#interview

“Friday-Fortnight” Interview with Aurora Springer

Kerry_J_Donovan Aurora-Springer_Profile_240px

Hi guys,

It’s a wonderful early spring day here in Chez Donovan. The daffodils are in bud, the days are lengthening, and I’m in the sunroom with an author friend and fellow-scientist (okay, I’m a former scientist, but who’s to know?), Aurora Springer.

Morning Aurora, thanks for dropping by. How are you this fine afternoon?

AS: Fine? Fine? I’m from Atlanta, Georgia. It’s freezing in here. Let me shunt up closer to the fire and warm my hands around this coffee mug. Ah yes, that’s better. Thanks. Now, where were we?

KJD: And here was me thinking you Southern Belles were tough?

AS: Careful what you say when this gal’s got a handful of scalding coffee, boy. [Laughs.]

KJD: Glad you can take a joke, Aurora. (Gulp).

Talking of Atlanta, what is the best thing about the place?

AS: I live in the suburbs and my neighbourhood is convenient for walking the dog. What’s more, the Appalachians are about two hours north of our house.

KJD: That sounds great. The nearest mountains to us are the Pyrenees, over ten hours south of here. Now, let’s begin this little skirmish with a general question, what’s the most exciting thing you’ve ever done?

AS: Can’t really narrow it down to one, so let me see. Have kids? Break my shoulder falling off a jet-ski? Bare my inner thoughts in my novels? Not much.

KJD: I can relate to two of those. Never been on a jet-ski, but will add it to my bucket list. The broken shoulder sounds painful, and I do know what that feels like. So far, I’ve fractured four bones in my lifetime. It’s a wonder I can still walk upright without a stick.

What do you do to relax when you aren’t working, writing, or falling off jet-skis?

AS: Sometimes I read books by other authors. I take the dog for walks, and in the warmer months, I enjoy canoeing around the lake by our rural retreat.

KJD: Apart from the dog-walking thing, I love the sound of that. As my regular readers will know, I’m not a pet owner, me.

Moving on to the writing part of this interview, like me, you’re a scientist, how does science inform or influence your writing?

AS: That’s a great question. Some of my characters are scientists, or else they share a scientist’s curiosity. In my science fiction stories set on other planets, I try to describe physically realistic landscapes and diverse life forms. Also, I can introduce pseudoscientific explanations for things like teleportation.

KJD: Excellent, I love pseudo-science and resorted to it a little in my fantasy thriller, The Transition of Johnny Swift.

[Hell, we’re not going down that ‘let’s plug my books’ route again are we? Ed.]

Sorry boss, back to the interrogation chat. If there were a single thing you’d like to change about yourself, what would it be?

AS: I’d like to grow wings and fly! Or possibly fly without the aid of wings.

KJD: That would be fantastic, a bit like teleportation, eh? I can see a bit of a trend here. You are a dreamer, right?

AS: Exactly. Aren’t all writers of fiction?

KJD:  Can’t argue with that. So, what’s the best advice you can offer to a fellow author?

AS: Editing and polishing your creation is critical and takes longer than you think.

KJD: Amen to that, my friend. Do you have any favourite anecdotes related to your writing?

AS: Published in 2014, my first full-length novel was written some thirty years ago when I was a researcher at Yale University. In the story, I have aliens eating lunch with human scientists in a fictitious version of the cafeteria on the Kline Biology Tower.

KJD: Ha, brilliant, love it. Nothing written is ever wasted. You can always edit, update, and improve.

What is the first thing you do when starting a new novel? Do you research and write a detailed plot outline, or do you go with the flow?

AS: I don’t plot too much in advance, I just write as the story dictates. I fill in with research as necessary, luckily my husband knows a lot about firearms. After the initial draft, I generally list the chapters/events, and sometimes switch the order of scenes.

KJD: That sounds pretty much the way I work, too. What excites you about writing and the writing process?

AS: I love exercising my imagination, creating believable characters and extraordinary worlds. 

KJD: Agreed. It’s great being able to do what you like in your head without the men (and women) in white coats coming to take you way, isn’t it?

[Tumbleweeds blow across the sun-room …]

Okay. Now, what can you tell me about your latest project? If possible, I’d love a sneak preview.

AS: So glad you asked that. Some people accuse me of a campy, comic book style, so here it is—a superhero story about a teenage girl who juggles university classes with fighting villains and grumbles about her mother’s rules.

KJD: Love it already. Please tell us more.

AS: As you insist. The story has a hunky hero, aliens, animals, mystery, and fantastic fights. Who could ask for more? The eBook was published at the end of February. Here’s a brief excerpt:

Inspector Parkins crouched on one knee to examine the corpse. Her skin was flaccid and dry. Blood had gushed from her neck, leaving red streaks on her pink shirt. He did not bother to touch the body. The skin temperature would hold no clues in the sultry heat of the Atalanta summer. Parkins grimaced. The irregular gash across her throat was horribly familiar.

Glancing at the officer, he noted the name on his badge. “Look at her neck, Trooper Cagle. Seen anything like it before?”

With a grunt to acknowledge the Inspector’s request, Cagle leaned over the body and frowned. “It’s strange, now you mention it. I didn’t notice at first. The cut appears to have been made by a weapon with a serrated edge. I’ve never seen a knife with serrations that big.” He stared at the Inspector in alarm and whispered, “What is it?”

“Wish I knew.” Standing up, the Inspector made a fast decision, warning, “Keep an eye on the streets. I’ll file a request for more troopers on night patrol. This death is the second case I’ve seen in the last three weeks with the same type of injury on the neck.” He glowered at the startled officer. “We may be looking for a serial killer.” 

“A serial killer,” Cagle repeated slowly. He shook his head and murmured, “With that weird slash, it may be time to call in the Secret Supers.” 

“They’re an urban legend,” Parkins snapped.

The trooper tilted his head and asked, “How long have you been in the city, Inspector?”

“Six weeks on Monday,” Parkins replied, running his fingers through his thinning hair. His thoughts were elsewhere. He stepped aside and beckoned to the ambulance crew waiting with a stretcher. “Take her to the morgue. I’m ordering an autopsy.”

Suppressing a shudder, Inspector Parkins guessed what the medical examiner would find. A body drained of blood like the first murder case. Not a normal killer. He could imagine the careful wording of the official police reports for public consumption. Maybe they did need the Secret Supers. Whoever, or whatever, they were. 

KJD: Thanks for that. Love the murder mystery element. As you know, I usually write police proced—.

[Stop that! Ed.]

Damn, can’t get away with anything these days.

So, what’s next in your writing life?

AS: Several things. I have a good start on the next books in my new superhero series. Also, I have ideas for a “near future” story set in our solar system, and a “distant future” intergalactic adventure. 

KJD: That sounds wonderful. But, I’m afraid tempus fugit and we have to end our discussion. Thanks millions for your time.

AS: And thanks for your excellent hospitality, now that I’m finally warm again.

KJD: Before you go, as a scientist, can you help me work out the flaws in my teleportation system? Why is it that whenever I dial in ‘Paris’, I end up in Texas?

Are you an author? If you would like to take part in one of my FFI’s, drop me a line.

About Aurora

Aurora-Springer_Profile_240px

Aurora Springer is a scientist morphing into a novelist. She has a PhD in molecular biophysics and discovers science facts in her day job. She has invented adventures in weird worlds for as long as she can remember. In 2014, Aurora achieved her life-long ambition to publish her stories. Her works are character-driven romances set in weird worlds described with a sprinkle of humor. Some of the stories were composed thirty years ago. She was born in the UK and lives in Atlanta with her husband, a dog and two cats to sit on the keyboard. Her hobbies, besides reading and writing, include outdoor activities like gardening, watching wildlife, hiking and canoeing.

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Super Starella

Superhero Murder Mystery & Romance

Aurora-Springer_Super-Starella_240px

Teen superhero, Starrella, and the flying horse, Rockette, challenge the vicious villains in the skies of Atalanta.

A quiet summer at her uncle’s farm turns frighteningly weird for seventeen-year old Estelle Wright after she trespasses onto an Army base. Blown into the air and knocked unconscious, she wakes with a nascent superpower. Not to mention a winged horse with a snarky attitude and a mind of her own.

Back home in Atalanta, a serial killer is targeting the students at Goldman University. Before long she must juggle college classes with sneaking out of the house after dark to battle vicious monsters. Estelle’s life is in danger, but who can she trust with her secret: handsome Captain Copper from military intelligence, or hunky Toby, the tough gangster with a motorbike?

Young adult superheroes, quirky animal sidekicks, and a dash of romance enliven this thrilling adventure. Book 1 of the Secret Supers.

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“Friday-Fortnight” Interview with PC Zick

Kerry_J_Donovan PC-Zick_Profile_200px

Hi guys,

Okay, I know it’s not Friday, sorry I’m a day late, but I hope everyone’s having a wonderful 2016 so far. It’s been busy for me with a new book—On Lucky Shores—published and another Casebook nearly finished.

Talking about On Lucky Shores, I’d like to introduce you to my American editor, PC Zick who is an author, editor, all around star. As usual, I’ve put all her contact details at the foot of the interview so you can concentrate on the chat for now and ask questions later.

KJD: Hi, Pat, how you doing?

PCZ: Very well, Kerry. Great to meet you in person at last. Love these French cakes, what are they called?

KD: Er, cakes, I guess. Despite my claims, I don’t really speak the lingo here. Don’t tell anyone, will you?

PCZ: Pass me another of those delicious lemon ones, and my lips are sealed.

KD: Deal, help yourself. Only one though, the other five are for me. Now, before we get down to the authorly stuff, what’s the most exciting thing you’ve ever done?

PCZ: In 2004, I travelled to Morocco. I had a friend working in Casablanca, but I travelled in trains around the country-blond and alone. Quite an experience.

KJD: 2004? You must have been a teenager! But Morocco? Blimey. How intrepid of you. I’ve seen Midnight Express. I’ve never been further south than Bordeaux. I’m really impressed. There are probably loads of stories to tell—

PCZ: Wouldn’t you like to know, but as the saying goes, “What happens in Morocco …”

KD: Ah, but Casablanca. “Of all the gin joints …” Sorry, point taken. Good job neither of us is named Sam.

Now, I’d like to learn more about the real you. Let’s delve into your likes and dislikes. Imagine you’re planning a dinner party and have a choice of five guests, (you can chose from anyone in history living or dead). Who do you chose and why?

PCZ: John Lennon – because of his genius for writing lyrics that stay in my head and his rebel stance throughout his career. Tina Fey – because she cracks me up and because of her ability to write satire. I find satire the most difficult of genres to do effectively. Pat Conroy – because of his writing, of course, but also because of his damaged psyche that he parlayed into writing beautiful prose. Jeff Daniels – I admire his career, but also he’s my age, and we grew up fifteen miles from one another. I know we must have been at a grasser or two together, and it would be great fun to share memories. He also rented my mother-in-law’s house twenty years ago to film the movie “Sleep.” And finally, to round out the table for interesting juxtaposition, Mother Teresa. How did she find her inner peace that allowed her to shine love on the world?

KJD: Jeff Daniels rocks. Interesting stuff.  Mother Teresa was beatified recently and is well on her way to being made a saint. A great guest for any dinner party, I guess. Great choice.

I mentioned in the intro that you are an editor. Can you give us a little background to your life as an editor?

PCZ: I began editing as a newspaper reporter on a small weekly. I had to wear many hats in that job. Then I started my own paper and became the editor-in-chief, which involves much more than actual editing. Then I took a job as editor-in-chief for two regional magazines in Florida. From there, I began editing fiction. There are different skill sets and styles when going from non-fiction to fiction, but I’ve always been a self-starter. Also, I believe editing teaches me things about my own writing.

KJD: Fascinating. And let me take the opportunity to thank you for doing such a great job editing my latest novel, On Lucky Shores.

[That’s three mentions of your new book. Enough already, Ed.]

Sorry, boss.

PCZ: Sweet. You are welcome.

KJD: Without naming names, can you give me some examples of bad writing you have to deal with? And no, you’re not allowed to mention my new novel or my writing in any way, shape, or form.

[Thin ice there, buddy! Ed.]

PCZ: At the magazines, I hired many freelancers who knew nothing about writing but just wanted to write. I spent lots of time pulling out my hair. As the editor of fiction, there was one client several years back that I had to turn down after attempting to read nearly 100 pages of his manuscript. He wasn’t ready for an editor, and he needed to study the craft of his chosen genre. It’s tough sometimes to deliver my truth to someone, but I would have done this gentleman a disservice by taking his money on something that was nowhere near ready for publication.

KJD: I told you not to mention my manuscript!

Kidding, but I think I might have read his book, too. Teehee. What are the two or three most common writing mistakes you’ve found when editing a manuscript?

PCZ: I will attempt to keep this simple. If someone is serious about becoming an author, these are basics to learn. I see the same mistakes repeated often.

One, learn Point of View (POV). It will mark an author as an amateur if this is not done correctly. Read books that offer basic instruction on it and don’t submit to an editor until your POV is correct. Read other bestselling authors and study their use of POV. Sure, you can experiment, but you’d better know the technique before you do that.

Two, dialogue is another area that will label your fiction as amateurish. Learn the basics of writing it properly. Don’t try to emulate real speech exactly. Capture the essence. And stay away from dialect unless you’re an expert with a doctoral degree. I could go on but those are the ones I see most often, not only as an editor, but also as a reader.

KJD: What’s the best editorial advice you can offer to an author?

PCZ: Learn the craft of writing fiction—don’t leave that to your editor. If I receive a manuscript so full of troubled areas, it is very difficult to be an effective editor. I was teaching a workshop last year on writing—just a basic introductory course. When I talked about getting the craft and mechanics right before submitting to anyone, one of the students (an adult), said, “I thought that was the job of an editor.” Everyone else agreed that’s what they thought. So I say it loudly and succinctly: Learn the craft. If you don’t, no one, including your editor, will want to read what you’ve written.

KJD: Never a truer word. I’ve been writing novels, off and on, since 1985 and still consider myself a novice.

And now let’s move on to your writing. What is the first thing you do when starting a new novel? Do you research and write a detailed plot outline?

PCZ: I’m generally a pantser (fly by the seat of my pants). I write a few things down, but if I get the first line of a novel, then I’m off. I write the entire first draft, which I see as my outline. Then I go back and revise before letting anyone see it. Now as I get into the area of climax and resolution, I might start outlining a bit on a legal pad with a sharpened #2 pencil.

KJD: I’m pretty much like that myself—apart from the pencil part. I rarely resort to paper and pen. The word processor is both my friend and my enemy (if you see what I mean).

What excites you about writing and the writing process?

PCZ: That’s easy. I love telling stories. Ask anyone who’s ever sat on my porch drinking wine with me. I turn a trip to the grocery store into a story. I love it when the characters become real to me and their story pushes its way onto the page. I love researching. I guess I love just about everything. I even love editing my own work.

KJD: Tell me a little about your latest novel.

PCZ: I wrote Misty Mountain during National Novel Writing Month in November. I actually wrote a 40,000-word romance in one month. I’d never done that before, and I was quite pleased with the results. I didn’t have time to think about it. I just wrote the story and set a word count deadline for every day. I published Misty Mountain on January 19 of this year. Here’s the opening chapter:

LACY SCHUMACHER LIFTED A TRAY filled with hot chicken wings from the kitchen window countertop. When she turned to head to a booth in her section, “Your Cheating Heart” blasted from the stage at the front of the bar. Suddenly, her feet went out from under her when she slipped on a puddle of beer spilled by one of the customers. Chicken wings flew in the air, and the small cup of blue cheese dressing landed on top of her head and rode with her on her descent to the floor. A celery stick landed on her chest.

She heard the laughter all around her, making the humiliation complete. Then a hand appeared to help her to her feet. She felt the growing wetness on the back of her jeans from the beer as she stood and faced George. She pulled the container from her head. Blue cheese dripped down her long brown curls. He grabbed some napkins from a nearby table and started dabbing at her hair. That’s all she needed. They’d only been dating a few months, but now any doubt he had about her abilities to do anything gracefully were probably dashed.

“It’s all right,” she said, as she took the napkins from his hand. “I’ll be right back.” She headed for the bathroom, hoping she could clean up well enough to continue her shift at Misty Mountain, the bar where she’d worked for several years.

Misty Mountain hopped on a cold Thursday night in January, and Lacy longed to go home and soak her aching feet in a hot bath as she used a wet paper towel to dab at her hair. Too bad her house didn’t have a hot tub like so many of the rental cabins in the Smoky Mountains.

The economics of the town depended on the tourists whose visits to the mountains were as unpredictable as the weather during the winter months. Locals accounted for a fraction of the crowd most of the time, and the part-timers were scarce from Christmas to Easter. But tonight, the restaurant was enjoying the first busy night of January.

“It’s the winter festival in Blue Ridge,” Julie Cole had told Lacy when she’d come in for her shift a few hours earlier. “We could have a big crowd tonight.”

Julie and Lacy had started working at Misty Mountain about the same time several years earlier. Julie, more outgoing than Lacy, gravitated to bartending. She loved teasing and laughing with the customers. Lacy enjoyed her job most of the time, but she was quieter.

“The band from Nashville will draw a crowd, too,” Lacy had responded. “I can use the tips, and I bet you and Johnny could use the business.”

“That’s for sure. It’s been a slow month so far.” Julie had stopped washing glasses and put her elbows on the bar. “So have you two talked yet?”

Lacy tied a black apron around her waist. She knew Julie meant well, but she didn’t want to talk about George. Julie, and her husband Johnny, owned Misty Mountain, and George was Johnny’s brother. Even though she and Julie were good friends, she felt uncomfortable discussing George with her. Small towns bred familiarity—she knew that all too well.

Lacy shook her head. “It hasn’t come up.”

“It will. Especially if Becca ever finds out the two of you are dating.”

Becca, George’s ex-wife, lived in Nashville, where the two of them had moved twelve years earlier. She knew Julie was right. Maybe it was time to just end it with George before it went any further. It was inevitable that Lacy would be left heartbroken when Becca found out, and George inevitably succumbed to her demands. Even though they were divorced, they had a child together, and Lacy felt certain Becca would use that to manipulate George.

“George is buying into the bar,” Julie had said as she poured the pitcher of beer. “Did he mention it to you?”

Lacy shook her head. George had moved back to Murphy after his divorce, but his son still lived with Becca in Nashville, four hours away. Last time they’d talked about it, he said he wasn’t sure what he was going to do. He’d been handling the music end of the bar for a month, bringing bands in from all over the south for live music on the weekends. Maybe he’d decided to stay, even though it made seeing his son more difficult. He certainly didn’t need to tell Lacy about all his decisions.

“He sure has been bringing in some good music.” Lacy had said. “I guess he’s decided to stay in Murphy for a while.”

She’d been burned too many times in the past by men she fell for who hadn’t fallen for her in return, so she tried not to think about George’s sandy brown hair that fell softly over his collar or his brown eyes that sparkled whenever he talked about music and his passion for finding just the right sound. She didn’t think about his broad shoulders or the way he looked in his solid-colored flannel shirts rolled up halfway on his forearm. She most certainly didn’t think about those things or about the way he kissed her good night when he walked her to the door of her house. So far that was as far as the relationship had gone, and that was fine with her. She liked George and enjoyed spending time with him, but that was it. She didn’t need another relationship to turn out like the last one—with her boyfriend engaged to another woman.

KJD: Wow, so much information packed into such a short passage. I guess that’s down to your journalism background. Nice. Thanks for the sample. My readers will love it.

What’s next in your life?

PCZ: My husband and I are transitioning into a new era in our lives. He retired in December, and we moved to a cabin in the Smoky Mountains. We also have a home in Florida where we’ll live in the winter, starting next year. I probably will never retire. Right now, I’m between writing projects and finishing up some big editing jobs. However, I have books to write this year, and I plan on expanding my editing business by actually promoting rather than depending on word of mouth. You’ve not seen the last of me!

KJD: So glad to hear that. Pat, it’s been a gas. Thanks millions for visiting and thanks again for the wonderful work on my novel. Darn, what was it called again?

PCZ: Do you mean On Lucky Shores?

KJD: You got it. J

[That’s it. This interview is over! Ed.]

Are you an author? If you would like to take part in one of my FFI’s, drop me a line.

About PC

PC-Zick_Profile_200px

Bestselling author, P.C. Zick describes herself as a storyteller no matter what she writes. And she writes in a variety of genres, including romance, contemporary fiction, and nonfiction. She’s won various awards for her essays, columns, editorials, articles, and fiction.

Many of her novels contain stories of Florida and its people and environment, which she credits as giving her a rich base for her storytelling. “Florida’s quirky and abundant wildlife – both human and animal—supply my fiction with tales almost too weird to be believable.”

Her Behind the Love trilogy—contemporary romance—is also set in Florida, but she’s now working on a series set in the Smoky Mountains.

Home Town: I’ve lived in Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina in the United States.

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Misty Mountain

Contemporary Romance

PC-Zick_Misty-Mountain_200px

 

When Lacy and George begin dating, each of them keeps a shield around their hearts. Lacy’s been hurt so many times, she’s afraid to let another man come close. George, reeling from a bitter divorce, doesn’t trust women for fear they’re all like his ex-wife.

Working together at Misty Mountain in a small town in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains creates its own set of problems, especially when the ex-wife moves into town. Lacy’s family history causes further complications when too many want to remind her of her sister’s bad reputation and subsequent death.

It’s a complicated mess, but the attraction between Lacy and George keeps them coming back to simpler solutions. If they can put down their shields long enough to discover the love growing between them, then nothing will stand in their way to finding happiness.

 

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“Friday-Fortnight” Interview with Tom Ericson

Kerry_J_Donovan Tom-Ericson_Profile_240px

Hi guys,

How you all doing? I know, it’s been months since my last FFI and I have to apologise for my tardiness. No excuses, well, perhaps one. I’ve been finishing up my latest novel, On Lucky Shores, which is due for publication on 16th January, 2016, (but don’t worry, I’ll tell you all about it later). And with that shameless plug out of the way, let’s get on with the chat.

Today, I’m talking with an old friend, Tom Ericson who’s written an excellent thriller … well, I’ll let him tell you about that in a sec.

KJD: Hi, Tom, how are you?

TE: Not bad, thanks. Coffee’s good, and I need it after last night’s crossing.

KJD: Rough?

TE: Like being tossed around in a tumble dryer. Thank God there were plenty of paper bags on board. Still, it was worth the discomfort to see where you live. Beautiful countryside around here.

KJD: Thanks, I think so, too. And I feel for you man, mal-de-mer’s a horrible thing. Feeling better now?

TE: Yep, and the coffee really helps.

KJD: Okay. Ready to start the interview?

TE: Fire away.

KJD: Let’s start with a couple of ‘getting to know you’ questions. Are you at all sporty? If so, tell me your best sporting achievement.

TE: Yes, I dabble. Currently, I’m moving to my black belt in karate.

KJD: Er, okay. Want me to freshen your coffee, maybe have a second slice of chocolate cake? Need me to shine your shoes, give you an extra cushion?

TE: (Frowns and leans forward) You are a funny man. (Winks)

KJD: And an inveterate coward. Pray, continue.

TE: Best sporting achievement? … playing football at County level, final trialist for Wales Schoolboys, and captain of my university side. You could say I was ok at football. Playing rugby at County level in South Wales during the infamous 1970’s is probably my personal favourite.

KJD: Fantastic. I love rugby union, but never played—told you I was a coward. My sporting career didn’t really amount to much. I was into cross-country running, and cricket. If you’ve ever played golf, give me your favourite golf excuse.

TE: Uh-uh, Don’t play—I’m with Oscar Wilde on that one.

KJD: What? Golf is a good walk spoiled, you mean?

TE: Exactly.

KJD: Right. What do you see out of your office window (the office where you write)?

TE: My garden, trees, and sometimes a blue sky. I work out of a shed—very Dylan Thomas, I’m afraid.

KJD: Sounds idyllic, if a little cold in the winter. Describe a typical day in the life of Tom Ericson.

TE: I start work around six am, (Ed: Gulp!), take a break to see my daughter off to school, work through to lunchtime, take my daughter to her childminder, back to work until teatime. If I am working on a book then most evenings I am back in the shed, sometimes until very late.

KJD: A six am start? That’s the middle of the blooming night. I rarely turn in before three. Rather you than me. Still, I don’t have school-age kids anymore, so I can have a long lie in. Lovely.

Let’s slide a little more towards the writing side of things. What book genres do you read and do they differ from the ones you write? If so, why?

TE: Crime, thrillers—the same as I write. Plus historical non-fiction and biographies. Different to my writing—don’t know why, they just interest me. Real world v fictional one, perhaps?

KJD: A fine line to walk as an author. In general, how long does it take you to finish the first draft of a new novel?

TE: Six months, and then another six to re-write, and re-write, and re-write … you get the drift. That’s on a part time basis, but I’d possibly manage two a year if full-time (fingers crossed!).

KJD: Two books a year is a good target, I think. I do about the same. I’ve published two book this year, Sean Freeman, and On Lucky Shores. Teehee. See what I did there, plugging my books again.

TE: Absolutely shameless (smiles).

KJD: Always. What’s the first thing you do when starting a new novel? Do you research and write a detailed plot outline, or are you a pantser?

TE: That’s easy, I start typing. That’s not a clever answer, it’s what I do. The story begins to flow and takes me along. I usually have an ending in my mind, along with an outline plot. The rest seems to arrive en route (thank goodness!).

KJD: Sounds similar to my process! Tell me a little about your latest work (one nearest publication). Where did you find the inspiration? What’s it about? When can we expect to see it on the bookshelves? How about a sneak preview?

TE: My latest work is A LIFE WITHIN. The inspiration for the story came from a simple thought—what terrifies someone in their own home? In this case it’s the ‘thing in the attic’—a sort of ‘monster under the bed’ theme.

KJD: I’ll let my readers in on a secret. I’ve read a draft of A Life Within and loved it!

TE: Thanks, Kerry.

KJD: Credit where it’s due. Carry on, please.

TE: The book is about a serial killer who is seeking revenge for a major trauma in their life. The victims are couples who become pregnant by means of IVF treatment.

A have no idea when to expect it on the bookshelves. I wish I knew! It depends on the success or otherwise of my first book, although I feel this is better written and may ‘carry’ my first one with it to traditional publication.

Here’s the opening …

Chapter 1

The night comes, and the night goes. That is the way of things. It’s how it has always been.

Through the night goggles that changed the blackness of the small space into an eerie green, eyes followed the path along the boards of the attic floor; the boxes and black bags that held the normal squirrel’s hoard of a family home neatly stacked on both sides.

Through the tiles above, thin shafts of light splintered the darkness as the low-lying sun illuminated the shape of a human in a one-piece black cotton suit. The outfit covered the whole body, with four holes created for convenience – one each for the eyes, one for the mouth, and one other.

Outside, was a world where people went about their everyday business, went to work, and came home. Two of those people would be arriving soon. Their uninvited guest did not plan to greet them on their arrival, but would meet with them later, and provide suitable entertainment in return for their hospitality.

The visitor made ready for the appearance of the hosts, lifting the hatch door to create a narrow viewing gallery over the landing and stairwell below. The wait began.

#

One hour after the sun had set, Declan and Gail Daley entered their home. The journey back from London had been much the same as normal; crowded train, no seats, little air, and even less conversation. The couple had shared the same train, but not the same space, Declan joining the crowd of ant-like London commuters at Moorgate, where he worked for an accountancy body, and Gail boarding at Alexandra Palace. She managed the marketing operation for the newly invigorated complex and by the time the train reached her it was always full. They met at their destination, Enfield Chase station, and walked the few hundred metres to their home, offloading the negative aspects of their day in preparation for an enjoyable evening alone.

Mr and Mrs Daley had been married exactly four years, but this was their first genuine anniversary, the date of their wedding being the 29th February. They were in high spirits by the time they opened the front door to their small but chic mid-terrace property, happy to close out the rest of the world until the return journey to the confines of the office tomorrow. Two more days in work and they would be leaving for the weekend, skiing in Italy.

“Get the steaks out and the wine poured, Mr Daley,” instructed Gail, as she closed the door and threw her keys and handbag on to the oak hall console table. “I’ll go take a shower and get your presents ready.”

“Presents… plural?” replied Declan, his face quizzical. “I thought we agreed we would only buy one gift. You suggested it.”

“Did I say I bought the second,” she teased, as she ran her tongue along the edge of her upper lip and winked.

“I’m doing it, I’m doing it,” Declan responded, feigning urgency as he hurriedly reached for the fridge door.

Gail Daley heard the pop of a wine cork as she undressed, and the sound of a second as she walked across the landing to the shower room, naked. White and red. Nice one, Dec, she thought. What she didn’t hear was the faint controlled breathing only a few feet above her head.

As the luscious shampoo foam washed away the smell of the city and the rigours of the day, Gail sensed a presence in the room and smiled. Closing her eyes, she faced the strong jet of steaming water and relished in its warmth, before a short draft of cold air told her that the shower door was open.

“Present’s not ready yet, sweetheart,” she offered, “but you know it’s worth the wait.”

The only sound she heard was the cascading water.

Gail Daley opened her eyes.

What she saw before her was not what she expected, and she gasped.

“Mister Daley! My word, is that all for little ol’ me?”

“I didn’t buy your second present, either,” Declan replied. He was naked with two glasses of white wine in his hands and a claret and blue silken bow adorning his manhood that had already responded to his wife’s soaking wet slim petite frame, full breasts, and long blonde hair.

“I assume you mean the ‘hammer’, Sir?” Gail giggled, her reference to their beloved West Ham United colours causing a huge smile to take over her husband’s face. “Should I unwrap it now?”

Passing over her wine, Declan raised his glass and said, “Happy Anniversary, Mrs Daley, and thank you for the happiest four years of my life.”

The couple emptied their glasses and Declan stepped into the cubicle, closing the door behind him.

The meal of fillet steak and mushrooms, accompanied by a superb bottle of St Émilion Grand Cru, was consumed later than originally planned. For a short time afterwards, Gail and Declan talked excitedly about Italy and exchanged presents, a platinum chain bracelet watch for her and a gold neck chain for him.

Finishing their wine, the couple returned upstairs and went to bed, falling into a deep sleep wrapped in each other’s arms.

#

The house was quiet, save for the heavy breathing of those who slumbered. Above the landing, the attic door opened. Two feet appeared, followed by two legs, then a torso, and finally a head, all clothed in black. Descending to the floor below, the visitor prepared to meet the hosts.

The night comes, and the night goes… but for some the night never ends.

KJD: Wow. Powerful stuff. Thanks for that. Back to the interview. If there were a single thing you’d like to change about yourself, what would it be?

TE: That’s easy. I’d be a full-time writer.

KJD: Ha! What’s next for Tom Ericson?

TE: That’s down to my agent—if I get a publishing deal there are a lot of books to come. If I don’t, it will hands to the grindstone and working for a living (with one book a year instead of more.

KJD: I hear you, Tom. Finally, tell me something about yourself you wouldn’t want you partner/parents to know. Don’t worry; it’ll be our little secret. 😉

TE: That would cost you a large Jameson’s, my friend, plus there isn’t enough space …

KJD: Alcohol, at this time of the morning? No chance. Anyway, thanks millions for the chat, let’s carry on this conversation off-line. So, this secret …

Are you an author? If you would like to take part in one of my FFI’s, drop me a line.

About Tom

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Tom Ericson was born into a coal mining community in South Wales. He studied Politics at Swansea University and completed a Masters Degree in Industrial Relations and Employment Law at the University of Keele.
He has spent most of his working life in the finance and banking industry and was heavily involved in local politics for ten years, including a term as an elected councillor.
Tom has two adult children from his first marriage and now lives with his partner and young daughter in Hertfordshire.
The Anger Within is his first book and he has just completed his second, A Life Within, which features the same detective team.

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The Anger Within

Crime / Thriller

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Have you ever really wanted revenge?
AJ does. For the inequality, the unfairness, and the injustice.

Would you do something about it?
AJ would. To end the lies, the deceit, and the hypocrisy.

What is the difference between you and AJ?
AJ turns his thoughts into reality …AJ acts.

AJ is a former Royal Marine sniper who fought, risked his life, and killed for his country. The recession has left him penniless, his business ruined, and his beloved family home about to be repossessed. He blames the bankers and finally snaps, creating a plan to gain revenge and justice for the millions whose lives the banks have ruined. This will show the bankers and the politicians the error of their ways and make them an offer they can’t refuse.

In pursuit of the sniper is Detective Superintendent Jess O’Neale, a senior Met police officer who has gained her rank at a relatively young age – no mean feat for a woman with a Geordie accent, and now a single parent with a young child. O’Neale hunts AJ in the same way that he stalks his victims – with stealth and with cunning.

The Anger Within takes the reader into the mysterious world of the most deadly hunter of human prey – the sniper – and reveals the hidden fear that lurks within the corridors of power and law enforcement. It answers the question that lies behind that fear: What if it actually happened?

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“Friday-Fortnight” Interview with Effrosyni Moschoudi

Kerry_J_Donovan Effrosyni-Moschoudi_Profile_200px

Hi guys,

This week, I’m introducing, Effrosyni Mouschoudi. Welcome, Fros, how you doing today?

EM: Really well, thanks. It’s great to see you at last.

KJD: Thanks. Settle down, have a drink and tell me about Greece. I’ve never been but have always wanted to visit. Tell me, what’s the best thing about the place?

EM: Easy. I live in a serene, seaside town an hour’s travelling distance from Athens. I get the best of both worlds, and I’ve been reaping the benefits since 2005 when I moved here. However, I find that the longer I spend in this place the more I seek the serenity of my surroundings, preferring it to the mad bustle of the city. Especially in the summertime, my favourite season, I can’t stop counting my blessings for the fact that it takes me a mere 5-minute drive to be in the water without the horrid commute to the beach and back that the city folk have to suffer.
The beauty of living in Greece is the sea, the weather, the food, and the open-heartedness of its people. (Sounds fantastic – Ed.) They are the things that make living here a paradise. Of course, in the recent years of the crisis, and while the Greeks continue to suffer much humiliation and austerity, the things I just mentioned have become our only consolation.

KJD: Ah yes, the dreaded recession and austerity. We’ve had serious problems in France and the UK, but it’s nothing like the severity you’ve suffered in Greece. I know this is probably a little political, but I keen to know how the current financial meltdown in Greece has affected you personally and as a writer.

EM: I don’t mind this question at all. I lost my job at Athens airport back in early 2010 after a 20-year professional career. This hit me quite hard. We have been living solely on my husband’s salary ever since. Naturally, we had to cut back on all the extras so as to pay the bills, but it’s not too bad. I am used to it by now and dream to be able to return to a more self-indulgent lifestyle again someday.
Travelling is what I miss the most. Other than that, there is heavy taxation which feels hugely unfair but we count ourselves lucky. We have our own house and my husband’s job is secure. Other Greeks are not so lucky. So many have lost their jobs, their homes, many have been living without electricity for years, children are fainting in school, young minds have moved abroad to find a decent job, and thousands have committed suicide out of despair.
Living in crisis-stricken Greece for the past 6 years and witnessing all of this has been getting increasingly difficult. At the same time, the world has been portraying the Greeks as audacious and demanding, lazy, corrupt, and cunning, rather than seeing us for what we are: a nation striving for survival and for the redemption of its lost sense of pride. It’s humiliating to watch the news and that’s why every single Greek is even angrier than they are upset these days.
This is how the crisis has affected me personally. As for how it has affected my writing, it is the crisis that’s made me an author. Staying home with nothing to do all day was depressing at first, but once I snapped out of it, giving vent to my creativity became the only option.

KJD: Excellent news, art from adversity, salvation in the written word. I admire your tenacity.
And about your writing, I’m guessing your natural language is Greek, so how difficult is it to write in a foreign language. Can you explain you process?

EM: I don’t have a process. I don’t do something complex like write it in Greek and then translate it. I write my books the way any given native speaker of English writes theirs. I started studying English from the age of 10, then at 16, I received a Certificate of English from Cambridge University. In the years in between, I studied English grammar and syntax meticulously in every lesson. I know many native English speakers who can’t spell or jot down a single paragraph with grammatical correctness.

KJD: As do I!

EM: Quite. As a result, I don’t believe it matters what your native language is, just what type of education you have received and how much you loved what you’ve been fed as a child in school.

KJD: Bravo, girl. I wish I had the ability to write in French. Many locals have asked for translation of my books, but the cost is prohibitive and I wouldn’t know whether the translation is any good anyway.
Where do you sell most of your books? I mean, how buoyant is the market in Greece for English-language novels?

EM: Because of the crisis, the market is quite dead here, even for books written in Greek. We are not a book-reading nation as it is. If you sit in a train or a waiting room reading a book here, people will stare at you as if you had antennae sticking out of your head. (Tee hee – Ed.) This is why I don’t bother marketing my books at all here. It’s a lost cause, especially during the crisis. Instead, I concentrate fully on the American Amazon store.

KJD: Good for you and I know you’ve had some real success too. So, on to nicer subjects, what can you see out of your office window (the office where you write)?

EM: My study is a tiny, windowless room that only has a small glass-brick window to allow some natural light to stream through. It’s perfect for me as I don’t like distractions when I write. Any view, even the most stunning one, would stop me from concentrating. This is why I can’t write outdoors either.

KJD: Me neither. I tried taking the laptop outside once and fell asleep in the sun.
Describe a typical day in the life of Effrosyni Moschoudi.

EM: I get up at 7:00, have a break around 12, have lunch, and work till 18:30 when my husband returns. It’s all very mundane really. On most days it doesn’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything big, but I am one of those people who have no problem with moving a mountain one shovelful of dirt at a time so I don’t let pending work overwhelm me. I take things easy, and on the weekends I love to relax with a walk or a swim (in the summer) and lots of movies, which has to be my favourite thing of all.

KJD: Sounds perfect, but I’m a driven sort of guy, have to complete the tasks I’ve set, or I’ll lose sleep.
What genres do you read and do they differ from the ones you write? If so, why?

EM: I enjoy historical fiction and thrillers/mysteries most of all, as well as some chick-lit. I have written historical fiction and intend to try my hand at the other genres I just mentioned, too. I guess it’s because I prefer to write the kind of books I’d love to read myself.

KJD: That’s a good place to start. I’m writing an action book at the moment and having a ball. There are no rules other than those governing the laws of physics. Writing it is therapeutic.
Do you belong to any writer organisations/groups that help you in your endeavours?

EM: I am a member of eNovel Authors at Work. This writer’s group has opened my eyes to the possibilities of networking and promotion. I am very grateful to be a part of this wonderful community of authors. I am also a member of the Fantasy/SciFi network, and have made a couple of good friends there and enjoy supporting them like they do for me as well.

KJD: What’s the first thing you do when starting a new novel? Do you research and write a detailed plot outline?

EM: Basically, I create a chapter summary to work with as I go, even if it’s for only a couple of chapters ahead at a time. In general, at the start, I always have the beginning and a slight idea about the end of the book, and very few things about what happen in between. The chapter summary allows me to develop the plot piece by piece over time. Mostly, it helps me to know in advance what the next chapter is EXACTLY about. This ensures that I don’t sit in front of a blank screen, clueless, when it’s time to write. This little change in my writing routine means I never experience writer’s block any more.

KJD: What excites you about writing and the writing process?

EM: I feel the excitement of my characters in my heart and they pass it on to me. That’s the best way I can describe it. If someone’s in love, I feel in love to. If they are in pain for a loss, I cry with them. If they are mad with rage, I feel it and it overwhelms me. This is what thrills me while I write.

KJD: Excellent. You are a nutcase, like every author I’ve ever met. 🙂
Please tell me a little about your latest work.

EM: The second book in the Lady of the Pier trilogy (The Flow) is the next instalment in the stories of Laura and Sofia – two girls from two different worlds who have a mysterious connection. Sofia is a lot like me, and book 1 (The Ebb) is biographical in a way. I always enjoyed my long summers spent on Corfu with my grandparents as a young girl. I wanted to write a book where I can share my fond memories from that period in my life. Recently I finished writing the first draft of The Storm, the last book in the trilogy, and it feels like a personal accomplishment, because I wanted for so long to tell this story. It is very close to my heart. The Flow was released on June 16, and I plan to publish The Storm this December.

KJD: Fantastic. Congratulations and the very best of luck with sales. I’ll be keeping my eye on the best-seller charts for you.
Back to the personal stuff. If there were a single thing you’d like to change about yourself, what would it be?

EM: I wish I were more outgoing. As a teenager, I was overprotected. My parents didn’t allow me to go out without their supervision. I could only leave the house for my school activities or to visit other friends in their houses. This, combined with my natural inclination to enjoy my solidarity, resulted in me becoming a bit of a loner as an adult. Even now, that I have the freedom to go out whenever I like, I find I often prefer not to.

KJD: I find that almost sad, but very sweet too.
Finally, Do you have any quirks or weaknesses that may interest your readers?

EM: Quirks? Sure! Other than liking things neat like I said earlier, I also delay gratification in ways that are probably not too normal. For example, even when I am ill, I’ll refuse to go to bed unless I’ve done the dishes first. If I am back from a trip, even if it’s late at night, I won’t rest or sleep until I’ve unpacked first. The weirdest thing is that I’ve married a man who has the exact same quirks as me! For one, it means we don’t fight over these things (*laughs*).
As for weaknesses, or rather soft spots, I have two: the first is hazelnuts. After battling in vain for a long time to stop myself from eating so many when they’re put in front of me, I had to stop stocking them in the end. Otherwise I’d have to build new, wider doors in the house! My other, major soft spot is the actor Robert Pattinson. He makes my heart sing. He is all heart, all soul, all vulnerability, human all through and I adore him. (Yuck – Ed.) Plastic, rock-hard, sure-of-themselves, perfect men put me off. Robert inspires me when I write and I devour his movies, watching them over and over. Recently, two fansites of Rob re-blogged one of my interviews where I expressed my admiration for him. This resulted in a few book sales and lots of messages from fans of Rob on Twitter. It was a rare treat to connect with them!

KJD: I take it back then. Mr. Pattinson is a hunk of the highest order. 🙂
Blimey, now that’s going too far. Okay, so that’s it Fros, except to say that I loved chatting with you today, thanks for stopping by and best of luck with The Flow.

EM: You are very welcome, Kerry. I’ve had fun. Thank you for having me.

About Effrosyni

Effrosyni-Moschoudi_Profile_200px

Effrosyni Moschoudi was born and raised in Athens, Greece. As a child, she often sat alone in her granny’s garden scribbling rhymes about flowers, butterflies and ants. Through adolescence, she wrote dark poetry that suited her melancholic, romantic nature. She’s passionate about books and movies and simply couldn’t live without them. She lives in a quaint seaside town near Athens with her British husband Andy and a naughty cat called Felix. Effrosyni is a proud member of the writer’s group, eNovel Authors at Work.

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The Ebb

Historical Romance

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When Sofia falls in love with Danny on the Greek island of Corfu, she has two things to worry about: village gossip and a grieving spirit that begins to haunt her dreams.

The Ebb

BRIGHTON, 1937

Dreaming of wealth and happiness, Laura Mayfield arrives in Brighton to pursue a new life. She falls for Christian Searle, a happy-go-lucky stagehand at the West Pier theatre, but when she’s offered a chance to perform there, her love for him is put to the test. Charles Willard, a wealthy aristocrat, is fascinated by her and pursues her relentlessly. Will Laura choose love… or money?

CORFU, 1987

On a long holiday with her grandparents, Sofia Aspioti meets Danny Markson, a charming flirt who makes her laugh. Although she tries to keep him at arm’s length, worried that village gossip will get back to her strict family, she falls desperately in love. That’s when strange dreams about Brighton’s West Pier and a woman dressed in black begin to haunt her. Who is this grieving woman? And how is her lament related to Sofia’s feelings for Danny?

Excerpt from: The Lady of the Pier – The Ebb

Outside the tearoom, Meg said goodbye quickly to rush back to her post, leaving Laura behind to have a look around. Feeling the most carefree she’d felt in a long time, the young girl sauntered to the eastern landing stage in order to enjoy the sea view.
She sat on a bench and watched the world go by for a while. Generous views of the Hove and the open sea that stretched toward an indigo horizon made it a pleasure to be there, even though it was late afternoon. The remaining sunlight was fading fast. She stood up and walked to the railing, dreamily watching the sea horses breaking on the shore. The breeze had picked up in the past few minutes, and she was almost shivering now in her dress and woollen cardigan. She looked up to see clouds travelling to the west, growing darker and darker by the second as the feeble sunlight continued to be engulfed by the growing darkness.
“Excuse me,” she heard a voice from behind her. She turned around to face a young man around her age. He didn’t look older than twenty-two, twenty-four at most. He had short dark hair and sparkling blue eyes. He wore a rather shabby-looking jacket, dark trousers, and a pair of worn out shoes that had seen better days. His choice of clothes would have been unworthy of notice had it not been for a thick, rusty-brown scarf that was tied snugly around his neck.
He stood smiling at her rather awkwardly, his thin lips twitching and all the while, his eyes seemed to speak to her through their amazing sparkle.
She felt drawn to them as if they were sending out signals she was meant to interpret. He was nervous; she was sure of that. It was evident in the way he had dug both his hands in his pockets, looking a bit lost for words. And yet, the look in his eyes seemed quite confident.
“Yes?” she asked, mystified by his body language.
“Hello miss, sorry to disturb,” he finally said, rather unsurely.
“Yes?” She asked again after another awkward pause.
“Um, I was wondering if you could do me a favour…” His voice trailed off as he scratched his head.
Laura gave him an encouraging nod. “How can I help you?”
He still looked hesitant as he stood before her, shifting his weight from foot to foot but then, he finally spoke. “Well, I was wondering if you could pretend that we’re friends.”
Laura knitted her brows. “I don’t understand.”
“Could you offer me a handshake please? Or smile and give me a hug or something?” The half-smile he flashed her then, could also be perceived as a rather cheeky smirk.
“What?” she protested. “What on earth for?”

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“Friday-Fortnight” Interview with Ashley Capes

Kerry_J_Donovan Ashley-Capes_Profile_200px

Hi guys,

Well, it’s been ages since the last FFI and I have to apologise to the authors lining up in the green room. Sorry guys. No real excuses, but apart from being a lazy sod, I’ve been really busy publishing the latest in the DCI Jones Casebook series, Sean Freeman.

On that front, I have to say that I’ve been both staggered and delighted by the way the book has been received. Thanks to everyone who’s already bought a copy, and to those of you who’ve not yet acquired one I ask, why the hell not? Teehee.

Okay, on to the real business of the day. I’m talking with another Australian friend today, the multi-talented, poet, teacher, blogger, and author of epic fantasies and something called haiku (no, I’ve no idea either). I give you, Ashley Capes.

KJD: Welcome Ash, how you doing, today?

AC: Yeah not bad, mate. Is it beer o’clock here yet?

KJD: At this time of the morning? Sorry, I’m only making tea or coffee.

AC: I’m on Aussie time, but since this is your party, I’ll have a coffee and one of those lovely little cucumber sangers with the crusts cut off, please.

KJD: Now this is getting silly, can we proceed with the interview?

AC: You started it. (Smiles, winks, adds three spoons of sugar to his mug, starts slurping*). Fire away.

KJD: So, let’s start with my usual knock-it-out-of-the-park underarm slow ball (only old cricket lovers will understand that one). What’s the best thing about your hometown, and what can you see out of your studio window?

AC: Location – it’s close to the sea, which is a big draw. Not that I sail or anything, but I love the ocean. I catch a great view of a neighbour’s antenna—I hope they have better reception than me—and if I stretch really far, I can see some of their fence too. 🙂 

KJD: Impressive. Do you have colour TV in Australia these days? (Ducks a flying cucumber sandwich). Sorry, I’ll stop that now. My wife lived in Perth, Western Australia back in the 1970s and I’ve always wanted to visit.
Here’s another easy question: You are shipwrecked on a deserted paradise island, apart from the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare (yeah, as if), what other book must you have and why?

AC: I must have Hogfather by Terry Pratchett, so I can laugh in the face of all that solitude.

KJD: I’ve never managed to finish any Terry Pratchett novels, but I know his work is loved by many and he’ll be sorely missed. His passing is a sad loss to the world of fantasy fiction.

AC: I’ll second that.

KJD: Starting to get a little mawkish here, so, under the same conditions as above, on the deserted island, what’s the one luxury item you take with you and why?

AC: Possibly my acoustic guitar, as I’d want music and my singing voice is not at all pristine, especially after a few years playing in a heavy metal band 🙂

KJD: Hey, that’s a surprise. Apart from the writing, we’ve something else in common. We both play guitar and neither can sing. Teehee. (A two-hour break for battle-of-the-axemen ensued before the interview resumed—Ed.).

AC: I won, by the way.

KJD: No you didn’t, you fluffed that last power chord. Anyway on with the show, what book genres do you read?

AC: I’ll try just about anything when it comes to books, though the two that I read most outside of speculative fiction, would be biography and poetry. Poetry, for instance, I think differs in that there’s a focus on the compression of meaning and language, at the expense (sometimes) of narrative.

KJD: Wow – don’t think I understood one word of that last sentence. You poets are on a different plain to us normals—not that I consider myself that much of a normal. I’m going to gloss over my ignorance of the finer art of woredsmithery. The closest I’ve been to writing poetry is penning the occasional song lyric.
Back to the prose writing, what’s the first thing you do when starting a new novel?

AC: For me there’s usually a character, a place or an idea that kicks things off and I simply jot down ideas around that spark. Sometimes the document I start things off in ends up 10 pages long, sometimes it’s only 10 dot points.

KJD: Yep, I guess it’s pretty much the same when I write. What excites you about writing and the writing process?

AC: The thrill of creation. It’s amazing, to start with an idea or two and then get to work and see a complete story start to take shape. It’s a little like both kinds of sculpture. First, it’s Additive – building a first draft and adding scenes and characters, until it becomes Subtractive – whittling away sub-plots, characters and scenes with each revision, until the story is all that’s left.

KJD: Writing as sculpture? Lovely analogy, I never saw it like that. Must be the poet in you. For how long have you been writing creative fiction?

AC: Probably 17 years but professionally, only 3 – whereas I’ve probably been writing and publishing poetry for the last 13 or so, and all the while, I was writing fiction at the same time. So the lines are often blurred for me 🙂

KJD: Blurred lines comes with a writer’s territory. Tell me a little about your latest work.

AC: I’m currently writing a mystery with a bit of horror and definite fantasy feel to it. It’s set in a small Australian town and revolves around a wildlife ranger who has to unravel the truth around the existence of a giant white kangaroo.
I grew up in a place similar to the fictional setting of the story and I really wanted to write something using native animals in some way. My dream was for the novel to be released in November this year but I’m revising that to 2016…early. Maybe. Hopefully!
I’d love to share some but nothing quite ready – too much a hideous first draft!

KJD: Wow that sounds really weird and I can’t wait to read it! I just know it’s going to be excellent. Don’t think I’ve said how much I like your writing for a while, but I do.

AC: Aw, and there’s me thinking you were just an old Pom. Thanks, Kerry. I’ll have to revise my opinion. 🙂

KJD: Credit where it’s due—even for an Aussie. We’re gonna win the Ashes back this year! (Cut the cricket references, we’ve all had enough—Ed.)
Let’s change the subject. If there were a single thing you’d like to change about yourself, what would it be?

AC: I’d like a better memory. Mine is terrible – not in terms of forgetting a shopping list or an anniversary, but in remembering important events in detail. I’d love to see a bit more of key events in my mind’s eye.

KJD: I’m with you there, mate. I could really do with a full-time PA. Writing, editing, cover art, promo, takes forever and I’m always forgetting to do stuff.
Here’s another of my favourite questions to gain an insight into your inner self, ready?

AC: Uh, no.

KJD: Oh go on. You are planning a dinner party and have a choice of five guests, (you can chose from anyone in history). Who do you invite and why?

AC: That’s not so bad. I choose, Jack Kerouac, Grace Kelly, Neil Postman, Dali, and Nero. I’d hope there would be some interesting conversation and that I’d be able to film or tape the conversation. I’d need a translator too – can I have a spare seat?

KJD: I’m not usually this generous, but as you’re a mate, yes. But only one extra chair. I’ll be hovering in the background, taking notes.
What’s next in your life?

AC: I have a tower-like structure of unread books I want to get to.

KJD: I hope you get to it before it topples! Finally, tell me something about yourself you wouldn’t want you partner/parents to know. Don’t worry; it’ll be our little secret. 🙂

AC: There are no secrets in a small town, sadly 😀

KJD: Sure it’s not the old Aussie character holding you back? Sorry, no more cricket jibes! Finally, finally, is there anything I’ve forgotten to ask that you’re keen my readers should know?

AC: Only that the follow-up to City of Masks – The Lost Mask – is getting ever-closer!

KJD: Fantastic, can’t wait to read that one. I loved City of Masks. Notch is a particular favourite character for me.
I think that’s all I have in the way of questions but I know you’ll want to get your own back for losing the first guitar duel. Grab your axe man, and let’s have at it.

AC: You’re on, mate. Before we start, I’d like to say, thanks for the opportunity to chat, now try following this lick …

KJD: Wahay, old metal fingers is back!

*No sugar bowls were used during the course of this interview—we’re both sweet enough.

 

About Ashley

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Ashley is a novelist, poet and teacher living in Australia. He is a big fan of Studio Ghibli and loves haiku, volleyball and is convinced that Magnum PI is one of the greatest television shows ever created.

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City of Masks

Epic Fantasy / Sword & Sorcery, Action/Adventure

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An epic fantasy with a ‘wrong man’ premise, City of Masks pits a mercenary and a young woman against ruthless killers in an ancient city.

Waking in Anaskar Prison covered in blood and accused of murder, nobody will listen to Notch’s claims of innocence until he meets the future Protector of the Monarchy, Sofia Falco.

But Sofia has her own burdens. The first female Protector in a hundred years, her House is under threat from enemies within, the prince has made it clear he does not want her services and worst of all, she cannot communicate with her father’s sentient mask of bone, the centuries-old Argeon. Without the bone mask she cannot help anyone — not herself, and certainly not a mercenary with no powerful House to protect him.

Meanwhile, far across the western desert, Ain, a young Pathfinder, is thrust into the role of Seeker. Before winter storms close the way, he must leave his home on a quest to locate the Sea Shrine and take revenge on the people who drove his ancestors from Anaskar, the city ruled by the prince Sofia and Notch are sworn to protect, whether he wants their help or not.

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Friday-Fortnight Interviews – Call for Guests

Hi guys,

Here’s a quick call for guests on the FFI slot! I’m booked until June, but like to have a few on the back burner.

Also, Anthony Millen, due to a recent computer crash, I’ve lost your email address. If you still want to be a guest, drop me a line–you know where.

Cheers guys,

Kerry.

PS:The DCI Jones Casebook: Sean Freeman is on the way to a book store near you really soon, just sayin’. 🙂

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“Friday-Fortnight” Interview with Lorrie Farrelly

KerryJ-Donovan_Profile_240px Lorrie-Farrelly_Profile_240px

Hi guys,

Welcome to the latest in my FFIs. Today, I’ll be talking with my friend and fellow eNovel Authors at Work member, Lorrie Farrelly.

Sorry it’s been a while, but I’ve been busy prepping my new DCI Jones Casebook. This one’s subtitled Sean Freeman. The book is due out early next month and there’s so much to do it’s been keeping me well and truly occupied, but more about that in a separate blog post closer to the launch date.

By the way, here’s a quick plug before I start. Let me encourage you to click this eNovellers link. Pop along and check out all the great writers and their books. There are loads of top-class, award-winning indie writers on the site covering all the genres you’ll ever need.

Okay, on to the real business of the day:

KJD: Welcome Lorrie, thanks for coming all this way. Relax, make yourself at home, and take a slice of Jan’s lemon drizzle cake … oh. I see you already have.

LF: Hi Kerry, glad to be here. Lovely cake.

KJD: Okay Lorrie, let’s start with the gentle opener to warm you up: what’s the best thing about your hometown?

LF: My family and I love having both the ocean and mountains nearby, as well as all the wonderful attractions of the Los Angeles and Southern California area. We love going to Disneyland, to local museums and aquariums, and going out on fishing boats to see whales. We’ve seen blue whales, California grey whales, Minke whales, and many, many dolphins and sea lions. A few hours’ drive up the coast, there are places to see elephant seals and sea otters. Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks are within a day’s drive. It’s fantastic, and we feel very blessed!

KJD: I can’t believe how lucky my writer friends are. Everyone, myself included, seems to live in a beautiful place. Beauty is in the eye …

To tell you the truth, I’ve never been to that part of the world and apart from Disneyland, (which I’d travel miles to avoid—don’t ask), it sounds idyllic.
Tell me, what you see out of your studio window.

LF: My “office” is actually the dining room table, so I have a view of the back yard and everything going on in the kitchen and living room. I often write to a background of Mickey Mouse cartoons or the Little Mermaid. Fortunately, I’m a good tuner-outer. My husband jokes he’s going to hang a sign around my neck that reads, “Huh? What?”

KJD: Nice, I have a spouse just like that – supportive. On the other hand, I need silence to write and lock myself up here in the attic while Jan has the run of the house. She says she prefers me out from under her feet, and I don’t blame her.

Okay, here’s the first curveball and I make no apologies. What does the symbol “H2SO4” mean to you and why? (BTW – We don’t have ‘Jeopardy’ in the UK or France, so you might have to elaborate. Teehee.)

LF: You horrible man! I’ll never, never again forget the chemical symbol for sulphuric acid! (A question I missed on the television quiz show “Jeopardy.” LOL) I was not much of a student in chemistry class in high school. In fact, I was always burning holes in my clothes from spilling chemicals, and my system for “measuring” was to dump a bunch of acid or alkali into a beaker and shrug, “Eh, good enough.”

KJD: Tee hee. Know what you mean. Chemistry wasn’t my best subject either. I preferred biology and physiology, but that’s a story for another time

Here’s the next easy one: you are shipwrecked on a deserted paradise island, apart from the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare (yeah, right), what other book must you have and why?

LF: “101 Secrets to Pleasure and Profit on a Deserted Paradise Island” by Captain Jack Sparrow. Because, really, who would know better?

KJD: Is there such a book? You’re pulling my leg, right?

LF: Who me?

KJD: Put that third slice of cake down, right now! 🙂

Okay, moving on. Under the same conditions as above, what’s the one luxury item you take with you and why?

LF: A non-wrecked, replacement cruise ship conveniently anchored just offshore, thoughtfully tendering a steady supply of margaritas, chips, and guacamole to the beach.

KJD: Brilliant answer, but hold on, that constitutes more than a single item. You fail the question and lose the luxury item in toto. That’ll serve you right for making up books. 🙂

Next question. I see from your bio that amongst other things, you are a maths teacher. I happen to love maths, but hated it at school. How do you generate an interest in maths in youngsters?

LF: It’s harder these days, with so much government emphasis on testing. However, helping kids see that puzzles, designs, and investigations are all connected to mathematical thinking makes a big difference in engaging their interest. Unfortunately, success is sometimes elusive. Two of my epic fails involved kids who thought radical (square root) symbols were “little houses for the numbers to live in, just in case it rains,” or who converted the height measurement of a 72-inch fence to 150 feet, which certainly would keep the dog from getting out!

KJD: Little darlings! There’s no way I couldn’t teach anyone anything. No patience. Don’t have a dog either, nor a cat. Not a pet lover, me.

Here’s a thing, is your knowledge of maths useful in your writing?

LF: Actually, it is! I had fun writing the scene in “Terms of Surrender” where young Robbie struggles with his geometry lesson. He turns his math book this way and that, growing ever more frustrated with triangle diagrams that, as far as he can see, have nary a “high pot and noose” anywhere.

KJD: Nice line. Love your sense of humour (and yes, that is the correct way to spell it, spellchecker!). I use anatomy and physiology all the time in my crime books—especially at the scenes where my villains disembowel their victims. Mwahahaha.

What genres do you read and do they differ from the ones you write? If so, why?

LF: I read just about anything (including cereal boxes if I’m really desperate!) I especially love Western and historical romance, history, time travel, biography, thrillers, and paranormal suspense, so those often show up in my writing. I almost always read several books at once – so many books, so little time! I recently finished Joanne Drayton’s “The Search for Anne Perry”, John Cleese’s “So, Anyway …”, Pete Barber’s “Nanostrike”, Stephen King’s “Revival”, Kerry J. Donovan’s “The Transition of Johnny Swift” (a terrific writer, that Mr. Donovan!), Peggy L. Henderson’s “Diamond in the Dust”, and Kathleen Rice Adams’ “Prodigal Gun.” And that was just last week ….

KJD: Kerry who? 🙂 Darn, you’re so kind, thanks. Compliments like that will earn you another slice of lemon drizzle … oh, I see you’ve helped yourself already.

As for me, I’m completely different and a little anal. I only read one book at a time. Have to finish one before moving on, unless the book is so bad I won’t finish it at all. BTW, I read “Nanostrike” and loved it.

Let’s move on to the actual writing part. What’s the first thing you do when starting a new novel? Do you research and write a detailed plot outline, or are you a pantser?

LF: I’m a terrible plot planner. I start with a hook that intrigues me, then go from there. I love it when the story reveals itself, but I admit I also have a hefty file of dangling, no-go hooks (including one with a character who can see thirty seconds into the future, and another with a spoiled young film actress who finds herself shackled to an Old West lawman). I suppose someday I’ll figure out what happens to those folks.

KJD: I know the feeling. Some of my plots dive down a ruddy great hole never to be seen again.

What excites you about writing and the writing process?

LF: I love a good story, and I’m always excited and anxious to find out what happens next. Sounds crazy, but I always get surprised by stories even as I write them. Characters take on lives of their own and do exactly what they want to do. I think it must be a happy form of mental illness.

KJD: Yep – mine too. Sometimes I can’t work out what happens next until the characters tell me. Writers are nutters aren’t we? When did you start writing creative fiction?

LF: I’ve always loved to write. When I was a child, I used to write little books for my dolls. (I didn’t care about playing with the dolls – I just liked the books.) However, it’s only been in the last five years or so that I’ve been able to devote the time to writing that it really needs and deserves.

KJD: It’s the same with me. I started writing properly around 2012, after abortive efforts in the 1980s.

Tell me a little about your latest work. Where did you find the inspiration? What’s it about? When can we expect to see it on the bookshelves? How about a sneak preview?

LF: Because we have a two-year-old toddler at home, in the last few months it’s been more practical for me to write novellas and short stories. The two latest, “The Sheriff of Hel’n Gone” and “Christmas Treasure,” appear in “Cowboys, Creatures, and Calico” and “Present for a Cowboy”, Halloween- and Christmas-themed collections from Prairie Rose Publishing. “Present for a Cowboy” was released a couple of months ago.

Here’s a brief look at “The Sheriff of Hel’n Gone”:

“Work?” Tom asked. She surely didn’t look like any schoolmarm or shopgirl he’d ever seen. And those muddy boots in her – what had she called it? “Jeep”? – well, he couldn’t imagine any saloon girl he knew clomping around in them.
Hallie thought it odd that the sheriff looked as puzzled as he did interested, but she said, “Yes. I’m an archaeologist. I specialize in Native California tribes. You got a Chumash or a Miwok site, I’m your girl.”
Now Tom got it. Sort of. “You’re speaking of Injuns,” he said tentatively, as though he weren’t quite sure.
Hallie frowned. “Native Americans, yes. I excavate and study tribal sites and artifacts. You know, bones, shells, potsherds, tools.”
She looked at him expectantly. Tom cocked his head, asked, “There a market for such like that?”
“Unfortunately, there is. But what I find goes back to the appropriate tribal authorities, and then, if they approve, to a museum like the Bowers or the Autry.”
At a loss for anything to say to that, Tom simply urged her hand back down to the pharmacy box. “Well, in any case, you got anything in there I can actually patch you up with?”
“Sure. And thanks, I appreciate it. Kind of hard to do it myself without a mirror.” She rifled through the supplies, then handed him a small, brown bottle and a flat little paper package.
Tom took both, and he could feel liquid slosh in the little bottle. Setting the paper envelope on the ground, he studied the bottle’s label: Hydrogen Peroxide. Turning the bottle around, he studied the neck of it. There was no cork. He thumbed the top, but what seemed to be a little cap would not come off.
“How, um, how do you get the top off this thing?” he asked.
He didn’t need to meet Hallie’s eyes to know her expression was incredulous. “Seriously, Sheriff? Here, give it back.” He returned the bottle and she gave the little cap a twist. Off it came. Without a word, she handed it back to Tom.
He took both the bottle and the cap, and mimicking her motions, twisted the little top on and off again. Huh, he thought. Whattaya know. Now that’s somethin’, ain’t it?
Watching him play with the twist top, Hallie was flummoxed. He looked like he’d never seen one before. Not even realizing she was speaking her thoughts aloud, she muttered, “Jeez, what is this? The freaking nineteenth century?”
Surprised, Tom stopped fiddling with the cap and looked at her, one eyebrow raised quizzically. “Well, yes’m, that it is. When else, exactly, did you think it might be?”
© 2014 by Lorrie Farrelly

KJD: Love that – time-travel comedy/thriller. Clever. I’ll be picking the book up for a good read very soon. Thanks for giving us a glimpse ‘under the hood’ so to speak.

Now for something completely different, if there were a single thing you’d like to change about yourself, what would it be?

LF: I could do with less of a sweet tooth! The unfortunate fact is that I never met a chocolate (or lemon drizzle) cake I didn’t like.

KJD: I can see that. Where’s the cake gone? And you such a tiny woman too. Where do you pack it all away?

So, what’s next in your life?

LF: I love to travel, and it’s a lot of fun just thinking about where to go next. One of my husband’s and my greatest pleasures has been travelling with our kids and grandkids (ages 13, 10, and 2), and I wouldn’t trade those experiences and memories for anything!

KJD: I’m not a good traveller—love the visits, but hate the journey. Grandchildren are great aren’t they? I also have three wonderful and exhausting darlings. Love to see them–love to hand them back to the parents in the evenings.

So to wrap up, tell me something about yourself you wouldn’t want you partner/parents to know. Don’t worry; it’ll be our little secret. 😉

LF: Well, as my husband and I have been together since we were 19, I doubt there’s anything about me that he doesn’t know by now. But my parents …. well, I don’t think they totally realised what a university student, flowers in her hair, living near San Francisco in the 1960s, might be getting up to.

KJD: You know what? I bet they do, and I bet they got up to pretty much the same things in their youth. There’s nothing new under the sun—not as far as human activity is concerned.

And finally, finally—is there anything I’ve forgotten to ask that you’re desperately, desperately keen my readers should know?

LF: I would love your readers to know what a happy privilege it has been for me to visit your Friday-Fortnight Interviews! Many thanks for hosting me, Kerry, and for giving me the opportunity to share my work.

KJD: You really are a darling for saying so and talking to you has been my absolute delight. Thanks so much for stopping by.

 

About Lorrie

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LORRIE FARRELLY is the author of a Western historical romance trilogy, contemporary romantic suspense novels, Western romance short novellas, and time travel/paranomal romantic suspense novels.
A graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Northwestern University, she’s been a Renaissance nominee for Teacher of the Year, a ranch hand at Disneyland’s Circle D Ranch, and a Jeopardy! television quiz show champion.
Two of her books, TERMS OF SURRENDER and TIMELAPSE, medaled in the 2014 Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards, and all her novels have been awarded Readers’ Favorite 5 Stars.
TIMELAPSE is also a 2014 Authors’ Cave Annual Book Awards gold medalist in Mystery and Suspense. Lorrie and her family live in Southern California, USA.

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Timelapse

Time-travel/Suspense Romantic Thriller

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A chance discovery plunges Alex Morgan into a nightmare world, his young son lost, his sole ally a reckless outlaw, Jessica O’Neil. Their only hope lies in preventing a terrible crime that changed the world – over 100 years earlier. To save the future, Alex and Jessie must find their way to the past!

The accidental death of his beloved wife devastated Alex Morgan; his only solace is a profound bond with his son. Suddenly his life is shattered again when a chance discovery propels him into a world gone horribly, terrifyingly wrong. His only ally: a reckless young outlaw, Jessica O’Neil.
Jessie resists her dangerous attraction to Alex – a man who’s clearly crazy, literally in a world of his own. Depending on each other to survive, they must find a way to prevent a terrible crime from taking place – a crime that plunged both their worlds into nightmare – over a hundred years before.
To have a future, they will have to find their way to the past!

TIMELAPSE is a gold medallist in Mystery and Suspense in the 2014 Authors’ Cave Annual Book Awards and an Award Winner in the 2014 Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards.

 

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“Friday-Fortnight” Interview with Mary Smith

KerryJ-Donovan_Profile_240px Mary-Smith_Profile_240px

Hi guys,

When I post this, I’ll be on my way to Old Blighty to visit the little ones—three children and three grandchildren. Yes, I know, I’m a granddad. Didn’t think I was that ancient, did you?

Anyway, I love my little ones to pieces, naturally, and have a great time when in the UK, but I love my own bed and hate travelling. Wish me luck; I’ll be back on the 22nd, exhausted but eager to press the launch button on my latest Casebook novel—more on that in a few weeks.

Right now, I’m interviewing my friend and Scottish author, Mary Smith.

KJD: Hi Mary, how you doing?

MS: Excellent, Kerry, thank you. How are you?

KJD: Not looking forward to travelling, but keen to reach my destination. Scottish, eh? I’ve only visited Scotland once, but loved it. Can you tell me a little about there you live?

MS: It’s a small market town set in the middle of some of Scotland’s most beautiful countryside. Forget the Highlands—we have everything right here from hills that are manageable, forests, lochs, rivers and glorious beaches. I’ve just been commissioned to write a tourist brochure!

KJD: A commission? Fantastic.

MS: Thank you. As for living here, if you like anonymity, it’s not a town for you—everyone knows everyone and knows everything you do. After years of being away from it, I find that comforting now.

KJD: Exactly so. I live in France and don’t speak French very well, but everyone seems to know my secrets, not that I have many, of course. Not many bad ones at least.

What can you see out of your studio window?

MS: I live right on the main street so there are shops opposite and I can watch people walking up and down and stopping to chat to each other. On weekend nights, I can watch the drunks weave their way homewards and eavesdrop on their alcohol-fuelled conversations, which are conducted at high decibel level. Over the rooftops, I can see the hills.

KJD: There are drunks in Scotland? Really? Who’d have thought?

MS: Don’t go there, Kerry. You have been warned. (She smiled saying it, so I know I’m okay—KJD).

KJD: Sorry, Mary. Only kidding. Ahem, moving on. I know you’ve been to Afghanistan. That sounds fascinating. What led to your visit, and what did you find there?

MS: “Tell me about Afghanistan” – what in one interview? I’ve written books on the subject and still haven’t done telling people about it! It’s a country that gets under the skin and never, ever leaves you. It was whisky—indirectly—that took me there. I was watching a snooker match in a pub in Lancashire, drinking whisky and talking to a Pakistani friend and by the end of the evening had been invited to visit Karachi in Pakistan with his wife and sister (they didn’t actually know about this until much later).

Off I went and while there visited the leprosy headquarters which Oxfam supported in a small way. I spent three days seeing the work they do and was totally bowled over by it and said I’d love to be able to do something. They suggested I stay on and set up a health education department! Pointing out I had no medical training didn’t put them off in the least and they said they would train me in leprosy and arrange language lessons and not being a doctor was a good thing as I wouldn’t use jargon ordinary people didn’t understand.

I ended up signing a three-year contract. During those three years, I came in contact with a number of Afghans – this was during the Soviet occupation – and at the end of my contract I signed up for Afghanistan. The Soviets left that same year! I stayed for another seven years.

My time was divided between the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif and the rural areas of Hazara Jat running a project to train female volunteer health workers. It was often frustrating, sometimes heart-breaking, occasionally dangerous—like when armed robbers broke in and stuck a pistol in my ear and an AK47 at the back of neck or when we got caught in a bombing raid—but ultimately incredibly satisfying. I never felt so much alive and connected to the people I was working with, ordinary people who are as appalled as the rest of us by the terror happening in the name of Islam.

Afghanistan and Pakistan are the most exotic places I’ve lived but up there in exoticism are India which I’ve visited a couple of times and Vietnam which I was lucky enough to visit last year when a friend was out there for a year. I only managed two weeks and would love to go back to explore further. I’m never satisfied with a couple of weeks as a tourist. I always want to stay on and immerse myself in the culture.

KJD: Wow – and here’s me complaining about travelling on the ferry to England. You are very much more intrepid than I am. I can only imagine what it must be like to have a gun against your head.

Can I move to less dangerous topics? When not working, what’s the very first thing you do in the morning?

MS: Whether working or not, the first thing I do is drink coffee and read the paper. I know we can get all the news we want online but for me the day has to start with a real newspaper. Then I might have a few games of spider solitaire—totally addicted, I’m afraid.

KJD: That’s more like it, very genteel. Let’s move onto books. What genres do you read and do they differ from the ones you write? If so, why?

MS: Apart from erotica and science fiction/fantasy/horror, I read most genres.

KJD: So I can’t interest you in my next book, Nymphet Vampires from Alpha Centauri on Acid.

MS: Not one bit.

KJD: Shame. So, what do you like to read?

MS: I don’t have one particular favourite—a lot depends on my mood. Feeling down for example, a light romance or cosy crime cheers me up. I enjoy contemporary fiction, stories about people and what makes them tick, crime novels and I also read memoir and biography.

KJD: Excellent. I know you are a writer, poet, and freelance journalist. If you had to choose only one of these, what would it be?

MS: Oh, no, don’t make me choose. I’m going to say journalist because… No, I can’t say only one because I want to write other novels, poems, and non-fiction. Journalism pays quicker so I need it but I can’t imagine only doing that.

KJD: Okay, I’ll give you a pass on that one. What’s the first thing you do when starting a new novel? Do you research and write a detailed plot outline, or are you a pantser?

MS: Well, I’ve only written one novel. Correction—only published one novel. There are parts of novels, which will never see the light of day. I think I’m a pantser who does a bit of planning. When I started No More Mulberries I had my main characters and thought I knew how it was going to end—but it didn’t end the way I planned because as I got to know the characters I realised the ending had to be different.

KJD: I know that feeling. Happens to me all the time. What excites you about writing and the writing process?

MS: When it’s going well and those people I’ve made up are interacting and talking to each other as though they are real—that’s exciting. I didn’t much like Iqbal at the start of No More Mulberries but when he more or less demanded a chapter to himself I discovered things about him which made him a more sympathetic character—and I love it when readers tell me they changed their opinions about him around chapter four. There’s something magical about that.

KJD: I can understand that. I love it when readers ‘see’ something in one of my characters that I didn’t write in so many words. I prefer to let my characters’ actions define the person.

For how long have you been writing creative fiction?

MS: Oh, I started writing stories when I was a wee girl—long, long time ago. I stopped when a teacher in secondary school demanded to know what book I’d copied a story from. I was so shocked that he didn’t believe I wrote it and would steal someone else’s work. It was years before I realised that actually he had paid me a compliment in a funny sort of way—but it put me off writing fiction for years.

KJD: I understand that situation. Teachers have a lot to answer for in my life. Can’t be too hard on teachers anymore because my daughter’s head of music in a secondary school. Don’t know where I went wrong with her. Teehee.

If there were a single thing you’d like to change about yourself, what would it be?

MS: I would really, really love not to be addicted to spider solitaire. I would be so much more productive. And I’d like to be less easily distracted when the writing isn’t going as well as I’d like—you know when suddenly washing the kitchen floor seems an interesting thing to do rather than sort out a plot dead end?

KJD: Nope! I can honestly say that I’ve never had a need to wash the kitchen floor, or any other floor, come to think of it.

I see from your bio that one of your roles is to help writers find ways to improve their marketing skills and organise networking with other industry professionals. Can you give my author readers a couple of tips to set them on the road to success? Spend– take as long as you like here, I’ll be taking notes.

MS: Did I write that in my bio?

KJD: Yep. It’s there in black and white.

MS: It sounds frightfully grand and expert-like when I feel I’m very much on a learning curve myself. What I do locally, where I live is to help writers network and find outlets for their books. There is a dearth of local booksellers and the one chain bookseller in a wide radius has little interest in stocking local writers’ work. Also, although we have a successful literary festival, it tends to bring in writers of the celebrity kind and doesn’t do much to promote local writers. I teamed up with a some other writers to form a collective called WagTongues—basically if you are a writer living locally you are in it—to provide sales outlets through pop-up bookshops around the region. This sort of evolved into mini-lit-fests with short readings, interviews and workshops. It gives writers a chance to sell books and readers the opportunity to meet writers. We now get invited to pop up at events as well as organising our own pop-up shops. What’s been really pleasing is that some bookshops have started to show an interest in stocking local writers’ books.

KJD: Wonderful. That’s something I miss out on by living in France, but there are other benefits. Anything else?

MS: I’ve also arranged writers’ gatherings with industry professionals. I didn’t want the usual things of writers listening to one speaker after another with only time for a few questions from the floor then we all go home. Writers love to talk—mostly they are holed up on their own so when they get together they chatter—and most conference allow no time for that. I make sure the time for chatting—call it networking if you want—is factored in. The speakers have included people who are experts in using social media effectively. It used to be a publisher or an agent would be invited to talk but now it is much more likely to be someone who has successfully self-published or someone who can talk about formatting issues.

Lots of people, especially starting out, really have not the faintest idea about using social media.

I also help people organise book launches, write press releases, contact local radio. I think we sometimes forget about the importance of this locally-based on-the-ground work – book selling is not all done on the internet, some people still want to buy a hard copy rather than an ebook. Other ways to sell books is on the talk circuit – book groups, yes, but also social groups and associations who have guest speakers at their meetings – they are always on the lookout for speakers to fill their schedules and for some reason the idea of having a published author goes down very well. Give an interesting talk about writing, sell a few books, and get your name passed on to other groups.

KJD: Wonderful. Now, Tell me a little about your latest work. Where did you find the inspiration? What’s it about? When can we expect to see it on the bookshelves? How about a sneak preview?

MS: Apart from Dumfries Through Time which will be published in August this year, I’m working on two books. The sequel to No More Mulberries the one about a demented dad. For that one, readers can visit the My Dad is a Goldfish blog:

https://marysmith57.wordpress.com/2014/07/

KJD: Good luck, I’ll have them on my watch-list.

Finally, tell me something about yourself you wouldn’t want you partner/parents to know. Don’t worry; it’ll be our little secret. 😉

MS: Nope. I don’t want to be in the divorce court next week!

There is something I wouldn’t have wanted my parents to know. They used to make homemade wine—gallons of the stuff: apple, elderberry, elderflower—and I used to sell bottles of it to my pals at school. Sorry mum, sorry dad.

KJD: Oh dear. So you’re the one who led all those innocent Scottish children to a life of drunkenness? How can you live with yourself!

MS: Remember what I said earlier? Be careful.

KJD: Er, okay! And finally, finally – is there anything I’ve forgotten to ask that you’re desperately, desperately keen my readers should know?

MS: I want to say thank you for asking me to be a Friday interviewee. Chuffed. And I want your readers to know that Scotland is never shut and is a beautiful place to visit and it doesn’t always rain. But, at least when it’s pouring you won’t be devoured by midgies.

KJD: I’m never going to live that down, am I? (I told you not to slag off Scotland! Ed.)

The next FFI victim interviewee is Lorrie Farrelly, and I’ll post it on or around 27th February (a week late due to my trip to the UK.

 

 

About Mary

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I was born on the island of Islay, home of some of the best whisky in the world but moved to the mainland to Dumfries & Galloway when I was seven. Finished school and had the longest gap year in history which lasted about 30 years while I travelled a bit in Europe, lived in England where I worked in a factory, was a child-minder and then went to work for Oxfam UK before a chance holiday in Pakistan led to a job there followed by a job in Afghanistan. I returned to Scotland when my son was five and when he started school I finally went to university.

I had started selling articles while working abroad and have continued as a journalist – sometimes freelance, sometimes staff – ever since. ‘Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women’ (a title which seriously curtails tweets) is a memoir from my time in Afghanistan. I wanted to write a novel and worked on what became No More Mulberries while doing an MLitt in Creative Writing at Glasgow University.

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No More Mulberries

Contemporary Romance

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Culture clashes, divided loyalties, loss and love against a backdrop of war in Afghanistan.

Scottish-born midwife, Miriam loves her work at a health clinic in rural Afghanistan and the warmth and humour of her women friends in the village, but she can no longer ignore the cracks appearing in her marriage. Her doctor husband has changed from the loving, easy-going man she married and she fears he regrets taking on a widow with a young son, who seems determined to remain distant from his stepfather.

When Miriam acts as translator at a medical teaching camp she hopes time apart might help her understand the cause of their problems. Instead, she must focus on helping women desperate for medical care and has little time to think about her failing marriage. When an old friend appears, urging her to visit the village where once she was and her first husband had been so happy, Miriam finds herself travelling on a journey into her past, searching for answers to why her marriage is going so horribly wrong.

Her husband, too, must deal with issues from his own past – from being shunned by childhood friends when he contracted leprosy to the loss of his first love.

 

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Agency Rules by Khalid Muhammad

Hi guys,

In addition to Friday-Fortnight Interviews, I will, from time to time, add the occasional interview with friends and authors from around the world. Here’s the first one!

Today, I present, Khalid Muhammad who discusses his excellent thriller, Agency Rules.

KJD: Hi Khalid, what’s the inspiration behind Agency Rules?

KH: The book is inspired by a series of events in Pakistan. When we go backward to the 1980s and the Afghan conflict, or the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, a series of events began in Pakistan that the country still suffers with today. The Taliban, terrorism, and the drug culture are all remnants of that time and we have not been able to escape it because the US invasion of Afghanistan brought it to our doorstep again.

I also think that part of my motivation to write this novel was to help people understand that Pakistan is not a nation of terrorists. We have the misfortune of having self-serving politicians with no checks and balances, so the “anti-state” elements are able to prosper because many politicians and law enforcement personnel are involved for financial benefits. 

KJD: Those are interesting and important themes and I commend you for airing them. To broaden the discussion, if you had to co-author a book, who would be your ideal partner and why?

KH: I think that my ideal co-author would be John LeCarre. His ability to craft intricate and detailed characters is amazing. While I think my characters are quite challenging, he just takes it to a different level. 

KJD: Agreed, Le Carre is a demonstrable master of the art form. Can you me a little about yourself?

KH: Certainly, I was born in Pakistan, was raised and educated in the United States, and returned to Pakistan in 1997 to pursue emerging business opportunities. I’ve spent my time in the country comparing the on-ground Pakistan with everything that I heard in the media. What a difference! There are times when I think they make up the stories that are written about the country. 

As an entrepreneur, I have been able to build a successful marketing and brand management company in Karachi that services both domestic and international clients, which has helped with supporting my family while I build my writing career.  Since publishing Agency Rules in January 2014, I have written for a number of domestic publications and a few international ones, while I work on the next two books of the Agency Rules series.

KJD: Entrepreneur, you say, tell me more.

KM: I own a marketing company that works with international clients to develop and promote brands. We do both offline and online, so I put a great deal of the principles to work in promoting my novels.

KJD: Do you live in Pakistan full-time?

KH: Yes, absolutely. Like my novels, I am based in Pakistan.

KJD: When did you first start writing?

KH: I wrote my first short story when I was 15 as a class project. I wrote my first poem for a competition at 17, didn’t win. I didn’t take up serious writing until I graduated from university and entered the professional world. With a degree in marketing, you really do become a storyteller, which most people don’t understand. I finally started to write a novella when I was 35, I think. I’m 43 now and finally got a story together that works and I am proud of enough to publish.

KJD: It’s great, fantastic. I love it when that happens. I didn’t publish my first novel until I was 56, so you have years more fun and anguish ahead of you. Teehee.

What’s your writing process? Are you a pantster, a plotter, or somewhere in between?

KM: I’m a bit of both. I tried to plot the chapters, but that didn’t work because my writing just takes off when I sit down. I end up going in directions that I didn’t even think of while plotting. So I guess that I sit in the middle. I plot out the basic ideas for a chapter, but the writing takes me in the direction that it wants to go.

KJD: In all the conversations I have with authors, most tell me the same thing. Perhaps there is a trend here. When and where do you write?

KM:  After midnight, at my desk with my headphones on. I usually start out with a pen and paper and freeform write. From there, I sit down at my laptop and start transcribing from the paper, editing and expanding as I transcribe. I get much more done with this method than when I sit down and try to type it out.

KJD: Pen and paper? Blimey, that’s very old school. Can’t remember when I last held a pen to do anything other than sign my name on cheques.

What sorts of conditions are most conducive to your writing productivity?

KM: Dead quiet. I can’t write when there are things going on around me. I need to get lost in the world that I am creating on the page, otherwise the scenes and characters don’t come to life for me.

KJD: I absolutely agree, silence is essential for me too. What’s your favourite aspect of being a writer?

KM: Being able to express myself. I am a very social, interactive person, so I never thought that I would be able to channel all my emotions, thoughts and ideas into paper. It took a great deal of writing and wasted paper to get to the point where I could help people visualise what I was doing, thinking and saying, but I got there.

KJD: And your least favourite?

KM: Editing and revisions. I hate it. My editor and I spend hours talking about the revisions that she recommends. I argue my side, she argues hers. We try to get to a place where we are both happy with the storyline, character development, and plot. Sometimes, it takes numerous sessions and conversations to get there.

KJD: I feel you, Khalid, that’s where the hard work really begins. What are the biggest challenges you face as a writer?

KM: I write about an extremely volatile topic and live in a country that doesn’t like to have these things exposed. The biggest challenge that I face is controlling what I write so that I don’t end up in a dark hole somewhere with terrorists standing over my beaten body.

KJD: To many, that might sound fanciful and paranoid, but in your situation, never. I salute your bravery. Moving on to a lighter topic, who is your favourite writer and why?

KM:  I don’t have a single favourite. I love to read spy thrillers so Tom Clancy, John le Carre, Fredrick Forsyth, Daniel Silva, Ian Fleming and Robert Ludlum are big influences. But at the same time, I really enjoy the new voices in the espionage world like Tom Rob Smith, Matthew Farrugia, and Matthew Reilly.

KJD: And your favourite book?

KM: Wow… best book? That would actually be a tossup between Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Afghan. Both are fantastic stories with characters that you can really identify with, if you are a true spy fan. 

KJD: Do you use any specific writing tools?

KM: Pen. Paper. A laptop and my heavy metal music. That’s all it takes for me.

KJD: I thought you needed silence? Must be the vagaries of the muse, eh?

KM: I am a man of mystery.

KJD: Precisely. How long does it typically take for you to write your first draft?

KM: I wrote the first draft of Agency Rules – Never an Easy Day at the Office in about 4 months. That was after about 6 years of research, interviews, and conversations with people in the intelligence industry. The new book has taken me about the same time.

Then, we start the editing process and the beta reader process. So with all the writing, editing, and beta process, it takes about 6-7 months to finish the novel.

KJD: That’s faster than most. Tell me who is your favourite character from one of your books? Why?

KM: Since I only have one book published right now, my favourite character is Kamal Khan, the protagonist in my series. He is very dark and sinister at times through the first book. He is also very conflicted over the things that he must do as an intelligence operative. This isn’t a character that is black and white. He is many shades of grey. 

KJD: Shades of grey? We son’t go there.

Here’s a bit of fun, if you could have one superpower what would it be?

KM: I have had a great deal of bad luck and bad people in my life that have done some serious damage to me in the past. It took me a long time to put that behind me and repair myself so that I could move forward to live the life that I knew I could have. If I could have one super power, I would want to be able to heal people’s scars, because everyone has the potential of being superb and no one, and I mean no one, should be allowed to stop them from achieving that.

KJD: That is a wonderful thing to want. You, sir, are a gentleman. It’s been wonderful to meet you.

KM: And me you, Kerry. Thank you.

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You can find out more about Khalid by checking out his links below:

Social Media Links:
Twitter: http://twitter.com/AgencyRulesPK (@AgencyRulesPK)

Facebook: http://facebook.com/AgencyRulesPK

Website: http://www.agencyrules.com

Buy Links:
Amazon: http://smarturl.it/amazon-ar B&N – http://goo.gl/lNMQo0

Kobo: http://goo.gl/mUtIS8

iTunes: http://goo.gl/6MK31X

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“Friday-Fortnight” Interview with Carolyn Steele

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Hi guys,

As I start this interview, it’s raining, the fire is roaring in the grate, and winter is already starting to wear me down. Let’s try to lighten the mood with a cosy chat with my latest guest, the fabulously witty, Carolyn Steele.

KJD: Afternoon, Carolyn, how are you?

CS: Not bad Kerry. Thanks for this lovely cup of coffee and the lemon drizzle cake is to die for. How are you?

KJD: Much better now that you’re here. So to get started, you’ve had a really wide and varied career, and we’ll touch on some of that later, but I’ll start with my usual gentle opener to get things moving. Can you tell me a little about your current hometown?

CS: Love to. Kitchener-Waterloo in Ontario is fantastic. I’m one of the lucky people who chose my hometown based on niceness rather than necessity and I love this region. It’s where the Mennonites decided to stop in their Conestoga wagons, heading north from Pennsylvania in search of fertile farmland. So, we have horses and buggies on the roads, marvellous farmers’ markets and honesty boxes for fresh produce at the farm gates.

KJD: A rural paradise eh? Sounds similar to my place here in Brittany. Aren’t we the lucky ones? I hated living in the middle of Northampton (1986-2007); this place couldn’t be more different. Green fields, rolling hills, wooded valleys—lovely. So what can you see out of your office window?

CS: Trees! This is Canada after all. I grew up in central London, where the view out of most windows was usually a neighbour cleaning his teeth.

KJD: Oh gee, that sounds horrible.

CS: Exactly, but the trees remind me how far I have come. There are also chipmunks and chickadees, Cardinals and Blue Jays, woodpeckers, and humming birds, in the summer that is. Just now, there’s mostly snow.

KJD: That sounds like Canada, all right. Truth be told, I’m not a big fan of snow. Oh, it looks pretty and white and cute, but it’s really cold and wet and horrible. Never been skiing, never felt the need, but I digress. Let’s learn more about Carolyn the person. I understand you were once a psychologist. I dropped Psych as an elective in University. Tell me, Sigmund Freud: ground-breaking scientist or drugged-out charlatan. Discuss. Teehee. 🙂

CS: Oh, a curve ball. Hmm, I think I’m going to go for astute businessman. Nobody was listening to those women until he created a science out of it. Whether his theories were right or wrong, they paid for treatment. Actually, Freud got a bad press back in the 70s when I was an undergrad, but to be fair to him, talking as a thing that people need (even if his theories were dodgy) was pretty ground-breaking at the time. It’s a pukka thing now and I think we’re mostly the better for it.

KJD: Psychology a pukka thing now? I’ll take your word for it. I prefer the hard sciences, but love your defence of the field that used to pay your bills. 🙂

In another iteration, you were a paramedic—you have to tell me about that, please. Sounds fascinating and at times, gory. Do your paramedic experiences colour your writing in any way?

CS: I hated being an academic. I’d gone to University because bright kids did but I had no interest in any of it. One day I was touting my crappy, pointless questionnaires around a shopping centre when an old lady tripped over and cut her head. There was blood everywhere and nobody knew what to do. Someone called 999 and an ambulance duly turned up. As it pulled to a stop and the crew jumped out, everyone went, ‘Ahhh, it’s ok now’. I decided that was what I wanted to do; make people feel better by just getting out of a vehicle. So, I applied to the London Ambulance Service.

The job suited me perfectly for 20 years. I still miss it. Life is less exciting now. Gory, yes, but you become a storyteller by default. It’s one reason I write non-fiction, real life is definitely weirder than anything anyone can dream up.

KJD: I can agree with you on that one, but moving on, what genres do you read and do they differ from the ones you write?

CS: To date I’ve only written narrative non-fiction, although I read a lot of literary fiction, crime and mysteries, humour and political world building. I love to read about the sort of characters we’ve all been annoyed by getting their come-uppance. My favourite authors range from Anthony Trollope to Terry Pratchett.

I always maintained that I didn’t have the imagination for fiction, but after having hung out over the last few years with writers, quite accidentally really, I’ve been inspired to have a dabble. There is therefore a political satire in the works.

KJD: Excellent. We’ll discuss that in a moment, but what’s the first thing you do when starting a new novel?

CS: First thing I do? Panic. I wrote my first two books the easy way. (For easy, read cheat’s.) I was sending articles home to London for a small magazine for the first one, they were edited together… hey presto, book! By the time ‘Trucking’ came along I was blogging and podcasting my little adventures from the cab as they happened… hey presto, book!
Now I am floundering about trying to work out how proper writers do it. I began with a title, two characters, and a denouement in my head. I currently have an opening couple of paragraphs and sticky notes all over the office. Plotter or pantser? I’ll let you know.

KJD: So, what excites you about writing and the writing process?

CS: Storytelling is my survival tactic. I suppose that began back in the paramedic days; whatever happened during the shift became a hilarious story in the pub that night. It was the only way to keep going when things got grim. Now, I’m addicted to making people laugh… and fascinated by the whole idea that putting words together in some sort of order can elicit emotion, create an experience. Oops, got a bit serious there for a moment.

KJD: I’ll forgive you, just don’t do it again. 🙂 Looking at your bio, I love the sound of your novel, Trucking in English, and understand it started as a blog. Can you tell me a little more about the book?

CS: Happy to. Back in the olden days when we all wanted agents for our books, I touted my first book around and received several responses along the lines of, ‘we like your writing but we need a sexier subject’. I thought of myself as a travel writer at the time and the consensus among the gatekeepers seemed to be that I needed to write about the US, because nobody wanted to read about Canada.

I hit on the idea of investigating the trucking life as a woman. Popular culture doesn’t have much to say about truckers beyond ‘Convoy’, ‘Duel’, and the most likely suspect in endless CSI shows, so why not nose about in the subculture a bit?

Of course, by the time I got out there, the world had changed and we didn’t need the gatekeepers any more. I blogged and podcasted individual tales of woe as they happened and it was the fans who asked for the book. Fortunately for the storytelling, it turned out to be a difficult, tiring, frustrating, and annoying life where more things go wrong than go right. Especially in reverse.

KJD: Superb! The book is now on my Wish List. Can’t wait to read it. Here’s a technical question, as a proof-reader, can you catch your own typos?

CS: Nope, I don’t think any of us really can, Your brain reads what it knows you wrote. Fortunately my partner is a proof-reader too, and my son is a writer, so the family edits and proofreads around in circles.

KJD: Great, I think I’ll be talking to you offline about proofreading, so moving on. Tell me a little more about your WIP. Where did you find the inspiration? What’s it about? When can we expect to see it on the bookshelves?

CS: I have regular debates with my partner about the self-service checkouts in supermarkets. He loves them because he doesn’t have to talk to anyone, but I refuse to use them because I feel like I’m contributing to putting someone out of work. We were in the queue at a checkout one day last year and I was listening to the chatter.

The woman at the till, well into her 60s or early 70s, had a laugh and a joke for everyone and as I listened to her brightening people’s days, I started to wonder what would happen to her when her job no longer existed. What can you do when your only skill is small talk?
The political satire Queenie’s Teapot was born. In a Britain not so different to now—except that politicians have been outlawed and democracy is seen as stone-age thinking—people are chosen to run the nation by random selection. Queenie the redundant checkout lady naturally becomes Head of State, small-talk is all you need, right? I hope to complete it this year. Here’s a sneak preview:

THE BALL OF KINGFISHER blue mohair dropped from Queenie’s lap and rolled across the parquet, coming to a stop at the feet of the Chief Secretary to the Cabinet. All eyes in the room followed it. He sighed, fully aware that his words would have to be repeated, his wisdom no match for the yarn, which was now reflecting so fetchingly in the high shine on his business shoes.
Caroline observed, not for the first time, that Gerald was the only man she knew who could look down his nose without moving his head. Ostensibly, she was taking notes on the day’s proceedings but her main task consisted of committing to memory as many quirks and character flaws as were immediately obvious in the new intake.
The knitting would be an issue. She jotted knitting rapidly at the back of her notebook and considered the conundrum. Gerald would not alter his stance; he would rely on military bearing to re-establish lines of communication when the novelty wore off. The room was, however, full of people who hadn’t any reason to comprehend the significance of Gerald’s posture. Yet. They were all still transfixed, some were even stifling giggles.
She slipped from her chair, executed a parabolic trajectory towards Queenie which took in Gerald’s temporarily blue-reflecting toes, scooped up the ball of yarn and deposited it back in Queenie’s little tote bag. Knitted, she noticed. This would be hard to stop.
‘Thank you dearie,’ Queenie broke the silence with a toothy grin and the hint of a glottal stop. ‘I’m always doing that, drives hubby mad it does, the wool starts bouncin’ around all over the floor when he’s trying to watch the football, he reckons I do it on purpose every time there’s goin’ ta be a goal…’ She guffawed hoarsely. The silence in the rest of the room managed to deepen.
‘You’re very welcome.’ Caroline modelled the hushed tone she hoped would prevail around the House once the intake had received the rest of their orientation. She resumed her seat, and turned her attention back to Gerald. ‘You were saying, Chief Secretary?’
Gerald offered her an almost imperceptible sniff by way of acknowledgement and readdressed the room.
‘Your skills have been assessed on the basis of the information provided to us on your personal profile. You will shortly be assigned to a ministerial department and apprised of your duties by that department’s senior executive. At that point you should inform your ‘senior’ of any reason why you might not be able to fulfil our expectations, as outlined in your summons, of a Representative of the People for the full term of three years.
‘Are there any questions?’ For the first time since this session’s new motley shower had shuffled their way into the largest committee room of the House of Commons, and made a mess with their newspapers and smartphones and cups of coffee and bottles of water and ungainly coats, Gerald scanned the faces.
He wasn’t really rude, Caroline mused, although she’d been shocked at the apparent attitude back with her first intake. The theatricality wasn’t so much about intimidation, more to do with sorting pegs into the right-shaped holes. As Gerald allowed his gaze to waft over the assembly, Caroline watched. And added to her notes. The ones who met his gaze, the ones who looked away, the fidgeters, the sniffers, the paper shufflers, all would require slightly different handling.
It was always an eye-contact-maker who asked the first question, determined not to be browbeaten by a mere civil servant. ‘What happens if you’ve assessed our skills wrong?’ The big guy at the back with the Lancashire accent and the drinker’s nose. Caroline wrote, Predictable mind, bit of an arse, Treasury? as she tried not to mouth along to the same reply this question generated every time.
‘If you’ve been unable to express yourself adequately on your profile, we’ll find you something less significant to do.’
‘Where’s the bar?’ Small chap at the back. Whimsical tie. A couple of people near him tittered. Caroline wrote, Comedian, popular, Foreign Office?
Queenie’s hands were still now. The knitting in her lap, what is that, some sort of teacosy? and her face a picture of misery. ‘Can I ask a question?’
She received a courtly bow. ‘Please do, Ma’am.’
‘I can’t do anyfing. I got no skills, I dunno why I’m here. I mean hubby said we all got to do it and all but the thing said, the bit of paper said that if you wasn’t good at stuff you’d you know, go be one of the ordinary reps, just sit in a office and pass messages and such…’ Caroline added address waffle to the line that had begun knitting.
‘I mean I don’t mind doing my bit, I said to hubby, I said it’s nice and excitin’ to go and be the thing, especially after Tescos closed the tills and all but you talkin’ about skills, well it ain’t really right…’
Gerald raised his hand, as though stopping the traffic.
‘Fear not, dear lady, we have considered your case most carefully. Now, just before I send each group off to meet your senior, I should probably introduce Caroline Lambert. She is your babysitter. And please know that all of you,’ he nodded to the eye-contact-makers in particular, ‘are currently babies. It’s her job to hold your hands while you learn, God help us, to run this country.’

KJD: Thanks for that. I really, really love your writing style. One point I’d make is that having no skills doesn’t seem to stop today’s politicians being voted in. 🙂

Now for my usual wrap-up. If there were a single thing you’d like to change about yourself, what would it be? (Cosmetic surgery is out of bounds).

CS: Are you sure about the cosmetic surgery?

KJD: Absolutely certain.

CS: In that case: I wish I believed my own bullshit. Can I say that on a nicely brought up blog?

KJD: Probably not, but this isn’t a ‘nicely brought up blog’ so you’re fine and dandy—teehee. What’s next in your life?

CS: I have no idea. I’ve given up trying to make plans because however sensibly I view the future, something always comes along that looks like fun. Then I just have to try it, on the grounds that I’d not want to die wondering if I could have made a go of it. And, well, you never know, there might be a book in it too. I’d not actually recommend ‘ooh, shiny’ as a career plan to anyone I cared about but I’m a lost cause.

KJD: Actually, that’s pretty much the way I’ve run my life so far. I wonder whether it’s a general trait in all writers. Finally, tell me something about yourself you wouldn’t want you partner/parents to know. Don’t worry; it’ll be our little secret. 🙂

CS: Hmm, I’m not sure if I trust you; after all, we’ve only just met.

KJD: Quite right too. I wouldn’t trust me as fast as I could lob a Chieftain tank, and I’ve known me for quite some time. Go on give me something.

CS: Okay, I really want to get a tattoo of a gargoyle on my shoulder blade. Kinda looking out behind me deflecting all the bad luck and backstabbing. Despite my bravado, I’m really quite insecure.

KJD: Okay, I’m not a tat fan, but that one sounds interesting, quirky even. And finally, finally – is there anything I’ve forgotten to ask that you’re desperately, desperately keen my readers should know?

CS: Yes! I’m starting a food blog soon. It’s going to be fab, people are going to love it. My partner and I bicker about food all the time and apparently, that’s amusing. So we will bicker officially in the new year on a website of food fights and recipes. Watch this space. Well, not this space, obviously. Watch one of the below-mentioned spaces…

KJD: Wonderful, when it’s live, please give me the link and I’ll publish it right here.

Well that, I’m afraid, is all we have time for at Chez Donovan. It’s been a real blast chatting with you, Carolyn. Thanks for spending so much of your valuable time.

CS: Not at all, I’ve had a ball. Oh, next thing could be a poetry book! Hmmmm.

KJD: Oh dear, I’ve created a monster.

The next FFI victim interviewee is Mary Smith and I’ll post it on or around 6th February.

 

About Carolyn

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Carolyn has been a psychologist, a paramedic, a proof reader and several other things, not all of them beginning with P. A trucker, for example. She began writing the day she decided to try and see the world…doing both just to find out if she could. When excerpts from her first travelogue were published by the Rough Guides she decided to keep on doing both. It made a change from teaching CPR to nightclub bouncers and designing wedding cakes.
Carolyn maintains that she is either multi-faceted or easily bored, depending on who is enquiring. Born and bred in London, England, Carolyn and her son Ben are now Canadian citizens and live permanently in Kitchener, Ontario.
Her Armchair Emigration series will be complete with ‘Bed and Breakfast’, currently under construction. There will then be a satirical novel (mostly about a teapot), a couple of children’s books and some serious stuff about life and death.

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Trucking In English

Memoir/Travel

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The tale of what happens when a middle-aged mum from England decides to actually drive-18 wheelers across North America instead of just dreaming about it.

“So here’s the plan. I’m going to train to drive a truck and go long-haul. I can get paid and maybe write a book at the same time. What do you reckon?”
“Go for it Mum, how bad can it be?”
From early training, when it becomes apparent that negotiating 18 wheels and 13 gears involves slightly more than just learning how to climb in, this rookie overcomes self-doubt, infuriating companions and inconsiderate weather to become a real trucker.
She learns how to hit a moose correctly and how to be hijacked. She is almost arrested in Baltimore Docks and survives a terrifying winter tour of The Rockies. Nothing goes well, but that’s why there’s a book.

 

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