UNSTOPPABLE MARIE LAVENDER

 

TOMORROW: John L. DeBoer talks terror, counter-terror, expansion and containment as the focal of his new release WHEN THE REAPER COMES.

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BLOGGER, JOURNALIST, NOVELIST DEBBIE DE LOUISE: ALL WRITING, ALL GOOD

Good Monday morning mighty Blogosphere. It’s decidedly fall-like outside, and with the cooler temperatures and school buses rattling past my front window, there is a tremendous sense of excitement brewing. Beginning last week, guest bloggers have been dropping by to share their work and insights. This week, we continue. Today’s guest, Debbie De Louise, is a multi-published author, catwoman, and library scientist. Check out what she has to say about A STONE’S THROW, the future of paper, and her exciting work-in-progress. Welcome, Debbie…

 

1.

You are an award winning writer with a third book releasing through Solstice Publishing. Trace your career for us with an anecdote or two.

 

After I self-published my first book, “Cloudy Rainbow,” I tried writing another but gave up. I didn’t have any experience promoting books at that time and had no network of professional contacts. Everyone in my family bought the book, of course, but it didn’t sell well otherwise. Since my daughter was young at the time, I decided it was a good time to take a break from writing.

 

I probably would not have written another book except for three things that happened years later. The first was that a patron at the library where I work kept asking if I was writing something else. She had read and enjoyed my first novel and urged me not to give up. This went on for some time, but then my library began to offer online classes through a database called Gale Courses. All the librarians were encouraged to enroll in one of the classes before we advertised the database to the public. Since Gale Courses included quite a few publishing classes, I enrolled in one. I got hooked and kept taking classes. Then I started writing articles and short stories again. I began sending out my work. I received rejections for the stories, but some of the articles were published online and in my local newspaper.

 

As I kept writing, I came up with more ideas. One of them grew into my second novel, “A Stone’s Throw”. Although I received some initial rejections for the manuscript, I took a chance and participated in an online twitter event called Pit2Pub where authors could tweet a pitch to publishers. I received several responses to my pitch and was offered a contract by Limitless Publishing. A year later, I pitched another book at this same event and was signed with Solstice Publishing.

 

2.

We have Sisters in Crime in common. What came first for you: crime writing or your Sisters’ membership?

 

I don’t consider myself exclusively a crime writer. My books usually feature both mystery and romance. I joined Sisters-in-Crime recently because I wanted to belong to a professional organization of mystery authors for contacts and networking opportunities. I also plan to join the International Thriller Writers after my book with Solstice is published.

 

3.

As a librarian, what kind of future do you see for paper-bound books in the digital age? Will libraries become museum pieces?

 

I don’t think digital books will replace physical books anytime soon. Patrons at my library still request physical books and indicate that, even though some of them have e-readers, they still prefer books in a physical format. I, myself, feel that way. While I appreciate the availability of the written word in various formats and own a Kindle Fire, I still return to the traditional format of paperback or hardcover books. My daughter who is of the generation that grew up with computers and is constantly on different electronic devices also still enjoys reading physical books.

 

Regarding libraries becoming antiquated, it’s true they are changing, but I don’t see them disappearing soon either. Libraries play much more of a role in society than places to borrow books and other materials. They are community centers featuring a variety of programs from defensive driving courses to cooking and exercise classes. Our library hosts a literacy group for adults learning English as a Second Language, and we also recently started a writer’s club in addition to open poetry nights and a memoir writing class. Children and YA programs are popular, and we loan free passes to local museums. Through Overdrive and subscription databases, we also extend the “walls” of the library into the homes of our patrons.

 

4.

Comparing journal articles, short stories and novels is tantamount to comparing apples and oranges and… heroically sized watermelons, but I’ll ask you to try. As a crafter of all three, do you favor one method of expression over another?

 

There are pluses and minuses to each type of writing, but I believe they are all connected in certain ways. Novel writing is extremely time-consuming but can be more rewarding because the product you produce is one that allows for full creative expression and the opportunity to receive recognition and acclaim (and eventually some profit). Article-writing is factual and requires research without the added imaginative spark. However, unless you’re writing scholarly articles, there’s always room for creative ways to present research. Blog posts are a perfect example of this. Also, even with novels and short stories, some factual research is necessary to lend realism to the writing.

 

I truly can’t say which type of writing I prefer because I like them all and enjoy doing each as a change from the other. It’s like an artist working in different mediums. It gives you a chance to develop skills in other areas. Another plus is that you can occasionally use something you’ve written in one type of writing in another. For instance, short story themes can be expanded into novels. Information from articles can be used in short stories and novels.

 

5.

We also have kitties in common so I have to ask about the Cat Writer’s Association. Where do we sign up?

 

Just check out their website www.catwriters.com. There’s an application form there that gives information on how to join. It’s a great organization, and I have been a member for many years.

 

6.

Tell us about your new release.

.

My upcoming mystery novel that I just signed with Solstice, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” (tentative title) can be read as a standalone or sequel to my novel “A Stone’s Throw” that was published last November. I don’t want to give too much away about it except to say that it features kidnapping, burglary, and murder. Some of the characters from “A Stone’s Throw” are in it and some new characters are introduced. It takes place in the same small, upstate fictional town of Cobble Cove, New York near the holidays and there are some scenes in New York City, too. I consider it a mystery, but it features many cozy elements and no explicit violence.

 

7.

And the WIP?

 

I’m very excited about my WIP because it’s totally different from my previous books. I usually write in third person but, in this book, I alternate chapters between first and third person. Most of the narrative is told by the main character, but I do include some other “voices.” The action also alternates from the present time to incidents that occurred twenty years before. While this book features a mystery, I consider it a psychological thriller. It deals with a variety of topics including alcoholism and mental illness Again, I can’t go into detail, but I’m hoping to begin querying it sometime in the fall to agents as well as publishers.

 

8.

Let’s finish with a library anecdote: humorous, spooky or both.

 

Lots of funny things happen in the library. My co-workers all say that we could write a book about them, but I can’t think of anything specific right now, so I’ll share a romantic anecdote instead. I actually met my husband when I first started working at the library. He was teaching computer classes there in the early days when there was a big demand for them. We still offer computer classes, but they are now given by our computer support technicians. Anthony was not an employee. He gave the classes in the evenings, and I took one. No one knew we began “seeing” one another until we were announced we were engaged. My co-workers threw an engagement party for us in the library’s community room and many attended the wedding. That was 24 years ago, and I am still working at the library and married to Anthony.

 

 

A STONE’S THROW

stonesthrowamazonWidowed librarian Alicia Fairmont needs answers…

After her husband is killed in a hit and run accident, Alicia travels upstate to his hometown of Cobble Cove, New York, hoping to locate his estranged family and shed light on his mysterious past. Anticipating staying only a weekend, her visit is extended when she accepts a job at the town’s library.

Secrets stretch decades into the past…

Assisted by handsome newspaper publisher and aspiring novelist, John McKinney, Alicia discovers a connection between her absent in-laws and a secret John’s father has kept for over sixty years. But her investigation is interrupted when she receives word her house has burned and arson is suspected, sending her rushing back to Long Island, accompanied by John.

Back in Cobble Cove, cryptic clues are uncovered…

When Alicia returns, she finds a strange diary, confiscated letters, and a digital audio device containing a recording made the day her husband was killed. Anonymous notes warn Alicia to leave town, but she can’t turn her back on the mystery—or her attraction to John.

As the pieces begin to fall into place, evidence points to John’s involvement in her husband’s accident. The past and present threaten to collide, and Alicia confronts her fears…

Has she fallen in love with her husband’s killer?

Ed.-WOW!

 

1

 

Excerpt

 

After Alicia unpacked her things, heated up Sheila’s stew that turned out to be quite tasty, and changed into pajamas, she lay in bed with a book, but she couldn’t concentrate on her reading. She turned off the light and tried to sleep, but the heavy rain against the window kept her up, as did the loud purring of Sneaky Cat, who snuggled against her, happy to have company again. She thought about Tina, the girl who’d stayed here last. From what Alicia knew of her, Tina was a young library school graduate who’d been hired by Sheila as quickly as Alicia had. She’d lived over the library in this space, as well, taken care of Sneaky, and left after a year and a half to care for her sick mother in Florida.

 

Sneaky dug his paws into the quilt at her back. It had been a long time since she’d had a cat, but she recalled the kneading sensation both male and female cats practiced to comfort themselves. Maybe it would comfort her too. Had she done the right thing by returning to Cobble Cove? Would she be bored in this small town with only a hand full of people patronizing the library each day? Sheila had mentioned the large number of homebound patrons, the seniors of the town, who needed books delivered. She might enjoy that. She liked reader’s advisory work, selecting books that would interest people. Sometimes it was a challenge, but she always learned through the experience and even found new authors and books for herself.

 

After a few hours of restlessness, Sneaky finally got sick of her tossing and left the room. She felt strangely deserted. She decided it might be better to get up and do something than spend unproductive time in bed. She turned on the light and went out into the hall. All was quiet from downstairs except the continuous downpour. She didn’t plan to go into the library, but she considered checking some of the unprocessed books Sheila had mentioned Mac was working on in the storage room. Perhaps she’d find something more interesting than her current reading that could help her fall asleep.

 

When she entered the storage room, she didn’t see Sneaky, although she thought he might’ve headed there to use his litter box. Cats can be quiet and liked to sleep in the strangest spots, so he could be there in some corner. Mac’s jacket was still draped across the chair by the desk. She laughed recalling the story about what Sneaky had once done to it out of spite, so typical of an angered cat. She sat in the chair and perused the stack of books on the desk. A few were from James Patterson’s “Private” series. She didn’t read too many series and had only read a few of Patterson’s standalone titles. As she was about to choose a book from the pile, she heard scratching in the corner. She jumped. Hopefully, that was Sneaky and not a mouse he hadn’t caught, for this place probably attracted them. She walked cautiously to the corner where she’d heard the noise. It wasn’t coming from the litter box under the window but from the opposite side.

 

Since the one bulb in the room was dim, she could hardly see in the dark recesses of the room. She wished she had a flashlight. As she approached the area where she heard the noise, she saw a bunch of boxes. She was relieved to see Sneaky scratching the side of one, cardboard pieces scattered at his feet. “Oh, Sneaky,” she said. “You scared me, but you’re only using a box for a scratching post.” The cat, caught in the act, stopped in mid-scratch and scampered away through his cat flap. Alicia made a note to speak to John about helping her find a real scratching post for Sneaky,. but before she left the room, she went over to the boxes. She figured they contained more books, but when she looked inside the one Sneaky had been scratching, she saw a few papers bundled together with rope. Newspapers? They weren’t that thick. She realized as she picked up the first bundle, they were a stack of letters. She felt uneasy snooping through them and was about to toss them next to the other two stacks in the box when she caught the name on the top envelope, Miss Carol Parsons. Her heart thudded in tempo with the rain. Were these the letters Mac wrote to Peter’s mother all those years ago? If so, how had Mac gotten them back?

 

About the Author

 

debbieDebbie De Louise is a reference librarian at a public library on Long Island. Her first novel, “Cloudy Rainbow,” received an honorable mention in the Writer’s Digest self-published awards. Her mystery novel, “A Stone’s Throw” was published November 2015 by Limitless Publishing. The sequel, tentatively titled “Between a Rock and a Hard Place,” is currently contracted with Solstice Publishing. Debbie was awarded the Lawrence C. Lobaugh Memorial Award in Journalism from Long Island University/C.W. Post where she earned a B.A. in English and a M.L.S. in Library Science. A member of Sisters in Crime and the Cat Writer’s Association, she has published articles in several pet publications and journals. Her Catster.com article, “Brush Your Cat for Bonding, Beauty, and Better Health,” won a special award from Hartz Corporation. Her short mystery, “Stitches in Time” was published in the Cat Crimes Through Time Anthology. She lives on Long Island with her husband, daughter, and two cats and is currently working on a standalone psychological thriller.

 

Links

 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/debbie.delouise.author/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Deblibrarian

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2750133.Debbie_De_Louise

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Debbie-De-Louise/e/B0144ZGXPW/

Website/Blog/Newsletter Sign-Up: https://debbiedelouise.wordpress.com

 

Here are some teasers for a Stone’s Throw and its buy links:

Buy links for A STONE’S THROW:

Amazon U.S.: KINDLE: http://amzn.to/1MjaJgN

Amazon Australia: http://bit.ly/1Sdh82D

Amazon Canada: http://amzn.to/1SdheHi

Amazon U.K.: http://amzn.to/1QutXBW

Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/1nQPyv4

Kobo: http://bit.ly/1KGYHep

Also available on iTunes and Ingram

Thanks for dropping by, Debbie. We wish you well and look forward to that new release! — ABF

 

TOMORROW: Novelist, blogger and graphic designer Marie Lavender.

 

 

 

SCIFI, HORROR & FANTASY AUTHOR MARK ILES TALKS MARTIAL ARTS, WAR, AND THE “WHAT IF?”

1.

You’re a 9th Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo. What drew you more to martial arts: the physicality, or the philosophy?

 

It was a bit of everything really. I was bought up in a place called Slough, not far from London, and used to hang with a rough gang of lads and we were always in trouble with the old bill (police). Taking up a friend’s offer to attend Aikido classes, I saw martial arts as a way out and was immediately hooked. This was before Bruce Lee hit the UK cinemas. For me it was the whole ethos: I loved the scent of sandal wood from the joss sticks, the air of tranquillity, hard physical workouts and the confidence the techniques gave us.

 

2.

To what extent do these influences impact your character Selena Dillon in PRIDE OF LIONS?

 

I joined the military in ’74, where I then began studying Taekwondo. I incorporated the martial arts and military experience (plus that of others) into my writing. Ironically I didn’t realise what I’d done until a couple of years ago. I found I’d subconsciously discovered an outlet for the horror of war, what my friends and I had been through. Discovering I’d found some release through my writing was a light bulb moment.

 

3.

As the title ‘PRIDE’ implies, Selena is part of a team that must work together or die. How does team work compare to the lone wolf character in fiction? Is an ensemble a more satisfying dynamic for the writer to transcribe?

 

In the military you’re taught to be confident in your own abilities, so being part of a team doesn’t mean you stop when you find yourself on your own, you go on and do what you can. This trait and her personal history reflects in Selena Dillon, the Key Character in my novels. I find both dynamics satisfying, and for me the story basically writes itself.

 

4.

PRIDE OF LIONS is a science fiction action adventure and I understand the follow up THE CULL OF LIONS has also been published. What can we expect in book three?

 

CULL’ was released two years ago and it continues Selena’s journey. It also reveals why the war started and Selena’s dismay when the bad guys come back, this time with allies. Through books I and II there’s conflict with the key character and the monarch of her home world, who’s responsible for the death of her parents, as well as Selena’s servitude in the regiments. In book III, ‘ROAR OF LIONS’, there’s both resolution of conflict and development in Selena’s character.

I get emails and messages asking when book III’s coming out, and the answer is hopefully the beginning of next year – if not sooner.

Book III answers many questions and ties up loose strings. For me the whole story depicts people’s cruelty yet also their love, two sides of the same coin – or, if you like, our yin and yang.

 

5.

Tell us a bit about your novellas. Do they have common themes running through them?

 

Most of my fiction and poetry is SF, horror and fantasy – so in that light, yeah. You see I love the ‘what if’ factor, the twists and turns that keep readers gripped right to the end.

I’m a firm believer in the paranormal; it’s what started me writing. During the Falklands, I dreamt about an orb of fire flying through the air and awoke bathed in sweat. That day, the Sheffield was hit. The night before 25th May, I had a similar dream and even spoke to my divisional officer about it, and he told me that date was special in Argentina due to the May Revolution. That day we came under attack again and our ship turned into the missiles, which missed us and hit the Atlantic Conveyor. Both sets of missiles were meant for our ship, HMS Invincible, so to me the dreams were warnings, a premonition if you will.

During Gulf War 1 a missile missed the ship I was on by 300 feet and yet I had no warning, but then it wasn’t meant for my ship. Make of that what you will, but I’m told such things run in my family. Incidentally, I wrote up that first dream and sold it, so that’s where I really started to write.

I’ve also had ghostly experiences, but those are tales for another time. So, as you can see, my writing reflects my life, beliefs and interests – all tinged with the ‘what if’.

 

6.

(Fun question) At what degree do you achieve invisibility?

darren-shahlavi-feature-ip-man-2That’s an easy one, tenth! That’s the honorary rank which you get when you die. You see, nine is a special number in the orient – the last one before double figures. There are nine coloured belts (white again being honorary) and so likewise the black belts, a mirror image of where you start. So I guess I’d have to be invisible to reach tenth degree.

I have to say, however, that there are a few living tenth degrees – which makes no sense to me.

 

Ed-So there’s something in the room with me after all. I knew it!

7.

And Jackie Chan? (see photo)      

                                            

jackie-chan-feature-police-story-3I was based in Hong Kong back in ’83 to ’86, and used to write features for a variety of magazines. I was asked by Combat (the martial arts mag’) to go and interview a rising star who’d recently made a film called ‘Police Story’. Yes, it was Jackie Chan. Unfortunately I couldn’t go, because there was a disaster in the Philippines and our patrol boats had been sent out there to provide disaster relief. This meant our teams were basically ‘watch on, watch off’, providing the communications and so forth.

In all I’ve missed three interviews with Jackie. Methinks I’m doomed to never get that one, which is as a shame because I bet he’d be fascinating. Ironically, one of the guys (Chen Kai Chong) who posed for the photos in my Taekwondo book now works with Jackie all the time. He’s basically one of the bad gangland guys in each movie, but he only gets fleeting images.

 

8.

Any last words?

It’s quite hard writing a series of novels. Everything has to be exactly right and in line with the first book, from the weapons people use, the colour of their eyes, what they drink, how they act – not to mention each character’s personal history. Get it wrong and readers will pounce on you, so there’s a lot of cross referencing and checking needed – let alone research.

The thing I like about writing is the comaradery.  Writers support writers and it’s great.

A special thanks also, by the way, to my readers and followers. Cheers guys, you mean a lot and without you it wouldn’t happen.

 

Ed-Well put. I couldn’t agree more!

 

Mark decided to lead off with A PRIDE OF LIONS TODAY. His other titles with links follow…

 

 

a-pride-of-lions-book-coverWhen Selena Dillon is caught in an assassination attempt on her planets ruler, she finds herself sentenced to 25 years servitude in mankind’s most feared military force, the Penal Regiments. Much to her surprise she enjoys the harsh military life and is quickly selected for officer training.

But something’s wrong, worlds are falling silent. There’s no cry for help and no warning, just a sudden eerie silence. When a flotilla of ships is despatched to investigate they exit hyperspace to find themselves facing a massive alien armada. Outnumbered and outgunned the flotilla fight a rearguard action, allowing one of their number to slip away and warn mankind.

As worlds fall in battle, and man’s fleets are decimated, Selena is selected to lead a team of the Penal Regiments most battle-hardened veterans, in a last ditch attempt to destroy the aliens’ home world. If she fails then mankind is doomed. But little does Selena know what fate has in store for her, that one of her crew is a psychopathic killer and a second the husband of one of his victims.

Can she hold her team together, get them to their target and succeed in the attack? Selena knows that if she fails then there will be nothing at all left to go home to.

 

Excerpt

There were angry growls from the crowd and the robosec bellowed, “Silence in court!”

A slim dark-haired woman stood up and banged her fist loudly on the wooden barrier in front of her, her face working in fury as she shouted, “This is a farce. If they’d succeeded you’d be giving them medals now, instead of punishing them. This sucks! Everyone here knows that those who should be on trial are the Queen and the Royal Family. They’ve murdered thousands of people, and these guys only tried to rid our planet of that tyrant. They’re heroes, not criminals!”

Selena looked over and grinned broadly, as she recognised her old school chum Linda McKenzie.

Catching her eye, Linda added, “Tell them to shove it up their arse, Selena. You guys did the right thing, and we’re all damn proud of you. Others will try the same thing, you’ll see, and sooner or later someone will succeed and we’ll finally be rid of those murderers.”

“Get that woman out of my court!” the judge roared, watching angrily as guards dragged Linda away, although the audience continued to protest. “The next person who makes any noise will be dragged outside and whipped on the spot!” he bellowed, eyes widening as he glared at them. Gradually silence fell once more.  “However,” continued the judge more collectedly, turning back to the accused and ignoring the rumpus, “it’s in my power to offer you an alternative. We’re currently upgrading the military, as we do from time to time. This allows me to offer you the option of serving in the Penal Regiments, until you either die in their ranks or are discharged after twenty-five years’ service under their terms of contract. You each have three minutes to decide.”

Selena was stunned. None of them had expected this, and in the shocked silence of the courtroom she began to think furiously.  The Penal Regiments! They were the most feared and respected military force in all of humanity. Only the insane or desperate would even contemplate joining their ranks, and those who simply had no other choice.

Those who joined had the details of their previous lives completely erased; it was as if they ceased to exist. They lost their past, family and sometimes even their personalities. If anyone actually survived the duration of their contracts they could have their faces and bodies surgically altered at the cost of the Federation, so that prior enemies and friends wouldn’t recognise them and they could live out their retirement in peace. But that was if they survived that long and very few ever did. However, Selena mused, there were those survivors. Hope glimmered for the first time since the raid.

Suddenly she heard a voice calling for her attention.  “Selena Dillon, your choice?”

The time had gone and the question seemed to come from nowhere, but Selena knew that she had no option. “I choose the Penal Regiments.”

The others of her team turned to stare at her with blank expressions, but she could hear their breath catching in disbelief.   One by one, the others chose martyrdom.   As they were marched off, Sam turned to stare at her in disgust.

She would never forget the look on his face.   Poor Sam, she thought. You just don’t understand, do you? One day, when you’re long gone and nothing remains of you but dust blowing on the wind, our crimes will have been forgotten and I’ll be able to come back. Can’t you see that?

As for me, old friend, I’m already a survivor.

 

OTHER TITLES BY MARK ILES

 

the-cull-of-lionsSelena Dillon and her team return to Loreen after their attack on Mantis, only to find the myriad worlds of Mankind once again plunged into war. As the Penal Regiments are betrayed by the Federation of Man, and fighting spills throughout the galaxy, the dreaded Manta raise their heads once again. Selena soon finds herself trying to track down her friends’ daughter, Hope, from the rabbit holes of Loreen and then fights to free her home planet from alien invaders. While a general amnesty means previous sins are forgiven, the Queen has not forgotten Selena’s attempt on her life. Selena soon finds herself torn between obeying orders to protect the monarch, and her ravening thirst for revenge. But strange forces are stirring amidst the stars and Mankind finds itself with surprising new allies, while a terrifying enemy that’s manipulated events from behind the scenes finally reveals itself for the very first time.

Buy Link

a-connoisure-of-the-bizarreA carful of police officers swerves in the rain to avoid a shadowy figure. Detective Chets Owen and his two companions immediately recognise the local lunatic, O’Neal, but they’re shocked to see a gun in his hand. Then O’Neal mentions that he knows where a missing child is. Does he, or doesn’t he, and is O’Neal really who he seems?

 

Buy Link

 

 

 

 

falling-from-graceHere you’ll find tales of the supernatural, betrayal and murder; the mistakes that lead to the fall of empires and the constant tug of war that haunts mankind. There’s a blend of science fiction, fantasy and horror – from a modern day detective facing a serial killer to a future utopia filled with disloyalty. Lovers of romance will find a little something for them too, but within these bright sparks of hope shades of darkness lurk.

 

Buy Link

 

 

 

distant-shores-book-coverGripping tales from magical tattoos to a time when mankind has been decimated by aliens and the world is run by Androids. From where monsters roam our skies, a little girl waits patiently for Santa one cold Christmas Eve to a world haunted by the ghosts of the slaughtered inhabitants. Read it with the light on!

 

Buy Link

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

kwaks-competition-taekwondo-book-cover

 

 

 

 

 

Buy Link

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

escape-velocityEscape Velocity, the science fiction magazine from Adventure Books of Seattle, was host to some of the most talented writers in the genre. Presented here are many of the best short stories from the magazine, as well as others specially submitted for this collection by authors from around the world. This very unique book contains forty-eight sci-fi stories, such as ‘Scream Quietly’ by Sheila Crosby, ‘Royal Flush,’ by Ian Whates, and Rebecca Latyntseva’s controversial time-travel tale, ‘Red Monkeys’. The stunning cover images only add to what is undoubtably one of the best science fiction collections of the year. Edited by Geoff Nelder of Great Britain and Robert Blevins of the United States.

Goodreads

 

 

About the Author

 

mark-portraitMark works for Southampton University, and also as a freelance writer in many fields including copywriting. His short stories have been published in Back Brain Recluse, Dream, New Moon, Auguries, Haunts, Kalkion, Screaming Dreams, and the anthologies Right To Fight, Escape Velocity, Auguries and Monk Punk. With an 8th Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo he’s also written non-fiction for Combat, Taekwondo & Korean Martial Arts, Fighters, Junk, Martial Arts Illustrated, profwritingacademy.com and calmzone.net.

His first full length work was ‘Kwak’s Competition Taekwondo’, and he also has a short story collection entitled ‘Distant Shores’. His debut novel ‘A Pride of Lions’ was published by Solstice in September 2013 and is the first book in ‘The Darkening Stars’ series. Since ‘Pride’ was published Mark has also had 4 novellas accepted: ‘A Connoisseur of the Bizarre’, ‘Sally Jane’, ‘Nightshade’ and ‘Santa Claws is Coming’.

Having written features and fiction for over 30 years Mark applied to do an MA in Professional Writing. ‘Pride’ had been bouncing around in his head for some time, and he seized the opportunity to produce this first novel as part of the course. Mark says it’s without doubt the best choice he’s ever made, as it really focused him, and that getting this novel Accepted is the perfect conclusion to a wonderful experience. He’s now focusing on the second book in this series, ‘The Cull of Lions’.

 

 

Links

Social Media:

Website: www.markiles.co.uk

Twitter: www.twitter.com/welcometoearth

LinkedIn: http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/mark-iles/33/67a/822

Facebook Author’s Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mark-Iles/279162705557698

Blog: http://markiles.co.uk/the-blog

Amazon Authors Page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mark-Iles/e/B004YZBP3I/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

 

 

Books:

A Pride of Lions: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Pride-Lions-Darkening-Skies/dp/149425445X

Distant Shores: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Distant-Shores-ebook/dp/B008SD4KOS/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1347182066&sr=1-1

Kwaks Competition Taekwondo: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kwak%60s-Competition-Taekwondo-Mark-Iles/dp/B000FTHGFI

 

Novellas:

Nightshade: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Nightshade-Mark-Iles-ebook/dp/B00HQOP1BQ

A Connoisseur of the Bizarre: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Connoisseur-Bizarre-Mark-Iles-ebook/dp/B00HQOP54O

Sally Jane: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Jane-Mark-Iles-ebook/dp/B00HQOOZ40

Santa Claws is Coming: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Santa-Claws-Coming-Mark-Iles-ebook/dp/B00HQOP0D0

 

Thanks for dropping by Mark. Be sure to let us know when the WIP goes to press!

— ABF

MONDAY: Please join me in welcoming award-winning cat writer, librarian and Sister in Crime Debbie De Louise, whose third novel A STONE’S THROW is releasing through Solstice Publishing.

NEW URBAN FANTASY FROM KATEMARIE COLLINS

Award winning author KateMarie Collins visits the blog for the first time, sharing her thoughts on identity, home and reconciling the two. GUARDING CHARON is her fourteenth title. Welcome KateMarie.

 

 

guarding-charon-001One should always read the fine print…especially with an inheritance from a relative you didn’t know existed.

In a rut doesn’t even begin to describe Grace’s life at 22. Her ex is using his position as a cop to stalk her, getting her fired from every job she finds. Her parents, not knowing how abusive he could be, believe all her problems would vanish if she’d simply marry him. After losing yet another job, a lawyer arrives. A relative has died and left her entire estate in Maine to Grace.

Eager to shake the dust of Bruce and small town Texas off of her for good, she leaps at the chance. She even changes her name. Then she learns that her great aunt was a Witch…and the house has some big secrets. Secrets that she has to protect for six months if she hopes to inherit the entire estate and truly be free of her past.

 

 

1.

Welcome KateMarie and congrats on your latest GUARDING CHARON. The boatman Charon first appears in classical literature and evokes images of fear and loathing, but he also represents a passage into the nether and a new beginning. What themes dominate most in your novel?

 

New beginnings, definitely. Finding out who you truly are when you escape the people who want you to be something else because it benefits them.

 

2.

Who doesn’t dream of inherited wealth from a surprising source? Your character Grace faces some unusual challenges when she does. How does she cope?

 

Grace/Amber isn’t afraid of her future nearly as much as she is her past. She tends to embrace the challenges because what she left behind was so awful that almost anything would be an improvement on her life.

 

3.

There are strong paranormal overtones in your novel including witchcraft. Do you consider magical powers a strength or a curse for protagonists?

 

Strength, definitely. I’m a Solitary Wiccan and made sure that the presence of witchcraft was positive and in line with how Wiccans really live their lives. Part of what I hope is that this book educates someone on what witchcraft really is.

 

4.

The states of Maine and Texas figure prominently in your narrative. What is your link to these settings?

 

I have none! LOL. I chose Texas as the starting point because it tends to be conservative. Amber is a bit more liberal minded. Maine seemed to be about as far away as you could get and stay in the continental U.S. I also wanted an area that had a lot of historical homes, so East Coast was a must.

 

5.

This is your fourteenth title, starting with DAUGHTER HAUK and your seventh print book. Does one work inform another, or are they very different in plot, tone, theme?

 

‘Guarding Charon’ is my first urban fantasy novel. Everything else is more high fantasy. Though I tend to have mainly female protagonists in my books. I’m a woman, so it’s easier for me to write from a female point of view. Almost every single book has reflections of my own life, though. Be it discovering my faith, escaping from a town where I couldn’t be who I really was, or battling personal demons. There is a part of me in each title.

 

6.

I’d love a teaser from you work. Care to share an excerpt?

 

Glancing up at the house, she saw lights in the living room and nowhere else. Briefly, she thought about going around to the back door and trying to get to her room unnoticed, but she dismissed that quickly. Her mom would know she’d lost another job already. There was going to be a confrontation no matter what door she went through. She took a deep breath and strode up the path to the house. Might as well get this over with.

She opened the front door and closed it behind her. “Hey, Dad,” she said as she pulled her jacket off and hung it on a too-ornate-for-the-room coat tree.

She heard him shift in his chair. “Mom told me you lost another job today. What’s the matter? Too stupid to clean dishes right?”

“No, Dad. He said he loved how I ran things. Business was slow, though, so someone had to go.” She crossed to the arched opening on the other side of the room. “I’m pretty tired, so heading to bed early.” She headed down the hallway to her bedroom. If she moved fast enough, she could avoid her mom. She hoped.

“Gracie, baby, is that you?” Grace’s heart sank as her mom’s shrill voice called out from the kitchen. She stopped, her hand on the knob. So close!

June came down the hallway, busily drying her hands on a towel. “Oh, baby. Bruce called and told us how you quit another job.” She reached out to hug her, and Grace knew better than to refuse. “Don’t you worry, baby. You and Bruce can set a date now, you’ll lose yourself in planning the wedding. You don’t need to work, after all.”

Twisting the handle, she looked at her mother. “Mom, there’s not going to be a wedding. I’m not marrying Bruce. See?” She held up her bare left hand. “No ring.” She wiggled her fingers for emphasis.

Her mom’s lips tightened into a disapproving line. “That’s because you’re too stubborn, Gracie Lynn! That man’s being very patient with you, Lord bless him. You’re denying us a beautiful life!”

Grace arched her eyebrows. “‘Us?’ Sorry, Mother. But I’m not paying the price for you to live in luxury.” She threw open the door, slamming it behind her. Turning, she put the chain on. She’d installed that about two years ago, after finding out her mom had been snooping through her journals.

Then she burned them all.

She removed her purse, tossing it on her desk before collapsing on her bed. Her hands flew to her face. Stifling the urge to scream, she tried to get rid of the headache threatening to form. She had to do something, but what? No one in town would hire her. And she didn’t have enough saved up for a bus ticket to anywhere worth going. Anywhere big enough to disappear in.

Tomorrow, she’d go to the library. Search for a job with a cruise line or something. Do they still want people to teach English in Japan? Sighing, she dismissed that idea. She’d need a valid passport, for one. That cost money. And the only place local to apply was housed in the same building as the police department.

A knock at her door broke through her panicked thoughts. “Grace,” her dad called. “Come out here, please. Someone wants to see you.” His steps retreated.

Something in his voice gave her pause. It couldn’t be Bruce. He would’ve said his name. And none of her friends lived in town anymore. They’d gotten out and stayed out.

She rose, glancing at herself in the mirror on the wall. Pulling out the scrunchie, she grabbed a brush and worked it through her hair quickly. That’d have to do.

Sliding the chain off the lock, she opened the door and closed it behind her. She heard her mom talking to someone, her voice nervous. Whoever this was, it wasn’t someone they expected.

Grace stopped in the archway. Her parents sat on the edge of their chairs. Near the front door stood an older man, his dark suit neatly pressed. His gaze settled on her, his face lighting up. “You must be Miss Adams,” he said, his voice warm. “I’m pleased to meet you. My name is Laurence Dixon,” he extended his hand to her. “I’m a lawyer. Please, sit. We have much to discuss.”

Grace shook his hand, surprised at the greeting. She eased into a chair nearby. “Hello, Mr. Dixon. I don’t understand why a lawyer would be here to see me, though. I haven’t done anything wrong.”

He smiled at her. “Oh, I know you haven’t, Miss Adams. I represent your great aunt, Amanda Cross.”

“I don’t have a great aunt, Mr. Dixon,” she answered.

“She’s been dead to me for decades!” Her mom stood, anger on her face. “Whatever she might want with my Gracie, she can’t have it!”

Mr. Dixon looked her way. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Adams. But your daughter,” he nodded toward Grace, “is named as her heir. And is of legal age to inherit. Whatever your issues with Ms. Cross may have been, it has no bearing on her last wishes.”

Grace blinked. “What inheritance, Mr. Dixon?”

He turned back to Grace. “Ms. Cross has named you her sole heir, Miss Adams. She has left you her home, and entire fortune. There is but one stipulation you must fulfill to inherit.”

For the first time in a very long time, Grace felt hope stirring within her. This could be her chance to escape! Disappear forever! “What’s the stipulation, Mr. Dixon?”

“Ms. Cross’ estate is on the Allagash River, in upstate Maine. In a small town by the name of Cavendish. Her will explicitly states that you must reside in her home for six months. The estate will pay all of your expenses for the duration. After that time, you will inherit all of Ms. Cross’ assets and can dispose of the home and contents as you feel best.”

“She is getting married! I’m not going to allow her to travel across the country to live in some hole in the wall!” Her mom screamed, her voice shrill.

That decided it. Grace stood, extending her hand. “Mr. Dixon, I accept the challenge. When do we leave?” She didn’t care how much her mother sputtered in rage and disbelief. She was, as he pointed out, of legal age to inherit. At twenty-two, her life was hers to lead. But she had to get out from under Bruce’s radar to do it. Six months in Maine? That should do it.

Mr. Dixon took her hand, placing his other one on top as they shook. “We can leave tonight, Miss Adams. I have a car outside. And a private plane at the airstrip. As soon as you’re ready to go.”

She smiled, genuinely happy for the first time in over a year. “Give me five minutes,” she replied and then darted out of the room.

 

7.

What’s next?

 

I’m working on ‘Emile’s Blade’ currently. Another Amari novella. When that’s done, I’ll be putting all three (the two already out are ‘Fin’s Magic’ and ‘Alaric’s Bow’) into a single print volume. After that, not certain. Could be a sequel to ‘Mark of the Successor’ or more about Amber, Charon, and Cavendish, Maine!

 

Looking forward to that! Thanks for joining us, KateMarie. Come back soon.

–ABF

 

Links

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01H13QF8E#nav-subnav

Print: https://www.amazon.com/Guarding-Charon-KateMarie-Collins/dp/1625263902

Universal link: myBook.to/guardingcharon

Web site: http://www.katemariecollins.wordpress.com

 

TOMORROW: Martial artist, freelance writer and author of umpteen short stories and novels Mark Iles drops by to talk about his latest A PRIDE OF LIONS.

RAEGYN PERRY AND A PAS DE DEUX FOR THE AGES

big-book-imageTorrential rain spikes. A scream pierces the dark night. Greye Fields has immersed herself in her literary work, with no desire to chase the inevitable sting of rejection she knows too well. She won’t allow herself the time or the desire to pursue love. Until she meets him. Connor Donovan is perfectly content with his bachelor status. Life is good, teaching middle school English, and being the favorite uncle. He wants for nothing. Until he meets her. Shattered glass. A wash of blood. Is it a nightmare or a memory? Can Connor and Greye overcome the obstacles to the love of all time, or is tragedy doomed to be repeated? What if love found the right people in the wrong time?

Eleven months after the release of LAVENDER FIELDS, Solstice author Raegyn Perry returns to the blog with a clutch of five star reviews AND an exciting WIP on the way. FIELDS is the beginning, CYPRESS GROVES is the continuum with characters old and new. Welcome back, Raegyn.

1.

Lavender Fields won an award. Tell us about that.

 

readers-favorite-awardIt was a FIVE STAR review actually from Reader’s Favorite. RF is a great online site that connects authors and readers. We all know any exposure is key to getting more readers. Having someone enjoy the story, and give it 5 *’s is like the icing, sprinkles and cute decoration on the adorable, moist and delicious cupcake!

 

2.

Critical praise has been stellar. One reviewer, in particular, referred to a scene so unique that nothing else like it shows up in literature. You can’t leave me hanging here, friend. Can you give us a clue???

 

It is a pivotal scene! All I can say is, it is actually part of a bigger revelation in the second and third books!

 

3.

You’ve been kind enough to suggest a dream cast for Lavender Fields, the movie. I love, love, love, Zoe Saldana. She commands a room with a glance. Can you give us a sketch about her Lavender Fields character?

 

I love Zoe too! She would be perfect as Greye Fields, a well-to-do executive at the Literacy Foundation in Boston. She is a writer and admitted daydreamer. She knows love hurts, and would just as soon avoid it. An unexpected encounter with a handsome man has Greye rethinking her life plan. Just when it seems things couldn’t be more perfect, they go terribly awry. She learns that sometimes memories can be signs of history being tragically repeated, or of an amazing second chance at love.

dream-cast-banner

 

4.

You have romance, mystery, and paranormal elements in book one of the series and book two is on the way. Tell us about your WIP and what we can expect from your amazing cast of characters.

 

cypress-groveCypress Groves will take the paranormal aspect in a different, darker direction. Single mom Angela Donovan left Boston to come back home to Roy, WA to start her life over. Tragedy befalls one of their own, and the timing is suspect with a stranger coming to town to solve the community’s financial woes. There is also a new sheriff in town. (always wanted to say that!). Is the small town as safe as it once was? What is the likelihood of the stranger, who also came from Boston, is a coincidence? Is Angela in danger for her life or for her heart? There are cameos from some Lavender Fields characters, as well as some fun, interesting (and dangerous) ones.

 

5.

Reincarnation figures prominently in your storyline(s). It is a tantalizing idea, especially when we enter into the notion that memories can be passed from generation to generation. Have you ever experienced moments of déjà vu? Do you have a strong affiliation with another part of the world where you have never been before in this life?

 

17284329I did quite a bit of research when I decided to go with a reincarnation theme. My characters in Lavender Fields have connections with Ireland, but myself, I have a strong connection for some reason with France. I haven’t fully traced any roots/ancestry there, but I remember when I went to Paris once, I felt like I could have moved there and been just fine. In my home, I have a lot of Paris themed décor’ all over!  I’m even on Duolingo brushing up my Parlant Français!

 

6.

Your biography says you’re a binge watcher. Spill! What are you currently engrossed in?

 

Oh, I can binge-watch like nobody’s business! I’m currently engrossed in a fun show from New Zealand called ‘The Almighty Johnson’s’-about four brothers who are the human incarnation of the Norse Gods. My all time favorite binge watch is still hands down, ‘Chuck’. I can go on- Outlander, Limitless…

 

7.

Any last words?

 

Thanks for having me on A.B.! You’re one of my favorite “Solstice Siblings!” Hugz!

 

Solstice Publishing

 

Well, thank you, darlin’! I’m really looking forward to CYPRESS GROVES.

 

Let’s check out the trailer for LAVENDER FIELDS. The star looks familiar! NOTE: Raegyn is an actor, too!

 

About Raegyn

 
download-1Raegyn (pronounced Reagan) Perry is thrilled to share her debut novel, Lavender Fields, with readers. This is the first book in the Eternal Journey Series. It asks the question,

‘What if love found the right people, at the wrong time?’

With the inspiration coming from a true family story, and having found the uninhibited time to write, a story of unequaled love and desperate circumstances was born.

When not writing, Raegyn is perfectly content curled up with a good book, TV binge watching, or on a fun travel adventure. Also, anyone who knows her knows she loves to dance (a lot!) wherever and whenever possible! How would she describe Lavender Fields?


big-book-image“It’s a paranormal romance that centers around reincarnation; so it’s basically two romances! The story is funny, sexy, dark, and raw while being twisted, mysterious, and still somehow romantic.”

Raegyn believes readers can connect with her lovers, Connor and Greye, on a few levels. It has the elements of the classic love story: boy meets & gets girl, but it also tackles some real and uncomfortable issues, while introducing characters that anyone can relate to, root for, or despise altogether! Then, throw some odd clues with a helping of paranormal in, and you have a unique take on a timeless aspect of romance. The author hopes so anyway!

For a love even time can’t deny…

After Raegyn completes the Eternal Journey Series, she hopes to begin work on another series, which readers can actually catch a glimpse of first within the pages of Lavender Fields.

The beautiful Pacific Northwest state of Washington has been home since 2001. She has one grown son whom she adores. Raegyn is currently working on the second book in the series, Cypress Groves, and as a playwright, she’s currently investigating options to get her full length stage play, Daisy Juice produced in the area.

 

 

 

Excerpt 

 Excerpt from Lavender Fields 

The Dream

 

Screams of outrage and pain crashed against the howling wind. Breaking glass followed while a crimson ooze covered the wet ground.

A lingering scent carried on the breeze was swallowed by the night. The orange glow on the horizon turned an ominous dark and the sky rumbled with agitation.

Each time the dream came to her, it was as vivid and profound as before. Through the fog of this dream appeared a hazy universal image. The small, obscure wooden marker at the top of the hill marked a long-forgotten resting place.

 

Greye had dozed off on the park bench and the haunting dream had come upon her again, as it had so many times in years past. She was never able to understand the nightmare, and it unsettled her still, as an adult. Set in a faraway place and time, there was always something more just beneath the surface… hinting at an unknown that should somehow be familiar.

Greye couldn’t have known the role this recurring dream would play in her future.

***

 

Greye looked down to begin writing again when a searing pain shot straight up her leg. She froze in shocked confusion. She grabbed her knee as her eyes blurred with tears. Then she noticed the bright green Frisbee that had smashed into her right kneecap.

The kids were now otherwise occupied, their voices softer and further in the distance. The man was approaching with the Lab in stride. Greye could sense he had stopped in front of her. She heard an anxious and strong, deep voice.

“Oh God, I’m so sorry. Are you OK? I’m so sorry.”

Clutching her throbbing knee with one hand, and wiping her eyes with the other, Greye looked up into his cobalt blues, which were still cringed looking at where his errant disk had landed. Managing to conceal an unexpected sigh, she replied, “I’m fine, I think. Just wasn’t expecting it.”

 

She watched as he drew a hand through his dark, short hair. It was a nervous habit she figured. She also noticed the tousled, shiny waves that threatened to end in curls if his hair got much longer.

***

Connor caught an intriguing scent on the wind he thought he remembered, but couldn’t quite place. “My apologies really. I didn’t expect it to catch that much air.”

As if feeling guilty by association, the golden Lab came and rested its big head on her uninjured leg. When Connor saw the smile she gave his best friend, a warm feeling began to blossom in his chest.

 

Scratching the dog’s ears, she offered, “It’s OK, I’ll live. May never walk right, but I’ll live.”

The casual smirk she quickly added had Connor feeling the stricken pallor of his face blush with heat.

 

“Well, it has to be said, there has been considerable advancement in knee replacement these days. Though I do hope it doesn’t come to that.”

Greye let a soft laugh escape and she countered with, “I don’t think it will. I’m tough. I’ll forego the surgery, and wear this limp with pride.” She gently massaged her red and puffy knee.

 

This time Connor had to laugh. He really liked this pretty woman with the quick and easy comebacks. She appeared to be of mixed race, most likely black and white, with her flawless honey colored complexion. It was those expressive green eyes he found he could get easily lost in. He strongly resisted the urge to touch her soft chin length brown hair, which he noticed, was lit with auburn highlights as it fell in loose waves around a diamond shaped face. He noticed a scar than ran just under her jaw line. Her slender body looked to be in pretty good shape as well.

 

With a cocky grin, and a small bow he said, “A battle wound then I most humbly take credit for. Then he added, “I couldn’t help but notice your perfume. It’s really … nice.”

“Thank you. It’s just hand lotion; honey and—”

“Lavender,” he finished. That’s her scent.

She replied, “It’s honey and lavender, yes.”

 

LINKS AND PRAISE

Lavender Fields (Book 1 of the Eternal Journey Series)

Cypress Groves (Book 2 of the Eternal Journey Series) -WIP

FB Author page:      http://facebook.com/authorRaegynPerry

Twitter:                http://twitter.com/RaegynP

Website:              http://raegynperry.com

Blogsite:               http://raegynperry.wordpress.com

Affiliations:        PNWA (Pacific NW Writers Association) Romance Writers of America

Publisher:            Solstice Publishing/Summer Solstice

Email:                    raegynperrywrites@gmail.com

 

Find out why readers are laughing, crying, and fanning themselves over Lavender Fields! Maybe it’s the humor, heart and hotness within its pages!

 

 readers-favorite-award

***** “Raegyn Perry has a unique talent for transporting her readers beyond the here and now. I found that I was incredibly involved in the love story of Greye and Connor.”

– Angela Beck-Kalnins for Readers’ Favorite

 

***** (5 Stars)

Lavender Fields is a multilayered story that captures the reader’s attention. My first criteria for a good book is do I care about the characters. Greye and Connor have the protagonist likability factors. As their love story unfolds we are given glimpses into an underlying drama. Just a hint of foreshadowing and coincidence that move the story along beautifully. One particular scene is so unique that I have never experienced it in literature (and no, I am not describing it because that would spoil the impact of it.)
I enthusiastically recommend this book and am looking forward to the next installment in the trilogy.
Great work, Raegyn Perry!

~Linda R.

***** (5 Stars)

I loved this story! Lavender Fields is a mixture of mystery, romance and intrigue. It is at times, thought provoking and I could feel the emotions that Miss Perry was spilling over the pages of this heart wrenching love story. The correlation of the past and present comes to together to solve a mystery that pulls the reader in and then tips them over with the reveal. I can’t wait for the sequel!

-Vicki-Ann Bush (Author of Room 629, Fulfillment)

 

Available in eBook and Paperback formats

 

Solstice Publishing: http://solsticepublishing.com/lavender-fields/

Amazon:   http://www.amazon.com/Lavender-Fields-Eternal-Journey-Book-ebook/dp/B015NC4D8E

Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lavender-fields-raegyn-perry/1122711459?ean=9781625262790

Bookgoodies:    http://bookgoodies.com/a/B015NC4D8E

 

 

TOMORROW: KATEMARIE COLLINS AND THE CAVEATS ASSOCIATED WITH INHERITED WEALTH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HUMANIST, ARTIST, PHILOSOPHER RAY CHILENSKY

Writing’s been a long time coming according to author Ray Chilensky, but once he got going there was no turning back. A ‘penciler’ in his spare time, his career as storyteller began with a “penchant for improving” source material in childhood. Today, he creates layered characters in dystopian worlds with a message that finds a home in the time we live in. Welcome, Ray.

1.

We have more than a few things in common. Let’s begin with the drawing. Is it an inherited gift? What are your favorite subjects?

 

You can be born with the talent to draw, but I really can’t point to any family member that I inherited any talent that I may have from. Even if you have natural talent, you have to work to develop it. I once aspired to be a comic book penciler so I spent a lot of time studying anatomy and basic things like perspective and foreshortening.

wav team posthcover66666

F.I.R.E. Team Alpha began as a concept for a comic book series but the story outgrew that medium. My favorite subjects for artwork are usually characters that I created over the years. My favorite genre is fantasy art. I love drawing ornate armor, weapons and ancient ruins.

 

2.

You worked in law enforcement and private security. What aspects of this kind of work did you bring to your fiction? Did it inform your passion for storytelling, or was that always there?

 

My time in law enforcement and security exposed me to the fantastic camaraderie the people who work in those fields share with one another. Many of the people that I worked with were military veterans as well, and I was impressed by the bonds of fidelity that people in those kinds of professions form. I try to convey that sense of respect and loyalty in the Team Alpha books.

I’ve always been a story teller. If someone told me a story when I was kid, I tended to make ‘improvements’ when I retold it. That got me into more than a little trouble. I used to write stories based on the role playing game campaigns my buddies and I played and only showed those stories to them.  I wanted to be an author my whole life, I think. It’s only been within the last few years that I’ve taken writing seriously.

 

3.

The F.I.R.E. Team Alpha series is jam packed with topical issues: global warfare, eugenics, profiteering. Is it humankind’s destiny to repeat the mistakes of the past? Does your series offer hope?

 

Sadly, yes, mankind will continue to repeat his mistakes. We’re in the process of repeating them right now. There is a frightening lack of historical knowledge these days and that lack of knowledge lets the powers-that-be repeat their mistakes and use the same old bag of tricks to further cracked agendas. It really is the doom of man that he forgets.

Although my subject matter is bleak, I do offer hope in the form of my characters. My protagonists don’t give into despair and they never, never give up. They say ‘Ok, the world is broken; let’s fix it’. They never say ‘the world is broken, let’s whine about it.’ My protagonists work together to make their world better. They have hope, so the reader has hope.

 

4.

Give us a sketch of Douglas Carter. Do you identify with him?

 

01-Carter-2013I’ve psychoanalyzed Carter quite a bit over the years. What defines him more than anything else is that he cares deeply about humanity. That may seem odd if you read my books because he tends to leave a trail of corpses in his wake. But when he kills he does it with the conviction that he is fighting evil and freeing people, all people, from slavery. He takes tons of bad karma on himself so that other people can have better lives.

I, myself, identify with Carter only in that I share his caring for every individual on the planet. Until everyone is politically and morally free, no one really is. Carter is in a better position to act on his convictions. All I can do is write books and weave sociological and geopolitical elements into my stories and hope anyone who reads them is inspired to ask some questions. They don’t have to agree with me, but I hope that if they disagree they’ve done enough homework so that they can disagree logically.

Ed-Ray literally gave me a sketch. Fantastic!

 

5.

Filmdom is dotted with awesome war scenarios: The Mouse that Roared, Dr. Strangelove and, more recently, In The Loop come to mind. What’s your ‘go to’ movie in this genre?

 

‘The Guns of Navarone’ and ‘Where Eagles Dare’ (both written by Alistair MacLean) are two of my favorite war movies and influenced the Team Alpha series. Black Hawk Down is also a favorite. The 1975 film ‘Rollerball’, although technically not a war movie, is also one of my top ten faves. It’s set in a corporate run world that has replaced war with very violent sport.

 

Ed. I’ve seen all of these many times. They really stand out!

 

6.

Let’s talk about SEVENTH. Similar, but different, it has that fantastic ‘other-worldly’ component to it.

 

Seventh has a different feel to it than the Team Alpha books.  It’s the first of the Blessed Warrior series and revolves around the Selkirk family, which is one of seven Blessed Bloodlines; each of which is  endowed with supernatural powers by one of the seven archangels so they can defend mankind against the  demons that have stalked the Earth since before the flood of Noah. The main character is Cadell Selkirk, the seventh and youngest of the Selkirk brothers.  Being a Seventh makes him very special an extra- powerful Blessed Warrior and puts a lot of pressure on him.

What I like most about writing the Selkirks is the family aspect. There’s a tendency in a lot of fiction today that if you have a family featured prominently in a story it has to be dysfunctional. The Selkirks, despite having lost their father and a brother while fighting the demons, are a loving, supportive family. They have their issues, but they stick together no matter what. I’m the youngest of four brothers and I’m close to all my siblings. When I’m writing the Selkirk brothers, I can draw on those normal, but precious brother-to brother moments that siblings everywhere share. The normalcy of the way the brothers interact with one another, their mother and their grandfather is a great contrast to the distinctly abnormal activity of fighting demons. I think that the supernatural aspects of a story work better if their grounded in a reality that is relatable to everyday life.

 

7.

Have you ever experienced preternatural phenomena? If ‘no’ is there anything to it?

 

When I was seven, I was with some friends when I saw a huge glowing triangle in the sky. At the time I was convinced as a seven year old could be that I’d seen an alien spaceship.

 

8.

When has this planet ever been war free? What the heck would we do if we suddenly went peaceful?

 

Well, I think mankind knew a measure of peace before he became ‘civilized’. There might have been some fighting over land, food or mates, but the real carnage didn’t begin until man got organized. We’ve institutionalized religion, food production, education and most other things. We’ve really, really institutionalized warfare. Individual people can live together peacefully. Institutions can’t.

I don’t know what would happen if peace were to suddenly be achieved. A case could be made that civilization would collapse because all civilization is based on force or the threat of force. Jared Diamond wrote an excellent book on this subject:’ Guns, Germs and Steel’, which was made into a PBS documentary. I’ve worn out two hardcopies of it.

 

9.

The other day you shared an observation where you had completed a scene that would ‘probably make some people mad.’ I gotta know: can you throw out a teaser line or two?

 

That scene had to do with the corruption of many of the world churches and how the institution of the church became more important than the mission of the church. Here’s a quick expert:

 

…Cadell chuckled and shook his head. “No, we’re not religious in that sense. When a Blessed couple gets married they can have whatever kind of ceremony they want. It could be a big, traditional church wedding or they could go to Vegas and get married by an Elvis impersonator. For the Blessed it’s the commitment a man and a woman have to each other that matters, not a ceremony. Our ceremonies are for casting spells when the words spoken have real power.

The Blessed don’t have a particular sacred book or a bunch of sacraments that only elite class of oligarchs can perform. We don’t have a pope, or deacons or saints. There are no councils or conclaves. We do what is right and we answer to our own conscience and to God and his angels. We worship in our own way and interpret the Holy Word for ourselves without middle men or bureaucracy to get between us and God. The Blessed deliberately avoid organization and making the Blessed into an institution. Everything works around the family unit.”

Evelyn began her own pre-workout stretching. “Why? Wouldn’t organization make you more effective at fighting the Grigori and Nephilim?”

Cadell took a training broadsword from the rack used it to make a figure-eight in front of him. “At first maybe,” he replied. “But as soon as you make an institution out anything and start giving people titles and authority the institution almost always become more important that the reason for its existence; more important than the mission. People start jockeying for position and influence within the institution and forget about what the institution is supposed to be doing. All of that gets even worse as soon as money gets involved.”

Evelyn’s Vulcan eyebrow arched. “That would be a pretty bitter pill for many Catholics, Mormons and most Southern Baptists to swallow,” she observed.

“Look at the Vatican, though,” Cadell retorted exchanging a series of sword-strikes with an imaginary foe. “There’s proof that the Vatican knew about the Jewish Holocaust during World War Two and did nothing. It made a deal with Mussolini’s gang of Fascists so he would leave the Pope and his cronies alone. A let’s not forget that the Vatican, as an institution, covered up the fact that a good many of its priest were molesting children for decades. All of that was to preserve the institution and keep its reputation clean…”

 

 

10.

What are you working on right now?

 

I’m about two-thirds of the way done with Seventh and should have the rough draft ready to submit in mid- September. After that I’ll take a week or two off from writing and then start outlining and researching for the third Team Alpha book: ‘The Pandora Principle’.

 

11.

Any last words?

 

Just to thank you for having me on you blog. And thanks to your readers for taking the time to learn about my work. I hope they enjoy it.

 

Thanks, Ray. Let’s jump right in…

 

 

F.I.R.E. Team Alpha: The Series

The Fast Intervention Raiding and Espionage teams; elite units of genetically enhanced special operators are the tier one striking forces of the United States and its Free Nationalist Forces allies.  Drawn from the world’s finest special operation forces; the F.I.R.E.  teams combine the best, most demanding military training in the world with more than human physical and mental capabilities granted by advanced genetic engineering. The F.I.R.E. teams are the most lethal warriors in human history.

 

The Fate of Nations: F.I.R.E. Team Alpha Book One

The Fate of NationswpOver thousands of years, the tools of war have evolved from simple clubs to precision guided missiles while the warriors wielding those weapons have changed very little. In 2099, the warriors became as advanced as their weapons. The potential of human evolution was unlocked and accelerated. Soldiers became faster, stronger and smarter. In 2099, genetics became the deadliest science. Douglas Carter was among the first of this new breed of living weapons called paranormals. Already a consummate soldier before undergoing transformation into a paranormal, he has fought for his country for his entire adult life. With the United States and all other nations at the brink of destruction, he and a team of other genetically enhanced soldiers from many nations fight a war that will either free humanity from global slavery or doom it to a life under tyranny

Amazon Link

Blood and Treasure: F.I.R.E. Team Alpha Book Two

Fire Team Alpha Book 2In 2108 the First Sovereignty War is in its final stage. The World Central Authority has disintegrated after the destruction of its European command centers at the hands of the six allied F.I.R.E. Teams. American led allied armies are marching across Western Europe; bringing sovereignty and self-determination back to formerly enslaved nations. While the Pan-Asian Homogeny watches the fighting and waits for the Allies and Europeans to slaughter each other, the Corporate Consortium profits by financing all sides.  With the planet already devastated by fourteen years of global war, a cabal of scientists plans to enslave a remnant of mankind in a Utopian oligarchy after unleashing a plague that would kill most of the world’s population.

 

Without official sanction, F.I.R.E Team Alpha is sent into the corporate exclusion zone in Frankfurt, Germany to stop the scientist’s plot. The team becomes entangled in a web of deceit, conflicting political agendas, and genocidal eugenics. Operating without outside support, and able to trust only in one another, the operators of F.I.R.E. Team Alpha must not only accomplish their mission, but also discover what forces in their own government are working against them.

Amazon Link

 

The WIP: SEVENTH

The Selkirk family is one of the seven Blessed bloodlines; true emissaries of God empowered by his seven Archangels. The Blessed have protected humanity from the Grigori and their demonic allies for over nine hundred years. Trained from birth to battle the Grigori,  the Selkirk brothers fight forces that most people do not believe in yet still instinctive fear.   The seventh son of a seventh son, Cadell Selkirk has power beyond that of his brothers and the other Blessed. That power has made the Grigori fear him and mark him for destruction. With the Grigori gathering their forces against them Cadell and his brothers are the only hope of stopping a plague of vengeful demons from being unleashed on an unbelieving and unprepared human race.

 

About the Author

Ray Chilensky lives in rural Tuscarwarus County, Ohio. He has worked briefly in law enforcement and for several years in private security. He has studied political science and history at Kent State University. Late in life he decided to pursue his passion for storytelling and combined that passion with a lifelong interest in history and politics to seriously peruse a writing career. In his free time Ray’s interests include the martial arts, shooting sports, drawing and, of course reading good books.

 

Links

 

TOMORROW: Author Raegyn Perry talks LAVENDER FIELDS and her WIP follow up CYPRUS GROVES.

 

 

 

 

PARANORMAL CRIME WRITER DAZZLES WITH MULTI-ERA ANTHOLOGY

witchee pooFresh off the Carnival of Parahorror in Buffalo, N.Y., author Susan Lynn Solomon couldn’t fly higher. Not only did she sell a ton of books, but she got to road test her brand new Turbo Charged 5.0 liter RT racing broom. Okay…some of this is not true — the broom blew a spark plug and wouldn’t fly — and Susan, with her dry sense of humor, would be the first to NOT point this out. Likewise her character Emlyn Goode who is a modern day witch coming to terms with her newly inherited power.

 

It was my great pleasure to read and review THE MAGIC OF MURDER and BELLA VITA in 2016. Now it is my additional pleasure to spotlight an amazing new anthology as well as the author that sparkles behind it. Ready, Susan?

 

 

1.

Your anthology VOICES IN MY HEAD covers so many different eras. From whence comes the historian, sociologist, and sage, and how long did it take you to complete the collection?

 

How long did it take to complete the collection of “Voices In My Head Stories…? Hmm. Leave it to you, my friend, to ask the hardest question first. At my very advanced age, it’s hard to remember back that far. Fact is, dear heart, these days it’s hard to remember what I ate for lunch yesterday. Maybe if I spread out my tarot cards… Sorry, got lost for a second in the research I’ve done for the next Emlyn Goode Murder Mystery.

 

Okay, I wrote the first draft of “Mystery of the Carousel” about 12 years ago. A friend asked me to do a story for the museum in what used to be Herschell’s Carousels and Amusements Factory.  I’d been playing with the story on and off since then—just couldn’t seem to get it right. Then, last year I figuratively pulled it out of my drawer while searching for my notes on another story. After reading the first page, I recalled an article on PTSD I’d recently read in the newspaper. “Oh,” I said to my bedroom wall (my bedroom is where I do my writing), “is THAT what this story is about?” Working late into the night, two days later the story was finished.

 

Ah, and “Witches Gumbo”. About 10 years ago I was trying to write a romance for a short story competition. Short? Right. The competition limited the word count to 3,000, but the story kept growing and growing until it slid into the novella stage. It was about a woman—a descendent of a Louisiana bayou witch—who’d been hurt and was afraid to love again. She was using her distant relative’s writings to get past her fear. Not terribly original, but hey, I was reading Nicholas Spark’s books at the time. Anyhow, I brought the story to my writer’s group one evening. After I received comments on it, Trudy Crusella, who was moderating our group at the time, told me that while the writing was good, she was more interested in the back story set in my mythical Bayou Lafit. Happily, I listened to her. A lot of research into witchcraft, the nature of bayous and the use of language by people who lived there at the time, and I had a story. I can’t begin to thank Trudy enough. Seven years ago (and a lot of rewriting later) “Witches Gumbo” became my first published story.

 

As to why these stories take on their historical settings… I have no idea. The places and people—what they do and say… I suspect those characters jabber away in my head all night, because when I wake up, they’re sitting near my computer, yelling at me to listen to them.

 

AND THIS JUST IN…

mandm-126x150-126x150

 

2.

In his assessment of you as writer Gary Earl Ross touts you as a “devilishly clever tour guide who puts us in touch with the ‘rhythm of our lives’.” Did you know you were doing that?

 

Aw, Gary’s just being kind to a frail old woman… And me, Devilish? Why, A.B., who could think such a thing… cackle cackle. All I’m doing is telling fantastic lies… What? Aren’t we authors just professional liars?

 

Okay, okay. I’ve been around a while, gone places and done things—for some of which my mother would have beaten me with a spoon. Once upon a time I was a campus radical, then a music business attorney, and then I spent some years as a contributing editor and page designer for an art magazine. What underlies my stories, whether realistic or more fantastic, is what I’ve seen. And heard. People I’ve met, and the fixes they, like I, have gotten into. You might want to again read “Kaddish”, the last story in Voices In My Head” to see what I mean. “Kaddish” is blushingly close to autobiographical, and tells more about me than I usually let on.

 

So, in essence, the journey I want to lead a reader on is actually… my life. Of course, I’m never sure if I’m motivated to warn people about sinkholes in the road, or to teach them how to cause those sinkholes.

 

3.

We’ve been friends for only a short time, but I know from our delightful conversations that you find it challenging to say anything in under 500 words. (She said it first *laughs*) Would you say that writing VOICES was more challenging than your longer pieces?

 

This is too true. People have noticed I even have trouble saying good morning in less than 500 words. Fortunately, I wasn’t limited to a word count in “Voices In My Head”. Well, in all but one of the nine stories, that is. That story is “Second Hand”, which was initially written for a flash fiction journal that had an 800 word limit. 800 words! Aaargh!

 

The story was easy enough to write—different names, but the characters are my sister, Robin, and I. And the story is true… uh, more or less. See, I’d just finished researching witchcraft for “Witches Gumbo”, and I’d decided that the material I’d read made sense. I mean, witches are caretakers of the earth, and they know the herbs to mix and chants to sing to make things come out as they desire. Also, they get to worship a beautiful goddess instead of an old man who wants to smite you (and there are a lot of things for which I could’ve been smited). Need I say it? I decided I would become a Wicca, and practice witchcraft. I went out and bought colored candles, and a double bladed knife with runes carved in the handle (I had the herbs I’d need in my spice cabinet). That summer I visited Robin in Florida, and while driving around one day we passed a second hand store that had a cauldron in the window. This was the last tool I needed. When Robin asked why we had to stop at that shop, I made the mistake of telling her. That’s when she grabbed me by the collar, pulled me back into her car, and explained in words I’d understand why I was the last person on earth who should know how to do such things.

 

So, writing the story. My first draft was about 1,200 words. I spent two days cutting and moving sentences, and finally got it down to 817. After another day, it was 809 words, and no matter what I did, I just wouldn’t get any shorter. Damn! As I recall, I sat in my room, screaming at my computer, and threatening to beat it with a spiked heel if it didn’t get rid of those last 9 words. Right then I swore a mighty oath I’d never again try to write a piece of flash fiction.

 

4.

Identity is a feature of your work. What comes after we figure everything out?

 

A better question, A.B., is what happens after I figure everything out. I think the world is safe, though. I doubt I ever will.

 

But, good catch there, my friend. Much of what I write IS about trying to understand who I am, and what it is I’m meant to do. I don’t have an answer to that, so I keep searching. And my search keeps leading me to more stories… or, at least, more voices jabbering in my head.

 

5.

You visited the Carnival of the Parahorror recently. How’d that go?

 

Ah, the Buffalo Central Station. What can I say that the Ghost Hunters program hasn’t already said? To paraphrase the old song: Ghosts to the left of me, demons to the right, and here I am, right in the middle…

 

This is an incredible venue. Marble floors and walls, high ceiling, and crowds of people as much into the paranormal as I. I loved meeting other writers, and talking to everyone about my work—even sold a few copies of my books. What could be a better way to spend a long weekend…?

 

I just hope a ghost hasn’t followed me home—I already live with a ghost, and she gets rather jealous.

 

6.

And you also released Bella Vita on the heels of Magic of Murder. Tell us about those and when, if ever, did you sleep?

 

Sleep? What’s that? Who can sleep with all these characters constantly yammering at me, and demanding I tell the world about them?

 

Bella Vita CoverAnd yes, my latest release is “Bella Vita”. I didn’t set out to write this as the follow-up to “The Magic of Murder”, though. In fact, I was more than half done with “Dead Again”, the novel that was supposed to be the follow-up. At the same time, I was working on a short story called “Smoker’s Lament”. Yes, I’m a smoker, and yes, the story is about some havoc I almost caused. I won’t say more about it, because it will be published in an online journal this fall, and it’ll be more fun if people read it then.

 

Anyway, in the middle of this, my publisher, Solstice Publishing, put out a call for short stories focused on the summer solstice. To my ears, this sounded like a dare—something I’ve never been smart enough to turn down. Besides, the narrator in “The Magic of Murder” is an author who’d just learned she’s directly descended from a woman whom the Salem witch trial judges decided should dangle from a tree limb. Since I was heavily into murder mysteries at the time I wrote this novel, I decided it would be fun to annoy my narrator by dangling a murder in front of her.

 

To accomplish this, I gave her a neighbor and dear friend who was a Niagara Falls police detective. Then, I killed the detective’s partner. So, when Detective Frey’s partner was discovered in a frozen alley with eight bullets in his chest, he swore vengeance. But Detective Chief Woodward had forbidden him or anyone else on the detective squad to work the case. Emlyn Goode, my narrator, knew Roger would disobey his boss, which would cost him his job and his freedom. Because she cared for him more than she’d admit, she needed to stop him. Desperate, she could think of but one way.

 

41ZsodZxIJL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Emlyn had recently learned she’s a direct descendent of a woman hanged as a witch in 1692. She had a book filled with arcane recipes and chants passed down through her family. Possessed of, or perhaps by a vivid imagination, she intended to use these to solve Jimmy’s murder before Roger took revenge on the killer. But she was new to this “witch thing,” and needed help from her friend Rebecca Nurse, whose ancestor also took a short drop from a Salem tree. Also in the mix was a rather hefty albino cat (Elvira detests being called fat). Rebecca was not much better at deciphering the ancient directions, and while the women and the cat stumbled over spell after spell, the number of possible killers grew.

 

Then, to keep people at the edge of their seats, I set it up so the women had to quickly come up with a workable spell, because, when Chief Woodward’s wife was shot and a bottle bomb burst through Emlyn’s window, it became clear she would be next on the killer’s list.

 

So, “Bella Vita”. Since the history of the summer solstice all the way back to the ancient Greeks, Romans, and certainly the Druids, is filled with the practice of magic, and with the characters in “The Magic of Murder” already talking to me, it was as if Solstice Publishing called out, “Susan. Susan! Wake up and kill somebody else!” I mean, how could I refuse?

 

In this short story (well, short for me), a car burns in the parking lot behind Bella Vita Hair Salon. The corpse in the front seat has a short sword pushed into his ribs. Beneath the car is a cast-iron cauldron filled with flowers. This seems to be a sacrificial rite Rebecca Nurse had been teaching Emlyn Goode. But is it? The corpse has been identified as George Malone, and earlier on this summer solstice day, he and his wife had severe argument. Could it be that Angela Malone murdered her husband? Prodded by Elvira, the overly-large albino cat that wants the case solved so she can get some sleep, to Rebecca’s dismay Emlyn again dips into her ancient relatives Book of Shadows to find the answer before her friend and neighbor, Detective Roger Fry, can.

 

Both stories have received 5-Star reviews, and people tell me that once they start reading, they can’t stop. This makes me smile, because I can’t stop writing about these characters.

 

Oh, and by the way, the Bella Vita Salon is where I have my hair done, and the women who run the salon are front and center in the story. Fortunately, they like what I wrote, so I’m still allowed to go there.

 

7.

And Emlyn Goode is making a comeback?

 

Absolutely. I mentioned earlier that I was in the middle of the next Emlyn Goode story when I wrote “Bella Vita”. This new story, which I call “Dead Again” is finished—five drafts finished. The story is about— No, let’s wait until it comes out. Right now I’ll only say that Gary Earl Ross, who was kind enough to edit it for me thinks this novel is better than the first.

 

And now that “Dead Again” is in its final stages, I’ve begun work on the next in the Emlyn Goode Murder Mystery series. This one will be titled “Writing Is Murder”—well, it is, isn’t it?

 

8.

Any last words, dear mistress?

 

Oy, this sounds like a call for my obit. Well, then I write because I must—can’t think of anything I’d rather do. The people I create have become friends… well, most of them, and I can only hope those who read their stories like them as much as I.

 

Thanks, doll. Let’s dive in to VOICES IN MY HEAD.

 

Voices In My Head CoverIn The Magic of Murder, Susan Lynn Solomon let readers laugh at the antics of an albino cat and a witch. Now, in nine short tales she takes a serious look at relationships and their impact on characters who confront their pasts.

A young soldier returns, changed by his war. A young British girl faces the people of her town after parental abuse. An older man who as a teenager fled his hometown, returns when his childhood girlfriend begs a favor. A radical of the ’70s leaves the cemetery after her mother’s funeral, searching for where her life will lead.

In these stories and five others, Solomon explores the persistence of memory and the promise of hope.

 

 

Praise

 

Susan Lynn Solomon is a writer’s writer.

Suzy, as she is known to her friends, is a person driven by an inescapable need to tell stories. She can no more give up imagining characters and circumstances than she can give up air or food. She writes at a furious rate, producing novels and stories that captivate and delight. Her imagination is what sustains her, and we, her readers, are the better for her obsession.

Like all gifted writers, Susan is a universalist, unburdened by the curse of being able to tell only one kind of story. She gets an idea, then decides upon the best way to discharge that idea, the best characters, the best settings, and the best narrative voice to attain maximum effect. If reading is a way to slip into other times and places and faces from the relative comfort of an armchair, she is a devilishly clever tour guide who can take you to surprising places and surprising connections. In the nine tales in this book, she dazzles us with journeys into the unexpected and its impact on people we feel we already know.

War? In Mystery of the Carousel, she explores the link between a veteran of the Great War and the carousel on which, as a child, he imagined great battles. Incest? Where better to explore its devastations than early 19th Century England in Maggie’s End? Magic? Witches Gumbo takes us to Bayou LaFit and a powerful comeuppance. Mystery? Try The Holmes Society for a new take on amateur sleuthing. Death? Kaddish shows the unavoidable bond between death and identity.

In these and the other stories that comprise the voices in her head, Susan Lynn Solomon opens our minds, and the rhythm of our lives, to the voices in her heart. Enjoy.

 

Gary Earl Ross

Professor Emeritus, University at Buffalo

Author of Nickel City Blues and The Mark of Cain

 

Excerpt:

The 9th life in Crisis: Kaddish

 

Pellets of snow stung my cheeks. I bent into the January wind, and reached for my brother’s arm. He glanced at me from the corner of his eye. For a moment I thought he might brush my hand from his sleeve.

“It was nice,” I said.

Linda, his wife of three years, leaned across him. “What was?”

“What the Rabbi said about Mom.” My chest tingled as I recalled the eulogy. “The only time she made her family cry was when she died—that was nice, wasn’t it, Robby?”

“Robert,” my brother corrected me in a voice as stiff as his shoulders. He stroked his moustache, then flicked snowflakes from his black hair, so flecked with gray it belied his age. Next month he would be forty-three.

“It was nice,” Linda said. She pulled her knit hat so low over her ears she nearly knocked the glasses from her small nose.

“I suppose,” Robert said. “But, he didn’t know her.” He drew his coat tight around his broad frame. “For a few bucks, he probably says the same thing about everyone.”

“I wish Phil were here,” I said. “He knew Mom.” Rabbi Bentley and his wife, Deborah, were old friends.

Robert shrugged. Who officiated at our mother’s funeral made little difference to him. It wasn’t that he didn’t love Mom—he and Linda had cared for her, seen to her every need during the nine months cancer gnawed at her lungs. But, for my brother, this rite—anything to do with religion—was merely to be endured.

“At least the guy kept it short.” He shook my hand from his arm, and wound his scarf around his neck.

Linda frowned at him. “Did you remember to ask the rabbi to come over and lead the prayer tonight?”

“Did you?” I said.

His eyes straight ahead, Robert’s lips tightened. It was as though I’d accused him of a breach of etiquette.

We were walking along the narrow road cutting through the heart of the old cemetery. To the left and right paths bent off, curled around a city of mausoleums, and ran through arches erected by burial societies named for the shtetls—the villages in Eastern Europe—in which our grandparents had been born. Beyond the arches were tall headstones which in the spring would be adorned by neat flower beds.

At the end of the road we passed through an iron gate, and into the chapel’s parking lot. I waved goodbye to my two surviving aunts and the cousins who’d braved the snow, and dropped my eyes when I received no more than half-hearted nods in return. This was the price of being the family outcast.

With a sigh, I pulled a set of keys from my purse. As I unlocked the door of my car, I called to my brother, “Is there anything we need? I can stop at the market on the way.”

We would sit shiva at Robert’s house, and I suspected he might not have bought enough food and drink for the relatives and friends who would stop by in the next seven days to share memories of our mother. Hosting this ritual wasn’t my brother’s choice: our father had passed away two years ago, so the obligation for shiva and gathering with a minion of nine other men to say Kaddish—the Jewish prayer for the dead—was wrapped as tight as the scarf around his neck. He was the only son.

“We’ve got plenty,” Linda said.

“And people always bring food,” Robert added, then muttered, “As if I can’t afford to feed them.”

Linda smacked his arm.

“Okay, then,” I said, “I’ll just stop at home to get what I baked.”

They didn’t hear me. My brother’s car was already exiting the lot.

 

***

The large colonial house in Roslyn Heights was by no means a mansion. Still, it announced to passersby a successful man dwelt within. My brother had become what my parents wished for their children. I, on the other hand, had been unable to do something as simple as make a marriage work.

What might have been a full stadium parking lot greeted me when I turned onto Robert’s street. Even his circular drive was jammed. A quick glance informed me my eight-year-old Saturn wouldn’t fit into the only small space, so I parked around the corner. Balancing two trays of noodle pudding—when I was a child, Mom had taught me Grandma’s kugel recipe—and fighting a wind that tried to rip off my coat, I made my way down the block. When I opened the front door, it seemed as though I’d walked into a cocktail party.

I saw no torn lapels, no covered mirrors or crates to sit on. I heard no soft-spoken remembrances of a woman’s life well-lived. Instead, laughter pealed from the large square living room, dining room, down the hall and up the stairs. Bottles clinked on glasses. Someone was playing the piano. My brother had made this an Irish wake.

Robert circled the corner from his den. He’d changed from his suit into a tan corduroy jacket, jeans, and oxblood penny loafers. His cheeks were red—they would get that way after only two drinks. He glanced at the trays in my hand. He glanced at my old wool overcoat. Speaking to the glass of tequila in his hand, he said, “Glad you could make it, big sister.” He didn’t reach out to take the trays I held.

Had I the desire, or at the moment the strength to point out his ill manners, he would have claimed he was being ironic. My brother had difficulty differentiating irony from sarcasm. He hadn’t always been this way. It’s just that he had little tolerance for failure, and a failure was how he viewed me since my divorce.

Mom had also thought me a failure—with good reason, I supposed. “You and Ron can work it out,” she’d told me the day I showed up at her house, suitcase in hand. “Your father and I always worked things out,” she’d told me each time I visited her at Robert’s house during her illness. Tied to a marriage which had gone sour, I had an affair, and moved out. The judge gave my ex custody of our daughter. Mom was again terribly disappointed in me, embarrassed in front of her friends. It had never been different: I’d been a hippy in college, a rebel, a nomadic wild-child disappearing who knew where, sleeping with who knew whom, and getting arrested in Birmingham and in Chicago. “No wonder you can’t get along with your husband,” she’d told me.

I’d lost my temper then. “Guess people are right when they talk about the apple and the tree,” I’d snapped. “After all, you named me for Dad’s great-aunt, and she got burned by the Tsar’s army for causing trouble.”

Unlike my brother, I recognized sarcasm when it bounced out of my mouth. I’d heard Mom crying when I stormed out my brother’s house a few weeks before she died. Though he never said it, I’m sure Robert blamed me for our mother’s death—he believed I was the reason she refused treatment which might extend her life by maybe a year.

Nights I sat alone in my apartment, I blamed me, too.

 

 

 

About the Author

 

Susan Lynn Solomon PhotoFormerly a Manhattan entertainment attorney and a contributing editor to the quarterly art magazine SunStorm Fine Art, Susan Lynn Solomon now lives in Niagara Falls, New York, where she is in charge of legal and financial affairs for a management consulting firm.

After moving to Niagara Falls she became a member of Just Buffalo Literary Center’s Writers Critique Group, and since 2009 many of number of her short stories have appeared in literary journals, including, Abigail Bender (awarded an Honorable Mention in a Writer’s Journal short romance competition), Ginger Man, The Memory Tree, Elvira, Going Home, Yesterday’s Wings, and Sabbath (nominated for 2013 Best of the Net by the editor of Prick of the Spindle).

Her latest short stories are Reunion, about an individual who must face family after undergoing a transgender operation, appeared in a recent issue of Flash Fiction Press, Captive Soul, which was included in Solstice Publishing’s Halloween anthology, Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, Volume 1, and Niagara Falling, about a man returning to his hometown, which was written for the Solstice Publishing anthology, Adventures in Love.

Susan Lynn Solomon’s Solstice Publishing novel, The Magic of Murder, is available at Amazon.com, and Bella Vita, a short story written for Solstice Publishing’s Summer solstice anthology, continued the adventures for the characters from this novel.

Now, a collection of her short stories, Voices In My Head, has been published by Solstice and is available in both Kindle and paperback editions on Amazon.

 

Links:

 

https://youtu.be/_58_goH7sU0

http://www.susanlynnsolomon.com

https://www.amazon.com/Voices-Head-Susan-Lynn-Solomon-ebook/dp/B01FURPIZE/ref=sr_1_1?s=dig ital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1463655784&sr=1-1&keywords=voices+in+my+head+susan+l ynn+solomon

http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01FURPIZE

http://www.facebook.com/susanlynnsolomon

https://www.linkedin.com/in/susan-solomon-8183b129

 

Thank you, Susan, for your enthusiasm and artistry. You are my Wicca ‘go to’ person!

— ABF

 

 

HAPPY LABOR DAY WEEKEND ONE AND ALL! The Blog returns Tuesday, September 6th with special guest Raymond Chilensky, whose topical F.I.R.E. Team Alpha series will surprise and scare while making you think…

 

 

 

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF ON-LINE AWARDS

By now, many visitors to the blog have read that I won the 2016 New Apple E-book Award for Humor and Horror through New Apple Literary. It’s an important win in that it was decided by a jury panel. For winning these awards, I will receive from New Apple a year-long promotional campaign free of charge. I can’t thank them enough! (Especially you, Becca. You’re a doll!)

Will lightning strike twice? I was also nominated in the humor category for a 2016 Summer Indie Book Award “SIBA” “Humor” sponsored by Metamorph Publishing. Voting began midnight Central U.S. Time on the morning of September 1 and will continue until midnight Central, September 11.
 
Unlike other awards competitions I’ve been privileged to participate in, the SIBA allows multiple voting inside the same category enabling voters to show their support for all of their favorite authors. I think that’s kind of cool, especially since a number of author friends are also competing and I didn’t want to choose one over another.

But what kind of system allows multiple votes over a series of days, a dedicated pollster may ask. Isn’t that like voting for all candidates from all political parties once in the voting booth?

I don’t believe it is.

There is a great deal of value to be derived from an award like SIBA. For one thing, it forces shy and retiring authors like me out of my shell and into a marketing headspace. Tweets, blip ads, blogs, and micro blogs on Facebook become very important in getting the word out that we’re actually nominated. It also gets the juices flowing mightily in terms of tags and loglines. All the material generated for the ‘campaign’ can be used in other promotions. The point is that they got generated.

The other thing an on line award with open voting does is show if a writer and book has a following; more importantly, if that following was attained through creative use of social media. More and more, I hear stories of jobs won or lost because of the candidates’ social media presence. For those seeking out the next break out author, on-line poll results might be an area of interest.

I, for one, get pretty excited around awards season because it gets me talking; gets me connected. A Toronto Sun newspaper article by Aaron D’Andrea (September 1, 2016; p. 3) stressed that the purpose of social media was not to bombard followers with a one-way flow of information but to engage and interact.

I will be asking friends and fans to vote for me, but I will offer them something in return: a blog, a joke, a story, a picture… and my heart-felt gratitude.

Gods willing, maybe I’ll generate enough numbers to attract the eye of someone looking for that kind of thing.

From the #Writerverse,

Adult, Unapologetic and wholly cognizant,

I am

 
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Vote for SCOOTER NATION (Every day…it’s allowed)

Vote link: http://goo.gl/BDFJoV