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Friday, July 29, 2011

John Desjarlais' New Book, Viper, Sequel to Bleeder Released June 2011

A former producer with Wisconsin Public Radio, John Desjarlais teaches journalism and English at Kishwaukee College in northern Illinois. His first novel, The Throne of Tara (Crossway 1990, re-released 2000), was a Christianity Today Readers Choice Award nominee, and his medieval thriller, Relics (Thomas Nelson 1993, re-released 2009) was a Doubleday Book Club Selection. Bleeder and Viper (Sophia Institute Press, 2009 and 2011 respectively) are the first two entries in a contemporary mystery series. A member of The Academy of American Poets and Mystery Writers of America, he is listed in Who's Who in Entertainment and Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers.

Tell us about the genre of your work. 
I am currently writing a contemporary mystery series featuring an amateur sleuth and a former DEA Special Agent, but I have written historical novels with a crime element before. I teach a course in Detective Fiction at my college, and so it is fun to be writing in the genre also.
Why did you choose this genre?
I fell into it quite accidentally. I was writing historicals, and I had an idea wherein Aristotle, the Father of Logic, would solve a crime. Detective fiction is all about the celebration of reason, and I thought this had great possibilities. I learned early in the research, though, that a British writer already did this – and rather well – so my thinking took a turn.  I conceived of a classics professor who would be conversant in Aristotle’s works, so much so that Aristotle would be his ‘mentor’ or ‘sidekick,’ solving a seemingly irrational mystery. The result was BLEEDER.
What are some of your books, stories that have been published?
The Throne of Tara (Crossway 1990; reissued iUniverse 2000, ISBN 0-595-15597-9)
Relics (Thomas Nelson 1993; reissued 2009, ISBN: 0840767358
ISBN-13: 9780840767356)

Bleeder (Sophia Institute Press 2009, ISBN: 978-1-933184-56-2)
Viper (Sophia Institute Press June 2011, ISBN: 978-1-933184-80-7)
I have had many short stories published in literary journals; the most recent include “Assisted Living” in Dappled Things and “Lovebird,” scheduled for the summer edition of The Rockford Review.
Give a short description of each and where they can be found.
The Throne of Tara, set in Dark Age Ireland, is based on the dramatic true story of Saint Columba of Iona, the hot-headed monk who went to war over a book, and in remorse over the thousands slain, exiled himself among the Picts of Scotland where he dueled the Druids, miracles versus magic.
Relics is a medieval crime thriller set largely in Crusader Palestine, involving a suspicious cathedral fire, a stolen relic, and a terrorist plot to assassinate King Louis IX of France.
Bleeder is a contemporary mystery where a stigmatic priest collapses and dies on Good Friday in front of horrified parishioners. A miracle? Or, bloody murder? Classics professor Reed Stubblefield applies Aristotelian logic to learn the truth, since police regard him as a prime person of interest. But, not everyone in this little town wants the mystery to be solved.

Viper is the sequel to Bleeder, in which Latina insurance agent Selena De La Cruz – a minor character in Bleeder - learns her name is in her parish church’s All Souls Day, Book of the Dead. The problem is, she is not dead. However, someone wants her to be. Is it “The Snake,” an ambitious drug dealer she helped to arrest years ago when she was a DEA Special Agent, or someone far, far more dangerous?
You can see fuller story summaries at my web site, My blog, “Johnny Dangerous, is at

How do you come up with the names of places and characters in your books?

For the historicals, I do research to make all the settings and their names authentic. Derry and Tara are real places in Ireland; Acre and Aigues-Mortes are real Mediterranean ports. Some of the characters are real historical figures that I bring to life through research and, where needed, an informed imagination. Therefore, in Tara, Columba is a fully realized historical personage, as are his mentors and companions in Relics.  I have re-created King Louis IX using biographical material from contemporaries. Other characters are the sorts of people you would find in that time period, so, like the real historical figures, I do research about them. I work hard to make the monks, warriors, washerwomen, serfs, kings, craftsmen, lords and ladies accurate.
My mysteries are set in rural Illinois. The towns are composites of real places in northern and northwestern Illinois, around the Sterling-Dixon area. Sterling becomes “Sterling Falls,” for example. “Prophetstown” is a real town and the name is too cool to change. As for character names, Bleeder’s protagonist “Reed Stubblefield’s” name is derived from harvested cornfields in Illinois – stubbled fields where the leftover stalks remind me of the verse in Isaiah  42:3 – “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench; He will bring forth justice.” Selena De La Cruz’s name comes from the Spanish mystic and poet, John of the Cross (de la Cruz).
How did you develop the character of your protagonist in your latest book?
When insurance agent Selena De La Cruz walked onto the stage of my first mystery Bleeder in those cherry heels, with that attitude and driving that fast car, I knew she had a story of her own. For the moment, however, I only needed her to handle the insurance problems of my protagonist, Reed Stubblefield. In addition, I wanted a positive portrayal of an educated Latin character, since the story had a background involving the flood of illegal Mexican immigrants in rural areas. That is all I wanted from this minor character. However, Selena insisted on having a larger role than I had anticipated.
The sequel, Viper, began with the idea that a Catholic church’s, Book of the Deceased, the ledger of the parish’s dearly departed put on display on All Souls’ Day, would have names of people still alive – but getting killed in the order in which they were listed. I learned early that Mexicans celebrate a holiday nearly concurrent with this, called “The Day of the Dead,” a fiesta with flower garlands, sweet breads and home altars to honor deceased relatives, candy skulls for the kids, and family picnics in cemeteries. It was obvious that Selena’s name would be on that list (the last name, I decided), and that she would be the protagonist.
This frightened me half to death. How could I, an Anglo guy in his 50s, presume to present a 30-something second-generation Mexican-American woman?
It wasn’t that I had not written from a woman’s point-of-view before. I had done so a few times in earlier novels, but in shorter scenes. This called for a sustained, novel-length treatment that was credible and compelling.  I wanted to be sure I got all the cultural material right and I was respectful with it. So much could go wrong.
Therefore, for nearly two years I became a second-generation Mexican-American woman.
Well, not literally. Vicariously, I guess you would say. I immersed myself in many books written by Latinas about coming to terms with Old-World expectations placed upon women while trying to fit into New-World American society (there are quite a few books out there on this subject, reflecting the growth of this population). I took careful notes, as with any other research I had to do for VIPER -- DEA undercover operations, police interrogation techniques, snake handling, Aztec religion and so on. I subscribed to Latina magazine for fashion, beauty, relationship and lifestyle issues. I paid attention to any news related to this community, especially immigration issues. I browsed Latinas’ blogs and web sites to see what everyone talked about, especially with regard to living with a bi-cultural identity. Just like the Dad says in the movie Selena, “We've gotta be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans both at the same time. It's exhausting!"  
I interviewed Latinas and I noticed things that were common to them all that I could easily adapt and make my own – well, Selena’s own. I built a very thorough backstory – life story – for her based on all this research. I had pages of notes and stacks of cards that I browsed through obsessively to remind myself of small details that were of possible use as ‘bits’ in the story or for possible flashback scenes.
What about an antagonist…is there a unique “bad guy” or a recurring nemesis of any kind?
No, there is no Blofeld or Professor Moriarty in the series. My generic antagonist/villain is someone who is the hero of his/her own story, someone who is trying to do (what they think is) the right thing but in the absolute wrong way. That is what ‘evil’ generally is all about.
What is your favorite thing about your newest book, VIPER?
It is the heroine, Selena, a feisty and fiercely independent Latina who is tough and tender, comfortable in overalls and boots one minute and a taffeta dress and killer heels the next, who has a temper when it comes to injustice but patience with those in trouble. I find her struggle to live with a bicultural identity fascinating and her effort to live in a man’s world admirable.
How is writing in the genre you write different from other genres?
Readers of mysteries are intelligent and savvy about the genre’s conventions. They read widely and voraciously; they pay attention to detail. They expect the traditional ‘puzzle’ mystery writer to ‘play fair’ with clues such that one can guess the culprit and yet be delightfully surprised at the end. Absolutely everything in the plot must fit logically. The characters must be strongly motivated and completely plausible, especially crime-solving professionals such as police and forensic lab scientists. You cannot make a mistake about crime scene processing or guns or fingerprint databases and so on. While the mystery affords itself to social comment and human insight, in the end the story must be an entertaining and page-turning yarn. In the literary debate about character-driven stories versus plot-driven ones, mysteries must be both.
Why and when did you begin writing?
I wrote spy novels in junior high for fun (it was the age of James Bond, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., I Spy, The Avengers, etc) and worked for my high school newspaper and literary magazine. In college, though, I majored in radio and TV and later worked with a small media company in Madison, Wisconsin and then Wisconsin Public Radio. I wrote a script for a documentary on Western Christianity and became fascinated by the Irish monastic movement. I learned about Columba of Iona, the fiery poet and warrior-monk who fought in battles and challenged the druids to contests of power. He is the first person in recorded history to encounter the Loch Ness creature. I thought all this had great dramatic possibilities, so I wrote a fictionalized biography of him, “The Throne of Tara,” in 1988-89. I found an agent rather quickly at a writers’ conference, and the book was published in 1990. The agent sold my second historical, “Relics,” and it came out in 1993. Then came the recession of ’93 and I was let go from my job. I decided to return to graduate school for a second Master’s degree, this time in English/Writing, so I could teach at the college level and continue writing. I turned to short stories and – as you might expect – academic writing for a while before trying another novel.
What is your writing schedule?
My teaching schedule is erratic and so my writing schedule is, too. When I worked a 9-5 job, I arose regularly at 5 a.m. to write until 8 a.m., and then I went to the office. In the evening, I would do research. Today, I write in chunks. During the school year, I research and gather material and my thoughts, and draft in a very concentrated way during the summer and winter breaks.
What projects are you working on now, or plan for the future?
I am gathering material for the third mystery in the series, featuring the characters from the first two books. The plot revolves around insurance fraud. That is all I should say about it, since the story is still forming in my head and it is not a good idea to ‘talk out’ a book before it is written. The energy for it dissipates.
I would like to try some mystery short stories and I have a few ideas in mind, using the characters from the book series.
I have a sprawling historical novel in my cabinet, set in the late Roman Empire. I am not sure if I should return to it or not. I think every novelist has a few manuscripts that flame out and are best kept locked away.
What kind of advice or tips to you have for someone who wants to write and get published?
You absolutely must educate yourself in the craft and in the business. Read the magazines “The Writer” and “Writers’ Digest” regularly. Find the reference book Writers Market and read the articles in it. Attend a writers’ conference with the kinds of seminars that address your needs and that you can afford. Find the ‘writing and publishing’ section of the public library and start browsing through those books. Take a Continuing Education course at your local community college or University Extension in writing; I attended some great ones at the University of Wisconsin when I lived in Madison.
You must think of yourself as a writer and write regularly. 
What do you do when you are not writing? 
I am a college professor so I am reading, researching, prepping and conducting classes on campus and online, grading papers and so on. I can focus on writing over the summer and winter breaks.
What “Made It” moments have you experienced in life?
I can think of at least two worth mentioning. The first was when my first agent phoned and offered representation. It was a ‘happy dance’ moment and a confirmation that I could really write sellable material. He sold my first two books.
The other was during the drafting of my latest mystery, Viper. It features a Latina protagonist, as I have said, and I was deathly afraid of the whole project. I wanted to be sure that I got the ‘woman’ thing right and all the Mexican-American cultural material both right and respectful. One of my Latina readers emailed me at one point and said, “I am SO into Selena!” That is when I was reassured that I, an Anglo guy, was getting my Mexican-American female character Selena right.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

After! Author Neil D.Ostroff has Another New Book for His Reading Audience!

I see you have a new book released.  I believe the title is After!  I want to know all about it, but before we talk about your books, Neil, let us get to know some about you, your background and your writing.

I am a prolific author of gritty, noir thrillers and middle grade sci/fi. I graduated from Elmira College with a degree in Psychology and a minor in Philosophy/Critical Thinking. Briefly, I wrote psychological evaluations for the Elmira, NY courts. I was raised in a rural town outside of Philadelphia and have been a published author for more than twenty years. My science fiction and fantasy stories have appeared in numerous presses, zines, and websites. I have several published novels available at all online booksellers under the name N.D. Ostroff, or at I am an avid boater, gardener, and poker player when not working on my novels.

When did you first begin writing and submitting for publication? 

I have been writing since as far back as I can remember. When I was younger, I used to win all kinds of local writing competitions. I guess I started submitting seriously for publication in my late teens, which would be way back in the 1990’s. This was before the internet so getting published was a long, arduous task of handwritten query letters, painstakingly researching agents and publishers, and the cost of stamps.

Do you think growing up in a rural area influenced your writing, and how?

I do think it had a great influence in my formative years as a writer. I lived five miles from the closest town so there wasn’t much to do but play outside and use my imagination to keep myself occupied, especially before I was able to get a driver’s license. Many of my middle grade fantasy novels stem from the strange worlds I would conjure in my mind as I wandered through the woods.

You wrote psychological evaluations for the courts in NY, what was that like?  How did you get that job? (I am sure many people do not any idea what this type of writing is or like.)

I spend several months sitting in supervised visitation rooms monitoring the interaction between parents and children. These were families scarred by alcoholism, child abuse, and violence. I would watch their body language and the way they spoke and interacted with each other and then write my assessment of their psychological conditions for the Judge to decide whether the family could unite outside the courts. It was horrible and depressing work, but taught me a great deal how to sum up complex character traits and the intricacies of various personalities onto the page.

I see you also write science fiction and fantasy.  Why? (I have always read both, but when I see your other areas, it makes me curious.)

Sci/fi and fantasy come totally naturally to me. Like I said earlier, my middle grade and YA books were written in my head long before I was capable of putting them to paper. When I finally had the discipline to sit and write full-length novels, those first few came very easily. I think I wrote my first three in a year. My noir thrillers are the adult-writer in me. Had I written those books early on I am sure my parents would have had me see a psychiatrist. Reading them, you will understand.

How to you go about creating the setting and characters for your science fiction and fantasy stories?

For me, fantasy and sci/fi writing is the most fun. What could be better than creating any world you want inhabited by any kind of creature you want? My sci/fi fantasy books are crammed with the unbelievable. I like to take my stories to the limit of possibilities. Unfortunately, the only middle-grade Sci/fi available everywhere right now is TIM MADISON GALACTIC WARRIOR. I hope to have four more of these outlandish books out by the end of the year. You can check my website:, to see summaries and excerpts.

What was it like getting some of your work published for the first time?

It is a great feeling, like floating on a cloud while breathing in helium. But, what is even better is when you see your first sale. But, the best feeling of all… is cashing that first royalty check. There is nothing like it.

Could you tell us about the different genre of novels you write, and the audiences to which they are directed.  (I see that you have adult and young adult novels.)

I actually write in several genres. My most popular are my noir thrillers; books that shock and appall, yet like a car wreck you just can’t stop reading them. I have written five books in the YA, middle-grade level, and two books that are very literary that I don’t mention on my website. Right now, I am concentrating on my latest novel, an edgy, literary YA called, WASTED.

Would you tell us about your published novels, and where someone might purchase one?

I will give you a list.

Okay, but tell me about this new one first.

AFTER!  is the newest book that was recently released as an ebook.   

AFTER! - Swept up by dark adventure, seventeen-year-old Nick Murray learns the devil has caused global war in the mortal world. The devil intends to collect billions of souls and then turn them into a massive zombie army to take over creation. Spirits intent on stopping the apocalypse insert Nick’s soul into the human body of a prominent, young army commander who lives in the future. Thrust into the center of a historic battle, he takes on almost limitless enemy forces using skills learned from this other person’s life; only to die a second time and come face to face with the ultimate adversary.

PULP-Struggling thriller writer Kevin Turner just received a panicked call from his ex-girlfriend Tina, a self-proclaimed clairvoyant prostitute. One of her clients, the mayor’s married son, died in her bed and she needs Kevin’s help to dispose of the body.

Amazon link:

DEGENERATES- Each degenerate overcomes incredible obstacles working in a restaurant named City Café until a psychotic co-worker changes everything about their lives.

Amazon link: 

FROSTPROOF- Niles Goodman is on a weeklong trip into madness as his best friend kills indiscriminately and then explains the philosophy behind his actions.

Amazon link:

TIM MADISON GALACTIC WARRIOR- Thirteen-year-old Tim Madison is the only person who knows about and can stop the ruthless creatures who are working deep inside our planet constructing a massive extermination army.

Amazon Link:

Back to you the author.  I see that you have several interests other than writing, could you share those with us.  I see you like gardening, and I want to know what kind of gardening?  Do you like speed boats or sail boats? 

I grow a small garden that must be suspended over the ground because of a large rabbit population that lives in my area. Keeping tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, peppers, and other vegetables three feet above ground at all times does present a challenge, but is also a great way to clear the mind.
I, also, have a small pond along the side of the house.
As for boating, I prefer small, fishing boats that can cruise in secluded areas. I do my best thinking on the lake. I’m also an avid poker player.

I see that you have a degree in psychology, a minor in Philosophy/Critical Thinking, what influence do you think this has on your approach to writing fiction?

Philosophy was great to study but you can’t make a living pondering deep thoughts. As you can imagine, the great, historical teachings open your proverbial mind’s eye to the many possibilities of our existence and why we are here; am I getting too deep? But what do you do with this knowledge? Fortunately I’m able to write books.

Can you share with us some of your “made it moments”?

I’ve had quite a few over the years. Talks with the vice president of entertainment at NBC. Serious interest by FOX TV over a sitcom treatment. Being written up in local magazines and newspapers. But probably the greatest moment that sticks out in my career was when I signed with my agent, a top NY, AAR, agent with a highly prestigious agency and many sales under his belt. That was the best.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Nina Alvarez, Editor/Writer, Shares Tips on How to Hire an Editor, and Why!

Nina, I want to thank you for being my guest today, and for sharing your expertise with us.  I am sure the writers and aspiring writers will appreciate the article that you prepared for them.  Before we get into your article on how to hire an editor, could you tell us a little about how you got started writing, and how you eventually became both an editor and a writer.

I sat in my backyard, inventing rhymes when I was four. When I was eight in wrote my first short story and fell in love with the blank page and all its possibilities. When I was 15, I published a poem in Teen magazine but it wasn't until I was 27 that I started to submit my short stories and poems regularly for publication in online and print literary journals.
In those in-between years I studied creative writing at the University at Albany with minors in Psychology and Philosophy (all of which would play into my later work). I returned for a master’s in English and wrote a thesis that combined memoir, creative nonfiction, and critical theory.
I have lived in Paris and South Africa, taught college-level English, copyedited and copywrote in corporate office and nonprofits. For the past three years I have written website content, ad copy, marketing material, professional blogs, and edited fiction manuscripts for individual clients and small companies.
What can you tell us about hiring an editor and why we should?

In praise of his editor, Stephen King quips in his book On Writing, "To write is human. To edit is divine." He was being tongue-in-cheek, but only somewhat. Skill at editing is a craft and, I would argue, an art. A good editor gets your crossed wires - those conduits that serve the all-important telepathy from writer to reader - uncrossed. To strengthen those conduits, an editor has to have double vision. She must be a reader and simultaneously the writer so she can see where the language has served as a vehicle for the writer's meaning and where it has hampered it. That is why a good editor can, hands down, be the difference between publication heaven and slush pile purgatory.
But how do you find the right editor for you?
Some writers believe hiring an editor before submitting to agents is simply something they can't afford. Others don't even know where to begin, who is worth the money, and how to find the right editor. I will address both those concerns.
Writer’s Digest, Writer’s Market, and Publishers Marketplace all list professional editors who have paid to be listed in these high-profile pubs. This is a good way to look at editors successful enough to put real money into advertising. Check out their websites and peruse their services, by all means. But also know that many good editors keep a lower profile and get their work through word of mouth and social networking. They work from home, handle fewer projects, have less overhead, and will often be less expensive.
That is why I suggest trying out your social network first. Solicit referrals from friends and connections, no matter how distant in the literary field. Most writers love to share a good editor. And a personal referral plus the pricing and services gleaned from an editor’s business website will help narrow down your list.
If you don’t get any good leads, try online searches using key terms like “freelance editor” and the name of your genre or subject matter. Consider the information given as well as the branding of the website. How do they talk about themselves and their services? Does it resonate with you? Send introductory emails, make phone calls, then use your instincts to hone in. Working with an editor is not just about who is fastest or least inexpensive. It is about resonance, personality match, and ease of discourse. I never take on a client whose subject matter, style, and personality don’t resonate with me. I suggest creating a similar ‘red velvet rope’ policy when choosing your editor.
What do you want from your editor?
Beyond finding a good personality and genre match, consider how much work your manuscript needs. Do you want notes on the big-picture stuff like plot and character? What about the word choice? Do you just need a spit polish? It’s okay if you don’t know. Most editors will tell you after a consultation what they think the manuscript needs and offer you different editing packages accordingly. 
Editing services fall into three general levels: developmental editing, line editing, and copy editing.
Developmental editing
Developmental editing includes, but is not limited to, rewriting passages and restructuring plot, pointing out gaps in the internal logic of the story, offering suggestions to improve character development, and suggesting the best way to tell the story (this is where hiring someone who knows your genre particularly helps). 
Line editing
Line edits suggest sentence structure and word choice to strengthen the effectiveness of the language. A line editor constantly asks herself: “Does this match the author’s intent, is the vocabulary appropriate, is the voice active,  is it consistent in style and voice, does it read smoothly, and are these literary devices (smiles, metaphors, etc.) working to the author’s advantage?” A good line editor knows how to trim, cut, rephrase, or embellish lines to give a paragraph resonance. Notice how that word "resonance" keeps showing up? I am referring to it as a sense of richness, a quality of evoking response.
Copy editing
Copy editors fix spelling, punctuation, and formatting mistakes. A copy edit and proofread is essential before sending a story out. At best, their work clarifies the author’s meaning and at worst adds a nice layer of polish. For uniformity across the field, fiction editors use the Chicago Manual of Style as their style guide. I suggest writers familiarize themselves with Chicago online using the free 30-day trial.
The Price
To get a sense of the general costs of editing services, bookmark this handy chart at the Editorial Freelancers Association. It is organized into ‘type of work,’ ‘estimated pace,’ and ‘range of fees.’ The problem with the chart is that although the hourly wages are fair and, I believe, accurate, they can give you sticker shock. For example, the final cost of editing a 400-page manuscript at an average speed of 7.5 pages per hour would take about 53 hours. At $30 per hour, the final cost of that project is near $1,600. That is obviously fair wage for a degreed professional, but not exactly pocket change for the average writer.

So I understand why some writers balk at hiring an editor. But I say have an honest conversation with each of your potential hires. Let them know your goals and your budget. Many editors offer flat fees, low-end and high-end packages and allow clients to pay in installments.

All the heart and soul you have already put into your book is the very reason you should consider going the extra mile. Editors are people whose profession and calling is to make manuscripts attractive to agents, publishing houses, and readers. No one can promise you publication, but if you have the right editor, then you will have someone to report back to you from the eyes of the reader and help you make those connections across time and space that we call great stories.
Learn more about Nina and her services at:
Dream Your Book Literary Services,
and you can find out what she else she is doing at:


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Discovering Duke Davis, Retired Navy Man, and His Books: Science Fiction, Western, and Post Apocalyptic Adventure

Duke Davis is a Retired Navy Man who has lived in Jacksonville, Florida for most of his adult life.  He has been a Policeman, Special Warfare Operator, Real Estate Salesman, Computer Engineer, Electronics Engineer, Collage Professor, and Customer Service Specialist.  He has sold most everything there is to sell in part-time jobs.  He holds a Bachelors Degree in Electrical Engineering and is a published author with seven novels and twenty short stories to his credit.  
He has had to quit sky diving and scuba diving, his doctors didn’t like him doing that,  but he still climbs mountains,  goes spelunking and likes to explore the jungles.  Though retired, he has opened two businesses in the last year and is currently working on a third.  He volunteers at an Outreach Center twice a week where he teaches computers and software and at the Independent Living Resource Center as a Volunteer twice a week.
Duke spent multiple tours of duty in Vietnam, was involved in the 1972 Israeli Arab War, and several other small wars and conflicts around the world between 1960 and 1990.  He has retired a total of four times but just cannot seem to stay that way.  Retirement is the pathway to the grave.  Keep busy and active is his motto.  Currently he works on a Cruise Ship as a Computer Instructor teaching software to passengers. 
Tell us about the genre of your work. 
I really do not stay in any one genre unless you use a broad pen and call fiction its own genre.  Currently I have a Post Apocalyptic Series going, my bestselling book right now is a Western, but I also have a book about a war between ghosts, a Vietnam War Adventure, a hurricane hitting Key West but with a supernatural bent,  and a book of short stories that spans just about every genre there is except porno.  I really do not get into that one.  Nothing against it, it is just not my area.  I think my largest two areas of interest are Science Fiction and Post Apocalyptic Adventure though I am pleasantly surprised at my Western doing so well.
 I was hooked into the end of the world by writers like Andre Norton, George R. Stewart, and Pat Frank.  That is, Starman’s Son, Earth Abides and Alas Babylon for those not that familiar with the authors.  I read those as a youngster and was then hit heavily with Isaac Asimov, Ben Bova, R., A, Heinlein, Harlan Ellison, and all the big names in SF from before and after the sixties.  I was a pulp rag fan from the word go and grew up with the trade.  No matter what else is popular, Science Fiction always sells.  
Why did you choose this genre?
 The two things I know the most about are War and Science Fiction.  I have always heard that you should write about what you know.  Well, I have a bit of a varied background and know a little about just about anything.  I am lucky that I can talk about anything as if I knew what I was talking about.  In real life I’ve worked on Atomic Bombs, hunted men in the jungle and on the streets, taught all kinds of subjects from computers to explosives and weapons training, sold everything from vacuum cleaners to computers and ladies shoes ,  tended bar, been a short order cook, and you name it.  All of that combines into a wonderful background for science fiction.  After all, science fiction is not magic; it is everyday life with special effects.  At least it is for me.  Magic is Fantasy, but then I mess around a little there, too.
What are some of your books, stories that have been published?  -- 
I have a Western called, The Bounty Man, and it is about a bounty hunter on his last case. It turns out he is after a young man that no one in the town wants arrested.  He figures out a way to take care of the situation that might surprise you, it is meant to.  It is not chock full of gunfights and such, however you can tell that the main character, Case, is a pretty violent man.  It takes a look at the west as it was back in the mid to late 1800s.  I learned about that from my Great Grand Father who had been a bounty hunter at one time.  
Another book, actually my favorite, is The Dead Wars.  The whole book is written entirely about ghosts.  All the characters, with a few exceptions, are already dead and the story is about what happens after you die.  The hero is killed on the first page and the story evolves from there.  I have always heard that dead men tell no tales and I had to prove that wrong.  Reese, (the hero) wakes up dead and has to learn how to live (?) as a ghost. 
 It is not quite as easy as you would think.  Have you ever wondered why a ghost can walk through walls, yet he does not fall through the floor?  I answer that quandary in the book.  Reese winds up going back to the US, and as a tourist, he wants to see Washington DC.  Since no one can see him, he does not figure he will have any problems at all and really wants to see the things we do not normally get to see.  For instance, he wants to look into the CIA files and see what really happened on the knoll in Dallas, and all the finer points of that story.  He wants to see everything, and since he does not have a life span anymore, he has the time.
 However, he finds that there are more ghosts around than him, and not all ghosts are nice.  He meets a lot of good ghosts and some bad ones.  It seems most are waiting for a chance to go to the light or the darkness, whichever trip you have earned in your life.  Not everyone becomes a ghost.  The ones that do are the people that died without knowing they were about to die.  If you knew you were dying you went in the direction you had earned, but if you did not know, you became a ghost and wandered around until you earned your destination.  In DC, Reese teams up with a lot of old Military Ghosts from Arlington Cemetery and they wind up in a war with the bad ghosts.  Hence, the Dead Wars.  It has a little of everything, humor, Indian lore, military history, and magic, tears and even a love story.
My Apocalypse series is called The Long Journey Home.  Brad, the main character in the book, is an active duty US Navy SEAL stationed in Djibouti, which is a country on the mouth of the Red Sea.  Brad is from Jacksonville, Florida.  He wakes up one morning and finds that everyone else is dead.  Everyone! 
Well, if you were in that position, what would you want to do?  Probably go home just in case someone was still there, and that is what he wants to do.  Brad is not a pilot and cannot just hop in a plane and fly home.  While he is a Sailor, he will not try to cross Africa and then take a sailboat across the Atlantic to the states, nor can he handle a boat large enough to make it across the ocean by himself.  However, he can take his Computerized Off Shore Patrol Craft, a nice 65 footer, heavily armed, and he can sail north from Djibouti up the coast until he comes to India.  Then follow the coastline down around India and up to Burma (I still prefer that name!) then down the peninsula to Singapore, up the East side of Asia past Vietnam, Korea, and China to Russia.  There, it is only sixty miles across the Bering Straits to Alaska. He follows the coast south to Washington State, gets rid of the boat, picks up a motor home, and heads for Jacksonville.  Easy trip right?

 Along the way, he finds out that not quite everyone else is dead.  Roughly ten percent of the world’s population is still alive and kicking.  Now if ten percent is alive, the odds say that half of them will be good people, and half will not.   Who will be in charge?  The bad guys of course.  With all of the world’s weapons just lying around waiting for the first person to come along and pick them up, chaos will soon be the norm.  Brad meets people and winds up saving a few from all kinds of bad fates.  He picks up a crew and they go on his Journey with him.  The first book, The Journey Begins, takes Brad as far as Singapore. Book two, On The Pacific Rim, mostly takes place in Vietnam.  Book three is called Hong Kong Trade Off.  It is kind of obvious where that one takes place.  Each book in the series will be in another port or in a particular area at sea where Brad and his crew winds up in a pickle and usually have to shoot their way out.  It is going to take quite a few books to get Brad to Jacksonville.  Shanghai - Shanghai is underway now.
I have a book of Short Stories called Duke’s Short,s which I thought would really take off but it has not just yet.  It will soon, it just has not been noticed yet.  It has everything from a Space Opera to regular Science Fiction, to Horror, H
umor, Adventure, and the Macabre.  A Squirrel inherits the Earth, a man with a computer finds put he can do fantastic things with it, and a new guy in Vietnam earns his nickname.  A man on a cruise winds up in a strange predicament, Merlin the Magician shows up, a computer game you play for real, a Space Tug finds a really strange tow,  a new Officer reports to the space fleet but has problems along the way, First Contact between species, and a strange trip through your insides.  There is something there for just about everyone.
In Bad Odds, a young man goes to Vietnam as a Tech Rep for a Helicopter Manufacture and gets his induction into life.  As they are taking him out to the base where he will be working, his helicopter is shot down over the Arizona.  That is a piece of Vietnam that most Vets remember without any fondness what so ever.  Bob is the sole survivor of the crash.  He has spent six years in the Navy as a Helicopter Mechanic and has been a Civilian for the last four.  He has never been in Vietnam before, let alone in a Combat Zone.  His total experience for he now faces is zero.  He has no weapons, no food, nothing but a pack of smokes and a Zippo lighter and he is stranded in what is about the worst hellhole in the world.  Within a couple of days, the Viet Cong capture him.  The odds are bad that he will get out of there alive.
All of my books are available on Amazon.Com and Barnes&Noble.Com as eBooks.  At the moment, that is the only place you can find them, however, I am working on getting them out in print but that will be sometime in the future.
Currently I am working on a book called Hurricane Key, which is a combination Horror and Adventure story.  A horror author, Ben, and his wife Megan, move to the Florida Keys.  He has sold his latest book as a movie and it went big.  They buy a whole island just out from Sugarloaf Key, which is seventeen miles north of Key West.  On the island is an old house, which they have added to so they have a nice modern, but Key West Modern, house. 
One of the first things Ben does is turns off all radios, TV, etc.  He is there to write and not to do much else.  A hurricane brews off the African Coast and starts its journey westward.  Ben and Megan know nothing about it.  As the hurricane approaches Key West, people evacuate the Keys, and the Police shut down the highway.  The Hurricane has built to a Category 5 storm, (Category four is as big as they come) and is the worst ever seen.  Meanwhile, some strange force is influencing Ben.  He starts seeing and hearing things.  A mass murder happened in the old house back during another monster hurricane in the early part of the twentieth century.
This is an integral part of the story.  The eye of the storm comes over the top of Hurricane Key and things begin to happen that are far from the norm.  I do not want to give away anymore than that because the book is not quite finished.  I have the ending in mind and do not want to spoil it. 
How do you come up with the names of places and characters in your books? 
For places, I usually use real places to the extent of geography, but I will change names of towns and such to save embarrassment of others or myself.  Of course, at times, you have to use real places and I do.  In Hurricane Key, I followed the old road around the backside of Sugarloaf to the old burned out wooden bridge that used to stretch way over to the next island south.  I then moved in a new island and named it Hurricane Key. 

Much of what I write about is true in some respects.  Embellishing the truth is fun.  I have made enough enemies in my life and do not need any more so I usually apologize for what I do.  My characters on the other hand come straight from my imagination.  I may make up some character from a combination of what I have seen in a movie or another book and add my own quirks and characteristics to make them mine.  The names depend on the person I am trying to create.  I try to make a name actually fit what I think the character is as a person.  I do admit to taking names for things from the Bible.  I am sure not the first to do that.  

If you are a Star Trek fan you will find many of the names of races, species, planets and people come from the Old and New Testaments.  The Ferengi were a race of Nomadic Traders in Mesopotamia and the name means foreigners in a couple of languages.  Kind of fits the Ferengi on the show, does it not?  I do not like using something someone else has come up with because I am the one in charge of my universe and I have to come up with it to make it work.

How did you develop the character of your protagonist in this book?

 Again, this depends on the story I am working on.  I will usually take on the personality (to a degree) of the character I am trying to develop.  I will create a file for that person, write their bio, a history of the person, and include many things that will never be in the story but I need to know to make the character real.  I know his birthday; his mother’s birthday, his dog’s birthday, what his kids like to eat, if his dog is housebroken, just about everything I need to make this character real.  I spend a lot of time in my office and while in there, I adopt the character’s attitudes and personality.  My wife keeps away from me when I go in my office.  Sometimes I am a nice guy but sometimes I am not.  I have a six-year-old granddaughter that will not come in if “Papas writing.”  I try to live my character.  I have to if I want them to be convincing.  It is much easier doing this for a protagonist than for an antagonist.  My wife says I am the last Boy Scout and one of the good guys and I have a difficult time creating a bad guy.  Little does she really know!

What about an antagonist…is there a unique “bad guy” or a recurring nemesis of any kind?

  I try to keep all the bad guys separate.  I do not reuse them or their character. Once I finish with an antagonist, I usually bury them so to speak.  I will start all over again with a new villain or whatever.  About the only thing you could say is a carryover, is evil.  I do normally have an evil antagonist.

What is your favorite thing about your book?
 I cannot really say I have a favorite thing about any of my books except maybe in The Dead Wars.  There I have a young kid; he was a Drummer Boy for the Confederacy killed in battle obviously, who is a ghost in modern DC.  He suffers the standard growing up problems of any young man and being a ghost he can get into more trouble than we living could ever imagine.  He even gets to fall in love.  I had a good time writing this guy.
How is writing in the genre you write, different than other genre?
  I do not find much difference going from genre to genre for many things.  The character’s personality in the story is about the main difference.  For instance, I would have a completely different person when writing The Bounty Man than I would have writing Bad Odds.  
Some genre require so much research that they are slow projects at best and I tend to stay away from them.  Do not get me wrong, I spend a lot of time doing my homework so to speak.  However, I really do not get into things that require a lot of facts.  I do not think most readers are out there looking for facts.  They are looking to be entertained.
 My Apocalyptic fiction is probably the most different genre I fiddle with.  In there, you have to get a few things right. You have to have some things the reader will know and relate to, but after that your imagination is the ruler and that makes a lot of difference.  You just cannot get carried away in any other genre as you can a Science Fiction work.     
Why and when did you begin writing?
 I began writing as a kid back in the late forties.  I wrote strictly for my own enjoyment.  I never considered trying to get published.  In my eyes, I did not stand a chance.  I would finish something and often toss it in the corner and start something else.  A long time later, I would find it again, read it over and either redo it or discard it.  I knew it was not good.  I always received good marks when I turned in something in school but I could not make the connection that I was turning out something that could interest other people.  I kept doing this until I was in my fifties and a friend read one of my short stories.  They talked me into joining a writer’s group they were forming and I did.  I was shocked when people liked what I was putting down.  I wish now I had kept some of those old manuscripts.  I can now see there was good stuff in some of them.  
What is your writing schedule?
  I really do not have a schedule.  I have retired four times in my life and I really do not enjoy it.  I need to be busy.  But now I can afford to sleep late and I do.  I was always up and going at oh-dark- early and at work before most folks got out of bed.  Now I usually get up between ten and eleven in the morning.  I eat breakfast while I read the newspaper.  Then, if I have something pressing to do, I go do it. However, usually I wander into my office and turn on the computer.  By one in the afternoon, I have finished my email and social networking and I pop open MS Word.  I will write until I give out either physically or mentally.  That sometimes means eating a cold supper after midnight but I will stop when my wife calls me usually.  It depends on how well things are flowing.  I usually write between ten and fourteen hours a day. 
I have two Dachshunds that enjoy it when Papa is home and writing.  They have a nest built under my desk and they stay right there.  Kasea and Suni are real clowns.  They keep me laughing a lot and when I am happy, I turn out better material.  My last job was teaching Computer Software on a Cruise Ship for six months at a stretch.  There I only worked on the days we were at sea and then only eight hours a day.  The rest of the time was mine, and boy, did I ever get some writing done.
What projects are you working on now, or plan for the future? 
I was watching a Universe show on the Discovery Channel the other day and they gave me my next book, I think.  It is about Time Travel and the fun and games that are inherent to that.  I have a company I have named Time Trawlers that is going to get in and out of trouble in the past.  I have a couple of ideas for some somewhat unique (is that still possible today?) happenings I want to explore.
What kind of advice or tips do you have for someone who wants to write and get published?
Oh, this is simple.  The advice is WRITE, then READ, then WRITE MORE.  Of course, that is simplistic.  Nevertheless, to be a good writer you have to be a good reader.  I usually have two or three books going at one time.  I read a lot.  Sometimes when the words stop flowing I will pick up my Kindle, read for a bit, and then hop back into the manuscript.  Moreover, the more you read the more qualified you become to write. 
Before you write anything, do your homework on the subject.  There is a lot to be said for writing about what you know.  Nothing will cause me to toss a book faster than someone talking about a place or thing and not knowing anything about it.  I really got fed up recently with a book where the author was talking constantly about all the wonderful sandy beaches there are in the Florida Keys.  I lived down there as a kid and again as an adult.  My wife and I will both happily tell anyone there are NO natural sandy beaches there, and the few manmade beaches are small, additionally it is not easy to get to them.  They are usually private.  There are a couple of public beaches though.  Key West and the Keys are surrounded by a reef system that does not allow waves to come in.  Waves are what make sand.  Without waves, you have rock beaches.  That is the Keys.  If the author had done any research on the Keys, they would have found that fact out and maybe would not have made me drop the story so fast. 
What do you do when you are not writing?
 I have many hobbies.  I am really into guns and cutlery.  I shoot for relaxation, now, but I was on a pistol and rifle team while in the Navy.  The weapons I collect are all old.  I think my newest weapon is my Buck 110 that I got when they first came out back in the early 60s.  I carried it in Vietnam; and still have it somewhere on my person every day.  I have swords and old guns.  My oldest is a 1650 English Boarding Pistol.  
I also like to snorkel.  My doctors will not let me dive anymore nor will they let me jump out of airplanes either.  Those were my favorite hobbies.  My body has seen a lot of use and most of it was a bit rough.  I still like to drive a sports car on a fast track.  By sports car, I mean something like a Triumph Spitfire or TR-6, maybe an old Porsche, or MG.  Cars made back when a sports car was really a sports car.  I still like to climb mountains, but no ropes or anything like that anymore.  Now I have to climb a mountain I can walk up. 
My real interest is in Spelunking but at my age that is starting to become a bit difficult, but it is still a lot of fun.  Who knows what you will find?  I also build things.  I make oil lamps out of stone, do a bit of woodworking, or just about anything you can imagine.  I always have something to do.  At heart, I am still an adrenalin junkie.
What “Made It” moments have you experienced in life?
Let us see, I graduated college after I retired from the Navy; that was a biggie.  I joined the Navy with less than a high school education and now have a BS in Electrical Engineering.  
I was the first person in my family to get a degree.  Several things that were “Made it” moments are kind of private, like getting through some rough training in the Navy, surviving combat in a couple of situations in Vietnam, things like that. 
One of the big ones was my first story sale.  I sold a little short story about a man with a computer to a new startup magazine.  The writer’s group I belonged to, WITS, which stands for Writers In The Sun, had eleven members.  For five of us our first sale was into the premiere issue magazine out west.  We were all in Florida and had never heard of it, but five of us got in right off the bat.  Of the original eleven members, nine of us were published.  Two are still trying I guess.
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