillity of Thorpe Amberley for centuries. Until now. A stunningly beautiful American woman comes to the village to teach at a nearby school, and her arrival coincides with the resurrection of deadly seeds of jealousy, evil and murder. When the village is rocked by a series of gruesome and apparently ritualistic killings, it soon becomes clear that the local police are up against dark forces which they are wholly unequipped to deal with. Unlikely help comes from the shamanistic connection with a Patagonian ‘Machi’ through the Morris Men’s ‘Squire’ and the unexpected assistance of an ex-NYPD policeman. A hunt for not one, but two serial killers, is on, and Thorpe Amberley will never be the same again.
Are you in a critique group? If so, how does it work and specifically how do the members help your writing?
I am a founder member of a small, democratically run Mid-Wales writers’ group that meets sporadically when we feel the need – contacting each other beforehand by email/phone. We take it in turns to get together in each other’s houses – one of which is an Elizabethan mansion !
The group is both mutually supportive and intimate where we talk about issues concerning writing and becoming published et cetera. In this, we also consider aspects/excerpts of everybody’s current work – which I have found extremely useful towards publishing my novels.
As well as myself and other Authors, the group includes two very successful poets.
HERE ARE LINKS TO MY SOCIAL NET WORKS ET AL :
I am also linked to the online literary magazine ‘Readers’ Shadow’
ALAN S. BLOOD
Thanks for joining us today, Alan, and best wishes for continued success in your writing.