The decision to give up the traditional publishing route was taken after a great deal of thought. But what’s it really like going it alone? Multi-genre authors Lexi Miles and A.B. Funkhauser tell all in a candid Q&A.
You worked within the perimeters of a traditional publisher but opted to go the indie route after the fact. What shaped your decision?
AB: Publishers, large and small, are like any other organization. They have guidelines and rules to follow. You need those, especially when you’re starting out and really don’t know what you’re doing. Friends will call you out on things, and you say to yourself “do they really know?” When your fellow authors at the publisher and the publishing team call you out, you listen because it’s part of the exercise, part of belonging, part of learning.
Again, publishers are like all other organizations. Think in terms of a condo association or even a cemetery. (I’m a mortician so I can’t resist including the graveyard.) A condo has rules about what you can and cannot put on the balcony. A cemetery has rules about what kind of florals you place and when they must be removed. Same with the publisher. A publisher will have rules about covers; how they’re supposed to look, how many colors are permitted, what kind of fonts are allowed. This is because the publisher wants to achieve a specific look for its brand. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s all agreed upon at the time of signing.
Indies have the freedom to write their own rules about content, layout, and cover design. I wanted to try that for myself. However, my biggest caution to authors who want to try this is that they not jump in “boots first” but do their research before anything else. It’s a lot of work being your own publisher and promoter. It can get you down if you don’t know what to expect.
Lexi: I felt constricted in many ways from cover art, release dates, and overall content. I also felt like I wanted better promotion for my work and wanted to release more works (not according to the houses allotted schedule). There are a lot of options on every front when you have more freedom.
What are some of the pluses that come with independence?
Lexi: I am what you call a hybrid author (both traditional and indie). With more independent publishers you have a lot more control over the details of your books. From length to content of the story. Yes, I still adhere to the guidelines of mainstream publishers and work with editors that do the same. Let me offer an example. As a romance author if I don’t want the standard girl meets boy and boy rescues girl scenario, I can have a story that is slightly more imaginative and realistic. I can say that they have a meet cute and she is already strong on her own and he’s not emotionally unavailable (aka robotic). They both meet challenges, but their love and support for each other helps them to conquer them. (Make no mistake, I do love those types of stories. I just like it to have more dimensions.)
AB: The same pluses that come with being your own boss. You can show up to work when you want. You can choose not to work when you want. I tend to go hard when working on a project. From concept to finished manuscript to publishing to marketing. It can be a grind. There are so many theories out there about how often to publish, how best to affect the algorithms. I did that for three years at the end of which time I had to stop for almost a year. I needed to set a new pace for my work and for me as a person. I’m doing that now. It’s wonderful.
Is there anything you miss about traditional publishing?
AB: I miss the team and the camaraderie. From the moment I signed, they were all there ready to field my untutored questions and reassure me when I got lost. As an indie, I felt like a group of one for a long time, but over time I’ve found other like-mindeds; other indies working toward the same goal: generating quality work and getting it out there. I have peeps again. I don’t feel alone at all.
Lexi: With traditional publishers you have their audience built in. When you release your sales are more predictable, you are releasing to readers who know and trust their brand. Also, in most cases editors come with publishers. The tricky part there is finding one that works well with you and understands the voice of your story. I have a professional editor that I work with either way, so for me I don’t lose anything.
Some indies create their own imprint or use smaller more independent publishers. Can you tell us why you did that?
Lexi: First, people instantly look for publishers and imprints. It tends to signal quality of work and indicates a more professional work. Two, the freedom. I like being able to control the various aspects of my work and when you go that route you have complete creative freedom. That is an incredibly freeing feeling. That makes me confident to release all of my work because it is the exact voice I want out there.
AB: One of the things I noticed on the book fair circuit was that potential readers would turn the book over and then say, “Oh, you’re independent.” The first couple of times it happened, I took it as an invitation to sell my virtues. The next time it happened, I asked the person what they were looking for and they said, “the publisher.” What is the publisher on the back of a book? It’s the imprint. My imprint is real; it’s registered in my country of origin and all my promo materials carry it plus the Independent Author Seal I designed. But I find having the imprint logo gets me past the first hurdle in a face to face. Rather than say “Oh, you’re indie” they say “Cool” or “What?” and then we can talk about the books. It’s a great icebreaker.
What advice do you have for authors who wish to follow your example?
AB: If you are already with a publisher, you must ask yourself why you want to DIY and then be prepared to do the research. Do you: know how to format a book; design covers; format your book into all formats (there are a few); know a good printer for your paperbacks; need to hire a professional editor or a professional cover designer; have a budget that can cover all your wants v. your needs; know how to use the advertising features across the platforms; understand the algorithms; have resource people who can guide you? And so on. I don’t want to mislead. It’s daunting.
Lexi: First, write the book. Second, spend time editing so that it is a high quality book. Third, learn the ins and outs of what you need to do to publish it (formatting/covers), protect your work, and promote it. And finally, GO FOR IT!
What one thing (or things) did you change that leveled up your writing?
Lexi: I am always looking for new ways to level up my writing.
One, I write daily for at least an hour or more. This helps me to stay in a great groove while writing and to get a lot of high quality content in each day.
Two, after writing a section, I reread it as well as get outside eyes on it to plug any holes or to help strengthen the storytelling.
Three, I utilize lists/charts with a variety of commonly used words (words like more, said, very, etc.) to really help me say it like I want to bring it across (with impact).
Four, I spend time in the world that I am writing. It is what I call touch/sense writing. I do this in many ways. I may listen to beach, airport, or car sounds, visit Pinterest for clothing/setting ideas, mimic a scene in some way to bring it to life (ex: workout if my character is working out), drink a beverage like the one in the story, listen to music that defines the character (character playlist), and the list goes on.
AB: I go slow and slow=better. Being my own boss now, I don’t feel the pressure to deliver a new book each year. I wish I could, but I find that if I take the time to send the manuscript out for editing by someone with cred and then shop the cover and blurb for feedback before going to print, I get a more effective piece of work; effective in the sense that I don’t have the goofy spelling errors (pore and pour—OMG!) or awkward paragraph splits to name a couple. It really takes time to catch these things. That means, no more rushing.
Switching gears a bit, what is the one thing you tend to work into your book when possible?
AB: There are two things that have been there from the get-go. The first is the oft complained about omniscient narrator. Dunno why poor omni is disliked. For me, omni entertains as I create, dropping dollops of knowledge onto the reader above what the characters know. I just love having secret knowledge and sharing that with the reader. The second thing readers will find is treachery of the old Byzantine kind. I’m a history nerd, and old Byzantium—fair or not—is renowned for its ability to hatch incredibly complex plots with ease. I don’t write complex plots per se, what I write are characters who are either complex and don’t know it or presume to be complex and aren’t but credit themselves with being crafty. That’s fun stuff to write and it’s going to be there every time.
Lexi: I like to show that my lead females are not in need of being rescued, but are looking for an intimate partnership. One that makes them stronger and helps both characters face some sort of challenge and to do so by finding the strength in their love.
I also like to work in characters big or small that we all have met in our daily lives (judgmental relative, snippy boss, big personality, etc.).
A good plot with some sweet or hot romantic moments.
What is the most rewarding aspect of publishing without a publisher/traditional (indie/smaller house)?
Lexi: I deliver the exact book I envisioned on my terms.
AB: That’s easy: getting to know the other side of the business. I can say this without exaggeration. After getting my first book to market under the new imprint, I was left with the feeling that writing the book was the easy/fun part. The steps required to deliver a quality piece of work (now called “the product”) were numerous, involved and filled with “either/or” choices. I’m looking forward to smoother sailing on the next ones, but that, I’m pretty sure, will take some more time to get to. Learning. Never. Stops.
What is one aspect of indie publishing you did not expect?
AB: The speedy turn around time with the printer for paperbacks. Learning the formats for all the digital platforms was so all-time consuming that I just assumed that printing would take weeks. It doesn’t. It takes days. But knowing this, I had to slow right down. I had to make sure that the pdf format for the printer was pristine. Sure, they run a preview copy, but I can’t allow myself to get it wrong. That would be a waste of precious paper. It must be absolutely ready to go before I send it to the printer. Turn around can be as fast as 48 hours for a small run.
Lexi: All the work and research that goes into every aspect, especially promoting. When going at it as an indie, even with a publisher’s backing, you have to promote, promote, PROMOTE.
In what way have you stretched yourself as a writer recently?
Lexi: I write goals daily/weekly and stick to them (writing, promoting, and connecting with readers).
AB: My first six books are blended genre pieces that embrace satire fiction and dark humor. Some, but not all, veer into a literary stream, but that’s more because of the characters’ inclinations. For example, the hopeless romantics go on and on about the trees and what they mean, while the egomaniac sees the end of days when the squirrels arrive.
Blended genres are a joy to write, but it’s not always easy to find the audience for them. In fact, it takes years of work to do that. So, for a change, I’ve decided to give pure genre a try. My first mystery, Self-Defense from the Kirsti Brüner Mortuary Mysteries Series, should come out later this summer. It’s kind of a funeral directors drum up business whether the business likes it or not scenario. There’s some grit as well as some laughs to be found in it.
What is the one thing readers should know when reading one of your books?
AB: Know that I write because I enjoy it and I have a lot of fun doing it. Approach the work with an open mind. Characters, like people IRL, don’t always tell the truth and they won’t go out of their way to help you figure them out. But do know that by the last page, all is explained. It’s important to me to give that.
Lexi: First, thank you for reading it. Second, I hope you connect with it and can see yourself in the story. Third, I have more books due out soon! Four, strap in and enjoy the ride! And finally, there are sure to be a lot of fun, blushworthy, and intense moments. It will be rewarding!
Lexi Miles currently lives in California, has one sister named Cat, and is a proud pup mom of two mischievous Yorkies. Tropical warm spots and out of the way ranches are Lexi’s favorite escapes. Lexi loves to giggle. She’s a huge fan of positivity, and she is delighted when she can help someone else smile. Lexi loves a good in home TV/movie binge. She also enjoys music (all genres), baseball, bubble baths, cooking, and long walks on the treadmill (aka working out). As far as writing, she fell in love with it from when she was a kid, and she still finds that she falls more in love with it every day. Lexi is growing a cult following for both her poetry and romance novels (sweet to alarmingly spicy) and believes that love—all forms—is the most precious gift that we are given in life. She is thrilled to pen romance (multiple published titles), and all of that comes with it on paper! To find out more about Lexi, please go to www.LexiMilesAuthor.com.
Toronto born author A.B. Funkhauser is a mother, mortician and monkey who favors cats but still loves dogs. Dedicated to spreading the word on matters serious, she believes that the best way to get a point across is with a hefty dose of humor. Her fourth novel, SELF-DEFENSE, is the first in a mystery series headed by intrepid mortician Kirsti Brüner. For more information, please visit her Amazon author page and this site.
I’m A. B. Funkhauser and I’m delighted to be profiled here on NF Reads. My on-line biographies variously describe me as an outdoor enthusiast, classic car nut, mother, mortician, monkey and purveyor of gonzo mortuary revenge fiction. What that actually means is that I write blended genre fiction based on what I see and hear and then I warp and bend everything to the peril and salvation of my morally flexible characters.
I’m currently working on a series of books, some with interrelated plots, others not, each with large casts and a vaguely menacing omniscient voice to taunt and trick along the way. The common thread they all share are characters that are unapologetic and very often chaotic in their life choices. They are not wholly villains or angels but somewhere in between, and the results of their actions can only be guessed at until the last page is read. The thing I get most from readers is that while they may not like all the characters, they inexplicably find themselves rooting for them. I think that’s cool. The other draw is the setting: a funeral home over many decades with a revolving door of staff cycling through, each coping with life and death and their own well-being. A reader needn’t tackle the books in order—they stand alone. In fact, I’d recommend going at them out of order. The character that dies in book two is back alive and well (and doing a great deal of damage) in book four. That’s fun to write, let me tell you!
What inspires/inspired your creativity?
A combination of work life, family folklore and an overall love of world history collided to produce work that is equal parts dark and light. I drew a lot of inspiration from Jerry Seinfeld and Kurt Vonnegut in early days; the former writing voluminously about nothing, the latter about things both profound and irreverent. Both made anything possible in the sense that nothing was off limits and everything could be grand or ridiculous. Likewise, QuentinTarantino. His non-linear storytelling that enabled a dead character to walk away alive and well in the final act opened my eyes to all kinds of possibilities.
How do you deal with creative block?
I stop and push away from the keyboard. I can’t force it to happen. It has to appear, and it always does.
What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
Rushing—Not taking the time to read it through one more time before hitting the send button and not taking the time to read it again after it’s printed. Spelling and grammar matter and it amazes me how many errors actually sneak past the spell checker, beta readers and Grammarly-type programs.
Editing while in a terrible mood—You will do more damage to a work with a fractured lens than you will after a short break. Take a week off to clear your head. The manuscript will still be there waiting for you.
Rambling on—It’s one thing if a character is fatuous in speech and manner; it’s another if the writing is. Trim those sentences. You don’t need to go on and on.
Beware the expository paragraph—There are underpinnings to every tale (the backstory) but unless it’s an essential “tell” (sometimes you just need to say it in order to get on with things) leave it to the characters to show it through action and dialogue.
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
If the writer has something specific in mind, something from the gut, they probably have 50% of it right. The cover and title are not for the author but for the reader. Whether designing it yourself or choosing to go with a pro, take the time to shop the concept. Run it by the betas, your writer’s group, family, friends and CRITICS to get a temperature. And be prepared to change the cover a couple of years post pub. I’m doing that right now. What I believed to be grand and clever five years ago really doesn’t work now.
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
Criticism is essential to becoming a better writer. Trolls notwithstanding, a tough review almost always has merit. Do not rush to make changes after a heavy critique. If time allows, let it sit, let it percolate. I’ve gone back to a manuscript after a month-long break and have found that the feedback was usually correct. It’s tough to learn this, but it will save the writing.
How has your creative process improved over time?
I’m faster. The first book took five years, the second and third a year each. This is because I managed to figure out how to do it. But fast isn’t necessarily good. My next book will take longer because I’ve learned the importance behind taking the time. (See above)
What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?
One thing I’ve learned from reading Hunter Thompson’s gonzo journalism is that the best way to tackle serious issues without being preachy is by shining a light on them with humor. By creating morally flexible characters in absurd/exaggerated circumstances, I was able to get my points across without scaring the reader away. That was and continues to be the best thing.
The worst thing might have been formatting, but that gets better with practice. I’ve taught myself to like formatting by chalking it up to another opportunity to reread the text and catch those hideous spelling mistakes that spellcheck misses. Pore and pour. OMG!
The most surprising thing has been the way the work has been received to date. Make no mistake, a book is NEVER completed. It’s published, promoted, critiqued, and, if the writer chooses, improved with new cover designs, back jacket blurbs and layouts. I released my first book believing I had written a paranormal romance. It went on to win horror prizes. My second book, a sequel, won multiple humor prizes. This led me to a very valuable lesson learned: my books aren’t what I say they are but what the reader believes them to be. That journey continues to be amazing.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
I’m currently working on book four in my series and I still aim for personal satisfaction before getting to the business of making it accessible for readers. It’s important to me to love the book first. How else can I expect a reader to feel something similar? However, after the first, second and third draft “love-in,” I step back, wait, and read through it again to see if any of it makes sense. I clear up the vague spots, kill some darlings, and trim the back story. Then I let the betas have at it. That’s how I balance.
What role do emotions play in creativity?
A great deal, but these are tempered by structure, pacing, arc and characters. Emotions can blind and if they’re not in their place, you can wind up with a mess.
Do you have any creativity tricks?
Be honest and tell the truth in the first drafts; then decide if your truth will serve readers in a meaningful way. There’s a fine line between truth and rant. I don’t rant in my fiction, but my characters often do.
What are your plans for future books?
I have four lengthy unfinished manuscripts screaming for attention. These compete with the new work generated during NaNoWriMo. I’m currently sprucing up the back catalog with new covers and layouts and find that one in particular has inspired a return to a trunk book. It’s been collecting dust for about four years. Its time has come, I think.
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself
I write fiction but read mostly non-fiction these days.
I enjoy binge watching series from multiple genres. Netflix is my university.
I go south to the hot ocean in summer but gladly hole up with the snow in winter.
I love vintaging. I can’t remember the last time I bought something new.
When will your books be available on-line?
The first three books should be available on Amazon by mid-summer 2019. Paperback versions will follow thereafter. The best way to find out what’s going on is to visit my website https://abfunkhauser.com/
We haven’t talked in ages, so I figure we have a lot of catching up to do “off book.” For now, we’ll just jump in. Tell us, Oh Linda: What makes a good story?
You need some kind of conflict to keep the reader asking “how will this ever be resolved?” You also need characters that the reader cares about, even if they’re flawed or do bad things. Most readers enjoy stories of redemption because we want to believe everyone can be healed and redeemed.
I’ve read and reviewed IN THE CONTEXT OF LOVE, so I know the answer, but can you tell my readers if any of the characters in your novel are mirrored after real life people?
They’re a conglomeration of people I’ve known. Much of Joe’s cool is based on a boy I dated in high school. There’s a good dollop of my mother, who could be tight-fisted, controlling and opinionated, in Angelica’s mother and grandmother. My father was a great dad, but he could also be unemotional, like her father, and they both told impossibly corny jokes. And there is some of myself in my main character, Angelica, in that we both have obsessions and a dark side.
IN THE CONTEXT OF LOVE is about family and the lies we tell ourselves. Where did this come from?
It stems from the myth of the perfect family. We look at other families and wonder how their lives can be so perfect when, in reality, they aren’t. There’s some level of dysfunction in every family. Also, some people go through a stage where they don’t think they belong in their family. They feel like misfits. After Angelica accidentally discovers a life-altering family secret, she can’t reconcile reality with the fantasy she was raised believing, and has to leave home to find her own truth. The novel is also a love story on many levels.
Why is the novel written in second person?
Actually it’s first person-second person address–
You’re frightening me…
Lol. The story is deeply intimate. Angelica Schirrick is a mother with two young children who must reassess her life when her husband lands in jail. When she was a teen, she suffered heartache after the sudden disappearance of her first and only love, Joe Vadas. This was followed by an unexpected betrayal within her family. Now, as an adult, she realizes she needs to speak without shame about this devastating family secret, and she wants to tell her story to Joe, the one person she truly trusted. So she does!
NICE! Do you believe in love at first sight?
I think it can happen darn fast! Love at first sight is immediate intense attraction. Angelica has a crush on Joe before she actually knows him, and he’s instantly attracted to her. From across the room, they play the “I look at you and you look at me” game. Both of them are true romantics.
What exactly is a romantic?
I think romantics have strong aesthetic sensibilities. They seek out what is noble, truthful and beautiful in life. They form deep and lasting bonds with other people, and easily pick up on other’s emotions. They also tend to project their emotions onto others, which leads them to idealize people. They are always looking for meaning in life. As Joe said to Angelica, “We belong together. We always did, and it will be this way no matter where our lives take us.” Angelica wants to believe this, but she needs a little convincing. I guess it’s up to the reader to believe if they will always be together!
What’s new for you in publishing?
I’m super proud to be in a new anthology by McFarland titled IDOL TALK: Women Writers on the Teenage Infatuations that Changed Their Lives, featuring dozens of kick-ass female writers. It has fun, distinctly unique, and sexy stories of the right-of-passage experience of “puppy love.” I wrote about my “Horrible Celebrity Crush.” I cannot tell you who he is. It was all too horrible at the time. Seriously. You’ll have to read about it.
That sounds super! Hey, I’m thinking about heading down to Detroit for the annual Dream Cruise. Shall I bang on your door?
Lol. Call first. 😀
Will do! Thanks for dropping by, Linda. You inspire.
Linda K. Sienkiewicz writes about ordinary people on extraordinary journeys. She is the author of the multi-award-winning novel In the Context of Love. Her poetry, short stories and essays have appeared in more than 50 literary journals and anthologies. Among her awards are a Poetry Chapbook Award and a Pushcart Prize Nomination. Her MFA is from Stonecoast. She blogs about the oddities of life and the creative process at http://lindaksienkiewicz.com/blog/
If you enjoy gripping love stories and family roller coasters that leave you with the feeling there is still good in the world, you’ll enjoy In the Context of Love, an intensely charged story about family secrets, love and lust.
2017 New Apple Official Selection Award for Excellence
2016 Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist
2016 Sarton Women’s Book Awards Finalist
2016 Reader’s Choice Finalist
2016 USA Book News Best Book Finalist
What makes us step back to examine the events and people that have shaped our lives? And what happens when what we discover leads to more questions? In the Context of Love revolves around the journey of Angelica Schirrick as she reevaluates her life and its direction.
I had convinced myself I could stomach seeing Gavin since social services told me it was in the children’s best interest to see their father. Despite his trespasses, I knew they missed him. They needed to see for themselves where he was, and that he was in one piece, but I certainly didn’t need or want any such assurances. The closer we got to the Madison Correctional Center, the sicker I felt. I knew it wasn’t going to be a picnic, but I’m not sure I can convey how awful it was.
Michelle, age ten, remained glued to my side, chewing her lip. Jude fidgeted like a typical eight-year-old. I’d brought games and books for them to share with Gavin, which, as it turned out, we had to leave in the car. They shuffled nervously into the visiting room, eyeballing the prisoners. Many of them looked like any man you might see working behind the counter at the post office, stocking soup cans at the supermarket, or delivering a package to your front door. Some flinched oddly; others had bristled jaws or tattoos on their necks. I studied their hands, wondering if they’d forced a woman to her knees, pulled a trigger,or simply written a batch of bad checks.
Gavin’s face looked etched with lines,and his clothes hung on his wire-hanger frame. The four of us sat at a metal table, falling into the same seating arrangement we used to take at the dinner table. He seemed unable to look us in the eyes. I was glad he’d ditched his typical smugness. There was no way he could clown his way out of this one—the damage he’d caused was as clear and tangible as the waxed floor and steel bars. In a weaker moment, I might have pitied him, but mostly my heart ached for our kids. I was fuming that that we had to be here at all.
“Hey. Thanks for coming,” he said quietly, sitting rigidly, shoulders clenched, kneading his hands in his lap.
I glared at him for a few seconds, thensmiled. “Gee. Thanks for having us.”
He exhaled hard, as if it were my job to make this easier for him. He scuffed his feet around under the table, then said, “So, yeah, this is where I’ll be holed up for awhile, but I’m okay. It’s not so bad. I get to watch TV and play cards and work out. The food is lousy, but I can’t complain.” I lifted my chin and glared at him. Why couldn’t he say he was sorry? Was he? Did he even wonder what I’d toldthekids about where he was, and why? The two of us hadn’t spoken to each other since our blow up in the kitchen, and that was before his arrest and sentencing. I was angry at myself for sugar-coating things when I should have been blunt with the children.
Jude looked up, a mix of nervousness and innocent concern on his face as he picked at the dried blood from a scab on his elbow. “Dad?”
“What, big buddy? Go on. Ask me anything.”
He wanted to know if they slid Gavin’s meals under the bars in his cell, if his bathroom had a door, if he slept with a pillow and blanket, and wore leg chains when he went outside. Michelle asked if he had a roommate and his own television. I imagine they had expected to see him wearing a blackandwhite striped uniform, like in old movies, and his state-issued blue pants and shirt disappointed them, but at least they found something to talk about. Gavin loosened up and soon had them laughing. I was amazed that he found something to joke about. Was it a gift, the way he always made the best of things or was he in denial?
“Yeah, so don’t worry about me. Just remember, I’m still your father,” he said, his eyes catching mine when visiting time was over. He needn’t have worried we would forget. “You guys be good, you hear? Love you both.” It wasn’t unexpected that his love no longer included me, but hearing it smarted.
Rules stipulated that inmates couldn’t hug or touch visitors. Michelle started to cry. The guard said he couldn’t give us extra time. Red-eyed, Gavin turned his head and coughed into his fist. She pushed my hands away when I tried to comfort her on the walk out.
Once outside, Michelle hollered at Jude that he had asked dopey questions. He punched her in the back and told her to “get real.” He asked me in his high-pitched, boy voice, “Can we put Dad inside a big box and sneak him out next time we visit?” I shut my eyes and took a deep breath, having no idea what was going to happen to us. This was something I couldn’t fix.
“Sorry, kiddo. It doesn’t work that way.”
“You’re such a dope, Jude,” Michelle said.She looked up at me. “It’syour fault, you know.”
I stopped walking and grabbed her arm. “Sweetie, what are you talking about?”
Lips tight, she just shrugged. I made her look at me while I explained her father was the one who broke the law, and he did that all on his own. “Even Daddy doesn’t blame anyone but himself. Do you understand?”
Michelle was too young for her brows to be pinched together the way they were, so much like mine. “Do we have to come here again? It sucks. I hate it.”
“No. Not if you don’t want to. What about you, Jude?”
He was standing off by himself, scratching his elbow. “I don’t know. Won’t he be mad if we don’t visit?”
“Don’t worry about him being mad. You know what? You should be mad at him.”
I tried not to rage in despair as I drove home. Michelle’s hands were clenched in her lap, her forehead pressed to the glass of the front passenger door. She grunted and pulled away when I reached across the seat to touch her. Jude, in the back seat, sliced his hands through the air while making terrible noises, like screaming jet fighters, machine guns and scudding bombs. I’d prepared a list of questions to help them process the visit, such as What did you like? What didn’t you like? What made you feel better? but now it sounded like psycho babble. The entire trip had been hell.
For whatever reason, I thought of you again, and how different my life might have been had we still been together. I brought my right hand up, as if fixing my hair, so that Michelle wouldn’t see my angry tears. Where were you? Why was everything so hard? I wanted to scream. Honestly, I hated you almost as much as I hated Gavin at that moment. You had become the scapegoat for everything that had gone wrong in the last fifteen years, even though I was certain I still loved you.
Filing for divorce when your spouse is in prison is no different from when he’s not, and since Gavin didn’t contest, there were no lawyers or lengthy mediations. I got the house and everything in it, the station wagon, our savings, the credit card debt I hadn’t known about, and a spongy backyard full of moles. His chauffeuring business was dissolved. I sold his wrecked ‘86 Cadillac Seville for parts.
Despite everything, I missed him. It made no sense—after all, he had been gone more than he was at home. It was only his likeness that had slithered like a cold snake in and out of our bed for such a long time. I cried like a baby in the middle of the night while craving a fifth of Chivas Regal. I developed an irrational fear of sharp things. The idea that my flesh could be torn open by broken window glass, a tin can, or the edge of an innocuous piece of paper sent me into shivers. Anything could catch me unaware, cut and bleed me. Nights were shadowy and deep with no stars, and I felt disoriented and exhausted in the morning, as if I’d been pushing my way through drifts of snow to get to the other side of something. The same old fears that began in high school, after you disappeared as cleanly as if you’d been tied to an engine block and dumped in Lake Erie, came back. Sheathed in blue ice, I had no more substance than the frosted air that eked from my lungs.
Late at night, when the children were in bed, I would turn to your old tattered notebook, tucked safely in a box in the back of my closet. Reading your poems was one of the few things that gave me solace:
You cannot pass from child to adult
without falling into holes of doubt,
broken wheels of trust
and traps of betrayal.
In what ways had you been betrayed? What holes of doubt did you have? I was certain you and I felt the same sadnesses, even though our childhoods were vastly different. This thought made me feel close to you, as if, even in your absence you understood all I’d been through—my horrible secret, my mother’s pain, my family’s betrayal, my husband’s disloyalty, and my own unfaithfulness.
I’ve known A.B. Funkhauser for many years, and to say that she’s as gonzo as her characters is to get it wrong. Sure, she gravitates to larger than life characters on the page and in the public eye, but she appreciates the contemplative too. Claiming to be an “introverted extrovert” she relies on her characters to do all the heavy lifting, to do the things she’d never dream of doing in real life. Her latest work, SHELL GAME, is no exception. Here, characters stay behind closed doors, preferring to spy on one another through windows under cover of night. Interaction appears limited, but is it really? When they aren’t questioning themselves and the motivations of others, they take cues from a black cat that may or may not have real supernatural abilities. Everything is subjective, including what the omniscient narrator chooses to share when and where.
A.B., let’s talk about SHELL GAME, shall we?
Since your publishing date was announced, you’ve been all over social media. Do you love it, or hate it?
A. B. Funkhauser:
I hear writers talking about promotions a lot; how it sparks their creative juices, how it saps their energy, how it calls them out and maybe forces them to be more “in your face” than they would normally like to be. And I agree. But promotion goes hand in glove with writing ‘The Book,’ and so it’s a must. There’s a great deal of competition in the writing world. There’s a lot of competition in anything that’s worthwhile. For me, chatting up SHELL GAME is equal parts excitement and self-interest; exciting for me because I’ve completed another project successfully and delivered it to market; self-interest because who else will know about it if I don’t say so?
I also notice you tagging yourself as a multi-genre author. What’s up with that? You turning in your gonzo badge?
No! Never. But the characters ultimately set the tone, and the people of SHELL GAME are conniving, dastardly, sympathetic and very often contrite. They can’t help it, really. That’s why they need the cats. My hero Carlos is renowned for his quiet, stolid ability to be where he needs to be, affecting certain outcomes because of it. He’s quite brilliant.
At the same time, this piece tilts more in the direction of satire and social commentary in the sense that while the humans are behaving outside of the usual boundaries assigned western society, there is still a moral conscience at play that makes them question their actions. This makes them a little less mendacious than the characters in SCOOTER NATION, for example. They are still capable of doing harm, but this time they feel really bad about it.
Where did that come from?
An event in real time, actually. I hadn’t intended to write a cat book and I’ve gone on about that on this blog and others. I wanted to tuck into the prequel to HEUER LOST AND FOUND, which currently sits at a tantalizing 89,000 words with no end in sight. (I did figure out the ending half way through SHELL GAME, and if I can pull it off it will be quite diabolical.) But like the opening paragraphs of SHELL GAME, I did receive a snarky letter from Animal Control that specifically mentioned the street I live on. I wasn’t the only person on the street to get it—it was a blind drop—but I did take it very personally. The cat I share with a neighbor had brought so much joy into my life and the lives of my family that the faceless person(s) behind the letter threatening his freedom and my pocketbook just infuriated me. The $5,000 fine for not keeping the kitty inside was either a deterrent or tax grab—popular where I live—and the intrusion could only be answered through a ragin’ fiction that sees the cats win for a change. Of course, I can see both sides to the argument for keeping cats indoors in urban areas, and I’m happy to report that my shared kitty spends far more time indoors. But that’s owing to his age and the natural order of things, not from some crummy letter from a human in an office.
And SHELL GAME, like SCOOTER NATION, features characters from many different ethnicities. Is this your response to the current debate on cultural appropriation?
Ha! That’s a minefield and I’m not stepping into it until I have all the information. From the gonzo side of the street, my read of the issue is that writers should keep to their own pasture so as to be authentic. If that’s true, then all I can really write about are past middle-aged straight white human females and that would be a shame. It would be boring for me to write, and boring for anyone else to read.
But, research, foreknowledge, personal history and cumulative story-telling must play a big part in any writing project if the characters are to ring true and shine. To know what we’re on about—that’s our job—and that’s pretty much all I can say about this topic until I learn more.
So, what’s SHELL GAME about?
Oh, that. Lol. Well, I always say that I don’t really know for sure until some reviews come in and I get a few interviews under my belt. The best I can say right now is that it’s about a cat, a community, unwanted change, and the mechanisms employed to cope with this change that result in positive and negative resolutions. Change, I believe, cannot be stopped, but it can be messed with, and with these characters you will see activities that are silly AND life threatening. That’s the gonzo element. But there’s a love element to it as well. And of course, the cats are at the center of things, calling the plays, controlling things, just like they’ve done for millennia.
As a ‘thank you’ to everyone who ever believed in my crazy plan to quit work and write full time, I’m offering SHELL GAME for FREE for the first three days of it’s release. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! ❤
Toronto born author A.B. Funkhauser is a funeral director, classic car nut and wildlife enthusiast living in Ontario, Canada. Like most funeral directors, she is governed by a strong sense of altruism fueled by the belief that life chooses us, not we it.
Her debut novel Heuer Lost and Found, released in April 2015, examines the day to day workings of a funeral home and the people who staff it. Winner of the Preditors & Editors Reader’s Poll for Best Horror 2015, and the New Apple EBook Award 2016 for Horror, Heuer Lost and Found is the first installment in Funkhauser’s Unapologetic Lives series. Her sophomore effort, Scooter Nation, released March 11, 2016 through Solstice Publishing. Winner of the New Apple Ebook Award 2016 for Humor, and Winner Best Humor Summer Indie Book Awards 2016, Scooter picks up where Heuer left off, this time with the lens on the funeral home as it falls into the hands of a woeful sybarite.
A devotee of the gonzo style pioneered by the late Hunter S. Thompson, Funkhauser attempts to shine a light on difficult subjects by aid of humorous storytelling. “In gonzo, characters operate without filters, which means they say and do the kinds of things we cannot in an ordered society. Results are often comic, but, hopefully, instructive.”
Funkhauser is currently working on THE HEUER EFFECT, the prequel to HEUER LOST AND FOUND.
About the Interviewer
Cryssa Bazos is a member of the Romantic Novelist Association, the Historical Novel Society, the Writers’ Community of Durham Region and the Battle of Worcester Society. Her articles and short stories have been featured in various publications, both in Canada and the UK. She is a co-editor and contributor of the English Historical Fiction Authors site and blogs as the 17th Century Enthusiast. Her debut novel, Traitor’s Knot, placed 3rd in Romance for the Ages in 2016 (Ancient/Medieval/Renaissance).
“A thrilling historical adventure expertly told.” – Carol McGrath, bestselling author of The Handfasted Wife
England 1650: Civil War has given way to an uneasy peace in the year since Parliament executed King Charles I.
Royalist officer James Hart refuses to accept the tyranny of the new government, and to raise funds for the restoration of the king’s son, he takes to the road as a highwayman.
Elizabeth Seton has long been shunned for being a traitor’s daughter. In the midst of the new order, she risks her life by sheltering fugitives from Parliament in a garrison town. But her attempts to rebuild her life are threatened, first by her own sense of injustice, then by falling in love with the dashing Hart.
The lovers’ loyalty is tested through war, defeat and separation. James must fight his way back to the woman he loves, while Elizabeth will do anything to save him, even if it means sacrificing herself.
Traitor’s Knot is a sweeping tale of love and conflicted loyalties set against the turmoil of the English Civil War.
Thriller writer Karen Millie-James is back with her latest Cydney Granger release. WHERE IN THE DARK is the second in the series. This time, protagonist Cydney goes after Nazi plunder and the shadowy figures that conspire to conceal and profit from it.
Congratulations on your latest release WHERE IN THE DARK. Can you tease us with an elevator pitch?
The book starts with two holocaust survivors each receiving in the post a bearer bond for $1m each, completely out of the blue. They have no idea why or from where but it strikes fear in their hearts because they have been keeping a secret since 1945. On the other side of the Atlantic, in West Virginia, an escaped Nazi officer called Albert Whiteman, formerly Adolf Weissmuller, heads the family bank into which he married. His son is Governor and about to run in the primaries for president. However, the bank is founded on gold looted by Weissmuller from the Jewish people of Europe. Now he starts to feel remorse, or is he just afraid of dying and what awaits him? Cydney Granger is called upon to investigate and what she discovers is a web of deceit and lies which could ultimately bring down the entire banking system.
Nazi loot features prominently in the news—a buried train, heated litigation—and more contentiously, the moral tension between treasure hunters versus familial claimants seeking social justice. What personally drew you to this issue and what side do your characters favor?
My father came out of Germany with the kindertransport in 1939. From the end of the war until 1962 he spent his time seeking recompense for what his family had lost and finally he received the paltry sum of £1300 approximately. For the last twenty years my family and I have been engaged with the courts of Frankfurt and Munich to discover what happened to all my grandparents’ assets and again, seek suitable recompense. This has also involved the courts in New York and it will probably never happen because the courts have done everything in their power to delay matters and not make a judgment.
My two holocaust survivors seek no recompense for what they lost. They have no interest because they came to England to make a new life and want no involvement with Germany, nor do they wish to talk about what went on; it is enough that they went through the trauma and survived. However, they are forced to face their demons, and specifically Weissmuller.
Yes, the question of discovering Nazi loot is in the news but these treasure hunters have no desire to recompense the people who lost everything, nor do they desire to repatriate the art, gold, diamonds and other treasures. Their goal is to find the monies and become rich. Again, the same desires as the Nazis which was to take what they believed was rightfully theirs from the Jewish people who were amongst the richest in the country and held the highest positions – doctors, bankers, lawyers, professors, musicians. If they were doing this for altruistic reasons, I would applaud them, but this is blood money and should be left alone.
DARK’s protagonist Cydney Granger is a corporate forensic investigator. Does her expertise in any way herald from your work background, or was she born from tough, dedicated research?
I have an international corporate consultancy which specialises in advising companies and individuals around the world how to run their businesses, and I sit on the boards of many companies in an advisory capacity. Cydney is a fictitious character but some of the aspects of her work and mine run parallel, which is why I find her and the work she does easy to write about. The research aspect did not encompass her, but purely the world around her and specifically, in Where In The Dark, focused around the banking world and how the gold moved from Germany and other occupied countries via Switzerland and possibly to many countries’ federal reserves.
Cydney’s investigation is furthered with help from “beyond the grave.” Is there a paranormal element to DARK, or is Cydney’s ‘help’ the result of hard-nosed evidence gathering?
There is a paranormal aspect to Cydney’s investigations because she has a special gift; she can talk to people who have passed into the spirit world. This assists her in her investigations and how amazing would that be to understand and know what the person sitting opposite you in a meeting is thinking, even to the point of wanting to commit murder. This gift has helped her specifically in her quest for the truth in relation to the two survivors because she is drawn back into their time as children, going in the trains to Lodz Ghetto, then in the concentration camps and finally to their journey to England. This makes her life much easier. However, she is forced to relive what they went through and this is one of the hardest things she has ever had to face. Obviously, some of her research is purely down to fact-finding and looking through records also, something we all have to do.
The impacts of Nazi Germany continue to be felt. How does DARK deal with history’s long shadow, and what can readers take away with them after the book is closed?
I think ultimately Where In The Dark is a positive story of survival against the toughest odds and bears truth to the adage that it is amazing what a human-being can suffer at the hands of another and still come out the other side with strength. I wanted to ensure that this was the message and I did that by using Adolf Weissmuller, exploring his clearly psychopathic mind and wanting him to feel remorse for his crimes against humanity. In some ways I gave him a voice, but this was purely to demonstrate his evil and lack of empathy against the people he had murdered. My conclusions were that he was never going to feel sorry, but ultimately he was scared of dying and the fate that awaited him.
Whilst there are survivors of the atrocities of the Holocaust still alive, the entire impact of what happened in Germany during the war, will continue to be kept alive, as it should be, to ensure that such things never happen again. Unfortunately, countries do not learn from their mistakes and atrocities are happening all over the world against innocent people.
A MYSTERY OUT OF THE PAST…
Two envelopes. Two holocaust survivors. Two anonymous bearer bonds each worth one million pounds. Corporate forensic investigator, Cydney Granger, with help from beyond the grave, enters a world previously unknown to her to unravel the truth behind a web of secrets, lies, corruption, blackmail and hidden Nazi loot as new horrors of the Third Reich come to light.
Still struggling to come to terms with the apparent death of her husband, Captain Steve Granger, five years’ earlier Cydney puts her personal feelings to one side and is determined to bring to justice
an escaped Nazi criminal, Adolf Weissmuller, living under the assumed name of Albert Whiteman, whose son is about to run for the US presidency. Can Albert ever make amends for his crimes against
humanity, or are some actions beyond forgiveness …?
Will Cydney, along with her trusted and tough protector, former sergeant, Sean O’Connell, also uncover the truth surrounding her husband?
The consequences of Cydney’s investigations, stretching back before WWII, are far reaching with the potential to bring down a banking dynasty as she faces insurmountable odds from which there is only one final solution.
The dramatic follow-up to The Shadows Behind Her Smile, a compelling debut which takes the reader from the heart of Cydney’s corporate world to the ruins of war-torn Damascus and where men will stop at nothing to achieve their goals.
It was the shock. As he fell, the pain ripped across his heart and he felt the familiar vice-like tightening of his chest as the muscles attempted to respond to the restricted blood flow, his arteries already hardened and narrowed. An overwhelming sense of anxiety enveloped him. Harold reached into his inside jacket pocket and grabbed the pump spray he kept with him at all times containing the medicine he now urgently needed to relieve his symptoms. He opened his mouth and pressed the bottom of the pump firmly and placed a couple of squirts under his tongue; he had always hated the taste. The relief was immediate and as the pain eased he felt the onset of the pounding headache the spray always gave him. Slowly, he managed to pull himself up into a sitting position so he could examine the cause of his attack.
The knowledge that in his hands he held a bearer bond certificate for one million dollars made Harold’s hand tremble to such an extent that he dropped the bond and the envelope in which it had arrived and saw it flutter and disappear under one of the Queen Anne chairs in his living room. It was with some considerable effort that he stretched out his arm and rescued the document with the tip of his middle finger, despite the arthritis that also beleaguered him. He straightened up and mopped his brow with the back of his hand to remove the sweat that had accumulated, unsure if it was the shock that had brought it on, or the strain at his age that it had taken to retrieve it.
Still sitting on the floor, nervous to stand in case the pain returned, he examined the document in more detail, turned it over to check both sides and wiped away the film of dust from its fall. It was printed on thick cream quarto size parchment with a picture of Abraham Lincoln on the front in dark grey, and a red inscribed serial number to the right-hand side. The words ‘Bearer Bond to the Value of One Million Dollars’ were centred in large black letters. An utter sense of dread filled his entire being. It made no sense, unless …
Eventually, Harold got to his feet and waited for his world to stop spiralling down in front of him. He felt nothing but doom. The eyes of his parents and sisters framed within the sepia photo on his desk, taken before everything had overturned their lives, stared back at him, almost willing him to remember. As if he were capable of ever forgetting.
His fingers shook as he ran them along the gold trim edges of the bond and stroked the red seal and ribbon at the bottom. Further review of the envelope, including peering inside it in case there was a letter, revealed nothing further to assist him, not even after he had turned it upside down and shaken it to double check. It bore an airmail sticker and US postage stamp, and his name and address were typed on it, however, there were no clues as to who had sent it or why it had been sent to him. It certainly appeared genuine but the question that came to mind was whether someone was playing a joke on him. The bond was drawn on an American bank, the name of which meant nothing.
Not only did he feel completely bewildered, but absolutely frightened. He really needed to sit again before he passed out. He had no idea what to do so he called the person he always turned to when he had a problem. The phone was answered immediately.
“Alfie, it’s me. Harold. I have to see you.”
“I have to see you, too.”
“You got the same envelope.” It wasn’t a question, simply a statement, spoken in the same quiet tone that Harold was accustomed to hearing.
“That’s impossible. How could you have got a million dollars, too? Where did it come from?”
“You’d better come over to me. Is the notebook in a safe place?”
“Of course it is. It’s not something I would ever lose, though heaven knows I’ve thought about destroying it so many times.”
“It’s all we have, Harold. It’s our security.”
“Do you think it could be …?” He paused for a moment, gathering his thoughts. “Has he found us, despite all we’ve done?”
“I don’t know. I’ve phoned Rupert. We need his advice now.”
“We never told him, you know that. We’ve held this secret for so long. Can we trust him?”
This post is not about me, but I cannot help but share a vital fact: I tried to write many times, many years ago, and could not. I chalked it up to youth and a lack of complaint-worthy and celebratory experiences to deconstruct. There was no use to it. Whatever it was that drove the youthful writer, I did not have it.
Which is why it’s a joy to meet someone in the ‘before thirty category’ laying down thoughts, scenes and stories with an ease I didn’t find until much, much later.
Bri Volinz and I met by chance through a cat. That’s right, a cat. He appeared one day about three years ago at my back door looking suave and charming with appealing eyes that quickly won me over. My children, of course, wanted to keep him, but I knew he belonged to another. (The bell he wore around his neck was the clue.)
He visited us most days over the summer, and in that time, we named him Carlos (‘Clara’ was first, until we picked him up and turned him over and then — well. lol)
It took more than a few weeks to put together that “Carlos” was actually “Kobe” and that he belonged to Brianna, who lived six doors up from us. Since the day she and I met, we committed to co-parenting this very special cat, while fostering a mutual appreciation of all things writerly. Not only did our cat tease a new novel out of me (#3), but he ignited — I believe — a spark in my writer friend that only a true muse can facilitate.
But I’ll let the writer speak for herself.
She is a member of the Writer’s Community of Durham Region and speaks volumes through her keyboard. Though her tastes seem to lean toward shock horror, I believe she is capable of just about anything.
Meet a new writer with a fresh perspective. Hello, Bri!
You’re a writer…
Am I? Thank you for the reminder ha ha. I suppose I am a writer, or playing at being one at least. It’s the only passion I’ve ever pursued, and writing really is a labour of love for me, emphasis on the labour. It’s exhausting! It’s like going to the gym: pushing yourself to go is the hardest part, but the payoff from the workout is always worth it. And with writing, I can drink a beer and don’t have to wear pants while I work, which I can’t do at the gym. Trust me.
Ed. — I forgot to mention that she’s a comic too. lol
I love that story you wrote about the dating game. What draws you to shock horror?
I actually wrote that one with shock value in mind because I thought it would help me win a contest. (It didn’t). I prefer subtle horror, stuff that’s quiet and lingers. I like horror that lives with you in the back of your mind long after the initial scare.
Any sleepless nights because of it?
Unfortunately, no. Nothing I’ve come up with scares me enough, which is too bad because I love nightmares. The only thing that keeps me awake at night is my anxiety, which is something I want to explore more in my writing. I’ve got a couple fetus stories (not stories about a fetus, but stories in the early development stages, just to clarify) about my fears blown up, but nothing concrete.
Tell the readers how we met.
Through a mutual cat. When Kobe moved in with my parents he expanded his territory and had little care for peoples’ personal property. I remember you saying how one day he came to your door and marched himself up to your bedroom where he slept for hours like he owned the place. Over the years, Kobe’s constant back and forth between our houses brought us together; we’ve been co-parenting ever since.
The arrangement with Kobe is, in my view, very modern and insightful. Do you think he knew all along that we’d make him a star?
Absolutely. I think he sought us out. Cats have much better sight than us humans and I think that goes for their foresight too. I bet he pissed off the neighbours on purpose so that letter from the city would reach you and inspire Shell Game.
Ed. — We were ready to pack him off to author Rachael Stapleton’s country abode. That’s how worried we were about losing him to THE MAN. :O
Which brings me to that fab FOREWARD you wrote for the book. It’s beautiful. Have you ever tried literary fiction?
No, but I want to go there. I recently finished Karen Russell’s collection Vampires in the Lemon Grove and realized that’s the kind of writing I want to be making. Where the stories are strange, but each word is deliberately chosen and every other sentence makes you stop and say “Wow!” I don’t want to lose the horror element, because it’s what interests me, and I think there’s quite a bit of movement within the genre. But careful crafting is just as important. I want to coexist in both worlds.
Ed. — Then you just have to meet horror poet A. F. Stewart. She boggles!
May I reprint the foreward here? (Dying to share!)
Please! I’ll take all the free exposure I can get!
Foreword by Bri Volinz
I’ve always been a “cat person.” Their aloof, self-sufficient nature matches my own, and I enjoy a good meow. As a child, I would spend hours spooning the family cat in some quiet corner of the house, whispering secrets and insecurities into his twitching ear, as if he were a best friend or a diary. Skin to fur, heart to heart. We had other pets, but it was the cat I sought out for this ritual: something in his jewel eyes told me he was really listening.
My mother once told me that on Christmas Eve the cats could speak. Though I never witnessed these conversations, I did not doubt their reality; the cats were capable of magic because they were cats. It seemed silly not to believe.
My belief was strengthened when I met Kobe. Even as I wrote these words he appeared at the kitchen door, as if summoned by my thoughts of him. We started as roommates in a windowless basement apartment, where Kobe focused his energy on squeezing into holes in the drywall or escaping out the side door between the legs of the pizza man. Without a word, he was sending me a message: Let me go.
We moved Kobe into the suburbs, to my family home. There, his territory grew like the muscles beneath his fur, and he transformed from house cat to panther, watching over the sleeping streets and feasting on the season’s rabbits. The neighbours quickly got to know him, and he needed no collar to bare his identity (mostly because there wasn’t a collar he couldn’t slip). A graceful, savvy creature with a mind as sharp as his claws and a love for human attention made him the talk of the neighbourhood. Our own local celebrity, if you will.
Kobe met A.B. before I did, though her home is closer than our mailbox. A writer who, at the time, did not consider herself a cat lover, she fell hard for the feline (tall, dark, and handsome works for cats too). Kobe changed both of our lives, inspiring Funkhauser’s writing, and gifting me a mentor and dear friend.
Kobe haunts our neighbourhood like a friendly ghost, lingering long enough to be missed. He shows up when he is least expected, but most needed, providing comfort in the touch of his fur and a silence that says: Lay it all on me. At times Kobe is stingy with his affection, but he is just guarding his truth, keeping we humans guessing. We must remember that a cat’s trust has to be earned, like a blue ribbon to be pinned on the wall.
Shell Game was born because of a cat. The muscular, onyx beast who is undeniably something more. He will keep you waiting longer than the guy who hasn’t called, but love you for all of his nine lives. Kobe, or “Carlos the Wonder Cat ,” as you’ll come to know him, is as unique and complex as any human character you’ll read. He is the magic. He is our friend.
June 27, 2017
Ed. — Wow! TYSM. 😀
What are you working on right now?
I have a few projects on the go, which is my downfall. I jump off so many different ideas and rarely have the focus to finish anything. One story I’m playing with revolves around two sisters, autism, guilt, and a closet monster. I’m also working out the logistics for a small webcomic about a slime princess and her wannabe Prince Charming, all done in MS Paint. I’m eager to see if either project reaches an ending.
Have I forgotten anything?
Hmmm let’s see. I’ve got an online portfolio in the works, but until it’s up, I’m most active on Instagram @brivolinz. It’s the only social media platform I can competently use.
Also I have to thank you A.B. (and Kobe) for letting me tag along on this fantastic adventure. I couldn’t ask for better mentors or friends.
My pleasure, Bri. One thing I’ve learned from the writing journey is that writerly folk are generous. We talk, promote and share our stuff. Good things come from this.
Write on, darlin’ !
Bri brought along a sample from one of her WIPs. As usual, it is mysterious, clothed with that creepy foreboding she’s so good at.
Excerpt from an unnamed wip
When the third child within ten miles of town disappeared, your mother insisted the summer be spent indoors. Not behind her doors, maybe, but someone’s.
“Mrs. Atwater is old, she’ll appreciatethe help.”
“You mean Mrs. Gnatwater,” you mumble heading down the walk; everybody knows her place is crawling.
You rake your hand across the chipped tawny siding of Number 18, and when you depress the doorbell your finger is CheeZee orange and leaves a neon fingerprint. At your feet, a slop of coffee grounds shimmers, only to be scalped by the metal door frame as it swings open. A slime trail the colour of blackberries smiles up at you from the bungalow’s porch.
“Watch the ants,” says Mrs. Atwater’s voice.
Inside the place is swollen with piles, like a mouth full of sores.
Mounds of clothing stalagmite the floorboards. An overgrown mass of dish towels has split open, and from its core slinks a mildewey stench. Smudgy limbs of naked baby dolls climb up from behind a couch, just segments of body parts visible, like those pictures of aborted foetuses they make everyone look at in Science B.
“Where do I start?” Dust tints your face grey. A gob of chewed gum grows like fungus from the under lip of the kitchen counter, some of the fleshy wads still slick with spit.
Mrs. Atwater cricks her shoulders into a shrug and disappears behind a mountain range of bedding.
Alone, you let thesacredEenieMeenieMineyMo guide you to a cluster of shoes near the pantry, where you spend the next hour picking through crusted laces and light-up heels.
You pretend not to recognize the names from the milk cartons scrawled in faded marker on three of the soles.
Ed. – Yikes!
Thanks for stopping by, Bri, and good luck in all your writing endeavors. Keep us up-to-date!
Help a young writer grow her following. Find Bri Volinz here!
My third novel is ‘done,’ but not really, because after I typed “THE END,” I went right back to the beginning and started editing. Was that the right thing to do, or should I have waited a week or two? Cooled off? Got some distance? I put the question to my friend, the writing genius and all-around great person Lexi Miles. Lexi knows of what she speaks. She writes, she blogs, she promotes, all with an energy that I wish she’d bottle and sell.
Lexi not only weighed in on matters of editing, but she inspired an idea: Why not do a Q & A double-header? Two writers. Two edits. Plenty of questions…and selfies too!
When you sit down to edit, how do you begin your process?
Lexi Miles: The first thing that I do is to make sure that I am editing in a space that is free of distractions. My preference is for it to be quiet when I settle in to edit. After that, like a beta reader, I just read through it looking for the big issues. I try to find anything that jumps out at me: errors (ex: spelling, etc.), holes in plotting, loose ends, my personal favorite all names are correct (Giggles. I have swapped a few characters a time or two.), and all other major issues. In the first sweep, I also look for points that may need clarification and enhance points to strengthen the outcome of events in later chapters.
A.B. Funkhauser: My mind must be absolutely clear, which means I can’t have anything out there that’s been left undone. So, if the lawn needs raking, I rake it. If the kids need a hand with a big study project, I’m there. When all’s done, it’s me and the book, and that’s the way it pretty much is until it’s done! 😀
What is one of the most rewarding and joyful aspects of editing?
AB: My writing gets better with each outing, and that comes from doing, doing, doing. That’s what I see in the editing. There are fewer missteps and errors, and when I do find something, it’s glaring. No second-guessing because I’ve been there before. Best of all, I’m getting a better handle on the fixes. It took three books, but I can finally ‘see’ the problems fast and, even faster, get them fixed because I know how. That’s satisfaction in editing.
LM: One aspect that I find to be the most rewarding is that I have a chance to sit down and read what I have written. I love being able to enjoy it as a reader.
What are some of the challenging aspects of editing?
LM: It can be tedious. In addition to that, between us, I am someone that likes to deliver a high standard of excellence in anything that I do. So, one of the hardest realities for me to accept is that no matter how many times or how many eyes are upon the novel there are going to be a few things that slip through. It is just the process of publishing a novel.
AB: First and foremost, you have got to be well-rested when tackling this. If three great days are followed by an hour or two of sheer grind, then something’s up. It usually means my attitude is skewed either because I’m tired or my mind is wrapped up in something else. When the grind hits, I walk away for a few hours or days and then go back with fresh eyes. Makes a huge difference.
Have you over-edited a part of your novel and it turned into a disaster? If so, how did you go about fixing it?
AB: Ha! See above. In the beginning, yes. This was mostly because I didn’t know how to spot an indulgence, and when I did, didn’t have the heart to ‘kill my darling.’ This improved thanks to the hashtag games on Twitter. There’s nothing more exhilarating than taking an overwrought beauty, chopping it down to 140 characters, and then finding that it’s…BETTER!
But now as then, I always save the full MS at the end of each day as insurance. That way, nothing’s lost and anything can be restored.
LM: (Laughs) Oh yes. I have done this. Unfortunately, the first time that I did it I completely messed it up. I ended up hating that part so much that I removed it and had to try my best to rewrite the original from memory. It was such a heartbreaking experience. The process taught me a few new tricks. So what I have learned is to edit on a copy of the book and not the original. That way, if I tinker too much with a certain part, I can copy that section from the original and begin again. Adding to that, I limit the size of my edit. I will not write more than a certain amount of words. I find this minimization restricts me from altering the original idea beyond what I loved about it as well as makes me construct my words in a way in which I have to make my words concise, powerful, and count. It helps me to keep focused and continue to drive the story forward at a great pace.
Can you please share what techniques you find helpful to identify or catch issues in your work? (ex: know favorite words that get overused, favorite words to misspell or misuse, other issues that you’ve spotted that you now look for, any helpful tips that are you go-to, etc.)
LM: For me, there are several things. The first, I know my overused words or favorite to misuse. I look for them. The second, I use a checklist similar to the helpful links included at the end. Another, I read out loud. It helps me to catch things that I might miss in my head. And finally, the best tips that I can offer you is to make notes about what past editors/betas have caught and always look for new editing tips resources that can help you.
AB: Scene for scene, I will read each one aloud after an edit session to listen for the clunkers that can so easily be missed in quiet reading. Then I move on to the next. The next day, I go back and reread the previous day’s work before beginning new sections. I always find more to trim!
Reading aloud also helps me identify my favorite repeaters: ‘at once’ ‘surely not’ ‘outrageous’. When I hear them, I make a note of them and then do a universal search at the end to prune them out.
My very first manuscript years ago had over 200 cuss words. Lol. I was able to cut them to 5 very essential oaths. I was proud of that!
Dropped words are a constant. “Do you have cat?” instead of “Do you have a cat?” I’m always on the lookout for dropped words. Hyphens and em/en dashes are also a bane. I either over-use them, or don’t use them enough. I’m working on this too. Lol.
In what ways have you improved your editing? (Time efficiency, Using Deadlines, Sticking to Specific Steps, Checklist, Betas, other, etc.)
AB: Beta readers are crucial, but to help them out, I work very hard to deliver the cleanest possible draft I can. I also parse out assignments so that no one is overwhelmed. Some betas look for the aforementioned dropped words, repeaters and spelling, while others check for continuity, credulity and pacing.
I’ve also learned that editing, like novel writing, cannot be done in a week. It’s a slow, lengthy process if you want to get it right. I’ve worked hard to make a friend of it. Atmosphere, background music and regular breaks help, along with very understanding family members that don’t mind pizza three times a week. lol
LM: I stick to specific steps on my sweeps (editing passes) and follow them in order. To give you more insight as to what I am referring to, I start edits as I am writing the novel. I edit at the end of each chapter. Then on the first read through of the full length written novel, I don’t attempt to edit the numerous issues all at once. I address the sizable/noticeable issues then progress to the more intricate or detailed issues. Following that, I move to my next steps to address grammar, pace, dropped [missing] words, punctuation variation, vocabulary enhancement, and so on.
I also use a loose deadline process (to account for creativity and details in editing) for editing chapters to help my time efficiency. If not, I may never put a book out. (Giggles.) I found that I work great with deadlines; accordingly, they keep me focused.
In addition to those elements, Betas [for clarification and several other critical elements of editing] and Checklist have improved my editing in spades!
What is something that you stay away from while editing?
LM: Although I use deadlines, I do not rush. I STAY AWAY FROM RUSHING and take my time. Like a painter, a chef, or any other creative soul, take the time to create a work of art.
AB: My other novels! I’ll read the news before I go back to something already done. It would confuse me.
How many passes do you take through the manuscript?
AB: Usually three passes and then another two after the betas weigh in.
LM: Honestly, as many as it takes. I usually find that number to be about four times through (not including my daily end of chapter edits as I write).
When is the best time for you personally to do edits? (by chapter, start of day, completed manuscript, all of the above, other, etc.)
LM: [While writing] I perform edits at the start of each day as a great help to get back into the groove. [Once the book is written] I do my editing at the top of my day or in a moment where it is quiet with minimal interruptions. As far as frequency, I do edits at all points of the novel construction process. As I progress, the focus of the editing will evolve as needed. I think it is critical to do edits at the end of each chapter, an in-depth scrubbing at the completion of the fully written manuscript, and any other edits that the book requires to make it polished and sparkle with life! Again, I edit at all points so that the book, at the completion, is the book I sat down to write!
AB: I prefer the morning, although multiple competing schedules don’t always allow for this. I treat editing the way I do my writing: if I work at it a little bit each day, I’ll get it done…and I do!
When editing, do you edit for a set amount of time, set daily chapter goals, or do you go until you are tired, etc.?
AB: I leave it to my moods, though I have certain deadlines in mind. There is usually a contest deadline lurking ahead that drives me to finish. I also like to have the book ready for publication in advance of NaNoWriMo so that I’m free and clear to begin the next novel.
LM: I set a certain amount of time daily, and I also have a daily chapter goal. I set both of those so that I am completely fresh when I am editing. If I finish the daily chapter or the allotted time passes, I will call it. I do not go over the time I have blocked out in my schedule to avoid missing anything.
What are a few editing resources that you use?
LM: I like to utilize a checklist, editing programs, Beta Readers, Professional Editors, thesauruses, grammar websites, Google, grammar reference texts/books, Youtube, my dusty college educated brain (Giggles), blogs, other Authors, and the list continues. (That is code for see below for more resources.)
AB: I constantly refer to the rules of punctuation, which remain fixed in spite of conventional use changes. e.g. the ‘war’ on the semi-colon. The more I blog, the more I ‘unlearn’ the rules, so when it comes time to dig into a 60, 70 or 80K manuscript, I study up. Always, I ask: Oxford comma, or not?
Lexi’s Awesome Editing Resource List*
*We are not affiliated with these sites in any way. The links are helpful for editing.
A lot of us jump into edits ‘boots first’ right after typing ‘THE END.’ What are the advantages/disadvantages of moving fast?
AB: The advantage for me is that I’m super keen. The pistons are firing and I know exactly where all the characters are and what motivates them. This makes inconsistencies a lot easier to spot. The disadvantage is that I’m too close to the work, and so I’m more apt to miss dropped words, and issues of clarity. Stepping away from ‘THE END’ strips a lot of that away. Distance really draws out what could be clearer or what scenes really don’t need to be there at all.
LM: The advantage to jumping right back in is that the story is in the forefront of your mind. The disadvantage is that your eyes aren’t so fresh and you tend to miss issues/mistakes that you will most likely catch when you have stepped away from a project. That is code for I tend to favor NOT jumping right back in. My golden rule is to step away from the full-length written novel for a bare minimum of two weeks before I return to it for the first full book edit pass. That way I can see it fresh as if I am reading it for the first time.
The publishing world is evolving as never before. Do you agree/disagree with the current trend toward ‘sensitivity’ editing in the modern age?
LM: First let me say some people are vile. And you have to write them accordingly. There is no sensitive way around that. If the story’s essence is rooted in that fact, has a purpose for writing a character a certain way, or a mirroring element is there to strengthen the storytelling. That is the story that must be told.
Now, having said that, as far as my writing in general, I tend to write with a certain level of ‘sensitivity’ anyway with respect for people being people. I don’t buy into people being different. Long before I studied the discipline of Cultural Anthropology[Human Behavioral Studies], I felt, which was confirmed by my studies, that we are all the same at our core. What I am saying is, my writing is written in a way so that anyone can sit down, read the books, and with minimal effort be able to see themselves or elements of themselves inside of the story. The hope is that anyone can connect to it. So, I agree with sensitivity editing because it is writing a story free of stereotyping. To me, that is an enjoyable read. Unlike some may argue, I don’t think it dilutes a story, but quite the opposite. I think that it enriches it and tells a better story. It is a story that is closer to life. As a romance writer, I am not a fan of the girl looking for someone to rescue them. Rather, I write from the unique perspective in the romance genre of a girl looking to share a new chapter of her life with the love of her life as they face realistic challenges. Also, I don’t write a man that can’t access his emotions. Those stories, in my opinion, also are the pits [weak writing]. Unless of course, there is a quality backstory there and there is a purpose [not an overused idea]. I think not writing with the crutches of false ideas gives an author the chance to step up their writing and enhance what they write with depth/substance that everyone can say huh, that’s an important challenge I am facing, and am benefiting as I read this material. I think it forces new dimensions and robust layering. You don’t fall back on comfortable elements of the past but are called to create new dimensions in a written work. You are forced to dive a bit deeper and to peel back the layers of emotion that the other method of storytelling glosses over or allows the reader to remain at a safe distance. That is limitless and something thrilling for the mind to savor, chew on, digest, and evolve to a new level of awareness. I love that!
AB: I think it depends on genre, non-fiction in particular. In non-fiction, as in journalism, balance is critical to accuracy. Information is conveyed in a manner that should allow readers to debate and then draw their own conclusions. Whereas in fiction, art, character and mood are apt to take the front seat to big-time tells and balance. Villains are villains because they are nasty. They say and do things outside of what the reader finds acceptable in law and culture, which is precisely the point. The insensitivity and cruelty we see in certain characters drive the action driving the protagonist to the big fix (if a ‘happy ending’ is what you’re going for). I don’t see how sensitivity editing would make it better.
Which brings us to the subject of self-censorship. To what degree is editing for the market beneficial?
AB: There are so many guidelines out there geared to writing success. Whether these guidelines lead to ‘self-censorship’ or are an invaluable metric to publishing success is between writers and their agents/publishers. I like to think that the moment I start tempering my words is also the moment where I need to take a break. I write fiction and I write morally challenged characters, so I have to take care not to make them too nice. 😀
LM: I think that as long as the true essence of the story is not altered then editing for the market is extremely beneficial. I feel this way because due to the editing the work falls into a clearer defined market. As a result, a larger number of people will have access to as well as have an opportunity to connect with the book’s material. Without that mild/targeted editing, readers might not have had the chance to meet up with the story.
Self-publishing can cut out entire layers including ‘professional’ editing. Does this lend to greater artistic freedom, or heart-wrenching do-overs after the first run?
LM: I have taken part in both styles of publishing. Despite my style of publishing, I ALWAYS utilize a professional editor as well as a professional editing program. I do not self-edit alone; however, over time I have learned from personal as well as other professionally conversational/documented resources outside of myself, even with the most skilled eyes professionally editing your book every book will have the occasional typo. As a writer, as I stated previously, you have to understand that some typos never get caught. Even the most experienced, well-known, or traditionally published authors release new editions with modified content. So, to answer the question above, any time you have to make a detailed alteration to a written work it can be heart-wrenching as well as tedious. That’s my way of saying it is not fun no matter what style of publishing.
Now to address the portion of the question about creative freedom when Indie Publishing versus Traditionally Publishing. I’d have to say for the most part it is close to the same, but in some ways, it is more restrictive to traditionally publish. I will briefly elaborate. There are some cases when you may want to write something that you have experienced within your life, but a publisher may deem it too harsh of a depiction, and the content may be too intense for the publisher’s audience. Another example of a restriction of freedom with a publisher may be a descriptive word while voicing something within a conversation. In very specific cases, saying that someone whispered something versus whimpered would shift the book from mainstream romance to erotic. Sometimes that can diminish the intensity of a moment.
Closing out what I am saying here is, to maintain your creative voice while working with an editor or publishing house it is important to find the right one. I am fortunate on both fronts my editors and publisher respects my voice, and they give me the final say. I feel the story you get when picking up my novel is the one I wanted to tell or at least very close to it.
AB: Self-publishing, like the writing journey, is not necessarily something done in a vacuum. As writers, we have access to all kinds of writing services staffed by accredited professionals who can make our books better. The decision to use these services are personal ones governed by many things; craft uncertainty and budget are two. I’m lucky in that I belong to a highly-accomplished writing group that strives to excel. I’ve learned a great deal from them while keeping the creative drive alive. I think I try new things on in writing to see how they’ll react. Their critiques, 9 times out of 10, have proven correct.
Speaking of editing, which books have your attention at the moment and when will you be sharing them with everyone? Care to give us a peek at the covers (or at the most recent book you have released)?
AB: I’m hoping to get SHELL GAME out there in the next couple of months or so (depending on how the editing goes!). I’m really excited about this one in that it’s a departure from the first two novels. Rather than anchor the piece in a funeral home, I decided to take it outside into a fictionalized neighborhood that isn’t everything that it appears to be. As the title implies, everyone concerned plays a kind of SHELL GAME with neighbors, colleagues and even family members.
The thing I love most about this one is that the main protagonist is a tabby cat with a lot of insight. By being present, he makes things happen for good and for ill. There is still plenty of gonzo and revenge of the type readers have come to expect from HEUER LOST AND FOUND and SCOOTER NATION, but there are more insights, bigger laughs with a dollop of darkness on the side. i.e. One of the central questions is: What is that sausage really made of? 😉
A cat’s-eye view of the human soap opera
Carlos the Wonder Cat lives free, traveling from house to house in a quiet suburban neighborhood. Known by everyone, his idyllic existence is threatened when a snarky letter from animal control threatens to punish kitty owners who fail to keep their pets indoors. The $5,000 fine / loss of kitty to THE MAN is draconian and mean, but before Team Carlos can take steps, he is kidnapped by a feline fetishist sex cult obsessed with the films of eccentric Pilsen Güdderammerüng. Stakes are high. Even if Carlos escapes their clutches, can he ever go home?
The first is WILDFIRE (coming May 2017), hybrid poetry collection with a short bonus romance accompaniment SOME LIKE IT HOT. SOME LIKE IT HOT is a firehouse romance about an unexpected night of events for Bella and Lt. Xander Garten that changes everything.
The second is a romance about a psychiatrist, Lila, who goes on vacation in Vegas and runs into a sexy familiar face, Clark, she really should not become romantically involved with entitled OUR SECRET (coming Summer 2017).
And finally, PRIVATE LESSONS (coming Summer 2017). A romance-suspense about a recently divorced professional woman, Ryan, who gets much-needed lessons in self-defense and love from her alarmingly sexy private instructor Jimmy.
My most recent release is The Order of Moonlight. A vampire love story about a young woman, Clair, and a mysterious stranger G that invites her to a masquerade ball as well as into his magical world. Is Clair ready for all she will learn about his world?
The Order of Moonlight
Clair De Lune a young woman, who works at a small town café in the middle of nowhere, likes to live her life off of the radar. One afternoon that all changes when a wildly handsome mysterious suit wearing gentleman walks into her café. Intrigued to know more about the gorgeous enigmatic stranger, when he extends an invite to the masquerade ball later that night, she decides to meet him. Soon Clair finds that there just might be more to him than meets the human eye. Is Clair ready to step into his magical world of passion?
Ryan DeVain, a travel agent, gets tricked into taking much needed self-defense classes by her best friend Piper. She is apprehensive, even given the looming threat of her past, until she meets the ultra-sexy brown haired instructor Jimmy Jalin. Will there be sexy benefits included with his training?
Lila, a psychiatrist, hops on a plane to Vegas with her recently divorced best friend. They have a fun girls’ night out, but when Lila retires to her room she can’t sleep. Instead she has the same haunting thoughts that keep her up every night. Knowing that sleep is not going to happen that night, she goes out on a walk to clear her head. While out, she encounters the every so sexy Clark who just so happens to be off-limits because he’s a client of hers. Will she be able to deny what she feels for him or will they keep Vegas their little secret?
Wildfire Poetry Collection
Love in many ways is a wildfire that goes nuts within the heart. The poetry within this romantic collection gets the pulse racing and the heart fluttering. If you are in love, have been in love, or dream to be in love this sweet and sexy collection is for you. Fall in love with Wildfire and you’ll be happy that you did!
Some Like It Hot (Bonus Story In Wildfire)
Bella, a computer tech, just so happens to love that Fire House 34 is one of her assignments. It has everything to do with the fact that she gets to see the ever so sexy Lt. Xander Garten daily. But what’s not to like about him; he’s a tall, muscular, and madly heroic firefighter. No wonder Bella has developed an attraction to him. One day after work, Bella’s roommate Janine convinces her to go out for a much needed girls’ night. When Bella’s evening takes a turn for the worst, will a chance meeting with Xander heat things up between them and end up making it the best night of her life?
Writing the book is a great achievement. Editing it well, even more so. Do you agree?
LM: I am going to keep this answer simple, YES!
AB: Yes, yes, and yes. Here’s my golden rule:
DON’T RUSH IT! You spend months or years putting something together that has meaning. Rushing the edits doesn’t serve it. Read it, say it, LISTEN to it. Spelling and grammar usage are as important as continuity, credulity and pacing. Get it right and you’ll love it forever. Your readers will too!
Thank you for stopping in to share a moment with A.B. Funkhauser and Lexi Miles. We hope that you enjoyed what we had to share. Feel free to drop a friendly comment below with your thoughts and other editing tips that have helped you.
Keep laughing. Keep smiling. Keep writing.
About the Authors
Toronto born author A.B. Funkhauser is a funeral director, classic car nut and wildlife enthusiast living in Ontario, Canada. Like most funeral directors, she is governed by a strong sense of altruism fueled by the belief that life chooses us, not we it.
Her debut novel Heuer Lost and Found, released in April 2015, examines the day to day workings of a funeral home and the people who staff it. Winner of the Preditors & Editors Reader’s Poll for Best Horror 2015, and the New Apple EBook Award 2016 for Horror, Heuer Lost and Found is the first installment in Funkhauser’s Unapologetic Lives series. Her sophomore effort, Scooter Nation, released March 11, 2016 through Solstice Publishing. Winner of the New Apple Ebook Award 2016 for Humor, and Winner Best Humor Summer Indie Book Awards 2016, Metamorph Publishing, Scooter picks up where Heuer left off, this time with the lens on the funeral home as it falls into the hands of a woeful sybarite.
A devotee of the gonzo style pioneered by the late Hunter S. Thompson, Funkhauser attempts to shine a light on difficult subjects by aid of humorous storytelling. “In gonzo, characters operate without filters which means they say and do the kinds of things we cannot in an ordered society. Results are often comic but, hopefully, instructive.”
Funkhauser is currently editing SHELL GAME, a psycho-social cat dramady with death and laughs.
Lexi is currently living in California, has one sister named Cat, and is a proud pup mom of 2 mischievous Yorkies. Tropical warm spots and out of the way ranches are Lexi’s favorite escapes. Lexi loves to giggle. She’s a huge fan of positivity, and she is delighted when she can help someone else smile. Lexi loves a good Netflix binge. She also enjoys music (all genres), baseball, bubble baths, cooking, and long walks on the treadmill (aka working out). As far as writing, she fell in love with it from when she was a kid, and she still finds that she falls more in love with it every day. Lexi is growing a cult following for both her poetry and romance novels and believes that love—all forms—is the most precious gift that we are given in life. She is thrilled to pen romance, and all of that comes with it on paper! To find out more about Lexi, please go to www.LexiMilesAuthor.com!
It’s my great pleasure to welcome #GuessWrite winner for March 2017 Marina Black. Marina is a practicing registered nurse and multi-published romance author with a taste for bikers and happy endings. Now seeking representation, she is currently pitching her work on today’s #pitmad pitch party on Twitter. Join me in wishing her luck!
Welcome, Marina. Your work designation suggests medical thrillers, yet you write badass bikers. Tell us how you got there.
Thanks for having me! I often get this question and the answer is two-fold. When I’m not at work, I like to keep my thoughts separate from my occupation. On a daily basis I deal with the critically ill, distraught, and dying. Coming home, I write romance to escape and as a coping mechanism. It’s a really great way to unwind! The second reason I prefer not to focus my writing on medicine is: as a nurse, if you didn’t chart it, it didn’t happen. I find myself compelled to write in gritty detail of each and every assessment my patient—character—might encounter. I have a very lovely beta reader who reads everything and tells me when I’ve gone too far into detail. Trust me, it’s quite often!
Ed. – The temptation to share specialty knowledge is huge. I get where you’re coming from. 😀
So you write romantic thrillers?
I write contemporary romances. It just so happens that I also enjoy the suspense elements sprinkled in with my romance; it gives my novels some extra pizazz! My Badass Bikers series and upcoming novel Bargaining for Blood have a mystery, dramatic storyline that runs parallel to the romance. For Unintentionally Yours, there is no mystery or suspense involved—unless you’re wondering if they will or won’t live happily ever after!
I noted recently that a lot of modern ‘romances’ end badly. What, in your opinion, accounts for tragic endings? Is this a trend in romance writing?
Tragedy in romance is all well and good, however this is not something you’ll find in my work. I see enough heartbreak, violence and bloodshed in my day-to-day life—I’m not looking for that when I’m reading or writing! Certainly ‘happily ever after’ eventually will come to an end for one reason or another, but you won’t find it in my work. I’m a big fan of the ‘happily ever after’.
Ed. – It’s nice when things work out!
Your current protagonist (from the new novel BARGAINING FOR BLOOD) Adeline is charged with rescuing the one she loves, yet she makes an interesting compact that reminds me of 1,001 Nights. Do you like to blend the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ in your characters, or do you prefer to keep them behind their own lines?
I love to strike the balance between good and evil in all of my characters for sure. Each and every one of us has a ‘line’ and I like my characters to flirt with it on the regular! Adeline in particular learns a lot about herself in BARGAINING FOR BLOOD and, as the story progresses, begins to see that things are not always black and white.
What feeds a series? As the writer, do you find this exhausting, exhilarating or just plain psychotic? (last part said tongue-in-cheek! lol)
Characters are the drivers for me. In DEALING WITH THE DEVIL, I introduced four distinct Motorcycle Clubs and a set of characters. After the book came out and people were reading I kept getting readers asking me about Cecelia and Danny and if their story was next. So, as an author I started thinking about them and that’s when SINNING WITH LOS SANTOS came into play.
What are you watching on T.V. right now?
I’m a huge DC junkie so the entire Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow lineup is my jam. The 100 is absolutely fantastic—and my drug of choice. I’ve also been greatly enjoying Superstore—my guilty pleasure show!
Have I forgotten anything?
BARGAINING FOR BLOOD is coming soon! I’m also seeking representation, and that’s very exciting. Here’s an excerpt from CHAPTER ONE:
Bargaining for Blood COMING SOON
“Ms. McGinnis?” Malcolm Savage lurked in the shadows like a panther stalking his prey. Adeline straightened her spine, coppery hair spilling from its bun and framing her cherubic face. Her steely eyes were wet and her cheeks were flushed; she stormed past him like a vengeful angel and his palms itched with the need to touch her. “Adeline,” he growled, more sharply this time, and she stilled.
“How did you get in here?” she demanded. “Mr. Savage—”
“Malcolm,” he corrected, narrowing inky black eyes at her. Their gazes caught and held, the electricity palpable in the air as he grasped her arm. “You and I are well enough acquainted by now, wouldn’t you say?”
Her body seemed to contract and she wrenched away from him like a caged animal, snarling and sneering. “Get away from me!”
If he was perturbed by her outburst, it didn’t show on his face. “I’m not here to hurt you, if that’s your fear. Frankly, I’m not even angry. Color me impressed.” She was wound tight enough to snap and he didn’t blame her. Adeline had always clung to her moral values; turning down the lucrative lifestyle he offered took guts. He may not have understood it on a fundamental level but he certainly respected the hell out of her gumption. For her to go and do something like this…it was out of character and out of desperation.
“We need to talk. We can do it quietly amongst ourselves…or we can do it at the police station. What would you prefer?”
Other Books by Marina Black
Losing Charlotte left a deep chasm within Bellamy Blake. It was the kind of hole that could only be filled by Clarke Griffin. This story chronicles the soul-binding love of two people who are destined to be lovers and leaders, despite the odds.
Lucy was born to ride. Three generations of Harding men have pledged their loyalties—and their lives—to the Devil’s Own Motorcycle Club. The club is her legacy, its blood runs in her veins, and she’ll be damned if she lets them exclude her. Lucy Harding will stop at nothing to take her place among the Devils and prove her worth once and for all.
Cecelia Santos was born for greater things. As a brilliant electrical engineer and a member of Los Santos Motorcycle Club, she’s always been regarded as a force to be reckoned with…but that doesn’t mean she’s had it easy in life. Cece has always been a fighter and now that she’s home after being kidnapped by a rival gang, she’s harder and tougher than ever. When a new threat rears its ugly head in her hometown of La Verdad, she vows to crush it all by herself. She doesn’t need help…especially not from the redheaded menace she’s trying to deny her feelings for.
Daniel Harding knows all too well how difficult Cecelia can be. He’s not only seen her as a warrior on the battlefield but as a woman warm in his bed. Although she’s made it clear he doesn’t stand a chance, he can’t back down. Los Santos are outclassed, outmanned, and outgunned; if they fall prey to Los Lobos, it won’t just be Cece’s family that’s in danger. For the good of everyone he loves, he has to make sacrifices…even if it means stepping on a few toes.
Tensions run high, blood runs hot, and the stakes get higher…will they be able to protect La Verdad or will they be damned for good?
The battle for control rages deep within the heart of New Orleans. While Hayley seeks to comprehend what it finally means to have a family, Niklaus must fight a thousand years of darkness to find a shred of humanity. The bond of blood runs deep…family, love, loyalty. All will be tested as two unlikely lovers come together. Will they find happiness or destroy one another?
When Mona Gallo finds herself accidentally pregnant, the life she worked so hard to build begins crumbling around her. Although she’s determined to raise the baby on her own, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to her sexy boss despite his rakish ways. Maybe it’s just hormones but Mona can’t seem to help herself when it comes to Reno. She should know better, of course. She’s been a stripper for half her life and seen first hand how letting down her guard only leads to heartache.
Vincent “Reno” O’Keefe’s life is falling apart. He lives three thousand miles away from his family, dates all the wrong women, is a terrible Catholic, and his fortieth birthday is around the corner. Now, his little sister has announced her engagement and he can’t bear to go to the wedding alone. Asking Mona seems like the perfect solution. She’s newly single, gorgeous, and in desperate need of a vacation.
Mona is eager to see Boston and enjoy one last trip before the baby comes. She can hide a pregnancy for a week, right?
Besides, what’s the worst that could happen…?
The treatise between the Grounders and the Sky People is a tenuous one. Danger lurks around every corner and war is imminent. Against all odds, Murphy befriends a young orphan and catches the eye of the Commander. For the good of their people, sacrifices must be made…the choice was almost too easy.
Harper’s life hangs in the balance as she rests in the depths of Mount Weather. Past, present, and future collide as Harper fights against the experiments the Mountain Men are doing on her. The only thing she’s sure of is that there’s only one sick, broken man who can save her…Harper has no choice but to put her faith in Cage Wallace.
The road to perdition is fraught with violence, anger and heartache. The way back to redemption is twice as bad. John Murphy lost his way in the world long ago. He vowed to numb the pain with bloody revenge. But she was the only one who wasn’t there to watch him hang for a crime he didn’t commit. Hurting her was never an option…
All Titles Available Through the Author’s Amazon Page
Marina Black was born in the state of Connecticut. She is a busy registered nurse who works at a bustling inner city hospital. By night (and the occasional weekend), she is a prolific writer who has penned many short stories and works of fiction over the years. Dealing with the Devil (August 2015) was her debut original novel and Book 1 of the Badass Bikers series. Unintentionally Yours (November 2015) is a fan favorite! Sinning with Los Santos: Book 2 of the Badass Bikers series is on sale now! For author updates, follow Ms. Marina Black on Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter!
Please welcome back to the blog, crowd-pleaser Marie Lavender. With a shiny new release out, Marie takes a pause to answer some questions about multi-genre writing and staying outside the box. Oh! And she has a WIP on the go too. Hey, Marie.
With so many sub-genres to choose from, romance fans are truly fortunate. How do you define your work? Are you a traditional romance writer?
I actually prefer to define myself as a multi-genre author because I’m truly all over the place when it comes to the type of books I write. After releasing a children’s fantasy in 2015, I took a hard look at my works-in-progress, and then realized I needed to make a change instead of just calling myself a romance author. Some of the stories I have planned are dystopian or have time travel themes. I’ve even tried my hand at horror. Compared to some of the romance stories I’ve written, it was just easier to term my work as multi-genre.
As for what types of romance I write, I never like to box myself in. If I can cross different genres, it’s all for the better. Case in point, book two of the Blood at First Sight Series, Blood Instincts, which I’m currently editing, is more detailed than the first book in the trilogy. It’s a paranormal romance/urban fantasy with a futuristic angle. Also, the book I just sent off to beta readers, titled Directions of the Heart, is a modern romantic drama collection. Don’t get me wrong; I’ll always have a soft spot for romance. But I see no reason not to break the mold with genres now and then. Even Upon Your Love is a family saga as well as a historical romance.
Ed. – I love mixing it up too. There are more surprises for the reader and the writer, I think.
The challenges the protagonists face in UPON YOUR LOVE are not time sensitive: work vs. family; personal goals vs. self-sacrifice. When thinking about the near past, how do these challenges differ in a contemporary setting?
I think they are universal themes. Even today, parents struggle to raise their children while balancing careers. And who hasn’t accepted a not so great job just to make ends meet? Obviously, some of the challenges Adrienne faces as a woman in Victorian New Orleans aren’t quite as relevant, but I think readers will quickly see she is a formidable character, and will appreciate that she knows what she wants. Shouldn’t we all be so self-aware? Besides, she quickly became a female quite out of her time as I grew to understand her during the writing process. I believe the audience can easily picture the heroine in the present day, making her own mark on the world.
What would Scarlett O’Hara think?
Are you kidding? Scarlett would be appalled at Adrienne’s behavior, like most of her contemporaries. Perhaps Ms. O’Hara could even take a page from Adrienne’s book. She’s rather admirable.
Ed. – Well, fiddle-dee-dee. lol.
What are the greatest villains in romance: persons, places or things? How do you co-opt these in your own work?
I always gauge these things based on the character’s strengths and fears, things deep in his or her background which can influence what happens. The plot forms from there. For one, I believe society usually interferes with the HEA (or, Happily Ever After) in romance. That especially occurs with historical romance. Modern settings are a different animal entirely. Secondly, events or yes, villains often prevent the characters from finding their happiness. To me, every story is different. Every character is different too, so it all depends upon the subtle nuances you discover as the tale progresses.
Strong female leads always rule. Which of your three characters in UPON YOUR LOVE are the strongest? Weakest? Is this deliberate, or did they emerge that way as you wrote?
Am I biased if I say I believe they’re all strong, at least in their own ways? Of course, Adrienne is the one rated most likely to be stubborn and act as unladylike as possible, to forge her own path, in a sense. But I do not think any of them are weak. If a reader reads the series from the beginning to the end of the trilogy, he or she will notice how these characters grow as capable women in a time when females don’t have much power at all. I even admire the ones that aren’t mentioned in the blurb; Claudette Giroux has a quiet kind of strength, which, of course, appeals to Eric Caron.
Ed. – Not biased at all, more like a true believer, which is essential to reader belief, yes?
Romance is alive and well, yet so many stories end tragically. Categorically, this may not be romance in a true sense (no happily ever after). Where do you think the demand for tragedy comes from?
Ah, you thought you’d catch me in a spoiler, didn’t you? Did I say there was no HEA in this book? Well, I would never categorize it as a historical romance without one. As for tragedy, I think personal tragedies hit us all at some point in our lives. My stories tend to have some drama here and there. And my loyal fans know I enjoy torturing my characters for a while before they can have what they want.
What can readers take away from UPON YOUR LOVE after the last page is turned?
I think a key lesson is that we’re all human, capable of flaws and strengths, and you’ll often see that nowhere else but close to home, within your own families. One takeaway here is how important family is, and how strong they can make us once they band together.
As always, happy reading! Thanks for hanging out with me for a bit! 🙂
And thank you so much, A.B. You’re a great friend and such a talented author!
Why, thank you! It’s always a pleasure dreaming up new questions to tease out your authorly insights. Congrats, again, on the release!
UPON YOUR LOVE released February 26th, and is available through most booksellers online.
The Hill family saga concludes as loyalties are questioned, faiths will be tested and undying love may come at a terrible cost…
Fara Hill, mother and faithful wife, is torn between her family at home and her urge to be at sea. Soon, she learns some disturbing truths. Was the past a fairy tale instead of reality?
Chloe Hill, loving wife and young mother, questions her faith when her husband sets an ultimatum she cannot meet. Will she be able to keep her marriage from falling apart?
Adrienne Bellamont Hill, born of a valiant captain and a fiery redhead, is untamed to her core and will bow to no man. Then Christian du Plessis enters her life with an offer she can’t refuse. Discovering the man behind the polished gentleman, she is drawn to him in many ways. Holding out for love is a family tradition, but can she resist the temptation of passion?
Christian finds this young woman to be a fascinating challenge, and is torn between keeping his distance from her and succumbing to her charms. A fierce battle of wills ensues as he sees she is much more than he ever imagined.
But danger lurks, threatening to destroy everything…
Can these two strong-willed individuals unite in the cause before time runs out?
The neigh of a horse brought her out of her reverie and she looked over, but her mare stood quietly beside the stream. Adrienne’s instincts nagged at her and she stood up, her ears on alert. The clomp of hoof beats came to her on the swift afternoon breeze. Was the rider coming from the estate or perhaps it was simply a stranger? In any case, a sense of unease grew in the pit of her stomach and she reached down to unearth a small dagger Gabriel had gifted to her two summers ago. She kept it in a sheath around her thigh. Gabe had always said that if she didn’t have a sword on hand, it was best to have something. And she couldn’t agree more.
She clucked her tongue to alert Persephone and led her quickly by the reins under the cover of the trees. The rider was closer now and her mare shifted uneasily, blowing a breath out of her nose. She must have heard the approaching horse as well. “Shh. It’s all right,” Adrienne whispered, stroking her neck. She tied the reins to a tree and waited.
When the rider appeared from the forest, she couldn’t see him clearly. It was a man—that much she was certain—but the lapels of his dark coat and the thicket of limbs brushing her face kept her from placing his identity. He had dark hair and was tall, his body lean and muscled. She watched as he got down from a fine, black stallion and led it to the stream for a rest. The man took a drink from his cupped hands. He wiped the remnants of the water from his chin, and then seemed to search the area nearby. She shivered. Was it possible the man had been tracking her? If that was the case, her dagger would certainly come in handy. Adrienne crouched on alert, spying through her vantage point in the trees. From behind, she observed as the tension eased from his shoulders and he sighed.
A frisson of unease ran through her again. Taking it as a sign, she confirmed he was still faced away before she quietly eased out of her haven. Stepping up behind him, she lifted her dagger to his throat. A smile of grim determination danced over her lips as he stiffened.
“Who are you? Why are you here? Are you following me?”
“What if I was?”
Fine shivers moved along the surface of her skin, caused by the deep timbre of his voice.
“I would have to ask for your reasons, Monsieur.”
“I haven’t come to kidnap you, if that’s what you’re worried about,” he sighed. “I didn’t expect you’d be prepared. I commend the effort, of course.”
She frowned. The compliment threw her for a moment, but she then brushed it off. Surely, he ridiculed her, and thought he could overtake her somehow. She shook her head. He would be gravely disappointed.
“You will state your reasons for your presence and your identity, sir.”
“And if I don’t?”
“You will regret it, of course.”
“Indeed? Do you intend to harm an unarmed man?”
She scoffed. “Unarmed? No, I doubt that. With the way you appeared to be tracking me, I am sure you’re quite armed.”
“Right again. What will you do about it?”
She shrugged. “This is Bellamont land. You’ve clearly trespassed. If I must, I will drag you straight back to the house. You know, I believe the foreman has a Winchester sporting rifle. He can be quite formidable when he puts his mind to the task.”
“I’m sure,” he murmured.
“What say you then?”
“I say, Mademoiselle, that you have no idea who you’re dealing with.”
Before she could open her mouth to take him to task, she felt a blow to her arm and the numbing pain caused her to drop the knife. Everything else happened in a blur. As he turned, he caught her leg, which caused her to collapse. But, before she landed, he grasped her up in his arms. He was too close, she thought. Panic threatened inside of her, but she fought it by degrees. She was a fighter, not some idiot who would succumb to a man’s power. Gabriel had taught her many tricks, as had her father. She forced herself to go limp so that he’d pull her closer. She let her eyes drift closed and pretended to have swooned.
“Mon Dieu,” he whispered.
Then she unmanned him with a swift rise of her knee. He coughed out a grunted response, releasing her.
She retreated from him, intent on finding her dagger, but did not see it. The leaves in the grass crunched beneath her hands and knees as she struggled to her feet. She would have to rely on the resources of the forest to save her if he pursued further. Somehow, she doubted he’d be able to. She turned and her mouth dropped open as she looked at her attacker.
His dark hair had fallen over one eye and he was hardly doubled over in pain. No, he scowled at her now and he seemed quite well. She’d missed her target, she realized. His identity shocked her further. She felt quite stupid for not recognizing him, even from behind. But, why had Christian tried to attack her?
“How…,” she whispered.
“You are not as fast as I, Mademoiselle.” Then he laughed, but there was no mirth in his expression. His eyes seemed darker suddenly. “You little brat,” he bit out. “You almost had me.”
She sucked in a breath and, when she saw him advance, she backed away. But, it effectively put her back right up against a nearby tree. She cursed. Christian closed in, blocking her in with his arms as he braced his hands on the tree trunk. Her breaths came out in harsh pants and her stomach had fallen somewhere at her feet. Dear God, what would he do? She jerked her arms out to break his hold, but his muscles were like the ratlines between the shrouds of a mast in a ship’s rigging. Solid. Struggling with his obvious intimidation of her, she managed, “Why are you trying to kidnap me?”
Some of the arrogance left his face. “I’m not. I thought we already established that.”
“Then why… this?” she asked, weakly. And why couldn’t she breathe? His clean, male scent caused her to feel lightheaded. No, she thought. That just had to be terror.
“I wanted to get you alone so that we could continue our plans. I didn’t mean for you to see me as a threat. I certainly didn’t expect a dagger at my throat.” He reached out and cupped her face, stroking the line of her jaw gently with his thumb.
Adrienne gazed into his nearly black eyes. She thought she saw a hint of admiration and something more, perhaps desire, in his gaze.
“P… plans?” she stammered, annoyed with the hypnotic effect he had on her. And what was that strange, but wonderful scent coming off him? She detected cologne which contained a hint of fresh pine. But then, she’d smelled it before, both in her room and at the Broussard’s engagement party. Even though the fragrance was pleasant, she tried to ignore it.
“Our matchmaking endeavor, chére.”
“Yes, that. Did you forget?”
She cleared her throat. “No, of course not.” Her resolve returned in full force then. She slapped his hand aside and sidestepped him. Stalking away to locate Persephone, she unearthed her mare from the brush in no time. When she returned, he still stood there, watching her. She shivered again.
Mon Dieu, she thought. Why was this happening to her? Why did the man tie her in knots?
About the Author
Bestselling multi-genre author of UPON YOUR RETURN and 21 other books. March 2016 Empress of the Universe title – winner of the “Broken Heart” themed contest and the “I Love You” themed contest on Poetry Universe. SECOND CHANCE HEART and A LITTLE MAGICK placed in the TOP 10 on the 2015 P&E Readers’ Poll. Nominated in the TRR Readers’ Choice Awards for Winter 2015. Poetry winner of the 2015 PnPAuthors Contest. The Versatile Blogger Award for 2015. Honorable Mention in the 2014 BTS Red Carpet Book Awards. Finalist and Runner-up in the 2014 MARSocial’s Author of the Year Competition. Honorable mention in the January 2014 Reader’s Choice Award. Liebster Blogger Award for 2013 and 2014. Top 10 Authors on AuthorsDB.com. Winner of the Great One Liners Contest on the Directory of Published Authors.
Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and three cats. She has been writing for a little over twenty-five years. She has more works in progress than she can count on two hands. Since 2010, Marie has published 22 books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, fantasy, science fiction, mystery/thriller, dramatic fiction, literary fiction and poetry. She has also contributed to several multi-author anthologies. Her current series are The Heiresses in Love Series, The Magick Series, The Blood at First Sight Series and The Code of Endhivar Series.
Hello from beautiful Bonville, Ontario! Like so many writers this time of year, I’m neck deep in a brand new work for NaNoWriMo 2016. For those not in the know, NaNo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Believe it or not, a 50K manuscript can be hashed out in a month if a writer dedicates about 1,600 new words to the page every day. But I digress…
The blog needs to be fed, and so it is my great pleasure to welcome multi-talented author David Mannes. Spiritual and curious, David plumbs a fascination with the paranormal while exploring relationships at their most personal. With TWO releases out this year, his energy and creativity is an inspiration to us all.
Welcome to the blog, David.
As a Cantor-Educator you are a spiritual man who is also interested in the paranormal and the unexplained. How do you reconcile dogma with secular interests?
Judaism’s belief about what happens after you die is a gray spectrum with an evolution of beliefs over the millennium looking at biblical and Talmudic views. We do believe that the soul is eternal. But I certainly don’t believe in demons, possessed souls, or Satan- at least in terms of the Christian view, which has its origins with Egyptian, Greek, and Roman theology. In Judaism Satan-pronounced Sah-tahn in Hebrew- or the Accuser, is sort of like a prosecuting attorney. (Satan is mentioned briefly by a couple of the prophets and predominantly in the book of Job (an allegory piece of literature about faith). However, I did live briefly in a haunted house for awhile in my teens. (See May, 1976 issue of Fate Magazine-‘The Spite House’) and I have friends who are psychic. I tend to keep an open mind as to what happens to our spirit after death and in terms of Jewish belief.
Re: the unexplained or extraterrestrial: In Jewish tradition God created and destroyed many worlds before creating this one, and then God continues to create. God is a creative force. It’s what God does. Also, it’s pretty egotistical of us to think we’re the only intelligent life form in the universe, and really, looking at our world and the history of humankind, there’s got to be something out there smarter than us. The universe is billions or trillions of years old.Humankind is still in it’s relative infancy. We may have become more sophisticated, but we haven’t matured much. We don’t know everything. The world and the universe will continue to surprise us.
Is that how you became involved in the arts? Or did the arts come first?
I was always interested in fine art (especially cartooning) and writing. I majored in Art initially in High school and my first year of college, then switched it to a minor and majored in English. I’ve been writing since upper elementary school and got a lot of encouragement from teachers and in creative writing classes. I’ve always had an overactive imagination. I knew I wanted to be a writer since fifth grade.
Your character Jeff Reimer in THE CANTOR’S SON reminisces about the year of his Bar Mitzvah, which took place in the 1960s. I’ve been listening to a lot of Beatles lately and find it very reassuring. What is it about the 60’s that keeps us coming back?
We are the baby boomer generation. We had great music, great causes and its generational influence is still present. While The Cantor’s Son has a Jewish slant, it also speaks to baby boomers and any kid whose father was clergy. I think it was a great era to grow up in, despite all the war and social problems.
Jeff “comes home” after forty-six years. What is his take on ‘home’ in the year 2016 CE?
The book is about Jeff’s journey not only as a young adult but as an adult. Getting older gives us a different perspective on life and what’s important. There’s a lot of people (adults) that are still figuring it out. Overall change happens. Growth happens. Life is a continual journey and Jeff is entering a new stage but experience has given him a new outlook too, one that I think the character is happy with.
You have also authored THE REPTILIAN ENCOUNTER and SCARLET JUSTICE. Do these works support common themes, or are other agendas at work?
Well Scarlet Justice started out as a screenplay that I was going to produce with a couple of buddies, but there was a recession on in the early 90’s and we couldn’t find interest or financing so I did a novelization of it. I grew up watching old B westerns and the Clint Eastwood and John Wayne movies. While doing research for the Writing-on-Stone documentary I read a lot about the early years of the Mounted Police and it gave me a lot of story ideas that I’ve incorporated in this series. The second book, Scarlet Vengeance will be out this fall, and I’m working on a third book in the series.
The Reptilian Encounter is actually the third part of a trilogy (I published the first two volumes independently on Amazon kindle) but it’s also a spin-off for a continuing series. I’ve been interested in UFOs since I was a kid. I use to read Frank Edward’s column in the newspaper and have been doing reading and research on UFO’s for probably about 50 years. As well, having grown up in the 60’s, The Man from U.N.C.L.E was one of my favorite shows, as was X-Files in the ’90’s. Both influenced the creation of my character Damien Wynter. According to some of my research, after the Roswell crash of 1947 President Truman set up Majestic 12, a group of military, industrial, and private organizations and individuals who investigate and obtain alien technology, and understand extraterrestrials, but at the same time keeping it secret to prevent public panic. My novels are based on actual or alleged incidents but with fictional license and conclusions. The series is sort of a Man from U.N.C.L.E meets the X-Files. The second book, The Tunguska Encounter is coming out this fall. I’m hoping this series takes off and I think it’d be great to see The Reptillian Encounter made into a movie.
And you have also worked in film as a producer/director and scriptwriter. How do these experiences compare to writing in solitude, if you, indeed, write in solitude?
Definitely there are parts of media production that are creatively collaborative; but both involve storytelling. I think visually no matter what the media. I always have. The difference for me is in the pacing. Working in media is a very intense and frantic pace a lot of the time, given budgets, deadlines, etc. Writing is more relaxed. The only deadline we have (other than from our illustrious publisher during the editing phase) is one that we set. There are times I enjoy being in my ‘Batcave’ with music in the background and letting the story take me in new places. Solitude is essential when writing. I find myself quite comfortable when I’m in ‘the zone’.
What is the glue that holds society together currently?
Relationships and common goals. To have a society means that there has to be rules that everyone agrees to and abides by. That’s the main purpose of the Ten Commandments (though in Judaism according to the rabbis, there’s 613). It’s the minimal rules to have a safe and just society.
Many of us imagine life before the digital age. Others of us have lived it. Which category do you fall into? Can you share a pre Instagram anecdote with the readers? (Mine involves chasing my younger brother with a manual egg beater *lol*)
I definitely lived life before the digital age and was very thankful when computers came out. Made writing a lot easier..lol. I remember as a kid we’d play army. Our next door neighbors were an older couple. They had a retaining wall on one side of their property. We kids used to go around through another yard and take a running leap off the retaining wall and do a tuck and roll to pretend we were parachuting. The problem was the cement walk that separated the wall and the grass. You had to jump far enough so you didn’t splat on the walk. We didn’t understand liability issues, but the old guy was always chasing us away when he caught us doing that.
What words of wisdom would you impart to our first extraterrestrials when they arrive?
Don’t judge us by the stupidity you see. We are worthy and capable of better. We are also tenacious and unpredictable. Don’t piss us off.
Any last words?
Follow your dreams. You only live once. Appreciate the people in your life because that’s the most important.
Thanks, David. Now let’s check out the novels…
THE CANTOR’S SON
Rabbi-Cantor Jeff Reimer returns to River City, Iowa after forty-six years, as spiritual leader of Temple Beth Shalom. As Jeff connects with the congregation on a variety of issues, he also connects with his past. It leads him to reminisce about the year of his Bar Mitzvah, and the pivotal events and personal relationships that have led him back to River City again, and that makes Jeff the man he has become. This is a humorous coming-of-age story set in the turbulent 1960’s where Jeff fights off the stigma of being a clergyman’s son, contends with Junior High shop classes, stumbles through B’nai Mitzvah party dances and a semi-reluctant romance with April Blackman.
Released October 14, 2016
Ride with Northwest Mounted Police Constable Alfred Kingsley and ex-gunfighter turned scout Charlie Buck in two new adventures: Scarlet Vengeance– Hatred is a powerful motivator. When rancher Amos Pike spots ex- runaway slave and black rancher, Elijah Samuels, a man he blames for his family’s downfall, Pike plots a merciless revenge to take away everything Samuel’s holds dear. But he doesn’t count on NWMP Constable Alfred Kingsley and Charlie Buck, who head out on the trail to track the kidnappers and murderers down. In the second novella, Scarlet Gold, Kingsley and Buck, while on their way escorting a prisoner to Fort Benton, aid the U.S. cavalry and Marshal Ben Tucker track down a ruthless band of gold thieves in Montana.
THE TUNGUSKA ENCOUNTER
Released September 30, 2016
The cold war is back on but with a twist…a remnant, a computer chip, exists from a UFO that exploded over Russia in 1908. Now Damien Wynter, special agent for the clandestine Majic-12, is on a race to get it before SETKA, his Russian counterparts. From the canals of Venice to old city of Dubrovnik, to the pyramids of Bosnia, Wynter and Michelle Martin run a gauntlet of anarchy, destruction and death in an all out battle to obtain technology that could be the greatest boon to humankind or launch its destruction in THE TUNGUSKA ENCOUNTER!
The Majic-12 series explores the clandestine side of UFOs and the covert organizations that investigate them. This is an espionage-action-adventure sci-fi series that takes place in present day.
About the Author
David M. Mannes is a Cantor-Educator and a member of the American Conference of Cantors. He has served congregations in the United States and Canada. He is also a former educational film producer/director and scriptwriter. He was nominated in 1990 for best non-dramatic script in the Alberta Motion Picture Industry Association (A.M.P.I.A.) awards for “Writing-on-Stone” that he wrote and produced for Alberta Parks. David is the author of The Cantor’s Son, The Reptilian Encounter (Damien Wynter –Majic-12 series), Scarlet Justice (Constable Alfred Kingsley and Charlie Buck series), among others. He has had a long time interest in history, as well as UFOs, paranormal and unexplained phenomena. David is a member of the Writer’s Guild of Alberta and the International Thrillers Writers. David Mannes is married and lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.