(Guest Post) A Word From Dr. Aura Imbarus

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Throughout our lives, our past experiences will come back, not once but many times, in different forms. We might simply relive the memories of what has happened to us or we might recreate the same scenario, either positive or negative.

To which extend is our past going to influence our present?

Well, it will influence it to the degree we will let it do that.

Consciously or unconsciously, the past will be digested and replayed more than once by all of us. The idea is to relive only the positive parts and really get rid of the negative ones.

But, like an alcoholic who doesn’t realize that he has a problem in order to change, we can play the same scenario, over and over again, expecting different results. In order to change something, we need to realize that we have a problem. That issue will stir up the idea of change, and action will put everything in motion.

“Conversations with the Past” was born out of that desire to be more aware of our issues, the way we respond to them, and, last, but not least, get rid of that debilitating pattern that has only created havoc and disappointments.

 

(Guest Post) Fortune Cookie Wisdom, by Pamela Ackerson

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How many of you have looked forward to opening that sweet cookie hoping to get something special out of its words of wisdom? I have, and I saved my favorite ones. I got that habit from my mum. She loved fortune cookies, and would have a pile stuffed away in her bureau drawer of all her favorites she’d collected over the years.

She had one favorite she kept on her bureau. It went something like “Whatever you’re searching for, it’s most likely right in front of you.” For years I always wondered why she kept it until one day, I asked.

“Well,” she said, “Everyone takes the meaning differently. But for me, it meant to be happy with what I have. And once in a while, when I feel like nothing is ever good enough. I read it and realize how very lucky I have been.”

Wow. Just wow. First, it brought a whole different perspective of who my mother was, and how she handled her emotions, the ups and downs she had to deal with. It made me more observant of her actions, habits, and moods.

After that day, I’d catch her once in a while pulling out one of the fortune cookie quotes from her drawer. She’d read it, smile, and then put it back. They gave her just enough of a positive nudge. Perfect for what she needed.

Years ago, I had a journal (lost in a move) and I’d saved the pearls of wisdom and then written down what they meant to me. How it made me feel, and what questions it brought to my mind. Writing always made me feel better, whether I was writing a poem, short story, or nonfiction. It felt good to hold that pen in my hand.

The positivity I received from my favorite fortune cookie quotes lasted years, and I still have a few tucked away.

Several months ago, I decided to start drafting what many of the quotes meant to me, and it dawned on me. If this works so well for me, why not share the love? And the Fortune Cookie Wisdom Journal book was born. They aren’t quotes from slips I’ve collected. They’re what I got out of the quotes I’ve collected. And for you to take that and write away on the pages of the Fortune Cookie Journal.

Do you have a favorite quote?

Mine is “To multiply your happiness, divide it with others.”

Have a good moments day,

Pam Ackerson

(Guest Post) Author Interview wtih Ravyn Salvador

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If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?

That’s tough. There’s honestly nobody out there that really and truly fits the characters in YOUR MOVE. I have some pictures I found online that are them to a T, but I have no idea who they are, and I’ve never seen them on or in anything before. If I had to choose off the top of my head, I might go with Scarlett Johansen with a platinum pixie cut, tattoos, and brown eyes for Mel, and Brant Daugherty with green eyes for Vaughn.

Anything specific you want to tell your readers?

Just…THANK YOU! Without you, authors like me would just be writing and saving stuff to our hard drives. The fact that you’re willing to take a chance on new stories and world and characters and wordsmiths is what makes our days!

If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?

So there’s a scene in YOUR MOVE where they all get together for a cookout and to watch the Green Bay Packers play the Minnesota Vikings. I’d want to join in on that!

Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?

I don’t think that any character is 100% fictional. You inevitably draw things from real life when you write, even if you don’t actually mean to. Mel reminds me a lot of the characters from James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club books, but she has some of my traits as well—something I didn’t realize until the book had been out for a while. Vaughn reminds me a tiny bit of my high school boyfriend. For the most part, they’re straight out of my imagination, though.

Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reins of the story?

I had a pretty tight rein on my peeps. All except for Dorian. Dorian took over. That cat is a menace. LOL

Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.

So, if you like feel-good and a bit funny second chance romances with a strong heroine and a soft-hearted hero, all mixed up with some mystery and a cast of side characters you’d want to text the next day, then YOUR MOVE is a great move…for you!

Have you written any other books that are not published?

As mentioned, I have THE RELIC a thriller in the Willow Falls universe, SEASONS CHANGE the romantic suspense book #2 in the Willow Falls series, BLUE FORTY-TWO (which at the time of me writing this isn’t out yet, but it will be on 9/14!), book #3 of the Willow Falls series is in the works, and my paranormal romance thriller that will be released next fall, which I would LOVE to tell you the title for, but can’t. Yes, I’m a tease.

If your book had a candle, what scent would it be?

Hmmm, I’m going to go with Yankee Candle’s Crisp Fall Night. It is bergamot, grapefruit, and black peppercorn, with mid notes of lavender and maple leaf, and a base of vetiver and oak.

What did you edit out of this book?

I cut several amazing scenes. I actually have a video of me reading one of them, a scene with Mel and Vaughn stuck in a parking lot as she waits for a tow truck for her Jeep, flirting and talking about food. I adored the scene, but it just didn’t work to move the story forward so it got the ax. I think I’ll release some of those scenes as bonus material to my newsletter subscribers at some point.

Is there a writer which brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?

I would LOVE to sit down and talk with Dean Koontz. Aside from Poe, he’s my favorite author of all time and maybe if I could talk to him, I’d finish this stupid thriller and the horror I’ve been playing with for what seems like forever. LOL

Fun Facts/Behind the Scenes/Did You Know?’-type tidbits about the author, the book or the writing process of the book.

YOUR MOVE started as a friend and author saying… “So, what if you found something in your purse that wasn’t yours?”

(Guest Post) Author Interview with Danielle Ackley-McPhail

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Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?

I am Danielle Ackley-McPhail and by lineage, I am a pirate princess… Oh, you meant the writing. Life-long voracious reader, it was only natural that I began to tell my own tales. Writing and English always came easy to me through exposure—or osmosis—though don’t ask me to explain all the rules. I am the author of six novels, five collections, and three non-fiction books, and my short stories, poems, and articles have appeared in about sixty or seventy anthologies or magazines.

What is something unique/quirky about you?

I have tossed a caber and had the old man who tried to talk me out of it shake my hand afterward. I also make and sell custom costume horns and accessories under the moniker of The Hornie Lady Custom Costume Horns, and I make and sell flavor-infused candied ginger under the brand of Ginger KICK!, both of which can be found on Facebook. Oh…and I made Terry Pratchett hornie.

Tell us something really interesting that’s happened to you!

When I worked for Random House, I had the amazing good fortune to attend the launch for Gene Simmons’ book KISS and Make Up. Not only that, but I was within touching distance of him and gave him a copy of my first book.

What are some of your pet peeves?

 Well, my biggest pet peeve is as an editor/publisher, and that would be authors who submit their work without their contact information, or even their names on the document. That is very unprofessional. Heck, I put my name and address on top of manuscripts I am writing for myself! How can we pay you if we don’t know who to pay or where to send the check? Even if you know the person you are submitting to, don’t form bad habits. Always properly format your manuscript and include the basic information at the top of the page. Who knows when you might decide to send that to someone else? What if you did and forgot to and the missing details?

Where were you born/grew up at?

You would never know it to talk to me, but I was born and raised in New Jersey. Never did sound like it though. I guess that is because I was always mostly by myself and reading. Only as an adult has my diction slipped into regional patterns. 

If you knew you’d die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?

Probably trying to give away all of my stuff, or at least make notes of who gets what, so no one else had to deal with it when I’m gone. What can I say, I’m weird that way. I’ve had to deal with personal effects too many times myself to leave that on my loved ones.

Who is your hero and why?

My hero is my sister Barbara. Selfless, take-charge, loving, caretaker of the world. She is a dynamo.

What kind of world ruler would you be?

Probably a benevolent dictator. I am too used to taking control, well-meaning, but unyielding when I see a clear course ahead of me. Probably best not to put me in that position.

What are you passionate about these days?

I work in healthcare, my husband is in an at-risk category, as are members of my family. I am passionate about safe practices, social distancing, and digging in for now so that I am there for the long haul later. There is too much that we do not understand. Now is not the time to put ourselves, our loved ones, and everyone around us at risk. You have no idea how heartbreaking it is to hear a parent told their seven-month-old is Covid positive. I will stay home when I’m not at work and write and make books and reach out to my clan through virtual means, thank you, until I know for a fact I am not putting them at risk by not showing the proper caution.

What do you do to unwind and relax?

What are these words of which you speak?

How to find time to write as a parent?

Well, the cats do tend to interfere from time to time, but I have become quite adept at working around them…and over them…and with them over me…we deal. Helps that they have their own chair by my desk and even the new cats instinctively gravitate toward it to chill with Mom when she’s busy.

Describe yourself in 5 words or less!

Queen of the Outcasts

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I was always a writer. Heck, when I was twelve asked for a typewriter for graduation so I could write. I was already ‘publishing’ my own poetry books, complete with illustrations and page numbers and everything 😉

Do you have a favorite movie?

Galaxy Quest, without a doubt. Never have I laughed so hard and so long as I did in that movie. Fifteen minutes in I had to stop looking at my husband (a long time Trekker) or I would have peed the seat. It was clearly made with both love and understanding of the genre and the fan base, poking fun without mocking or ridiculing. There are so many in jokes and the acting was brilliant. I couldn’t have picked a better cast. Even now when we watch the movie we are still catching different things.

Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?

This is a toss-up. It would either be The Halfling’s Court or The Redcaps’ Queen, or my steampunk novel Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, a steampunk retelling of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. Both have potential for mass appeal and excitement. None of them are heavy on introspection, but still have unique and engaging characters, and both follow popular trends.

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

After my first two books, Yesterday’s Dreams and Tomorrow’s Memories, were written and signed for publication I took trips to Ireland. The books are based Celtic mythology. The first book takes place in New York City, where I lived at the time, and the second book starts there, then takes us to Ireland and Tir na nOg. Now clearly there was little chance of my visiting Tir na nOg, but I did manage two trips to Ireland (one each time) and visited places I mentioned in the book, delighted to learn that my descriptions for places I hadn’t seen were plausible. Also, during our trip we discovered bits of Irish lore that substantiated things I had done in the books but had no basis for. It was quite the experience. Of course, being promotionally minded even then, each trip was timed to coincide with an Irish science fiction convention called P-Con and the organizers were kind enough to have me as a guest.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

Well, if I were traditional, it would have to be a Pegasus, because you know, inspiration…but I have ever been known for being unconventional. It would have to be a honey badger…because… honey badger don’t care! I write what I want, I write it fiercely, I forge my own path.

 

(Guest Post) Author Interview with Morgan Cole

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What inspired you to write this book?

This may sound petty, but in all honesty, a lingering sense of disappointment over some of my favorite movies and TV series. I used to love the Star Wars prequels as a kid (to a somewhat unhealthy degree—I once had a Jedi braid halfway down my back), but as I grew older, I started to see that the tremendous potential of the story—former friends tragically turned against each other! The epic fall of a once-great nation due to treachery and political intrigue! Civil war with heroes on both sides! A secret, twisted romance!—wasn’t exactly done justice by a script that contained some pretty questionable dialogue choices (pro writing tip: never have a character respond to “you’re so beautiful” with “it’s because I’m so in love.” And definitely don’t follow that with “no, it’s because I’m so in love with you.”).

And then there was Game of Thrones, which I loved even before it was a hit TV show…but one aspect I didn’t love as much was how in the end everything came down to dragons burning CGI armies and cities in orgies of fire while the character development and grounded, gritty complexity kind of got sidelined. The Chrysathamere Trilogy was sort of my loose “remake” of those well-known series.

I also really love historical and “literary” fiction, just as much as fantasy, and I wanted to do a book that blended the genres. One of my aims was to some of the structural conventions of historical and literary fiction—which, often much more than fantasy, are able to explore the impact childhood has on adult characters by exploring those characters over a longer period of time—and combining them with the grand scope, the thrilling sword fights, the blood feuds and intrigue that drew me to the fantasy genre in the first place!

Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?

No. Or maybe, yes, but none I would ever show to anyone, because they’re trash. I did write a prequel-esque story in high-school about a duel between Marilia’s adoptive father and an evil warlord named Kanadrak, but being written in high-school, it’s not exactly my finest work. I feel like all the story that demands to be told is contained within the trilogy itself. Maybe someday, years down the line, I’d do a sequel (I got a few glimmers of inspiration from the history of the Borgias family!). But who knows…I like how the story ends, and if Hollywood has taught me anything, it’s that unnecessary 20-years-later type sequels can be a really bad idea if they’re not done right…

I’d rather work on my other novel (still deciding if it should be a series-starter or a standalone), which is about a disgraced queen’s bodyguard dealing with grief, a wayward young priestess with serious parent issues, and their journey together through a very weird heart of darkness. It’s sort of like The Last of Us meets the Princess Bride. 

Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in the series?

I once read a brilliant article about the two types of strong female characters: the tough girl, and the tough girl “plus.” The tough girl is strong and independent and badass. She kicks ass, takes names, is always ready with a quip and a lethal combat move. She never really or cries, or has a breakdown, or needs to be saved, because I guess the fear is that would send some kind of sexist message that women can’t be strong.

The tough girl plus is strong, but in a different, more subtle way. She does have weaknesses, and flaws…often serious ones. As a character on Game of Thrones once said, the only time someone can be brave is when they are afraid. A strong character, to my mind, is one who overcomes a flaw or fear, not one who’s strong all the time. All my favorite heroes, male or female, fail, and weep, and have crises of faith, and sometimes need to get rescued by their friends From the get-go, it was very important to me not to have my protagonist be that first, under-developed kind of tough girl. She’s clever, and brave, but she’s not a badass, at least not as that term is traditionally understood, and she’s rarely ready with a wry quip. She’s first and foremost a struggling teenage girl doing the best she can in a new world.

In the book, Marilia challenges a lot of traditions and gender roles, and constantly strives for recognition, but it was very important that the reason for that fight weren’t that she believes in social justice and hates the patriarchy—it irks me deeply when characters in a story set centuries ago just happen to have moral values totally in line with those of a modern, liberal society (don’t get my started on all those historical Hollywood movies where all the feudal/ancient heroes are all about spreading that good old ‘Murican-style democracy!). I wanted to make sure the reasons Marilia became a warrior and challenged the society she was born in were deeply personal, and that her struggle was relatable to a modern reader while still feeling like her thoughts and feelings were appropriate for the time period (yes, I know it’s fantasy, but it’s definitely pseudo-Roman).

Besides Marilia, there’s a whole host of love-able and hate-able side characters. Since the first book is so Marilia-centric, a lot of them don’t fully come into their own until books 2 and 3. Karthtag-Kal, the stoic, honorable, samurai-like knight, with a closely hidden secret that informs every action he takes. Petrea, a femme fatale with a host of secrets of her own. The Graver, the ultimate social climber, constantly trying (and failing) to outrun his insecurities by becoming the best he can be at everything—top sword-fighter, brilliant general, second richest man in the empire! And Marilia’s twin brother, Annuweth, who, like Marilia herself, is deeply ambitious and filled with envy. In a way, he’s the mirror image of Marilia, showcasing a different side of toxic sexism. She suffers for being dismissed and overlooked because of her gender; he suffers under the weight of expectation that comes with being the sole surviving male heir of a mighty warrior.

How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?

Quite a few places.

When I was a kid, I loved to play fantasy-esque games with my brother. I’d always wanted to recapture that childhood sense of adventure by writing some kind of epic fantasy novel, but I had a few rocky starts. Finally, after a few months of brainstorming, an idea began to take shape…

They say writers put a lot of themselves into their work, and I won’t lie…I certainly did so. There are aspects of myself in both Marilia and Annuweth, and in a couple of the side characters as well…and in the characters in my other books. Sometimes the best way to deal with a negative emotion—whether it be guilt, or anxiety, or alienation, or a feeling of powerlessness or inadequacy—can be to write about it.

Where did you come up with the names in the story?

That’s a whole story. A lot of the names used to be quite different. For a while, a lot of the side characters’ names were more Greco-Roman…that’s because some of the political intrigue in the series (especially in book 2!) was inspired by a Roman History class I took in college. I must have had the best professor ever, because, as a homework assignment, she had all the class play this mafia-style social media game where a bunch of undercover conspirators tried to assassinate the empire (by posting an assassination gif on his wall all at the same time) while a bunch of others, playing as the Praetorian Prefect and his guards, tried to figure out who the would-be assassins were and stop them. I’m proud to say that my character, Rufyllys, pulled off a smashingly successful coup.

My ex-literary agent pointed out that the names in my book were a little all over the place…some were Roman, some were Egyptian inspired, and a lot were inspired by a video game called Morrowind. To her mind, I ought to strive for consistency. It was a sensible suggestion, so I slowly went back and de-Romanized a lot of the names. Verginius “Rufyllys” Rufus became Rufyllys Vergana, Seneca became Senecal Ikaryn, Petreyus became Ilruyn…and so on and so forth. They’re now all a sort of Morrowind-Roman hybrid.

The only names that never changed at any point were those of Marilia, Annuweth, and Karthtag-Kal, who were not named after Roman characters in a role-playing game, but after childhood/teenage creations of mine (Karthtag-Kal was once an orc warrior in a role playing game!) Coming up with cool names is hard, and if I have one I like, I try to find a way to squeeze it into a book somewhere.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

When it was over and I could finally move on to books 2 and 3! Mostly because, at that point, I’d been writing and re-writing this book for so long that I thought I’d never have a draft I’d be satisfied with. The second and third books, while challenging at times, weren’t nearly the ordeal book 1 was (knock on wood, since I’m not 100% done with book 3 yet). I think, of the original 600-page draft of Marilia, the Warlord, maybe only about 300 words in the final novel are left…which is kind of insane. I basically re-wrote the book largely from scratch not once, but twice. While I think it was for the best, and I learned a lot from the process, I hope never to have to do anything like that again!

I also really liked the ending. I won’t spoil it, but it was one of the parts of the book I struggled with the most. Maybe because it was initially so problematic, it got a lot of extra attention devoted to it, and now it’s one of my favorite parts of the story. That feeling when all the thematic elements finally clicked into place was truly wonderful.

How did you come up with the title of your first novel? 

I hate coming up with titles. I struggled so long to come up with something catchy. The literary agent I was working with, often so wise, kind of dropped the ball on this one. Her suggestion was The Painted Girl Who Won Her Freedom…which just wasn’t doing it for me. Too long, and too suggestive of a happy ending. Plus, for some reason, it makes me think of painted hyenas. Is it just me?

Finally, I settled on a title I was really happy with: Marilia, the Bastard. A bit gritty, a bit risqué, a bit mysterious. Is she a literal bastard, or also a metaphorical one, too? But of course, that wasn’t to be. Amazon considers the word “bastard” profanity, you see, and wouldn’t let me run any ads under that title! So, with mere hours to spare, and no photoshop skills to my name, I was left with a cover that said Marilia, the Bastard and the task of changing it to something inoffensive. In order to not have to do any font re-sizing, I couldn’t pick a word with more or fewer letters than Bastard…so I settled on Warlord. It was all I could think of, and involved only changing five letters.

If that isn’t the most banal, anticlimactic way to name a book, I don’t know what is.

If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead and why? 

A brand new actress! I mean, Marilia is pretty young, so I figure it would have to be someone new, right?

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I first knew I wanted to be a writer in high school. Back then, I hoped it would be my full-time job. Things didn’t exactly work out that way. For a while, since I had another career to pay the bills, I didn’t know whether I had earned the title of “writer.” But then I learned just how many writers have other jobs, and I felt less guilty about it. Now that I have two books out there and another two in good shape, I feel like I can comfortably call myself a writer without bringing down bad voodoo on my head or something.

 

(Guest Post) Author Interview with C.E. Clayton

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Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?

I craft my main characters first, even if it’s just a name and a gender and knowing what role or trope they fill in the story. I need to know what I want from my main cast, what their struggles are, and how they would interact with each other and the world I’ve built. They still get polished as the story progresses, but I do know them all from the start, so all around the same time. Whereas my side characters usually come to me as I write because they are filling some gap, or I need someone to help move my characters along the plot. Sometimes those characters become bigger parts of the story too that I didn’t intend, which is always a nice surprise, too.

What do you think about the current publishing market?

There are a lot of things to consider when looking at the current publishing market, but the most important thing is what you (or the author) wants out of the market. With self-publishing and small press, no longer is the only option querying literary agents and praying that one wants to represent you and your book and then sell it to one of the Big 5 publishing houses. I honestly love that the current publishing market is so diverse now with options for authors.

I’ve published with small press, I’ve queried countless agents, and will be self-publishing this year as well. So I really can only speak to small press and indie publishing, but, based on what I want and how I work, these were the best options for me. It’s unfortunate that the Big 5 are such businesses now, where they only support their biggest authors, often at the detriment to marginalized voices, and it’s sad that they only want to represent books in genres that are already popular. You miss out on so many amazing voices and unique plot lines that way! But the Big 5 still have the largest reach, and getting on Best Seller lists is always easier for authors who go the traditional route then an indie or small press author.

Small press publishing gives you much more freedom, but you still have to share your profits with your publisher and you do have to sign over rights to your story, as well as marketing control to them as well. So you do get a lot more freedom, and they do take on a lot more of the tedious aspects of publishing, but you won’t make as much money as you could, and a lot of the promotion of your book still falls on your shoulders—so if you pay for that yourself instead of your publisher and it does well, you are still sharing your royalties with them. I published my first series this way, and while I really enjoyed not having to worry about the formatting of my book etc., I didn’t like having the burden of marketing being on my shoulders and then still sharing royalties. Which is honestly why I chose to bring my newest book into the world all on my own! It’s been tough, and I’ve learned a lot, and while all the burden is on my shoulders, I do like having complete control over my story, my rights, my cover, and getting my book into readers hands. So, depending on how much responsibility you want, you have options for publishing, and I think that’s great!

Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?

I can’t write in silence, editing yes, but if I’m just starting my first draft? I need music. I use music as a way to help get me in the mood to write certain scenes, or to help set the overall tone or vibe of a chapter, which eventually morphs into a whole playlist for each of my books. I love making these playlists! Music is a huge passion of mine, so I do have a lot of fun building out my Spotify playlists, but it is honestly a great way to help get me in the right mindset to say, write an action scene if I’m having an off afternoon, or a death scene if I’ve had a great day and need to get into a sadder frame of mind. I know a lot of people can’t focus when they listen to music with words in it, but I haven’t had that problem. Although, I absolutely cannot write if I am listening to an audiobook or podcast! Those I tend to actively listen to more rather than having them be the background noise I need.

 

(Guest Post) Naming My Characters, by Debbie De Louise

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For the most part, I name characters randomly and try to pick those that don’t carry any personal meaning for me. However, I’ve used names of people I know in some of my books including my new mystery, Memory Makers.

But using real names doesn’t influence how I portray the characters. For instance, Lauren Phelps is the main character of Memory Makers. She volunteers for a clinical trial of a memory drug hoping that it will help her recall the face of the man who kidnapped her and her sister Patty twenty-five years ago.

While she escaped her captor, Patty was killed. Lauren is 28 years old and nothing like my friend and fellow church member who shares the moniker except for the fact that they both like cats. I didn’t set out to use Lauren’s name for my main character, so it was purely a coincidence. Even more of a coincidence was that I chose Rick for the name of the kidnapping investigator who works with Lauren and serves as one of her love interests in the book. Rick is also the name of a friend from church and, no, he and Lauren are married to different people and aren’t similar in any manner to the fictional Lauren and Rick.

There was a person and two cats in the book that I named purposely. Florence, the dementia patient in the drug trial, was based on my mother who died two years ago and who suffered from that illness. I also dedicated the book to her. The Florence in Memory Makers has episodes where she imagines she’s in a classroom with other students. My mother also thought people in the nursing home where she was a resident were classmates of hers.

The two cats, Harry and Hermione, who are featured in a subplot of Memory Makers are named for my two, two-year-old cats, although they are portrayed as kittens in the book. Harry, who plays a bigger role by disappearing from Lauren’s mother’s house, is nicknamed Handsome Harry and is black like my male cat.

In previous books, I’ve also named characters for people I know. In A Stone’s Throw, the first book of my Cobble Cove cozy mystery series, Carol doesn’t play much of a role, but she’s included to pay homage to my mother-in-law who passed away shortly before the book was published. Another cat character, Floppy, was the namesake of my 15-year-old diabetic cat whose death spurred me to write Cloudy Rainbow, my first book, a paranormal romance with the theme of reincarnation.

(Guest Post) Author Interview with Jacqueline Simon Gunn

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Does the Hudson River Series have any parallels that could be drawn from your life?

Most of the Hudson River series takes place in the towns of New Jersey that are right across the Hudson River from Manhattan. Forever and One Day (book 1) takes place in both New Jersey and New York City.

I grew up in a town called North Bergen in New Jersey, which sits right on the Hudson River. It’s a unique area of the state, because it’s so close to New York City. It’s almost more like a suburb of Manhattan. We have accents that sound almost identical to New York accents. It’s crowded. It’s intense. It’s diverse. The river and the view of the New York City skyline really make it special.

I wanted to capture aspects of New York City and the Hudson River towns in New Jersey in the series. Several characters went to the same high school as I did. Many of my friends from childhood had read my thriller series which takes place in Manhattan. I wrote the Hudson River series in the area we grew up in, for them, so they could recognize locations. I have had many old friends tell me that they loved the books, particularly because the setting was familiar and brought back many fond memories.

 Which Part of Chasing Kat was your Favorite Part to Write & Why?

I loved writing the entire story. I felt all of the complex emotions between Kat and Bax. The book goes back and forth in time so readers get to see not only what happens when they meet again, but also the history of their close friendship and what caused the abrupt ending. I really enjoyed writing the scenes when they were in high school and college. Kat was a strong, spirited young girl, who had a sense of courage and conviction that I lacked at that age.

Kat and Bax meet their freshman year in high school in English class. One of Bax’s friends, Zipper, is talking about having sex with a girl in a disrespectful manner. Kat, overhearing the conversation, confronts Zipper, telling him he sounds insecure. When Zipper responds with a nasty comment, Kat gives it right back to him. Bax eventually stands up for her which is the moment when they first notice each other. This is just one example of a scene written when she is a young girl. It was liberating to write a character who was strong in a way I wish I had been at that age.

 

 

 

(Guest Post) How Did I Become an Author, by Andy V. Roamer

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Why am I an author?  How did it happen? Did classes help? How did I manage to get published?

People often ask me these questions.  I ask them too, still a bit amazed that after trying so long I found a publisher.

I grew up in a family of strong-willed, opinionated parents.  The discussions around the dinner table sometimes turned into rather loud arguments about the latest news, politics, even mundane things like family finances. For my hardworking immigrant parents, where and how to spend money was always an important consideration.  I did more listening than talking.  It could be hard to get a word into the conversation when my parents were passionate about one of their favorite topics.  And I suppose it was my genes, too.  I was usually more comfortable listening and absorbing things, rather than talking, wherever I was. So, yes, I was the proverbial introvert.

Still am. Oh, I can have fun with friends and happily talk when it’s one on one.  But put me in front of a crowd? Oh, no! I’m one of those people who would rather be broiled over a fire than get up in front of an audience and talk.  (PS: A shout-out to a great book, which helped me feel OK about being an introvert, even though so much of our world seems to value extroverts more highly.  The book:             QUIET by Susan Cain.)

I was always good with languages and loved reading. Even before I actually put words down, I created stories and imaginary characters for myself. I lived with these characters in my head.  Sometimes it was more fun than real life.  I could travel with them to far flung places.  Go back in time.  Be in a space ship or captain a ship.  Or take on other new personas.

Perhaps that’s where the nugget to write was born.  I kept creating and started writing little stories in school, but I never thought of myself as a writer.  And I never said it out loud.  Too scary.  Too grandiose.  But I kept writing. I won a short story contest in a local magazine when I was twelve years old.  And I even submitted a screenplay to a famous Hollywood star when I was in college and got a nice rejection letter back.  One time I submitted a story for a contest and, seeking validation, I asked the judges, “Can you tell me if I can write?” My story didn’t win, but scrawled on the rejection letter was a quick note by one of the judges, “If you have to write, you will write.”  Not exactly the validation I wanted, but an important piece of advice that has always stayed with me.  I’ve learned it’s not about being famous or getting validation, it’s about the need to share something that’s deep inside me with others.

Since I was the son of immigrants, it was important not be a burden to my parents, but to get a job and earn a decent wage.  Pursuing something as insecure as being a writer was not in the cards.  Happily, I did get a decent job – in book publishing in New York.  (Whether it paid a decent wage, well, we in publishing still smile and shake our heads about that.) In any case, I had to content myself with being around all those editors and authors, learning about the book biz from the inside.

I loved the people I worked with.  “Conventionally crazy,” that’s what I called them.  We publishing types had our quirks, as many creative people do.  But we weren’t totally out there.  We were professionals, who wanted to earn a living doing something useful – bringing the unique voices of authors to the world. I saw how much hard work went into this, and how long it took, and how patience and perseverance were so important.  They helped you not to give up and keep doing what you loved.

But the author part of me never died.  I kept writing, taking a class here or there. And I kept submitting stories, plays, and books, but nothing much ever came of it professionally. Did the classes help? They didn’t “make me an author,” but they did give me important lessons and tips about writing.  I sharpened my sense of what matters to a book reader or an audience watching a play.  I learned the importance of rewrites. And just the act of continually writing helped me learn to get over my perfectionism, which killed more than one attempt at writing in the early days.

Finally, lo and behold, last year, after another submission, I got an acceptance email from an editor at Nine Star Press.  Now I see the book biz as an author.  I still love it, though (Smile.  Smile harder!) I often have to remind myself what I learned about patience and perseverance, especially when it comes to sales and marketing.   It’s a cliché but true, since clichés often are.  I’m another one of those authors who says, “Don’t give up!” Especially if you’re one of those authors who has to write.

 

 

 

(Guest Post) Scandinavia, Vodka, Salmon and Youth, by M.C.V. Egan

Call it destiny, chance, fate, or mere luck, but somehow in my youth, I ended up in Scandinavia. It was due to an impulsive marriage that lasted a little over five years and gave me an up-close and personal relationship with Swedish and Danish cultures. I lived in Stockholm for a few months, and the rest of my Scandinavian experience was in Malmö, Sweden.
At the turn of the millennium, a bridge linking Sweden and Denmark opened. The ease to commute from one country to the other has people living in Malmö, which is less expensive and working in Copenhagen.
It felt a bit more remote in my youth, but still an incredibly fun and casual day trip. In the 1980s, the advantage of living in Southern Sweden was that we had three TV channels: two Swedish and the Danish ones.
I knew then that I was fascinated by my grandfather’s death in nearby Denmark, right before WWII in 1939. I knew Government files in Europe remain sealed for 75 years, after events, and as intrigued as I was, the fun of youth and lack of discipline left research to a future one day.
I had a short-lived, as it ended in divorce, clearly not a good marriage. But I did make lifelong friendships and learned to appreciate good vodka and fish, especially salmon and herring prepared in a myriad of ways.

In my 30s, again mere chance, I ended up alone and a bit bored with little money to spare for a few days in London, I contacted and consequently visited the British Airways archives, then located near Heathrow airport. On a cold day in January of 1993, my quest for “the full Story” began. It took me to several trips back to the UK and to Scandinavia, a vastly different Scandinavia that the one I knew so well in the 1980s.

Some things never change; the good vodka, aquavit, and fish are fabulous, as I remembered. Through globalization, foreign countries seem more alike, brands, and stores we all recognize. I miss the experience of completely feeling like things were worlds apart.

My book The Bridge of Deaths was the culmination of my quest. In it, I give the past a voice through the present.