Meet poet and author D. Avery plus review

Treasuring Poetry

Today, I am delighted to welcome poet and author D. Avery. Ms Avery is the creator of the fun and well-known characters Kid and Pal who frequent Carrot Ranch Literary Community She also has her own blog where she shares her flash fiction, poetry and other literary endeavours. You can find her blog here: https://shiftnshake.wordpress.com/.

At first I was thrilled to be asked to participate in Treasuring Poetry with Writing to be Read and Robbie Cheadle. Then I read the questions! Too hard! Actually, I misread the questions and was flustered enough to consider who my favorite poet might be, let alone poem.

Robbie’s questions led me down many a rabbit hole, but perhaps not so many as I might have if I were under the same roof as my collection of poetry books. I’m not, so I let my mind travel and recall those shelves and what I have read lately. Often times my favorite poet or poem is simply the one in front of me, so recently I have enjoyed Conrad Aiken and Mary Oliver. But a favorite poet?  

Still mistakenly contemplating a poet as opposed to a poem, and still unable to name just one, I at least realize I tend to most admire traditional Japanese poetry as well as the work of Rumi and of Hafiz. I like a short poem that makes me say, “Ah!” or even “Awe…” then “Ha!”  If I could peruse my shelves I’d give my favorite examples, probably from a book called Japanese Death Poems; either that or I’d be lost in re-reading that treasure. As it is, this assignment got me re-reading Hafiz’s The Gift, translated by Daniel Ladinsky, and from that I came to see that many of Mary Oliver’s poems are in that Sufi vein, poems that, like Hafiz, are conversational yet intimate, not just with the reader, but with the subject, God. Now there’s a rabbit hole. But closer to home and in some ways more comfortable for their hominess are the poems of Robert Frost.  He too writes with the wit and wisdom, often with a quiet humor, that I admire in the Sufis. Here are two lines from the New England bard:

We dance round in a ring and suppose,

But the secret sits in the middle and knows.

Robert Frost poems are accessible yet have subtleties and layers that can provide that  ‘Ah ha’ that gives a poem staying power. As well as displaying an understanding of the spiritual aspects of his world Frost’s poems also reveal a keen observer’s eye for nature.  There are many examples, and I never tire of reading Frost, but a favorite poem? I will not choose a favorite. But here are forty-eight syllables in eight lines, Nothing Gold Can Stay:

Nature’s first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

Some will say this poem is about impermanence and the fleeting nature of time. Leaves certainly change their hues in Frost’s New England, and he shows that he has observed this deeply, daily, for the emerging and unfolding leaves of spring and early summer cannot simply be called green, they are in fact shades of yellow and gold, and those might be preceded by cream and yellow flowers. Ah, he’s so observant. And dawn begins golden; “dawn goes down” makes one think of sunset, but it is just day, a day less sparkly than the golden dawn that begat it perhaps. Yes, time flies, but there is much implication in this poem of falling. So Eden sank to grief/ So dawn goes down to day/ Nothing gold can stay. There is nothing extraneous in this short poem; Eden sinking to grief is intentional, making this poem about humanity’s separation from nature, our fall from our golden potential when we were green and new in the world. This poem, without explicitly using seasonal words, has spring and fall entwined, so while that does show the fleeting nature of time, it is also a reminder of the seasons of our lives, and the hues we hold, the hues we live and die by. Just now in Frost’s old stomping grounds the leaves are turning back from summer greens to fall golds, and those colorful autumn leaves will fall, (for nothing gold can stay), but I wonder if that last line offers a bit of hope, the potential of knowing bright hues once more before the onset of winter.

I hope that addresses well enough the first three questions. As far as writing like any well-known poet, I choose— me! But I am not a well-known poet…

I admire many poets and many styles. I think any poet whom we admire is worth examining and, to an extent, imitating. That is what many of the poetry writing prompts do, they encourage us to try out different forms and styles of poetry, to pay attention to syllables and rhyme schemes and such. I sometimes see a form or style that is new to me and try it as a challenge and to learn something new. It’s all good, as long as you are building your own poeming muscles and not trying to write someone else’s poem. We tend to follow the recipe the first time we make a new dish. But then we get flexible and make the dish our own. In poeming too, we are aware that ours isn’t the only way to express the ingredients we find to hand, and we should want to find our own voice. In many ways free verse is the most challenging and difficult poetic form for me. How do you know when it’s done, if it’s done right, if there are no “rules”? That having been said, I am not against bending or even breaking the rules, but they have to be there in the first place for that to work.

Since I was nine years old I have occasionally been blessed by the magical balm of someone saying, “I liked your poem”. It’s a huge thing. I am not a singer or dancer or a visual artist. But sometimes I make pictures with words, and sometimes those words have a rhythm and a cadence or a tone that works, that strikes a chord. It is good to feel like a poem has performed well. And I have come to truly appreciate all the other lesser-known (not yet household names) poets that put their work out on their blogs. From you all I have learned so much and have been shown the great potential and creativity of poeming, and the assurance that poetry is alive and well. 

D. Avery

My review of For the Girls by D Avery

This is the first book of poetry by D. Avery I have read and it was a wonderful experience. For the Girls really spoke to me as it is about the path of breast cancer many women walk. By reading these poems, I was able to follow this traumatic journey from diagnosis, through treatment and to remission for many, and death for a few.

The poems in For the Girls capture the concerns aroused by potential discover, the shock of a malignant diagnosis, the support offered by some of the staff at the treatment clinics and the comfort of firm friendships. The also disclose the pain of emotional upheaval being ignored and staff treating a patient with kind impatience.

Some of the verses/poems that struck me the most in this books are as follows:

“Unless.
Some of us have to get them off our chests.
And learn living without them.

Except.
Some, dear friends, couldn’t live.
With or without them.”
from The Girls

“There’s another intruder who lacks
Even the decency of mice or rats
that at least show themselves at night
To show they’ve been in the house all along,
only sometimes out of sight.

Why would you suspect your own house?
Relax, there’s nothing, or maybe only a mouse.
Why would you suspect there’s something there
Quiet as anxiety, maybe under the stairs
or up in the attic, just biding its time
A squatter in the house you blithely call “mine”?
from Intrusion

This collection of poems is freestyle and very bitter sweet. The insightfulness of the poet brought tears to my eyes and brought back memories of ladies I’ve known who’ve walked this same frightening path.

Purchase For the Girls by D Avery

About D Avery

D. Avery (196?-20??) has long been a compulsive poet. Despite a very important day job educating public school children, she is often distracted by this compulsion, as well as by life’s great questions, such as “Kayak, or bike?”. Though she has come to realize that nothing difficult is ever easy, she believes that it’s all good.

About Robbie Cheadle

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Hello, my name is Robbie, short for Roberta. I am an author with six published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with my son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with my mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of my children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.

I have recently branched into adult and young adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my adult writing, I plan to publish these books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. My first supernatural book published in that name, Through the Nethergate, is now available.

I have participated in a number of anthologies:

  • Two short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Dark Visions, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre;
  • Three short stories in Death Among Us, an anthology of murder mystery stories, edited by Stephen Bentley;
  • Three short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Nightmareland, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre; and
  • Two short stories in Whispers of the Past, an anthology of paranormal stories, edited by Kaye Lynne Booth.

I also have a book of poetry called Open a new door, with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.

Find Robbie Cheadle

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

Blog: robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com

Twitter: BakeandWrite

Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books


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“Chatting with the Pros”: Interview with award winning fantasy author L. Deni Colter

Chatting with the Pros

My “Chatting with the Pros” guest today is an award winning epic and dark fantasy author. She may not be as prolific as some writers, but everything she writes seems to shine in the fantasy realms. She is a two-time winner of the Colorado Book Award, and a Writers of the Future winner. That is three books and three awards. She must be doing something right. Please help me welcome fantasy author L. D. Colter.


L.D. Colter

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

Liz: I seem to have done a bit of everything along the way. My short stories have been traditionally published in magazines and anthologies. My first novel, A Borrowed Hell, was published by a small press that closed only a few months later, but fortunately the book was picked up again almost immediately by another small press. My epic fantasy novel, The Halfblood War, was acquired by a mid-sized publisher, and I chose to self-publish my latest novel, While Gods Sleep.

Kaye: Your books written under L.D. Colter are contemporary and dark fantasy, while your epic fantasy, The Halfblood War, is written under the name L. Deni Colter. What was the reasoning for the change of pen name?

Liz: I didn’t actually change my pen name, just added a second one. I started with L. D. Colter for my contemporary fantasy. When my epic fantasy novel was published, I decided to add the pseudonym L. Deni Colter to make it easier for readers to differentiate my writing by genre. While plenty of readers, like me, enjoy multiple sub-genres of speculative fiction, not everyone does, and I feel I write the two styles quite differently. I don’t separate my work in any other way, though. My website and author sites include my actual name, Liz, both of my pseudonyms, and all my books.

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

Liz: I didn’t consciously decide to write with a view to publishing until well into adulthood, but I’ve been a daydreamer all my life—I nearly flunked out of 5th grade due to it—so I was hard-wired from the start to create fiction. I started toying with the idea of writing during high school but stayed too busy through college and for a long time after as I pursued of different interests, more school, and many different careers. Finally, I found myself with a seasonal job, a rainy winter off, and my first computer. I started a novel that winter and wrote 10,000 words in the first week. I’ve never looked back.

Kaye: Your first book, A Borrowed Hell,won the 2018 Colorado Book Award for Science Fiction/Fantasy. Were you surprised? Can you tell me a little about that book?

Borrowed Hell.ColterLiz: Yes, I was very surprised and honored to win. When I wrote A Borrowed Hell, I set out to write a contemporary fantasy with literary themes about a man forced to face his difficult past in order to move forward in life. To receive an award for this book, and especially one from Colorado Humanities—an organization dedicated to the humanities and the ways in which the human experience is documented—was very rewarding.

The story follows my protagonist’s challenges, which take place in both the real world and an alternate world. I think this last bit of the back-cover copy sums up the plot pretty well. “July is willing to do anything to end his world-hopping, right up until he learns the price: reliving a past he’s tried his whole life to forget. He’s not sure his sanity can take it. Not even to get back to his own world, a woman he’s falling in love with, and a life he finally cares about.”

Kaye: While Gods Sleep won the 2019 Colorado Book Award for science fiction/fantasy. Where did you get the idea for this story?

While Gods Sleep.ColterLiz: As to the origin of this, I’ve loved mythology ever since discovering a fascination with ancient religions and cultural myths in high school. Greek mythology was my first passion, and it seemed the natural place to start when I decided to write a set of fantasy novels based on different mythologies. It was great fun to finally write a book rooted in the Greek myths I love, but better still was getting to play with them in completely unique and original ways that were entirely my own creation. It was a goal of mine from the start to avoid the more common tropes and to take this in unexpected directions, beginning with setting it in an alternative 1958 Athens ruled by conjoined queens. From there, I threw a mortal man into the eerie underworld of Erebus where he becomes entwined with sleeping gods, the factions that seek to control them, and an enemy powerful enough to destroy them all.

Kaye: Your latest release from Wordfire Press is The Halfblood War. What can you tell us about that book and the inspiration for it?

The Halfblood War.ColterLiz: These days I read widely across speculative fiction genres, but I grew up reading epic fantasy almost exclusively. Those books shaped my love of reading and were a huge part of my life. I enjoy the current directions epic fantasy is taking, but it was very fulfilling for me to get to write my own traditional epic fantasy and mold it into something unique and, hopefully, compelling. This novel took me longer to complete, by far, than my others. It was a true labor of love and I’m grateful to Wordfire Press for acquiring and publishing it. The premise revolves around Tirren, heir to the ruler of Thiery, who is raising his half-Elven bastard son in a land that hates and fears the Elves. It’s a stand-alone novel, written with an adult audience in mind, and weaves themes of prejudice and acceptance with love and betrayal, capricious and dangerous elves, and epic battles.

Kaye: What do you consider to be your biggest writing accomplishment to date?

Liz: I have to laugh, because my answer is always the same: my latest project, whatever that may be. Right now, that would be an unpublished novelette and my work-in-progress novel.

Kaye: In my review of the Undercurrents anthology, I refer to your story, “Songs to Sing and Stories to Tell”, saying that it explores saying good-bye. Can you tell me about this story from the author’s point of view? Did I get it right?

Liz: Yes, absolutely, I see that story as being about letting go, or as you put it, saying goodbye. Not my protagonist letting go of her past or her memories or her love, but trusting her instincts to let go of fear of change and false security and to embrace the unknown. That said, though, once a writer publishes their work, it belongs more to the reader than the author so different readers might see different themes.

Kaye: Which type of writing do you prefer, short fiction or novels? Why?

Liz: I enjoy both. There’s a lot of reward in completing and polishing short stories more quickly (faster for me, anyway) and getting them out in the world. If writing is going to be a career, though, conventional wisdom says it’s going to be based on producing novels. I’m not a fast writer—if I manage one book a year I’m doing well—so it’s a huge commitment for me to start a new book, but there’s also the fulfilment of really delving into story and character and the pleasure of wrapping up multiple storylines in a satisfying way.

Kaye: What is the strangest inspiration for a story you’ve ever had?

Liz: That might be my short story that won the Writers of the Future contest, “The Clouds in Her Eyes.” I had no notion what I was going to write when I began and went to my odds and ends file, where I toss all my passing and partial story ideas. I was trying to choose between three different prompts: a title idea (The Clouds in Her Eyes), an image of an old windmill on a dry and barren farm, and an image of a ship’s wooden figurehead. When I challenged myself to combine all three, the story was born.

Kaye: Are you a plotter or a pantser? Why?

Liz: I have to side with the pantsers on this. That said, though, I don’t really see pantsing and plotting as black and white options, but as a continuum. People who outline in the thousands of words still have to let go of the outline at some point and wing it. Likewise, most pantsers have some level of plotting going on, even if it’s at a scene-by-scene level as they get there. For me, I usually start with atmosphere (dark, humorous, gothic, whatever), an idea of the main character, sometimes a theme, and then an opening scene. While all that’s coalescing in my head, I usually get a sense of the ending, which gives me a rudimentary arc. At that point I start writing and figure the rest out as I go.

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

Liz: Wow, that’s a tough one. Tomorrow I might have a different answer, but today I’m going to say detail. Not excessive detail, but those sharp, specific details that bring stories to life. The level of detail in a story enhances so many other elements: character, setting, emotion, pretty much everything except plot. And a good plot, poorly told doesn’t make for a good story. Evocative writing is what engages me as a reader.

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

Liz: A local author was kind enough to read an early draft of the first novel I wrote (the epic fantasy). She gave encouragement but advised me to seek out workshop opportunities to get detailed feedback for the many things I now realize were very novice mistakes. It was hands down due to her advice that I started on the right road to becoming a professional author. I followed her advice and joined a 10-week online workshop led by a well-published author. I’ve been a part of critique groups in one form or another almost constantly since that time, as well as attending conferences and workshops when possible, especially during my early years of writing.

Kaye: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Liz: Don’t write in a vacuum. Along the same lines as the advice I was given when starting out, I feel it’s hard to be objective about what you’re writing without some external input and feedback. Find fellow writers who are genuinely invested in helping to improve your work and, hopefully, at least some who are further along the career path than yourself. We know how we intend our work to read, but without a sounding board, it can be difficult to know if we’re succeeding.

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

Liz: As a reader, I’m a huge stickler for logistics so it’s very important to me in my writing that I get details right in my own books. Not just big things, like avoiding plot holes, but small details, too. You never know what expertise your readers might have and, as a reader, I hate having my suspension of disbelief suddenly ruined in the middle of a story by a detail that’s blatantly wrong. So, yes, I get lost down research rabbit holes all the time. I research online mostly, but I’ve been known to read multiple textbooks for a novel as well as reaching out in person to experts or sensitivity readers.

Kaye: What can your readers look forward to in the near future? What are you working on now?

Liz: My current work in progress from L. D. Colter is the next in my mythology-based novels, this one centered around Slavic paganism. It’s a contemporary fantasy (working title: When the Winds Sing) set in far Northern California, near where I lived for 12 years. There are many wonderful settings and inspirations in that area, and I’m looking forward to playing with them all. The book is about 1/3 written and I hope to have the first draft completed before too long.

I hope, in time, to get back to an epic fantasy set I started and set aside some time ago. I had other projects needing attention, but it’s well started and has a concept and characters I still love.


Liz has followed her heart through a wide variety of careers including draft-horse farmer, field paramedic, Outward Bound instructor, athletic trainer, and roller-skating waitress, among other curious choices. She is a two-time Colorado Book Award winner in Science Fiction/Fantasy, a Writers of the Future winner, and her short stories have been published in a wide variety of magazines and anthologies. She writes contemporary and dark fantasy as L. D. Colter and epic fantasy as L. Deni Colter.


I want to thank Liz Colter for joining me here today and sharing so much about writing in the fantasy genre. You can learn more about Liz and her books on her website or her Amazon Author page. Join me next month, as we celebrate Superheroes and Supervillains, and my “Chatting with the Pros” author guest will be fantasy and science fiction author Kevin J. Anderson.


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 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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Chatting with the Pros: Interview with contemporary romance author Amy Cecil

Chatting with the Pros

My author guest this month on “Chatting with the Pros” is a talented romance author of both historical and contemporary romance novels. Her Knights of Silence MC series tells the story of the sometimes violent and brutal world of motorcycle club life with characters who feel very human and vulnerable at times. The series is a tale of love and loyalty, and yes, there’s some tastefully written, but quite erotic sex scenes. (You can see my review of Sainte, the last book in the MC series.)  I also had the pleasure of  reviewing Ripper, which was one of the most cleverly crafted romances I’ve ever read. To turn a Jack the Ripper tale into an erotic romance takes some talent. Erotic romance author Amy Cecil did with a well crafted hand. I’m so pleased to be able to chat with her today. Please join me in welcoming her.


Amy Cecil - Erotic Romance Author

Kaye: Why do you write in the romance genre?  Why not science fiction, or fantasy or mystery?

Amy: I initially chose romance because that is what I have always read. I do not read science fiction and doubt that I could even write in that genre. As I wrote more books, I have intertwined other genres into them such as fantasy, romantic suspense and ever mystery. So even though I started with romance, I’ve always been open to other genres that interest me.

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

Amy: I would have to say the most difficult thing with romance for me is finding a relationship scenario that isn’t over saturated in the market. For all of us romance readers, we are always looking for something fresh. We want that happily ever after, but finding the angst to get to that point can be difficult.

And, the most fun part of romance for me is the banter between the couples. I love to bring snarky attitudes together and have a battle of the wits, so to speak.

Kaye: Your Knights of Silence MC series chronicles a motorcycle club over the course of several years.  As you read the series you get better acquainted with each of the members, which have well developed backstories that make the whole of the story seem very real and believable.  What drew you to these stories with these characters?

Amy: That’s a great question. And actually pretty funny how the series got to where it is now.  When I started, my focus was on Ice and Emma, childhood sweethearts that great apart who found each other again. It was gonna be one book.  When I got to about half way through the book, my PA at the time suggested that I release it, even though it has this huge cliffy. So I did, which then created book 2. That was supposed to be the end. But as I was writing these characters and their story lines grew, I realized I had more to say.  Never in a million years at the beginning did I think that Honey would be such a pivotal character in the series to warrant he own book. So the draw was Ice and Emma and the continuing development came with each book released from my mind.

Kaye: You recently released the last book in the Knights of Silence MC series, Sainte.  Can you talk a little about Sainte’s part of the Story?  Why was he chosen for the central focus character in the final book?

Amy: When the series started to lean toward Honey, I realized that male character that I had intended for her was completely wrong for her. She needed a saint, literally to save her from herself. And while Hawk was the most beloved character in the series, he did not have the mental strength to get Honey through.  And I just couldn’t let him sit around and watch her with another man. So, Hawk had to die and make room for Sainte. Sainte is a former mafia hit man who knew Ice when he was a kid. He is Emma’s cousin, which she didn’t know about. So he had a reason to stay with the MC from the beginning.  When he met Honey, he realizes quickly, she is the woman for him and he decides to stay and leave the mafia world. (Not that it is all that different. LOL). Sainte brings the story full circle, bringing the club the peace it has been wanting for a long time.

Kaye: As I mention in my review of Sainte, your characters are well developed with rich, believable backstories.  Where do you draw your characters?  How do you create with their stories?

Amy: As noted in questions 3 and 4 above, their stories come to me as I write them. I keep referring back to Honey, but she is a perfect example. When the series started, she was nothing, but the jealous ex-girlfriend. By the time we get to the third book, her story line develops and the reader sees she is the most complex character in the whole series.  She’s a recovering coke addict, struggling with her addiction every day. She wants love so bad she can taste it, but is terrified to grab the bull by the horns and take it when it’s offered to her. As the story grows, my characters grow and develop stories of their own.

Kaye: Although the series focuses on the male members, their “old ladies” play important roles as well, offering an abundance of strong, if flawed, female characters.  Why do the ladies play such an important role within the framework of your stories?

Amy: Well, you know the old saying, “there is a strong woman behind every man.” I wanted my female characters to be as strong as their male counterparts. Because these women are connected to the MC, they are surrounded by violence. They have to be strong to survive. Emma comes to the MC in ICE a very naïve young woman. By the end, she gives new meaning to the term “old lady” and could definitely have a patch of her own.

Kaye: Who is your favorite MC Character and why?

Amy: At first, I would have to say Caden/ICE all the way. And don’t get me wrong, I love him because he is the heart of the MC. He’s strong and protective and the kind of guy that when he holds you in his arms you feel safe. But then, Sainte came along. Sainte is everything that Ice is, but Sainte has that snarky personality that I love. He’s not afraid to tell it like it is and if he’s hated for it, he will just smile and walk away. Yes, definitely Sainte.

Kaye: The MC world is often dangerous and violent.  As a result, throughout the series several characters have had to die.  Is it difficult for you to kill off your darlings? Who was the hardest for you?

Amy: Several minor or past characters have died and frankly, I didn’t even bat an eye. When the realization hit me that I had to kill Hawk, that one was difficult. He was a major player in the story line and very much loved character by my readers. And believe me, I thought of several ways to keep him, but I just couldn’t get it to work with how I wanted the story to go. So he died. It was hard, but it would have been so much harder to kill Ice or Sainte, or even one of the girls.

Kaye: You also write historical romance.  Are those stories a bit tamer than you contemporary romances?

Amy: Yes, definitely.  My historical romances are Jane Austen FanFic and I think the hard core Jane Austen fans would have heart attacks if I made them as steamy as my contemporary romances.

Kaye: Your erotic scenes are done tastefully and in context for the story, yet you turn up the heat just enough to make them sizzle. How do you know how far to take your sex scenes?  How hot is too hot?

Amy: That’s an easy question. I think about what I like to read and go from there. I have read several books where every other page is a sex scene and that is just ridiculous. Many authors think sex is what sells your book, but I disagree. Readers want a story that they can sink their teeth into. They want to relate to their characters and that is really hard to do if they are screwing like bunnies the entire time.

I also believe that you want to leave the reader wanting for more in a particular scene. We all have an imagination and I believe that sometimes it is best to let the readers mind take over and make the sex in the book what they want.

Kaye: You are finished with the Knights of Silence.  What is next for Amy Cecil?  Is there a new series in the works?

Amy: Currently, I am working on a sequel to On Stranger Prides, which is a Pride and Prejudice variation titled On Familiar Prides. After that, I have a short story I wrote last year in an anthology about a WWI spy that I would like to develop into a full-length novel. As far as the Knights series goes, I definitely plan to expand on it. I currently have one spin-off series published, the Enemy Duet, but I also see others as well as a next generation series. I know for a fact, I can not stay away from my biker boys for very long, so definitely expect more in the future. I’m also working on making all my books available on audio, so that has kept me pretty busy as well.

Kaye: You are an award winning romance author.  What do you feel is your biggest writing accomplishment to date?

Amy: Wow, you really save the toughest for last. I always thought that my writing was measured by the number of reviews, or the awards won, or even that pretty “bestseller” orange banner you get from Amazon. And yes, I have lots of reviews, awards and have had a couple orange banners and I am thankful for every one of them. But when I really think about accomplishments in my writing, none of these apply. Sure, they are great and all, but what I am most proud of is my readers. And it’s not just because they read my books, but because of the people and the friendships I have developed with them. I have met some amazing people through this journey and I can say, it’s not the awards, or the reviews or the “bestseller” banners that keep me writing, it’s the readers.


I want to thank Amy for taking the time to share today on Writing to be Read.  Romance comes in many different shapes and sizes. In her Knights of Silence MC series, it comes in the form of big, tough bikers and their girls. Her characters are well developed and feel very realistic and relate-able so readers come to care about them, and her sex scenes have just the right amount of heat to make them erotic, but not feel over the top. It has been a pleasure chatting with her here and getting a glimpse into the workings of contemporary erotic romance series. Join us next month, when the theme will be the western genre and my “Chatting with the Pros” author guest will be Cherokee Parks.


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Interview with erotic romance author Nicky F. Grant

Nicky F. Grant

My author guest today is a woman who knows who she is and what she wants out of life, and she goes after it with gusto. She writes sizzling hot erotic romance about love, sex, power and control. In 2019, she received a Stiletto Award in the erotic/BDSM category, from the Contemporary Romance Writers of America for her first novel, Beyond the Masks. She loves life and she loves what she does. It is my pleasure to have her with us today. Please join me in giving a warm welcome to Nicky F. Grant.

Kaye: Can you tell us briefly about your own author’s journey?

Nicky: It happened by accident, actually. I was (and still am) a huge reader of romance. I’d devour an erotic romance book every two days and it got to a point where they became the same. Different character names, but the similar formula. My husband and I were kicking back with a few drinks and came up with a plot idea for Beyond the Masks. One where it focused on a strong CEO heroine and her professional and personal challenges with two alpha men. An angsty, love triangle. It was supposed to be something to tinker with, but I soon found myself swept up in the story. Now, I can’t get enough.

Kaye: Why do you write in the romance genre? What draws you to the power world of your Beyond Surrender Romance series?

Nicky: Erotic romance seems to have a bad rap in the “real world”, unfortunately. And some books with BDSM can come off a little over the top, in my opinion. Fun to read, but unrealistic.

My passion for this genre comes from a deep understanding of the emotional connections to love, sex, and BDSM. My goal is show each reader that there’s a profound connection between these things well beyond floggers and obedience that’s usually present in these books. BDSM exists in my world of Beyond Surrender, but as a “third character” between the heroes and heroines. It’s catalyst to spark their inner desires and understand why it’s okay to feel what they do.

Also, I want my readers to relate to my powerful female characters. I try to lift up women in all capacities and having fun in the bedroom while owning one’s sexual prowess is one of them.

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge to writing romance for you? What is your favorite part?

Nicky: A huge challenge is starting a new book. It takes me time to let go of past characters after I’ve written their Happily Ever After. Also, my confidence wavers with the thought of a new story. What if I don’t do it justice? What if readers don’t understand my twisted brain? It’s nerve-wracking!

On the flip side, my favorite part comes about halfway through writing a new book. It’s the moment where I truly understand the characters, their bond, emotional limits, chemistry, pasts, and futures. This does cause a whole re-write of the first half of the book, but it’s my process and I’m learning to embrace that!

Kaye: Your romance novels are about power “in the boardroom and the bedroom” and they contain erotic sex scenes. How do you know how high to turn up the heat?

Nicky: I’m chuckling at this question, because I’m a touch embarrassed. Man, I love a good “peel the paint of the wall” sexy scene! My scenes are explicit, which I still can’t believe my mother has read. Anyway, I let the characters tell me how high the heat should be. Usually, it’s scorching, but sometimes I may “fade to black”.

As the author, I’m very aware that each love scene must serve a purpose. It must bring the Hero and Heroine closer together or cause a ripple in the love story. Trust me, I’ve had to cut out scenes that lacked in moving the plot forward. It hurts to cut those darlings… but my duty as an erotic romance author, is to help the story along. I hate to admit it, but I get exhausted with my characters falling all over each other. 😉

Kaye: How do you develop a female character who is strong and confident, but still make her feel human?

Nicky: Great question. I take from my own experiences and that of other strong women in my life. I feel fortunate to be a woman with strong views in business, life, and sex. But the true beauty reveals itself when I embrace my own vulnerability.

My heroines are a reflection of that. For example, Shane Vaughn in Beyond the Masks is a female CEO in the music industry. Even though she’s challenged by the men in the field, she’s still vulnerable. She’s open and honest with her past flame, current lover, friends, and family. Somehow, she’s not jaded by keeping up a tough exterior. She’s human with real emotions. I strive to be her in ways, maybe that’s why her story found me. Swoon….

Kaye: In 2019, Beyond The Masks was a finalist for the Contemporary Romance Writers of America‘s Stiletto award in the erotic/BDSM category. Tell us a little about book 1 in the Beyond Surrender series and what receiving such a prestigious award means to you?

Nicky: I was with an author friend when I got the email. There was a shriek, a smile, and tears. Later, I did accept the Stiletto for best erotic romance in New York City. Dreamy, right?

I was incredibly moved to have experienced this among my incredibly talented peers. Especially when I pretty much drop-kicked my entry on the last day to enter! I never thought I stood a chance. That evening put my dreams into reality.

Kaye: What techniques do you use to draw your readers into the story and immerse them in it?

Nicky: Not sure if I have any specific techniques…but I’m attracted to angst, secrets, suspense, and alpha men. So, my stories have elements of these throughout. The one thing I keep on top of mind is, if I’m not enthralled in the story then my readers won’t be.

Kaye: What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

Nicky: Wow, there has been so much! The romance community is incredible when it comes to helping others.  If I were to pass along any wisdom to a new author, I would tell them to find their voice. Don’t compare yourself to every other author on the market and don’t get wrapped up in, “I should be doing what they’re doing!”

Writing is a personal journey. All the voices in our heads (yes, there are voices) are rare and unique. If you write without fear, the muse will find you. And your characters will tell you their story when we listen.

Kaye: What is your favorite part of the story, beginning, middle or end? Why?

Nicky: I love the middle! This is where all the “fun and games” happen! The sexy times are heating up, the characters are falling in lust, and a “romp in the sheets” make for a happy writer. But the middle is where things really start rolling. Secrets are revealed, the antagonist works their evil, and the characters doubt themselves. Also makes for a happy writer…I’m a bit of a sadist when it comes to causing them misery, just to fall in love. It’s a tough job. 😉

Kaye: What is your favorite time of day to write? Why?

Nicky: First thing in the morning. My brain is fresh. Also, anything I’d been working through (tough plot points, etc) have a way of working themselves out as I sleep. I can spring out of bed with a hot cup of joe and tap out some words for an hour or two. It’s a strange meditation for me.

Kaye: What is next for Nicky F. Grant? Are you working on anything now?

Nicky: I have two books lined up this year. Hers to Protect, a part of the Girl Power Romance Collection and Dirty Talker, a book for Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward’s Cocky Hero Club series!

Link to Hers to Protect: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50656136-hers-to-protect

Link for Dirty Talker: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/51008222-dirty-talker

Also, Beyond the Masks is coming to audiobook late February/early March! More on that at www.nickyfgrant.com. Readers can also sign up for my VIP newsletter with all the upcoming news on my website.


I want to thank Nicky F. Grant for sharing with us here on Writing to be Read. I love how enthusiastic she is about what she writes. It’s been a fun interview, Nicky, and I really enjoyed having you as my guest. Readers can learn more about Nicky and her books on her Amazon Author page, or at her website, above.


Like this post? Let me know in the comments. You can be sure not to miss any of Writing to be Read’s great content by subscribe to e-mail or following on WordPress. If you found this content helpful or entertaining, please share.Like this post? Let me know in the comments. You can be sure not to miss any of Writing to be Read’s great content by subscribe to e-mail or following on WordPress. If you found this content helpful or entertaining, please share.


Interview with authors Mark Todd & Kym O’Connell Todd

Todds - Copy

I am so excited to have these two authors, Mark Todd and Kym O’Connell Todd, as my guests today. They are both really great people and our conversations are always interesting, to say the least. Although I’ve never met Kym in person, Mark was my professor and mentor, and later my co-worker at Western State Colorado University. They also were a part of one of my 2018 “Ask the Authors” blog series and will be featured authors in the anthology of the same name, which is taken from that series and is planned for release in 2020.

You’ve heard of those couples who have been married so long and know each other so well that they can finish each other’s sentences? Well, these two really do that, both in speech and in writing, and they have co-authored several books together. We’re going to talk today about their nonfiction collaboration, Wild West Ghosts, which documents their paranormal research, (which was of course, carried out as a team). Let’s welcome them now and see what they have to share with us today.


Kaye: You’ve written both fiction and nonfiction. What are some of the major differences that you see between the two types of writing?

Kym-n-Mark: We both began as journalists, so we cut our eyeteeth writing nonfiction. Lots and lots of straight news stories.

Kym: For years my job as a newspaper features editor gave me plenty of practice at bringing out the lives of interviewees to readers by applying creative writing techniques such as scene dramatization, dialogue, setting, and “character” description.

Mark: This may sound flippant, but my favorite description of the difference is this: nonfiction is writing that pretends it’s true while fiction is writing that pretends it isn’t! Okay, that even sounds flippant to me. But I think there’s a kernel of truth in there.


smallghostsKaye: In Wild West Ghosts, although the material is nonfiction, describing ghost hunts that you have been on, the historical characters which inhabited the locations in the past were very real and they had lives. How did you help those characters come to life for your readers?

Kym-n-Mark: We did a lot of research for each hotel and often found first-hand historical accounts either by the people we wrote about or about those folks by others from the time. During and after our paranormal investigations, we tried to be mindful the entitles we seemed to contact were once real people and respectful when we told the stories they had to share – or at least our encounters with them.


Kaye: What is the most unusual ghost hunt you’ve ever been on? Why?

Kym-n-Mark: We’d have to say the Norwood Hotel really stands out for all the things that happened. A cup flew off a table in front of us, we encountered a cold spot, and multiple pieces of equipment reported the same readings. In one room, there seemed to be a pathetic presence who identified herself as “Leah” who asked us to help her, and when we reviewed out digital recorder later asked us to remember her. In another room at the hotel, all our equipment red-lined and then shut down at the same time. We decided it was time to go.


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

Kym-n-Mark: Ha! As journalists we learned to write to deadline, so any time is good. But we also pick whatever time we’re both free to write together.


Kaye: You’ve been a college professor and Kym is a graphic designer, in addition to being authors. If writing suddenly made you rich and famous, what would you do?

Kym-n-Mark: Probably what we’re doing right now. We write because we enjoy it. Besides, we’ve turned a number of hobbies into businesses through the years, and it somehow kills the joy. We’d never want that to happen to our writing if that’s all we had to do.


Kaye: What is the biggest challenge when writing with a co-author?

Kym-n-Mark: For us it’s never been a challenge. But we’ve talked to other authors who found it hard. Most use “over the transom” writing, where each writes drafts and passes it to the other  to revise back and forth. But all a matter of compatibility – in writing style, in work ethic, and in commitment.

Kym: Writing style and values are important. If either one of us had large egos, we’d either stop writing together or else we’d be divorced.

Mark: Yes, dear.


Kaye: What is the best part of writing with a co-author?

Kym-n-Mark: We’re sure there are others out there who do it like we do, but we can’t name anyone.

Kym: I start a sentence…

Mark: …and I finish it.

Kym: Or vice versa. Then before we finish a session, we reread and rewrite until –

Mark: — until we can’t tell who wrote what.

Kym: You’d think were married or something. Oh wait, we are!


Kaye: What is your favorite channel for book promotion?

Kym-n-Mark: That’s a toughie. We’ve tried most of them, and we ended up taking the sage advice to focus on just a handful that seemed to fit us best. Like you, Kaye, we like blogging, and have had a fair amount of success with that channel when cross-promoting with FB and Twitter.


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

Mark: I’ve always liked Natalie Goldberg’s advice from her book, “Writing Down the Bones: “Always give yourself permission to fail.”

Kym: I’ve always liked this: “Just start writing. If you don’t like it, that’s what the delete button is for.”


Kaye: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Kym: Don’t quit your day job. Until you make it, the electricity still needs to be paid.

Mark: I agree. I usually takes time to break in to publishing. Don’t put the pressure on yourself or your family. You’ll either find yourself blocked or you’ll crank out something that’s a waste of your time and your readers.


Kaye: Are there more books in the future for Mark and Kym Todd? What are you currently working on?

Mark: We’ve both really gotten into genealogy – we even have a blog dedicated to the more interesting skeletons we’ve each discovered in our closets. I’ve also always wanted to finish a memoir  (one of those drafts-in-a drawer kinds of thing) about growing up in in a family mortuary business. A comedy, of course.

Kym: Our last book about ghosts happened because we were celebrating with our publisher the publication of our the third book in the Silverville trilogy. I never drink but had two Cape Cods that night. When our publisher asked us what was next, I blurted out a book about haunted hotels. Two days later, he called us and said he’d publish the ghost book. Maybe we’ll plan the next one when I get drunk again.


I want to thank Kym & Mark for joining us here and sharing today. As always when talking with them, the conversation was unique and entertaining, as well as being informative. I, for one, can’t wait to learn what that next book will be about, so I think Mark should take Kym out more often. You can learn more about Mark & Kym and their books on Mark’s Amazon Author page or on his Goodreads author page. To learn more about their paranormal investigations, visit their blog, Write in the Thick of Things.


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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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Interview with horror author Roberta Eaton Cheadle

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Today my guest is an author who I’ve gotten to know well, because she is a member of the Writing to be Read team, where she writes a monthly blog segment on children’s literature that’s proven to be very popular, “Growing Bookworms”. By day she walks in the world of fondant and children’s fiction, but when darkness falls she transforms into an emerging horror author. But this author doesn’t just emerge, she explodes onto the scene with  this month’s release of her first novel length horror tale, Through the Nethergate.  In addition, this month she also has a short story appearing  in  Dan Alatorre’s Nightmarland anthology, and another coming out in the WordCrafter paranormal anthology, Whispers of the Past. I’m really excited to be able to interview her about her experiences with horror, so please help me welcome author Roberta Eaton Cheadle.

Kaye: You started out writing children’s stories with your son, but you’ve recently leaped into the horror realm, which is kind of at the opposite extreme of the spectrum. Was that a hard transition for you?

Roberta: It wasn’t a hard transition for me at all. I have always loved supernatural, horror and dark psychological thrillers so I think this genre comes naturally to me. More recently I have been reading and re-reading a lot of dystopian fiction such as Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and The Long Walk by Richard Bachman (aka Stephen King).

I can remember reading my Mom’s copy of Stephen King’s The Shining behind the couch in the lounge when I was ten years old. After that book, I worked my way through the rest of her Stephen King collection and several other adult horror books too.

Kaye: Can you name one thing you have to think about when writing horror that you might not ever think about when writing for children, (or any other genre, maybe)?

Roberta: When writing from the point of view of the victim, I need to imagine their fear and describe this in a way that brings out the same emotion in the reader. When writing from the point of view of the party who sees a ghost or discovers a body, I need to imagine their shock and horror at what they are seeing. To describe the tumultuous feelings that would bubble up inside them at seeing something truly frightening or gruesome.

I would never attempt to scare children or invoke feelings of fear and anxiety in them. My Sir Chocolate books series is my attempt to draw children into a happy and safe world of complete fantasy where good always wins and any less likable characters are drawn into the circle of friendship and become part of the team.

Kaye: When making the move into adult fiction, why did you choose to write horror? What draws you to the genre?

Roberta: As mentioned above, I have always liked supernatural horror. I was drawn to it from a young age even though it scared me half to death when I read both The Shining and Salem’s Lot by Stephen King.

I have also always gravitated towards psychologically disturbing books that make me think such as Roald Dahl’s short stories for adults. I have never forgotten Lamb to the Slaughter about a pregnant woman who kills her husband after discovering he is having an affair. She saved her own skin, and that of her unborn baby, by making the murder weapon disappear in the most innovative way imaginable.

The idea of writing about ghosts came to me while I was writing While the Bombs Fell, a fictional biography about my mom’s life, growing up in the small English town of Bungay, Suffok, during WWII. My extensive research while writing this book led me to discover the history of one of the oldest inns in the town which is purported to be haunted by over twenty ghosts. The little bit of information that is available about each of these ghosts intrigued me, and I decided to write a selection of short stories, each featuring the circumstances leading up to, and the death of, a specific ghost.

As I went along with Through the Nethergate, Margaret injected herself into this story and it took on a whole new direction with her having the power to reincarnate the ghosts.

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge for you in writing horror?

Roberta: I think like many other new writers, my biggest developmental area has been learning to show instead of tell in my stories. I believe I have improved a huge amount in this area. As I came from a non-fiction writing background, I have also had to learn to write more descriptively and really reach into myself and find the whirlpool of emotion my characters are feeling in any given circumstance. These emotions must be shown and not told which takes me back to my first point.

Kaye: Your latest release is a work of horror, Through the Nethergate. Where did your inspiration for this story come from?

NETHERGATERoberta: As mentioned above, my original idea was to write a selection of short stories, each featuring the death of one ghost.

As I went along the idea for Margaret with her power to reincarnate ghosts and experience their deaths and pain came along. Margaret has recently lost her parents which gives her heightened sensitivity to the world around her.

At the same time, the idea of having one ghostly master to rule over the others popped into my head and this evolved into the ghostly black dog, or Black Shuck, which is an ancient myth in Suffolk and its surrounds. Legend in Bungay has it that Hugh Bigod, a most evil descendant of the original Normandy invaders and the man who erected Bungay Castle during the 12th century, still haunts the castle in the form of the black dog. The inn around which Through the Nethergate is centred, shares a wall in its cellar with Bungay Castle.

There are four other descendants of the Bigod family who are also alleged to haunt the town in their ghostly carriage drawn by fire breathing horses.

Initially, the reader will believe that Hugh Bigod is the villain of the book, but this is not the case. There is a far greater evil force at work who covets Margaret’s power and who makes Hugh Bigod look quite pathetic and ridiculous in his small attempts at evil.

Kaye: Can you tell me a little about Through the Nethergate?

Roberta: Through the Nethergate is intended to demonstrate to the reader how evil has always existed in our world and how evil forces manipulate human inventions and greed for power and wealth to their own ends. Evil has always existed, and it always will, but there is the counterbalancing force of goodness and the kindness and empathy that exists in an equal number of people. This is a book about faith and my belief that goodness and faith always prevail.

Kaye: If Through the Nethergate were made into a film, who do you see playing the lead as Margaret? Who do you see playing your villain, Hugh Bigod?

This is a tough question for me as I don’t watch movies or television. I will have to base it on my previous experience of movies.

I would choose Drew Barrymore to play Margaret in a similar manner to her portrayal of Charlie (Charlene) in the movie version of Firestarter by Stephen King. She would need to be a few years older, however, as Margaret is sixteen in my book. The mixture of innocence, toughness and a strong will to survive are the qualities in Charlie’s character portrayal that underpin my selection.

For Hugh Bigod I would choose Richard Chamberlain in a mixture of his portrayals of Father Ralph de Bricassart in The Thorn Birds and Captain John Blackthorne in Shogun. In both series he portrays someone who is able to separate himself from the anguish of the people around him and ruthlessly pursue his own ends and survival.

Kaye: The setting for Through the Nethergate is an ancient inn with quite the history. How much historical research went into it?

Roberta: I do a massive amount of research for my books with partial or total historical settings.

Each ghostly character in Through the Nethergate came from a different historical era and I had to do meticulous research into what people wore, drank and ate during those particular time periods, as well as how they traveled and the political agendas and attitudes towards servants, masters, females and religious figures that prevailed at the time of their stories and deaths.

For example, Katharine is a reluctant Benedictine nun who comes from a wealthy background and is forced into Bungay Priory during the 14th century. She is in love with William and conspires to escape her dreary life by running away with him. James Wilson was a Benedictine monk who was the cellarer at Glastonbury Abbey during the 15th century when Richard Whiting, the last Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, presided. James originates from Bungay where his father was the local blacksmith. Peggy and her husband and child are survivors of the great fire that destroyed much of Bungay in the 17th century. The book also includes other historical figures such as John Collins, the famous Chartist from Birmingham, Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed, a Hungarian Countess and one of Europe’s most prolific serial killers, as well as Tom Hardy, a highwayman who rode with the infamous Dick Turpin and Amelia Dyer, Britain’s most famous female serial killer.

When featuring real people, I must research their stories in as much detail as possible to ensure I get the facts correct. I usually check between five and ten sources, depending on the amount of information available.

Kaye: You also do a lot of short dark fiction, and have stories included in several dark anthologies. In fact, you have two stories “Last of the Lavendar” and “Missed Signs” coming out this month in the WordCrafter paranormal anthology, Whispers of the Past, and “The Siren Witch”, “A Death Without Honour” and “The Path to Atonement” are featured in Dan Alatorre’s Nightmareland horror anthology, also released this month. Do you prefer writing short dark fiction or novel length horror? Why?

 

Roberta: I like writing both kinds of story.

Short stories are fun to write, but they are restrictive because of their length of 1 500 to 3 000 words. It can be tough to get all the necessary background and detail into a short story in a clear and concise way. I had to cut quite a lot out of “A Death Without Honour” to get the length and sharpness right. Dan Alatorre was great at helping me with that. Sometimes I struggle to get the ending wound up in a concise and exciting way with short stories, as I did with “Last of the Lavendar”, the ending of which you helped me improve greatly. I like writing for anthologies because I learn so much. I also get a lot of guidance from the experienced editors and also from reading the stories included in the anthologies by other authors. They really are a wonderful learning and growing experience for me.

I have written two novellas now, While the Bombs Fell, and my recently completed A Ghost and his Gold which is about the Second Anglo Boer War fought between the “Boers” [farmers] and the British Empire in the early 19th century. I love the length of novellas because it allows for more detail and depth than a short story, but is still fairly short and concise. I think that modern readers prefer shorter stories due to their busy lifestyles.

Through the Nethergate is my first full length novel and I enjoyed writing it and “seeing” how my imagination could take off and extend to a much longer story.

I am currently 40 000 words into a dystopian novel which will be part of a trilogy about a future world dealing with drastic climate change and the fourth industrial revolution. Trilogies are popular and this idea came along so I thought I would jump right in. I love to experiment and learn about new things.

Kaye: What is your biggest fear? What scares you?

Roberta: Real life scares me. The prospect of climate change wreaking devastation on our planet, overpopulation, poverty and criminality which are changing the way society operates as well as the Fourth Industrial Revolution which will forever change the nature of the working world, these things scare me far more than “monsters under my bed.”

Dystopian novels like 1984 by George Orwell and The Long Walk by Richard Bachman (aka Stephen King) really disturb me, but I can’t help reading them. It is better to be informed than not. Even H.G. Wells gives great insights into the nature of society and how it could evolve in his books The Time Machine and War of the Worlds, which are really frightening.

Kaye: What is the scariest story that you’ve ever read and why do you think it is the scariest?

Roberta: I think 1894 by George Orwell is the scariest dystopian novel I have read. Living in the world he describes is so awful I think people would be better off dead.

The Shining is the scariest supernatural horror book I have ever read. The ghosts in the Overlook Hotel that become visible and can harm Danny and his family are most frightening. The invasion of his father’s mind in order to bend him to the will of the evil in the hotel was terrifying. Stephen King has a way of describing things in such a visual way, you feel as if you are living them with the character in the book.

Kaye: What is the scariest story that you’ve ever written?

Roberta: My short story about Amelia Dyer called “Justice is Served” in the murder mystery anthology, Death Among Us, is quite scary as it is based on a real serial killer who murdered babies.

From a purely fiction point of view, I think “The Path to Atonement” in the forthcoming Nightmareland anthology is quite eerie and chilling. “Missed Signs” from the forthcoming Whispers of the Past is frightening because it is within the realms of probability.

Kaye: What methods do you use to create suspense and make a story scary?

Roberta: I use a slow build up to the deaths as a tool to create suspense as well as a lot of visual descriptions and emotional language. Dialogue and onomatopoeia are good ways of conveying literary “sound effects” and tension in a story.

Kaye: Who is your favorite villain or monster from a horror story or film? Why?

Roberta: My favourite villain is Dracula. I loved his sly intelligence and sneaky ways of manipulating his victims and also the heroes of the book.

Kaye: Is there more dark fiction in store for the future readers of Roberta Eaton Cheadle? What are you working on now?

Roberta: I have recently finished the first draft of A Ghost and his Gold and sent that off to my developmental editor. I am hoping to have it available on Amazon in March/April 2020.

I am also working on book 1 of my dystopian trilogy about a world where drastic measures are required to address climate change and the unemployment caused by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The first book is called Russian Roulette Anyone? And will probably be available in October 2020. I also hope to participate in more anthologies next year as I really enjoy those.

I want to thank Roberta for sharing with us today. I too have been a fan of dark fiction since a young age, and at one time delved into all works Stephen King. I read The Shining while babysitting one night when I was 15. I was totally immersed in the story and couldn’t put the book down, but I had to call and wake up my mother to talk to me about three a.m. because the story scared me silly. I finished the book before the sun came up though. Although I grew up reading the masters like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Anne Rice, John Saul, and Peter Straub, doing so set a high bar for the writing of horror.

Roberta gets cudos though for having the nerve to do what I’ve not found the courage to do, the nerve to immerse herself in a world of fear and terror in order to write a novel of dark fiction. You can learn more about Roberta and her books by visiting her on her Amazon Author page or on her Facebook page. You can also learn about her children’s books and her creativity with fondant at Robbie’s Inspirations. And don’t forget to catch her “Growing Bookworms” blog segment on the second Wednesday of every month right here on Writing to be Read.


Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.