20 Questions with Jon Stenhugg

Today we sit down with author Jon Stenhugg to hear a bit about his work and his inspiration.

Please enjoy this edition of 20 Questions:

jon-stenhugg-headshot-700_1376Q1) When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

My family was filled with story tellers, and I discovered I’d picked up a few tips during the first few years of school. By the time I began University I knew I was going to write for the rest of my life, I just didn’t know how.

Q2) How long does it typically take you to write a book?

Longer than I’d like. My first book, The Second Child, didn’t begin as a novel. I didn’t know if I could actually do that until it was finished. From idea to cover blurb took about ten years. The second book took much less time, thank God. I’d say no less than a year, now that I’ve learned more about the craft.

Q3) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

When the fire is in me, I write every night, about two or three hours after it’s become quiet. If I’ve run into a problem with part of the plot that doesn’t seem to work, or unruly characters, then I usually pause work on that one, and work on shorter pieces for awhile.

Q4) What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I’m not sure what you mean. I often hold silent conversations with my characters to find out what they want in a scene. And I scold them until I get an answer, is that quirky? I think everyone does that.

Q5) How are your books published? (traditional, indie, etc.)

I chose something in between; a self-publishing firm with the staff and experience of a smaller traditional publisher. Even though I pay for the risk of publishing, I get all the help I need. However, I’d still like the power of a traditional publisher behind me one day.

Q6) Where do you get your ideas for your books?

I look for some historical event many people have heard of, but where some grey areas are disputed. I fit my characters into something related to the event, take a side regarding the disputed events, and then begin a plot line. Not all ideas work right away, however, so I have a box full of unrealized ideas.

Q7) If you don’t mind sharing, when did you write your first book and how old were you (or how many years ago was it)?

My first novel was published a year ago. I was shocked to learn that after I retired I was considered to be a geriatrics patient in the Swedish medical system. I have refused to talk about my age since then.

Q8) What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Now you’re getting really personal, Don. Vegetable gardening, fishing, and cooking the results. And reading. I love to read.

Q9) What is your favorite book?

No such animal. I read everything. Non-fictional works on science, philosophy, and history. When it comes to fiction I usually tend to read alternate history or technical thrillers.

Q10) What do your family and friends think of your writing?

Most of them are very supportive. Even the ones who never read the kind of books I write.

Q11) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

I use a lot of history as part of my story and spend many hours researching events tied to my plot. Many times during the fact-checking phase of editing, I was surprised to find that scenes I had written beyond the research available at the time fitted perfectly with what had actually happened, even though I didn’t know it when I wrote the scene. Was it the muse whispering in my ear? I don’t know, just that it happened on more than one occasion.

Q12) What do you hate most about the writing process?

I work from a fairly detailed book plan, with rough outlines of major scenes. During the writing phase, some of these scenes don’t work and I find this frustrating. Worst case, I have to re-work major portions of the book plan because the original scene I imagined cannot be used in that book.

Q13) How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I have finished three books. One book of short stories published using my real name, and two novels using my pen name, Jon Stenhugg. My favourite is the second novel, yet unpublished.


Q14) Do you have any suggestions to help us become better writers? If so, what are they?

Too many to put into an interview! I read differently now that I’ve begun to write, and spend a lot of time examining why certain novels work so well. I used critique groups to help me understand what worked and what didn’t with my own storytelling. There are many books to help writers today, and most of them seem to provide useful tips. Also, find a way to get the stamina to keep writing. Writers are part of a long and lonely process. Each one of us has a different way to keep ourselves going. Asking yourself what you have to do to become the best writer in your genre is also necessary. What do you need, better tools, discipline, support? Whatever it is, identify it, then go about getting it.

Q15) Do you get feedback from your readers much? How and what kinds of things do they say?

Some, but it’s never enough. Hearing that a reader has never read anything like what I write is flattering, but I’d like to know how my work touched them. I don’t suppose I’ll ever get an answer to that.

Q16) What is your preferred reading audience?

I try to write for anyone looking for a good story. I have noticed that more women read my novels than men, but I think that’s a general trend for all literature.

Q17) What do you think makes a good story?

Anything that grabs a reader from the first line, and keeps the reader engaged until the last word in the story has been told.

Q18) As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

I wanted to write for a living. When I think back, many of the jobs I have had involved writing, but it wasn’t until I retired that I could spend time improving my skill as a fiction writer. I also wanted to become an astronaut, and if I could I’d still like a shot at that. I suppose that proves that I’ve never really grown up.

Q19) Where can we find your books?

The Second Child is available via the publisher, SilverWood Books in the UK, or worldwide through Amazon or Barnes & Noble, printed or digital. In Australia, Booktopia also offers it both as a printed work or a digital download. iTunes or iBooks carries the digital version only. Some local independent books stores in Stockholm, Sweden also carry my work.

Q20) Will you give us an excerpt from one of your own favorite works?

I love to read Dylan Thomas. Here’s an excerpt from a story he wrote in 1945 about a village he was fond of.

“Quite early one morning in the winter in Wales, by the sea that was lying down still and green as grass after a night of tar-black howling and rolling, I went out of the house, where I had come to stay for a cold unseasonable holiday, to see if it was raining still, if the outhouse had been blown away, potatoes, shears, rat-killer, shrimpnets, and tins of rusty nails aloft on the wind, and if all the cliffs were left.”

What a way to begin a story! I catch myself trying to use descriptions like that in my own work, but I’ll never be as good it as he was.


About Jon Stenhugg:

Jon Stenhugg is the pen name of a Swedish author, born and raised in Northern California. He traveled to Europe in the late 60’s, finally residing in Stockholm, Sweden, where he completed a Fil. Kand. degree in Education and Psychology at Stockholm University. He has worked as a teacher trainer, an administrator for the University of Falun and as an administrator for the Swedish National School Board. He formed his own company during the last nineteen years of his career in Sweden, marketing computer products to industrial companies in Ireland and Scandinavia. He now resides with his wife just south of Stockholm.

Jon published a mimeographed student newspaper in the sixth grade, and later used his talent as an advertising copywriter for publishing houses such as McGraw Hill and Prentice Hall. He loves to write fiction, especially fiction based on historical events. He has finished two novels and is working on a third.

Find Jon’s Work:









20 Questions with Stephen Black

Today we sit down with Stephen Black. He is an interesting author that is going to tell us about his writing, his published work and his inspiration.

Please enjoy this edition of 20 Questions:

stephen-black-img_0773Q1) When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I grew up surrounded by books, shelves of books and big cardboard boxes of books. My father sold books and educational materials to grade school libraries. Reading and basic writing were not difficult for me. After I graduated from college, however, I learned the challenges associated with poetry and writing lyrics for songs.

Later, I combined my photographs with words for magazines. Had fun making serious fanzines. In the Nineties, in Tokyo, I wrote a novel and put it away.

In 2007, there were huge changes in my life, and Amazon released the Kindle. The Kindle stunned me: a device only for reading ebooks!  It seemed like that I should finally get serious about writing books.

Q2) How long does it typically take you to write a book?

It seems that if I want to write a book, I should block off three years. I ate Tiong Bahru took three years and its sequel, Tiong Bahru Mouth, took another three on top of that. Bali Wave Ghost took almost four years. Obama Search Words took a couple of years. The others were a little faster.

Q3) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

In 2007 I made the extremely difficult decision to just write and do art. I did, and do, take jobs to keep the wolf from the door. But as much as I can, I get up as early as possible and work until breakfast or, when I am in Bali, a walk to the market.

Then, work until lunch. Then, a nap followed by more writing. Then dinner, and whatever the night may bring. Maybe writing again before bed. But I wouldn’t call this my schedule…things always happen and this pattern doesn’t occur that often.

Q4) What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I sit on tacks; when the writing is headed in the right direction, most of the tacks are forgotten.

Q5) How are your books published? (traditional, indie, etc.)

I now live between Bali and the city-state nation of Singapore, where I was probably the first to self-publish on Kindle. All of my books except a book of photography (Bus Stopping) and I ate tiong bahru were ebooks. I ate tiong bahru has become a national bestseller and I am now preparing for the second printed edition.

Q6) Where do you get your ideas for your books?

Newspapers, the internet, riding on the bus, drinking coffee in public places, listening to the monsters and angels that whisper and fight in my shoes.

Q7) If you don’t mind sharing, when did you write your first book and how old were you (or how many years ago was it)?

I pretended to write books when I was in kindergarten. My first epublished book was about Obama, though I had published a book of photographs a couple of years before that. When I went to Jakarta to research Obama’s life, they didn’t know who he was.

Q8) What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Experimenting with food as edible sculpture. Learning about Myanmar. Doing what I can to support mycological bioremediation. Arting.

Q9) What is your favorite book?

On Beyond Zebra

Q10) What do your family and friends think of your writing?

They are supportive, with quizzical tendencies. Worried about my weight and caffeine intake.

Q11) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

Learning about how a book’s journey can be affected by social media and algorithms.

Q12) What do you hate most about the writing process?

The way the seasons change when you rewrite a sentence.

Q13) How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

Eight books. If my family can agree on which one they like, then that is my favorite also.

Q14) Do you have any suggestions to help us become better writers? If so, what are they?

Just write and rewrite again and again.

Q15) Do you get feedback from your readers much? How and what kinds of things do they say?

I ate Tiong  Bahru is about an area and a community in Singapore. A woman once approached me and told me that she read it to her children. That was a touching moment. In general the response to my books has been very positive and I am thankful for that.

Q16) What is your preferred reading audience?

Thoughtful, adventurous readers with a sense of humor.

Q17) What do you think makes a good story?

I am not so interested in telling a story; I’m interested in creating reading experiences. I hope to get to the point where there is no story, only a meaningful exchange of words, thoughts and silences between reader and author. Music and painting do not always tell stories; books do not have to either.

Q18) As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

Photographer,or artist or tree scientist.

Q19) Where can we find your books?

Amazon and stores like Booktique, Naiise and Books Actually in Singapore.

Q20) Will you give us an excerpt from one of your own favorite works?

This excerpt is from Lipstick and Snow, a story which will be included in Flame Magnet, a collection of stories with a cover featuring artwork by David Severn.

I vaguely recognized the steps at the back of the shrine, thought that they were a shortcut to the Dunkin Donuts on Shinjuku-dori. However, from the top stair I recognized the alleys and two-story shacks of Golden Gai. Somewhere in there was Shunchan’s. Like a wounded cowboy I limped down the stairs into that little white Japanese ghost town. Golden Gai: one of those places that teenage Western boys imagine they will one day find themselves in. Prostitution, camaraderie, gambling, rendezvous spots, gangsters and gangster wannabes, cheap drinking places, yakitori shops and bars specializing in all kinds of music; everything connected by narrow dark walkways barely lit by red paper lanterns and old plastic Suntory signs. I was sure Shunchan^s wouldn’t be open. I was wrong.


Shunchan said it like he was nonchalantly sharing an inside joke. It was, maybe, 7AM and Tokyo was  snowbound, but Shunchan smiled like it was  9 PM on the payday before Golden Week. Shunchan, the perfect host. Serene, yet attentive to the point of appearing slightly nervous. His eyes were like an adolescent’s, his eyes were like a grandfather’s. He casually stabbed the chunk of ice in his hand with a pick while I thought about what to order and struggled to move my fingers. My hands were very red..

Was Shunchan a great friend of mine? No– but he was an anchor, a touchstone. His tiny bar provided a stabilizing sense of normality in a huge city full of extremes. I was a regular. Always an interesting crowd at Shunchan’s. Whether they were Japanese, Russian, Chinese, Thai, Filipina or Australian, Shunchan made the hostesses of Shinjuku feel relaxed. He treated the English teachers and backpackers like he treated the locals. Celebrities, artists and musicians brought in great mixtapes, his drinks weren’t that expensive and Shunchan laughed a lot. He was good friends with the twenty-one year old woman whose lipstick was as red as the dresses she wore.

I sat where I always did, under the big, old posters of bent-over Japanese girls in bikinis holding mugs full of beer. My hands surrounded a glass of hot water and whiskey. Shunchan held up a few CDs, I shook my head and he went back to stabbing ice. I could hear the sounds easily. The warmth in my stomach was good.

After a while, Shunchan put down the ice pick and adjusted the kerosene heater at his feet. A naked, attractive young Japanese woman tiptoed down the stairs. She was like a deer appearing in a forest.

She politely smiled at me, then leaned forward and watched Shunchan make her tea. Her finger drifted through her hair. I forced myself to look at the wall covered with smoke stained chirashis for last year’s underground movies,  butoh and bizarre concerts. She was flush with the color and smell of sex. She was steamy.;an athletic pixie, beautifully cushioned.

She ascended the creaking wooden stairs. Her ankles , the very pale softness of the soles of her feet… Shunchan said nothing, then I said nothing. After a moment, a young naked Japanese man came down, got a drink and went back up.  Then, down came another young naked Japanese man.

About Stephen Black:

Stephen Black likes doing different things in different places.

Find Stephen’s Books:

iatb_frontI ate Tiong Bahru



Obama Search Words



Bali Wave Ghost






Contact With Shadow





20 Questions with Claudine Giovannoni

Today we sit down with author Claudine Giovannoni.  She is going to tell us about her inspiration and work.

Please enjoy this edition of 20 Questions:

claudine-giovannoniQ1) When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I loved to intrigue people with my stories since I was able to speak… I always kept a diary and when I started flying around for work, I used to write down many things from my feeling, the countries I visited, the people I met, about their habits… albeit some funny and some sad stories.

Q2) How long does it typically take you to write a book?

A couple of years. I am never in a hurry, and the ideas have to first ripen… priorities are my kids and family, my cats… I am morally involved protecting fauna and flora (my husband is the World Wildlife Foundation – WWF president in southern Switzerland)… as Buddhists we have much to share with whom are interested. I build up several ideas of changing the bad things happening in the world, so I start giving the good example.

Q3) What is your work schedule like when you are writing?

I go around with a moleskin block notes. Ideas happen during the most improbable moments; I keep a trace, make some drawings, and try to fix the “instant” sometimes with music… but most of all I need to be in a quiet place, with some of my cats, the laptop and my notes.

Q4) What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I like to imagine something magic, although for many people magic require such an openness of mind to understand…

Q5) How are your books published?

I was lucky enough to get my books published the traditional way. I am afraid I would not be able to be an “indie” even I do not know from where I should start. I need to have a book in my hands. Feel the paper and get the smell of the ink into my nostrils.

Q6) Where do you get your ideas for your books?

Mostly from my dreams. I am capable to dream with open eyes as well… Actually, there is always some autobiographical note… especially when I describe places and/or peoples.

Q7) If you don’t mind sharing, when did you write your first book and how old were you?

My first novel is a kind of collections of many adventures I told my kids when they were little. It was around 14 years ago. In the book, I describe many places I have seen when working for an airline, and the “adding” some touch of fantasy. There are four dragons, the protectors of the Earth, Fire, Water and Air, which are taken from the old Japanese mythology.

Q8) What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Travel around the world with or without my family, be in the nature, or stay lazy with my beloved cats… or help others.

Q9) What is your favorite book?

The Lord of the Rings

Q10) What do your family and friends think of your writing?

They all love my novels (or if they do not, actually then do not tell me). Sometimes you need to be captivated by the topics, which are tied up with myths, especially the Irish ones, and the traveling everywhere around the planet. We have such a beautiful Home! It is important to describe it with many emotions; this should help people to care more for Planet Earth…

Q11) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

That dreams took consistence.

Q12) What do you hate most about the writing process?

The “cleaning up and cutting down” to make a story more easy to read and understand. Sometimes I am very poetic and I like to express it by digressing in descriptive details very precise. The reader (maybe closing her/his eyes to ease the process) may be convinced of being personally in the story.

Q13) How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?

I published five books, but my favourite is the last one that is not jet published. Taiga’s Dream tells a story about a cellist and her daughter, a prodigy young violinist… Fiona Moira and Vladimira took the Tran Siberian train to the Lake Baikal: there is the mysticism of the Shamans and the magic of Music in each page. Both my kids and my husband just inspired me, since they are musicians.

Q14) Do you have any suggestions to help us become better writers? If so, what are they?

Actually, I prefer to call myself “citizen of the world”, I am not a writer.

I still learn each day something more from all the bloggers and books I read… I do not know if there is a “perfect” writer, each one of us can write. I try just to remain myself, a person in love with life, who cares about nature and all sentient beings. Writing is a way to give others to feel some special emotions, to take them along the story and really make them “participate” and be involved. I guess is important to be honest with the readers and share with them openness without bluffing.

Q15) Do you get feedback from your readers much? How and what kinds of things do they say?

Some people do not like to write feedbacks and I do not ask or force them, sometimes I can tell from a cute smile that a friend loved a story I wrote. Others says that you need to read a couple time my novels since there is so many details that you miss because you hurry ahead to see how the plot develops. For some of them maybe I am a bit too much poetic within descriptions… but there are not enough words to describe the beauty of a sunset!

Q16) What is your preferred reading audience?

Sensitive people. People who want to change the world for the future generations, people who are convinced they can make a difference! The one whom believes strongly in to a better world and in to the power of our mind to reach for the highest goals. How to explain it? An adult who still nourish the child inside himself… if this is enough clear for you.

Q17) What do you think makes a good story?

Depends, on the audience. I am very meticulous when I choose a new book. I do not like to be misguide by marketing actions, which are the makers of the best sellers, mostly full of sex and violence. I like to plunge into something quite different, something that leaves me a strong emotion, but have not to be by forced empathy. Definitely, this is very subjective and maybe related to a special personal mood.

Q18) As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

I guess am still a little girl, believe me.

I wanted to become an astronaut. I did not even start getting serious into it since I was not good in math and physics’. Anyhow, I spent more than 12.000 flight hours at 10.000 meters above the sea level… isn’t that amazing?

Q19) Where can we find your books?

The first four, in the original Italian version, you may order them on the web IBS or directly in a bookshop; the last Novel “The Annwyn’s Secret” is translated in English by Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd. – London and is available on Amazon.


Q20) Can we learn more about you and your writing?

Yes. Click on this link for an article about one of my books:


Claudine’s Books:

cover1Il Kumihimo del Sole (novel – Seneca Edizioni Torino 2006 ¦  Italian)

cover2Il Cristallo della Pace (novel – Seneca Edizioni Torino 2010 ¦  Italian)

cover3Nebbie nella Brughiera (novel – Seneca Edizioni Torino 2009 ¦  Italian)

cover5I quattro Elementi (illustrated story – Macromedia Edizioni Torino 2010 ¦  Italian)

cover4Tracce (poetry anthology – Edizioni Ulivo Balerna 2011 ¦  Italian)

cover6Il Segreto degli Annwyn (novel – Edizioni Ulivo Balerna ¦  Italian)

The Annwyn’s Secret (novel – Austin Macauley Ltd. – London ¦ English)

Connect with Claudine:





20 Questions with Ricky Dragoni

I apologize for the brief lapse in my 20 questions series. I have five interviews remaining and I will be posting them over the next couple of weeks. I will then be looking at a new author interview series beginning early next year.

Today we sit down with Ricky Dragoni. Ricky is going to tell us about his work, his inspiration and share some of his writing with us.

Please enjoy this installment of 20 Questions:

img_8944Q1) When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

When I was 12-13, but didn’t have the courage until I was 35.

Q2) How long does it typically take you to write a book?

Anywhere from 1 to 3 months, depending on the length of the book and how much editing I have to do.

Q3) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Once everyone at home goes to bed, I settle down with a glass of wine or Vodka & 7Up and relax and think of the story.  The story slowly forms in my head and after a couple of hours and a few drinks I am ready to write.  I will type for 1 or two hours and get anywhere between 2,000 and 5,000 words.  Once I am really deep into a story I will think about it all day in the back of my mind.

Q4) What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I like to tweet while I write.  When I need a short break or need the story to finish loading into my head, I will tweet, distract my mind for a bit and let the story unravel in my head.

Q5) How are your books published? (traditional, indie, etc.)

My first two have been published through a Sarah Book Publishing.

Q6) Where do you get your ideas for your books?

Life, past experiences, my kids & anything going on around me.  Sometimes the smallest thing you see while driving around or just going about your day, can fuel a whole chapter.

Q7) If you don’t mind sharing, when did you write your first book and how old were you (or how many years ago was it)?

My first short story I was 14.  So 13 years ago.  My first book two years ago.

Q8) What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Coaching my kids in sports, spending time with family& working out.  The gym is quite the Zen place for me.

Q9) What is your favorite book?

I am Legend by Richard Matheson.  The ending is just so perfect.

Q10) What do your family and friends think of your writing?

They support it.  My kids love it, I am currently working on a Young Adult Series with my oldest.

Q11) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

How you can read something 20 times and still miss a typo.

Q12) What do you hate most about the writing process?


Q13) How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

Three finished works so far, six short stories and one script.  Currently working on a book with my son and have 3 more queued up after that. “The Angel of a Madman” my next release is my favourite.  It is so close to my heart and there is so much of me in it.

Q14) Do you have any suggestions to help us become better writers? If so, what are they?

Write. People often over analyse the writing process. Just writing and seeing where the story takes you can give fruit to some beautiful things.

Q15) Do you get feedback from your readers much? How and what kinds of things do they say?

Yes, I do. I am very engaged with them on Twitter. I love hearing their feedback. So far it has been very positive.  The latest one I loved hearing about Ripples was that is scared him so much he needed to take a break from it.

Q16) What is your preferred reading audience?

Anyone who wants a book to make them think.  I want to entertain the reader but I also want to get the gears turning.  Have the story make them think about the real world and real world issues.

Q17) What do you think makes a good story?

Honesty. There are so many times when I am writing and I am sobbing. Either the story is coming from life experience or I am feeling what the characters are going through.  Writing can be emotionally exhausting but that raw honesty shows up on the page and truly elevates the story.

Q18) As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

Oh I wanted to play in the NFL.  I love football, still love coaching it.

Q19) Where can we find your books?

Amazon, Kindle, iTunes, Beaverdale Books and from the Sarah Book Publishing website.

Q20) Will you give us an excerpt from one of your own favorite works?

I had asked Lucy and others hundreds of questions and they kindly fulfilled my curiosity each time.  The problem was that every answer seemed to lead to more questions.  I was peppering Lucy with questions as we walked.  She would listen and answer, her smile never breaking her face.  We were almost to the town hall when I felt a small splatter on the right side of my face.  I looked up expecting to see droplets falling down on me from a redwood.  If they had fallen from them it would have been impossible to tell.  The giant trees extended upward so far that their canopies were just a blur of green.   I rubbed my hand against the wet spot on my face, only to find my fingers stained with crimson.


About Ricky Dragoni:

I am the author of “Prime Infinity” and “Ripples” published by Sarah Book Publishing. I am originally from Puerto Rico but have spent half of my life in Iowa.  My true passions are writing and cooking.  My favorite authors include Edgar Allan Poe and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  From an early age I started writing poetry and short stories.  My books are born out of the nightmares of my mind then melded with my life experiences.  I would describe my books as reality sprinkled with a good magical dose of faerie dust.  I hope my books can be entertaining but also thought provoking.

20 Questions with C.M. Blackwood

Today we sit down with author C.M. Blackwood to hear a big about her writing process, her inspiration and her advice.

Please enjoy this edition of 20 Questions:

me1Q1) When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I think I began to realize it back in middle school. That’s when I started writing poetry, which I dabbled with through high school (mostly “emo” stuff).

Q2) How long does it typically take you to write a book?

That really depends. I’ve been known to finish a book in a month – but my latest release, which was completely new territory for me, took me over six months.

Q3) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

One word: INSANE. I try to keep up with the social media when I’m writing, but then it ends up on the back burner, and eventually falls completely off the stove. I’m a terrible multi-tasker – especially when I’m editing.

Q4) What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

Hmmm. I have a bad habit of biting my nails while I’m reading over what I’ve written, but I’ve really been trying to knock that off. (Every time I look down at my hands, though, I’ve still got no fingernails.)

Q5) How are your books published?

Strictly indie. I tried for years to go the main route, and though I haven’t entirely given up hope, I’ve embraced the “free spirit” path for now. At least it allows me to get my work in the hands of readers.

Q6) Where do you get your ideas for your books?

Sometimes they’re inspired by other stories. One time, I got the idea in a dream. (I know – cheesy, right?) But it’s funny, because the scene that played out in my dream didn’t even make it into the book.

Q7) If you don’t mind sharing, when did you write your first book and how old were?

I finished my first novel (a very untidy masterpiece) when I was 19. I only say “masterpiece,” because I published it for a short while on Kindle, and received a review calling it an “undiscovered masterpiece.” The review also pointed to the obvious flaws in the book, though, mainly the “fuzzy history.” That was a completely fair accusation to make, and I’ve since unpublished the book. Someday, I hope to make it into something better.

Q8) What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Believe it or not, I actually read far less than I should, and I’ve been trying to remedy that. I don’t watch a ton of television, but I do like a good movie now and then, which actually helps a lot in connecting my writing to human emotion and popular culture.

Q9) What is your favorite book?

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. Some people call Dickens a “goody two-shoes” on account of his obviously pious good guys and obviously evil bad guys, as well as because of his “sugary” endings. But there ain’t nothin’ like a sugary ending, in my opinion.

Q10) What do your family and friends think of your writing?

To be honest, not a lot of the people I know have even read my writing. I publish under a pen name, and it’s kind of like a “secret identity.” My mom’s my biggest fan, though. (Go, Ma!)

Q11) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

Maybe not the most surprising thing, but the most memorable thing I’ve learned lately, is that English cricket player Wally Hammond scored 336 runs in 1933 in a test match against New Zealand. For some reason, I don’t think I’ll ever forget that. And I don’t even know anything about cricket.

Q12) What do you hate most about the writing process?

Definitely editing. I really don’t like proof reading. I also hate it when I’m reading through the first draft, and one of those dreaded PLOT HOLES creeps up on me. Even by the time I get to the final draft, I’m always afraid I’ve missed one.

Q13) How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I’ve written about a dozen books, but honestly, not many of them are worthy of publishing. That’s not to say they have no value at all, but they’re not really “top-notch” novel form. I’ve dabbled in everything. My favorite project is called Anna von Wessen, a new take on vampires and werewolves that will someday be re-released as Anna Berlin. It’s extremely close to my heart.

Q14) Do you have any suggestions to help us become better writers? If so, what are they?

That’s a tough one, seeing as I’m far from having learned the “whole game” myself. But my most important piece of advice, I think, is NEVER GIVE UP. If I had given up the first time I was let down or rejected (heck, even the first HUNDRED times), I would have never published my latest book. Also – never be afraid to let what you learn take your writing to new places. It’s not supposed to stay the same forever. It’s supposed to grow and change, just like you.

Q15) Do you get feedback from your readers much? How and what kinds of things do they say?

To be honest, I’ve never been very good at garnering reviews. Mainly because I’ve never been very good at marketing. I’m trying to change that, though. In the past, reviews were a once-every-few-months sort of thing, and they were hit and miss. Some people loved what they read. Some people didn’t. I think that’s because my writing has always been very diverse. But again, I’ve been working really hard to streamline it, and I’m proud of everything I’ve learned by the age of 27.

Q16) What is your preferred reading audience?

Hmmm. They say that you’re supposed to have this question down to a science, but I’m afraid I haven’t managed it yet. I suppose my readers would mostly be women, age 20-35 or so. For my new book, they’d be seeking mystery or suspense with romance mixed in.

Q17) What do you think makes a good story?

I think the best stories are the ones that sort of tell themselves as they go. You can try to work out the plot all you want – but if you’ve got a living story, sometimes it’s going to make moves on its own. Flow with them, but keep control of the overall narrative and tone.

Q18) As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

You know, I was never one of those kids who ran around saying, “I want to be a doctor,” or “I want to be a pilot.” I never played hospital or police station in the backyard. Even by the time I got to college, I had no idea what I wanted to major in. I just knew I liked books.

Q19) Where can we find your books?

My books are available on Amazon in Kindle format. But soon I’ll have new material coming to Smashwords and other indie platforms.

Q20) Will you give us an excerpt from one of your favorite works?

From Oliver Twist:

“It was before this building that the worthy couple paused, as the first peal of distant thunder reverberated in the air, and the rain commenced pouring violently down.

‘The place should be somewhere here,’ said Bumble, consulting a scrap of paper he held in his hand.

‘Halloa there!’ cried a voice from above . . .

‘Stand still, a minute,’ cried the voice; ‘I’ll be with you directly.’

Mr. Bumble, who had eyed the building with very rueful looks, was apparently about to express some doubts relative to the advisability of proceeding any further with the enterprise just then, when he was prevented by the appearance of Monks . . .

‘Come in!’ he cried impatiently, stamping his foot upon the ground. ‘Don’t keep me here!’ . . .

‘What the devil made you stand lingering there, in the wet?’ said Monks, turning round, and addressing Bumble, after he had bolted the door behind them.

‘We – we were only cooling ourselves,’ stammered Bumble, looking apprehensively about him.

‘Cooling yourselves!’ retorted Monks. ‘Not all the rain that ever fell, or ever will fall, will put as much of hell’s fire out, as a man can carry about with him. You won’t cool yourselves so easily; don’t think it!’

With this agreeable speech, Monks turned short upon the matron, and bent his gaze upon her, till even she, who was not easily cowed, was fain to withdraw her eyes, and turn them towards the ground.”

About C.M. Blackwood:

I’m a lesbian romance author who’s been writing for almost a decade now. My latest release is called Who Killed Edie Montgomery? (The Mystery of the Haunted Manor). It’s my first mystery, but there are more to come. Find more info on my blog, Blackwood’s Magazine, or follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Connect with C.M. Blackwood:

Facebook: Click here

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Blog: Click here

Find C.M. Blackwood’s books:

Who Killed Edie Montgomery? (The Mystery of the Haunted Manor)

Click here to view on Amazon

My White Dahlia: A Novel of 1950 London

Click here to view on Amazon



20 Questions with Deborah Jay

Today, we have the pleasure of sitting down with UK author Deborah Jay. Deborah is going to tell us a bit about her writing process, her inspiration and will share some of her work with us.

Please enjoy this edition of 20 Questions:

rsz_resized_photoQ1) When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Probably back when I was about nine, when I started teaching myself to type by copying pages from books. I also began writing my first novel at that age – a children’s book titled ‘Samantha, the Adventurous Poodle’ (why, I don’t know, it just came to me), which only got as far as three chapters when I realised I didn’t have a plot.

After that, I tried a few variations – a comic book (The Adventures of Galloper) with self-drawn pictures, though I freely admit I’m no artist, and then a serial, written longhand as we did in those days, with a friend at school. We wrote alternate chapters, featuring ourselves as footballer’s wives (we both supported the local team). She wrote the emotional stuff, I wrote adventures – perhaps you can see where this is going…

Then later at University, I returned to novel writing and haven’t looked back since.

Q2) How long does it typically take you to write a book?

I’m not fast, a book will take me anything from one to three years. In my defence, I write epic-sized books, 150K to 200K words, which is two or three times the size of a regular book. I also run my own business (training competition horses), which is very full time and sometimes leaves me unable to find any writing time for weeks on end during the busy season.

Q3) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

As the day job takes priority, I have to write ad hoc when time permits. That’s usually evenings, but also when the weather is foul, and I don’t feel guilty for sitting indoors instead of being outside, working.

Once I sit down, I do a quick review of what I wrote last time to get me back inside my character’s heads, and then launch into new stuff. I write for as long as I feel I’m doing it justice, then quit. That might be an hour or it might be three hours. Sometimes it might be all day, with just short breaks for meals. One thing I’m not short of is inspiration, but once I get tired there’s no point continuing.

Q4) What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

My preferred time for writing is in the dead of night, and totally alone. I need that isolation to totally immerse myself in my characters and their woes.

If I can’t do that, I play movie soundtracks at high volume – they always evoke strong emotions so are terrific for creating mood, as well as blocking out sound. My favourites are things like the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, and the TV series ‘Babylon 5’.

Q5) How are your books published?

I’m what’s known as a ‘hybrid’ author – I have both traditionally and self-published titles.

My traditionally published books are non-fiction manuals about dressage horse training, while I have self-published my fiction after going through three agents without a sale. In the modern publishing world I’m now quite happy about that – I have total freedom to write exactly what I want, not what a publisher demands, and although the marketing time required is tiresome, publishers expect you to do it for yourself these days anyway, so what the heck?

Q6) Where do you get your ideas for your books?

Absolutely no idea! My mind has always been brimming with stories, my only problem is settling down to writing one at a time.

Q7) If you don’t mind sharing, when did you write your first book?

The first book I completed was a 200K word mammoth SF adventure, called ‘Priestess!’ I completed it in my mid twenties, and entered it for all sorts of competitions. It didn’t win.

Now, although I think every now and then about re-writing it – I’m still in love with it – I’m not even sure I have an old copy left. That was pre-internet, and it was printed out using a dot-matrix printer. Last time I saw it the ink was so faded I could barely read it. It’s probably completely gone by now.

Q8) What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

My day job takes up most of my life. I’m incredibly lucky to do a job I absolutely love, and that includes having two or three horses of my own to compete. I’ve represented the UK internationally, and nowadays I’m one of the UK’s top dressage judges, so at certain times of year I’m travelling the length and breadth of the country (plus a little abroad too), judging at all the championships.

If I have any ‘spare’ time, I love gardening, and going to the movies.

Q9) What is your favorite book?

Always such a hard question, and the answer depends on my mindset of the day. Right now, I’d say ‘A Wizard of Earthsea’, by Ursula K Le Guin, which was the very first fantasy novel I read, thanks to an enlightened English teacher at school.

I need to go back now, and read it with a much more informed mind, as I understand from discussions that it was revolutionary for its time, depicting non-Western characters (didn’t notice that at the time), and centred around commentary on political and social issues. Back in the day, it was just a breathtaking, dark adventure with magic and amazing character development.

Q10) What do your family and friends think of your writing?

They are all very proud of me. I’m not sure how many of my family have actually read my work, but the fact they can hold books in their hands with my name on the cover seems to impress them.

As to my friends, lots of them have read my fiction, even if fantasy isn’t their preferred genre, and they have all, so far, been incredibly complimentary – and I know quite a few of them who  would say exactly what they think even though we are friends, so I reckon I must be getting it right!

Q11) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

I’ve realised that although I have no formal education in psychology, I have a passion for understand what makes people tick. Now I’ve started regularly writing characters with serious flaws and mental issues, I’ve become aware that somewhere along the line, I’ve absorbed a lot of knowledge. I put much of that down to developing my coaching skills in the day job (these days coaching has become quite an intellectual exercise centred around developing positive mental attitudes), and deep discussions with a friend who is an NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming) Master Practitioner and Life Coach.

Q12) What do you hate most about the writing process?

How long it takes! I love writing, and I adore editing, if only it could be a faster process!

Q13) How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I’ve written seven (including the equestrian books), and published four, with the fifth due out this autumn. I also published a short story linked to my Urban Fantasy series, and a collection of speculative fiction on behalf of my writer’s group, including one of my own stories.

Favorite? I really can’t choose – I love them all.

Q14) Do you have any suggestions to help us become better writers? If so, what are they?

Read extensively, particularly in your own genre, though any good writing should rub off on the subconscious. Analyse what makes a good book good, in terms of structure and writing technique, and do the same for bad books – there are plenty out there. Try to copy good technique, though not content.

Also, watch films and (strangely enough) soap operas – the writing is very structured and it’s easy to pick apart how the screen writers manipulate our emotions, through timing of events and interaction of characters.

Q15) Do you get feedback from your readers much? How and what kinds of things do they say?

I do, particularly when I have released a new book. I get emails via my website (readers come there via the links in the back matter of my books), and so far it’s all been positive, thank goodness! Mostly they want to say how much the characters have enthralled them, and demand to know when the next book will be out.

Q16) What is your preferred reading audience?


No, really, I’ve had some very unlikely people read and review my books, though when I did an ‘ideal reader’ analysis, it suggested largely adult women across a wide age range. I’ve been surprised how many men have enjoyed the books too, and I welcome anyone, especially those who take the time to write a review.

Q17) What do you think makes a good story?

Great characters with personal flaws, action, adventure, suspense and a plot that keeps surprising you but makes total sense.

Q18) As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

I could never make up my mind! Surgeon, air hostess (it was glamorous in those days), teacher, and vet come to mind. I always assumed I would be a writer as well, at the same time as whatever else I did.

Q19) Where can we find your books?

The equestrian books can be found on Amazon here and here, and in bookstores.

My Urban Fantasy is solely on Amazon, while the Epic novels are on pretty much all the ebook sites – Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Apple, Scribd, Page Foundry  and several subscription sites.

You can find more out about them on my website: https://deborahjayauthor.com/ where each book and story has its own dedicated page.

Q20) Will you give us an excerpt from one of your own favorite works?

Absolutely. This is a snippet from THE PRINCE’S MAN, my epic fantasy which goes by the logline ‘Think James Bond meets Lord of the Rings’.

To put the excerpt in context, here’s a short blurb:

Rustam Chalice, gigolo and spy, loves his life, so when the kingdom he serves is threatened from within, he leaps into action. Only trouble is, the spy master teams him up with an untouchable, beautiful aristocratic assassin who despises him. Plunged into a desperate journey over the mountains, the mismatched pair struggle to survive deadly wildlife, the machinations of a spiteful god – and each other.


“Remove your hand, Chalice,” Risada hissed, “unless you want to lose it.”

Rustam released her, and lay back with a sigh. “Don’t you ever get tired of making threats? Or is it the only form of conversation you know?”

“It seems to be the only sort you respect. And I hardly think the kind you’re used to is appropriate outside the bedchamber.”

She stood up and flounced over to her horse, began digging through a saddle bag. Rustam reconsidered—flounced was not really the correct verb. It would be hard for anyone to flounce wearing those figure hugging breeches and bulky jerkin, but that was how she moved and it made for interesting watching, particularly from his supine viewpoint.

Goddess, he thought in frustration, what a gorgeous woman. Why must she be so obnoxious?

A pair of thin legs walked past his face and Rustam glanced up, startled, his wrist knife slipping instinctively into his fingers.

“Don’t do that!” he snapped at Elwaes.

“Pardon me? Do what?”

“Creep up on people like that. You can get killed that way.” He slid the dagger back into its sheath.

“Apologies, friend Rustam. I had no intention of creeping and, I might suggest, your thoughts were elsewhere at the time.”

Rustam scowled, unable to dispute the Shivan’s observation.

“What’s that?” he asked suspiciously, eyeing the greenish mess in Elwaes’s hand. The elf smiled.

“Rhak moss. It makes an excellent poultice.”

At that moment, Risada returned with a length of cloth. She raised her eyebrows as Elwaes proceeded to slather the gooey moss onto Rustam’s wounds, but wordlessly handed him the cloth which he bound tightly around the whole mess. Rustam stood up and tentatively put some weight on the injured leg. It did feel a touch better, cooler at least. He hobbled over to Nightstalker and began rummaging through his saddle bags for a new pair of breeches.

“Can we ride on now?” Risada asked with a touch of impatience as he fastened his belt.

“Lead on, your Ladyship.”

For the remainder of the day they followed the stream along the plateau, keeping a wary eye out for further ambushes. The towering peaks to either side drew a little closer, but still there was no end to the broken ground staggering endlessly away in front of them. Mosses and short tufts of coarse grass were the only vegetation and they saw no signs of either animals or trolls, other than the occasional pony sized hoof print in the softer soil of the stream bank. As night fell, Risada reluctantly agreed to make camp where they were, rather than fumble on in the dark and risk falling into a crevasse.

“I don’t think we should risk a fire,” she said. “If they’re following us it’ll act as a beacon.”

“I agree,” said Rustam, unsaddling Nightstalker. “How about that?” he muttered to Elwaes who was removing the mare’s bridle. “We actually agreed on something.”

“Don’t expect it to last,” snapped Risada from behind her grey, and then added, “I have very sharp hearing, Chalice.”

“Matches your tongue then, doesn’t it?” he murmured beneath his breath.

This time she didn’t hear.

About Deborah Jay:

Deborah Jay writes fast-paced fantasy adventures featuring quirky characters and multi-layered plots – just what she likes to read.

Living mostly on the UK South coast, she has already invested in her ultimate retirement plan – a farmhouse in the majestic, mystery-filled Scottish Highlands where she retreats to write when she can find time. Her taste for the good things in life is kept in check by the expense of keeping too many dressage horses, and her complete inability to cook.

Her debut novel, epic fantasy THE PRINCE’S MAN, first in a trilogy and winner of a UK Arts Board award, has featured consistently in the Amazon UK Top 100 Epic Fantasy books since publication in July 2013.

Connect with Deborah Jay:





http://viewAuthor.at/DeborahJay  (Amazon Author page)


20 Questions with Ann Fields

Today we sit down with author, Ann Fields. She is going to tell us a bit about her writing journey, her work and her inspiration.

Please enjoy this edition of 20 Questions:


Q1) When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Even though I wrote my first story when I was in middle school, I didn’t give much thought to being a writer until college. The Romance Writers of America (RWA) held a conference a few miles from the college I was attending and one of my sorority sisters went. She returned to campus very excited, telling us all about the conference. I remember muttering something like, “I want to do that.” But I secretly believed that being a writer was not a viable career option for black people even though I knew of Langston Hughes and Phyllis Wheatley. So years passed and in 1990 I bought a new car and was trying to figure out how to pay it off quickly. I considered taking a part-time job but that wasn’t appealing so I assessed my skills and decided that since I’d always been a decent writer, I would write a romance novel, sell it and pay off the car. Idealistic I know, but back then I had no idea how writing or publishing worked. Needless to say my plan did not unfold in so linear a fashion. I did write a romance novel, but it took four years to write and then another two years to sell/publish. By then, the car was paid off. But I credit that car (a Ford Probe which is now rusting in a junkyard somewhere) and my sorority sister’s excitement about the RWA conference with putting me on the potholed path to my life’s purpose.

Q2) How long does it typically take you to write a book?

I no longer write romances but when I wrote my last one, I was able to complete it in nine months. When I switched to paranormal/supernatural suspense, I had to learn how to write for a different genre so it ended up taking twelve years to write Fuller’s Curse. I started it in 2000 and it was published in 2013. I can’t afford to take that long on book two, Trémont’s Curse so I’ve given myself to the end of 2017, and thankfully I am on track. It would be nice to complete a full length book every two years; that’s the goal.

Q3) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

I have a day job so my writing is confined to evenings and weekends. I try to log three to four hours an evening, Monday through Wednesday, and five hours on Saturdays and Sundays. Thursday evenings are reserved for my critique group meetings and Fridays are free so I can pretend that I have a life. With family, a full-time job, social commitments, faith responsibilities and membership in far too many organizations, it’s a struggle sometimes to maintain my writing schedule. But I’ve been known to take a day or two off (from my day job) when I feel I’m getting too far behind in my page count. And I have been known to ignore the pageantry of minor holidays by locking myself in my office to write. And finally there are the odd times when I wake up earlier than usual and use that free gift of time to write.

Q4) What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I have a ratty, pill-balled, scratchy black sweater that hangs on the back of my desk chair. I’ve had this sweater since book number three (I’m currently working on book twelve). Even though I don’t wear it every time I sit down to write, it’s a comfort to know it is there. It serves as my security blanket, my anchor.

Q5) How are your books published? (traditional, indie, etc.)

My first romance novel was published in 1996 by one of the major New York houses. I wrote and published five romances for that company before I switched genres. After I switched to paranormal/supernatural, I couldn’t find a publisher so that forced me to self-publish, which turned out to be a great career move. I finally had control over my book covers, edits and release dates. And since I was spending more money, time and effort on marketing my works than my previous publisher, I lost nothing there. The only thing I miss with traditional publishing is the publisher’s distribution network and their many sales channels.

Q6) Where do you get your ideas for your books?

Life! Life presents so many wonderful opportunities for storytelling. If one just keeps their eyes and ears open and mouth shut, stories will just flow to you. I have written stories about interesting people that I met or saw. Some ideas have come from dreams. Others from song lyrics, from being in unusual or new environments, from reading other writers’ works, from asking “what if,” from twisting original plots and from news stories. Like I said…life.

Q7) If you don’t mind sharing, when did you write your first book and how old were you?

I started my first book in 1990 and finished the final draft in 1994. I was in my twenties.

Q8) What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

More than writing, I love to read. If I could get paid to read, that would be heaven. When I’m not reading (or writing), I enjoy spending time with family and friends, and travel every chance I get.

Q9) What is your favorite book?

When I have precious time to read, I prefer fiction. But I have read so many great fiction books that I can’t narrow it to one favourite. It seems like whatever title I am reading at the time is my favourite. But I can tell you the last book that kept me up past my bedtime was Walter Mosley’s The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey. Loved it!

Q10) What do your family and friends think of your writing?

I am blessed to have a very supportive family and loving friends. They are proud of me and show up in force at book signings and literary events. They encourage me and they keep me on task by asking, “How’s that next book coming along?” This I appreciate because writing can be tough and it’s nice to know others are rooting for me.

Q11) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

With my romance novels, I was not happy with any of my book covers. Since I was traditionally published, I had no say on the cover design. Absolutely none! So as an indie author, I was most anxious to dive into the book cover creation process. Boy, what a surprise! I quickly learned how challenging and frustrating that process can be. And it is made even more stressful because in fiction publishing, the book cover is the first step in the buying decision. Get that wrong and you’ve lost a potential reader. So there’s a lot of pressure to get it right. I didn’t appreciate that until I worked on my first book cover as an indie author.

Q12) What do you hate most about the writing process?

The rewriting, rewriting, rewriting. It takes about seven rewrites (I’ve counted!) before I arrive at a draft I am willing to share with my critique group. That amounts to approximately 20 hours just to write one scene of about five pages. But I also accept the fact that I am a slow writer so that eases the frustration…a bit.

Q13) How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I am currently writing my twelfth book titled, Trémont’s Curse and I find that my favourite book is the one I’m working on at the moment (just like with reading; see question nine). I think that’s because of the magic embedded in the creation process. It’s fun to see how the characters evolve, how the plot comes together, how the setting and descriptions aid in story development. I just love how all the pieces meld by the time I reach the end. It’s always more than I imagined at the beginning, which is a real thrill.

Q14) Do you have any suggestions to help us become better writers? If so, what are they?

There are hundreds of craft books on how to write and how to approach writing. And they all contain nuggets of useful information. So the only suggestion I would dare put on the table is to link with a writers group and a critique group (many writers group have a built-in critique group). I actually participate in multiple writers groups and two critique groups. The writers groups meet monthly and I try to make every meeting. As for the critique groups:  one meets monthly, the other weekly. I could not have made it this far without a writers or critique group. They are invaluable.

Q15) Do you get feedback from your readers much? How and what kinds of things do they say?

I really enjoy visiting book clubs and hearing their comments about my works. I also enjoy receiving face to face feedback at literary events. And my family and friends are not shy about sharing their thoughts. Another place where I receive a lot of feedback is online at various review sites like Goodreads. For the most part the feedback is positive. Readers have said:  they were scared (paranormal); they loved the characters; they felt emotionally connected; the writing was poetic; the story visceral; the story was deceptively simple. On the constructive end, readers have said they weren’t emotionally invested in the story or the characters; the writing tried too hard to be literary; there were too many overstatements of details; the backstory came too late in the storytelling. These are all valid comments that tell me 1) I am blessed to get feedback (that means people are reading my works) and 2) readers are as diverse as writers.

Q16) What is your preferred reading audience?

I write paranormal/supernatural novels and short stories that feature spiritual beings. Other themes I’ve written about include:  urban legends, cursed families, societal changes and current issues. I think the readers I prefer are like me. They like variety. They like to think and have their worldview challenged. They like unique themes and enjoy plots/characters that don’t fall neatly into categories. They read for entertainment but also appreciate having their emotions stroked. They, like me, prefer a solid ending but are also fine with using their own wits and imagination to close a story. Even though I am forced to slot my books into a category (paranormal/supernatural), I think my writings cut across multiple segments of literature. So in essence, I prefer a reading audience that approaches the reading experience with an open, willing mind and a ready spirit.

Q17) What do you think makes a good story?

A good story is one that stays with the reader long after the end. It is peopled with exceptional characters, filled with unusual plot twists, contains a concept that is unique, snags the reader with descriptive scenes and phrasing, is well written, contains emotional depth, is a smooth read and keeps the reader engaged with craftily orchestrated conflict and suspense. A good story is a treasure.

Q18) As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

I can remember lying on my grandmother’s porch one summer during my elementary school years, looking at the black sky and bright stars saying, “I want to be a lawyer” and in the next breath saying, “I want to be an entrepreneur.” Fast forward many years and life took care of erasing what was not to be—lawyer. I did not pass the law school entrance exams, and thus began my search for entrepreneurship, which after many years of searching landed me squarely in the literary field as an indie author. I love it! Who knew back then on that hot, dark night my wish would turn out so beautifully?!

Q19) Where can we find your books?

Online at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, and other ebook retailers. Also, brick and mortar stores can order the book through Ingram and have it in stock in a matter of days.

Q20) Will you give us an excerpt from one of your favorite works?

fullers-curse-front-cover-promoFULLER’S CURSE

The First Beginning:  The Curse

Malachi 2:  2 (NRSV)

…if you will not lay it to heart to give glory to my name, says the Lord of hosts, then I will send the curse on you; indeed I have already cursed them…

Lying is easy. It’s the Truth that’ll wear you down.

If living had taught her nothing else in ninety-some-odd years, Mattie Fuller had at least learned that fact. And as sure as those billowy, gray clouds were rolling in from the northwest to pay a visit with much needed rain, she knew that soon—and very soon—she would have another opportunity to lie. To whom? She didn’t know. The exact time? She didn’t know that, either. But soon.

“Gone now. Git down,” she scolded the mutts that were jumping, licking and nipping at her hands, bringing her round from the surety of the unknown to the here and now.

Mostly strays that were here tonight but might have moved on by morning, they wanted water and the crushed, mutilated meat by-products in the open cans of Alpo. Mattie gave them what they begged for…and extra. A generous compensation for the lies and denials she would have to feed the prying visitors when they showed up to plague her. With empty cans left scattered in the yard—Governor would pick them up, he always did—Mattie slowly shuffled across the rock-hard dirt, eyes cast downward, searching the veins of the earth for a beginning and an end. Learning nothing from the dust, she climbed the steps of her back porch.

Lowering herself into her Mama’s old rocking chair, her gray-rimmed, black eyes lifted to focus on the white Holy Bible with gold embossed lettering that was lying on a straight-back chair on the back porch. It wasn’t the color-infused pictures of Jesus Christ and his disciples or the maps of the ancient lands or the lyrical words of scripture that drew Mattie to it, but rather the secret concealed inside the covers of The Good Book. Inside those razor-induced slits were onionskin papers, some with her left-handed scrawl, and they contained the Truth of her family.

Her old eyes searched carefully around the backyard and beyond to the trees and woods and outlying structures that surrounded her family’s home before reaching for the Bible and withdrawing the papers of Truth. Mattie unfolded and smoothed one sheet of the fragile document in her flower-print lap. As it always did, one name leaped off the page. That name, more than the others, twisted her heart, wringing a groan of agony out of her. It was the only name that made the paper of Truth a lie. Willie shouldn’t be on the paper. His name should only be engraved on a headstone, not this flimsy paper weighted down with pain.

Big brother Willie, eighty years dead along with the rest of the family, had just stirred to life in Mattie’s memory. The rooster had crowed only minutes before, Mama had breakfast sizzling on the stove, and Daddy was already in the woods checking the pine tree harvest.

Helen, older than Willie, saw them coming first. Pitch-black, high-yellow, red-boned, damn-near white, honey-tan and velvet-brown in color. On foot, in carriages, on horses, and in wagons they came, crowding their big front yard. Family members all sharing the same blood, all seeking to absolve the hatred in their eyes, the fear in their hearts.

Helen had yelled and screamed, pulling the kids and Mama from their morning chores. Six of the seven residents of the house—Mama and five children, ranging in age from fourteen to three—crowded the front porch. Daddy was missing. Maybe if Daddy had been there Willie would have lived another day. Maybe not.

“Another death last night,” said the leader, Uncle Jess. “We know it’s your boy.”

None of the six on the porch had to guess which of the three boys he meant. All eyes were fixed on Willie. Mischievous Willie, who used to pull Mattie’s hair with one hand while giving her candy and fruit with the other. No one knew what to make of Willie’s confusing ways.

“We’re ending this right now, Aldana. Right now, it stops.”

Mama pushed Willie behind her, trying to protect him from the hatred and ignorance that crowded her front yard. But Mama was a little woman and the rest just kids. What could they do to stop an intense mob—women, men, children, teenagers, all blood relatives—that pressed forward? Some held sticks, some knives, some pitchforks, some axes. All had ugly expressions on their faces.

Mama tried to reason with all that ugliness. “If he were the one, what you aim to do won’t help. Only I can stop it.”

“Hand him over.” Uncle Jess stepped menacingly forward. They weren’t willing to listen to common sense or family knowledge. They were too far gone; too filled with hate, fear and blood lust. “Don’t make this hard.”

Mama leaned down low and whispered something to Willie. But Uncle Jess must have heard it too, because as soon as Willie took off running around the side of the house, Uncle Jess and the family were right behind him. By the time the five on the porch made it to the backyard, the family had already disfigured Willie so badly, he was unrecognizable. Helen stood closest to the back porch, holding her ears, rocking, sobbing, screaming. Mattie bent low, toddling between the legs of the many aunts, uncles, and cousins who had changed her diaper, given her birthday presents, and passed her from one lap to the other in church.

Mama screamed and tried to stop the final blow of Uncle Jess’s ax as it landed hard in Willie’s chest, but hatred outwrestled a mother’s love. Another Uncle locked Mama in his arms while Uncle Jess carved the heart from Willie’s body and lifted it high for all to see. It was a deep burgundy red—not black, like they had imagined.

Hatred seeped out of the air like the sun evaporating moisture. Slowly, blindly, the dazed crowd stumbled to the front of the house. Anywhere but the place of their mistake. Confusion and disbelief clouded their faces. Regret rested on some of them, but for most, it was disbelief.

The family’s loud bloodletting cries must have reached Daddy in the woods because he appeared as the last family member rounded the corner of the house. Daddy didn’t need an explanation. The heart lying by the mutilated body of his first-born son was explanation enough. He fell to his knees, hands stretched wide, his chest heaving in and out, doing what it could to hold in his anger, the need for revenge, the pain. Willie had been thirteen years old and he was now dead for no reason other than desperation and fear.

And so, the family lived on. The curse lived on. But Willie was gone forever and his story… it was hushed up and eventually, it died too.

After a while, her parents had seemed to understand. She and her siblings had not. But eventually, Mattie understood—after she was given custody of the Bible and the Truth. She didn’t have a choice but to understand, to accept, to protect; to do her duty to her family.

Mattie stared at the paper, wiping tears from her ancient eyes. With her crooked finger as a guide, she compared her memory to the names. Stopping at the last entry, she wondered if her unknown visitors would bring the end for her. Lord knows she prayed every day for deliverance. She was tired, heavy-hearted, and ready to leave the harshness of this family secret. Mattie was ready to be with Mama, Daddy, Helen, Willie, Floyd and Johnny in Heaven.

But Mattie’s purpose was not yet complete. More names to scratch on the paper; Lord knows how many more deaths before she could rest.

About Ann Fields:

Ann Fields began her writing career in the romance genre. She published four romance novels and one novella under the pen name of Anna Larence before she encountered her first ghost. That one brush with the supernatural shifted her focus from love and happily ever after to love and life in the here and after. In her novel, Fuller’s Curse and her short stories featured in Voices from the Block (Volumes I & II), The Writer’s Block, and Lyrical Darkness, she explores life in all its many dimensions. She can be reached online at www.annfields.com, https://twitter.com/ann_fields and www.facebook.com/AnnFieldsAuthor.

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