Sunday, September 30, 2012

Interview with Steven Manchester, author of "Twelve Months"


Steven Manchester is the author ofPressed PenniesThe Unexpected Storm: The Gulf War Legacy andJacob Evans, as well as several books under the pseudonym, Steven Herberts. His work has appeared on NBC’s Today ShowCBS’s The Early ShowCNN’s American Morning and BET’s Nightly News. Recently, three of Steven’s short stories were selected “101 Best” for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. When not spending time with his beautiful wife, Paula, or his four children, this Massachusetts author is promoting his works or writing.
To learn more about Steven, visit his website at:

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life, Steve.  Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

A: I’ve been writing since 1991. I’d just returned home from Operation Desert Storm, and was working as a prison investigator in Massachusetts. Needless to say, there was great negativity in my life at that time. I decided to return to college to finish my degree in Criminal Justice. During one of the classes, the professor talked about police work but nothing else. I finally raised my hand and asked, “The criminal justice system is vast. What about the courts, probation, parole – corrections?” He smiled and told me to see him after class. I thought I’d finally done it! In his office, he explained, “There’s no written material out there on corrections or prisons, except from the slanted perspective of inmates.” He smiled again and dropped the bomb. “If you’re so smart,” he said, “why don’t you write it?” Nine months later, I dropped the first draft of 6-5; A Different Shade of Blue on his desk. From then on, I was hooked. I was a writer.

Today, I’m the published author of Twelve Months (my new novel), Pressed Pennies, The Unexpected Storm: The Gulf War Legacy and Jacob Evans, as well as several books under the pseudonym, Steven Herberts. My work has appeared on NBC's Today Show, CBS's The Early Show, CNN’s American Morning and BET’s Nightly News. Recently, three of my short stories were selected "101 Best" for Chicken Soup for the Soul series. When not spending time with my beautiful wife, Paula, or my four children, I’m promoting Twelve Months.

Q: Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

A: Don DiMarco has a very good life – a family he loves, a comfortable lifestyle, passions and interests that keep him amused. He also thought he had time, but that turned out not to be the case. Faced with news that might have immediately felled most, Don now wonders if he has time enough. Time enough to show his wife the romance he didn’t always lavish on her. Time enough to live out his most ambitious fantasies. Time enough to close the circle on some of his most aching unresolved relationships. Summoning an inner strength he barely realized he possessed, Don sets off to prove that twelve months is time enough to live a life in full. A glorious celebration of each and every moment that we’re given here on Earth, as well as the eternal bonds that we all share, Twelve Months is a stirring testament to the power of the human spirit.

I wrote this book for my children. As far as we know, it’s only one life—so you have to make it a great one! Many people drift through the years, but when you’re intentional about how you spend every moment, you can’t help but to live a great life!

Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced writing it?

A: The most difficult part of writing Twelve Months was finding the time. I fell in love right away with the characters and the story that they had to tell. But the kids and wife come first, as do the responsibilities I have to them. When most people were sleeping, I’m pounding away at the keyboard.

 Q: Do you have a press kit and what do you include in it?  Does this press kit appear online and, if so, can you provide a link to where we can see it?

A: Yes—but my press kit varies depending on what kind of information is requested/required. Usually, it includes a book cover pic, author pic, brief synopsis of the book, brief author bio, links where you can find the book, book reviews (sometimes), book excerpt (sometimes).

Q: Have you either spoken to groups of people about your book or appeared on radio or TV?  What are your upcoming plans for doing so?

A:  I’ve presented the book to several books and have appeared on local radio and cable television. I intend to capitalize on every opportunity I can to promote.

Q: Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is?  If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

A: I do not have an agent on this book, though I have used them in the past.

Here are my thoughts: It’s said that the publishing industry’s ‘Catch 22’: Without an agent, you can’t secure a publisher. And without being published, agents won’t even take a look at you. I’ve proven both to be wrong.
The trick is in the work you put in: Using your portfolio (Internet, magazine, anthology published pieces, etc.), pre-publication book reviews, and a clever and incredibly well written proposal—and PERSEVERANCE!
I’ve also discovered that some publishers are agreeable to working directly with an author (a little research on your part will tell you who these are). It’s a difficult business, for sure, but it’s not an impossible one.

Q: Did you, your agent or publisher prepare a media blitz before the book came out and would you like to tell us about it?

A: Yes—I did it in collaboration with my publisher. We blitzed social media, as well as book bloghers and reviewers. Lots of hard work usually means lots of good results.

Q: Do you plan subsequent books?

A: I signed a 4-book deal with The Story Plant.

My next book is Goodnight, Brian: A healthy baby is poisoned with toxic soy formula, causing permanent brain damage. When the doctors say that he’ll never develop normally, his grandmother sets out to prove them wrong…and does. Faith and unconditional love are what make the difference. What she doesn’t expect, however, is that her grandson will return the favor. Goodnight, Brian is an emotional tale about the strength of family bonds, unconditional love and the perseverance to do our best with the challenging gifts we've been given.

After that, we’ll be releasing The Rockin’ Chair: A compassionate farmer loses his lifelong love to Alzheimer’s. Deciding that she was cheated a lifetime of memories, he sits in his chair and remembers for them both. Before he can join her in eternal rest, though, he must tend to a few final chores and heal his family.

The 4th book is a Work in Progress!

Q: Thank you for your interview, Steve.  Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

A:  Thank you for this wonderful opportunity!

I can be reached at:
And my new book, Twelve Months, can be purchased at:


Don DiMarco has a very good life – a family 
he loves, a comfortable lifestyle, passions and interests that keep him amused. He also thought he had time, but that turned out not to be the case. Faced with news that might have immediately felled most, Don now wonders if he has time enough. Time enough to show his wife the romance he didn’t always lavish on her. Time enough to live out his most ambitious fantasies. Time enough to close the circle on some of his most aching unresolved relationships. Summoning an inner strength he barely realized he possessed, Don sets off to prove that twelve months is time enough to live a life in full.
A glorious celebration of each and every moment that we’re given here on Earth, as well as the eternal bonds that we all share, Twelve Months is a stirring testament to the power of the human spirit.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

"Felice's Worlds" by Henry Massie


Felice Massie was a student in France, caught up in the horrors of Naziism when she was 20 years old.  Cut off by the war from her family living in a small village in Poland, she shifted from one country to another attempting to find a home for herself and a means to rescue her parents, brother and sister.  As the Holocaust descended on her shtetl, she arrived penniless in America.  Over time she raised a family and amassed one of foremost collections of American modern art.  Her boldness and resilience became a beacon of hope and inspiration for others.


Website Address:                                 

Twitter Address: @booksbnimble

Facebook Address: /booksbnimble

Genre: Biography/Memoir/Historical (Holocaust) 

Publisher: booksBnimble

Publication Date: Feb, 2012

Purchase the book: Amazon
Henry Massie is a psychiatrist, award-winning author, and pioneering researcher in the field of autism. FELICE'S WORLDS--From the Holocaust to the Halls of Modern Art, is the a memoir and biography of his mother, a brilliant and beautiful woman who participated in many of the most critical periods of the 20th Century.
AN INTERVIEW WITH DR. MASSIE :    Thank  you for joining us here, Henry.

You chose a specific genre, a place and time to write about, what made you choose it?


The genre chose me.  Felice's Worlds is a biography of my mother, in a sense her memoir.  It is often in the very words she used to tell me about her life and adventures during some of the critical periods of the 20th century.  It is also a double-memoir about how her brilliance, boldness and emotional burdens affected me.  Her story was dying to be told.


Currently I am working in the very different genre of a highly fictionalized account of how somebody I knew was influenced by his friendship with Marilyn Monroe when he was in high-school and she was in her thirties, in the two years before her death.  It is called Prom Date.  I fell into writing it because of my fascination with people's desires and dreams and how they turn out.


2)  Please share with your readers where you like to write. Do you have a particular space or desk?  What can you see from your desk?  Do you have props you use to write from?  What about special "charms?"


I have three desks:  one in my office where I keep charts and so forth, one in a study in my house in Berkeley where I pay bills, and one at my cabin near Guerneville, California, near where the Russian River flows into the Pacific Ocean.  The desk at the cabin is where I do my writing.  I need to escape from the city desks to the cabin to be creative.  "Living on the river," as people say, is to live in another world that fosters fantasies.  From my desk there I see three redwood trees reaching to the sky, climbing so high that I can't even see their tops if I put my face to the window and peer up.  My desk is completely cluttered with paper, clippings, and notes to myself.  My two desks back in town are neat and orderly.  The trees outside my window are my writing totems.


3)  In your opinion, what makes a book a great one?


A great book has to suck me into it like a whirlpool.  After a spell of reading, the characters and their dilemmas in a great book make me feel so tense that I need to put the book down and get some breathing space.  The language and imagery has to be alive and poetic.  I don't think books that obsess over little details and tiny shades of meaning and feeling are great (I call them dandelion cottage books) even though many critics adore them. 


4)  Please share with us the underlying message of your book.  What would you like your readers to take away after having read the book?


There are several themes running through Felice's Worlds:  1) War endures through millennia in the land called Palestine and Israel because of the never-ending folly of men with guns, 2) Those who suffered the Holocaust have passed their psychological trauma from one generation to the next and the next, 3) Traumatized though they may be, some people show amazing emotional resilience, 4) Beauty may save the soul, but only so far.


I'm content if readers understand these things better after reading Felice's Worlds.


5)  Is there a song or music in general that might best represent your book as a theme song. 


Yes, Eastern European klezmer music captures the book.  The publisher, BooksBnimble, created a video trailer for Felice's Worlds, with an excerpt of Felice speaking about her past when she was in her seventies, and with pictures of her village on the Polish-Russian border, and her home and art in America.  The trailer's klezmer music has snippets of jazz from the 1930s, gypsy rhythms, and Jewish folk melodies. You can access the trailer by going to YouTube, or via the publisher's website, or via the Amazon listing for the book, I believe.


6)  If you could write your book again, what would you change?


Felice's Worlds went through three or four drafts, with input from friends and two editors.  For the final draft I told myself this time I want to get it right, leave nothing I'm dissatisfied with on the page, say what I want to say, and say it cleanly once a for all.  I'm satisfied with what's there.


7)  What did you feel or think when you held the first copy of your book in your hands?


I felt that I had done justice to Felice's life.


8)  Tell us a secret about your book we wouldn't otherwise know, please!


Felice had a saying:  Truth is better than fiction because it is more unbelievable.  Perhaps she invented some of her truths.   
Further Remarks About "Felice's Worlds":   
"Henry Massie never blinks as he creates an astonishing chronicle of a life in diaspora. Only a son could capture this passionate spirit, who escaped both Adolf Hitler and Joe McCarthy." --Patty Friedmann, author of TOO JEWISH
“Henry Massie's FELICE'S WORLDS is a labor of love in more ways than one.  A daughter of the 20th century, Felice Massie's journey is both a personal odyssey and a window on some of the most important events in political history and the modern art world.  It's also the story of a remarkable woman who was ahead of her time in many notable ways.  Although there are heartbreaks along the way, Massie also captures his mother's sense of humor and most of all, her remarkable coming of age in Europe, Palestine and America.  This is a book you'll want to share with your friends and gift to everyone who appreciates the skills of a wonderful writing talent.  Don't miss it.” --
            Roger Rapoport, author of Hillsdale: A Greek Tragedy in America's Heartland, and journalist,                    the Frequent Flyer.
From the author:
I had listened to my mother’s tales all my life and wanted to share them. She was an escapee from a Polish shtetl wiped out by the Nazis, a high-school political activist in Lithuania, a university student in France who lost her first love tragically, a partisan for Arab-Jewish co-existence in Palestine who was caught in the first intifada in 1936, and a penniless arrival to America in 1937.
Yet when she died she had amassed one of the most important collections of Modern Art in the world and was a university lecturer on the subject.
In writing about her, I understood for the first time how her experience of losing loved ones to the Nazis had been passed on to her American son.
But as a psychiatrist, I was drawn to Felice’s story because it shows so much resilience in the face of terrible emotional trauma. Her life dramatizes how just keeping on through days of having nothing but a belief that "someday I will have something," can be a powerful survival tool.
– Henry Massie
From the publisher:
One of Felice’s friends called her “the quintessential perfect modern woman.” I call her a role model. We should all be so inventive, so quick, so brilliant and mesmerizing. When I got to the part of the narrative where she immigrates to America, I held my breath, afraid the exciting part was over. But I just didn’t know Felice. I ended up fascinated to the end, riveted by Felice’s ability to be herself, to make her mark no matter where she was.
-- Julie Smith

Monday, September 24, 2012

Interview with Pauline L. Hawkins, author of 'Ashes Ashes the Twins Fall Down'

Pauline L. Hawkins was born in Munson Army Hospital at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas on Easter Sunday. Pauline has been in the health insurance industry for almost thirty years, working her way up from the mailroom to corporate management and claims payment. In 2002, Pauline received her Instructional Design certification, which allows her to create instructor-led and learner-paced training curricula, along with computer-based learning activities and website creation. Pauline has enjoyed writing since she was in high school, and has decided to start sharing her stories.

 Ashes Ashes the Twins Fall Down is her debut book. You can visit Pauline L. Hawkins’ website at

Follow Pauline at Twitter at

Pick up your paperback copy of Ashes Ashes the Twins Fall Down at Amazon:

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

The initial inspiration for the book was of course the attacks on 9/11. But what initially caused me to sit down and start writing this story was my own need to deal with my grief of 9/11. When I sat down in 2002, my expectation was simply to put a few words down on paper to work through my own grieving process. I truly never set out to write a book. I found out that the more I wrote, the more I had to let things out. Once I started writing, it was as though the emotional floodgates opened, and all the memories came back – memories that beckoned to be put on paper.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

I wrote from my heart and in doing that it was very difficult to write this book. The feelings provoked were very emotional. I found myself crying, angry and disillusioned. Every American lost something that day, some lost much more than others, but we were all affected. I don’t know that there is anything that a writer can do to make the journey or writing such a book easier if they are writing from their heart.   

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

I am self-published as a collaboration between Anole Publishing and Outskirts Press. If a writer chooses to self-publish I would tell them to do a lot of research on their options and choices before selecting their self-publishing entity. While Outskirts Press was a good choice for me it may not be a good choice for everyone.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

The amount of work and decisions that have to be made. I had no idea that decisions had to be made right down to the page layouts as far as how the page numbers are done, whether you list the book title at the top of each page or the chapter title or whatever. I don’t know what I thought was going to happen but it was a real eye opener.

Q: Can you describe the feeling you had when you saw your published book for the first time?

Wow, exciting, scary; at one point I wanted to stand on top of the house and shout to the world that my book was published. But the work doesn’t stop with publishing you have to get the word out there that your book is available. Publishing my first book has certainly caused me to step out of my comfort zone but I’m enjoying it and loving it.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

 My next book is about marrying my high school sweetheart after 28 years and having it all blow up in my face in less than a week. It will chronicle our relationship in high school and what happened to be between high school and our reconnecting 28 years later. I’m leaning toward the title of, Always & Forever.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

We can either let the attacks of 9/11 define us or we can allow them to strengthen us as a nation.

Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

This is my debut book, however, I have many more stories to share based upon my personal experiences. I believe most people will find them entertaining, inspiring, thought-provoking and educational. In this book I have shared my memories of where I was when I first heard the news of the attacks on 9/11. I also reminisce about the news footage I watched that day and my personal experiences of the days, weeks and years following 9/11.

My Top Five Dystopian Books by Helen Smith

My Top Five Dystopian Books

By Helen Smith, author of 'The Miracle Inspector'

Dystopian books offer a bleak, disturbing vision of the future. Often in the story there is a totalitarian government that controls and deceives its citizens, and rebellion is dangerous or futile. There may be a threat to the survival of the population, perhaps because of declining fertility or environmental problems. The endings of such novels are often downbeat or ambiguous. They hold a mirror to the way we live now, and an implicit or explicit warning about what may happen if we don’t preserve our freedom and individuality.

The Children of Men
 P.D. James’s novel, The Children of Men, is set in England in 2021, when infertility problems among the population mean that no child has been born for twenty-five years. England is ruled by a despot called Xan with a private army. As the population is dwindling, foreign workers are brought into the country and exploited. Older people are a burden on society and commit suicide, and childless couples find child substitutes to love, such as pets or dolls. The story is told partly through the diary of a man called Theo who discovers that a woman called Julian is pregnant. If she has a baby, there is hope for the population – so long as the baby doesn’t fall into Xan’s power.

The Children of Men was published in 1992 and made into a film starring Clive Owen in 2006.

A Handmaid’s Tale
Margaret Atwood’s bleak novel is set the Republic of Gilead which is ruled by men in a right-wing totalitarian theocracy.  Women have been stripped of their rights and we follow the story of Offred, a woman who is ‘handmaid’ to a man called Fred and his wife, forced to have sex with him in order to conceive a child for the couple. She must give birth to a healthy child, ‘a Keeper’, but this is almost impossible given that so many children are born with birth defects, and because Fred is probably infertile. There is a resistance movement and the possibility of a way out for Offred – but can she trust the people who say they want to help her?

A Handmaid’s Tale was published in 1985 and made into a film in 1990 starring Natasha Richardson as Offred.

Nineteen Eighty-Four
George Orwell’s book is set in Oceania, a republic ruled by Big Brother. Surveillance, censorship and ‘doublethink’ prevail. Torture is used to break down resistance among citizens. Political language – what we might now called ‘spin’ – is important as a way of controlling the population’s understanding of their situation. Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth and though at first he loves Big Brother, he rebels, begins an illicit romance with a woman called Julia, is captured and tortured, and betrays his lover. Though he has been approached by someone who claims to be a member of the resistance, it seems that even this may not exist except to flush out rebellious citizens so they can be reeducated. On reading or rereading this book, you see that many of Orwell’s invented terms have become part of the lexicon, especially when discussing political ideas.

Nineteen Eight-Four was published in 1949. In 1984 it was made into a film starring John Hurt as Winston Smith. (On a side note, Suzanna Hamilton, who played Julia in the film, appeared in a play of mine called The Memory Man that was produced in London in 2011.)

Brave New World
Aldous Huxley’s book is set in London in 2450. A peaceful World State rules the citizens of the world, dividing them into castes and educating them to work and behave in pre-defined ways suitable to those castes. There are no families, and children are incubated and hatched rather than being conceived naturally. People seem happy but this is because they’re medicated by Soma, a drug that takes away their creativity and individuality and stops them questioning their existence. An outcaste or ‘savage’, John, who was conceived naturally by a woman called Linda who exiled herself in shame, is brought to London at the age of eighteen to see this ‘brave new world’ for himself. He is intrigued and horrified by it, and, mourning his mother, he becomes a spectacle for the citizens of London who are excited by his passionate feelings.

Brave New World was published in 1932. It was made into a TV film starring Leonard Nimoy in 1998.

Never Let Me Go
Kazuo Ishiguro’s book is set in England. It begins in a boarding school where three characters, Kathy, Tommy and Ruth, are friends. The story is told from the point of view of Kathy, using her slightly limited vocabulary and outlook – she’s quite a passive character. As adults, they are housed in cottages, and Kathy becomes a ‘carer’. It’s difficult to describe what happens in the book without giving away an important ‘reveal’ that will spoil the opening chapters of the book if you know what will happen while reading them. But this is a haunting, sad book, that came together for me when I read the last page, which made me cry.

Never Let Me Go was published in 2005 and made into a film in 2010 starring Carey Mulligan as Kathy.

Helen Smith is a member of the Writers Guild of Great Britain and English PEN. She traveled the world when her daughter was small, doing all sorts of strange jobs to support them both – from cleaning motels to working as a magician’s assistant – before returning to live in London where she wrote her first novel which was published by Gollancz (part of the Hachette Group).

She is the author of bestselling cult novel Alison Wonderland. She writes novels, poetry, plays and screenplays and is the recipient of an Arts Council of England Award. She’s a long-term supporter of the Medical Foundation for the Victims of Torture and mentors members of an exiled writers group to help them tell their stories.

Her latest book is the dystopian thriller The Miracle Inspector.

Visit her website at
Friend her on Twitter: emperorsclothes
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Pick up a copy of The Miracle Inspector at Amazon:

Interview with Joe Niehaus, author of "Shadow in the Reflection"


Joe Niehaus, a veteran police officer in Ohio, is the author of six books and numerous articles in police and martial arts magazines.  He holds certificates in fraud examination and clinical and forensic hypnosis.  A graduate of Tiffin University, he is an adjunct professor at his alma mater, Ashford University and Sinclair Community College.
Purchase this book through:  Amazon and Barnes and Noble


Mary Sikora is a former daily news reporter, freelance writer, and editor. A University of Dayton graduate and Cincinnati native, she is the author of A Mississippi Family and Orphan’s Gift. Previously, she and Niehaus collaborated on Beware the Whale’s Wake and Hypnosis Unveiled.
Purchase this book through:  Amazon and Barnes and Noble
What is your favorite quality about yourself?

Oh, I would say I’m honest, friendly, loyal – sort of sound like man’s best friend a dog.

What is your least favorite quality about yourself?

I can be a bit impulsive at times and not think a situation through completely before acting on it.

What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why?

Not sure who the author was but this was on a tombstone – Remember as you walk by, As you are now so once was I, As I am now, so too you shall be, Bow your head and pray for me. 

I think this quote puts life into perspective and lets us realize that our time here is short so we should make the most of what time we do have.  Any parent will understand as we have our children for only a short time and then they are grown and gone.  So make time now for family and friends – and keep in mind the chances to tell people we care and to show it are gone before we know it.

What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?

I would have to say that being in the law enforcement field for 36 years.  During that time I have had the opportunity to accomplish many things and to experience things many people will never.  I think though, being told that I saved a person’s life when I gave them CPR is high on that list.  To think that it was my action that provided them the opportunity for more time with their family was awesome.  Of course, solving some complex cases is also something I remember.

How has your upbringing influenced your writing?

Well, I would have to say that my upbringing had a mixed influence.  I have always been interested in telling stories, even as a child.  When I would approach my parents with the idea of writing I was always told that I would really have to study hard as smart people are authors.  So I figured that meant I wasn’t good enough.  But I am persistent – in high school we were given the option of writing a poem or a short story for an English class.  I was not very good at poetry but did like short stories (especially Sherlock Holmes).  So I wrote a short story.  My teacher made copies and gave it to my entire class – so I sort of panicked, and swore never to write again.  The teacher was very enthusiastic about my story but I was kind of shy at the time, but as time went by – the urge to write reemerged.   I would have to say that one big thing from my upbringing was tenacity – and to write you have to be tenacious.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

From an early age I was interested in telling stories.  I can remember one year I received a reel to reel tape recorder and I would narrate stories on the recorder.  I never did anything with them, it was just for fun but I liked creating a world and characters.  I think most children do as that is a big part of play but I sort of liked putting a structure to it and having it scripted out.  Then there was the short story I wrote in high school.  So I guess my interest was fostered early on by watching tv, movies and reading stories.  The whole idea of making characters come to life has always been interesting to me.

When and why did you begin writing?

That is certainly a question to think on.  As I mentioned I took a big step in high school to write the short story – in fact I even remember the title – “The Great Brain.”  It was based on Sherlock Holmes.  I really liked that character as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did create a character so lively that for a time I thought he had been a real person.  Anyway, my in my story the main character wasn’t on the side of the law but would have been a Professor Moriarty type.  The idea was to pull off the perfect crime.  Of course being an awkward teen at the time I did not go further with it and figured that there was no future there for me.

When I became a police officer I found that police work – unlike on tv and in the movies – is not all glamour and excitement.  In fact, it is a lot of paperwork.  Of course in police work we ask the who-what-where-when-how and why questions all the time.  So writing became a big part of my everyday life.

At the same time I was working as an officer I began taking a new martial art.  I had taken several forms of the martial arts before but this was the early 1980’s and the art of Ninjutsu was very new.  I met Stephen K. Hayes who was the man who brought the art here to the U.S. from Japan.  I became one of his first students and guess what…he was an author of books.  Suddenly I began to realize that what I had been told by my mother for years was wrong – not all authors are rich and live in California or New York.  Stephen showed me that authors are real people and live in neighborhoods just like mine.  So with that I thought maybe I can write.  So my first venture since high school was to craft a novel based on the time of the samurai and the ninja and of course had fight scenes in it based on the art of Ninjutsu.

How long have you been writing?

 For as far as how long I have been writing – I would say since about 1982.  During that time I have taken time off because of family and work issues but I have always dropped back in and crafted an article for a magazine or worked on a much larger fiction or non-fiction book.

When did you first know you could be a writer?

When I met and got to know my martial arts teacher, Stephen K. Hayes, who was an author and supported me in my efforts to get published.  I think that sometimes all it takes is for you to see that it is not an impossible hurdle to overcome and then to dig in and tell your story your way.

What inspires you to write and why?

I find inspiration from people, places and events that surround me.  I have been the police adviser on several of Sharyn McCrumb’s books.  A secret she once told me is that the person who dies in her novel is usually based on someone she had met that was not a very nice person.  She said that instead of shunning them she would start asking them questions so she could place some of those details in her story. So, like her, I find inspiration all around me.

An example of how I come up with plots would be the inspiration behind Mary Sikora’s and my novel Beware the Whale’s Wake.  I was at the movie theater when the movie Star Trek 4 (yes, I know how that ages me!) while watching the movie the thought suddenly came into my head that what would happen if the hunters of whales suddenly became the hunted.  So from there I developed the plot of a murder mystery where people on an illegal whaling operation started to be murdered one by one.

For my mystery, Fade Out, I was sitting in the prosecutor’s office one day waiting to file a case when I picked up a magazine talking about the recent DNA discoveries and such.  My mind started wandering and I said what if someone could alter a living person’s DNA to make them someone else?  Sort of a modern day Frankenstein plot.  From there the story developed into recombinant DNA and a murder mystery.

For Shadow in the Reflection, I drew on my experience as a hypnotist.  The story developed from a true account of a doctor who was doing past life regression on two of his clients who did not know each other but he noted that they had the same past life memories.  Turned out they had the same memories of being married to each other and on their honeymoon cruise (on a steamboat) he fell overboard and got caught in the paddles and died.  So from there my imagination took off and the Viking story developed into a mix of past and present.

What genre are you most comfortable writing?

Probably because of my law enforcement background I prefer mystery but my martial arts background opens me up to also fantasy and historical writing.

What inspired you to write your first book?

I would have to say it was my interest in the martial arts and the history of Japan.  That time period is much like our westerns – looked at through nostalgic eyes and romanticized. 

Who or what influenced your writing once you began?

I would have to start with the authors that influenced me.  Early on of course it was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his Sherlock Holmes stories but close behind him was Rex Stout and the Nero Wolf stories.  That was pretty much what I would devour as a teenager.

Later I became influenced by the works of James Clavell and his Asian saga (Shogun, Noble House, Tai-pan, etc.)  I found his plots to be very intricate and complex and that I found really enjoyable.  Then I discovered Clive Cussler and his Dirk Pitt stories or as he often refers to his stories as a poor man’s James Bond.  His books are fast action and designed to keep you turning pages.  This style of writing was a big influence on me and I have tried to develop that same kind of writing.

But then there are the authors who I have met and developed friendships with.  People like Stephen K. Hayes, Sharyn McCrumb, Sharon Short, Katrina Kittle and others.  I attend the Antioch Writer’s Workshop in Ohio often and as a result of that workshop I have met many talented authors and even became part of a writer’s group as a result.  What is nice is I get to discuss writing with them and sometimes get to see their works in progress which is always good to see how a story develops and is polished.

Who or what influenced your writing over the years?

Like I have mentioned I have been influenced by authors I have read and met.  But perhaps the most influential thing was when I had the opportunity to talk with students from a local high school who used Mary’s and my book, Beware the Whale’s Wake, in their English class.  Getting to talk with them and to see that characters that we created came to life for those students was fantastic.  That is perhaps the greatest gift a reader can give an author – to believe in their characters and story.

What made you want to be a writer?

I don’t think anything made me want to be a writer – I think the desire for this has to come from within.  It is sort of like a drive inside you and if you do not have that drive and tenacious attitude then you probably will not write.

What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?

For me I would think that the most challenging thing is getting the plot down.  Is it believable?  Is it plausible and do all of the subplots fit in with the overall plot?  Being able to create an entire community of people and have them interact in a believable way with enough tension and emotion to allow someone to care about it besides the author is perhaps the most challenging.

Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it?

In writing, Shadow in the Reflection, I think the thing that emerged at the end of it was that no matter how bleak life may seem – there is a brighter future awaiting us.

Do you intend to make writing a career?

That would be great – but I believe in the old saying – don’t give up your day job (or in my case night job as I work midnights).  I think being a full time writer would be a great way to spend my days!

Have you developed a specific writing style?

I would say my style is unique and perhaps it is a blending of my favorite authors, Cussler and Clavell.  I try to make the plots a bit intricate but not as in-depth as Clavell’s and I try to keep the reader turning the pages like Cussler.  So to steal a line from Clive Cussler – perhaps I am a poor man’s Cussler and Clavell!

What is your greatest strength as a writer?

I think plotting of a story is one of my strong suits but I have to admit I am a bit partial to my fight scenes as I let my martial arts background shine through here.  I think my characters are real and believable.  Of course the truth is, we may think these things are our strengths but the true judge is the reader!


Can destiny be fulfilled in just one lifetime? Dr. Gregory Ambrose thinks so. Through past-life regression therapy with a young woman named Anne, he finds himself carried over the centuries to not only a different time but a different reality. Anne’s memories act like tendrils, drawing Ambrose into this most savage time with her. Frustrated and confused Dr. Ambrose reaches out to a colleague for help. During their conversations, he learns that one of this doctor’s past-life regression patients believes that he was some kind of Viking in another time-not unlike the Vikings in Anne’s memories. The coincidence is too much, and Ambrose’s imagination and ambition tempt him down a dangerous path. Determined to know the truth and understand the connection, he begins to push the limits of his ethics. What evolves is a story from another time, when wizards and warriors battle for power. The fate of two lands-one fighting for unity, the other for safety-hangs in the balance as two druids play out their own endgame strategies. At the same time, two hearts seek their destiny with true love. Fate lends a hand as all meet in a final battle. Is it truly the end or just the beginning?