Treasuring Poetry – Meet poet and author, Yvette Prior and a book review #Poetrylovers #readingcommunity @bookreview

Today, I am very excited to welcome Yvette Prior from Priorhouse blog as my September Treasuring Poetry guest. Yvette is among the first bloggers I met when I started Robbie’s Inspiration and she was always encouraging and supportive of my artwork and writing. Thank you, Yvette.

Today, Yvette, a talented poet and author herself and a huge supporter of other writers and bloggers, is going to share some of her thoughts about poetry and some readings from her lovely poetry book, Avian Friends.

What is your favourite poem and why?

Winter Chill

Stood and listened

to birds tweet and whistle

had breakfast to make

day to begin

stuff to do

but standing

in winter chill

at the back door

harmony

stopped me

hope flew in

melodious infusing during a winter chill

trees still bare

yet birds were there

dulcet air

momentary loss of care

cold days

soon to part ways

winter hard is exiting

birds returning

spring soon erupting

green grass, pleasant breeze

flowers, butterflies, bees

replacing freeze

shivering, I shut the door

musical deliverance once more

Behind the poem

Winter Chillwas written about a brief experience I had when I opened the backdoor one winter’s day. I was stopped in my tracks. It was the first time I had heard the birds in a long time and their “harmony stopped me” as “hope flew in.” I am not what people would refer to as a “birder.” I do not put out seeds and we don’t have any feeders on our property (although I might add some later). The birds have just found a nice little habitat on their own and I am grateful. In this poem, I described the scene exactly as it unfolded -opened the door, heard the birds, and I was reminded that a better season was on its way. This idea could apply to more than just a cold weather season ending – it could also apply to the trials and heavy times in life. Challenging times do not last forever and sometimes we might just need to pause – in the midst of a difficult season – and find small (healthy) ways to enjoy “momentary loss of care.” Hope can mean so much too – and so anytime we have Hope fly in – let’s embrace it. 

Please share a poem you enjoy and why you enjoy it

This is just to say by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten

the plums

that were in

the icebox

***

and which

you were probably

saving for breakfast

***

Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold

Williams’ poem whispers so much to me and one takeaway is the freedom someone felt to indulge in the plum. There are times we sacrifice times we do outreach and hold back – but this depicts the opposite – it shows us someone so comfortable with the other person where they ate the plum (while knowing the person was saving it). The poem makes me smile because I can imagine how juicy and tasty it was. And the title and tone of the poem lets us know that the consumer here is not apologizing for eating it either. That’s my take. 

What are your plans for your poetry going forward?

I try to write every day, in a paper notebook, and most of this year I have been busy working on non-poetry projects so I only wrote a handful of poems this year. My goal is to get back to my musings with poetry. Even if all of the poems do not make it into a future book, I enjoy writing them.

 I started writing in middle school but really got into poetry while in college. In between classes, I created free verse poems. I moved words around andenjoyed simple rhyming schemes. 

I know that folks sometimes put down the easy rhymes, but I like them.  It is not about creating difficult poetry for me – it really is a type of solitude with words and ideas. 

Thank you, Yvette, for your lovely answers and for being my guest today.

Yvette has shared a lovely YouTube video recital of some of her poems from Avian Friends.

My review of Avian Friends by Yvette Prior

What Amazon says

In Avian Friends, you will find more than forty poems that offer encouragement and uplifting stories. The poems are free rhyme and connect to different life scenarios. Each poem also includes a “behind the poem” section, which provides personal reflections, teaching tidbits, and ideas for wellness. Backyard birds inspired the poems and the topic of faith has been gently woven in (not in a religious way) with the hope that diverse readers can enjoy the content.

The poems in this book are not complicated poems; instead, they are light and can lift the reader’s mood. The poems are for those who do not always read poetry – as well as for the poetry lover.

My review

Avian Friends is a delightful book of poetry that centres around the author’s interactions with birds in her personal life. In the reactions and interactions of her avian friends, the author finds threads of similarity to human reactions to circumstances and experiences and in relationships. She weaves these thoughts into the observations expressed in her poems.

One of the most interesting section of poems for me where the ones written following the death of a young and close relative. The author’s grief is palpable and her understanding of nature and the role of all creatures in the cycle of life help her come to terms with her sorrow and emotions.

An verse from Part III Life and Death:
“The nest was found
on the ground after the storm
nestlings didn’t make it
we mourned
fuzzy little creatures
oversized eyes
chests without air
buried with care
patting down soil
reminded me that we, too, will die …”

I have referred to the poet as the author because there is a lot of reflective prose in this book. Each poem is followed by a discussion which provides the poet’s inspiration for the poem, and includes quotes and information about birds and other aspects of life that contribute to the meaning behind the poem. I really enjoyed these explanatory sections and gleaned a lot of insight into the poet’s emotions and thought process from it.

Enjoyment of this book is certainly not limited to people who love birds as, in many instances, the birds are a metaphor for human life. This book will be enjoyed by all lovers of poetry.

Purchase Avian Friends

Amazon paperback: https://www.amazon.com/Avian-Friends-Yvette-Prior-Ph-D/dp/1973831228

Amazon kindle: https://www.amazon.com/Avian-Friends-Encouraging-inspired-Backyard-ebook/dp/B07QHNZF81

About Yvette Prior

Yvette Prior lives on the East Coast of the United States with her spouse, Chris, and together they have three adult children, two grandchildren, and no pets (after having many dogs over the years).

Yvette enjoys working with people and her varied work background includes education, social work, hospitality management, and lots of outreach. Her passion area is studying about health and wellness and after earning a Ph.D. in I-O Psychology, she poured into waiting book projects and she has not stopped writing since.

Her goal as a writer is to educate, edify, and encourage readers. Her personal blog can be found at priorhouse.wordpress.com

About Robbie Cheadle

Robbie Cheadle is a South African children’s author and poet with eleven children’s books and two poetry books.

The eight Sir Chocolate children’s picture books, co-authored by Robbie and Michael Cheadle, are written in sweet, short rhymes which are easy for young children to follow and are illustrated with pictures of delicious cakes and cake decorations. Each book also includes simple recipes or biscuit art directions which children can make under adult supervision.

Robbie and Michael have also written Haunted Halloween Holiday, a delightful fantasy story for children aged 5 to 9 about Count Sugular and his family who hire a caravan to attend a Halloween party at the Haunted House in Ghost Valley. This story is beautifully illustrated with Robbie’s fondant and cake art creations.

Robbie has published two books for older children which incorporate recipes that are relevant to the storylines.

Robbie has two adult novels in the paranormal historical and supernatural fantasy genres published under the name Roberta Eaton Cheadle. She also has short stories, in the horror and paranormal genre, and poems included in several anthologies.

Robbie Cheadle contributes two monthly posts to https://writingtoberead.com, namely, Growing Bookworms, a series providing advice to caregivers on how to encourage children to read and write, and Treasuring Poetry, a series aimed at introducing poetry lovers to new poets and poetry books.

In addition, Roberta Eaton Cheadle contributes one monthly post to https://writingtoberead.com called Dark Origins: African Myths and Legends which shares information about the cultures, myths and legends of the indigenous people of southern Africa.

Robbie has a blog, https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com. where she shares book reviews, recipes, author interviews, and poetry.

Find Robbie Cheadle

Blog: https://www.robbiecheadle.co.za/

Blog: robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com

Twitter: BakeandWrite

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVyFo_OJLPqFa9ZhHnCfHUA

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books

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WordCrafter “Will Write For Wine” & “Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard” Book Blog Tour Day 4

Will Write for Wine & Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard Book Blog Tour

Stories I Stole from Lord Byron’s Bastard is a collection inspired by Venetian history. The fictional character, Alexis Lynn, wrote these stories in the novel Will Write for Wine by Sara W. McBride, but they are fun stand-alone adventures to be enjoyed with an excellent glass of Italian wine.

https://www.puckpublishing.com

Today’s tour stop comes with a fun interview with author Sara W. McBride in addition to her guest post. So kick back a while and enjoy the tidbits offered here as you learn more about Sara and her wonderful books.

Introduction

Sara W. McBride, like many modern-day biological researchers, invents new swear words to sling at million-dollar machines while locked in a dark hole of a decaying academic hall. This has caused her to witness ghosts and create a romantic fantasy life within her head, which she now puts down on very non-technological paper with her favorite Jane Austen style quill pen. 

Her first novel in the Alexis Lynn series, Will Write for Wine, and the companion short story collection, Stories I Stole from Lord Byron’s Bastard, both set in Venice, Italy, were recently released by Puck Publishing. She’s hard at work on the second Alexis Lynn novel, a Regency mystery series, and a haunted play. She strongly feels the world needs more haunted plays.   

https://www.puckpublishing.com

Give-Away!

Don’t forget the awesome giveaway Sara is running on this tour, with a digital copy of each book up for grabs. You can enter the give-away for a chance to win at the link below:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/d9280cae1/?

Image of Lazzaretto Vecchio
Credit: Wikipedia, Lazzaretto Vecchio Island, Plague Hospital

Interview with author Sara W. McBride

Why do you write?

Sara: To be immortal! Just kidding. It’s my fabulous mental escape into worlds and lives that I wish I could live.

Please tell us a bit about your publishing journey?

Sara: In 2014, I organized, edited, and published the first two NaNoWriMo Los Angeles anthologies. Then I helped with the next three. The group is still producing an annual anthology. It was a great way to learn the logistics of self-publishing and how to shape short stories. This year, my husband and I launched Puck Publishing, and we’re hoping to publish something every month. 

Over the past twenty years, I’ve written fourteen bad novels that I’m glad I never published. LOL!

What made you decide to self-publish?

Sara: In the late 1990s, I was an assistant to a Hollywood book agent and I learned the ins and outs of traditional publishing and movie book deals. The agents and publishers were so parasitic on the author, it gave me the willies. In those days, traditional publishing paid high advances, but the treatment of the authors still put a bad taste in my mouth.

Today, they rarely pay above a $10,000 advance to a new author, they expect the author to do all the marketing, and then the publisher keeps the copyright and sells it off whenever they like, to whomever they like, and the book goes out of print. 

I’ve seen too many friends get screwed by traditional publishing.

Will Write for Wine takes place in the artistic and romantic setting of Venice. Have you explored the physical locations for your books in the flesh, in order to get the details right when writing about these locations? Have you been there? Have you lived there? Why did you choose this setting?

Sara: I’ve had five research trips to Venice, totaling about five weeks. I’ve been in almost every church and museum of Venice, and a few places I probably wasn’t supposed to enter. I apparently don’t understand the meaning of yellow caution tape or closed doors.

Most of the Venice locations in the book are real places, but Manu’s osteria is fictional. However, I stole menu items from many of my favorite osterias in Venice.

I think Venice is one of the most magical and haunted cities in the world. Many people describe it as a floating museum; the entire city is trapped in the Renaissance. But if you simply sit still, sip a glass of wine in a campo or piazza, listen to the opera singers, and watch the people and pigeons, there’s a vibe that sinks into you. Every part of the city is simultaneously dead and alive. It is that barrier, that thin line between life and death that pervades every stone, stench, and serenade of Venice. Delicious!  

Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard involves Venetian history. What is the fasciation of this area for you?

Sara: I’m a history nerd! Venice is one of those cities that drips with history, but not just through architecture and museums, through the people, the food, the many generations that still live in the same house, the ghosts that are accepted as common place, and the street signs. Ponte del Diavolo, the Devil’s Bridge is bound to inspire a story in anyone. Gheto Novo, or the New Ghetto, caused me to question the history of the Jewish community within Venice.

It’s difficult for me to walk from one piazza to another in Venice without my mind percolating a story based purely on the sights, sounds, and smells. And I love the smells of Venice. Both the good and the bad. Only Venice can induce an entire story purely through its smells. I’ve learned to navigate the labyrinth of Venice by sniffing the air. How is that not a story!

Is there anything unique or unusual about your writing process?

Sara: I don’t know the end until I get there. I just write into a dark void and somehow it all works out. It keeps the process magical and fun. I used to outline, but I always got bored with the book before I finished it. Outlining turned writing into work. Ick! Writing needs to be fun for both the writer and the reader. 

Is your writing process plot driven or character driven?

Sara: Character driven! Definitely.

Do you write with music, or do you prefer quiet?

Sara: Quiet! Or the hubbub of a coffee house crowd, hotel lobby, airplane terminal.

Atmosphere is important. What do you do to get into the writing zone?

Sara: There’s a zone? How do I find that? I want a writing zone. I just go about my day and jot down paragraphs, dialogue, and then type them in when I’m next at my computer.

How much of the story do you know before the actual writing begins?

Sara: NONE! Okay, maybe the opening scene. But usually not even that. Just a character in a place, who is feeling something.

Wine plays a big role in your character, Alexis Lynn’s life. What is the attraction?

Sara: I love wine! I also love beer, whisky (Scottish spelling), Compari cocktails, and most dishes cooked with truffles. However, to preserve my liver, I typically only drink once-a-week, so it’s a big event for me. I cherish my weekly glass of wine and how it complements my meal. Alexis drinks way more than I do. Fictional wine can’t damage a fictional liver.

Are you a wine connoisseur? What is your favorite wine?

Sara: I love wine! I once dreamed of becoming a wine sommelier. Isn’t my favorite wine obvious? Soave! Like Alexis Lynn, I also discovered Soave on my first trip to Venice. It’s been a favorite ever since, but difficult to find in America. Hence, more motivation to travel!

What’s something most readers would never guess about you?

Sara: My husband and I got engaged four days after we met. Unlike Alexis Lynn and her marital troubles, my husband and I have had a relatively easy, adventurous, crazy, happy and supportive marriage. This summer, we’re celebrating out twenty-five year anniversary. But I don’t know how we’re celebrating. Any suggestions?

You’ve got a scientific background, like your character. How much of Alexis Lynn is you?

Sara: Um … She’s totally me! Are authors allowed to confess that?

What time of day do you prefer to do your writing? Why?

Sara: Morning, if given a choice. But it happens all day.

What’s the hardest part of the story for you to write: beginning, middle or end?

Sara: I write chapters as if they are short stories, and then I arrange them into a book when I think I’ve developed something that has a beginning, middle or end. Is that weird? I don’t write chronologically. And I have chapters/stories that didn’t make it into this book that will be in the next one.

Alexis Lynn has a conversation and wine tasting with Casanova. Would you like to talk a bit about the inspiration for that scene?

Sara: I was enjoying my weekly glass of wine while reading the memoirs of Casanova and thought, “Man, this guy would give horrible marriage advice!” Then I grabbed my computer.

Besides Casanova, which author, poet or artist, dead or alive, would you love to have lunch with?

Sara: Lord Byron, or course! He’s bloomin’ brilliant, but people only remember him as a seducer. Sure, he seduced a few women, usually married ones, and has some famous bastards; the famous mathematician, Lady Lovelace, is one of his illegitimate children. But he also wrote the first English-Armenian dictionary, and was a very, charming, intelligent debater. His letters are filled with wisdom and humor. In an incredibly elegant manner, almost complimentary, he was able to inform someone of their idiocy. I would love to have lunch with Lord Byron, even if he spent an hour politely insulting me.

Besides writing, what are your favorite things to do?

Sara: Travel! I also love hiking, playing board games, reading every genre, watching cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies in the middle of summer, and learning Italian so I can one day move to Venice.

What is the biggest challenge of being a writer?

Sara: Pulling together a bunch of short stories into a cohesive novel and then figuring out what scenes are missing.

It was funny with Will Write for Wine, my husband included a little gondola and gondolier on the cover, and I suddenly realized that I didn’t have any gondola scenes in the book. Both the gondola scenes were the last scenes I wrote.

If writing suddenly made you rich and famous, what would you do?

Sara: Move to Venice and write more!

What’s the most fun part of writing a novel or short story/screenplay? What’s the least fun part?

Sara: Most fun? Dialogue! I’m originally a playwright, so I love dialogue. 

Least fun? Killing a character I like. Killing a nasty character is delightful, but killing a kind character, or a character I’ve spent years with, is heart-wrenching.

How much non-writing work, (research, marketing & promotion, illustrations & book covers, etc…), do you do yourself for your books?

Sara: I do everything myself, but my husband does the cover art and most of the website maintenance. We have fun working together.

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

Sara: Oh! Juicy question. Reese Witherspoon. Yep, definitely Reese Witherspoon. Mid-40s, cute, and like Alexis, she exudes positivity even when her world is falling apart.

What goals do you set for yourself in your writing?

Sara: Don’t plan ahead. If I don’t know what’s going to happen, neither does the reader. This is really funny because I’m writing a murder-mystery right now and halfway through the book, my murderer, who I didn’t know was the murderer, just totally confessed to the murder. So, um, geez, I guess that book is going to be a different style of murder mystery. LOL! So, I guess my goal in writing is to always be surprised.

Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Stories-Stole-Lord-Byrons-Bastard-ebook/dp/B0B27TS5GL

As you can see, Sara is an author who loves what she does ad is pretty comfortable in her own skin. Now, let’s hear about her inspiration for the fourth story in Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard, “Lazzaretto Vecchio: A Dowry for Saffron”.

Guest Post by Author Sara W. McBride

Inspiration for “A Dowry for Saffron”

What inspired the story, “Lazzaretto Veccchio: A Dowry for Saffron?”

“Sia laudato il signor Iddio non ci sono stati morti.”

Bless the Lord, there have been no deaths [today].

December 24, 1630, in Sant’Eufemia, Venice.

* * *

This quote is from the opening of a Nature paper, “A digital reconstruction of the 1630-1631 large plague outbreak in Venice,” by Gianrocco Lazzari, et al. Published Oct. 20, 2020.

* * *

I’ve always been fascinated by the European plagues, but when I read the above Nature paper, the effects of the 1630-31 plague on Venice consumed my mornings for several weeks. This especially seemed relevant while living through a new global pandemic, thankfully with much lower mortality rates.

In 1348-49, bubonic plague killed one-third of the European population, up to 25 million people, and Venice, as a crossroads for international trade, lost half its residents. Imagine living in a bustling city of 100,000 people, and half of them die within 18 months. It would be horrifying and haunting.

In response to the devastating plague of 1348-49, Lazzaretto Vecchio was established in 1423 as the first quarantine island in the Mediterranean region, and was used to separate the healthy from the sick during Venetian plagues. Lazzaretto Nuovo was established shortly afterward as a place where ships suspected to carry sickness among their passengers or crew were anchored for 40 days. English acquired the word “quarantine” from the Italian term for 40 days, quaranta giorni. The lagoon island of Poveglia also became a quarantine outpost sometime in the 15th century. It’s rumored that half the soil of Poveglia is human ash from burned plague corpses. Then it became a mental hospital from 1922-1968. No wonder the place is one of the most haunted locations in Europe.

Considering the 15th century world had no idea how disease was spread, the idea of quarantining the sick or foreigners arriving from plague stricken areas was very innovative.

The story, “Lazzeretto Vecchio: A Dowry for Saffron,” takes place during Venice’s plague of 1630-31, which killed a third of the city’s population. Both plague islands were used to isolate and treat the sick, however, caregivers were needed to work at the island hospitals, mostly because, I assume, workers kept dying of plague. 

The Italian city of Ferrara had a long history of successfully avoiding plagues that ravaged other parts of Italy. They closed their city gates and screened all arrivals for any signs of disease. They insisted that Fedi, proofs, identification papers from a plague-free zone must be presented. Ferrara, starting as early as medieval times, engaged in public sanitation campaigns, sweeping away garbage and liberally spreading lime powder on any surface that had come into contact with an infected person.

When an Italian physician, Girolamo Fracastoro, published a text in 1546 describing the “seeds of disease” as something that could stick to clothes and objects, Ferrara increased their sanitation practices during plagues and burned the clothes of any infected people. Removing garbage, spreading lime powder and burning infected clothing probably reduced the flea pestilence that actually carried Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes plague.

Many natural remedies were prescribed for protection against the plague, but a medicinal oil designed by a Spanish physician, Pedro Castagno, was written into Ferrara’s, “Reggimento contra la peste,” regimen against the plague. The oil, called Composito, was recommended to be applied to the body.

“Before getting up in the morning, after lighting a fire of scented woods (juniper, laurel and vine shoots), warm the clothes and above all the shirt, rub first the heart region, near the fire to ease balm absorption, then the throat. [Afterwards], wash hands and face with acqua chiara (clean water) mixed with wine or vinegar of roses, with which sometimes all the body should be cleaned, using a sponge.”

Ferrara city’s regimen against the plague

The contents of Composito was never fully disclosed, but researchers examined the records of materials ordered by Castagno and determined that the oil contained venom from scorpions and vipers, and myrrh and Crocus sativus, which is a saffron flower from which the filaments produce the golden spice saffron. Both myrrh and saffron are known to have antibacterial properties, as does scorpion venom with the bonus that it’s also a pain reliever. So basically, Composito was an early antibiotic and pain reliever combo. Pretty nifty!

According to census records, Venice’s population was around 140,000 in 1624. By 1633, that number had fallen to 102,000. More than 43,000 deaths were recorded over just three years, with nearly half of them taking place between September and December 1630. The city of Venice began several public works projects, like the grand Baroque church, Santa Maria della Salute, greeting guests at the entrance to the Grand Canal. The church’s construction began in November 1630 with the goal of keeping citizens employed and maintaining art and labor skills.

The city of Venice also purchased food for the quarantined, both in the city and on the plague islands. It is logical to speculate that in the early months of 1631, Venice might have asked Ferrara, a city with success at conquering the plague, if their convents could be paid in order to encourage volunteers to work at the plague islands. My story is fictitious, but the stage was set for the events I describe in the story. I also talked about pirates in the story. Yes, there were pirates at this time: mercenary pirates and government deployed pirates (particularly from England).

My story focuses on a group of nuns who have been “volunteered” by their convents, and how they sacrifice one nun into a marriage in order to secure their much needed ingredient of saffron for Composito, their only hope for survival on the plague islands. The politics and finances of Venice in 1631 created a world where this story could have happened. There’s a lot of history not recorded in text books, and this is a story that no one would want recorded. 

Something fun for readers:

In my research of the plague islands, I was surprised by the lack of ghost ship stories haunting the Venetian lagoon. If you know of any, please write me at sara@puckpublishing.com. If you’ve ever visited the eerie lagoon island, Poveglia, the plague island, turned insane asylum, turned old-folks home, which now stands empty—less the chilling screams on foggy nights—I want to hear about it.

Will Write for Wine

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Will-Write-Wine-Alexis-Novel-ebook/dp/B09XVM6Y38

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Treasuring Poetry: Meet author and poet M J Mallon

My Treasuring Poetry guest today is talented author and poet M J Mallon. I am delighted to host Marje here and hope you enjoy her thoughts on poetry and her favourite poem.

Which of your own poems is your favourite?

This was such a difficult decision, I have at least three favourites! I narrowed it down to the robin. The robin and the dragonfly are my spirit animals and trees are also a huge inspiration. I’ve written about all of these and more in Mr. Sagittarius.

A beautiful picture of a robin by M J Mallon

Bench,

A bird,

Red-breasted,

So, tame you rest,

Beside me robin,

Two friends on a park bench,

One human, one of nature,

I appreciate your kind time,

Until you away… exploring far,

Hinting at possibilities you go. 

I wonder what you notice in your world.

And why you choose that ground to explore,

When you could have stayed here with me,

In mindful meditation.

Maybe you’ll visit me,

Christmas day, perhaps?

To bring good cheer,

Until then,

Peace to, You.

What inspired you to write this particular poem?

I’d been studying mindfulness at the sixth form college where I work. Mindfulness is the act of observing and using the full array of our senses meditatively to become more at one with ourselves. I’ve discovered that this is a fantastic practice to adhere to. It benefits an author’s creativity by making you more aware of the nuances of your surroundings.  I’m fortunate in that I work near the botanical gardens in Cambridge, so I often visit and walk and observe the wonder of nature taking photographs of the trees, flowers, animal and insect visitors. Over time, I collected these photographs and wrote poems about them. These, along with various seasonal and short pieces of fiction feature in Mr. Sagittarius. It is a joyful celebration of siblings, magic, loves, nature, the seasons and the circle of our lives.

Which genre of poetry do you enjoy writing the most and why?

I love writing poetry about life in all its vibrant colours. I am often inspired by photography, (I am a keen amateur photographer – my grandfather and uncle were professional photographers,) or I use images I discover as prompts, often via Colleen Chesebro’s poetry challenge: https://wordcraftpoetry.com/

Specifically, I enjoy writing poems about nature, trees, flowers, love and Halloween! Halloween poems also feature in Mr. Sagittarius. Halloween is an autumnal activity, (and often a childhood one,) so it links well with the seasonal/circle of life, aspect of my poetry writing.

Which genre of poetry do you enjoy reading the most?

I enjoy reading short form poetry. It is so expressive and brilliant. I love how short verses of poetry convey so much detail in so few words. I enjoy haiku, and tanka, as well as poems that form a pattern on the page. I also enjoy longer forms as you will see from my choice of favourite poem.

What is your favourite poem?

I have always loved Ode To Autumn by John Keats. I can almost taste the words. They are magnificent—that first line: Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness —draws you in and makes you long to read more.

Ode To Autumn by John Keats


  1. Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
            Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
        Conspiring with him how to load and bless
            With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
        To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
            And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
              To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
            With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
        And still more, later flowers for the bees,
      Until they think warm days will never cease,
              For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

    2.
      Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
          Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
      Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
          Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
      Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
          Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
              Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
      And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
          Steady thy laden head across a brook;
          Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
              Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

    3.
      Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
          Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
      While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
          And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
      Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
          Among the river sallows, borne aloft
              Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
      And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
          Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
          The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
              And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
https://allpoetry.com/Ode-To-Autumn

Mr Sagittarius by M J Mallon

About Mr Sagittarius

Twin brothers Harold and William love the magic of the natural world.

When Harold dies he leaves a simple memorial request.

Will his brother William and his sister Annette honour it?

Or, will the garden work its magic to ensure that they do.

A magical story expressed via an original compilation of poetry and prose with photographic images.

#Poetry #Prose #Photography #NaturalWorld #Trees #Magic #Spirit #Animals #CircleofLife #Humour #Halloween #Cats #Buddha

My review of Mr Sagittarius

Mr Sagittarius is a beautiful collection of poems and short stories, set in the lovely gardens of Cambridge and linked by the visits and experiences of a family of twin brothers and their younger sister.

The story starts with William visiting the weeping willow tree in the garden, a place that was special to his twin brother, Harold, who has recently passed away. William sees Harold’s spirit in a dragonfly that he chats to and finds solace in their one-sided communication.

This is a few lines from a poem about the dragonfly:
“Ancient, sweet fellow
Sacred magic bestower,
Change tumbling on fragile wings.”

When William returns home, he has an altercation with his sister, Annette. During their spat Annette reveals that she has always felt left out and overlooked by her twin brothers. This revelation leads to William and Annette becoming closer and visiting the garden together. Not long after, William passes on and Annette is left alone. She visits the garden and communicates with the spirits of both her brothers over the course of the rest of her long life.

The visits of the siblings to the garden are captured in lovely verse. This is an example I really enjoyed:
“I dream in colour
But now everything is dark
Where has the light gone?
Oh, cruel leafy canopy,
No green meadow, just blue thoughts.”

My favourite of the short stories was The Old Man of Snow and The Snow Snake. This is a story about making good choices in life and rejecting greed. I enjoyed the tale and the descriptive writing.

Mr Sagittarius is a gorgeous book full of delightfully depictive poems and short stories and decorated with striking photographs. This is a book that lovers of poetry, mystery, and wonder will love.

Purchase Mr Sagittarius: Poetry and Prose

Amazon US

M J Mallon Amazon Author Page

About M J Mallon

I am a diverse author who blogs at: https://mjmallon.com. My interests include writing, poetry, photography, and alternative therapies. My favourite genres to write are: Fantasy YA, Paranormal, Ghost and Horror Stories and I love writing various forms of poetry and micro poetry – haiku and Tanka and flash fiction.

I am proud to be included in the best selling horror anthology Nightmareland which received best seller status with best-selling author Dan Alatorre at the helm.

It is one of my greatest pleasures to read and I have written over 100 reviews: https://mjmallon.com/2015/09/28/a-z-of-my-book-reviews/

About Robbie Cheadle

IMG_9902

Robbie Cheadle is a children’s author and poet.

The Sir Chocolate children’s picture books, co-authored by Robbie and Michael Cheadle, are written in sweet, short rhymes which are easy for young children to follow and are illustrated with pictures of delicious cakes and cake decorations. Each book also includes simple recipes or biscuit art directions which children can make under adult supervision.

Robbie has also published books for older children which incorporate recipes that are relevant to the storylines.

Robbie writes a monthly series for https://writingtoberead.com called Growing Bookworms. This series discusses different topics relating to the benefits of reading to children.

Robbie has a blog, https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/ where she shares book reviews, recipes, author interviews, and poetry.

Find Robbie Cheadle

Blog: https://www.robbiecheadle.co.za/

Blog: robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com

Twitter: BakeandWrite

Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books

Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Treasuring Poetry” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.


Treasuring Poetry – Meet fantasy author and poet, Diana Peach and read my review of Sunwielder: An Epic Time Travel Adventure

Welcome to the first Treasury Poetry post of 2021.

Today, I am delighted to welcome fantasy author and poet, Diana Peach, who is sharing one of her own poems and discussing poetry.

Which of your own poems is your favourite?

Thanks so much for the invitation to participate in your Treasuring Poetry series, Robbie. I’m honored. I think of myself as a writer of prose and a dabbler otherwise, but I love poetry and believe no creative effort is ever wasted.

This is a super hard question! I have poems that I think are well-crafted, poems that evoke personal feelings or memories, and poems that reflect a particular time in my life. Since “I don’t know” isn’t an acceptable answer, I’ll go with this one:

Flight of faith

When I was a child, I could fly

you and I hopped in dirt-road afternoons

faithful

and the dust-wind flung us over seas of wheat

scuffed shoes skimming the feathered awns

we whipped around the corners of the barn

in a home-sewn world of farm-hewn hands

our secret futures soared

***

In the veins of my hands

the blue brooks of time stream by

Somewhere on the way, I unlearned how to fly

and trod worn paths through autumn’s lea

snapped night’s brittle ice

shards of fractured faith

glinting in my wake

***

Today’s morning purls in plumrose

cast on a withering season’s stark debris

spangled with winter’s gilded rime

a new path of violet ice wends to the horizon

fragile, fissured, a wish yet unbroken

my secret future soars

faithful

and I wonder if I might

fly one last time

What inspired you to write this particular poem?

In my twenties, I used to have flying dreams rather frequently. They were the most vivid dreams of my life. I was truly flying. I could feel the wind on my face as if I was awake and standing outside on a breezy day. The sensory experience was exhilarating.

This poem is based on one of those dreams. In the dream, I was about 10 years old, an unremarkable child of the dusty American plains. Every day, the school bus would drop my friend and me off at the side of the dirt road, and as soon as the bus drove away, we would hop a few steps, then pick up our feet and soar over the fields, our brown shoes skimming the wheat. Despite our ordinary lives and pervasive poverty, we were extraordinary. Life was full of magic and promise, and nothing could hold us down.

Then I stopped having flying dreams and haven’t had one in nearly 35 years. This poem is about that amazing childhood belief that anything is possible, about its loss, and about the yearning to fly again.

Which genre of poetry do you enjoy writing the most and why?

I enjoy Colleen Chesebro’s weekly syllabic poetry challenges. The poetic forms provide structure, and for me, they’re like puzzles as I search for the words that conform to the syllable count, structure, prompts, and personal meaning. But my favorites among the poems I’ve written are all free form. They’re harder

for me to craft, but they feel more organic, untouched by stylistic constraints. They’re pure gut, emotion, and inspiration.

Which genre of poetry do you enjoy reading the most?

Probably free form poetry, though any kind of poetry has the potential to make me gasp at its beauty. I love vivid imagery and poignant emotion, poems that illuminate the human condition in a way that pierces my heart. I like poems that stir something personal, or that draw me in and grab hold so that when I finish reading, I feel like I’ve stepped outside myself into someone else’s experience.

Do you think your poetry compliments your other writing or do you see it as an undertaking that stands alone?

Complements, definitely!

I love poetic prose, and when I’m reading fiction, I’m prone to highlighting passages in books where the word choice, imagery, metaphors, or phrases make me swoon. Poetry emphasizes beautifully crafted language, including its sounds and rhythms. It requires a writer to capture and convey the core essence of a story. I think poetry fosters an underlying sensitivity to those aspects of writing in general, and prose benefits from the same attention.

Thanks again, Robbie, for the invite and for allowing me to share my thoughts and muse over this lovely artform. Happy Writing to all the poets out there.

Thank you, Diana, for being my Treasuring Poetry guest. I really enjoyed your poem and insights into your poetry writing.

Sunwielder: An Epic Time Travel Adventure

What Amazon says

In a land on the brink of war, Gryff Worden discovers his family slaughtered, his farm in ruin.

Mortally wounded, he stumbles upon a timekeeper, an old woman of the northern forests, one who tracks the infinite paths of each life. She offers him a sunwield, a medallion promising to return him to the pivotal choices that swayed his life’s journey. Her only condition—he must wear the bronze charm until the end.

Now his story remakes itself, casting him backward in time to moments of decision and death. His old life gone, he no longer remembers the purpose of the medallion burning his chest. As he uncovers the sunwield’s power, new choices lead him on an epic adventure through war, death, friendship, life, and love.

My review

I do not read a lot of fantasy books, but I make an exception for D. Wallace Peach as her books are extraordinary and unique.

Gryff Worden is an ordinary man who just wants to help his uncle and aunt raise horses on their farm while raising his own family. Gryff adores his wife and two children, but there is bad blood between Gryff and the son of the Earl who rules his area. The hostility is emanates from Brant Loden’s side only, but it changes the course of Gryff’s life.

Gryff’s country is attacked by an aggressive nation who want to enslave his people and he is eventually morally wounded and his family murdered by enemy soldiers. At the time of his death he is visited by an elderly prophet who offers him another chance at life if he accepts the sunwielder, a bronze medallion which allows him to go back in time and revise decisions he made thereby changing his life’s path. I thought this concept was clever and unique. I have read other books where the hero can go back in time, but this particular method and the limited number of life choices offered by the sunwielder was something quite different and fascinating.

Gryff is a wonderful character, he is a good man and tries to do the right thing in all situations but he is human and, therefore, susceptible to various human failings like anger and resentment. It was most interesting to experience his going back in time and having to try an alternative approach when his previous choice failed. As Gryff moved further along his path, his choices improved and his self control and discipline increased allowing him to make better choices earlier and without constant intervention.

There is a love story thread that runs through the book and this is intriguing as the reader doesn’t know how his relationships with his wife and with his lover are going to turn out – his destiny in this regard is unclear for most of the book.

There are a number of characters in this book and it provides great insight into the frailties of men and how arrogance, greed, and hunger for power can destroy individuals and the people around them. Good leadership is a strong theme in this book and the importance of strategy and leadership in war and battles is highlighted.

The author writes the most beautiful and powerful prose and even without the incredible story, this book would have been worth reading just to experience the skillful writing. I highly recommend this book to lovers of fantasy and those who enjoy excellent writing.

Purchase Sunwielder: An Epic Time Travel Adventure

Sunwielder: An Epic Time Travel Adventure by [D. Wallace Peach]

Amazon US

About Diana Peach

D. Wallace Peach started writing later in life after the kids were grown and a move left her with hours to fill. Years of working in business surrendered to a full-time indulgence in the imaginative world of books, and when she started writing, she was instantly hooked. Diana lives in a log cabin amongst the tall evergreens and emerald moss of Oregon’s rainforest with her husband, two dogs, bats, owls, and the occasional family of coyotes.

Contact and purchase links

Website/Blog: http://mythsofthemirror.com

Website/Books: http://dwallacepeachbooks.com

Amazon Author’s Page: https://www.amazon.com/D.-Wallace-Peach/e/B00CLKLXP8

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Myths-of-the-Mirror/187264861398982

Twitter: @dwallacepeach

About Robbie Cheadle

IMG_9902

Robbie Cheadle has published nine books for children and one poetry book. She has branched into writing for adults and young adults and, in order to clearly separate her children’s books from her adult books, is writing for older readers under the name Roberta Eaton Cheadle.

Robbie Cheadle’s Sir Chocolate children’s picture books are written in sweet, short rhymes which are easy for young children to follow and are illustrated with pictures of delicious cakes and cake decorations. Each book also includes simple recipes or biscuit art directions which children can make under adult supervision. Her books for older children also incorporate recipes that are relevant to the storylines.

Roberta Eaton Cheadle’s supernatural stories combine fabulous paranormal elements with fascinating historical facts.

Children’s picture books – available as a square book and an A5 book (co-authored with Michael Cheadle):
Sir Chocolate and the strawberry cream story and cookbook
Sir Chocolate and the baby cookie monster story and cookbook
Sir Chocolate and the sugar dough bees story and cookbook
Sir Chocolate and the Condensed Milk River story and cookbook
Sir Chocolate and the Sugar Crystal Caves story and cookbook
Sir Chocolate and the Fondant Five story and cookbook
Sir Chocolate and the Ice Cream Rainbow Fairies story and cookbook

Middle school books:
Silly Willy Goes to Cape Town (includes five fun party cake ideas)
While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with Elsie Hancy Eaton)

Poetry book:
Open a new door (co-authored with Kim Blades)

Supernatural fantasy YA novel:
Through the Nethergate

Horror Anthologies (edited by Dan Alatorre):
Spellbound
Nightmareland
Dark Visions

Paranormal Anthologies (edited by Kaye Lynne Booth):
Spirits of the West
Whispers of the Past

Murder mystery Anthology (edited by Stephen Bentley)
Death Among Us

Find Robbie Cheadle

Blog: https://bakeandwrite.co.za/

Blog: robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com

Twitter: BakeandWrite

Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books

Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Treasuring Poetry” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.


Looking Back on 2020 and Forward to 2021

2020 has been an difficult year for all of us as Covid 19 turned lives upside-down. Here at Writing to be Read and WordCrafter, we saw some great accomplishments, in spite of the fact that my genre theme schedule fell apart half-way through the year on the blog and content was a little more sporadic. I had to figure out how to adjust to my own “new normal”, which life changes brought my way, but they also led me to remember who I am. Now, I’ve analyzed and regrouped, and I’m ready to head into the new year with new ideas and projects.

WordCrafter’s 2020 Virtual Writing Conference

One of the biggest things for WordCrafter was the 2020 Stay in Place Virtual Writing Conference back in April. We ended up with twenty-two distinguished authors, offering live stream and video lectures, and interactive workshops and discussion panels, with free content for the Facebook event and a Zoom platform for the interactive stuff. We had a good turn-out with only a few glitches, and we’re preparing to do it again in 2021.

WordCrafter Press releases in 2020:

Ask the Authors

In April, the Ask the Authors writing anthology was released after two years of compilation. This book is an ultimate writer’s reference with tips and advice from twenty-two authors, and it started right here, from a 2018 blog series of the same name. In November, the print edition of this book, (and all WordCrafter Press books), became available, as well.

Spirits of the West

The Spirits of the West western paranormal anthology resulted from the 2020 WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest, and was released in October. The winning story, “High Desert Rose”, was written by Enid Holden and is included in the anthology. The theme for the 2021 WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest was announced and WordCrafter Press is now taking submissions to be considered for next year’s anthology, Where Spirits Linger.

Hidden Secrets and Last Call

Two of my own books were also released. Last Call and Other Short Fiction is a collection of my short stories, and my paranormal mystery novella, Hidden Secrets, is now available in print on Amazon, but the digital edition can be purchased through other retailers. In the coming year, I will have a story in the Where Spirits Linger anthology, and I’m working on a new book, The Outlaw and the Rockstar which I hope will be ready to release before the end of 2021.

Raise the Tide

WordCrafter Press‘ first stand alone author’s book was released in December, Raise the Tide, a devotional book by James Richards. We also look forward in anticipation to adding the January release of a massive poetry collection by Arthur Rosch, Feral Tenderness, to this list.

Feral Tenderness

Writing to be Read 2020:

We had some great guests on Writing to be Read. On “Chatting with the Pros”, my author guests featured Diana Raab, Amy Cecil, Cherokee Parks, L. Deni Colter, and Kevin J. Anderson. I’m hoping to transform this blog series into a podcast, which can be accessed through the blog, in the coming year, and I hope you all will join me there. Other authors interviewed in 2020 included Mark & Kym Todd, Jade C. Jamison, and Alan Dean Foster. The most viewed interview was with erotic romance author Nicky F. Grant. Interviews fell by the wayside along with the genre themes, but I’m planning to bring back author interviews for 2021, and I’m working on a new blog segment, “The Authors’ Covid Coffee Clache”, which will address issues of the pandemic specific to authors.

Treasuring Poetry

Robbie Cheadle’s poet guests included Sally Cronin, Colleen Chesebro, Victoria Zigler, Sue Vincent, Annette Rochelle Aben, Christy Birmingham, Kevin Morris, Frank Prem, D. Avery, Geoff Le Pard, and Balroop Singh. Of course, each segment on “Treasuring Poetry” are filled with poetry examples and includes a review of the poet’s latest poetry collection.

Growing Bookworms

Robbie Cheadle’s “Growing Bookworms” has great ideas for promoting literacy in children. Topics discussed “Making Learning the Alphabet Fun“, “Reading and Mathematics“, obtaining a balance of parental approval, “Sir Chocolate and the Valentine Toffee Cupid“, the benefits of singing and rhyming verse for children, “Teaching Children to Read“, “Introducing Non-Fiction to Children“, “The Future of Education“, “The Great Roald Dahl“, “Chapter Books vs. Short Stories for Children“, “The Joy of Nursery Rhymes: Twinkle, Twinkle Little Bat“, and “Incorporating Reading into Christmas Activities“. The post with the most views this year was a “Growing Bookworms” post from 2019, “Developing Imagination and Creativity Through Reading“, and in fact, it is also the post with the most all time views.

Words to Live By

On “Words to Live By”, Jeff Bowles offers up his thoughts on writing and life, and writing life. In 2020, he reflected on “The Creator in the Creative“, “The Kid in the Machine”, “Sex, Love, Warfare and Death“, “Fear, Creativity, and that Pesky Pandemic“, “Love in the Time of Covid“, “Be Here Now (Sanity for the Modern Writer), and”Creative Legacy“. The most viewed “Words to Live By” post was “The Big Chill“.

Mind Fields

With Art Rosch’s “Mind Fields”, you never know what the topic will be, but in 2020, they included “T.V. Addicts Annonymous“, “Nightmare with Tracphone“, “The Power of Villians in Story Telling“, “The Big Grief or Computer Wipe-Out“, “The Air in the Sky“, “Obsession: Craving Flashlights“, “Curvature: An Essay on Discernment“. The most view “Mind Fields” post was “Am I Real“.

Super Heroes and Supervillains

In May, Jeff Bowles took over the spotlight as he took over the Super Heroes and Super Villians theme, with a look at “The History and Evolution of Comic Books“, “The Rise of the Comic Book Film“, “DC Comics Gets Animated“, “D.C. Comics vs. Marvel – Rivalry and Inspiration“, and a celebratory posts for comic books and super heroes, “Look Up in the Sky!

Craft and Practice

Also in May, Jeff introduced a new blog series “Craft and Practice”, filled with great writing advice, which covered topics such as “The Revision Process“, “To Self-publish or Not to Self-publish“, “Writing for Catharthis“, “Story Synthesis: The Ultimate Tool in the Tool Kit“, “To Comma or Not to Comma“, “The Odds and Ends of Worldbuilding“, and “What’s the use of Trunk Novels“. The most viewed “Craft and Practice” post was “Should You Write Every Day?“.

Jeff’s Movie Reviews

Jeff’s Movie Reviews” covered The Invisible Man, Birds of Prey“, Hamilton on Disney+, Bill and Ted Face the Music, The Trial of the Chicago 7, The Queen’s Gambit, and The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone. The most viewed movie review post was for 1917.

Arthur’s Visual Media Reviews

“Art’s Visual Media Reviews” covered Homeland, Better Call Saul, 13 Reasons Why, Just Mercy, 13 Reasons Why (the later seasons), a critique of Marvel movies, and The Secret: Dare to Dream, but the most viewed review was a life review in “My Life with Jazz“. Unfortunately, “Arthur’s Visual Media Reviews” will not be appearing in 2021, but Art’s “Mind Fields” will be appearing twice a month.

My book reviews included Missing: Murder Suspected: True Crime Stories Brought to Life, by Austin Stone On Being a Dictator, by Kevin J. Anderson and Martin L. Shoemaker; Saint, by Amy Cecil; Heat: Book 1, by Jade C. Jamison; Old One Eyed Pete, by Loretta Miles Toleffson; Death Wind, by Travis Heermann and Jim Pinto; Severed Wings, by Steven-Elliot Altman; X Marks the Spot, an anthology of pirate fantasy tales edited by Lisa Mangum; Indominable, by J.B. Garner; Echo One, by Mercedes Lacky, Denis K. Lee, Cody Martin, and Veronica Giguere; the audio edition of Shadow Blade, by Chris Barili; Love/Madness/Demon, by Jeff Bowles; In the Shadow of the Clouds, by Jordan Elizabeth; Keeper of the Winds, by Jenna Solitaire with Russle Davis; Inspirational Visions oracle cards, by Judy Mastrangelo; The Freedom Conspiracy by Nathan B. Dodge; Disappeared, by Lucienne Diver; Fool’s Gold Rush, by Tim Baker; Terminal Sequence, by Dan Alatorre; Gunslinger, by Edward J. Knight; and Clay House, by Jordan Elizabeth. The top viewed review was Hold Your Fire, an anthology edited by Lisa Mangum.

Judging the Spurs

I was also honored to be a judge for the Writers of America’s Spur Awards and I reviewed my top six picks, and the winner of the western romance category, The Yeggman’s Apprentice, by C.K. Crigger. These were the best of the best, and I was honored to be given the opportunity to read and review them.

WordCrafter Book Blog Tours

Also, in 2021 Writing to be Read will be a host for the WordCrafter Book Blog Tours, so we’ll be keeping you up to date on several new releases as they come out. Robbie Cheadle will bring us a new blog series on nursery rhymes and fairytales, “Dark Origins”, and I plan to bring in a new series, “Writer at Work”, which will talk about different issues that writers face. Subscribe to this blog with one of the buttons in the upper right-hand corner to be sure not to miss this great new content or the tried and true content of continuing series on Writing to be Read in the coming year.

Dark Origins

Happy New Year and Happy Writing!

From Writing to be Read and WordCrafter

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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Interview with author Alan Dean Foster

 

Alan Dean Foster with Mayotte brown lemur. M’bouzi island, French Comoros. Photo credit to Michael Medford.

Alan Dean Foster with Mayotte brown lemur. M’bouzi island, French Comoros. Photo credit to Michael Medford.

Today my author guest is a multi-genre author who dips into the western and weird western genres on occasion. He’s published over 100 books, including novelizations of several well-known science fiction films, such as Star Wars, Alien, and The Chronicles of Riddick. He’s also credited with the first ever book adaption of an original video game in his novel, Shadowkeep. He’s a New York Times bestselling author and he’s joining me here to share a few tidbits about the weird western genre, writing a novelization of a movie, and his latest book, Mad Amos Malone and other weird western works. Please welcome author Alan Dean Foster to Writing to be Read.

Kaye: The majority of what you write is science fiction or fantasy, so obviously these are your preferred genres, but you have western tales thrown into the mix here and there. What is it that draws you to the western genre?

Alan: For one thing, I have lived the past 40 years in a famous western town: Prescott, Arizona. Virgil Earp was the marshal here. Doc Holiday’s mistress, Big Nose Kate, is buried in one of the local cemeteries. The Palace Saloon, the oldest operating saloon in Arizona (since 1877) is here. And much more. You cannot live in such a place without soaking up some of the historic atmosphere. Also, like most kids of my generation, I grew up watching TV westerns in the ‘50’s. Hop-along Cassiday, The Lone Ranger, and more.  My favorites were the Cisco Kid (“Hey Pancho!…Hey Ceesco!) and Disney’s Zorro.

Mad Amos MaloneKaye: You have a collection of short western stories out that have a strange twist. What is so different about Mad Amos Malone?

Alan: Folks are fascinated by the mountain men who explored the American west. I thought it would be interesting to develop one who acts and lives like your typical mountain man, but who is considerably More Than He Seems. When you like a character but are never sure how he will react in a given situation it adds tension to a story. Think the character of Mike in “Breaking Bad”. Not quite what he seems. Also, in the end, thoroughly bad ass.

Kaye: In 1985 you wrote a novelization of the movie Pale Rider, with Clint Eastwood. How did that come about? Did you get to meet any actors from the movie? Did you consult with the screenwriters during the writing? What was the most difficult thing about doing a novelization?

Pale RiderAlan: Authors of film adaptations rarely get anywhere near a movie set (though I have, on occasion). Certainly I never met or consulted with anyone attached to the movie.

For me, the most difficult thing in doing a novelization is to expand on the characters without contradicting the characterizations in the film itself. That, and remaining true to the spirit and style of the filmmakers while simultaneously injecting a little bit of myself here and there. You always have to be aware.

Straight Outta TombstoneKaye: You have a story in Straight Outta Tombstone. The anthology is listed as fantasy, but its stories have kind of a western twist. Would you talk a little about that book?

Alan: The stories are fantasy with, generally, settings in what is called the American West. I think it would be more accurate to called them westerns with a fantasy twist.  Fantasy or science-fictional takes on actual history are a lot of fun to do, and can often be thought-provoking. Call it the “What if the South had won the Civil War”? trope, only often with more recognizable fantasy elements.

Kaye: What’s the most fun part of writing a western novel or short story? What’s the least fun part?

Alan: Working with actual western history. Many of the Mad Amos stories take place in actual western settings and involve real folks from history. Just with the occasional witch, dragon, Chinese demon, visiting gnomes, etc.

Kaye: What time of day do you prefer to do your writing? Why?

Alan: Mornings, because I’m fresh, and also because I prefer to go to gym in the afternoon. But I will work late if and when necessary. And if an idea hits me, I’ll head for the study no matter what time it is.

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge of being a writer?

Alan: Not getting bored with your own work. And persisting even when you are.

Kaye: What is the one thing in your writing career that is the most unusual or unique thing you’ve done so far?

Alan: I think my historical novel MAORI, which takes place in 19th-century New Zealand. That’s a long way from writing science-fiction or fantasy. Very hard to research such a subject from Prescott in pre-internet days. Might also consider SHADOWKEEP, which was the very first novelization of an original computer game.

Kaye: What do you think is the single most important element in a story?

Alan: Character. If your characters aren’t interesting, then you’ve lost the reader no matter what kind of language, special effects, settings, or action you employ. True of any kind of writing, be it theater, film, prose, even commercials.

Kaye: When did you know you wanted to be an author?

Alan: When I made my first two short story sales, to August Derleth and John W. Campbell. I figured if two giants in the field thought my words worth buying, I might have a shot at doing it full-time.

Kaye: What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given?

Alan: Don’t make your heroes too powerful (Campbell). You can be interested in Superman, but it’s hard to empathize with him. Hence the need to invent kryptonite.

Kaye: Which is your favorite type of writing? Short fiction or novels?

Alan: I enjoy them both, but if pressed I’d have to say short stories. Get the idea down and out fast and dirty. I also very much enjoy writing non-fiction. Essays, movie reviews, history, etc.

Kaye: What is next for Alan Dean Foster? What are you working on now? Any more weird westerns in the future?

Alan: No weird westerns at the moment. Putting together The Complete Mad Amos Malone was a bit of a project in itself.

Forthcoming: April – The Unsettling Stars – original Star Trek novel set in the Kelvin universe.  Later this year: Madrenga – original fantasy novel from Wordfire PressThe Director Should’ve Shot You – non-fiction; a history of my involvement with film novelizations from Centipede Press.

Hopefully next year: Mid-Death and other tales of the Commonwealth – a collection of all the short stories set in the Commonwealth, featuring the never before reprinted Midworld novella “Mid-Death”, from Haffner Press.  Short story “The Treasure of the Lugar Morto” – Analog; no date yet.

Forthcoming at a future date: the completed Commonwealth novel Secretions and the stand-alone SF novel Prodigals.


I want to thank Alan Dean Foster for sharing with us here as we delve into the weird western. It looks like his work is cut out for him for the next couple of years. Obviously, many writing tips and tricks are not restricted to a single genre, but can be applied across them all. You can learn more about Alan and his books on his website or his Amazon Author page.


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Chatting with the Pros: Interview with western author Cherokee Parks

Chatting with the Pros

My author guest today on “Chatting with the Pros” is a seasoned western author who has written many, many western novels and been quite successful. He lives and write by the western creed that he grew up with. He’s a cheerful guy with a good sense of humor. Please welcome Cherokee Parks.

me_book covers


Kaye: You believe in and stand behind some good old fashioned values and live by the code of the west. How do these things come through in your writing?

Cherokee: In every story, the main character does the right thing in every single circumstance. Even when characters like Colton Raines (the Colt’s Justice series) or any of the Creed family (the Creed Novels) are forced to kill large numbers of opponents, it’s done to save others, or to protect they and their family or possessions. They respect women, the law, the nation and all it represents – even in spite of possibly having been on opposite sides during the Civil War. They expect the same from everyone else, and accept no compromise. They always speak the truth, and if they can’t, they keep their mouths shut. They are never afraid to speak their mind, short of intentionally hurting a friend, unless that friend needs a wake-up call. They give both compliments and criticism sparingly, and only when necessary. They never give their word if they can’t keep it. They know that they can’t get along with everyone, so they don’t even try. And they all know how to laugh, mostly at themselves.

Kaye: You have co-authored several books along with other western authors, such as Scott Harris, whom I interviewed last year. What is the most difficult thing about co-authoring a story?

Cherokee: Actually, there have not been any truly co-authored books, only those where credits are given for inserting a foreword. Only once have I ever attempted to co-write a book, but things just didn’t work out. We envisioned completely different events and character development, and never got past the first chapter together. I have, however, had the distinct pleasure of co-writing a good number of songs, and found it very gratifying being able to feed off another person’s input. So would I work with another author to create a book? Honestly, probably not, as I already have a basket full of story ideas, as well as several books already in the works. I don’t know how I’d squeeze in the time to work with another author, although I think the creative juices might get a real boost, depending on how I got along with the co-writer from the beginning.

Kaye: What draws you to the western genre?

Cherokee: Growing up cowboy and around the western lifestyle, it was a natural changeover for me, and what I had always wanted to write. Unfortunately, I was very good at writing mysteries and suspense, and got pigeonholed by my publishers at the time – both saying “Westerns don’t sell.” Well, Westerns DO sell, and I’m enjoying a very happy resurgence of my writing career. It’s easier and far more enjoyable to write about things one knows and loves than to create things someone else wants an author to fantasize about on paper.

Kaye: What time of day do you prefer to do your writing? Why?

Cherokee: Mid-morning until mid-afternoon, while the two grandchildren we’re raising are in school, but I can write just about anytime, anywhere, when the inspiration strikes.

Kaye: Which author, dead or alive, would you love to have lunch with?

Cherokee: I’d love to once again have lunch with Louis L’Amour, as I learned more about my craft from him in a day than I did squirming in a seat during all those college class hours. Although I did study under James A. Michener, and enjoyed his classes, what I learned from him was about styles and research, but little about actually being creative. Michener taught strict adherence to storylines, only diverting if research showed it was necessary, while L’Amour had no idea where a story would go until after it was written, like myself.

Kaye: What’s the most fun part of writing a western novel? What’s the least fun part?

Cherokee: Wow! There are just so many fun parts to creating a western. Finding out where the story goes, and how it ends is a blast, as I never really know when I start out. Imagining how different characters react to situations is also a lot of fun. What’s not fun is having one of your books just sit on the market, not moving, not selling, just sitting there gathering dust. Although really poor reviews are also a knock, often a real punch to the gut… But I’ve learned from those knocks too, as the old commercial told us, “never let ‘em see you sweat…”

Kaye: How do you decide the titles for your books? Where does the title come in the process for you?

Cherokee: That’s difficult to say, really, as sometimes a book is created based on the title, while other titles are taken from a place or event that emerges in the book itself. And there have been times when a title needs to be changed, even after the work is published. Titles are among the hardest parts to creating a story, as a good story can die without a good title to launch and carry it. On the other hand, sometimes a story is soooo good, it doesn’t really matter what it’s called.

Kaye: Would you share the story of your own publishing journey?

Cherokee: How much time do you have? Seriously, I started out my career as an author of mystery and suspense, trying to fit into the most popular publishing mold of the time, mostly as a result of my publishers at the time insisting on my creating such stories. Eventually, I tired of writing what they wanted, and then having stories sell well while the publishers made all the money using “creative bookkeeping” while I received a mere pittance – not even enough to live on.

I stopped having any work published for over fifteen years, giving up completely on the honesty of the publishing business, though I still wrote stories. The difference was, I wrote to please me, not the publisher. One day, while I was writing a particularly interesting story, a friend stopped by, and insisted on reading what I had written up to that point. Now normally, I pretty much discount what family and friends say about something I’ve written, as I believe them to be absolutely biased. But that particular friend was very critical, and if he liked it, well… Not wanting to go the publisher route, I self-published. Epic fail. I’m an author, not a publisher.

So when a small publishing house opened near me, I presented the story to them. They jumped on it, and I became their third signed author. Over the next year, they published four more of my stories, but their management absolutely sucked. Given an opportunity to guide them, I was appointed Executive Director, lasting nearly five years at the job before they were forced to shut down due to IRS problems unrelated to the publishing side of things.

In a way, it was the best thing in the world for me, because I once again had time to write, something I had all but given up on while working with the books of many other authors and wannabes. But now, I had the writing bug again, and needed to find a publisher. After a couple of mistakes, I finally landed with a really good publisher specializing in the western genre (Dusty Saddle Productions), who had a great publicist (Nick Wale at Novel Ideas) under contract. I couldn’t be happier!

Kaye: When did you know you wanted to be an author?

Cherokee: I guess I was about thirteen, when I wrote a short story for an English class assignment. I had a lot of fun writing the story, and when our teacher had me read it to the rest of the class, I was embarrassed, but hooked. That teacher was a friend and understudy to James A. Michener, and gave it to Michener to grade. Michener drew a big star on it, penned a message, “Keep up the good work”, and signed it. Had I not been hooked on writing before that, I was after. I’ve been writing since then, with the two aforementioned lapses, continuing to try to perfect the craft.

Kaye: Do you travel to the places that end up in your books?

Wyoming Cowboys and girls.Cherokee: Yes, absolutely. In fact, I took a clue from L’Amour about knowing the geography and climate I include in my books. As a result, I only write about places I have been, doing my best to remain true to the area. But I also use a bit of artistic license in my stories. For example, in Hard Ride to Cora, set in the Green River basin of Wyoming, I slipped in a cave that doesn’t exist. Sometimes one has to enhance the story with little details that may or may not exist, but I do my best to “keep it real,” even though all I write is fiction.

Kaye: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Cherokee: Never depend on what family and friends say about what you create, as they are completely biased, and 99% of the time they don’t wish to hurt your feelings, or already believe anything you do is great just because you did it. Get outside opinions as your guide. Study the craft of writing, trying to make yourself the best you can be at it. ALWAYS give your work to an editor, as even the very best English teachers make mistakes when they write. But don’t allow the editor to change your style, only to correct your English (except dialogue), your punctuation, and all too often your sentence structure. Just make sure you improve with every attempt, and learn to accept honest criticism for what it is, not for what you want it to be. But above all, NEVER stop writing!

Kaye: Is there anything unique or unusual about your writing process?

Cherokee: Hmmm… Other than I don’t have a clue where a story will go, or where it will end up when it’s finished? I don’t think so, but then again I suppose we each have our little idiosyncrasies when we write, but we’re far too close to the source to know what is “unique” or “unusual” about our process. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

Kaye: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Cherokee: Sleep… eat… Actually, in my younger and healthier years, I enjoyed hunting and fishing, exploring new areas, being around horses and dogs, just generally living the Western lifestyle. But now I’m old and half crippled up, suffering from the ravages of time, so I’ll go with my first two answers. Sleep… eat… But I will add that staying alive is real big on my list of things to do everyday now…

Kaye: As a western writer, what kind of research do you find yourself doing for your stories?

Cherokee: Mostly digging back into my memory banks and photo journals, though I do use a great deal of online research to confirm what I know already or think I know about history, clothing and weapons in use during the era I’m writing in. I have no choice, as my memory isn’t quite what it used to be. Additionally, finding historical documents, maps or writings that detail certain places and events, be they weather events or something of a physical/historical nature, always serve me well, and at times even help with my creativity.

Kaye: If one of your books was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?

Cherokee: I suppose that would have to depend on which of my books was chosen… I think they’d all make great movies, but that’s the writer in me thinking I’m that good… For example, it would have to be a middle-aged man to play Jake Laughlin, while it would require a man in his twenties to play Mick Swinney from Hard Ride to Cora, and a very tall man to play Thomas “Tree” Bell in The Trader… Now, if I could chose which book was made into a movie, I would say Hard Ride to Cora, as it was my first full-length western, although the Colt’s Justice series ranks right up there, as does the Creed series and the brand new series, The Trader. But to pick an actor to play the lead in any particular book? I don’t think I’m capable. I’d leave that to the casting people, as that’s their job, and I’ve got my hands full just writing.

Kaye: Would you like to talk briefly about your latest books? (Those you sent covers for.)

Cherokee: Hard Ride to Cora was my first published Western, and will likely always be my favorite as a result. Besides, it’s a really good story involving a host of characters from many different backgrounds, and if I ever get time I’ll be able to write at least another half dozen stories based on those characters.

No_Town_for_OutlawsNo Town for Outlaws actually prompted a prequel (Silver, Gold and Blood in Arizona), and both books have sold consistently – and well – featuring a family of fast guns, including the women, bent on making certain the law is upheld, and good people are given a chance to live free.

Trader_cover_10_14_19My biggest Western hit so far is really a mountain man tale, The Trader, with the second book in the series due out early in March. The Trader sat in the #1 spot on Kindle in the Old West History of the U.S. category for over three weeks, and as of this writing is still at #3.

Kaye: How did you chose your pen name, Cherokee Parks?

Cherokee: I guess the easy answer would be—sentimentality. When I was a young teen, my father and I used to deer hunt in an area of Northern Colorado called Cherokee Park. They were some of the best times I had as a young man, and some of the best times spent with my father before he lost his health. So when it came time to create a new pseudonym for my western stories, Cherokee Parks was one of five I started out with. I kept narrowing the list down until only Cherokee Parks remained, mostly to honor the wonderful memories I shared with my father, and of him.

Kaye: Why did you choose to take a pen name?

Cherokee: It was a simple thing. In order to keep the genres separate, as well as multiple publishers back in the day, I used pseudonyms. I decided to continue using pseudonyms when I started writing again for some very personal reasons, primarily using Cherokee Parks to honor my father’s memory.

Kaye: Do you think it helps you sell books?

Cherokee: Yes, frankly, I think a good author’s name can help, depending on whether or not it fits the genre.

Kaye: What are you working on next?

Cherokee: Currently, I’m working on a sequel to No Town for Outlaws, called Death at Devils River, featuring the Creed brothers on a mission to help out an old friend facing disaster from a gang of Mexican banditos. I’m really enjoying it, and hope my readers will as well. Death at Devils River should be out by the end of March or early April.

Kaye: What do your readers have to look forward to in the near future?

Cherokee: Within the next ten days, I should have the second book in The Trader series back from the editor, meaning it will be released within a week of that. The first book in the series is subtitled West to the Stony Mountains, the second book subtitled Of New Life, War and Peace, and a third book already in the planning stages (as much as I ever plan a story!). I stay busy, and have at least a dozen story concepts floating around in my mind at any given time, as well as having anywhere from two to half a dozen at various stages of development or publication.

I have to say, Kaye, this was one of the more fun interviews I’ve had, and I appreciate not being buttonholed with my answers by your providing open-ended questions. Honesty is always the best policy, though not every writer has had the pleasure of enjoying life as much as I have. I’ve lived a hard life at times, but always a good life, even though there were times when I had no idea where my next meal would come from, or where I might be sleeping that night. But by the grace of God and the aid of friends, I made it through the hardest of times, making my current success all the sweeter. Thank you!


I want to thank Cherokee Parks for sharing here on “Chatting with the Pros”. He really came up with some great answers which are somewhat enlightening. It has been wonderful chatting with a seasoned western author, and it instills confidence to know that we share the same publisher. Nick Wale and Dusty Saddle have been great to work with. You can learn more about Cherokee and his books on his Amazon Author page or his Goodreads Author page. Join me next month on “Chatting with the Pros”, when the theme will be fantasy, and my author guest will be L. Deni Colter.


You can catch the monthly segment “Chatting with the Pros” on the third Monday of every month in 2019, or you can be sure not to any of the great content on Writing to be Read by signing up by email or following on WordPress. Please share content you find interesting or useful.


Interview with erotic romance author Jade C. Jamison

Bullet

My author guest today makes her living writing erotic romance under a pen name, and prefers to display the cover of her bestselling novel, Bullet, the first book in her Rock Star Romance series, (see my review of Bullet), rather than an author photo in order to conceal her real identity. (When you like at it that way, authors can be kind of like superheroes, taking assumed identities. You’ve gotta admit that’s pretty cool.) We may not know who she is behind the book cover, but we do know that she’s written over fifty books to date, and when perusing them, one is sure to find one that’s just the preferred temperature, because she writes in them all, from sweet romance to sizzling hot erotica. Please welcome erotic romance author Jade C. Jamison.


Kaye: Why do you write erotic contemporary romance? Would you ever consider writing any other genre? If so, which one?

Jade: It took me forever to puzzle out exactly what genre I wrote.Back in 2013, the term “erotic romance” seemed to most capture what I wrote, but the “E” word is now becoming taboo.(I’m smiling as I write this.)Nowadays, the genre is being called “steamy contemporary romance,” although that may change yet again. But, anyway, I digress. Not only would I consider writing in other genres, I have. Within romance, I’ve written everything from romantic comedy to romantic suspense. Outside romance, I’ve written horror and nonfiction, but under another name, I’ve penned mystery, news writing, instructional pieces, academic literature, and even poetry.

Kaye: Does erotic romance come naturally to you? Why does it appeal to you to write in this genre?

Jade: I don’t know that writing romance comes naturally to me. Ten-plus years ago, I found that, no matter what I wrote, some aspect of romance became part of the story. So even though I have a tale to tell and even though the relationship is the key element in the story, making sure I have all the facets that make a romance satisfying to avid readers of the genre is not always easy, and it’s definitely not organic.

Why it appeals to me?  I haven’t a clue. I’m sure a psychologist would have a heyday with me.

Kaye: What is the most difficult part of writing erotic romance for you? What part is the most fun?

Jade: Sex scenes are, by far, the hardest. They easily become the most tedious part as a reader as well. From some of my conversations with other authors, I don’t believe I’m alone. You want to keep things fresh, so to speak, and non-repetitive while at the same time you want to keep readers emotionally engaged. It’s easy to mess that up in those sorts of scenes—so I put a lot of pressure on myself to write scenes that are emotional and engaging.

The most fun part is when a character surprises me.  I think I know where the story is going and then BAM!  She does something completely unexpected, but I know it’s working and there’s no way I’ll change it.

Kaye: Which of your stories is your favorite? Why?

Jade: Sorry if you’ve heard this from me before, but asking me to choose a favorite story is like asking me to choose a favorite child.That said, I do have some stories that I don’t like as well as others, but my lips are sealed. Some of the stories I like the least are reader favorites.

Kaye: Your sex scenes range in temperature from steamy, to sizzling, to blazing hot. What determines how hot the scenes get in each story?

Jade: Part of it depends on the story itself. In my bestselling book Bullet the sex scenes got hotter as the story moved on. That was one of the ways I let the reader know the main character was maturing. It mostly depends on what I think readers will expect. Am I billing the book as super steamy (like Finger Bang), or am I emphasizing the story itself (like Savage)? But, honestly, I always thought they were all pretty close in steaminess. I guess I’m too close to the forest!

Kaye: Do you prefer to write during the day, or are your stories so hot they can only be written at night?

Jade: I actually do almost all of my writing in the early morning, from about 5:30-6:30 am. It’s the only quiet time I have and I find I’m far more creative when my brain is fresh.

Kaye: You’ve written over fifty books. What is the writing achievement are you most proud of?

Jade: I don’t know that I’ve “achieved” anything as an author, other than sharing my stories with the world.I guess, though, that I’m currently proud of my growth as an author. I’ve really taken a step back in an effort to realize that being prolific isn’t nearly as important as transporting a reader to a different world—so I’m proud of not letting my pride stop me from learning!

Kaye: What is one thing your readers would never guess about you?

Jade: I enjoy playing Pokemon Go.I used to play Pokemon games with my kids when they were little, and now they have me playing this silly game on my phone!!!

Kaye: In 2019, you released books 3 and 4 from your Matchmaker collection. They are described as Reverse Harem Romances on their covers. I can see lots of potential for steamy action there. Would you like to talk a little about this story collection?

Matchmaker series

Jade: I’d taken a couple of marketing courses the year before, compelling me to “write to market”. So, I looked through Amazon’s top 100 contemporary romance books and found that Reverse Harem Romances were dominating at the time. At first, I thought that meant a literal harem, but with a woman surrounded by men. I discovered through my research that that’s not quite what Reverse Harem is all about. I like a challenge, so I decided to go for it. One of the courses I took is by one of the bestselling indie romance authors in the history of Amazon, and she advised writing a series with cliffhanger endings at the end of each book. That was another challenge. So, that’s the nuts and bolts of the series.

The story itself is about Claire, an actress struggling to make it in Hollywood. She tries out for a reality TV show called Matchmaker, hoping that if the right people see her, they might give her a chance as an actress. If nothing else, she’s bound to meet the love of her life. Her suitors are five gorgeous men who’ve been “guaranteed” to be a perfect match, but the audience gets to determine who stays and who goes. And, yes, there’s quite a bit of steam between the covers.

Kaye: I reviewed Heat: Book 1, which was really a short prelude to a larger story that will change the way you think about getting a message forever. But there is more to the story. Would you talk about Heat: The Complete Series?

Complete Heat

Jade: Heat was another challenge I couldn’t say no to.  Several years ago, I was approached by a publishing company in Australia about republishing one of my older series, and I did that with them.  While it never neared the level of success they’d promised, a year later they approached me about something new they were doing, inspired by stories James Patterson had been writing.  The basic premise for the romance stories was that you write a short but intense “intro,” followed by three more books, all following a particular formula—but very hot with cliffhangers at the end of each short book.  I really liked the idea, so I pitched what became Heat.  Unfortunately, it didn’t perform as well as I had hoped, so I took back my rights to it after a year and republished it.  

So what you read in the free first part, Heat: Book One, is the beginnings of a steamy romance between Sergio and Rachel.  Rachel is actually a character from Finger Bang, and I’d been inspired to write a story about her for a long time.  When I was approached by this publishing company, I thought her story might be perfect for the format they’d talked about.  Because it’s shorter and steamier, there’s not as much depth to the characters, but that wasn’t the idea behind the series.  It’s meant to be intense, somewhat shocking, and super steamy.  Fun.  No ugly crying, no heart-wrenching moments.  Just pure, unadulterated fun.  What you read in Heat: Book One is a prelude to the rest of the story.  If you enjoyed the first part, you’ll love the complete story. 

Kaye: What is next for Jade C. Jamison? What can your readers look forward to?

Jade: The biggest problem for me is I have so many things I want and need to write, and so little time.  I literally have over fifty book ideas outlined, but I’m currently working on a project. It’s a series called Small Town Secrets. I’ve taken about thirteen of my books off the shelves, and I’m re-purposing them. In an effort to be an even better writer, I’m rewriting eight of those books, but they are now all interconnected in this series. My review team has read the first one (Love and Lies) and loved it. I’m hoping to release six of those books in 2020.

I also have one book left in the Nicki Sosebee series. Book 12, Wake Up, ended on a cliffhanger, and so I can’t keep my readers waiting for too long. That book is fully plotted and I promise it will be satisfying! I just need to write it. But, I also have several other series I need to finish (Feverish, Codie Snow, Tangled Web), so we’ll see what I can tackle. I would love to write a lot more this year (like I said, fifty ideas and counting!) but I have a lot on my personal plate, so it all depends on how much I can get done in the time I have. I’d cross my fingers, but I can’t type while I do that!

Kaye: (See my review of Tangled Web)


I want to thank Jade for joining me here and sharing today. It has been a real pleasure. I learned a few things about writing erotic romance and hopefully my readers did, too. This interview is the perfect way to finish up February’s erotic romance. And thank all of my readers for reading and commenting on Writing to be Read. I hope you will all saddle up and join me again next month, when we plan to wrangle up the western genre. See you here.


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Interview with children’s author & illustrator Judy Mastrangelo

Judy Masrangelo Framed

My guest today is an author and talented illustrator of children’s fantasy books. She seems a bit shy, but I was able to coax a few answers out of her, regarding writing for children and creating beautiful illustrations. Because, after all, at least half of writing for children is creating visual images, so an author who can do their own illustrations comes into the game a step ahead. Please help me welcome author and illustrator Judy Mastrangelo.

Kaye: When did you know you wanted to be an author?

Judy: I’ve always enjoyed writing, ever since I was very young.

Kaye: Would you share the story of your own publishing journey?

Judy: As a child I would write little stories from my imagination, or about my everyday experiences.

Coming from a fine art background, I’ve always loved the wonderful artists of the “Golden Age of Illustration”, who illustrated books from about 1850 to 1925.  I like to think that I continue along this line in my own small way.  I enjoy writing stories that I illustrate, and also love illustrating classical stories in the public domain.

Many of my paintings have been licensed for various markets, such as art prints, wall murals, greeting cards, jigsaw puzzles, oracle cards etc.  I have written and illustrated several published books.  And I have both illustrated and written the text to a new inspirational Oracle Card Deck which will be on the market next year, published by “RED FEATHER MIND BODY SPIRIT”, a division of Schiffer Publishing.

You can see and hear podcasts about my artwork on Youtube.

These include some radio interviews, plus several teaching podcasts about the steps I take in the creation of my Art.  To learn more about my Art and products, you can visit: www.judymastrangelo.com

Kaye: What’s something most readers would never guess about you?

Judy: I am a “movie buff” and enjoy many genres of film.

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge of writing for children?

Judy: I try not to “talk down to children”.  Just having fun at writing is what I enjoy doing, and making my stories come from my heart, expressing how I feel. My books are really intended to be appreciated by all ages ~ the young and the young at heart.  I attempt to appeal to the “Child in all of us”, and to rekindle the wonderful feelings we have all experienced in our youth, of the awe and beauty of the world around us.  As we grow older, life seems to become more mundane, with all the everyday things we have to do in order to survive.  The realm of art certainly plays an extremely important part in everyone’s lives, so that we may feel uplifted and inspired to higher worlds.

Kaye: What is the one thing you hope to teach children?

Judy: I like to impart the wonder and beauty of the world around us; sensitivity to nature and to all living beings, including animals, plants, and trees, as well as humankind are excellent lessons to understand.  I feel that developing creativity as an art form, and one’s imagination, are very important aspects of life. Many people seem to place imaginative painting and literature more in a children’s category, although I’m sure you’ll agree that the genre of fantasy art is appreciated by all ages.

CINDERELLAMany adults also enjoy themes, such as fairy tales, and other types of fantasy. I’m sure no one will dispute the fact that great authors such as William Shakespeare, Hans Christian Andersen, Robert Louis Stevenson, James Barry, etc. wrote memorable outstanding fantasy stories. And that’s why I feel that my writing and paintings can also appeal to any age person.

One just has to “let go” of their preconceived notions that fantasy, fairies, fairy tales, etc. are just for the young. It will keep us all “Young at Heart” if we believe in the magical power of art to unleash our imaginations.

Kaye: Your books are illustrated in bright, vibrant colors. What medium do you work with?

Judy: Acrylic paint on canvas is my medium of choice.

 

Kaye: What is the most challenging thing about illustrating your own books?

Judy: The art of illustration is very dear to my heart, something I have been developing my entire life. It is a labor of love for me, and I paint because I enjoy doing it so much. I usually paint slowly, because I am somewhat of a perfectionist, and as a result my paintings aren’t created very quickly. This can sometimes present a problem. But I do enjoy illustrating my own books that I also design. Many of my books I have written myself, and others have stories or poems that are in the public domain which I illustrate. It’s all great fun to illustrate, and I relish every moment I spend doing my paintings!

Kaye: What is the most important quality in a children’s story for you?

Judy: Delight, imagination, and fun.

Kaye: What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given?

Judy: Be true to my heart, be myself, and enjoy the process of creating.

Kaye: Flower Fairies is focused on the characters. What comes first in your mind, the character, or the story?

Judy: I’m a very visual person, and often I first get images in my mind of a painting that I would like to create. Often this “germ” of an idea or image leads to a story, or a series of paintings. So I would say that the story as a whole comes first.

Kaye: As a children’s writer, what kind of research do you find yourself doing for your stories?

Judy: I often research period costumes for my characters to wear, and I also consider other art forms which portray the ideas I wish to develop in my stories. I love all forms of great art, and often music, drama, dance and other literature is a great inspiration to me, as well as great painting of course. So I immerse myself in art that I love, as part of my research for a specific project. It brings me great joy to do this.

Kaye: Tell me a little about your Portal to the Land of Fae series?

Judy: The world of nature spirits has always been fascinating to me. I love the realm of fantasy. And the tiny folk, such as fairies and elves are of particular interest. For many years I’ve done paintings of these lovable spirits, and have enjoyed writing about each painting I create.  I love writing poems to go with my artwork, and have enjoyed describing my feelings about the fairy world. The idea of making a series of books incorporating these works was an intriguing one for me, and four categories developed from them:

Flower FairiesFLOWER FAIRIES: This book tells about the precious Elves and Fairies who live amongst the Flowers, such as: the graceful ROSE FAIRY, and the comical little SWEET PEA ELVES.  I often depict Flower Fairies to appear as graceful ballet dancers. In this genre of art, I have been inspired by the Flower Fairy paintings of British artists Cicely Mary Barker and Margaret Tarrant.

 

 

SECRETS OF THE FAIRIES COVERIn my SECRETS OF THE FAIRIES, I portray the secret life of elves and fairies that I imagine to exist in amazing places.  There are many delightful things that i depict these creatures doing.  They often enjoy frolicking and playing in a garden.  These secrets tell of the hidden world of elves and fairies, little known to mortals. I’ve also written and illustrated depictions of the four seasons with the fairies, and their beautiful romantic lives.

 

FAIRY TALE FAIRIES, various forms of fantasy have always been the closest to my heart.  They include fairy tales and myths.

The world of fairies has often inspired the arts of other great literature.  Some excerpts from classical literature for this FAIRY TALE FAIRIES book are included in this volume. You will see some of my illustrations from Hans Christian Anderson’s Thumbelina, Cinderella by Charles Perrault, Peter Pan by James Barrie, and many others. Sometimes authors and painters depict elves and fairies in a darker way, but I prefer to focus on depicting the lighter, more cheerful and spiritual side of the fairy realm.

MYSTICAL FAIRIES COVERMYSTICAL FAIRIES:  In this volume, I want to share my feelings of Spirituality and Goodness, Love for Life and Nature, and the Healing power of Art. I feel that Elves and Fairies, are beautiful, Magical, and Spiritual Beings which can inspire and uplift one to higher realms.  I often depict them as radiant beings, which glow with an inner light, with radiating and sparkling auras, glow like spiritual Angels.

 

Kaye: Your Come Play with Me series includes bonus features. Would you like to tell us about the series and bonus features?

Judy: My Come Play With Me book series is designed to give readers high quality illustrated storybooks in full color.  They also include some delightful interactive bonus pages.  These books include fun filled things, such as How to Draw pages, coloring pages and recipes, etc.

THE STAR COVERMy first book in this series, THE STAR, illustrates the entire famous TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE STAR poem, written by Jane Taylor.  I’ve interpreted this beloved poem, as a fanciful, Dream-like adventure.   I’ve included a delicious bedtime snack recipe, some “how to draw” pages, a creative writing section, coloring pages, and some decorative gifts to cut out, etc.  An Audiobook of my book THE STAR is also available, where people can listen to this song being beautifully sung.  If the kindle ebook, or paperback versions of my book THE STAR are purchased also, along with the audio book, people can sing along with the audiobook as they read it interactively.

Two other books in this series have a Bunny theme: The first one, entitled WHAT DO BUNNIES DO ALL DAY? is my original story of a little Bunny’s first adventure.  Some interactive pages include Mama Bunny’s recipe, coloring pages, creative writing and drama ideas, and decorations to cut out from the book.  An audiobook of this story will be available soon, to be listened to interactively along with reading this book in kindle or paperback.

 

The second Bunny book in this series, LEARN TO DRAW BUNNY AND HIS FRIENDS, is a companion book to my book WHAT DO BUNNIES DO ALL DAY?  In it I show easy to do, attractive, and fun ways to learn to draw little Bunny’s animal and flower friends that he meets in the book about his first adventure.

 

Some of the animals I show how to draw are rabbits, frogs, butterflies and turtles. Then daffodils, daisies, and buttercups are several of the flowers I describe drawing, all in three easy steps.  It’s a delightful interactive book, which also includes special pages for people to draw their own pictures, with small border decorations for inspiration.

Kaye: Which character is your favorite? Why?

Judy: One of my favorite characters is Little Bunny in my book WHAT DO BUNNIES DO ALL DAY? He is a sweet innocent little rabbit who is delighted and excited at the opportunity of investigating the big world all by himself for the first time.  I’ve modeled this little animal on our own dear little Netherlands Dwarf pet rabbit, who is very loved by my husband and me.  He gives us both a lot of Love in return.  Knowing this adorable Little Bunny intimately was a great inspiration to writing and illustrating my story.

Kaye: Where does your inspiration come from?

Judy: My inspiration comes from many things: my love for nature, for instance.  When I am in a flower garden, I imagine delightful Flower Elves and Fairies living there.  I visualize them wearing costumes made of leaves and flowers, acorn caps, etc.  I collect things such as leaves, pine cones, berries, ribbons, and scarves, to give me ideas for their fanciful clothing.

I take photos of beautiful places that I visit, to give me ideas of backgrounds for my paintings. Great art of the past and present is always an inspiration to me, such as: wonderful films, great literature, beautiful music, ballet dancing, and beautiful paintings. They always kindle my enthusiasm.

Kaye: Is there anything unique or unusual about your creative process?

Judy: I have developed a method I call “Mind Painting”.  This is my own personal way of capturing ideas and images for my paintings and writing, which develop in my mind.  This is a procedure used by many creative authors, composers, painters, poets, choreographers, etc. throughout the ages. I just close my eyes and “visions” appear in my head.  I do this during the day, or at night before going to sleep. These images often develop into stories which evolve into my books. It’s a delightful process.

Kaye: What is your greatest achievement to date in the literary world?

Judy: Reading and hearing the wonderful and appreciative compliments from people who have read my books, and who have seen my illustrative paintings, has always been very encouraging to me.  I receive these compliments from all kinds of people, worldwide, and of all ages.  I feel that these wonderful responses have been the greatest achievements in my literary and artistic world.

I want to thank Judy Mastrangelo for sharing with us here today, both her wisdom and her fabulous illustrations and book covers. You can learn more about Judy and her children’s books on her website or on her Goodreads Author or Amazon Author pages.


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A Farewell Tribute to Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture

Last week, we lost a dear friend of mine and a member of the Writing to be Read author family, Tom Johnson. Tom was a multi-genre writer for most of his life, mostly pulp fiction in the traditions of the classics, but in recent years, he dedicated himself to children’s fiction, with the intentions of creating stories for today’s children which reflect old fashioned values and morals in the traditions of the stories his mother read to him as a child. Tom took part in Round 2 of my “Ask the Authors” blog series, (which will become a published book by WordCrafter Press soon), and I interviewed Tom about his children’s stories back in 2018. He had some great things to say about writing for children that may be relevant here, since the Writing to be Read theme for November is young adult and children’s fiction. With that in mind, I’m reprinting that interview in part here, (you can read the full interview here), as we remember our friend and fellow author. Tom may be gone, but his wisdom lives on. This is what writing for children meant to him.


Kaye: Although in the past, you’ve written and published many different genres, you are currently writing only children’s stories. So, let’s talk about that. Tell me a little about your stories.

Tom: My children stories are about 1k and meant as bedtime tales, and to be read in classroom or library settings. They are short stories with little morals to teach children something about life.

Kaye: Are they a series or stand alone?

Tom: They are a series, and published in anthologies about once a year. There have been four anthologies so far. I was invited to participate beginning in volume #3. The anthology is called Wire Dog Storybook. Here is the background. True story. A young girl, Ellen Walters, asked her father, David Walters, if she could have a dog, and he said, “No.” So she found an old wire hanger and shaped it to resemble a dog, and called it wire dog. David Walters was fascinated by her ingenuity and created the Wire Dog storybooks. So the stories usually feature Ellen and Wire Dog, but always Wire Dog. Five of my stories have been published so far, and I’ve written three more for the 2018 yearbook when it comes out at the end of the year.

Kaye: What age group are they aimed at?

Tom: I feel that we should begin reading to our children by age one. With that in mind, my stories are aimed at the age group of 1 to 5. However, older children will enjoy the stories, as do adults.

Kaye: What differences do you see between writing for children and writing adult fiction?

Tom: Adult fiction usually means, “no holds barred”, while writing children stories you want to stay away from violence, horror, and adult themes. Keep in mind, young children absorb what they hear quickly, and some themes could have an adverse effect on young minds. When writing for children we must keep this in mind.

Kaye: What appeals to you about writing for children?

Tom: Do you remember the old radio show for kids, Let’s Pretend ? It produced shows for children that acted out fairy tales and light adventures – nothing as harsh as today’s cartoons that are aimed at our youth. Well, I have the chance to import my love for adventure in tales easily understood by young people; children who some day may also experience that same love to pass on to their children. Stories that give our children a moral to live by, not “It’s clobbering time!” Or Pow! Bang! Boom! It’s something my mother did for me when I was little, and now I have the same opportunity, and I’m not going to pass it up.

Kaye: You have wanted to write for children since you were little and your mother used to read to you.

Tom: Oh, yes. I hope that mothers are still reading to their children. They learn at such a young age, and we’re missing an opportunity if we fail them when they’re young. They will never forget what they learn as children, it’s when their minds are growing and grasping at everything. I think one of the first words they learn is, “Why?”

Kaye: What were your favorite children’s stories?

Tom: Really, I would have to look them up in the book of fairy tales on my shelf. There were so many she read to me. Knights saving young damsels come to mind. I remember one particular fairy tale where the princess was on a glass mountain, and the young knight had to save her. She watched each day as a knight riding brown horse attempts to scale the glass mountain, then a knight on a white horse, and so on, until the final day when a knight riding a great steed scales the mountain, and we find out that he was the knight on the brown horse, the white horse, etc. It wasn’t the color of the horse, but the persistence of the knight that finally achieved the goal.

Kaye: In what ways do the stories you write emulate those favorites from your childhood?

Tom: Like the fairy tale I mentioned above, my stories will also have a similar moral – it’s not the color of the horse, or the knight’s armor, but his persistence that wins the hand of the princess. Do the right thing, for the right reason. Persevere. If you don’t succeed today, try and try again.


The stories that we hear and read in childhood often stick with us into our later years. Even though Tom wrote other fiction through the years, as he grew older, it was the stories that his mother read to him as a child that inspired him. That’s what writing children’s fiction is all about.

Tom Johnson Books

Tom’s other works included pulp, crime and science fiction stories right up there with the best, and many may be familiar with his promotions for them on Facebook. His covers seem to reach out and grab your attention.  He published over eighty books during the span of his career. In that previous interview, Tom claimed that Alien Skies was born from his most unusual inspiration and the Guns of the Black Ghost was written as a homage to Walter Gibson’s The Shadow radio drama. You can read my review of Pangaea: Eden’s Planet here.

Tom Johnson and wife Ginger

Writing was a big part of Tom’s life. It was important to him. But, Tom was more than just a talented and dedicated writer. He was also a loved life partner to his lovely wife Ginger. She was supportive of his writing, and I believe she edited some, or perhaps all of his work. With Ginger at his side, Tom lived a life doing what he loved – bringing his characters to life.

Tom, farewell. You will live on through the plethora of books and stories you’ve left us with, but you will still be greatly missed.


Are you a Tom Johnson fan? If so, feel free to leave a few words in the comments telling us what Tom meant to you, or share a memory, or just tell me which of his books is your favorite.  Thank you all for joining me in saying good-bye.