Archive for the ‘mysteries’ Tag

Interview with Zara Altair   3 comments

Today’s interview is with Zara Altair. Welcome to the blog. Tell us something about yourself. 

Profile photoLela, thank you for inviting me to this conversation. I live just outside of Portland, Oregon, in the United States. When I’m not working on my stories, I’m still writing. I contribute semantically optimized content for several websites and blog article series. Right now, I am also ghostwriting a thriller.

I’ve taught writing in various roles from kindergarten through university. For the past 10 years, I’ve been helping other story writers with developmental editing and script review.

 

 

At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer? 

I’ve been telling stories since I was a toddler and began writing stories when I was around five years old. At that same time, I met a writer of children’s books and knew I wanted to be a writer.

 

 

Tell us about your writing process.

The process is a mix. Characters come to me and want their story told. I get to know my character and, for the historical mysteries, I do a great deal of research.

For planning, I do a three-point plan: Beginning, middle, and end. Then I fill in the chapters that get the story from the beginning to the end. Those chapter notes are loose ideas. I find that as I write, characters do and say things that move the story in unexpected ways. I do not compose the story linearly. If a scene pops into my head, I write it while it is fresh in my mind. A similar process may happen with bits of dialog. So-and-so has to say this, and then fit it into the story.  But, in the main, I write from the beginning to the end, fitting in those already written scenes at the appropriate place in the story line.

Writing time is uninterrupted. No phone conversations. No quick checks of email. I want to get “in the flow” and stay there during writing time.

 

What is your favorite genre … to read … to write?

The Used Virgin: An Argolicus Mystery (Argolicus Mysteries) by [Altair, Zara]I read a lot of thrillers, crime, police procedurals, some legal thrillers. I also read science fiction.

 

I love writing mysteries. I think it is the puzzle that intrigues me. What is the puzzle? Who is involved? Who seems like the perfect foil? What are the clues? Where do I plant them in the story?

 

 

Where do you get the inspiration for your novels?

I find that reading history of the time of my stories, early 6th Century Italy, provides great inspiration for the circumstances of the plot and what issues surround characters. Some of the reading is fairly dry, but as a storyteller my response may be: What the bishops were running a slave trade? The area was known for horse breeding? Sometimes these idea sparks come from scholarly footnotes, not the main text. I’m always looking for juicy situations.

 

Because the Emperor Justinian did everything he could to remove all traces of the Ostrogoths in Italy, research is always a challenge. From quotidian details like meals and clothing to palace intrigue sources are scant. A perfect example is the mosaic of the palace in Sant’Apollonare Nuovo. Justinian had the original mosaic, believed to be Theoderic and his court, removed and replaced with the curtains. If you look closely you can see hands on three of the pillars which are left over from the original mosaic.

 

My central character, Argolicus, was a real person at the time of Theodoric’s reign in Italy. He is mentioned nine times in Cassiodorus’ Variae (iii 11, iii 12, iii 29, iii 30, iii 33, iv 22, iv 25, iv 29, iv 42) as praefectus urbis of Rome. His childhood and ongoing friendship with Cassiodorus come from my imagination.

 

 

What sort of research do you do for your novels?

The Peach Widow: An Argolicus Mystery (Argolicus Mysteries) by [Altair, Zara]I have bookshelves full of historical references. Conference proceedings bound into books, sometimes including lively question and answer sessions. Many of the books are in Italian. One conference may have presentations in English, French, Italian, etc. I struggle through quotes in Latin and Greek. My one comparison to Shakespeare is that, as Ben Jonson said, I have “small Latin and less Greek.” I sound out the Greek. It’s like a kid just learning to read.

 

I traveled to Italy, to interview scholars at the Universitá di Bologna, who graciously answered many questions and supplied me with 30 kilos of books to further my research. Two questions I had were inadvertently answered by just being there. I found a small cookbook in a bookstore about the food of the Ostrogoths, and a bartender gave me a local journal that spoke of an underground café, which for story purposes, was the place where the king stored the wheat and bread that he gave out.

 

 

If someone who hasn’t read any of your novels asked you to describe your writing, what would you say?

My stories are traditional mysteries set in a long-ago time, a time when the Ostrogoths ruled Italy. The main character straddles the two worlds of Ostrogoth and Italian culture. There were no police or private detectives, and murder was not a crime under either legal system.

 

 

Do you have a special place where you write?

Yes, my desk. Sometimes it is covered with reference books.

 

 

 

Are you a plot driven or character driven writer? Why?

Mysteries have a standard plot trope. Beyond that, I play with the characters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What influenced your decision to self-publish?

My short story, The Used Virgin, had been sitting on my computer for several years. I decided to put it out there for anyone who might be interested. Little did I know at the time, how much I had to learn about creating an author platform and communicating with readers and potential readers.

 

What do you find to be the greatest advantage of self-publishing?

Getting the book out is a relatively short process. The author has control of publication.

 

With the number of self-published books increasing by such a huge rate, it is really difficult for authors to make their books stand out. How do you go about this?

I don’t think so much about getting the books to stand out as finding readers who want to read the type of story I write. That thinking comes from working as a writer in the Search Engine Optimization world. Business owners, that’s me as an author, can spend energy on ranking, or they can optimize to engage with customers. It’s a similar approach.

Ask me again in two years.

 

 

Who designed your book cover/s?

I feel fortunate to work with Ryan J. Rhoades of Reformation Designs. After talking with him about the series, he created covers that captured the essence of the time. And, each cover has an important clue hidden in the details. We did that for fun.

Although I had worked with him on other design projects, his branding tends to look very modern. I was hesitant at the beginning but as soon as I saw his first cover I knew I had made a good decision.

 

 

Do you believe that self-published authors can produce books as high-quality as the traditional published? If so, how do you think we should go about that?

Absolutely. Write the best story you can. Find an editor familiar with your genre. Hire a cover designer who understands your book. Choose cover material and paper that match the feel of your book. Self-published authors who put in attention to detail in all phases of book production have no worries about high-quality.

 

Do you belong to a writer’s cooperative? Describe your experience with that.

Nothing so formal as a cooperative. I have been in writing groups for years starting with the Russian River Writers in California in the late 1970s.

My current writing group is small. When I moved to Oregon from California four years ago, I looked at a number of groups but most of them were not a fit. I started corresponding with a contact from a group that had folded and we chatted about our “ideal” group. It took us almost a year to form the group. We have written rules, a trial period, and a tight community.

We meet twice a month. We bring printed copies of the pages. We take turns reading each other’s passage aloud. After the reading each individual comments. The writer leaves with written comments and suggested edits from each member.

The comments and suggestions are instrumental in honing the final story. I recommend a writing group for any writer. What we do with suggestions is up to the writer.

 

How do readers find you and your books?

 

 

Links:

Amazon Author Page

Author Website

Facebook Author Fan Page

Twitter

Goodreads

Google+

YouTube

 

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Interview with KC Sprayberry   3 comments

Today’s interview is with K.C. Sprayberry. Welcome to the blog.  Tell us something about yourself.

Sprayberry EyesI currently live in Northwest Georgia, but that will be changing soon. We’re in the process of selling our home and relocating to Alabama. Not only am I an author, I’m also the editor-in-chief of Summer Solstice Publishing, an imprint of Solstice Publishing. My significant other is my husband of nearly twenty-two years and the only child remaining in our almost empty nest is our youngest, who will be returning to college in a year.

At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer?

As far back as I can remember, I have loved reading. I think that came from my mom, who in an effort to control six unruly children over school holidays, was wont to sit us down with a book in our hands and order us to read. We all developed a deep-seated passion for those books and many others that continues to this day. Sometime during this process, I began to create stories in my head. At first, I put these tales into my diary, until one of my brothers discovered it and blabbed. After that, I kept the stories in my head, until high school, where a very good creative writing teacher pulled that magical string and let them loose. Since then, I’ve been jotting down stories on pieces of paper, napkins, even my hand when I was without a piece of paper. It’s like the faucet will never close, and I aim to make the most of this journey.

Sprayberry callchronicleskindlecoverThat’s a common history for many of us writers … that tap that cannot be turned off.  Tell us about your writing process.

My writing process generally consists of me yelling at the characters demanding to be heard while I attempt to do those normal things—prepare meals, tote the child here and there, and clean the house. They won’t shut up, so I’ll plop down and pound out their stories, until the dust bunnies are of Jurassic size, and then do the normal things until the characters are too loud again. It’s a vicious circle I can’t, and don’t want to escape.

What is your favorite genre … to read … to write?

It might be easier to ask what is my least favorite genre. I will read a book as long as it’s good. It’s that simple. Be it fantasy, contemporary, romance, sci-fi, or any of the other genres, as long as the author has created a wonderful, consuming story that I can’t walk away from. There are exceptions though. I don’t read porn, have no use for it, and literary fiction leaves me cold. Most literary fiction I’ve attempted to read bored me to tears within the first ten pages.

Sprayberry lost and scared cover artWhat are you passionate about?

Writing, reading, photography, nature, honesty in politics. Yes, I know the last one is a bit of a laugh, but I feel that politicians should be honest with those who have elected them. That’s probably why I’m not too popular with that group.

What is something you cannot live without?

A quiet place to write… my books (we have close to 3,000 print and ebooks)… my kitchen—cooking is my way of relaxing. As one of my children recently described it, “I don’t know how much she puts of what into the pot. She just tosses this and that, and it all comes out great.”

Sprayberry Softly Say GoodbyeWhen you are not writing, what do you do?

Visit the library… a park… smell the flowers outside… meet up with people I like. I’m a simple person. There’s no need for a fancy meal, or an elite gathering. Give me down home folks and good food, and I’m enjoying myself.

Have you written any books that made a transformative effect on you? If so, in what way?

My most recent novel, Lost & Scared, and my latest collection, Soar High 1 Standing Strong.

The novel, Lost & Scared, is about non-custodial parental abduction told from the viewpoint of twins, a brother and sister, with an almost mystical connection. One of them is left behind, while the other is taken in the abduction with three of their younger siblings. It’s intense, explores a lot of emotions and actions I’ve avoided in my other teen novels, and as my editor put it, is a darned good book.

Soar High 1 Standing Strong is a series of stories about abuse. It’s about overcoming abuse more than about the actions themselves. Freeing those being abused from their situation is more than mouthing words, it’s about action, doing what others may say is wrong, but still taking that step to walk away from the pattern so it doesn’t hold onto you forever.

Sprayberry Where U @Where do you get the inspiration for your novels?

Things happening around me, news stories, situations I experienced growing up and as an adult. Sometimes a character will appear in my head and demand that I tell a story I’ve never considered. Those are harder to write, but far more satisfying, especially the research I do to find out more about the situation I’m crafting.

What sort of research do you do for your novels?

Newspapers, the internet, talking to people who have experienced what I’m writing about, or who know someone who has gone through it. Sometimes, to craft a great story, you have to step away from the characters and envision things how their friends see them. That’s why it’s important to get the opinion of bystanders.

If someone who hasn’t read any of your novels asked you to describe your writing, what would you say?

I’m intense and approach subjects that aren’t comfortable. Things like underage drinking, school violence, texting and driving, non-custodial parental abduction, and bullying to name a few. Some say those are hot subjects, but I try to look at them from a viewpoint that hasn’t been done before.

Do you have a special place where you write?

I have a writing cave. It’s a private place, where those in the house know they can’t wander into at will. I’ll also write in a notebook at the park, or sitting in the bleachers before a game, or even at the grocery store if the muse strikes.

Do you find yourself returning to any recurring themes within your writing and, if so, are you any closer to finding an answer?

Currently, I’m returning to the non-custodial parental abduction theme. Lost & Scared 2 is in the early planning stages. There are a couple of chapters written, but I’m still researching a few elements that I don’t really know well, so those characters are well rounded. I have to say this book will portray the original twins in a completely different way as the first book, which is why I’m having so much trouble getting it to work. They’ve matured, are getting ready for college, and still dealing with the near past. And that’s all I can say about that book at the moment.

Are you a plot driven or character driven writer? Why?

Character driven, definitely. My characters are very much a part of my life. They feel the same as my kids. I care about them. I cry when they do, laugh with them, and fight for the same things they believe in. Well-developed characters can move a plot so well, and I strive hard to do that with mine.

Do you write from an outline or are you a discovery writer?  Why?

I’m a panster through and through. I’ve tried writing from an outline, but it never works. Before I reach chapter eight, I’m tossing everything out the window and listening to my characters, switching up situations, letting the plot take off on its own.

Sprayberry Take Chances (683x1024)What point of view do you prefer to write, and why?

For my teen books, I prefer first person, present tense. It’s more alive, contains more a feeling of immediacy. Romance, military fiction, and westerns are all third person, past tense. That’s how the story wants to be told, and I learned long ago not to ignore the story.

Do you head-hop?

I try not to. Some of my stories have that happen accidentally, but mostly I stick to the point of view I’m working with at the moment. Do I have multiple POV stories? Yes. Two of my teen books, my romantic suspense novel, and my western are all multiple POV, but I work hard to ensure the reader isn’t confused about whose story they’re reading.

I’m going to drop you in a remote Alaska cabin for a month. It’s summer so you don’t have worry about freezing to death. I’ll supply the food and the mosquito spray. What do you do while you’re there and what do you bring with you? If you’re bringing books, what are they?

Better be some really good mosquito spray. I’m a magnet for those critters, and I hear the ones in Alaska are huge!

The huge ones are easy. They’ve very slow, so you can smack them before they get to you. It’s the smaller ones that attack with ferocity and by the millions. But we have great bug spray.

You’ll supply the food too? Will it be food I don’t have to prepare? Because if so, I’ll be spending that whole month doing a NaNoWriMo type writing marathon with one major difference. I won’t have to stop to grocery shop, or make meals, or clean the house. You might have to use a shoehorn to boot me out after a month.

Tell us about your books.

We’ll start with the first. Softly Say Goodbye was inspired by a Breaking Benjamin song, Here We Are. The moment I heard that song, the characters came alive in my head. The plot and theme were a lot slower, until I settled on underage drinking and one girl’s passion to stop teens in her school from going down that road.

Take Chances is probably the second most emotional book for me. This idea began right after Columbine. That really hit home for my family. We knew people there, people I’d worked with before we moved to Georgia. Watching the news stories, seeing the terror drove home just how awful this is. The main character, Julie, is a military brat, and proud of it. She has her secrets, one of which is revealed the day before horror visits her at a school a second time.

Sprayberry The Wrong One 2 (427x640)The Wrong One is my first multiple viewpoint story. Two children are ripped apart in a night of terror when they are four. Fourteen years later, the boy, Kyle, stands by his vow to bring Lyssa home. Lyssa doesn’t even know who she really is, due to a threat made in the early hours after she was taken from her home. This book is my first psychological thriller, but not my last. The Wrong One placed #7 in the 2013 Preditors & Editors Readers Poll.

Inits—it’s all in a name, or as Alex puts it in this book, the inits, initials, of your name. And his are a curse word. He’s tried for years to stop punching people who use his inits, but now that he’s starting high school, he knows he has to find a peaceful way to stop the teasing. Only one person stands in his way, the school bully, who is determined to make Alex get over his inits and let people use them.

Texting and driving is the theme for Where U @, but the book is much more than that. It also explores some racism, where the main character, Trea, must put up with harassment because she’s one quarter Cherokee. As she discovers, it’s easy to say don’t text and drive, but the temptation might prove too strong at certain moments.

Canoples Investigations Tackles Space Pirates is the first in a planned 6 book series about a group of teens living on a space station. It’s irreverent, funny, and full of all kinds of dangerous situations—the perfect book for adventuresome boys and girls. Oh, and there are space pirates, with one big surprise for BD Bradford, the main character.

Canoples Investigations Versus Spacers Rule, there’s a new gang making trouble on Canoples Station, along with a lot of hatred for the Canoples Investigations crew. Can they overcome all of that to protect the station from dangerous animals and… gasp!… gas?

Paradox Lost: Their Path is a time travel fantasy novel. What starts out as a prophecy that will happen sometime in the future, turns into a fight for their lives for triplets DJ, Matt, and Elisa. To compound the problems, each of them must make the choice to save their father, trapped in the debris of 1906 San Francisco after the earthquake, thereby changing history and causing more problems. Or will they put their personal concerns aside and work for the more important issue, stopping Rogues from destroying the world? Paradox Lost: Their Path placed #3 in the 2014 Preditors & Editors Readers Poll.

The Curse of Grungy Gulley, a tale that has been with me for a long time. It originally started out as another “dead mother” book, but evolved into a good versus evil fight spanning 144 years, with four viewpoints. Three teens must overcome a Bewitcher who has been harrying their families since the time of The Black Plague in fourteenth century Europe.

How do you stop a stalker who is determined to possess you? That’s what Lisa faces in Evil Eyes. This book is also about teens experiencing new feelings of closeness with their significant other once they’re off in college, away from a protective home environment.

Lost & Scared is my most recent YA novel, and the most intense writing experience I’ve ever had. The theme is non-custodial parental abduction from the viewpoint of twins, a boy and a girl. Each of them originally has the same reason to exhibit disgust for their dad, but they find themselves being tested beyond what they thought were their limits as the story unfolds. This book isn’t for the faint of heart.

What if you had a chance to ride in the Pony Express? What if you were a girl and this was your dream? That’s the theme of Pony Dreams, a book set in mid-nineteenth century Nevada. Abby will do anything to get near the ponies, even thinks about sneaking away from home to join the new mail venture.

Westerns have always had a special place in my heart. The Call Chronicles 1: The Griswold Gang was an experiment that I suggested to The Western Online. This book was actually first published on their website as a serialized novel, much like the penny dreadfuls of the nineteenth century. It’s about a family who has a duty to find and bring to the justice the men who burned their home and murdered their parents.

What would you do if your daughter allegedly committed suicide but you are certain she didn’t? That’s what Jayme and Brad face in Starlight, a romantic suspense novel about corruption.

*** I do have short stories, collections, and anthologies along with my novels, but in the interest of space, I didn’t include them. ***

Was it your intention to write a story with a message or a moral?

It never starts out that way, but the subject matter I deal with usually ends with a message. Honestly, I really try hard to avoid being preachy about those messages.

What do you want readers to think or feel after reading one of your books?

I want them to get mad, to cry, to laugh, to think of my characters as they would their family or friends. I would love my readers to be so involved in the book that they are screaming for a win during a game, beating the armrest of their chair when things go wrong, or hiccupping from sobbing at a very intense moment.

Social Media Links:

Amazon Author Central: http://www.amazon.com/KC-Sprayberry/e/B005DI1YOU

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kcsowriter

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/KC-Sprayberry/331150236901202

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5011219.K_C_Sprayberry

Website: http://www.kcsprayberry.com/

Blog: http://outofcontrolcharacters.blogspot.com/

Google +: https://plus.google.com/u/0/

Authorgraph: https://www.authorgraph.com/authors/kcsowriter

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/kcsprayberry/

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=18984155&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile

Manic Readers: http://www.manicreaders.com/KCSprayberry/

AUTHORSdb: http://authorsdb.com/authors-directory/5230-k-c-sprayberry

Amazon Book List: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=k.c.%20sprayberry&sprefix=k.c.+%2Cdigital-text

Book Links:

Softly Say Goodbye: getBook.at/B00I10UNY4

Take Chances: getBook.at/B00FIOX1MW

The Wrong One: getBook.at/B00GSSW5T2

Inits: getBook.at/B00M4RQ74K

Where U @ myBook.to/B00HZTT4LK

Canoples Investigations Tackles Space Pirates: myBook.to/B00HZTT4LK

Canoples Investigations Versus Spacers Rule: getBook.at/B00RBVDC4C

Paradox Lost: Their Path: getBook.at/B00PB735LI

The Curse of Grungy Gulley: getBook.at/B00O29F6AE

Evil Eyes: getBook.at/B00J1QC3V8

Lost & Scared: getBook.at/B00TXJ48FC

Pony Dreams: getBook.at/B00HTQNE7Y

The Call Chronicles 1: The Griswold Gang: getBook.at/B00NAA7GXG

Starlight: viewBook.at/B00K2IMHOM

Interview with George Wier   1 comment

Today I welcome George Wier, Texas crime fiction author, to the blog. Tell us something about yourself, George. (Basic bio, where’d you grow up, what do you do for a living, significant relationships — as much or as little as you want).

george wierThere’s not a lot to tell. The first eight years of my life I grew up in Madisonville, Texas. My father was an oil well firefighter in the Gulf of Mexico, working for Red Adair—he was one of the original Hellfighters. In fact, on some of the shots in that movie, my dad was fighting real fires in an asbestos suit. Later he was a truck driver, an insurance salesman, and toward the end of his life he was a jailer. He was utterly fearless. My mother had wanted to be a Christian missionary in Africa or Asia, but that was apparently not to be. She had three kids to raise, and a life here to live. From these two extremes (one tough as nails, the other, gentle as a shepherd with a flock of lambs) you get me. I have worked more odd jobs (and done odd things) than I can count. I’ve got my father’s fearlessness and my mother’s passivity, or at least until I’ve reached my limit; then, you’d better watch out. What I do for a living now is write. I write every day. It’s a full time job, but really it’s the one thing I’d rather do than anything else. I could have been a musician, and in fact started out down that path at one time, only to find out I didn’t have the pain threshold for practicing the violin six to ten hours a day to become as good as I wanted to be. I suppose I’m an all-or-nothing kind of guy. If I can’t have the whole thing, then I want no part of it. Later, I tried my hand at actual police work, but found that I didn’t like putting the handcuffs on a person and putting them in a cage like an animal. Somehow I knew that was also not the answer—the flip side, of course, being to do nothing. No, there has to be another way, but criminal justice misses. I have a problem with justice anytime it’s in the hands of human beings. In every instance, human justice misses the mark. So, my compromise with life was to become a writer, to report what I see—and let me tell you, I see everything, and I don’t miss a lick!—and to publish it. I’m 50 years old now. I’ve seen quite a bit. I hope to see a great deal more.

george wier signingWhat was your first writing and how old were you?

When I was very young I watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and I loved it. I think I’ve got the whole movie memorized now, you know. A lot of people do. Anyway, back then I penned a little thing that has since been lost in the mists of time that was all bad humor and kids’ jokes based on the American Revolution. Thank God it’s long gone. Gosh, I had to have been around ten or eleven. Something like that. Godawful stuff, you know. Quick, please change the subject and ask me something better…I mean, something else.

You write crime fiction, set in Texas. Being from Texas, that makes sense. What drew you to crime fiction?

george wier last callCrime fiction speaks to the human condition as it currently is. We have laws, and laws are there because people run roughshod over their neighbors. If everyone was thoughtful and considerate and mindful of the negative effects of their actions on others around them, then they wouldn’t do the things they do and ultimately there would be no need for laws. And also, if that were the case, you would see the birth of a Golden Age for mankind. But that’s not the way it is. I got interested in crime when I was very young. One of the earliest—and to me, gritty and realistic—crime shows on television was Baretta. I loved that show. Before that I really liked watching the old Mannix TV serials. Mannix was a private investigator in LA, just like James Garner’s Jim Rockford, years later. Mannix was always getting shot at, beat up, bonked on the head and knocked out. But he always managed to turn the tables and get the bad guys. I ate that stuff up. Also, there were a number of real life high-profile crimes in my own county when I was growing up, and these crimes made national headlines, including the Good Samaritan murder of Tim Merka and the Soldier of Fortune case. Grisly stuff. Also, later when I was about nineteen years old, I worked flipping hamburgers in the kitchen of a Kettle restaurant between college semesters and the guy who trained me on that temporary job went on to become a killer in another high-profile case, the Foch Street double murder. The fellow’s name was Gary Penuel. His sister was also involved in the case, along with a guy named David Clark. Clark majorly took the fall in that case and has since been executed. No, crime is all too real in the world we live in. It wasn’t just the stuff of television, as I would come to find. That’s what drew me to crime fiction—the dark, malevolent, almost reptilian malice of that side of existence. We try to understand it, but ultimately we cannot. You can’t put an understanding into the incomprehensible, by definition. Square peg, round hole. It doesn’t fit. There’s nothing more incomprehensible than the violent murder of another human being. But boy, do we try to understand it. The imagination runs wild. So that’s the “why” behind my fascination with crime fiction, in a nutshell.

When I peeked at your book, I have to say, I love the “voice”. How do you develop your characters?

george wier captainsA writer observes the world around him. He or she can’t help it. We act as sponges for the physical universe, soaking up everything we see, hear, and feel. We later use that in our writing. You may want to just call it a virus. A bug. It’s the writer’s bug. Characters are no different. All of my characters are composites of real people I have met in my travels. Everyone I meet, I pay close attention. Who is this person? What are they about? Can I peg where they’re from by their accent? How old is this person? What have they seen and experienced that is subconsciously communicated through how they hold themselves erect, how their eyes move, how they talk? It’s almost Sherlockian. So when I create a character, I have a set of standards that must be met. The character has to talk to me. They have to be their own person—that is, they have to be real. They have to react and interact with other people the way this character should given their background and how they see themselves and the world around them. It’s actually pretty simple. My characters are people. I treat them as such, and I expect them to act that way too. Sometimes they really surprise me.

What are you passionate about?

I get passionate when I’m talking in company with others about writing. I meet so many people seeking advice, seeking to know. “What would you do in this situation?” That sort of thing. When it comes to writing, I have something to say. I have so much to say on the subject that I wouldn’t dare attempt it here, because hours later you would be telling me to “Shut up, already!”

Also, I get passionate about human rights. I volunteer some of my time with a watchdog group that birddogs the Texas legislature here in Austin, specifically on the subject of human rights. So many bills are passed into law, amending the Texas Constitution, that the public is largely apathetic about it. Fortunately our legislature meets only every other year. That’s a good thing.

I agree totally and wish the Alaska Legislature would do the same.

george wier journeyIt would be far better if they met once a decade. The U.S. Constitution you could fit in your shirt pocket. The Texas Constitution cannot be contained within the confines of a single floor-to-ceiling, five-foot wide bookcase. It’s that huge. No one—not even attorneys—know all the laws. The legislators sure as hell don’t. But they just love to write bills and pass them into law on an unsuspecting and largely clueless public. A number of those laws touch upon basic human rights—that is, depriving the citizens of Texas of them. Did you know right this minute that the Texas legislature is trying to sneak into law an initiative that would make it perfectly legitimate for someone walking into an emergency room or clinic to be held against their will if they refused medical treatment? I’m aghast!

It is ghastly! It’s not just Texas, it’s the whole country. My father-in-law lives in Austin. My husband lives in Alaska for the relative freedom, but we chafe at the increasing loss of liberty even here. Where does that sort of thinking come from, do you think?

Essentially the “think” on the measure goes like this:

  1. you need medical treatment,
  2. you’re refusing it, therefore
  3. you’re crazy and are therefore a danger to yourself, ergo,
  4. we’re going to hold you for psychiatric observation, leading to
  5. court mandated injections or pills.

I mean, yuck! If that happens, you won’t see people who need actual medical help going to emergency rooms to get it out of sheer terror, and consequently, you will see people dying because of it. That’s just ONE bill out of all the idiotic measures that have been put forth just this session! Okay, so yes, I’m passionate on this subject. Like Mark Twain famously said, “Suppose you are an idiot. Now, suppose you are a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.” Hey, you asked.

Sunrise in a thick deep dark forest with fog in autumn

Sunrise in a thick deep dark forest with fog in autumn

What is something you cannot live without?

I don’t know. I never really thought about that. I do have a weakness for good tobacco, mainly pipe tobacco. Oh, I know I could live without it. I would have to say the one thing that I would not be able to live without, absolutely, would be freedom. The freedom to come and go as I please, the freedom to say what’s on my mind; the freedom to write what I want to write and send it to whomever I want to. But I also can’t live without a future. I live almost exclusively in the future, but largely not at the expense of today. My entire life is geared toward the future. Oh, I enjoy taking walks in nature settings. I like going outside at night and looking up at the stars. All of that present time stuff. But then my thoughts turn inevitably to the horizon; what’s on the plate for tomorrow? What am I going to write later tonight? Will I get this current batch of projects finished? When will I learn to really write? Next year or the year after, where do I plan to spend my summer? My winter? Will Sallie and I travel to New York again, because I would like to spend another week there? Are we going to buy that house in Fort Davis? Future. Future future future. So I suppose that it’s the freedom to create the future that I can’t live without. I tell you, you don’t kill a man with bullets. You kill him by taking away his dreams, and dreams have everything to do with the future. There it is.

Alaska’s motto is “North to the Future” so we’re all about dreaming big. Speaking of which, I’m going to drop you in a remote Alaskan cabin for a month. It’s summer, so you don’t have to worry about freezing to death. I’m supplying the food and bug spray (northern necessity). What do you spend your time doing? What do you bring with you? If it includes books, what books?

george wier coddoI would spend my time looking at the land and the sky, smoking my pipe, then ducking back inside to continue writing. At night I would watch the Aurora Borealis (I’ve never seen it with my own eyes). So, I would need a box of blank paper (at least 5 to 10 reams), a lot of pens and pencils and a sharpener, and that’s about it. As far as books by other writers, I wouldn’t bring any. You start down that road, then there are about 500 books I would find “indispensable,” so it would be better to leave it all behind.

Talk about your books.

I’ve written several books that will never see the light of day. They’re buried in a trunk in my closet. I can’t bear to toss them, but I promise you, they’re terrible. I was learning to write, you see. Most people try to skip that step when they decide they’re going to be “a writer.” You have to learn to write, first. That is only done, forever and always, by actually writing. How do you write? There is only one way: One. Word. At. A. Time. So, I’ve written the words to several books while I was learning. Now that I sort of know how, I’ve penned some fairly popular works. First, there’s the Bill Travis mystery series: The Last Call, Capitol Offense, Longnecks and Twisted Hearts, The Devil to Pay, Death on the Pedernales, Slow Falling, Caddo Cold, Arrowmoon, After the Fire, and Ghost of the Karankawa. After that there’s Long Fall From Heaven (a collaboration with Milton T. Burton), two, so far in the Far Journey Chronicles (with Billy Kring) entitled 1889: Journey to the Moon and 1899: Journey to Mars. Both of those books are steampunk. Don’t ask me what steampunk is, because that takes more than five minutes to explain. Also I collaborated with Robert A. “Robbie” Taylor on The Vindicators: Book One—Last Defense, my first pure science fiction. I also recently collaborated with bestselling science fiction author T.R. Harris on Captains Malicious, the first book in the Liberation series. I’ve  recently released an anthology of short stories entitled ’14: A Texanthology. Most recently I released Murder In Elysium, yet another mystery. Words. A lot of them. And all written one word a time, I promise. Some people like my books. These are my friends, because they help me pay the bills that a bunch of demanding people I’ve never met keep sending me. I mean, how rude!

What are your publishing plans for the future?

george wier vindicatorsbookcoverI’m nearly done with Sentinel In Elysium, the prequel to Murder In Elysium. Look for that to come out shortly. Immediately on the heels of that I have another standalone mystery almost ready for publication entitled Errant Knight. It sounds like something from the Middle Ages, I know, but it’s not. All the action takes place in the present—right here in Austin, Texas, in fact. So don’t let either the title or the cover fool you. This May I’ll be cranking out a tribute work entitled Jet: Hunter, a Kindle Worlds homage to the inimitable Jet series by fellow author and friend, Russell Blake. In addition, Billy Kring and I have begun the third book in the Far Journeys Chronicles, 1904: Journey Into Time. It should be out in the early fall. To top all of that off, T.R. “Tom” Harris and I have already begun the next book in the sci-fi Liberation series, Captains Malevolent. Look for that one sometime this summer. Robert A. “Robbie” Taylor, yet another collaborator, and my best and oldest friend (we’re practically brothers) will be penning the sequel to The Vindicators—Last Defense, which is tentatively entitled Vindicators 2—Parsec. After all of that—and this has been a long time coming—I’ll finish up Boland’s War, the sequel to Long Fall From Heaven, which was released in 2013. The reason I have delayed writing that one is that I did not know whether I could. Long Fall was a collaboration with friend and fellow Texas author, the late Milton T. Burton. I miss him sore, so Boland’s War will be a final tribute to him. Bill Travis’s fans have also been giving me fits about the latest book in the series, therefore look for Bill Travis #11, Desperate Crimes, to be out in the late fall or winter. Hmm. After that I have three or four others in various stages of completion, including Cottonwood (a horror novel), The Footprinters (sci-fi), The Banishlands (sci-fi) and Pantheon (also sci-fi). It appears I am jumping genres with abandon here, but the truth is that I write only one genre, and that’s Wier. The big project on the horizon will be my magnum opus, planned for the future (I work on it when I’m not working on everything else) and it’s so huge in scope that I fear it will take over my life. The project is tentatively entitled Company C—Rebirth of the Rangers. It’s high science fiction and action adventure a la Star Wars, and it’s set a thousand years in the future after mankind has spread so far into the stars that the fabric of civilization rips at the seams and implodes into civil war. Long after the fall of man, a hero emerges from one of the last planets on the fringes of space to defend mankind from an invading alien species. This hero has to unite the bickering, misanthropic defenders into a fighter force on the order of the Texas Rangers. Their motto: “One planet, one Ranger.” So, as you can see, at least the next twelve months is pretty well mapped out for me and the stove appears to be pretty full. Truthfully, I don’t have enough burners. What was the question?

You are an extremely busy writer. That’s truly impressive! Anything else you would like to say.

Not really, except that I would like to communicate to my friends. You see, I don’t so much have “fans” as I have friends who read my books. So here goes: I love you folks, each and every one of you. Please keep corresponding with me. Your letters and notes are an inspiration to me, and it keeps me on my toes. I take it all to heart and I think with it more than you might realize. Don’t let up! Other than that, thank you, Lela. These were some good, tough questions. Good interview! Okay, that’s about it.

george wier sentinelWell, you give a good and entertaining interview, which makes it easier for me. Links, websites, cover art, author pic, etc.

Website: http://georgewier.com

WordPress Blog: https://georgewier.wordpress.com/

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/George-Wier/e/B004USCNYO/

My newest book, Sentinel In Elysium, should be out this coming Friday, or perhaps early the following week. Watch the News section of my website for details: www.georgewier.com.

Thanks for visiting, Lela Markham

Interview with Margaret Eleanor Leigh   4 comments

Today’s interview is with Margaret Eleanor Leigh, writer of Frog Dog Summer, The Wrong Shade of Yellow, The Incorruptible and several other novels. Margaret is a multi-genre writer: The Wrong Shade of Yellow is wonderful travelogue, The Incorruptible is a murder mystery set in Greece, and Frog Dog Summer is the first of a quartet of children’s books.

 

Margaret Eleanor LeighTell us something about yourself, Margaret.

Well first of all, Lela, thanks very much for having me! I currently live in wet, wet Wales, but I was born and raised in dry, dry South Africa. At the age of 24, I finally shook the African dust from my heels and spent the next two decades living in New Zealand. I’ve also lived in England, the Scottish Highlands and Greece. So you could say I’ve been around the block …

 

Wow! That is a lot of traveling! What was the first story you ever wrote and when?

I was six. I’d just learned to write. I desperately wanted to be an author. So I bound my first story with blue wool to make it look like a proper book—it was about a lost kitten, incidentally . So you could say I was an Indie authors before the term was even invented.

 

What is your favorite genre? To read or to write? And why?

My favourite genre is the humorous travelogue. I will put everything aside to read a well-written and funny travel narrative. I suppose it is for this reason that my favourite piece of writing to date also happens to be a travel memoir. That being said, I do enjoy escaping into fiction, and have also written three crime novels and four children’s books. I am prolific. I read a quote the other day saying that “writer’s block is a term invented by people in California who cannot write.” While I can’t generalize about the people of California, I do agree with the basic idea. If you are a writer, if it’s in your blood to be a writer, then words are like an unstoppable stream. Well they are in my case and always have been.

 

Wrong Shade of YellowTotally agree with you. Writer’s block is what exists in my head in the 15 minutes between when I wake up in the morning and the coffee kicks in. Tell us about The Wrong Shade of Yellow.

The Wrong Shade of Yellow tells  of a truly  ridiculous jaunt across Europe with nothing but a bicycle, tent, and tiny primus stove. I was headed for Greece, because I was firmly convinced I’d find Utopia there and I sort of did. But at the end of the day our search for Utopia is  always doomed, isn’t it, for this is a fallen world. So too my search for Utopia.  I had a lot of fun along the way, though, finding out, and I had a lot of fun writing about it.

 

Yes. Everytime I’ve stared at heaven on earth for too long, it started to decay. What about your crime fiction?

My crime fiction is right down a side road, well off the main highway. I don’t write about sex or extreme violence and while my heroines are all fairly flawed, they do have a kind of faith. It’s pretty low key, this religiosity, and that’s why I would never call my work Christian fiction. I appear to fall between two extremes,  and I sometimes suspect there’s not enough blood, guts and bonking  to satisfy one extreme, and there’s not enough self-righteous piety to satisfy the other. I am sure there is a market for this kind of via media in books – I’ve just got to find those followers of the via media and say to them: “Here’s something completely different, why not give it a whirl?”

 

Frog Dog SummerMy kind of author! I do the same thing, refuse to write to a Christian niche that I’m convinced isn’t actually reading those bonnet books they buy. But, yeah, how do you find that audience? What do you find the most difficult about being an indie author?

 

The marketing, the marketing, the marketing! I’m not a natural marketer and any time spent marketing feels like time spent away from writing.  I’m trying hard to change that because I have realized it was very foolish to throw all seven books at the internet without much space between them and  no marketing whatsoever. And then expect people to notice! It is very hard to be noticed in the present-day market gluttedness. Aside from The Wrong Shade of Yellow, which sells fairly steadily, and has done right from day one, my fiction has slipped under the radar and in part because it’s much  harder to sell fiction than non-fiction in the current climate.  But now I am playing catch up and performing marketing antics I should have performed right from the start, in order to draw a little attention to my fiction.

 

The IncorruptibleWhat  are you working on at the moment?

I have two projects on the stove at the moment. One is the upcoming release of a children’s audio book due out in early December. It’s called Frog Dog Summer and is the story of the ugliest dog in Wales. As I have no previous experience of audio books it has been an interesting learning curve. I do love what the narrator, Hugh Noble, has done with it. He’s captured the essence of the ugly-lovely Frog and brings the story most charmingly to life.

At the same time I’m trying my hand at yet another genre – a romance. It’s going to be a fairly restrained romance, though. I’m hoping to create the requisite level of eroticism through suggestion rather than explicitness. That’s what the Victorians did, isn’t it?

 

Yes, they did and it was very entertaining! I don’t often read romances anymore because I don’t read erotica, but you might interest me in that one if it’s more restrained.

 

You can find Margaret and her books at the following links —

 

My website: www.books.wordwinnower.com, and

My blog, http://margareteleanorleigh.wordpress.com/

Twitter address:  @MargaretLeigh8

 

Links to my  books on Amazon:

 

The Wrong Shade of Yellow http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LM7R36O

 

The Incorruptible http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KC5MZJC

 

With Regret http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KPFQ1P8

 

A Deadly Doctrine http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MSVEXTS

 

Frog Dog Summer http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NLES4X2

 

Animal Ark Autumn http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00O30BCEQ

 

Bird King Spring http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NOUA3UU

 

 

 

 

 

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