Featured Blogger, April: John Howell

This month’s Featured Blogger is John Howell.

From John’s profile pageJohn writes thriller fiction novels and short stories. His story Cold Night Out won an honorable mention in Writers Digest Popular Fiction contest this year. He also won first place in the Kurt Vonnegut Kilgore Trout novel contest, celebrating Kurt Vonnegut as an author. His short story Never Give Inn was selected to be published in the Miracle E-zine fifth issue published in April of 2014.

John lives on Mustang Island in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of south Texas with his wife Molly and their spoiled rescue pets.”

Why did you take up writing?

Since I was a kid, I always enjoyed doing homework assignments that involved a story. “What I did on my summer vacation “ type assignments were my cup of tea. I was the kid who always volunteered to write the script for the class play or Thanksgiving pageant. When in High school I worked on the school newspaper and the yearbook. I always enjoyed being closely associated with the written word. In college, I took some creative courses, and for whatever reason, I drifted into organized commerce and was held prisoner until I escaped in 2012. It was then I decided to go back to my original love and take up writing. I have been writing ever since.

What kind of writing did you read as a child?

I read most everything. I like the picture books but then got into novels when I was in the fourth grade. I remember doing a report on a book titled “The Raft.” It was about some airmen who were forced to live in a tiny life raft during World War II. I got the report back, and the teacher made a note that the book was way too adult for my age. She also suggested I didn’t understand some of the words used. We had a conference, and I walked out with an A and a note for my mother. As long as I can remember I read books about bigger than life situations with bigger than life heroes. The Red Badge of Courage was one of the first

What kind of work did you do before writing?

Before I started writing I lead three work lives. The first was the head of a fortune 500 company where I had worked my way from sales representative to President. The second work life was as a marketing consultant. The final was as a director of contracting working for a huge telecommunications company.

You mention Kurt Vonnegut in your profile statement. Is he one of your influences?

He more than any writer had a profound impact on my decision to write. His stories were, by and large, pulled from daily life with significant historical significance as a backdrop. They were well written and carried an element of humor that made them seem so easy to pen. Of course, once starting I discovered Kurt was a genius in using a few words to say the most profound things.

How does your personal history influence your writing?

I have drawn from the experiences I had as a child and an adult. I think the influence on my writing centers on using characters in my books as ways to explore some of the feelings these experiences caused me to have. I remember some fun times and some tragic, but in each, there is energy that can be tapped to tell a story. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to lead the kind of life that provided enough life moments to be utilized in such a positive way.

What drew you to writing thrillers?

I have always enjoyed reading mysteries and Thrillers. It has been fascinating to discover along the way a thriller differs from a mystery. A mystery has an occurrence like a dead body. The story then goes on to offer clues and in the end to find out who killed whom. A thriller, on the other hand, has the murder take place right before the reader’s eyes and by a perpetrator who is readily identified. The idea of the thriller is to see if the guilty party is brought to justice. If found that it is more fun to go ahead and build a story around the guilty party than to try and to find out who did the deed.

When did you start your blog?

I started blogging in April of 2012. I had just retired from organized commerce and was ready to take on writing as a full-time occupation. I thought it would be a good thing to help build a voice for my writing efforts. Secondarily I thought it would be good practice.

6. How did you come up with the idea of using dialogue to bring the reader into the story?

Dialog has always been the weakest part of my writing. Before I published my first book, I wrote short stories and comments always came back about the dialog. Most of the criticism was in two areas.

1. The conversations seemed stilted since I used a few contractions.

2. My tags were atrocious.

To work out of these two problems I decided to construct stories with only dialog and without tags. The key here was to give the reader a story with just conversation and to identify each speaker by the content of the words and not “He/she said” or any other tag.

I have been doing these stories for about four years, and I think I might be getting close to working out the weakness

How do you come up with story ideas?

I am a raving pantster. I usually have no idea what I’m going to write when I first sit down to do a story or book. When I do prompts I typically have a visual to get me started, but a novel requires some thinking about the story and where the story is going to go. I spend about three or so weeks working on the last three lines of a book. Once these are done, I know how the story is going to end and then can go back to the beginning and start working. The last three lines don’t usually survive, but the idea is there.

What excites you most about blogging?

I get a charge out of folks commenting on what I have done. My blog is not one of those writer “how to” type of blogs. I post, and my objective is to keep the post under 500 words and to elicit a smile from everyone who takes the time to visit. I have three stories a week. Two of them are prompt driven, and the third is a serial that I make up. The other four days are devoted to happy things around the neighborhood, a Top Ten list of things not to do, a pictorial of my dog’s adventures, and musing about life. The biggest criticism I received about my content was I don’t write about writing. It is a valid criticism. I write about life.



What makes your day a good and happy one?

An excellent and happy day to me is one filled with the following.

1. A thousand words on my WIP.

2. Visits to my blog by the regulars

3. A romp with my dogs.

4. Dinner with my wife.

What advice do you have for new writers and bloggers?

It was once said that you have not mastered the writing craft until you write one million words. New writers and bloggers ought to think about that and feel good about trying their best to become a master. Notice I didn’t say trying their best to become published or to have their first thousand followers. I honestly believe that too many new writers and bloggers do not exercise enough patience to become a master at what they do. To illustrate what I’m thinking here think of learning to skydive. Sure you want to jump out of a plane more sooner than later, but imagine if the instructor handed you a parachute and told you to jump. None of us would do that I’m sure. When we start writing it is as if we are hell-bent for publication or to find a short cut to more followers. Take the time to build quality and publication and followers will come. Trust me.

Describe yourself in 3 words.

Obsessed, dedicated, loyal

 

Book cover for our Justice
Our Justice

Please share an excerpt from your newest or most recent novel.

This is an excerpt from Circumstances of Childhood.

Chapter One

 

So, with nothing better to do, I figure I’ll stop at Jerry’s place and grab a couple a drinks and a burger. Usually, I don’t go there on Saturday night since there’s a crapload of amateurs taking up what would be considered prime space. I figure since this is a Friday, and close to Saturday, it may be packed but not as crazy as Saturday. It’s the kind of place where everyone minds their business. Today’s events will, probably, not register with the people in the bar. They’re there for a good time and will likely not notice me. Even so, I go through the door, stop, and have a look around, trying not to make eye contact. I hope that the ball cap and large coat will keep me from getting noticed. The bar holds a weekday crowd, all right, hanging on each other like they never had a date before. I tighten my eyelids against the smoke and make out four guys near the pool table and what looks like a couple of girls fetching drinks. I search for a seat beyond the table in the back, but it seems like they’re all taken.

A guy bumps into me as I stand here. I say excuse me, and he looks me in the face. “Hey, don’t I know you?” he says.

“I don’t think so.” I make to turn away.

“Yeah, you’re the sports hero who lost all his money. I saw you on TV.”

“Naw, people always say stuff like that. I’m not him, buddy; trust me.”

He gives me a puzzled look but doesn’t want to push it in case he has it wrong. I turn away and continue to look for a seat.

Straight ahead lies the bar, and it has a place right in the middle. I move in the direction of the empty place and look over to the other side of the room. The tables look full of happy drunks. Buckets of empties line the bar top, and the barmaid’s trying to sell more. She doesn’t have much luck since most of these people just spent their last five bucks on this outing. Upon making it to the stool, I hoist myself up and lean on the bar.

“Hey, Greg,” Jerry says. “Whadda you have?”

“Evening, Jerry. I’ll have a gin on the rocks with a water back.”

“Comin’ up.”

I like Jerry’s no-nonsense way of handling things. He doesn’t like small talk and gets right to business. My eyes smart from the smoke, and I wonder how Jerry gets away with letting people kill themselves when, clearly, it’s not supposed to be allowed in this kind of establishment.

“Here you go. Want me to run a tab?”

“Yeah, I would appreciate that. I intend to have another drink and then a burger.”

The guy who thinks he knows me grabs my shoulder from behind. I almost fall off the stool.

“You’re Greg Petros, the big fund manager. I knew I saw you on TV. You took a beautiful career in football and ran it into the ground.”

Jerry leans over the bar and lays his hand on the guy’s shoulder. “Move on, my friend. You made a mistake. This guy is nobody. Go sit down and let me buy you a drink.”

“You sure? You called him Greg.”

“Yeah, I’m sure. Go get a table, and I’ll send someone over.”

The guy looks at me one more time but does as Jerry suggests. He believes Jerry’s wrong, but the idea of a free drink lets him get away without losing face.

“Thanks. I didn’t mean for you to have to jump in.”

“No problem. Gimme the high sign when you’re ready for another drink.”

“Will do. Thanks.”

“For you buddy, anything.”

I should mention that Jerry and I go back aways. When I fell on hard times, he became the only one that seemed to give a shit. I take a sip of my drink and wait for the burn in my throat, which signals the good stuff. Here it comes. I take a swig of the water and almost believe life is good. The gin needs to get to the brain before making any honest judgment.

While I wait for the warmth to go from my stomach to my head, I check out the folk seated on either side of me. They both have their backs turned to me and sit engrossed in some discussion with their neighbor. I figure it’s just as well since I don’t want to go through that old “don’t I know you?” bullshit again. Also, I don’t figure on staying the night, so no use in getting into any long discussions about life.

I look down at my drink and wonder what will happen tomorrow. My daughter Constance wants to come and visit. She lives in New York, and before all hell broke loose, we didn’t see each other often. I missed her so much, and it seemed as if I had to beg her even to talk on the phone. Now, it’s like she wants to be here every weekend. It’s only an hour’s flight by the shuttle or three by train, so she can come when she wants. I just can’t figure out why she got so clingy. I have my troubles, but it doesn’t have anything to do with her. No use in asking her husband either. Though a nice enough guy, I always wonder if he has someplace important to go when I visit. He never sits still and stays busy on the phone or at the computer. He makes a good living, but it seems a person could take an hour to sit and talk. I’d looked forward to some kind of relationship when he and Constance got married. It’ll never happen with him.

When I take another pull at my drink, I notice the burn feels less. It happens every time. First sip initiation, I call it. It’s like the first puff of a cigarette, hits hard then, after, nothing. I decide to let Constance pretty much have the agenda tomorrow. She and I have not had a chance to talk about anything deep for a while. It could just be that she blames me for her mother running off with that guy with the house on the Hudson. He has a title, and the old gal couldn’t resist, but I think the daughter always felt I should have done something. Her mother’s sleeping with another guy and what the hell can I do about that?

I’ll just go with the flow. If she wants to go out, we will. If she wants to stay in, we can do that too. I better think about getting some food in the house. Of course, we can always order take out. I need to move on to my drink and let this go. Tomorrow will be what it is. I remember the day she was born. I looked down at her in my arms and promised I would do anything for her. I love her more than life itself, and I hope we can somehow get to the root of whatever’s wrong. She sounded strange on the phone this morning, and I feel helpless to do anything about it. I hope she opens up when she gets here.

For some reason, I feel tired. Perhaps I’ll go ahead and finish my drink. Maybe I’ll just go home and forget the burger. First, though, I’ll just shut my eyes for a minute. My hands feel good when I put my head down.

“Hey, Greg,” Jerry says. I barely hear him. “What’s the matter? You taking a nap? Greg?” I can feel him shake me, but I have no interest in waking up. His voice gets further away, and I think he says, “Oh, my God, Sophie, call 911, quick.” Now the room goes silent.

 

 

Thank you, John.

Contact information

Blog Fiction Favorites, http://johnwhowell.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/john.howell.98229241

Twitter –https://www.twitter.com/HowellWave

Authors db –http://www.authorsdb.com/authors-directory/6604-john-w-howell

LinkedIn –http://www.linkedin.com/pub/john-w-howell/48/b59/462/

Google +https://plus.google.com/+JohnHowellAuthor/

Goodreads –https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7751796.John_W_Howell

Amazon Author’s page –https://www.amazon.com/author/johnwhowell

 

Rob Goldstein 2019

Images owned by John Howell, all rights reserved.

March Featured Blogger: Robbie Cheadle

I’m delighted to have Robbie Cheadle as Featured Blogger this month on Art by Rob Goldstein.

Robbie writes poetry and prose and she makes exquisite art with edible icing.

Fondant Art

What is fondant and what is fondant art?

Fondant is also called sugar dough or plastic icing. It is a pliable edible icing that has a consistency a lot like play dough. It is perfect to make all sorts of edible decorations for cakes.

To me, fondant art is the use of fondant to sculpture beautiful or interesting or just plain fun flowers, figurines and other items for use as toppers on cakes. I am self-taught as my interest in fondant art developed after my children were born and I never had the time to attend a fondant art course. There are some wonderful books on fondant art available from Amazon and I used these to learn how to make basic flowers and figurines. Once you have the basic skills, it is easy to adapt them to anything you want to make. For me, the most difficult things to make from fondant are wired flowers and detailed faces. The baby girl below is an example of a figurine with detailed fondant artwork:

How did you develop an interest in baking as an art?

I started baking after my boys were born. I had always enjoyed art although I never took it as a subject to matric at school. Sculpture was my favourite form of artwork. Initially, I came up with magnificent themes for my boy’s birthday parties. I always had an astonishing cake in my mind for each event but I could never get anyone to create what I wanted. What I got was always so far away from what I had imagined. I decided to make my own cakes and one thing led to another. A few years later, I had mastered the techniques of making flowers and figurines and now I experiment with facial detail and colour.

Who is Sir Chocolate and how did you create the character?

Sir Chocolate is a fictional character created by my son, Michael. He is made from chocolate and owns a chocolatier in Chocolate Land. In Chocolate Land all the houses, trees and creatures are made from sweets, biscuits, chocolate, fondant and cake. Sir Chocolate has a friend, Lady Sweet, and together they help solve all sorts of situations that arise in Chocolate Land.

Michael has a learning barrier and, when he was younger, that made it difficult for him to learn to read and write. We started writing the Sir Chocolate stories together, using our joint ideas, to encourage Michael to write. He illustrated the original book himself with his own drawings. Michael is a good artist for his age. Later, when we read the stories to other children and discovered how much they enjoyed this idea, we started making the fondant figurines and other artworks to go with the stories. It was great fun for all of us.

What kind of books did you like as a child?

As I child I read everything I could get my hands on. I learned to read at the age of four years old and spent a lot of my time immersed in a book. I read a lot of Enid Blyton books, my favorites among her many series’ being The Faraway Tree, Mr Pink Whistle and The Wishing Chair. I read Sue Barton, Mallory Towers, Alfred Hitchcock, Franklin W Dixon (Hardy Boys) and Willard Price. Strangely, I never read adventure stories for girls (like Nancy Drew). I always fancied the books for boys were better and more exciting.

At the age of 10 years old, I had exhausted the children’s section of the local library. I started “borrowing” my mother’s books and reading them secretly behind the couch. I read all of her Stephen King horror books as well as Dean R Koonz. I developed a huge love of supernatural / horror books which has stayed with me throughout my life.

Book Cover for Hunting for Gold, A Hardy Boy's adventure
The Hardy Boys

How do you manage multiple blogs

I have three blogs. Robbiesinspiration is my children’s books and artworks blog. I try to keep my posts on this one light and child friendly. This is my original blog and has been a learning adventure. It has evolved over the past 2 ½ years and I now include some thought around interesting literature and famous / popular children’s books on this blog. A lot of my poetry also goes to this blog unless it is unusually dark.

Bakeandwrite is my paid blog. This one is largely for showcasing artworks and reviews for my own children’s books. I don’t use the blog that often, it is more of a website with purchase links to all my books. I did try to develop the blog on this site but it wasn’t that successful. Paid blogs don’t have the same features and functionality as the free wordpress blogs but I still like this one and see it as my flagship site. Bakeandwrite is linked to my Instagram and Pinterest accounts so all my recent artworks and photographs are available on this site.

RobertaWrites is my latest blog. This one is to share my historical interests and research as well as my horror and supernatural writing. Roberta is my full name and Eaton is my maiden name and I thought it would be a good idea to clearly separate my adult horror writing from my children’s writing. I have some common followers on this site and also a lot of different followers who share an interest in horror and supernatural books and writing.

How do I manage them all? I am a very orderly person. I now try to post to robbiesinspiration on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday and to robertawrites on Sunday, Wedneday and Friday. It doesn’t always work exactly like this, I am fairly adaptable and if I write for a prompt and it fits better on robertawrites I post there regardless of the day. I only post to Bakeandwrite once a week and that is always to showcase cake art and my own reviews.

What sparked your interest in poetry?

One of the authors I read copiously as a tween was LM Montgomery. She is famous for her Anne of Green Gables series but she has another series about Emily of New Moon. In that series, Emily is the daughter of a writer and fancies herself as a poet. The book describes her interest in poetry and how she developed it. This book inspired me to start writing little poems and bits of descriptive writing. Interestingly enough, these books are set in Canada and include a lot of description of snow. I had never seen snow but I wrote a lot about it at that time. I certainly was limited by writing what I knew.

How does your personal history influence your writing?

Hmmm! Interesting question. I don’t think my personal life influences my writing overly, other than the chronic illnesses that both of my boys suffered, and continue to suffer, from. My poetry is very influenced by my “now” and state of mind. If I am very happy or very upset it comes through. I think you can read my state of mind like a book from the poetry I post.

I am naturally a happy and upbeat person. I am also hugely determined and driven. These characteristics help me in all aspects of my life.

How does writing poetry differ from writing prose, and where do they intersect?

For me personally, I can’t draw any parallels between my poetry and my prose writing. They are two entirely different mental processes. It is the same with my business writing that differs significantly form fictional writing.

I can’t force myself to write poetry. It just comes to me. I see something, or experience something, that elicits an emotional reaction from me, usually a big one. When this happens the poetry just flows. It almost comes into my head fully formed, it is difficult to explain. I just catch the thoughts and write them down. I don’t edit my poetry much at all.

Prose fictional writing is different. I can find ideas to write about. I do research on historical events and, especially, ghosts from the past and often those poor long dead people have a story that needs telling. I do a huge amount of research for my adult writing. Through the Nethergate, for example, includes the stories of a number of ghosts who are all characters in the book. I had to research when they died, what life was like at that particular point in time i.e. 13th century, 12 th century, 17th century and 19th century, what they wore, ate, drank and the social and economic environment of the time. I check all the details to as many different sites as possible so it takes a long time. I can spend four hours writing and only produce 500 words because I checked the facts to 10 different sites. Even with good quality sites, the facts can vary, especially when you go back to the 12th and 13th centuries. When they vary, I take the more popular and common viewpoint. I can’t bear the thought of being factually inaccurate and I am like this in my business writing too. My African Capital Markets series was written using more than twenty different sources.

Bookcover for Through the Nethergate by Robbie Cheadle
Through the Nethergate

What are the two most important things you have learned about blogging and writing

With blogging I have learned that I have to choose which blogs and relationships I want to develop. There are so many amazing blogs but it works better for me to interact frequently with specific bloggers who I really enjoy and who I feel an affinity for. I have been most fortunate with blogging as I found the most delightful community, of which you and I are both a part. This has made blogging a pleasurable and wonderful experience for me. I have learned so much and been given so much support in this community by all of its wonderful members. I try to read as many of their posts as is possible, given that I do have a full time job, family and my own writing aspirations. So, in summary, with blogging, I read blogs I like run by people I enjoy as virtual friends.

With writing, I have learned that this is a huge learning experience and challenge. Initially, I thought that I would find my voice but writing my way and not allowing other people to influence my process. I have realised that this is completely wrong. Writing is 10% ideas and 90% technique, like everything else in life. I am focusing on learning the techniques now. I didn’t study English or creative writing so I know I have a lot to learn. I invest money in developmental editing and critiques and I invest time in implementing the advice, even if it means re-writing entire chapters. My motto is: If it is worth doing, it is worth doing property. Writing is my passion now as it presents a huge challenge to make everything I write the absolute best it can be. I can spend hours on a single chapter. It is very absorbing.

What advice do you have for new blogger?

Blogging is a passion. You can’t just write posts, push them out into the virtual black hole and expect other people to take an interest in them. You have to put effort into blogging and make friends and read their posts. My advice is to follow blogs that interest you and make friends with other blogger. Blogging should be a fun way of learning new information, almost like having a conversation with a friend. Blogging should be something you look forward to and not a chore.

Will you share a couple of poems with us?

 

 

Wedding fun

Down the aisle she floats,

Complection, peaches ‘n cream;

Hair, a spun gold mass,

Shimmers in a bright sun beam.

Dress a gorgeous creation,

Shoes and veil, match,

A playful zephyr blows,

The veil on a twig to catch.

Her happiness, like sunshine,

Is a joy to behold;

Their love is a journey,

Just starting to unfold.

The groom, strong and manly,

Full of fun and smiles;

Easily he ensnared her,

With his attentive wiles.

The guests gaze enchanted,

As they take their vows;

The bride, blushes and giggles,

He, his audience, wows.

We wish them all the best,

As they start their life together;

Their bonds of love strong,

To last from now, forever.

 

By Robbie Eaton

 

Who’s really free

 

The sky is dark, coloured an unrelenting grey;

Outside it’s damp and dreary, a dismal day;

I gaze out of the window, splattered with rain;

I stretch – an attempt to ease my physical pain;

The lines of traffic extend for miles each way;

A depressing sight that fills me with dismay;

The landscape is blurred, shrouded by a soft mist;

An addition that gives the scene a threatening twist;

Tall buildings adorn the horizon, shabby and bleak;

Tiny ants dart inside, refuge from the rain they seek;

 

A ray of sunshine, creeps through a gap in the cloud;

It gleams bright and bold, of its success quite proud;

An arrow formation of birds crosses my line of vision;

The rain and the cold have forced a flight decision;

Such a contrast from my world, confined and cramped;

The birds, completely free, from this land have decamped;

They roam, unfettered, across an unrestricted, spacious world;

As I watch, my toes in my smart shoes, are tightly curled;

I turn away abruptly, back towards the bright, artificial light;

I quell any questioning thoughts invoked by this compelling sight.

 

Thank you Rob, for this wonderful opportunity to interact with our delightful blogging community.

About Robbie and Michael Cheadle

Robbie, short for Roberta, is an author with five published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with her son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about her 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 her mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of Robbie’s children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.

Robbie has recently branched into adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential her children’s books from her adult writing, these will be published under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. Robbie has two short stories in the horror/supernatural genre included in Dark Visions, a collection of 34 short stories by 27 different authors and edited by award winning author, Dan Alatorre. These short stories are published under Robbie Cheadle.

Robbie has also recently published a poetry collection, Open a new door, together with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.

Follow Robbie Cheadle at:

Blog: https://bakeandwrite.co.za/

Blog: https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/blog/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15584446.Robbie_Cheadle

Facebook: @SirChocolateBooks

Twitter: @bakeandwrite

Follow Roberta Eaton at:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobertaEaton17

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites/?modal=admin_todo_tour

Blog: https://wordpress.com/view/robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com

Purchase all Robbie and co-author’s Books from:

https://www.amazon.com/author/robbiecheadle

OR

http://tinyurl.com/zdokqjr

Portrait of Robbie Cheadle, photographs of fondant art, and bookcovers for material written by Robbie Cheadle are owned by Robbie Cheadle.

‘Wedding Fun’ and ‘Who’s Really Free’ (c) Robbie Cheadle

Rob Goldstein 2019

February’s Featured Blogger: Teagan’s Books

I was unwell for most of December and January and did not find a featured
blogger for February so am re-posting my feature of friend and sometimes collaborator, Teagan Geneviene.

Since the first publican of this interview, Teagan released Atonement in Bloom.

Lilith and the Blue Rose of the Impossible

The quaint town was stranger than Ralda Lawton could have imagined.  The local population included supernatural beings.  Yet only she and a few others knew about that.

Although she didn’t know the details, in a past life, Ralda ― Esmeralda had been involved in something with those supernaturals and it had carried into her present life.  In Atonement, Tennessee, that almost got her killed.  Now she has new problems, and new supes to complicate matters.

Atonement in Bloom continues the misadventures of Ralda, her friends, and neighbors in the small (but far from peaceful) town of Atonement, Tennessee.  Her old house and cemetery are still there, along with Lilith the cat, quirky townsfolk, and assorted supernaturals.

Now Lilith the calico sniffs out a strange beast.

Fae foolery backfires.

A friend is abducted.

On a cold December day, Atonement, Tennessee comes into bloom.
Atonement in Bloom.

This month I’m honored to feature Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene of
Teagan’s Books.

Marketing Graphic for Thisledown
Thisledow

When did you start writing?

My seventh-grade teacher gave us an assignment that truly inspired my young mind — Write a story.  However, we only had two options about the story 1) Write it from the point of view (POV) of a cartoon character, or 2) from the POV of the shoes of a famous person.  Well, 12-year-old me watched talk shows after school, not cartoons.  So, I saw plenty of “famous people” and “used to be famous” ones too, on Merv Griffin’s TV show.  I liked the ones who talked about their pets.  So, I wrote my story as a pair of red pumps belonging to actress Doris Day.  (Back then I don’t think she was still making movies, but she was known for all her dogs.)  I had so much fun that I also gave half the class verbal outlines for their stories.

In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I did a few stories on my own.  My teacher wanted to see them.  She said good things about the one for the assignment so (not that I thought I had any choice) I let her have the stories.  They were Twilight Zone-ish stories and one was about child abuse.  They got a lot of attention…

My teacher spoke to my parents. 

My parents told me very sternly to never do that again!

That said, I guess I started writing in my late thirties.  Throughout my life novels were my only escape from the personal difficulties (yes, abuse too) that I faced each day.  I had read a couple of interviews with writers, and decided to write a fantasy novel.  I did a lot of research and work, read more interviews, and then I dove into it.  With that start, I never stopped.

Marketing Graphic for Teagan's Books
Teagan’s books

You started your blog as an adjunct to self-publishing, how do you define your blog now?

I’m sure you’ve seen the same advice I always see for us Indies – You must have a blog to promote your work!  Well, I couldn’t bear the thought of droning on about my novel with every post.  Instead, I modified a writing exercise I created for myself long ago.  I brought that exercise to my blog (Teagan’s Books).  I had the readers send me three random things.  I let the random things drive every detail of a serial story, setting, plot, and characters.  That resulted in  The Three Things Serial Story, which gave birth to my current release, a culinary mystery.  However, this time the “things” are food related — or ingredients.  So that one is Murder at the Bijou — Three Ingredients I.  I’ve published both of those serials in book form.

That “pantser” style of writing, combined with engaging my audience (having them send “things” or otherwise promoting them) seems to have defined my blog.

I also mean for my blog to be a sanctuary for everyone.  I keep it free from religion and politics, even though there are issues about which I feel strongly.

Where were you raised and how does that affect your style?

I’m a southerner by birth, but I was “enchanted” by the desert southwest of the USA when I moved to New Mexico.  Like the old John Denver song, I had come home to a place I’d never been before.  The truth is, I wish every day that I had never left.  However, many things about the southeast – the deep south made an impact that remains with me.  Following the advice, “Write what you know,” many of my stories have a southern setting.

What writers give you inspiration?

Robert Jordan (the Wheel of Time series) inspired me with his detailed world-building.  Charlaine Harris influenced me with writing in first-person.  That was something I never cared to do until I did my first National Novel Writing Month and created my début novel, Atonement, Tennessee.  To my surprise, all the serial stories at my blog turned out to be written in first person as well. David Eddings influenced me with the way he showed his sense of humor, particularly in the Belariad series.

What are your top 3 tips for new bloggers?

Reciprocate.  Answer every comment, and try to do so with more than just “Thank you.”

Don’t “act/look like an expert” if you are not.  If you have credentials then say so – and make that information something the reader can find without digging.  If you found useful information, and you just want to share it, then say so.

Make it easy to read.  Light colored (or splotchy, speckled) backgrounds with medium colored text are hard to read, no matter how good your content.  Also, those horrid pop-ups, soliciting subscriptions.  If I’ve barely started reading and one of those things blocks me from that read, I don’t care to continue.

Thank you Teagan! A short section from one of your books would be great way to close the interview.

Marketing Graphic for Teagan's Books on Amazon
Teagan’s Books Header Image

Since I’ve been promoting the release of Murder at the Bijou — Three Ingredients I,  I want to share a short story.  It is not in the book, but it’s still from that “universe,” and features the heroine of that 1920s series.

Here goes:

Pip’s a Chicken

“Bock, bock-bock.  Bock!  Baaawk!

Of all the nerve!  My mouth dropped open.  I was speechless.  Granny Phanny bocked at me like a chicken.  She bocked.  She put her fists under her armpits and flapped her boney elbows — and she bocked at me!

Then, to make matters worse, she laughed.

Why that banty little old woman.  Of all the self-important, cockalorem…

“Oh Pip, if you could see the look on your face,” she said, still chuckling.  “It’s not like you to chicken out.  Now tie on your apron and we’ll look at this recipe together.

Granny hung an apron around my neck, and then put her hands on my shoulders to forcibly turn me around.  She tied a bow in back that I knew without looking was perfectly symmetrical.

“But Granny, I nearly set the kitchen on fire last time,” I complained, sincerely afraid of what damage I might cause.

“Hush that nonsense right now, Sweetpea.  We’ll not be having any fires.  Just because your fried chicken turned out as tough as an old rooster doesn’t mean you can quit.”

“An old rooster?” I exclaimed, mortified.

I looked at the recipe card.  “Chicken Fricassee…” I read aloud.  “Dredge chicken pieces in the flour mixture; coat well.  Oh Granny, this sounds pos-i-lutely like a repeat of the fried chicken disaster.  Granny?”

Phanny Ilene Peabody was gone.  Her purse was missing from the corner table.  I called out again and she hollered from the living room.

My eyes fell on the calendar that hung on the wall.  Wong’s Chinese Restaurant made one annually for Chinese New Year.  Granny was going to an early dinner with friends.

“No wonder she wasn’t worried about me ruining dinner again,” I grumbled.  “Granny!” I yelled.

“I’ll be back this evening, Pip.  Just keep the stove set to low while you fry that chicken, and follow the instructions for the fricassee.”

I blew a raspberry as the front door closed with a thud.  My hand plopped down on the plump poultry with a smacking sound.

“Old rooster, huh?  I’ll show her,” I muttered and went back to the recipe card.

***

Copyright © 2017 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved.

The Three Things Serial Story

Amazon USA, Paperback and Kindle

Murder at the Bijou

Amazon USA Paperback  and Kindle

Atonement, Tennessee Amazon Kindle and Paperback

You can also connect with Teagan at:

Amazon:    https://www.amazon.com/Teagan-Riordain-Geneviene/e/B00HHDXHVM
Twitter:     https://twitter.com/teagangeneviene
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/TeagansBooks
Pinterest:  https://www.pinterest.com/teagangeneviene/
YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoM-z7_iH5t2_7aNpy3vG-Q
LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/teagangeneviene

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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January’s Featured Blogger: Jacquie Biggar



Jacquie Biggar has a wonderful gift for writing hot and extremely likable military men!

Jacqui Nelson

This month’s featured blogger is Jacquie Biggar

. Jacquie is a writer of romantic suspense novels.  She writes tough, alpha males and strong, contemporary women.  Jacquie lives on Vancouver Island with her husband.

When did you start writing?

I wrote a few short stories in middle school that were well received by my teachers and fostered my dream of making it a career one day.

Unfortunately, I set it aside for many years while working and raising a family. I didn’t get serious about writing until 2012. I signed up to Romance Writers of America, took numerous classes to learn my craft and joined a couple of critique groups. One year later, I published my first suspense novel, Tidal Falls.

Did you always have a gift for writing hot guys?

Lol, I don’t know about that, but I do like writing about strong, alpha males with protective instincts. I think it stems from a love of Harlequin. I’ve read their books since my pre-teen years and used to race for the mailbox each month for that subscription box filled with romantic heroes.

Tell us about Count Daffodil?

Count Daffodil is kind of a funny tale. I was a bit of an over-achiever in school and hated to get any bad grades. I’d been sick for a week or so and when I returned to class it was to learn I had a short story assignment due within two days. I stewed over it for more than a day; there was no way I could finish in time and disappointment rode me hard. I’d flopped onto the couch and was staring into space when suddenly a bouquet of daffodils I’d bought my mom for Easter jumped out at me from the kitchen table.

The story came to me almost fully formed (I’ve almost never had that happen since) and I turned my fantasy/mystery in on time. A few days later, when we received our grades I was stunned to learn I received the highest mark in class and was rewarded with a narration over the school loudspeaker at lunch the next day! So exciting!

What was it like to own and manage a diner?

The diner, The Blue Jay Café, is a landmark in our small town of seven thousand. It sits squarely in the middle of the business district on Main Street and seats fifty people. There are big bay windows, blue bench seats, a pass-through window to the kitchen, and old-time pictures on the walls. Every day it’s filled to the brim with my regulars—as I like to call them. People I’ve grown up with, ones who know my parents and grandparents, family and friends. It’s not work, it’s more like a social gathering J

When I was fifteen, I worked there as a server and dreamed then of owning a restaurant just like it. Gordon—my boss—had found and installed those individual jukebox machines on each table, had old-fashioned sundaes, and made the best trapper fries. (Thin sliced potatoes deep fried) He never had an unkind word for anyone and instilled loyalty in his staff.

Many years later, the restaurant came up for sale and my husband, knowing my vision, cashed in his RRSPs so I could put in an offer. You can’t imagine how thrilling—and frightening—it was to receive ownership!

I had no idea how to run a business, much less bookkeeping and payroll. And then, the cook I thought I had quit do to a knee injury and I was left to learn that aspect as well. What a steep learning curve! It took a few years to get into a smooth rhythm, but, gosh, I loved it. I miss it still.

What caused you to make the leap to writing as a full-time job.

When my daughter was accepted to university, she moved over twelve hundred miles away, but had trouble finding daycare for my then five-year-old grandson. I came out to the island with our RV to help until she could get organized. Then, winter came, and I had to stay—there was no way to haul the RV over the mountain passes with the snow. Hubby was back home working, the kids were in school (I’d do pickups here and there) and I was at loose ends, so I decided to try my hand at my old dream of writing.

I joined a local group here for inspiration and encouragement and found a new focus in romance writing.

When my grandson was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes a year later, we made the decision to sell everything back home and stay nearby to help our girl. That’s the key reason I decided to pursue a career in writing. I could work to their schedule and be on call whenever I was needed.

Who inspires you?

That’s easy—my daughter.

She’s a single mother, working her way through a double major in university for chemistry and biology (She’s been on the Dean’s list three times so far!), and has sole care for her son who is diabetic. For anyone who doesn’t know, this is a life-threatening disease and takes 24/7 care to control. There’s special training required, not just for the family, but also for his daycare and school administrators. He’s athletic, which is great, but unlike other kids, has to be closely monitored for blood sugar highs and lows with the increased activities. He can’t go to other children’s homes for events like birthdays without a LOT of planning, and even then, she tends to go with him for safety. Sleepovers are rare and filled with worry. And, over all that she’s somehow managing a high-grade level.

She’s my hero!

How do you organize your workday?

I tend to start my morning by going through the blogs socializing. My website is my home base and the best way to build recognition there is by commenting and liking other blogs. A side benefit are the connections and friendships gained along the way J

The afternoon is spent promoting to Facebook groups (a free and easy way to get noticed) and Twitter, reading my e-mails, and doing critiques. I belong to two critique groups and believe their input on my work is the single best way to edit. By the time ten or twelve sets of eyes have gone over my chapters they’ve caught most of my errors.

I take a break from six to ten for the news and my favorite television programs, then write until midnight-one o’clock. I realize this is short compared to some authors, but it works for me. If I’m on a role I can do a chapter a night, otherwise it might take a couple of days.

Writing is important, but for indie authors the business aspect has to take precedence. Not much sense writing that award-winning novel if no one sees it, right?

What was the biggest obstacle for you to overcome?

My insecurities.

I’m an introvert and find it impossibly hard to put myself out there for people to pick apart. One piece of advice you hear is to read your reviews and learn from them. I rarely look at any of my poor ones. It hurts too much. I put a lot of myself into my work—it’s like being flayed alive when I get negative feedback. Yes, I understand it’s bound to happen. My stories aren’t going to resonate with everyone, the same way some customers didn’t like how I flipped their eggs—it doesn’t mean I have to like it, though.

How does a story idea come to you?

Most of my ideas come from something I’ve seen on TV or read on the news. The Wounded Hearts series stems from hearing about a lawyer who was gunned down in his driveway and was later found to have ties to a Mexican drug cartel.

How much of your ‘self’ goes into your novels.

There are a lot of my family ideals in my books. That’s an underlying trope in every story. My grandmother passed away after suffering years of dementia, I’ve touched on that and how it affected the characters (and us). I’ve talked about Juvenile Diabetes and the dangers involved. Most of my stories revolve around family dynamics because that’s what’s important to me. Family is everything.

What advice do you have for beginners?

Be true to yourself. When you hear write what you know, it means from the heart. Locations can be faked or investigated, jobs learned, but emotion? Emotion comes from within and it’s priceless—it’s the thing that will set you apart, your voice.

Will you share a section of your favorite or most recent novel?

This is an excerpt from a new romantic suspense novel I’m currently working on. I’m hoping to turn it into a series in the future. It’s set in the world of NHL hockey and is titled Skating on Thin Ice.

Blurb:

Will a killer accomplish the greatest hat trick of his career?

Sam Walters has made a deal with the devil. In order to win a much-needed contract as physical therapist to one of the NHL’s leading hockey teams, she must delay the recovery of their sniper, Mac Wanowski. The trouble is, the more she gets to know the taciturn hockey player, the more she aches to help him.

Mac ‘The Hammer’ Wanowski has chased the Stanley Cup dream for too many years. Last time he was close it cost him his wife. As injuries continue to plague the team, Mac works to catch a killer and keep the woman he’s come to love from the hands of a madman.

Hockey can be a dangerous sport, especially when millions of dollars are at stake.

International: http://books2read.com/SkatingonThinIce

 

Excerpt:

Sam removed a full container of eggs, a tomato, onion, a bright yellow banana pepper, and a block of cheddar cheese from the refrigerator and used her butt to close the door. She juggled her armload past the cat and dumped it on the granite countertop. “Okay, Cleo, your turn.” She stooped to scratch her between the ears, then returned to the fridge. “Does Dad give you milk, hmm?” The carton was in the door, the seal broken, so she gave it a sniff before deigning it good enough for her new four-footed friend. A quick search of the pantry later and Cleo the cat was daintily eating her dinner, ears flicking at every little sound.

Sam frowned. How long did it take to start a fire? Maybe Mac was taking his time so she’d do the cooking. Not happening. She wandered down the hall, expecting to see him relaxed on the sofa—instead, the fire was little more than a flicker and the room was empty.

Puzzled, she was about to leave the room when a glimmer of light caught her attention. She moved closer to the bay window and hugged herself against the draft coming off the glass. What is that? She leaned forward, squinting through the swirling snow into the pitch-black night. There. There it was again. It almost looked like…

A fire.

Her heart catapulted into her throat as her brain caught up to her eyes. Horror stories of vast tracts of forest going up in smoke fueled her fear. What could she do? The phone. Hurry, hurry, call for help. She scrambled to the handset thrown carelessly onto the sofa and dialed the emergency number, her fingers trembling with nerves.

“Come on, come on,” she chanted under her breath, but no amount of wishing could get the phone to connect. The storm must be playing havoc with the lines. Another glance out the window showed the lick of flames climbing up the outer wall of the garage Mac had pointed out earlier.

Mac. He must have spotted the blaze, as she had, and rushed outside to put out the fire. He would need help. Giving up on getting through, Sam dropped the phone and raced for the kitchen. She’d noticed a fire extinguisher in the pantry while searching for Cleo’s food. Yes, there it was, tucked into a corner and hooked to the wall. She wasted precious seconds figuring out how to undo the clasp before hefting the surprisingly heavy canister into her arms and racing for the door.

A noxious stench of gas and rubber permeated the air. Thick black plumes of smoke drifted above the dark outline of the trees, obscene against the virgin white of the snow.

“Mac,” Sam yelled, shocked by the strength of the fire. The heat slapped her chilled skin and she realized she’d run out of the house without a jacket. No time to change that now, the sliding doors of the garage were totally engulfed, and the hungry flames were eating their way to the only other exit—the side door. She had to do something.

She pointed the canister at the door and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. Vibrating, she looked at the stupid canister. Why had she never taken the time to learn how to use these blasted things? Just as she was about to fling it across the yard, she noticed a ring sticking sideways from the top of the handle. She jerked the pin out and aimed again, and this time a thin spray of foam exploded from the rubber hose. The fire hissed, angry at the creature seeking to destroy its fun. But it knew it would lose against this foe, and baring orange-red fangs, leaped to the roof in a bright burst of sparks.

Relieved, Sam yanked the door open, wincing when the knob burned her palm, and stepped inside. She covered her mouth against the smoke sneaking in through the cracks and gazed nervously around the packed room. The dark outline of a truck ghosted out of the gloom. Hoping against hope, Sam edged her way between ATV’s and skidoos, keeping low to avoid the haze creeping down from the ceiling. “Mac,” she choked. Where are you?

 

 

Follow Jacquie on Amazon

 

Click here to visit Jacquie on WordPress

Click here to follow Jacquie on Twitter

 

 

(C) Rob Goldstein 2018

Images and book excerpts (c) Jacquie Biggar