Author Interviews

Goodbye, My Love by Maggie Tideswell


Roxanne’s Ghost Saga, a new mystery series from internationally acclaimed author Maggie Tideswell, is set against the stunningly beautiful backdrop of modern day South Africa. It is a compelling ghost story of identical twin sisters’ love for the same man, and the magical connection the women share.

And the theme?  Nothing is what it seems.

Here, we move into the realms of the mists of time that could either reveal or conceal.

Book 1, Goodbye, My Love, sets the scene. It introduces country vet, Ben, his four-year-old autistic daughter and the would-be nanny, Jessica James. Jess’ interview with Ben for the nanny position takes place on Friday the 13th. An attraction between the two is immediate, which by all accounts isn’t entirely normal.

Ben’s three oddball sisters-in-law descend on him for the anniversary of his wife Roxanne’s death. They try to convince Ben that Roxanne isn’t dead, more than likely to put an end to whatever might develop between Ben and Jessica. But Ben knows that no one could have survived what led to Roxanne’s death.

His daughter, diagnosed as autistic, only sometimes does she display the symptoms that led to her diagnosis. Autism is not a disease, it’s a condition. A condition with symptoms that can’t be turned on and off at will. So…what is the child really suffering from?

Ben’s wife’s twin sister, Millicent, is accompanied by an over-board caricature of a psychic to Ben’s home in order to help them find Roxanne. Of course, Millicent isn’t happy to find Jess already in Ben’s house—trouble is imminent. But only as far as Ben’s ancient housekeeper, will allow her to. What does the housekeeper know that will keep Millicent’s ruffled feathers under control?

More importantly…

Where is Roxanne?


Cover - Goodbye, My Love


Chapter One

Does anyone live here?

The house looked deserted, kind of spooky. Jess couldn’t see any other houses nearby. Sally had not been kidding—this was a rather isolated place.

Dilapidated outbuildings behind the sprawling house looked as unused as the house itself. Some sort of creeper covered most of the buildings except the house—it looked far too fragile to bear the added weight.

There were what looked like turrets on each end of the house, and a domed one in between. That might be a skylight. Jess worried her bottom lip. What century was this place built?

Lightning played over the majestic mountains behind the house, silhouetting it against the darkening sky, but down here in the valley, the late sun cast long shadows over the overgrown garden.

It all fit so well with Friday the thirteenth, because this was creepy. What had she been thinking? She should have postponed the interview until Monday. One weekend surely wouldn’t have made that much of a difference.

Jess studied the map on her tablet, which she held propped up against the steering wheel. This could be the right place, but she had thought that about both the previous two places, and neither had turned out to be Weltevreden. Neither had been as eerie as this place, either.

No, this couldn’t be it. Tapping her finger against the edge of the tablet, she studied the house again. This whole thing smacked of a Friday the thirteenth Sally-prank.

Sally, her bestie since high school, ran a very successful employment agency. The professional image notwithstanding, she still loved pranks of any kind—she would never outgrow them.

Her eyes had lit up that morning when Jess sat in front of her desk, mugs of coffee steaming on the polished wood between them. The platter of doughnuts had been for Jess’ benefit. Sally and her perpetual dieting.

“Something different,” Sally mused, tapping her pen against her front teeth, then pressed a button on her laptop, and reached for the sheet of paper the printer spewed out. “This might be just the thing. It came in just now.” She’d tossed her platinum curls over her shoulder, grinning at Jess.

Another thing Sally would never outgrow, her Barbie-doll looks.

“It has my name on it, then.” Jess leaned her forearms on Sally’s desk. “Tell me, tell me, tell me.” She grinned back, barely able to contain her excitement. “Does it involve a man?”

Neither Sally nor Jess had found their Mr. Full Potential yet, although both had been ready for wedded bliss, the kids and the house in the suburbs thing, a long time ago.

“As a matter of fact it does, but he doesn’t seem to be in the market. It says here that a nanny is required for a four-year-old autistic girl. Dr. Arnold specifically requested that only older women be put forward for the position.”

“How old-fashioned. Where is this job?”

“In the Wellington area.” Sally frowned at the monitor.

“There you go. He won’t find anybody qualified to work that far from Cape Town. It is his child, I presume?”

“It is, but do you seriously want to give this a go?” Sally looked worried as only she could. It went with the Barbie look.  “I’m intrigued. What kind of doctor is he?”

“A veterinary surgeon. And a widower, it says here. That is all the information I have for you, I’m afraid.” Sally sat back in her chair. “I shouldn’t disregard so specific an instruction, Jess, but just this once, I’ll make an exception. Then it’s up to you to change his mind for him. It’ll be in his own best interest in the end.” She passed an information sheet across the desk. “I’ll tell Dr. Arnold to expect you at four. I’d pack an overnight bag if I were you. Call me, okay?”

Now, sitting in front of the house that might or might not belong to Dr. Ben Arnold, Jess didn’t feel all that confident anymore. And it didn’t really sound like a prank, unless Sally had kept some information to herself.

There was only one way to find out, and that was to knock on the door and ask.

If there was anybody in the house to ask.

Switching the engine off, she consulted the rear-view mirror to apply some color to her lips and pat her shoulder length bob into place. She took a moment to admire the rich auburn color in the late afternoon sunshine and sighed.

I don’t know about this. It was a long way from Cape Town.

What did people do around here for fun?

Trying her best to ignore the goose bumps on her forearms, she opened the car door and stepped out. Her heels sank into the gravel, her shadow stretching all the way back to the gate.

Only when she turned toward the house did she see the man sitting on the top step in the shadows, his shoulder against the railing, one knee pulled up with his arm resting on top of it. He wasn’t wearing a shirt, and it looked as if his feet were bare, too.

Was he there a moment ago? Why didn’t I see him?

Smoothing her palms down her red pencil skirt, she started toward the house and the man on the steps. If he wasn’t Dr. Arnold, maybe he could give her directions.

Taking a deep breath, Jess reminded herself that she wasn’t superstitious about this Friday the thirteenth nonsense. People liked to scare themselves with the silliest things. What was supposed to happen on this day? It was a day like any other.

That certainly looked like a real man on the steps. He wasn’t going to bite her. Today being a Friday and the thirteenth meant nothing, but now that she’d thought of it, the idea would stick with her like the taste of garlic.

Leaving the car door open for a quick escape should she need it, she’d gone no more than a few steps when she heard something other than the crunch of her shoes on the gravel. It sounded suspiciously like a dog whining.

She slowly turned her head, curling her fingers into the fabric of her skirt. It couldn’t be a dog. She hadn’t seen any dogs when she drove through the gate.

I don’t do dogs!

Her breath hitched in her throat when she saw them. They were right next to her car, beside the door she’d deliberately left open, a whole pack of them. Their lips curled away from their teeth, their tongues lolling out the sides of their mouths, dripping saliva onto the gravel. Yellowish eyes watched every move she made.

Where did they come from?

How many were there?

They cut her off from the safety of the Fiesta!

Now she had only one way to go—into that house. Why hadn’t that man called them off? Why wasn’t he helping her?

Slowly, making no sudden moves, she took another step toward the porch. The dogs followed her. Her heart hammered against her ribs. Another couple of quick steps toward the house. The dogs did the same. She broke into a trot, her scream shattered the still of the afternoon.

Missing the first step, she stumbled, recovered her balance, and took the rest of the stairs two at a time. The dogs were on her heels, whining and yelping, their breaths hot on the backs of her legs.

Just as a sharp whistle rent the air, but looking at the dogs, she careened into the man before the noise had even died down. Her momentum sent them both crashing to the floorboard. She landed on top of him, but with the dogs all around them, she hid her face in his neck. Another whistle— right in her ear—made her cringe, but the dogs were gone.

He lifted his head off the floorboards to glare at her, his hands at her waist, as if he was about to lift her off him. Stubble covered his jaw, his lips pressed into a tight line. A muscle jumped in his cheek. He dragged his eyes out of her gaping blouse to meet her stare.

They had to be the greenest pair of eyes she’d ever seen, and he was clearly not amused.

Then she noticed how much leg was exposed by her skirt bunched around her hips and she quickly scrambled to her feet, pushing her skirt back down her legs.

“Sorry,” she muttered, her face on fire. She couldn’t bring herself to look at him, but from the corner of her eye, she saw the stranger slowly unfold himself from the floor. Up and up he went, until she felt him looking down at her. Even in her heels, the top of her head barely reached his nose.

With fists on his hips, he glared at her. Tucking her hair behind her ears, she lifted her chin and stared back.

Despite her bravado, she was intimidated and she had no idea if she had reason to be. She didn’t have a clue who he was. For all she knew, he was a vagrant taking advantage of an abandoned house.

She quickly looked him up and down, hoping he wouldn’t notice. A vagrant—looking like that? This man looked too strong, too well-fed, and clean, to be homeless. He smelled good too, of soap and sunshine. Wide shoulders tapered to a flat stomach and slim hips in a pair of well-washed denim cutoffs. The button was undone and the zipped half down. And he had a hard-on!

Jess swallowed with difficulty, forcing her eyes to the garden. Maybe he was the gardener or something.

If he was the gardener, he wasn’t very good at it, judging by the state of the place. The flowerbeds were overgrown with weeds, and grass seeds reached for the sky. With a bit of care, it could be a rather pleasant garden.

Her attention whipped back to the man when he spoke. “What’s wrong with you, woman? Those are lap dogs.” His voice was deep, the timbre vibrating on her skin. “They thought you were playing with them.”

She’d forgotten about the dogs. Erections did that to her, they made her forget everything else. She took another look at the animals. There were only four of them, and now that they were at a safe distance and there was a man on hand whom they seemed to obey, they didn’t look all that fierce, or even very big. By panicking, she’d unnecessarily gotten them both in a rather embarrassing situation.

The veranda was shadowed, despite the lightning dancing over the mountains, yet the peeling paint was clearly visible. She should ask this man for directions so that she could be on her way, but at that moment her nose itched and she sneezed instead. She just barely managed to get her hand across her nose. The dust from the floorboards, and she most likely had it all over her face now. She needed to freshen up before she met with Dr. Arnold. Rubbing her hands over her face was probably making matters worse.

“Bless you,” the man said, his jaw clenched. “Explain yourself.” Fists planted on his hips, his bare chest rose and fell. Jess’ fingers itched to test the contours more fully before she realized that the man was actually angry.

Who was he? And what was he so angry about? Knocking him over had been an accident, which he could have avoided it if he’d controlled the animals sooner. His annoyance didn’t stop him from giving her a thorough inspection, though.

Barely suppressing the urge to stamp her foot, Jess snapped, “Those animals should be locked up.” The hand she pointed at the dogs was streaked with dust. Dropping it, she rubbed at the smudge with her other hand.

“They were, until a few minutes ago. When the visitor I expected didn’t show up, I let them out again. Who are you and what do you want?”

“How rude!” Jess gasped. “Do you welcome all visitors half naked?” His arousal was disturbing her.

“Uninvited visitors never come into the yard,” he growled. He knew she knew about his condition. “That’s what the clinic entrance is for. And I’m not half naked, I’m shirtless because I took it off when my visitor failed to show up for her four o’clock appointment. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s hot. If you’re Jessica James, you’re way too late—”

“The directions weren’t very clear,” she interrupted. “I got lost.” Hesitating only a moment, she stuck her hand out to him. “You’re Dr. Arnold?”

He ignored her hand and question, reaching instead for the shirt draped over the railing behind him and shrugged it on. Doctor or not, the man has no manners.

Buttoning the shirt, he leaned in closer. “So, it’s my fault you can’t follow a set of simple instructions? Look, miss, you might as well go back to wherever you came from. The position has been filled. Good day.” He started to turn away.

“What? When? I had an interview for this afternoon!”

He glanced at his wristwatch. “You missed the appointment. You wouldn’t have gotten the job anyway. Sorry for the inconvenience. It was nice meeting you. Goodbye, Ms. James.”

She noticed his eyes on her lips as he dismissed her. “Just a minute. You’re going to disregard my application because I’m a few minutes late? I have excellent credentials, and the agency—”

“Had been told that only older women need to apply.”

“So you’re dismissing my application because of my age, is that it?”

“Yes. And you’re more than a few minutes late. The appointment was for four o’clock sharp, and it’s nearly six now. Take your gripes up with your agent, Ms. James. Your timekeeping actually has very little to do with it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, you’re wasting my time.”

Jess narrowed her eyes. “I pity the person you’ve employed, if that is in fact the truth. You are a very rude man,

Dr. Arnold.”

He wasn’t exactly what she’d expected—in his early to mid-thirties and attractive, in a wildly blond caveman kind of way. And hot.

If only he had some manners.

It had sounded quite romantic when Sally first told her about this position, but the reality was far from romantic. She didn’t need this man or his job, and especially not his erection. There had to be other positions available in Cape Town. Sally would find her a good job, with interesting work. She would get into her car and drive away without a backward glance.

Not being given a fair interview had nothing to do with Friday the thirteenth. A damp gust of wind blew her hair into her eyes as she turned toward the stairs. It had everything to do with him being turned on by her.

Jess remembered the dogs when they jumped to their feet, tails wagging.

She froze, clutching her skirt. They might be small, but they were dogs. They had teeth. Damn it, she was going to need his help to get back to her car. Gnawing the corner of her mouth, she glanced at him. Would he help her, or would he cross his arms and enjoy the spectacle from the veranda?

Before she could do anything, the door behind them creaked open and pale, gnarled fingers curled around the edge of the wood. Jess took an involuntary step closer to the doctor, goosebumps covering her entire body, her hand to her throat.   Oh, God.


About the Author

Maggie lives in Johannesburg, South Africa with hubby Gareth. Over the years she’s worked in everything from nursing to catering, and then she started writing love stories. With three kids, a girl and two boys, and eleven cats at that time, life could become quite interesting.

The paranormal, things that happen for which there are no logical explanations and ghosts, are of particular interest to Maggie. What events in a person’s life would prevent that person from ‘resting’ after death? The ‘Old Religion’ is another special interest.

And love, of course. Why do people fall in love? What keeps them together for a lifetime when so many relationships fail?

For more on Goodbye, My Love


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Posted by Matthew Peters - May 29, 2017 at 2:38 pm

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Hot off the Press! Cozy Mystery Writer Extraordinaire Susan Bernhardt’s Latest Release

It is my privilege and pleasure to announce the release of A Manhattan Murder Mystery: An Irina Curtius Mystery by my favorite cozy mystery writer, and one of the finest people on the planet, Susan Bernhardt!


I’ve greatly enjoyed Ms. Bernhardt’s highly acclaimed Kay Driscoll mysteries and look forward to reading her latest work. In addition to well-drawn characters, immediately likable in their realness, Bernhardt’s stories captivate the reader in the manner in which they’re told. Her style is fresh and crystal clear in its conveyance of the people, events, and places that make up her story world. At times the strong writing achieves lyrical heights, and the reader is never wanting for brilliant descriptions of the characters and their surroundings. Her mysteries are richly and cleverly layered, enticing the reader to tear through the pages in a mad-dash effort to find out whodunit.

So what is A Manhattan Murder Mystery about? Here’s the blurb:

Irina Curtius, a retired ballet dancer living on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, runs a ballet studio for young children. Recently, she has been watching her younger and otherwise healthy neighbor, Stephen Kramer, become ill over time. When Stephen travels for business, his health always seems to improve dramatically after he has been away, but only temporarily. Within days of returning home, his health begins to deteriorate again. On top of that, Stephen has added stress due to problems he is having with his wife and his irate live-in sister-in-law. Sadly, Stephen’s last bout with his mysterious illness has proven to be fatal. Unsatisfied with the official explanation and in order to deliver justice for her friend and neighbor, Irina sets out to uncover the truth and prove that Stephen was indeed murdered.

It won’t be easy, though. A former lover from Irina’s college days at NYU has suddenly reinserted himself into her life, wanting to pick up where they left off. Additionally, a mysterious newcomer arrives in Irina’s neighborhood and he now seems to be shadowing Irina, appearing everywhere she goes. The story that unfolds, interwoven in the everyday lives of Irina and her social circle, highlights the unpredictability of life, the best and worst of humanity, and the powerful bonds that drive people together (and apart).




To find out more about Susan Bernhardt and/or to purchase one of her fabulous mysteries:


A Manhattan Murder Mystery: An Irina Curtius Mystery

The Ginseng Conspiracy (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 1) –

Murder Under the Tree (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 2) –

Murder by Fireworks (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 3) –

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Posted by Matthew Peters - September 29, 2016 at 5:20 am

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An Interview with the Amazing Maria Hall

Today I have the privilege of interviewing one of the most amazing people I’ve ever come across. Her name is Maria Hall.


Ms. Hall was born into an Irish Catholic family in Auckland, New Zealand. After leaving school, she completed a Bachelor of Music at Auckland University and a Diploma of Teaching at Auckland College of Education, before studying Theology and Scripture at Chanel Institute (Auckland) and Yarra Theological College (Melbourne, Australia). Her decision to enter the convent took her around the world. She now lives on Auckland’s North Shore with her partner, Nicholas.

As many of you know, I’m very interested in religion, especially the Catholic Church, as evidenced by The Brothers’ Keepers and upcoming novels in the Nicholas Branson series. What I find particularly fascinating about Maria is her experience with the Palmarian Catholic Church. She entered the convent at a young age, and her experiences, prior to and after entering the convent, make up the bulk of her riveting memoir, Reparation: A Spiritual Journey (please click here for my review). I was deeply moved by her book and so I asked her if she’d be willing to do an interview, to which she graciously assented.


Can you talk a little bit about your early experiences regarding the Catholic Church, while you were growing up in New Zealand?

My family was caught in a dilemma in the 1970s, post Vatican Council II, when the Catholic Church was undergoing big changes. Although change was necessary, and long overdue, many Catholics were confused with the shift in thinking. Suddenly, mortal sin and the threat of eternal damnation were replaced by no sin and no place called hell. Was it possible God was a nice guy after all?

 As a teenager I was happy to see the end of the Latin Mass and fasting on Fridays and during Lent. But my Irish grandmother never stopped reciting her prayers in Latin, and she was a strong influence on my mother and, hence, the whole family.


What was the nature of the calling you believed you received from God?

One day when I was in confession, the priest asked me if I’d ever thought of becoming a nun. I should have said ‘no’ but, in a moment of peaceful selflessness, I responded ‘yes’, and so began my journey of discovery of what it meant for a young girl, just 20, to try to empty herself of all human desires in order for Jesus to fill that space.


When you were quite young, what you describe as “a callous act” resulted in “an impossible choice” that shaped the rest of your life. Can you share with us what happened?

I could – but then you wouldn’t need to read my memoir Reparation: A Spiritual Journey. So, I recommend you take the time to turn the pages of the book and live the experience I went through.


Afterwards you sought absolution in a convent as a Carmelite nun in the Palmarian Catholic Church. Please tell us a little about the Palmarians.

The Palmarian Catholic Church was founded in 1978 in Seville, Spain. It sees itself as the true Catholic Church, although Rome would see it as a breakaway sect or cult, clinging to tradition (not unlike Archbishop Lefebvre in France). The Palmarian Church was founded on the site of the alleged miraculous apparitions of Our Lady to four young children at Palmar de Troya – similar to what occurred at Fatima in Portugal in 1917 and Medgujorje in Bosnia in the 1990s.


What was a typical day like in the convent?

The convent bell rang at 6:40 AM each morning, followed by Mass, then breakfast. During the day we worked in silence, our thoughts focused on God while cleaning, cooking, and washing. There was half an hour for spiritual reading before lunch at 2:00 PM, followed by half an hour of siesta, then a journey out of Seville to the Basilica of Palmar de Troya. We prayed there until after midnight every night, except Saturday. On Saturday night we stayed awake all night praying. There was no free time, no contact with the outside world, no newspaper, no radio, no television, and no phone.


What caused you to leave the Palmarian Church?

It was almost 10 years before I had a change of heart, a loss of faith, a spiritual awakening, a realization. And when I left I was broken, confused, exhausted, and silenced.


What has your life been like since you left the Church, more specifically, what role, if any, does faith in God currently play in your life?

I had no idea what to believe when I left the Palmarian Church. For so many years my thinking had been rigid, my thoughts focused, immovable. Rejecting one Church didn’t necessarily lead to believing in another. After all, every Church sees itself as the true church. For a long time my head was in a vacuum and no questions surfaced. However, as I recovered from the silence of the Carmelite world, my mind and body energized, my curiosity ignited, I began to read outside of what had once been my usual religious framework. And, although much of what I read didn’t make sense to me, I persevered because I was desperate for insight and change. Now, I’m content to say I don’t have the answers to most of life’s big questions. I’m happy with the mystery, the not- knowing. I don’t have to coat everything or anything with a faith blanket.

What message do you hope readers take away from your amazing story?

Healing happens if we let it – no matter how broken we might be. Don’t be ashamed of who you are, what you have done. It’s your story, own it, and love yourself through it. You will feel wonderful… and strong.


I was incredibly moved by your story and am eager to read more of your work. What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a small collection of true stories taken from 3 generations of women in my Irish family – plus their men. The stories start in Belfast, Ireland, with my grandmother escaping her father’s influence by boarding a steamship, called Rangatira, bound for New Zealand. It’s 1914 and Nora Lavery is running away from an arranged marriage. The rest of the collection deals with young men in the family going to war, with love and loss, and commitment.


Thank you so much for joining us, Maria. I encourage everyone to pick up a copy of Reparation: A Spiritual Journey. It moved me very much and I’m sure it will you, too. If you’re interested in learning more about Maria and her book, please see the following:

Purchase link: 







This is the true story of one woman’s journey from the sweeping coastlines of New Zealand to the barren plains of Southern Spain, from youthful hope to deep despair, and from sin to reparation.

As a free-spirited university student, Maria’s life stretched before her like a wonderful adventure. It was New Zealand in the mid-seventies and Maria wanted to make music, serve the Lord and spread her wings far beyond the safe familiarity of her homeland.

Then, the unthinkable happened: a callous act resulting in an impossible choice that shaped the rest of her life. Heartbroken and in need of a miracle, Maria sought absolution as a Carmelite nun in the dark, silent cloisters of the Palmarian Catholic Church, one of the world’s most secretive and controversial religious orders.


Excerpt from Chapter 1:
In Confession


Mother screamed with horror – as I expected she would – before grabbing her inhaler. She was having an asthma attack. I felt dreadful.

“I’m suffering just like the Sorrowful Mother,” she sobbed. “All my children are going to hell and you’re no different from the rest of them. Sometimes I wish I’d never married.”

I remained quiet. I had heard it all so many times before but the difference, this time, was that I was the cause of her grief.

“You watch! I’ll be dead soon and then you’ll all be sorry you didn’t listen to your mother.”

She glanced at Dad who was drying the lunch dishes, a look of disgust on her face. She always blamed Dad for any weaknesses and shortcomings in her children.

I went to my room and closed the door. I needed to be alone. Four short years had slipped by and now, at twenty-four, I was changed beyond recognition – physically, emotionally.


It all began one Saturday morning. Having confessed my sins, none of which were serious, I was waiting for Father McSweeney to give me absolution.

“Have ya ever t’ought of becomin’ a nun, Maria?” he whispered.

His words resounded in my head as I stared at the black curtain in the confessional box. I’d just received Jesus in Holy Communion and I was feeling happy. I liked Jesus. He was a good man.

“Yes,” I whispered.

I was being polite. Actually, I only started thinking about it right then.

“Jesus needs generous souls, Maria. He asks us to trust him. Do ya trust Jesus?”

“Yes, I do, Father.”

I leant into the curtain, not wanting to miss a word, while noting Father McSweeney’s Irish accent was different from my grandmother’s – an accent that couldn’t possibly be from Belfast. So was Father McSweeney from Dublin? Or from…

“Do you love Jesus with all ya heart and soul?”

He was interrupting my thoughts.

“Yes, I do, Father.”

“That’s greet. And ya want to please Jesus, don’t ya?”

“Yes, Father, of course I do.”

“A religious vocation is a very special t’ing, Maria; a gift from God. A nun takes t’ree vows, ya know: vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Those vows will lead her on the path to sanctity. Do you understand?”

Mother was coughing at the back of the church, probably wondering why I was taking so long and, therefore, what I might be confessing. However, Father McSweeney was doing the talking and I thought he should hurry up and finish.

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Posted by Matthew Peters - September 19, 2016 at 7:27 pm

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An Interview with Journalist and Author Christina Hoag

I’m very honored to have as my guest today acclaimed journalist and author Christina Hoag. Christina is a former staff writer for The Miami Herald and the Associated Press. Her career as a journalist took her to Latin America, where she reported from fourteen countries on issues such as the rise of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Colombian guerrillas, Guatemalan human rights, Salvadoran gangs, Nicaraguan landmine victims, and Mexican protests for Time, Business Week, The Financial Times, the Houston Chronicle, The New York Times, and other publications. In addition, she writes stellar fiction. I’ve had the opportunity to read and review her wonderfully crafted novels, Skin of Tattoos (please click here for my review) and Girl on the Brink (please click here for my review).


Your fiction is fact-based. Tell us how you got interested in gangs in the case of Skin of Tattoos and domestic violence in the case of Girl on the Brink.

Skin of Tattoos was inspired by interviews I did for a magazine story in El Salvador on gang members deported from Los Angeles to San Salvador, which most of them really didn’t know because their families had emigrated when they were infants. It was a classic “fish out of water” story. They neither belonged in El Salvador nor in the United States. Their story stayed with me because I moved around the world as a child so I know the feeling of not really belonging anywhere. However, the novel ended up not being about deported homies!

In the case of Girl on the Brink, the book was inspired by something that happened to me years ago, although again the book took on a life of its own as stories tend to do! I felt strongly that I wanted to make teen girls aware about the red flags of abusive behavior because they can be easily mistaken. Teenagers aren’t overly wont to listen to adults so my aim was to present a dangerous relationship as a novel so it will seem less like a lesson or advice. Instead, a girl can read this on her own and absorb the story in her own way.


You write very beautifully. How did you develop such a lyrical style?

Thank you! I think it maybe comes from being a voracious reader from a very early age. I believe writers should be catholic in their literary tastes. Poetry, I’ve found, really helps to develop lyricism and an ear for language; plays for dialogue; mysteries/thrillers for plot and literary works for character development.  But I’ve always loved literary writing that jumps off the page so I suppose I try to emulate that.


Have you written any other books of which we should be aware?

I co-authored a nonfiction book about gang intervention, Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence (Turner Publishing, 2014). Gang intervention is the concept of taking former gang members and training them to be street peacekeepers, to interrupt the cycle of retaliation that drives gang violence. My co-author is a former Black Panther who’s been working with gangs in South L.A. since the seventies. I’m proud to say the book is being used as a textbook for various courses at the University of California Los Angeles, University of Southern California and The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.


Is there a theme/message underlying your work that you hope comes across?

I create stories wherein characters have to make hard choices when confronted with extraordinary events, in short – drama. My aim is to create well written stories that have intricate plots but also intricate characters. For instance, my problem with most of detective/mystery fiction, which I like in general, is that it tends to be so formulaic, whereas a lot of literary fiction is too slow-paced to sustain interest. I’m striving to hit the balance between the two. I also gravitate toward foreign settings, probably because I’ve lived in several countries and traveled around the world and love setting stories amid current events.


If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Probably my favorite all time author is Graham Greene. Many of his books are about the concept of being a foreigner, an outsider/observer, which I relate to on a personal level since I’ve lived in many countries. That influence comes through in my novel Skin of Tattoos, where the protagonist, Mags, was born in El Salvador but left with his family fleeing the civil war when he was a child. So he doesn’t really feel Salvadoran, doesn’t remember anything about the place, yet that is his identity. He’s an outsider to El Salvador, yet as an immigrant an outsider to mainstream American society, as well. He finds his home in a gang with others from similar backgrounds. Greene’s books are set in numerous countries, which I also relate to since travel is another passion of mine. As a reader, I love immersing myself in foreign cultures and settings because you always learn something new. As a writer, Greene’s work made me see how key setting can be. It can almost become almost like another character with a personality all its own.


Tell us something about yourself that few people know.

I came to the United States when I was 13 years old. I lived in six other countries growing up: New Zealand, where I was born, Fiji, England, Sweden, Nigeria and Australia. As an adult, I have lived in Spain, Guatemala and Venezuela.


Give us one piece of sage advice on writing, relationships, or life in general.

I think the best gift you can give yourself in any area of life, but especially perhaps in creative endeavors, is to believe in yourself, believe that you have something worthwhile to say, believe that only you can say it. Don’t let anyone steer you from your path. Use adversity to develop strength. And just don’t give up!


What are you working on now?

I’ve got two novels I absolutely, positively must finish! One is called The Revolutionaries, and it’s a literary political thriller based on the 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela, where I was living at the time and which I covered as a journalist. The protagonists are an expat married couple who find themselves on opposite sides of Venezuela’s very divided politics. The other is called Angels Lust. It’s a detective mystery set in Los Angeles with a Latin American twist. I also have a sequel to Skin of Tattoos. A chunk of it is written, but it’s still got a long way to go. Mags’s journey is far from over. He’s got some deep, dark places to go before he resurfaces.


What question didn’t I ask that you wish I had?

How did you write so convincingly about the world of gangs?

Research. Much of it was done in the context of my job as a journalist. I was able to interview gang members, their girlfriends and parents, prison inmates, as well as numerous sociologists and other experts who study gangs, and police officers who work in gang units. I also read a heap of books about gangs, including memoirs by gang members, who tend to write their stories whilst they’re incarcerated, and others who work with gangs, ranging from priests to anthropologists. I also had the benefit of co-authoring a book on gang intervention.


Thank you so much for joining us today, Christina. I encourage everyone to check out your work. I’m sure they’ll be very glad they did.



Skin of Tattoos available in ebook and paperback on Amazon:

Girl on the Brink available in ebook and paperback on Amazon:








Skin of Tattoos


Los Angeles homeboy Magdaleno is paroled from prison after serving time on a gun possession frameup by a rival, Rico, who takes over as gang shotcaller in Mags’s absence. Mags promises himself and his Salvadoran immigrant family a fresh start, but he can’t find either the decent job or the respect he craves from his parents and his firefighter brother, who look at him as a disappointment. Moreover, Rico, under pressure to earn money to free the Cyco Lokos’ jailed top leader and eager to exert his authority over his rival-turned-underling, isn’t about to let Mags get out of his reach. Ultimately, Mags’s desire for revenge and respect pushes him to make a decision that ensnares him in a world seeded with deceit and betrayal, where the only escape from rules that carry a heavy price for transgression is sacrifice of everything – and everyone – he loves.



Ay yo, homes!” A familiar voice sliced through the bustle. “Mags!”

I twirled faster than a ballet dancer, my stomach clenching. Fuck. It was him. Rico. Slashing across the street aiming the shopping bag in his hand at me. His baggy shorts slung so low the waistband of his boxers showed. Socks, white as fluorescent light, pulled neatly to his knees. Ink flowing out of the arms and neck of his plaid shirt. Exactly how he looked the last time I saw him.

The memory of that day bore down on me. We were kicking it at a street corner, and Rico was bragging about how he shot a trey-eight into the ceiling of a liquor store he was jacking, and the storeowner pissed his pants. As he was talking, he took the .38 out of his waistband in a live re-enactment, and I just had to take the piece, feeling its cold weight in my hand for just a second or two before handing it back to Rico. That second or two cost me twenty-six months of my freedom.

Rico threw his arm around me. A thick gold chain shone around his neck. I had a cord with an orange arrow slung around mine.

Ese.” My voice had as much life as a three-day-old soda.

I never knew if he dropped that thirty-eight by accident, as he said, or if he saw his chance to set me up. I kinda figured the latter. Someday, somehow, I’d get him to admit the truth to me.

“I thought that was you. But I said to myself, ‘Mags, in that fuckin pendejada? Couldn’t be.’ But I looked again and simón, it was. Whatup with this shit?” He flicked the red nose ball. I caught his wrist in midair and stared him down in his swamp eyes. “Easy, fool,” he said.

I dropped his wrist. “Just making a few bones.”

“I heard you was back. We been waiting for you at the garaje, but you ain’t showed up.” Rico drilled my eyes. “You avoiding your homies or what?”

The ball was itching my nose like an oversized mosquito bite. “I got parole and all that. I just wanted to get set up first.”

“I figured you needed a couple days to get readjusted, get some pussy.” He shook his head. “But damn, this shit?” He shook his head. “You ready to get crazy again?”

“Keeping it lo pro, Rico.”

Rico studied me. I suddenly glimpsed myself in his eyes—I had become a small brown man.

He brightened up. “Hey, I just had a kid. A boy. I’m buying some bottles and blankets and shit right now.”


“With Maribel. But I got my side action, feel me?”

“You were always real slick with the jainas.” I knew a little flattery would soften the rough edges of the meet. He smiled big.

“Tell you what, loco, I’ll give you some lessons, make you real smooth.”

“Yeah, I’m out of practice now.” I tried to laugh.

“A lot of changes gone down in the barrio. We need to catch you up.” His arm hooked my neck in a chokehold. “You our firme homeboy, man, you’ll always be part of la familia. We need you, fool.” He squeezed a little too hard. “You come by the garaje. We got a jump in day after tomorrow. We’ll be waiting. We’ll hook you up again, then you can dump this shit.” He pointed his forefinger at me with a barbed wire smile. “Missed you, Mags.”

I watched him vanish into the crowd of shoppers, and spat on the ground to get rid of the bad taste that had flooded my mouth.




Girl on the Brink


The summer before senior year, Chloe starts an internship as a reporter at a local newspaper. While on assignment, she meets Kieran, a quirky aspiring actor. Chloe becomes smitten with Kieran’s charisma and his ability to soothe her soul, torn over her parents’ impending divorce. But as their bond deepens, Kieran becomes smothering and flies into terrifying rages. He confides in Chloe that he suffered a traumatic childhood, and Chloe is moved to help him. If only he could be healed, she thinks, their relationship would be perfect. But her efforts backfire, and Kieran turns violent. Chloe breaks up with him, but Kieran pursues her relentlessly to make up. Chloe must make the heartrending choice between saving herself or saving Kieran, until Kieran’s mission of remorse turns into a quest for revenge.



The carnival sets up for two weeks every summer in a field outside town. Everyone goes. It’s something to vary Indian Valley’s monotonous diet of bowling, the single-screen movie theatre, miniature golf, and hanging out at the Dairy Cream.

Kieran grabs my hand as we stroll into the fair. It’s a riot of dazzling lights, whirling rides and thumping music. I scan the crowd, hunting for Morgan and Jade, who I spot waiting for funnel cakes.

“Hey, there are my friends.” I wave frantically at them with my free hand as I tug Kieran with the other. Morgan sees me, points me out to Jade and they both look my way.

Kieran yanks my hand in the opposite direction. “We’ll catch up with them later.”

“I want you to meet them. I told them all about you.”

“I just want to play my favorite game for you first.”

I can’t refuse. I let myself be pulled and make an apologetic face at them. Morgan’s expression hardens. She says something to Jade. The crowd swarms between us, and I lose sight of them.

Kieran steers me to a shooting-at-moving-ducks game and grabs a rifle. He’s a good shot and soon wins a white teddy bear with a red satin heart sewn on its chest. He hands it to me.

“For you.”

“Thank you. It’s adorable.” I proudly tuck it under my arm.

“Just like you. Hungry?”


“Me, too.”

We make for the food concessions. “Carnival hot dogs are the best,” Kieran says. “The pizza and hamburgers blow.”

“Totally,” I say as we line up.

We buy hot dogs slathered with relish—and root beer, of course—and sit at a picnic table. Kieran straddles the bench, patting the seat in front of him. I sit astride like him. He inches closer so our knees touch.

“Open wide,” he orders, looking at my mouth.

I obey. He feeds one end of the hot dog to me, then leans in and bites the other end. I crack up and almost choke.

“Don’t laugh,” which comes out something like “doan waf” through Kieran’s mouthful of hot dog.

No hands, he chews, swallows and takes another bite. I do the same. We manage to eat the hot dog, and at the end, our lips touch. Kieran presses mine into a kiss.

“So that’s why you like carnival hot dogs,” I say when we break apart. “To steal kisses.”

“Hey, I told you they were the best. Hold on, you have mustard on your face.” He swoops in and licks the side of my mouth.

I wipe off his wetness. “Ew, Kieran!”

“Mmmm, salty.”

I giggle. He swoops in again and licks all around my mouth and lips. His tongue tickles, and I laugh as I shake my head, sucking in my lips, trying to get him off me as I crack up harder, which only encourages him. He slurps my cheeks and chin, and I try to recoil out of his reach, but he pulls me to him. Finally, he backs off and dabs my face with a napkin as I recover my breath.

“You’re worse than a puppy,” I say.

“Ruff, ruff.” He pants and holds up his hands like paws, then jumps to his feet, holding out his palm. “Come on. Time for rides.”

We run like it’s an emergency.

“Cup of tea, Madam?” Kieran points to the tea cups, then pushes open the just-closing gate and leaps in a cup.

We spin madly in the tea cups, chase, block and slam each other in the bumper cars, cling to each other in the haunted house. We finish with a ride on the Ferris wheel.

It’s getting late, and the crowd has swelled with rowdy revelers who obviously made a pitstop at a bar before the carnival.

“Let’s go,” Kieran says, after a guy, drunk or stoned, stumbles in front of us.

“I really wanted you to meet my friends.”

“We’ve got plenty of time for that. It gets nasty this time of night, a lot of fights.”

“Okay.” I give a last three-sixty turn in case Jade and Morgan appear. Kieran’s right. Cliques of older guys and girls hang around the perimeter, smoking and drinking from paper bags.

We swing our clasped hands as we walk to the parking lot. I wish the night would never end. When we get in the truck, he blasts the air conditioning and rolls down the windows. We pull out into the street, and as the AC chills, I close my window. Using his control, Kieran buzzes it down again.

“The AC’s on,” I say.

“I know, but doesn’t it feel great? To feel cold air and warm air at the same time?”

He accelerates. Bathtub-temperature air whooshes along the side of my body, while my chest is cooled by the AC. The combination feels luxurious.

“You’re right. It does feel great!”

He grins. “Told ya.”

“My mom would kill me for doing this.”

“That’s why you’re hanging with me, not with her.”

He snakes an arm over and slides off the elastic holding my ponytail. I shake my hair loose and let the wind whip it.

“That’s it, sweetpea, be free.”

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Posted by Matthew Peters - September 13, 2016 at 4:48 am

Categories: Author Interviews   Tags: , , , , , , ,

An Interview with Chris Ryall

BOE - working on novel copy

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you are currently working on.

My name is Chris Ryall. I’m an Australian teacher, and have worked and lived in Japan for 20 years. My passion is writing, and I am the author of several short stories, many pieces of poetry and a novel. I’m hoping to have my debut novel, Gold of the Rising Sun, published in 2017. Using my experiences from time spent living in Osaka and holidaying in Okinawa, I have written a story about a young American teacher working in Osaka. He finds trouble with both the Yakuza and the police when his Japanese girlfriend turns out to be the daughter of the local Mob boss.


If you could have a conversation with one person living or dead who would it be?

Stephen King. I’ve been an avid reader of his since I was a teenager. Stephen King (along with Dan Brown, John Grisham, Clive Cussler) was the inspiration for me to become a writer.


Is there a theme/message underlying your work that you hope comes across?

Well, as both a teacher and a writer, I would like to share with the reader some Japanese history and culture (amidst the action and romance), and maybe even entice them to visit Japan.


If you could be any character in literature, who would you choose to be?

With regard to serious literature, I’d love to be Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights – such a marvelous story to be a part of. However, if we are talking about modern, contemporary fiction, then to be Louis from Ann Rice’s Interview with a Vampire would be an incredible adventure. Imagine the changes that Louis (played by Brad Pitt in the movie) would have witnessed.


Pirates or ninjas, and why?

Ninjas. As much as I like pirates (I loved reading Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson as a child), my 20 years in Japan have endeared me to samurai warriors and ninjas. I have enjoyed visiting a few ninja castles, museums and performances while living in Japan.


Have you had to make sacrifices for your writing, and if so, what are they?

Time and money. I have taken ‘sabbaticals’ away from paying jobs to work on my writing, and I have also sacrificed time with my wife, Mandy, in order to finish and edit my debut novel.


What is your number one pet peeve when it comes to writing/reading books?

I hate when a great book comes to an end. Writing a book on the other hand is a lot harder than most people know. It takes time, dedication, sacrifice, patience, and being a first time, unknown author makes it incredibly hard to get published. Finding time for either is also a challenge.


When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I wrote my first poem in year 8 of high school. I wrote my first novel when I was 16. But I first considered myself a writer when I had my first article published when I was 20 years old.


If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Rob Parnell. I mentioned before which novelists have inspired me, but Rob Parnell has actually tutored me in many aspects of writing, especially ‘show, don’t tell’. Rob is a professional writing guru, and the author of over 30 books, both fiction and non-fiction. I’ve taken a number of Rob’s writing courses over the years and have learned much as a result. You can find out more about Rob here on my author blog:


Do you have anything specific you want to say to your readers?

Yes. Please take a look at my author website, and find out more about my upcoming debut novel, Gold of the Rising Sun. I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.


Would you rather have one giant bestseller or a long string of moderate sellers?

Tough question. One giant bestseller would be immensely satisfying, but a long string of moderate sellers would ultimately be more rewarding in the long term. I’d settle for that.


Would you rather read a book that is poorly written but has an excellent story, or read one with weak content, but is well written?

A well written book is always a pleasure to read, no matter it being a weak story. However, I wouldn’t get far enough into a poorly written book to know whether or not it had a great story. A well written story will always win over one that is badly written, regardless of the concept.


Do you think a writer should write every day?

Yes, I do. But I also admit that that in itself is a real challenge. A full-time, stay-at-home writer can manage that of course, but for someone who is still working another job, it’s difficult. As a teacher, I’m afraid, there are simply days where I can’t find the time to work on my writing.


What five words would you use to describe yourself?

Dreamer, Generous, Frustrated, Diligent, Romantic.


Tell us something about yourself that few people know.

I’ve learned and practiced Karate both in Australia and in Japan (which came in handy for the main character in my novel). I love watching old movies and listening to retro music. I never intended on being away from my country for so long, but now my wife and I intend to spend the rest of our lives here. (We currently hold ‘permanent resident’ status).


If you could marry a fictional character who would it be?

I’m happily married, but if I were to marry a fictional female character, I would probably choose Catherine Earnshaw (Wuthering Heights), to whom romance meant everything.


Do you have any talismans, charms, superstitions, or music that helps you write? If so, what is the story behind them?

I’m not superstitious, so I don’t rely on any lucky charms or talismans. However, I do find music can help set a mood for a particular scene. When I wrote chapters set in Japan, I listened to Japanese (instrumental) music. When I wrote action scenes, I listened to heavy rock music.


Give us one piece of sage advice on writing, relationships, or life in general.

Be yourself. Don’t ever try to be someone else. Discover your own style. It’s too much trouble to keep up a false façade and eventually the mask will slip. Be honest and sincere from the start.


Poetry that rhymes or poetry that doesn’t—which do you prefer?

Finding a poet that writes great ‘free verse’ is extremely difficult. Nan Witcomb (The Thoughts of Nanushka) is one such poet. Generally, however, I like to read and write poetry that rhymes.


What question didn’t I ask that you wish I had?

“Why did you become interested in Japan?”

The answer: I grew up on the Gold Coast, in the ‘Sunshine State’ of Queensland, with its pristine beaches and laid-back lifestyle. In the late 70s and all through the 80s there were lots of Japanese tourists, and I developed an interest in Japan.

When I was a boy I saw Japanese ‘anime’ or cartoons on TV, and later I saw Samurai movies by the late, famed director, Kurosawa Akira, on SBS. Hence, when I was studying Education at Griffith University (Gold Coast Campus), I chose to study Japanese language as my elective.

Upon graduating with a Bachelor of Teaching, I was offered a scholarship to study for one year as an exchange student in Tokyo. In 1992, I traveled to Musashino city in Tokyo and furthered my Japanese studies at Seikei University. I studied Matsuo Basho, the famous haiku poet, and Natsume Soseki, a very popular Japanese writer and novelist.

At the time, my girlfriend (now my wife, Mandy) was living in Osaka, having also graduated from Griffith University with a mutual interest in Japan. Instead of returning home after completing my year in Tokyo, I moved to Osaka and quickly got a job there. We lived together in an apartment, climbed Mt Fuji, saw live Sumo wrestling, enjoyed a tea ceremony in a Buddhist temple, and traveled around Japan.

Mandy and I returned to Australia, got married, and spent a month traveling around the west side of the United States on our honeymoon. We eventually found our way back to Japan, and have been here ever since. We currently live in Matsusaka city in Mie – the home of Matsusaka Beef (‘wagyu’).


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Murder in Party Town


Osaka, Japan: Summer 2004


The ‘Bousouzoku’ motorbike gangs buzzed the city nightspot of Namba. They were dressed in wild, loose clothing that trailed behind them as they roared on through the night. The leader carried a traditional wartime Japanese flag – the “rising sun” flag, favored by right wing ultra-nationalists. There were about thirty bikes on the road. Most of them had one rider, but a few of them had a passenger riding pillion. The majority wore black leather jackets, many of which were adorned with chains and studs, or bright colorful patches with nationalistic symbols. Some of them had a traditional Japanese headband known as a ‘hachi-maki’. A number of them had dyed their hair blonde, to stand out, while others had colored theirs a fashionable brown. They glared at anyone who looked at them.

Cars swerved to avoid them; others pulled over to let them pass. Nobody dared beep their horn as the modified motorcycles weaved their way through traffic. Trailing closely behind the swarm of bikers were two police patrol cars, their sirens on and lights flashing. Competing with the sirens were the nationalistic anthems blasting out of the motorbikes’ speakers. Startled pedestrians on the sidewalk stopped and stared, but only for a moment, for this was just part of the wild nightlife in the city of Osaka – Japan’s ‘party town’.

Osaka, a city where the bars and clubs never shut down, is home to almost three million residents, to the Hanshin Tigers baseball team, and also one of many operating bases for the ‘Yakuza’, the Japanese Mafia. It was often reported in police bulletins and news media that that the Bousouzoku was a good training ground for the Yakuza, and new recruits were often selected from amongst its rank and file members.

Viewing the motorbike gang from a dark rooftop two hundred and fifty yards away was a middle-aged Japanese man. He peered through a telescopic sight attached to the top of his Russian Dragunov sniper rifle. As he crouched in the shadows, the man squeezed his left eye shut and focused his right eye on the lead motorcycle rider; his right hand adjusted the knob on his scope as he considered the distance and wind speed. He used a night sight, so the clarity was perfect. The sniper then sat back and breathed.

The Japanese Bousouzoku leader was not his target, but rather just a ‘test dummy’ on whom to set the range of his telescopic sight. He ran his hands along the rifle’s long barrel, and the magazine underneath. It was a new acquisition off the black market, and he hadn’t become totally familiar with it yet. Tonight he would christen the weapon with its first kill. His old sniper rifle was a typical bolt-action design, but it took too long to reload. Needless to say the new gun, along with the scope and the high-powered steel jacketed shells, was untraceable. He looked back through the scope at the motorbikes as they continued on their way, their nationalistic music barely audible.

It was common knowledge that many Bousouzoku were right-wingers, and supported the ultra-nationalists. The Yakuza also supported the right wing to a certain degree, as they were traditionalists and had a long history dating back to the seventeenth century.

Many Yakuza for that reason enjoyed historical drama and frequented the Shin-Kabuki Theater, a splendid, traditional Momoyama-style structure in Namba, where one could watch famous Japanese dramas played out on stage. Afterward they would head to one of the many typical hostess bars in the area, and drink ‘sa-ke’ and talk until dawn.

A group of middle-aged men, dressed in dark suits, wandered along Midosuji Avenue towards one of their favorite nightspots, where they were ‘jouren’ (regular customers). They were in the city center now, surrounded by thousands of people all bustling to get somewhere, cars tooting their horns, skyscrapers on all sides, offices and businesses that stayed lit up late into the night, and bright neon lights flashing their colorful messages.

One of the men looked much older than the rest, and the others seemed to defer to him. He could have been in his seventies or eighties, with his grey hair and wrinkled face, but he walked as though he was in his forties, sprite and energetic. He was missing the ‘pinky’ finger on his right hand, a telling sign that he was Yakuza. This was confirmed by a garish tattoo peeking out just above his collar.

It was visible from two hundred and fifty yards away, through the night sight of the sniper’s semi-automatic rifle. Using a military style reticle in the scope, the rifle’s telescopic sight showed only a horizontal and vertical gauge instead of the usual crosshairs, and a sloping scale for the height and distance of the target. The sniper could normally be assured of the accuracy of his shot with this special type of scope.

However he was also using a suppressor, similar to a silencer on a handgun, so as to muffle the sound and dull the flash in order to conceal his position. Unfortunately this would also compromise his accuracy slightly, the sniper knew. His magazine held ten rounds; although there were seven targets in his sights, only one of those was an absolute priority.

He sized up the old man up in his sight, and through the scope he could also see the traffic light for pedestrians counting down the remaining fifty-eight seconds until they could walk. Without taking his eye off his target, he eased his finger off the trigger, reached down and jabbed numbers on his cell phone. He let it ring three times and hung up. Seven blocks away, upon hearing the pre-arranged signal, a black BMW silently exited a city car park.

The aged Yakuza and his entourage waited patiently at the corner for the green ‘walk’ sign; their favorite bar was one of many lining the other side of the busy intersection. Two of the younger men pivoted on their heels, constantly scanning the crowd, as if afraid that there may be some danger lurking nearby. Behind them was a ten-story office building, mostly offices, with an English Language Conversation School taking up most of the second floor. The ground floor contained a foyer, with vending machines, an elevator, and a set of stairs leading up into the building. Directly outside the door, close to the wall of the building was a ‘Takoyaki’ stand selling popular fried dumplings filled with octopus.

The man behind the stand seemed occupied making and selling the traditional snack, and didn’t appear to be a threat. In the space between the Takoyaki stand and the Yakuza group was a throng of people, comprising those waiting for the light to change, and pedestrians walking past in either direction. Some were ‘salary men’, the Japanese term for standard male office workers; the others were young university students, or ‘OL’s (Office Ladies), or couples out on a date.

The sniper had no intention of harming any of these innocent people, but if one got caught in the crossfire, so be it. His eyes were coal-black, which was unusual for a Japanese person, and they sparkled like two shiny black marbles as he looked back down at his intended victim. He breathed in deeply and allowed his body to relax, as he refocused his gaze on the target through the scope and placed his finger on the trigger.

The shooter then held his breath as he slowly squeezed the trigger of the SVD sniper rifle. At a velocity of over eight hundred yards per second, the sniper saw the results of his shot almost immediately. The 7.62 caliber round tore into the chest of the victim, killing him instantly. The sniper studied the expression on the old man’s face as he fell to his knees and collapsed in the street. He searched for his next target.

At first the members of his entourage didn’t know what had happened, and in the few seconds it took for them to comprehend the horrible truth, the sniper had already set his sights on one of the two bodyguards. Again he held his breath, squeezed the trigger and smiled with satisfaction as he saw the bullet enter the man’s forehead, blowing out the rear of his skull. Now the group realized they were under attack, and looked around wildly for the assailant as they pulled their handguns from their jackets. Some of the bystanders panicked at the sight of the pistols.

The sniper fired a bullet into the neck of the second bodyguard who had attempted to rally the group by gesturing for them to duck and run. Civilians standing behind the Yakuza began to scream, at first merely confused but now clearly terrified.

They ran around in all directions, unknowingly blocking any more clear shots for the sniper, who continued to gaze at the scene until a black BMW came into view. Then he quickly packed his rifle and empty shells away, and retreated into the shadows behind him.

The sound of screeching tires cut through the chaos, accompanied by the smell of burning rubber. A black BMW came to a sudden halt on the road in front of the Yakuza. The rear doors burst open and two men leapt out, one on either side, both brandishing pistols. They started firing at the remaining Yakuza members, shooting one directly in the face and pumping more shots into the chests of the others. It was easy for the two assassins to differentiate the target group from the ordinary citizens as the Yakuza were all wearing tuxedos. Yakuza who had guns didn’t have time to react or get off a shot in defense; they fell to the ground in a relentless hail of bullets, a dark pool of blood spreading out around them.

Everyone around the dead men either huddled on the ground in stunned silence or ran off shrieking. A woman then screamed, joined by others in the throng. The two men holding guns yelled something in Osaka dialect and jumped back in the car. The BMW roared around the corner, melting into busy traffic and disappearing into the night, leaving behind only a cloud of gun smoke.

Moments later, as calm ensued, the surrounding witnesses stood and gathered around the seven motionless bodies. Staring down at the tuxedoed corpses, they whispered among themselves in hushed tones.

Amid the chatter, a common word was heard – “Yakuza”.

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Posted by Matthew Peters - August 30, 2016 at 4:34 am

Categories: Author Interviews   Tags: , ,

An Interview with Novelist and Poet Jessica Evans



Tell us a bit about yourself and what you are currently working on or promoting.

I recently moved to Oklahoma from Ohio after the completion of my MFA at Spalding University. While in grad school, I published a chapbook and completed a novel. My brain was pretty fried by the time I got to the prairie, so I took a few months off of serious writing. Recently, I drove across the country and my Muse spoke to me somewhere in the middle of Missouri. I’m about halfway finished with my current full length novel. Additionally, I’ve just launched a blog, that helps writers promote their work without the sticky hierarchy of traditional literary magazines. My time is spent between these two projects, finding a home for a collection of poetry and the gym. Oh, and I teach English to ESL learners somewhere in there too.


Is there a theme/message underlying your work that you hope comes across?

I’m really interested in the marginalized members of society. I hope that my work shows compassion and a dedication to the idea that all voices need to be heard, even if we don’t always like them.


Pirates or ninjas, and why?

Ninjas because if I say pirates, my sister might disown me. Seriously though, ninjas are far more ethically conscious than pirates. They’re stealthy and being a ninja seems like much harder work than being a pirate. I rarely choose the easy route.


Have you had to make sacrifices for your writing, and if so, what are they?

If I had a dollar for every time I have told a loved one that I needed to ‘sit to pages’ or that I was spending the night in my lab and couldn’t make it to any variety of social events, I might have enough to pay off my grad school loans. That said, it’s hard to think about writing as a true sacrifice because it’s what I do. Who I am, and what I love.


What is your number one pet peeve when it comes to writing/reading books?

I recently read a mind-candy novel wherein the author consistently reminded the reader of information that had already been presented. It drove me batty! I really dislike when authors don’t have faith in what their readers are going to remember.


When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I have this memory of being eight or nine, lying on my childhood bed with this rinky 3.5 journal. This was the 80s, so think Lisa Frank, complete with rainbows and unicorns, lots of bright color. On the cover, the word “Diary” was written in bold. I remember scribbling (and really, that’s what it was and has been for most of my life since I’m left-handed) away one night, not bothering to stop even for dinner. It was then that I knew I was a writer.


If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

In addition to all the great mentors I’ve had the chance to work with at Spalding, I’ve also been fortunate enough to find some really amazing writers outside of my program.


Would you rather have one giant bestseller or a long string of moderate sellers?

I’m honestly not concerned with bestsellers or strings of moderate sellers. I’m interested in having my voice heard.


Do you think a writer should write every day?

If a writer wants to be a writer, then s/he should write. If it fits that the writing take place every day, then so be it. It’s hard to suggest that we all follow the same rules. This is a creative process, and while it takes commitment, it also takes fire. If one doesn’t have fire on a particular day, maybe doing something relating to writing will be just as beneficial.


What five words would you use to describe yourself?

Driven, dedicated, relentless, empathetic, loving.


Do you have any talismans, charms, superstitions, or music that helps you write? If so, what is the story behind them?

Every writer has rituals. I have a million both relating to and totally unrelated to writing. The one I feel comfortable sharing is this – when I’m in the middle of a project, I don’t clean my lab. It stays dirty and dusty; aside from Larry, my albino kitty, no one is allowed inside. Once the project is complete, I do a total overhaul of the space, cleaning windows and changing curtains and usually rearranging the furniture. It helps clear the old energy to make way for new.


Give us one piece of sage advice on writing, relationships, or life in general.

No one is ever going to hand you success, no matter the form in which you aspire to be successful. If you want it, go out and make it happen. It sounds trite but it’s true. It also sounds easy, but it’s not. Leaders have the faith to believe in their own dreams.


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Posted by Matthew Peters - August 23, 2016 at 4:39 am

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An Interview with Author and Cancer Survivor Julie Knose

An Interview with Author and Cancer Survivor Julie Knose

june 2016


I am so honored to have as my guest today Julie Knose, whose book Are You Ready To Put All That Cancer Stuff Behind You? I recently had the opportunity to read and review (please click here to read my review). I’ve thought a good deal about what I’d like to say to introduce Ms. Knose and her work, and I think it best to state simply and unequivocally that her book changed and healed me. I’ve never been diagnosed with cancer, but my mom died of it in 2002, and, as a recovering alcoholic, I found this book extraordinary. I believe anyone who has ever suffered loss or seeks healing and spiritual growth will gain enormously from reading it. Are You Ready To Put All That Cancer Stuff Behind You? helped me quit smoking and started me on a path of spiritual growth and self-transformation. This book is truly unique in its perspective and stands out from the crowd of self-help literature in several ways (which I discuss in my review). May it help and inspire you as much as it has me.


Tell us a bit about yourself and what you are currently working on or promoting.

My name is Julie Knose. I’m from Hamilton, Ohio. In June of 2009, at the age of 31, I was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer. I went through surgery, chemo, and radiation. I had a difficult recovery which prompted me to write a book about my healing journey. The title of the book is: Are You Ready To Put All That Cancer Stuff Behind You? Using Art Therapy and Affirmations to Heal and Move Forward.


Is there a theme/message underlying your work that you hope comes across?

Hope is the message that I hope comes across! During my darkest days, it was hope that kept me going. I didn’t know if things were going to get better, but I never gave up hope, and things did get better. I want my book to be a glimmer of hope for someone who is still struggling. In the latter part of the book, I share the conversations I had with my spirit guide, Sunny. We talk a lot about hope, courage, and forgiveness.


If you could be any character in literature, who would you choose to be?

Probably Carrie Bradshaw. She’s a writer with an awesome wardrobe, three close girlfriends, and a cute boyfriend. Though I don’t want to live in New York; we get enough snow in Ohio!


Have you had to make sacrifices for your writing, and if so, what are they?

Yes, I’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices. I’ve missed important family events and good times with my friends. I sold my car to my uncle to pay for editing. There’s a Natalie Goldberg quote that’s fitting here: “Know that you will eventually have to leave everything behind. The writing will demand it of you.” That being said, when writing my next book, I want to have a better balance, write faster, and get feedback!


What is your number one pet peeve when it comes to writing/reading books?

Just sitting down to write, giving myself permission, quieting my inner critic, and overcoming self-doubt. I thought I had to have an agent or publisher to validate my work, not realizing self-publishing is a great option. If I can figure it out, anyone can! When you want something bad enough, you figure it out. In the past, I would’ve said revision, but now I realize revision is the only way the writing improves.


When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I think I’ve always known I was a writer, yet I was too shy or scared to claim the title. I heard the whispers and felt the nudges, yet I kept brushing them off. I’ve been an athlete most of my life. I didn’t get an English degree. I don’t know the grammar rules. I’ve always loved buying notebooks and journals. I like to be prepared when inspiration strikes. It took getting cancer to understand my soul’s purpose.


Do you have anything specific you want to say to your readers?

The title of the book comes from a text message a co-worker sent to me after treatment ended. He asked me, “Have you put all that cancer stuff behind you?” Looking back, I think he meant well. At the time, I was reeling from everything I’d been through. There’s spoken and unspoken pressure for survivors to push everything under the rug and get back to normal. We don’t want to pretend everything is fine or get stuck in our grief. I found art therapy and affirmations to be a helpful way for me to process my feelings and make peace with my new normal.


Do you think a writer should write every day?

I think a writer should write as often as they wish, whether that’s many pages or a post-it-note. Everyone has different speeds. Practice will make us all better, and quality is important. For me, the words are always forthcoming, which can be annoying sometimes. I fight the words instead of allowing them. I write well after much revision, and writing brings me peace like soccer used to bring me joy.


What five words would you use to describe yourself?

On a good day: creative, loving, determined, honest, and funny.


Tell us something about yourself that few people know.

My nickname is JuJu. Only a few people call me that, and they say it with love! Also, I used to be afraid of the dark and had to sleep with a nightlight on. Now, I like the room to be dark when I sleep.


If you could marry a fictional character who would it be?

Well, I guess I’ll pick one of Carrie Bradshaw’s boyfriends, Aidan Shaw. He was very sweet to her.


Do you have any charms, superstitions, or music that helps you write?

I like it to be quiet when I write, so the radio gets turned off. I like to drink cold water or hot tea. I keep my phone on silent all the time because I don’t like the annoying beeps. I always sit at the kitchen table only because I don’t have a desk. I rarely carry the computer to the couch. I’m superstitious about my computer crashing, so I always back up the word.doc file on a flash drive and take it with me.


Give us one piece of sage advice on writing, relationships, or life in general.

Listen to your heart. Be honest. Aim for good enough, perfection is a trap. Hire a developmental editor. Forgiveness weighs less than a grudge. Tomorrow is another day. Breathe and smile. Turn off the television. Don’t apologize for how you feel. Get a second opinion. Eat healthy. Exercise often. Sleep well. Discover your passion. Spend time in nature. Love more. (Oops! That was more than one.)


What question didn’t I ask that you wish I had?

“What’s next for you?” More book marketing and writing another book. I’m also getting a car and part-time job. In October, pending acceptance, I’ll be at the Books by the Banks festival in Cincinnati. Stay connected with me through email, website, or Twitter. My book is available in paperback and ebook on Amazon. If you know of any cancer survivors or caregivers, please share this with them.


To find more about Julie Knose and her marvelous book:








Are You Ready To Put All That Cancer Stuff Behind You? is a breast cancer memoir and recovery guide. If you’re looking for hope and inspiration, you’ve come to the right place. Julie will make you laugh, cry, get creative, dream big, and believe in miracles.

Julie shares the story of her surprising diagnosis, aggressive treatment, and long recovery. Finding solace in art therapy, affirmations, and nature walks, she attempts to understand the disease that changed her life. She describes her path to self-acceptance, the loss of her father to lung cancer, and a visit from an angel who encouraged her to keep going.

There are 11 art therapy and writing exercises to help you express emotions, develop compassion, practice gratitude, and find the silver lining. There are 80 affirmations to help you build confidence and make positive changes in your life. You will experience stress relief, improved coping skills, greater self-awareness, and restored well-being.

Julie Knose has a MA in Art Therapy from Southwestern College, Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has a BA in Visual Arts from Naropa University, Boulder, Colorado. Julie enjoys listening to music, photography, and reading books about spirituality. Currently, she’s writing a novel and creating an affirmation card deck. She lives in Mason, Ohio.



Friday is not a good day for bad news. Friday has an exciting vibe, because it kicks off the weekend. It’s TGIF for a reason; no one ever says “TGIM!” Monday would’ve been a more appropriate day for bad news; everybody is a grumpy pants already.

I was at my follow-up appointment for the “it’s probably nothing” lump the surgeon removed the week before. I don’t like needles, blood, or hospitals. I didn’t know how to take my pulse or blood pressure. I had no idea what my body did on a daily basis; it seemed to be running fine, and I never bothered to check otherwise. My boss was expecting me in the office after the appointment, so there wasn’t time to stop and smell the roses. There wasn’t even a Starbucks on my route.

The only consolation, my surgeon was a cutie pie so I didn’t mind chatting with him about the weather. Unfortunately, our lighthearted banter ended abruptly. I squirmed in my chair when his cheerful demeanor turned serious. Could the lump be cancer? I took a deep breath.

In 2003, I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico for graduate school. Since then, my gynecology visits had become sporadic. I wasn’t doing monthly breast self-exams or paying attention to the unusual weight loss and fatigue. I was more concerned with putting together an outfit for work that looked professional and caused my co-worker crush, Steve, to do a double take. I also tried to finish the never-ending pile of work on my desk thinking it was imperative to do so.

“You have breast cancer.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me. You’re joking, right?” This happens to older women with big breasts. I’m only 31 and wear a 34A bra. I’m a tomboy. I don’t like pink. I have my whole life ahead of me. I don’t have time for cancer.

I wanted to put the words back into his mouth, turn back time, and start the day over. I could skip the appointment, keep it a secret, and make everything okay again. I should’ve reminded him it was Friday, and all bets were off. He no longer looked cute to me.
“No, I’m afraid not. This is serious. And you’ll need a mastectomy.”
“I don’t think so.” There was no way in hell they were getting chopped off. I’ve never wanted fake boobs. My breasts are mine; they are small and perfect. Well, they used to be.

The surgeon handed me the pathology report as if I needed proof my life was over. I imagined an F+ written with red marker at the top of the paper. I had failed at the simplest task we’re given: to live a healthy life.
“My dad just died of lung cancer. This can’t be happening.”
“I’m sorry. I wish your mom were here. I assumed she would be.”
“She’s in Seattle. We didn’t think anything was wrong.” Just the previous     September I had gone with my mom and brother to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. We had a great time hiking, exploring the geysers, and taking pictures of the wildlife. We even saw a baby bear cub. I was happy and carefree. I couldn’t reconcile that image with where I was now.

“When I removed the lump, it didn’t just pop out. I took extra margins for the pathologist. I found out on Wednesday for sure.”

“I came here thinking you were going to check the incision, make sure it’s healing. I never dreamed you would tell me I have cancer.” I started crying.

“I’m sorry. I’ll give you the names of two oncologists who have practices nearby.”

“Thanks.” He did call me the night of the surgery to see how I was doing and remind me to take the Vicodin, but he didn’t tell me of his suspicion. Now I know why the recovery was so painful; he took a lot of breast tissue.

I tried to leave the office appearing strong and unaffected. I puffed up my chest like men do when they’re trying to be brave. No big deal; it’s just cancer. Oh my God, this is the worst thing in the world. Keep breathing. Put it out of your mind. Hold it together until you get past the ladies at the front desk. Breathe.

Nope. I broke down sobbing, louder than a fire truck siren, shoulders heaving, looking through my purse for a tissue. I was ushered to a private room to compose myself before I could drive home.

“Are you going to be okay?” the nurse asked. I told her yes even though I knew it’d be a long time before I was okay again. I went to the ladies’ restroom to cry in peace. I must’ve gone into shock because, when I looked in the mirror, I was white as a ghost and the tears had disappeared. My mind was protecting me until all of the information could be digested.

I walked outside to locate my car. It was a warm, sunny day, but everything looked different now. People walked by me. Their world was the same; my world had changed. Like children tumbling down a hill, my thoughts increased their speed. Something bad just happened. The lump was cancer. I’m going into work; they can help me. I have to tell someone. I can’t be alone right now. Everything’s going to be okay. This wasn’t the vacation I was hoping for; this wasn’t the future I had in mind. Turn on the radio and find a happy song.

I drove to work, found a parking space, walked inside the building, and handed my boss, Carolyn, the pathology report. We talked about breast cancer, how serious it was, and getting time off for treatment. I called the female oncologist the surgeon referred me to and set up an appointment for the following week. I was glad to see her oncology practice was a short drive from my mom’s house.

My co-worker, Terri, and I took a break like we always did. This time we talked about how nothing would ever be the same again. She sat with me while I called my mom who cut her vacation short and flew home the next day. I didn’t work much that afternoon. I made some photocopies, went home, and cried. The next few weeks were filled with doctor appointments, treatment planning, and breaking the news to family and friends.



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Posted by Matthew Peters - July 19, 2016 at 4:59 am

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An Interview with Award Winning YA Author Amalie Jahn

Thanks for joining us today, Amalie!


Tell us a bit about yourself and what you’re currently working on or promoting.

My most recent publication is A Straw Man, the final book in The Clay Lion Series.  Each of the books in the young adult series is a stand-alone book relating to specific ramifications of time travel as well as coming-of-age issues many teens face.  The first deals with the death of a loved one, the second with adoption, and I choose to tackle addiction in this third novel, A Straw Man.

I believe there is a lot of misconception about addiction as a disease and that many people wrongly assume they don’t have the potential for addictive tendencies.  What I hoped to convey in the story is that unforeseen circumstances can lead to misguided decisions, but instead of treating addicts as criminals, we need to treat them as patients who need our care and understanding.  Addiction is typically triggered by a catalyst, and I think we need to do better as a society to identify those triggers and prevent addiction before it starts through preventative treatment and counseling.


If you could have a conversation with one person living or dead who would it be?

I’d like to speak with my grandfather on my dad’s side, who died before I was born.  I’d like to get to know him – to see how who he was shaped my father into who he became and eventually who I became as well.  I’d like to know what parts of me come from him.


Is there a theme/message underlying your work that you hope comes across?

Because I write for young adults, I think the major underlying theme in each of my books is that you are not alone.  Adolescents spend an unfathomable amount of time worrying that they aren’t going to fit in or that no one has ever experienced what they’re going through.  I like to show teenagers, through my stories, that their experiences and feelings are somewhat universal and in the end, it’s all going to be okay.


If you could be any character in literature, who would you choose to be?

Easy one – I want to be Lucy Pevencie from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.  She believes when no one else dares to imagine what could be true, and she gets to have tea with Mr. Tumnus before eventually saving Aslan and becoming a queen of Narnia.  What could be better than that?


Pirates or ninjas, and why?

Pirates, no doubt.  I’ve been a competitive swimmer my entire life and love the water.  I think I’d be a great pirate!  I wouldn’t even be afraid of walking the plank.  Also, in the interest of full-disclosure, I’m a bit clumsy, so I think stealthy ninja would be out.


What is your number one pet peeve when it comes to writing/reading books?

I’d love more time for both.  I do a lot of my “reading” by listening to audio in the car or while I’m running errands.  Unfortunately, I can’t truly “write” while grocery shopping, although my mind is always going, and I have scads of plot notes and character analysis scribbled on the back of grocery lists and napkins!

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t consider myself a “writer,” for truly, anyone who conveys ideas and feelings through the written word is a writer.  I think I considered myself an “author” when I completed my first full-length manuscript.  It was the culmination of a life-long dream.


If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

I actually have quite a few writers who I know personally and consider “mentors,” and each of them have assisted me in different aspects of my publication journey.  There are several who have been instrumental in teaching me about advertising and marketing, the business side of the industry, as it were.  And there are others who were there to pull me out of the proverbial pit of despair, when I was ready to throw in the towel early on.  After my very first poor review, many years ago, I was devastated.  I wasn’t prepared for how bad it hurts when someone tells you what you’ve written isn’t good enough.  I cried.  I ate ice cream.  And eventually I turned to my wonderful friend Melodie Ramone (author of After Forever Ends) for advice.

She told me writing a book is like preparing food for a dinner party in which I have invited the whole world – and I’m serving meatloaf.  Now some people love meatloaf and will love my meatloaf, and they will sing my praises from the rooftops.  And some people may have never tried meatloaf and will end up liking my mother’s recipe.  And others won’t, because maybe they like their mother’s recipe better.  And the vegetarians will be there, and of course, they’ll hate the meatloaf.  And all of these partygoers are entitled to their opinions about my meatloaf, but the reality is, nothing anyone says really has any bearing on whether my meatloaf is good or bad – it’s simply about people’s specific tastes.  If someone doesn’t like my meatloaf, it isn’t necessarily because my meatloaf is bad.  It may just be that they prefer steak.  Or tofu.  Or bananas.  And you can’t please everybody, so there’s no reason to even try.  I think of this advice all the time and try to remember that I’m writing for the meatloaf lovers!


Do you have anything specific you want to say to your readers?

Thank you!!  Always thank you!!  Without the support of fans, what would be the point?  Words on the page are meaningless without someone to enjoy reading them!


Would you rather have one giant bestseller or a long string of moderate sellers?

I’ll go with a string of giant bestsellers.  😉

Do you think a writer should write every day?

Yes.  Absolutely.  And I’d like to practice what I preach, but the truth is, I don’t.  I can’t.  I wear many hats, and I tend to run my life like the triage desk at the emergency room – the stuff that’s most critical gets done first, and a lot of times there’s quite a line in front of writing!

What five words would you use to describe yourself?







Tell us something about yourself that few people know.

My body is covered in scars from where precancerous lesions have been excised over the years.  It’s not pretty, but when I look at myself in the mirror, I’m reminded that each scar is a place that had the potential to kill me but didn’t.  I’ll take scars over death any day. 😉


Give us one piece of sage advice on writing, relationships, or life in general.

I’ll give you a piece of advice that covers all three – BE KIND!  I’ve found that no matter what I’m doing, regardless of the capacity, whether it be as an author, a wife, a mother, or a stranger on the street, the best thing to do in any situation is to be kind.  It’s free and it just might change someone’s life.  Probably yours most of all.


Poetry that rhymes or poetry that doesn’t—which do you prefer?

I love them both, but there’s something extra special about prose that is lyrical through rhyme.  Maybe it’s all the Dr. Seuss I read growing up!


What question didn’t I ask that you wish I had?

You didn’t ask about my favorite food, which is a tie between avocados and blackberries.  Now you know.


Please share your social media links with us, including where the book(s) may be purchased:








Thanks so much for joining us, Amalie. Please keep us posted on your latest developments.


TheClayLion FiveAwards Three books Winner Cropped



A Straw Man


What if you could go back in time to save the person you love the most? 

Nate’s funny. He’s a football player. He’s ridiculously handsome. In fact, it seems as if Melody’s dating the perfect guy, until an unexpected tragedy changes everything about him.

Based on her own family’s experiences, Melody knows traveling in time to help him could have disastrous results – the tiniest alteration of the past can have huge repercussions on the future. But with careful planning, she’s confident her trip will be a success.

What she doesn’t anticipate is that sometimes there are consequences which can never be foreseen and changes that can never be undone.






I picked up the last card from the stack and placed the three of hearts on the four of spades and the ten of diamonds on the Jack of clubs.  One by one, each of the cards found a home on top of its designated suit until four neat piles topped with kings lay on the end table beside me.  It had taken me seven tries and the better part of an hour to finish one complete round of solitaire.

“Finally,” I said with a burst of relief, readjusting my position as I slid my feet from beneath me back onto the floor so I could turn my attention to Nate.

In the chair on my left, he continued sleeping peacefully.  His head was tucked into his chest and a trickle of drool pooled at the corner of his lips.  My instinct was to wipe it away, but I knew better than to disturb him.  With the stress of the night on top of everything else, there was only one explanation for how he was able to nod off so quickly while the rest of us remained steadfast in our vigil.  And although I would have welcomed his company, I could not deny him respite, especially when for him sleep was such a precious commodity.

It had been a difficult year for the two of us.  Nothing had been the same since the accident in September, the night Nate changed forever.  As I listened to his shallow breathing, it brought me comfort to know that despite his struggles, he was still beside me, even if it was only because I couldn’t bring myself to give up on him.  He was a whisper of the man I’d fallen in love with our first year, but as I turned to gaze at him, snoring softly through parted lips, there was still a glimmer of the man he used to be.  Most nights, even sleep didn’t offer relief from the burden of his guilt.  I worried for him, although I was out of ideas for ways to help.

His path of self-destruction seemed to have no end.

After suffering for three consecutive hours on the uncomfortable waiting room chair, I stretched my arms above my head and worked at relieving the fatigue in my joints.  As I glanced around at my family, it felt selfish to be thinking only of Nate when they were also in need of prayer.  The middle of the night phone call from my brother Charlie had been filled with both frantic exuberance and fear.  Today would be a big day for him.  And for his wife, Brooke.  And for me too, I supposed.

Brooke’s mother rested awkwardly under the crook of her husband’s arm.  Their eyes were closed but they weren’t asleep.  My mom stared blankly at the pages of an outdated magazine, but I hadn’t seen her turn a page in over half an hour.  She chewed the tip of her thumbnail nervously, humming softly to herself.  For everyone’s sake, I hoped we wouldn’t need to wait much longer to find out what was going on in the ward beyond the double doors.

My stomach growled.  The clock on the wall indicated the sun would soon be rising, but there was no natural light in the waiting room, only the harsh glare of the fluorescents overhead.  I had just decided to set off for the vending machine around the corner for a donut when Charlie burst through the doors wearing ill-fitting scrubs and a smile that stopped my heart.

Everyone was suddenly wide awake.

“It’s a girl!” he cried.

In one swift motion, we crossed the room to him, swept up in the emotion of the moment.  Mom wrapped him in her arms, and as tears built in her eyes, the tightness in her jaw released.

“And she’s fine?  She’s going to be okay?” Brooke’s mother asked.

“They’re both fine,” he replied excitedly.  “They had to take her via cesarean, as we expected because of the placement of the placenta, so Brooke’s gonna have a longer recovery.  But the baby, even five weeks premature…”  He trailed off, a small smile playing at his lips.  “She’s itty-bitty but she’s perfect.”

Brooke’s father squeezed Charlie’s shoulder affectionately.  “So when am I going to get to meet this new granddaughter of mine?”

He shook his head and ran his fingers through his tousled hair.  “I don’t know quite yet.  Brooke’s been moved to recovery, and they’ve taken the baby to the NICU just to run some tests and make sure everything’s okay.  She came out screaming and her APGAR was a nine, so as long as she doesn’t need any help breathing, it shouldn’t be too long before you can go back.”

It didn’t surprise me how natural talking about all the baby stuff seemed for Charlie.  He’d been a father figure to me long before our father’s death, acting as my supportive male role model for as long as I could remember.  When he announced Brooke’s pregnancy to the family in the fall, everyone else seemed relieved that they had finally decided to start a family.  But unlike the others, I was glad they waited a few years into their marriage, giving them more time together as a couple before becoming parents.  Both of them had been pushed to grow up too fast too soon, with Brooke’s younger brother Branson’s untimely death and the unusual circumstances surrounding Charlie’s adoption.

But now, after witnessing how attentive he’d been to Brooke throughout the pregnancy, I was certain that it was finally the right time for him to become a father to his own little girl.

I approached my brother, locking eyes with the person I admired most in the world.  “So, are you going to tell us now, finally?”

“Tell you what?” he replied playfully, nudging me in the arm.

I smiled at him.  “It’s time for you to tell us what you’ve decided to name her.  We’ve waited long enough.”

My demand was bolstered by a chorus of agreement from the others, including Nate who had sidled up beside me.

He welled up at the request and bit at his bottom lip to keep the tears at bay.

“It was Brooke’s idea, if it was a girl… she wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

We waited patiently for him to continue.

“We’re naming her Victoria,” he said finally, “after my mother.”

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Posted by Matthew Peters - December 8, 2015 at 5:53 am

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An Interview with Niki Livingston

Hi, Niki! Thanks for joining us today!


Tell us a bit about yourself and what you’re currently working on or promoting.

My name is Niki Livingston and I wrote the book Theia’s Moons: Eyes Wide Shut.  I am a mother of four children and a partner to one fireman.  I work as a Senior Buyer for a Contract Manufacturer and I have been there since 2007.  I write on the side, along with promoting my novel.  Currently I am working on the second book in the Theia’s Moons series, Enyo’s Warrior.  I am also working on a Novella which will be a prequel to Eyes Wide Shut.


If you could have a conversation with one person living or dead who would it be?

Jesus.  This is why… I’ve read the bible and I find it unbelievable.  I want the real story.  Here is the hippie man from ages ago and people now believe he is the son of god based on a book that contradicts itself and has been rewritten and retranslated too many times to count.  I would love to get his story.  I would love to hear what he thinks of organized religion and the entitled world we live in now.  That would be a conversation of a lifetime.  And of course it would need to be recorded for the whole world to see, because who would believe I actually spoke to him J


If you could be any character in literature, who would you choose to be?

Some might find this strange, but I would choose Hester from The Scarlet Letter.  The book has fascinated me since my mom bought it for me when I was twelve.  I cannot count how many times I have read it, but Hester emanates strength, passion and love, while possessing the soul of a wild woman.  She does not falter.  She stands strong, even when most people would break.  I admire her character above most others and I find the story to be a fascinating depiction of United States history.


Pirates or ninjas, and why?

This is a hard one!  Pirates are dangerous and sexy and free souls, while ninjas are stealthy and disciplined and mysterious.  If I have to choose, I would say pirates.  I have always been a free soul and need the wind in my hair to feel alive.


Have you had to make sacrifices for your writing, and if so, what are they?

Less time with my family.  I work full-time in the manufacturing industry and the only time I have to write is in the evening or on weekends.  I work hard to juggle family life and my passion for writing but sometimes writing has to be done before I lose the information in my head.


What is your number one pet peeve when it comes to writing/reading books?

Being interrupted!  My life is a whirlwind and when I finally get the time to write or read my number one pet peeve is being interrupted.


When did you first consider yourself a writer?

For as long as I can remember I have written stories and all my teachers growing up told me I should be a writer.  I wrote in private for a long time, aside from anything I turned in for school.  About eight years ago I began blogging.  I did it in small steps and was still nervous to put my words out to the public.  Then about six years ago I decided to write a novel.  It was then I considered myself a writer, although writing has been a part of me for most of my life.


If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

J.K. Rowlings.  I know she most likely gets picked a lot, but she is inspiring.  She rose from the ashes and became a queen.  I find her books to be fun and enjoyable and seeing where she came from makes them that much better.


Do you have anything specific you want to say to your readers?

Theia’s Moons has been a journey for me.  I began writing it with a mentality of a Christian wife and ended it when I was divorced and had chosen spirituality over religion.  The story has a direction and there is a method to my madness, so I do hope that after you read it you will want to read the next book in the series.  It will hopefully only get better from here J


Would you rather have one giant bestseller or a long string of moderate sellers?

This is another tough one!  I would love to have a giant bestseller, because that means people love my book.  However, I don’t want to stop there.  I want dozens of my books out in the world and I want them all to be a success.


Would you rather read a book that is poorly written but has an excellent story, or read one with weak content, but is well written?

Excellent story, but poorly written.  Hands down.  If it does not have a good storyline, it does not matter how well it is written… I will lose interest.


Do you think a writer should write every day?

Depends on the writer.  Some can write every day.  Others need to get away and refresh their brain.  I fall into the latter group.  I need to walk away from my writings and clear my head.


What five words would you use to describe yourself?







Do you have any talismans, charms, superstitions, or music that helps you write? If so, what is the story behind them?

I do have a statue that has been my angel for the past few years.  Funny story… I found her at a second hand store.  She is an Indian princess playing a ukulele.  Or that is what I tell myself.  I don’t really know who she is.  I just know when I bought her I was in a period of extreme transition and when I saw her we connected.  She is there when I write and her positive energy inspires me to be better.


Give us one piece of sage advice on writing, relationships, or life in general.

Relationships… people always told me to never go to bed mad.  Maybe that works for some, but it does not work for me.  Sometimes I need to go to bed mad.  When I do, I am better in the morning.  My advice… go to bed mad.  Go to bed frustrated.  Go to bed when you are hurt or sad or heartbroken.  Sometimes going to bed and getting sleep is the best thing you can do for yourself.  Tomorrow is a new day with a new perspective.  Go to bed mad.


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Purchase the book:

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The wars ended years earlier.  The people of Esaki pulled themselves together and learned to enjoy life again, despite their dwindled population.  Malkia became leader of her town, not by choice but by the calling of God.  She lived in a state of peace and turned to her source whenever she felt a need of strength.  However danger was coming their way and it was time to face the reality of their situation.  Malkia and her people travel through their broken world to escape the savages coming their way and learn more about their world, their lives and their true circumstances throughout their journey.  Life is not what it seems and as their eyes begin to open to the truth, the world as they know it crumbles beneath their feet.



Malkia’s sad thoughts returned to the present as she stared at the quiet world outside.  She had lived in this town her whole life and the thought of having to leave was breaking her heart.

The tears flowed as she thought of all her childhood memories.  Her town had been a happy place back before the wars and had been far larger than it was now.  She grew up feeling safe and happy; never thinking her life would be what it was now.

“The people from the skies changed everything,” Malkia whispered to herself, as a tear escaped down her cheek.

Her whole life blew up in her face during those days and she had been running away from the memory ever since.  Now she had to decide for all her people, fight again or run for their lives.

The voice of the wanderer came back to her thoughts, “They will kill your friends and family. These people are savages and they will do anything to control the towns and people they come across.  If I was the leader of this group I would run and I would run fast.”

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Posted by Matthew Peters - November 3, 2015 at 7:35 am

Categories: Author Interviews   Tags: , ,

An Interview with Iryna K. Combs

Hi, Iryna! Thanks for joining us today!


Tell us a bit about yourself and what you are currently working on or promoting.

While being a new author and exploring this new path life is taking me through I am also a mother of a three year old handsome boy and a jewelry maker. I have a bachelor degree in finance (economics and enterprises). I am also self-taught in psychology and body language. On top of that I am an ex-model and LOVE cooking! I am currently working on my next book while promoting my debut novel Black Wings.


If you could have a conversation with one person living or dead who would it be?



If you could be any character in literature, who would you choose to be?

I like to be myself.


Pirates or ninjas, and why?

Ninjas – just feel more secure.


Have you had to make sacrifices for your writing, and if so, what are they?

Just a while back I had to decline a contract offer from one big-time publisher because they wanted me to change the way my book ended. I felt so bad letting that deal go, but my book has a happy end and I would like to keep it the way it is for now. Knowing so many people love the story and how it ends, it would hurt me even more to see my readers get upset if I changed it. That is what I call “little bird in hands better than a big one in skies.”


When did you first consider yourself a writer?

When I wrote my first novel Black Wings and knew it was something I just had to share with people. Once the publisher accepted my manuscript, I felt very good about it.


If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Do not have any…not yet.


Do you have anything specific you want to say to your readers?

“What does not kill us makes us stronger.” Remember this when you think you are not strong enough. People often underestimate what they can handle. But it can always be worse. So just keep on going and keep repeating that nothing will break you down. You get as big as you present yourself. While on your journey, always respect others. Be kind to people and their opinions. If people want to upset you and be ugly, do not fall to their level and always remember that no one can satisfy everybody!


Would you rather have one giant bestseller or a long string of moderate sellers?

One giant bestseller. But either way would make me happy.


Would you rather read a book that is poorly written but has an excellent story, or read one with weak content, but is well written?

I would pick an excellent story. Mistakes can be fixed; the poor story line can’t.


Do you think a writer should write every day?

No. Whenever the inspiration strikes and whenever the time allows.


What five words would you use to describe yourself?

I had to refer this question to my husband since he is my other half, so this is his answer: Driven, intelligent, stubborn, caring and strong.


Tell us something about yourself that few people know.

I rarely cry. Even when I really want to cry out – I just can’t. Some think it is because I am strong. Not sure myself why it happens.


Do you have any talismans, charms, superstitions, or music that helps you write? If so, what is the story behind them?

I only believe in God, other than that, I find it hard to believe in anything unexplainable.


Give us one piece of sage advice on writing, relationships, or life in general.

Write what you feel and always remember you can’t please everybody. No matter how great you think you can write or create – there is always going to be somebody who will not like your work for one reason or another. Do not beat yourself up over it. It is not worth it. Enjoy positive feedback and listen to what people have to say. Respect good and bad. I will be honest – I do not know ANYBODY living or dead who have never been criticized!

Always think well before you say something – words hurt and we all know it too well. Sometimes it is best to say nothing. Care for those who really want and need your love.

When I was little girl I thought happy people are those who have a lots of money and do what they want. Now I know one thing – it is not what you have – it is how you accept things and how you feel about yourself, your life and your happiness. It does not matter where you live or how rich or poor you are – it is all about to be happy with what you have got. Appreciate small and big – and remember there is always chance for it to get worse.


Poetry that rhymes or poetry that doesn’t—which do you prefer?



Author Bio:

Originally from the Ukraine, I am still considered a new face to America. Speaking three languages including English, that became just as natural to me as my native Russian.

I grew up in a town on the south of Ukraine doing the same things that other kids my age did. Dreaming, hoping and wishing. Growing up, I spoke absolutely no English and never even saw myself somewhere abroad. Nevertheless writing a novel in another language!

I went to the local school that brought mostly negative experience in my life. But it shaped me throughout the years. My college life was much better. I was known to study well and to go out partying as much as it was possible.

In my first year of college I began to work in the marriage agency and met my future husband. We dated and traveled to most of the Europe along with Egypt.

When I finally got my fiancée visa, we both moved to the states, where soon after, got married. In the first few years I did some modeling and acting. Photo-shoots, run-way and photo in the magazine fulfilled my childhood’s dream.

A few years later I became a mother of a wonderful and most handsome little boy. Along with learning and experiencing motherhood, I began to make hand-made jewelry and organic soaps. This hobby turned into my small business and became bigger than I thought it would.

In the last year I discovered: an author lives inside me. Never did I think that I would write an English book and that I would love doing it. But I did! And I loved it!


Here is where you can find me:






Buy links: 

Video trailer:





A new time. A new planet. A new world. New technologies. Two new humanoid species. A new war.

The two species separate, but in the removal, some of the best are left behind among the worst. Captured and held as slaves, they are treated cruelly for entertainment. Torture. Pain.

Annabel, endures a year of such cruelty, kept alive only by way of syringes which, while healing, cause a greater agony. She discovers a secret held by their leader, and decides to help her own kind by escaping–even if it means a final death, preferable to the life she has endured.

Her escape succeeds, and she joins her own kind at the other end of the planet. Among her new friends she meets many who help her adjust to their happier life. Will Annabel find romance? Or will another war break her down?



Annabel stopped at the end of the pier, and covered her face with her hands as tears rolled down her cheeks. That emotional moment had triggered memories from the Old Land and the Varkins. She remembered Kate, and how she had promised her freedom but was not able to keep that promise. She remembered her family she had lost, and her boyfriend who’d betrayed her. She wished the Big Change had never happened and she was still a human, with her family and friends. She thought she missed the Old Land, even the Varkins. She would never have thought she would think again about that dark place. Annabel stood at the pier and cried as the wind was blowing her tears away. She heard footsteps approaching her from behind.

“Excuse me?” One of the fishermen was talking to her, a crying stranger. “Something happened? Do you need help?”

“No…Nothing,” Annabel replied and turned away.

“I know we don’t know each other,” he continued, “but I have never seen an Anlight with black wings crying on the pier, so I wanted to make sure you were okay.”

Annabel couldn’t say anything to him as she knew she was not okay.

“My name’s Robin,” he introduced himself. “I come here sometimes when I feel sad too. I very well know this…”

“Why would you feel sad?” Annabel whispered, not looking at him. “Isn’t this a paradise here?”

“It is what you make it to be,” he replied. “But I have my sad days too…I lost my son before we Anlights came to the New Land and I didn’t know what happened to him. He just disappeared right before we had to leave the Old Land.”

Annabel opened her eyes and her heart jumped as she turned to look at the Anlight who was talking to her. He was tall, wearing dark pants and a brown shirt, holding his fishing pole in his right hand. Annabel looked at him for a moment and her eyes widened when the moon appeared from behind scudding clouds and she saw his face in its light. He looked so familiar she was…she knew the reason for his son’s disappearance. She turned away from him hiding her emotions.

“What was his name?” she asked quietly, predicting the answer.

“Markus!” he said. “I called him Mark. He looked a lot like me.”

Annabel closed her eyes and took a deep breath, knowing exactly what had happened to him. She bit her bottom lip, trying to hold tears from washing out of her eyes.

“He was about your age…” the fisherman continued, happily talking about his son, “Very brave young Anlight. Sometimes even too brave for his own good.”

Annabel stood quietly, trying to calm down. She took another deep breath. She knew his son was that brave Anlight who had been doing most of the talking when they were first captured by Varkins.

“I know what happened to him,” she whispered, wondering if she should even tell him the truth. Her voice began to shake.

“Oh, you do?” The fisherman sounded curious—after all, how she could possibly know?

“I was there too…I was with him…and others…” Annabel spoke while catching her breath, trying her best to talk normally without giving in to her emotions. “Nobody lived…” she finished as more tears quietly ran down her face.

“Nobody?” he questioned, needing to be sure.

“Only me…” She finally could not take it anymore and burst into tears, sniffing and catching her breath.

The fisherman sighed and put his head down, in sadness for his son—even though he had already accepted his disappearance and possible death. He came close to Annabel.

“I knew one day I would know the truth.” He spoke calmly, and with sorrow. “Thank you for coming here tonight.”

“I am sorry about your loss,” Annabel sobbed harder with every word said. “He and others were in a lot of pain…and those who died…were the lucky ones. They are in peace now and will not feel any pain again.”

The fisherman took a step closer and put his hand on her shoulder. He smiled slightly.

“Sometimes it’s hard to accept what happens to us. Sometimes the reality seems too much for us to take. But we would not appreciate the good if we did not know the bad. We are writers of our own lives, and we decide when to close a chapter, and when to start the new one.”

Annabel wiped cold tears from her cheeks as she looked at him.

“Cheer up,” he continued. “You’re the lucky one! You can continue writing your life.” He paused for a moment. “And I need to get back to my wife…fish for dinner!” He laughed, picking up a small bucket full of fresh catch. He walked slowly back along the empty pier, disappearing in the darkness.

Annabel stood on the pier for a while longer, thinking about what he had said. She calmed down, as the wind picked up and she began to get cold. She returned to the car and drove back to her house. When she pulled up, nobody seemed to be there. She looked around as she walked to the porch door, hoping nobody was waiting for her. Annabel entered her house and locked the door behind her. She was just going to call her cousin about her visit when, again, someone knocked on the porch door. Annabel recalled what had happened before, and was not in the mood to continue talking about her own or Dexter’s relations. She crossed to the door and moved the blinds to see who was knocking. However, as soon as she saw it was Dexter outside, she slid the door open.


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2 comments - What do you think?
Posted by Matthew Peters - October 27, 2015 at 7:55 am

Categories: Author Interviews   Tags: ,

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