Gary Ryman, Author of “Fire Men: Stories From Three Generations of a Firefighting Family”

What is your book about?

Fire Men: Stories From Three Generations of a Firefighting Family relates the experiences as firefighters of my father, myself, and my son. As both the son and father of firefighters, I bring a different perspective. Having the opportunity to fire fires, with both my father and my son as well as respond to auto accidents, and the myriad other emergencies that fire departments handle was marvelous.

How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?

I can’t say it really started in my mind as a book. I began writing out the stories of individual emergency calls with the thought that perhaps sometime in the future the vignettes might be of interest to my son or daughter or perhaps a future generation. After I had a hundred plus pages of this material, it dawned on me that perhaps this was a book trying to get out.

How long did it take you to write your book?

About four years from pen touching paper to holding the first printed copy. The first draft took just over a year. It wasn’t remotely ready, but I didn’t know that at the time, and with the encouragement of some friends, I began the querying process. One of the agents I wrote had represented an author I liked a great deal. A few weeks after sending my letter, I received an email from another agent at that firm indicating that the first agent was not interested; but that my query had intrigued her and she wanted to read the manuscript. After reading it, she agreed to work with me and provided incredibly valuable feedback and suggestions which I incorporated in a second draft. A few more rounds of revisions followed and just before she was ready to start sending the manuscript out, I was orphaned—she left to take a job as an editor at one of the big six houses. Not surprisingly, the agent she passed the manuscript who decided it wasn’t for him, and so I was back to square one, albeit with a much improved book. This time, along with agents, I looked at small publishers as well, and was lucky enough to hook up with a wonderful publisher, Tribute Books They have since transitioned to YA books, but continue to strongly support their entire list, and have been just fantastic to work with.

What is your goal for the book, ie: what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?

For many, whom the closest they have ever been to a fire truck is when it passes them on the roadway, I hope they get an understanding of what firefighting is really like. The mental and physical challenges, along with the emotional aspects of the job are not usually apparent to the general public. In addition to those, the family facets lend an important component. While I worked with my father and son, I also had many brothers; fellow firefighters who you trust with your life. For those in the fire service, the greatest compliments I receive are those that read it and say “yeah, that’s exactly how it is.”

What are you working on right now?

I just submitted my thesis for my Masters in American History. That has been consuming me for most of the past nine months. Now I hope to return to the novel I began shortly after publication of “Fire Men” which is an action adventure genre work, naturally set in a fire department. A Lieutenant dies while battling a fire which was deliberately set in an insurance fraud scheme and his best friend and brother-in-law who leads a ladder company in the same department searches for the arsonist.

What do you like to read?

I read mainly history or action/adventure.

Where do you get the names for your characters?

When I wrote the book, I used real names to allow me to keep track of people and try to ensure I captured their personalities. In the revision process, though, the majority of the names had to be changed. I stole an idea from a writer’s seminar I attended, and bought a baby name book, and reworked the names from that.

If your book was made into a TV series or Movie, what actors would you like to see playing your characters?

While I can’t say for everyone in the book, I would certainly be willing to settle for being played by Brad Pitt. The resemblance (not) is so close!

Who designed your cover?

The publisher took care of the cover, and I think did an incredible job. I was stunned the first time I saw it, and could not have been happier.

Where can people learn more about your books?

Folks can visit my website for more information. The book is also available in paperback on as well as Barnes & Noble and in virtually all e-book formats.


Mary E. Trimble, Author of “Tubob: Two Years in West Africa with the Peace Corps”

What is your book about?

Tubob: Two Years in West Africa with the Peace Corps is a memoir of a newly married couple who discover themselves in new light as they work and learn about a different culture in a third-world country. They find strength and frustration trying to make a difference. Caught up in a military coup, they seek refuge in a house with 116 other people, wondering if their lives will ever be the same.

When where you first published?

I became a professional writer in 1991 and since that time have had more than 400 articles appear in magazines and newsletters, plus have had three novels published. Non-fiction articles (destination pieces, articles of interest to homeowners) and fiction comes quite easily to me. But writing something true, a memoir, was a challenge.

How long did it take you to write your book?

The memoir takes place 1979 – 1981. Since I became a professional writer in 1991 I thought occasionally about writing about our African experience. Occasionally, I wrote little snippets of our experiences on my blog, with favorable results and encouragement to write a book. But the snippets were positive experiences, and our time in Africa was not all positive. They were often grueling, discouraging, even scary. Writing the memoir became almost an obsession and I finally gave in to it. Amazingly, when I started, the experiences flowed out–I could hardly keep up. I wrote the 325-page manuscript in five months.

Did you do any research for the book?

We had asked our families to save our letters to them. I’d kept them all these years and once I decided to tackle the memoir, I read every single letter, all either hand written or typewritten. I started a computer index file with different categories–people we knew, animals, my husband Bruce’s work, my work, etc. What a wealth of information. Thanks to those letters I relived those years, recalling the sweat, tears and the joys. Having those letters helped me remember small details that would make the story real to readers.

Describe your writing in three words.

Honest, straight-forward and realistic. Although I admire fantasy writers, I could never do it. Even in my works of fiction (Tenderfoot, McClellan’s Bluff, Rosemount–all contemporary westerns), my books are as true to life as I can make them. In Tubob it was particularly important for me to be honest, which introduced some problems. Not all our experiences were positive. In the interest of avoiding hurt feelings, I changed a couple of names. Likewise, to limit the number of characters, I combined some personalities. However, I made every effort to remain true to our experience.

Do you have a saying or motto for your life and/or as a writer?

A plaque hung in my father’s workshop and now resides in my office that I have always tried to live by. It was written by Dr. Samual Johnson (1709 -1784). “Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must be first overcome.” In other words, don’t wait for perfect conditions to live your dream. Prepare as much as you can, knowing that you’ll have to improvise along the way. Just do it.

Where can people learn more about your books?

Tubob: Two Years in West Africa with the Peace Corps is available through local bookstores, or my website,

Help Solve a Real Mystery!!

My guest today is Sue Senden, and she has an unusual story to research and tell. Sue says:

Most families have some sort of secrets they prefer to gloss over or rewrite their history in some way. In my family, there was the grandfather I never met, Henry. He died long before I was born. No one ever talked about him. He was as elusive as smoke. It took many years to learn why. When I finally discovered some information about him, it was the beginning of a mystery, of a quest and a need to discover what all had happened.

My grandfather was the skeleton in my closet.

He was murdered.

Murder is not something that happens and it is over once the case is closed. It is a crime that goes on affecting people for generations. This is a murder mystery within my own family the weight of that event has permeated my life to the depths of my being. It was a crime no one in the family talked about. My grandmother never spoke of her slain husband, so we knew little about him, my mother and her sister were children when it happened, and they suffered their own traumas over the event they witnessed.
So, I am setting out on a quest to find out more about him, his death and the murder. Since the records are old, little is on the internet, and I must travel to where the crime occurred and dig into the archives for some answers.

This murder is set in a turbulent and desperate era against a backdrop of crime, political corruption, great wealth and the power it wielded. It made headlines from coast to coast. It could have been a crime created by the best noir writers of the era, but it was not a story made up in the mind of a writer, it happened. It happened to my Grandfather; it happened to my family, it happened to me for I carry the remnants of that tragedy in the fiber of my being.

It is a story I want to write. It is the story I must tell. It is a book I will write.

That is where you come into this project. By your generous support, I will be able to travel half way across the country to see the records first hand and hopefully even find someone still alive who recalls this case. It is not something that can be done vial the internet, it must be done in person.

I do not know where it may lead me. I do not know if there will be complete answers. I expect this quest will generate more questions that will take me in new directions. I will chronicle this adventure into the dark past of my grandfather’s life and death. Come with me. Help me get some answers and heal an old wound that has scarred my family for generations.

The paranormal aspect: A strange event happened recently, my grandfather, Henry, came to me in a dream and said, “Research my past.” Please help me find out what he wants me to know.


If you’d like to help Sue find the solution to this mystery, please check her out on Kickstarter:

Ash Sanborn, author of the play “The Feast of Jovi Bono”

What inspired you to write this particular story?

In 2007, I ordered several writing books and in the box was “The Big Book of Women Saints.” I was irritated, because the book was obviously a mistake and I had no idea what I was going to do with this book. Before calling to find out how to exchange it, I started flipping through it. From that day forward, my life’s work was forever changed. I knew what I wanted, no needed to do. The story unpacked on a stage in my mind, and while it remained a novel for some time in 2007, by the beginning of 2008, I accepted that I was back to writing plays.

I had been working with variations of the characters of Jovi and Adrian for a year at that point, and I’d added Malcolm in 2006. Brock, the medical cheese sculptor, has been creating cheese anatomy around my stories since 1991.

As a novel, the story of Jovi and Adrian struggled to fit a formula and a genre. As characters in a play, the stories lit up the night, supporting characters moved in, and I found the part of my writing soul that was more than I thought it could be.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

A playwright I know said that a play requires far more courage and far more ability to withstand potential judgment, most notably from family and others who know who you are and were, because “it’s basically your life puked out onto the stage for everyone to see, to hear, and ultimately to know.”

Does Jovi Bono have elements of my personality? Sure. Is her relationship with Adrian a parallel of mine with my teenage daughter, Caitlyn? I do think Adrian has a lot of Caitlyn in her – she goes along sunny and brilliant and fine for so much of her life, it’s easy to forget that there’s anger and darkness in her too, because there’s anger and darkness in each of us, just from experiencing life, I think. It’s a shock when the brutality of her truth comes out, but it makes me love Caitlyn more, and it makes Jovi and Christopher love Adrian more, too.

What is your TFOJB about?

“The Feast of Jovi Bono,” is a modernization of the story of Maria Giovanna Bonomo, an Italian saint from the 17th century who, as far as I can tell, is little known outside Italy. What I liked about MGB’s story is that she asked the question, “Does it seem right that we should give the worst to the poor?” The obstacle to creating this story at first glance was this: stories about saints are probably not very interesting or exciting. There are notable exceptions, but it seemed crucial that I seek to explore this question in this time, in this moment, on this precipice of our society, and the edge of the cliff on which my own family’s financial stability has wavered.

What challenges did you face as you wrote this play?

It was the slam poetry/spoken word art. In the first version, characters would break into slam poetry at moments that to a reader seemed rather random. Early readers asked, “Why are these people standing around on stage reciting poetry, and more importantly, why do I care?”

No one stands around in a play of mine! I was strongly influenced by Def Poetry Jam, by my writing friend Myfanwy Collins, a star of Literary Death Match, by the poet and activist Leo Briones, and by some unsung slam poets I discovered on YouTube. What spoke to me, particularly from Myfanwy and Leo was that their creation and their delivery was so strong, so edifying. I wondered if slam poetry could build creation from the destruction of most of the things that matter in someone’s life.

Where, I wondered, would I find people who ache to rise up from destruction that’s happened in their lives? I started seeing news stories of tent cities – cities that had become communities in various locations, in which some local governments came in and shut them down, evicting the homeless from their homelessness, while other governments accepted them, organized them, and naturally, taxed them. Who are the people in this tent city? How can they tell their stories, and how can the people in the house – Jovi, her mother, her daughter, her ex, and her best friend – help their stories make a difference?

The other thing that concerned me early on was a worry that it wasn’t funny. Not every play has to be funny, but I couldn’t go on if my stories were not funny. Enter the snarky chef-narrator to tie the stories together. In further development, the slam poetry was confined to nightly dinner performances, and the conflict, the drama, the will they or won’t they questions have a dance around the performances.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Here’s what I remember growing up that influenced my writing: my mother in a paint-covered shirt and the smell of oil paint in our basement. She did tole painting and was very prolific. She taught painting classes, also in our basement. I saw her as always creating something new, and from an early age I was aware of her terminal heart condition, so I took on the idea that her creation was the gift she was leaving behind – that the effort and the color and light she put on pieces of wood or other objects were the pieces of her soul she’d leave with me. As it turned out – she passed away when I was about to be seventeen – I did not end up with many of those pieces. My mother was my first champion, my first publisher, typing and mailing my very early work to unsuspecting friends and relatives.

My father, too, before drinking took him, was always working on something, always using his mind to figure something out. He always learned. He took a class in solar paneling in, oh, the late ‘70s or early ‘80s, just finding out if it was something he could add to our house. He overcame a lot in his own background. He was dyslexic but earned his Master’s degree and learned to love reading.

Being the only child at home of both of them meant I believed I could do anything, whether or not that’s true.

My environment now? I live with my husband, three children, and black Labrador in a building that used to be a whip factory, our home space finished similar to an urban loft. How does that influence my writing? A lot of my protagonists live with a lot of noise that they were not expecting or looking for, and with chaos and crowds and the amazing announcements that come from the surface of life that ultimately keep them from reaching their deeper selves.

What are you working on now?

I’m promoting TFOJB and crowdfunding its world premiere locally in our Okoboji, Iowa area. I’ve created promotional videos and attempted when I could to create business relationships with some theater movers and shakers from this area and New York. TFOJB is not just a theatrical production, but a revolution of community. If I get my way, no one will leave a performance without having made a commitment to change a little part of the world.

I’m also working on another play in this sainthood series called Brigid Kildare’s Steelworks. BKS is about the legendary friendship between Brigid and Patrick, as well as setting fire to things on stage, bikers, an accusation, arrest and trial, and asks the question, “How do you prove what you believe. The astonishing thing about BKS is that I was writing the first act in 2009, ripping a case from the headlines about some bikers accused of attempted murder who were, in fact, put on trial to prove their beliefs. In 2010 I discovered someone I knew in high school had been in prison for years for an impulsive act that was attempted murder. His mother had died and the word was that he was depressed because he received little mail or communication from the outside world. I thought surely as a professional writer I could cheer him up through the mail. My soul’s twin wrote back, and a legendary friendship has developed. We’re working on a crazy number of projects together, not the least of which is a story about his extraordinary life. You can’t make this stuff up!

Where can people learn more about your play?

On my Facebook page:
On the Rockethub page:

Frank Fiore, Author of “CyberKill”

Welcome, Frank. Please tell us about your new novel CyberKill.

Fans of Tom Clancy, James Patterson and Clive Cussler, will enjoy this twist on the Frankenstein myth. A brilliant programmer, Travis Cole, inadvertently creates “Dorian,” an artificial intelligence that lives on the Internet. After Cole attempts to terminate his creation, Dorian stalks his young daughter through cyberspace in an attempt to reach Cole to seek revenge.

When a top secret government anti-terrorist, nano-technology program, SIRUS, gets deployed for testing, Dorian discovers the perfect vehicle for his retribution. Cyber-terrorism events threaten the United States, as the forsaken and bitter Dorian zeroes in on his target. In the final conflict, Dorian seeks to kill his creator – even if it has to destroy all of humanity to do it.

Cyberkill has recently been turned into an enhanced digital book. Just what is an enhanced book?

Basically, enhanced books are the process of rethinking what a book is. They’re e-books enhanced with video, author interviews and social-networking applications.

What enhanced digital book features does CyberKill have?

The new features available in the Enhanced digital app version of Cyberkill, many of which have never been seen in a digital book before, include seamless switching between the text version and a full audio version of the story, evolving synopsis, character lookup and biography, dynamic links to incorporate the power of the web into the book, sharing through social media and email, bookmarking, recorded annotations, author videos and commentaries, and author interaction.

You said it was an App?

Yes. The App will run on the iPhone 3G and later; iPad (all); iPod 2 and later. Basically, any Apple device running iOS 4.2 or higher. You can download the App a in the Apple App store.

You can also run the App on all Android smart phones and tablets running version 2.2 or later of the Android operating system, including the Kindle Fire and NOOK.

And since it is an App, I can change the book, add new features or expand on the ones there, at ay time.

Why did you want to have CyberKill turned into an enhanced digital book?

I wanted to share a story with as wide an audience as possible, using whatever narrative tools were at my disposal. I was really excited about releasing the Cyberkill Enhanced digital app because it allowed me to add elements to the story that would have been impossible in a traditional eBook. This new technology creates a new way for authors and readers to approach books that enrich and extend storytelling, and I’m hoping readers will like what we’ve created.”

In short, readers now can ‘experience’ a book and not just read it.

What else is unique about the enhanced version of CyberKill?

It’s free. You see, it’s advertising supported so you can download the entire App for free. You can turn off the ads at anytime through the main menu to purchase the Enhanced eBook application for $4.99. The ads will disappear, and your eyeballs will thank you.

What is an Evolving Synopsis?

Ever forget what has happened in a book? How about that character you just can’t quite remember? Your Enhanced eBook has both an evolving book synopsis and an evolving character synopsis. As you read along in the book, the evolving synopses are populated with simple plot points to remind you of the action. We’ll never spoil the plot by revealing what is going to happen next!

How can a person share the Trapdoor Enhanced eBook experience with friends?

Contrary to traditional belief, reading is not a solitary endeavor. We make it easy to share your thoughts with friends, book review sites and the author!

To share a passage using your favorite social media site, double tap and drag the blue dots to highlight the entire passage. Select Share from the pop-up menu. Depending on which Social Media sites you have installed on your device, options for sharing will appear – including the most popular such as Twitter and FaceBook. Submitting your post will return you to the book.

Chatting with the author is a wickedly cool feature in your Enhanced eBook application. To make a post to the author’s blog, choose Chat With Author from the Main menu. An author page with a forum will appear. Follow existing conversations or start your own thread. It’s easy and fun.

What is marginalia?

The Marginalia display area is a bar running down the right-hand side of the page displaying icons for Enhanced eBook features. It can be turned on and off by tapping the triangle icon located in the upper-right corner of the book.

To access a marginalia feature — such as a wiki-link, map, bookmark, annotation, audio extra, or video extra — simply tap on the icon and the feature will display. For example, a wiki-link (the W icon in the marginalia) will take you to a website with more information about a particular topic found in the text (i.e., BattleBots). Tapping the back arrow will return you to the book.

After Cyberkill, what’s next for Frank Fiore?

I’ve just finished a charter series called the Chronicles of Jeremy Nash. Jeremy Nash, a noted debunker and skeptic of conspiracy theories, urban legends and myths. The formula of the chronicles consists of a conspiracy theory, unsolved mystery, urban myth, New Age belief or paranormal practice that Nash is forced to pursue through a series of clues and puzzles that he must solve; combined with an underlying real world threat of event, organization or persons that is somehow connected to what he is pursuing. This provides the thriller aspect of the stories.

Think Indiana Jones meets National Treasure meets the X-Files.

For more background and info on CyberKill — the enhanced book — go to or

Thank you, Frank. This has been a very interesting discussion.

Joe January, Hero of the Novel One Hot January by J. Conrad Guest

Bertram: Who are you?

Joe: My name is Joe January. I was a private investigator from the South Bronx, circa 1940. Was once described as an indignant Humphrey Bogart. Who am I to argue? The difference between Bogie and me is that I was the real McCoy. Where he took the scripts that Hollywood wrote for him, I took on the tough cases nobody else would. Unlike Bogie’s, my bumps and bruises were the real deal, not makeup.

Bertram: What is your story?

Joe: One Hot January is anything but a story, although it could be construed as a Hollywood type script Bogie might’ve been interested in bringing to the screen were he alive today. Not being a scientist, I can’t tell you the how behind what happened, only that it did happen. I know, it reads like science fiction, spanning two centuries and dealing with time travel and alternate realities, while the denouement is less than satisfactory—boy loses girl, boy finds new girl, loses her, finds the first girl and this time she loses him. But such is life: a happily ever after, while often promised, is never a given.

In a nutshell my story could be termed what Nietzsche called “the bungled and the botched.”

Bertram: Are you the hero of your own story?

Joe: Funny, just not in a humorous sense, but I’ve been accused of arrogance in my self-depiction, creating a sort of comic book superhero of myself. Yet in youth, we often view ourselves as invincible. It isn’t until later that we realize how fragile life is; furthermore, that we see the repercussions of our actions.

Antihero was a term first coined in the early 18th century to describe certain protagonists, those whose armor was less than shiny, indeed, tarnished. They often fall short of literary ideals, just as happens in real life. Isaac Bashevis Singer, a Polish-born Jewish American author who won the 1978 Nobel Prize in literature and was noted for his short stories, wrote: “Children have no use for psychology. They detest sociology. They still believe in God, the family, angels, devils, witches, goblins, logic, clarity, punctuation, and other such obsolete stuff. When a book is boring, they yawn openly. They don’t expect their writer to redeem humanity, but leave to adults such childish allusions.”

Yeah, I’m an antihero.

Bertram: What is your problem in the story?

Joe: Imagine an alternate history in which the United States fails to enter World War II in time to help the Allies defeat the Tripartite before Germany becomes too strong to defeat. Imagine a future in which Germany has perfected genetic engineering and is systematically eradicating whole nations in an effort to secure the empire Hitler vowed would last a thousand years; a future in which Hitler lies in a cryogenic chamber, awaiting treatment for a cancer for which a cure has been discovered. Imagine a future in which a faction of genetically engineered people, opposed to Hitler’s tyranny, travel back in time to amend future history by influencing Churchill to withhold from U.S. Intelligence the vital decrypt specifying the date and time of the raid on Pearl Harbor. Now perhaps you begin to see my problem in the story.

I managed to uncover this seemingly impossible plot by agreeing to help a pretty young woman from Gramercy Park locate her missing father—a Professor of Archeology from Columbia College who was tasked with preventing the secret of Hitler’s location from falling into the wrong hands.

But the real meat of my story is about regret: how, through my own foolishness, I lost the two women who meant the most to me.

Bertram:  Do you embrace conflict?

Joe: I always find myself at the center of conflict. It seems to find me the way it finds the protagonist of any good detective novel. Do I embrace it? Does anyone ever embrace conflict? I don’t run from it, which is not the same as embracing it. I guess, as Philip Marlowe could tell you, it came with the territory during those years I was a PI. Like Marlowe, it became a way of life for me—fighting, in my own way, for truth, justice and the American way.

Bertram:  Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

Joe: I approached J. Conrad Guest in 1992 with my story. He was an unknown back then. He had talent, although it was unpolished; still, he was no hack. What I liked about him was that he refused to write the formula drivel that the major publishing houses seek today.

It was a chance meeting, and I suspect he didn’t believe he could complete the project. Our encounter resulted in January’s Paradigm, the first book in the January trilogy. He’s since written the second volume, One Hot January, and the final volume, January’s Thaw. Both are forthcoming from Second Wind Publishing. Combined, they paint a profile of a man out of place out of time.

Although it took him ten years to complete the project, I’m pleased with the result. I think he managed to remain true to my story as well as my voice.

Bertram:  What do you need?

Joe: There was a time, in my youth, when I would’ve said the only things I needed were a challenging case and a beautiful woman with whom to lay for an evening of divine debauchery. The first was true, until circumstances deemed it necessary I find a new career. The second was a lie. Unfortunately it took my losing Lindy to make that clear to me.

Bertram:  What makes you angry?

Joe: Having been thrust one hundred years into the future in the blink of an eye, perhaps it’s easy for me to see how the world, our society specifically, has devolved: pornography, pollution, global warming, corrupt politics, terrorism, the pursuit of materialism—the American Dream—as a basis for happiness, and for all our purported connectivity through the Internet and cell phones, we are more disconnected than ever.

Why does there have to be a battle between the sexes? “Battle,” by default, denotes a winner and a loser. Sometimes the only way to achieve victory is through negotiation—by seeing an issue from the other’s perspective. If more people, men and women alike, attempted to see through the eyes of their partner, I daresay there’d be far fewer unhappy couples and fewer divorces.

Bertram: What, if anything, haunts you?

Joe: That after I abandoned Lindy—it wasn’t my choice, merely circumstance over which I had no control—she’d had to marry another man out of necessity. We met once, Lindy and I, thirty-five years after the accident that took me from her. It took her a moment, but she recognized me and I knew her feelings for me had never diminished. Furthermore, that she forgave me the betrayals of my youth as well as my abandonment of her.

That anything but chance meeting resulted in my finding the closure I needed to give my past self a second chance to find the love he didn’t yet realize he had.

Bertram: Are you lucky?

Joe: Most people either find love or love finds them, and they hold onto it, stay with it their entire lives. They are the fortunate ones. The unfortunate manage to make it out of this life without experiencing love, perhaps taking solace in the juxtaposed adage that it is better never to have loved than to have loved and lost.

I was fortunate in that love found me not once but twice, in two different centuries. In the first case I never realized what I had until it was too late. In the second, I fully realized what I had, but knowing didn’t prevent my losing her. You could say I’m living proof that one can be both lucky and unlucky in love.

Love found me the second time a hundred years after the first time. Her name was Ecstasy, and she once told me that she loved my loneliness—a man out of place out of time. I surmised that her love for me was born of pity. I didn’t have the heart to tell her my loneliness was the result of my losing the one woman who, at one time, mattered most to me. To this day I regret that I never told her how much she mattered. After Ecstasy was killed, I often wondered if she might not have known that all along—that my loneliness was for a woman who could never threaten to usurp her place in my life.

Bertram:  Are you honorable?

Joe: At one time I thought I was. I never stole money from a client for services I failed to provide; but that’s only a part of my life. I never kept secret from Lindy that I had other lovers and patted myself on the back for my honesty, crediting her for her choice to accept that arrangement. But in retrospect, such an attitude was anything but honorable. Once I realized I would never again find my way back to my own time, to enjoy the warmth of Lindy’s familiar and loving embrace, I lived my life to honor her memory, because it was the right thing to do and the only way I could make up for my treatment of her.

Bertram: Did anything newsworthy happen on the day you were born?

Joe: I was born on October 21, 1911. Newsworthy events of October 21 include:

         The Battle of Trafalgar began in 1805
         Thomas Edison invented the working electric light in 1879
         The first transatlantic radio telephone was made, 1915
         Trumpeter and bebop pioneer Dizzy Gillespie was born in 1917
         A new typewriting speed record was established by Margaret B. Owen in New York City, when she typed 170 words a minute with no errors, 1918
         Carrie Fisher of Star Wars fame was born in 1956, as was my biographer, J. Conrad Guest
         The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum—the only building in New York City designed by Frank Lloyd Wright—opened in 1959

Bertram:  Who was your first love?

Joe: That would be Lindy, my gal Friday in 1947. Sadly, I never told her how I felt about her. Then one day I was gone—whisked into the future. I took little comfort in knowing she still lived in her own time. To me, in 2047, she was dead and buried. Obviously she got on with her life after I abandoned her. But I like to think I could’ve made a difference in her life, the way it turned out for her.

Bertram: Who is your true love?

Joe: Ecstasy Givens, who I met the very day I arrived in 2047. I needed her in order to survive in the 21st century. Initially I loved her for her body, but in time she came to mean much more to me. In losing Lindy I learned what love is. Ecstasy was the beneficiary of what Lindy taught me, which pains me even if I imagine Lindy might be proud of the Joe January she in part helped to mold.

Bertram: Have you ever had an adventure?

Joe: Duh. Read One Hot January and January’s Thaw.

Bertram:  Was there ever a defining moment of your life?

Joe: The day I was transported into the future. Not only did it save my life, it defined how I lived the remaining days of my life.

Bertram:  What is your most prized possession? Why?

Joe: My memory—specifically of Ecstasy and Lindy. Since they are both gone from me, they—their memories—are all I have.

Bertram:  What is your favorite scent? Why?

Joe: Smell and memory are intimately linked. Since Ecstasy was killed my favorite scent belongs to those items that still bear her essence—the clothing that remains in our closet, the afghan with which she covered herself while reading on cold winter nights.

Bertram:  What is your favorite beverage? Why?

Joe: A single malt scotch—Aberlour a’bunadh (pronounced ah-boo-nar) is my favorite. If I have to explain why, you’re obviously not a scotch drinker and wouldn’t understand anyway.

Bertram:  What is your favorite item of clothing? Why?

Joe: That would be my fedora, which I was forced to give up wearing in the 21st century. You’ll read why in January’s Thaw. In the 1940s it defined who I was, as it defined Bogart’s screen persona. But I wore mine first, and my persona wasn’t make believe.

Bertram: If  you had the power to change one thing in the world that didn’t affect you personally, what would it be?

Joe: We face many choices each and every day of our lives, which over a lifetime add up to myriad decisions. Whether we choose to act or to refrain from acting affects the world and ourselves. There is nothing we do, or choose not to do, that doesn’t leave a mark on us. All of which lends credibility to the theory that countless universes exist, the result of the choices we make (or fail to make) and their interactions with the billions of other choices made or not made by others.

Too New Age for you? Remember, I come from an era before New Age.

See also:
Excerpt from One Hot January by J. Conrad Guest
Interview with J. Conrad Guest, author of One Hot January
Chapter One — One Hot January by J. Conrad Guest

Click here to buy: One Hot January

Sophie Nieman, heroine of Hand-Me-Down Bride by Juliet Waldron

Bertram: What is your name? Who are you?

Sophie: My name is Sophie Neiman, and I’m the second daughter of Albert and Anna Neiman of Osnabruck, in Northern Germany. I have four sisters, one older and two younger.

Bertram: Where do you live?

Sophie: I am an immigrant, and today I live in German’s Mill, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

Bertram: Are you the hero of your own story?

Sophie: I’m the heroine.

Bertram: What is your problem in the story?

Sophie: I have many problems, but the biggest is how to help my mother and my sisters back in Germany. They are now very poor, because my Papa died. Although he was an official in the City of Osnabruck, his pension was not enough for us all to live on. My mother works as a governess. My oldest sister, Ursula lives with Uncle Rudolph and cares for him and his household, but he is stingy and unkind. I agreed to travel to America to marry a wealthy older gentleman who wanted a “pure German” bride for a second wife, but the morning after we were married, I awoke to find him dead. Herr Theodore did not include me in his Will, so now I have nowhere to live and no idea of how to support myself.

Bertram: Do you have a problem not mentioned in the story?

Sophie: No. I have many problems to solve, but they are all part of my story.

Bertram: Do you embrace conflict? Do you run from conflict?

Sophie: I would rather avoid conflict, because I was raised to obey those in authority. However, I have my pride and a strong sense of right and wrong. If you treat me unfairly or condescend to me, I will challenge you.

Bertram: How do you see yourself?

Sophie: My family has fallen on hard times, but I am still a lady and a dutiful daughter. I understand that life is not a bed of roses, and that personal sacrifice is often required. I try not to brood or be sorry for myself, although sometimes it is not easy. I try to live by the Golden Rule. Secretly, I am hot-blooded. Falling in love came close to destroying me, so, here in America, I keep a tight rein on my feelings. I don’t trust men.

Bertram: How do your friends see you?

Sophie: As a reserved person who does not easily show her feelings, but who has a kind heart. A church-going Lutheran lady, who, nevertheless, is not afraid to get her hands dirty and work.

Bertram: How do your enemies see you?

Sophie: As a cold opportunist, who agreed to immigrate and marry Herr Theodore strictly for his money.

Bertram: does the author see you?

Sophie: As a proud, brave, and well brought up young woman who is willing to do whatever it takes to fulfill what she sees as her duty to her beloved family back in the old country. Sophie tries to follow through on the obligations she has, but life has a way of throwing her curves she doesn’t expect. She is more adaptable than she gives herself credit for.

Bertram: Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

Sophie: Yes.

Bertram: What are your achievements?

Sophie: I can play the piano and sing. (People always seem to enjoy it.) I can sew my own clothes. I have good taste in literature and music. My biggest achievement is that I dared to come to America to marry a man I’d never seen because my family was depending upon me. It might seem desperate, but it was also the bravest thing I’ve ever done.

Bertram: Has anyone ever failed you, betrayed you?

Sophie: Yes, my best friend Lisel and Herr Captain Frederick, back in Osnabruck. They ran off together, although they both knew I was in love with him. My poor friend Lisel paid for her mistake, because Frederick proved to be nothing more than a wicked seducer, who dishonored her and abandoned her. I wish I could help her, but I do not know where she is anymore.

Bertram: Do you keep your promises?

Sophie: Yes.

Bertram: What in your past would you like to forget? Or perhaps something you wish had never happened?

Sophie: Even more than wickedness of Captain Frederick, I would like to wish away the death of my sister, Anna. She had consumption and we managed to find the money to send her to the sanatorium, but she did not recover. She was so young! God has certainly taken her sweet soul to his bosom.

Bertram: Do you like to remember your childhood?

Sophie: Yes! The early part was so happy for our family. We were not rich, but we had a nice apartment and we were respected because Papa was a high clerk in the Osnabruck court. My Papa indulged us all. We went to school and studied music, too. After my studies were done, I could read, all I ever wished to.  We walked in the parks on nice days, and had dinner with friends. Sometimes, we hired a carriage and visited the countryside for picnics. After our Papa died, we lost so much! Our lovely apartment and my piano and the books were the first to go. Some of Papa’s “friends” and their families were no longer in evidence, and we were lonely. Mama found work, and she was so tired and sad all the time, it was almost as if we had lost her, too. Next, my big sister Ursula left us to go work for Uncle Rudy on the other side of the city. That was when I began housekeeping and sewing and looking after my little sisters, Rosemarie and Lizbet. I worked very hard so that my mother would not have to come home and feel that things were not well-taken care of.

Bertram: What is your most closely guarded secret?

Sophie: How close I came to running away with Captain Frederick myself. My days and nights were full of dreams of him, of yielding to his passion, but somehow, even though he asked me to come away with him, thinking of my mother and my sisters—of my father and what he would have thought—kept me from doing so. If I were more impulsive, I might have ended up like Lisel, disgraced and lost. Deep in my heart I know I am not more moral than my friend, only more cautious.

Bertram: What is your favorite scent?

Sophie: I think it is the honeysuckle. I blush to admit it, because honeysuckle grows all over the front porch at the millhouse, where my husband used to sit with me while we were courting.

Bertram: What is your favorite color?

Sophie: Green, because that is a color we didn’t see much of in the poor neighborhood we lived in after Papa died. Here, in German’s Mill, there is so much green! So many beautiful trees, like the big Linden trees next to our house, or the poplars which line the roads, or the sycamores down by the river! All the fields are a bright sunny green in the springtime. Also, I love the fine Philadelphia green linen dress my Aunt Ilga bought me to wear.

Bertram: What is your favorite music?

Sophie: I love Bach most of all. His music speaks to my soul and quiets all my sad and stormy thoughts. I wish I played better, so that I could play more of his music. Herr Schwann, at our church, has been giving me lessons, but we are all so very busy all day here, and so very tired at night, it is hard to always practice.

Bertram: What is your favorite hobby?

Sophie: I am learning to ride a horse, one which my dearest Karl Joseph has purchased for me. I never could have imagined having such a privilege, and it is the greatest fun to ride her out into the countryside. Her name is Polly, and she is gentle and sweet-natured. I love to go to the stable and brush her. I feel like pinching myself every time I see her there, munching her hay. I can hardly believe that such a fine creature is mine!

Bertram: What is your favorite food?

Sophie: I love chicken with dumplings, and have learned to make them from the best cook in all America, the woman who cooks for us at the millhouse, Mrs. Divine Daniels. She also makes the very best cherry dampfnudeln (sweet dumplings with cherry sauce) I have ever tasted, either here or in Osnabruck.   

Bertram: If you had the power to change one thing in the world that didn’t affect you personally, what would it be?

Sophie: I wish everyone would be kind to each other, that they would not judge each other before they really know them. So much unhappiness and sorrow could be avoided if we would all give each other the benefit of the doubt, if we would not condemn others just for preconceptions we have about them. I have learned this only through experience.

Bertram: How do you envision your future?

Sophie: I hope that my birth family will be with me again, right here in America. As much, or possibly more, I also hope that I and my dearest husband will live happily ever after, right here in German’s Mill, Pennsylvania. If you’re interested in finding out more about me, Juliet Waldron told my story in Hand-me-Down Bride.

Danielle Michele Fleming, Heroine of the Novel Shadow Song by Lorina Stephens

Bertram: What is your story?

Danielle: All I wanted was a home, a place where, and people with whom, I could breathe, free of the guilt of these dreams that dog my days, and free of the long arm of my Uncle Edgar. Ever since the July Revolution in France – I believe that was 1830 and I was just a child – I feel as though I’ve been on a long journey, both geographically and emotionally. It is amazing to me what moment can ensue from a slip of paper.

Lorina Stephens chronicled my story in her novel, Shadow Song. The novel is available through online booksellers worldwide, select bookstores in Canada, and directly from Lorina Stephens.

Bertram: Who are you?

Danielle: My name is Danielle Michelle Fleming. I suppose if life had been different, if Papa and Maman had not died, I would have grown to be Lady Fleming, but my life was to take a different course. Instead I became a member of the Midewewin, the Ojibwa medicine society. Of course that was after I escaped from Uncle Edgar.

Bertram: Where do you live?

Danielle: On the land. Where else would I live? It’s been so long since I had servants and walls I think I would find that confining now. For shelter we use a bark wigwam. During the summers we join our clan at Manitowaning. The winters we travel north to hunting grounds.

Bertram: Are you the hero of your own story?

Danielle:  I’m no hero, but, yes, the story called Shadow Song, is about me. It’s also about Shadow Song, the man to whom I owe my life and my love.

Bertram: Do you embrace conflict?

Danielle: Why ever would someone wish to embrace conflict when they could know days of contentment? No, conflict is my uncle’s domain. It is he who destroys everything in the name of his unholy revenge.

Bertram: Do you run from conflict?

Danielle: Yes I ran. For my very life I ran. But sometimes we are forced to stop running, to face our demons, to sacrifice everything in the name of peace.

Bertram: How do your friends see you?

Danielle: I’m sure people around me think me either impertinent or an outsider. As a child I learned early to observe, to learn, to survive. As a woman I learned if I wanted a place to call my own I would have to find it within myself. While Shadow Song’s clan accepted my presence, I was acutely aware I was an outsider.

Bertram: How do your enemies see you?

Danielle: I have only one enemy – Uncle Edgar. How does he see me? I think I am an obsession, an annoyance, a toy with which he plays.

Bertram: How does the author see you?

Danielle: She loves me I believe. I think she sees me as an indomitable spirit.

Bertram: Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

Danielle: How could she not? You could say we occupy the same inner landscape.

Bertram: Do you have a hero?

Danielle: Shadow Song would have to be my hero. From the moment he stepped out of the green forest I was mesmerized by his knowledge, his power, his kindness. He offered me a home when no other would.

Bertram: Do you have any skills?

Danielle: Aside from having studied for and being accepted into the Midewewin – which is no small achievement – I learned how to survive in the wilderness, how to read people, and how to interpret these dreams priests has always told me were evil.

Bertram: What do you regret?

Danielle: So many things. How do I even begin to list my regrets? But, then, that has been my life, a series of actions from others that created havoc in my life, things I could not control, nor would have been equipped had I even the experience.

Bertram: What is your biggest disappointment?

Danielle: Ah, that is something I cannot tell you. You’ll have to read my story to find the answer to that.

Bertram: Are you honorable?

Danielle: Probably to a fault. But then I had a mentor who lived his life by an exacting standard of honor. I could do little else, nor would I have wanted to.

Bertram: Do you like remembering your childhood?

Danielle: Parts of it, yes. I remember sunlight gleaming on the white marble floor of the foyer, like lace where it passed through the transom over the front door. There were lilies, white and frail, in a vase on the table against the paneling. The lilies’ fragrance was pungent, like a drug to calm the nerves.

I remember escaping from Uncle, paddling with Shadow Song out onto the massive freshwater sea. I watched it all with wide eyes, sure I would miss some wonder if I didn’t look everywhere at once. There were gulls pencilling long arcs on an endless blue sky, swooping down on the shoals they fished. Thousands of them there were. And ducks. And geese. I’d never seen so many waterfowl.

Bertram: What is your favorite scent? Why?

Danielle: Lavender. It is a perverse thing, because it reminds me of Paul Rogette, the guide who brought me through the wilderness and introduced me to Shadow Song. When we parted he gave me a tea tin, a small clay doll he’d made, and a bottle of lavender water. I kept all three, long after their usefulness had failed.

Bertram: What are the last three books you read?

Danielle: Books are a rarity in the backwoods of Upper Canada, but I read one over and over again, Paradise Lost, by Milton. You could say it was a book to which I related.

Bertram: How do you envision your future?

Danielle: I’m not sure, to be honest. I suppose you’ll have to read the end of my story to find out what my future might bring.

Shadow Song, by Lorina Stephens, is available from in print and eBook format from online booksellers worldwide, select bookstores in Canada, and directly from the author at 

Sandra Scott, a first-year English teacher from Tales Out Of School by Shirley Ann Howard

Bertram: In Tales Out of School, you come across as bright, attractive, and personable, Sandy. Why all the self-doubt? 

Sandy: I don’t think I have self-doubt. I just question everything . . . three times. I learned it from my mother; it pervades all areas of my life. 

Bertram: In what way? 

Sandy: I prepare for my classes as if I’m rehearsing for Broadway and lie awake at night worrying about my students. Andrea is in over her head with boys at age fourteen. Rico’s chronic absence is putting him at risk for failure. And homework, I’m not at all sure what to do about that. 

Bertram: Homework completion is a problem? 

Sandy: Mega. I try to encourage the kids as much as possible and refuse to be critical like my mother. It’s important to me to maintain a good relationship with them. I like the kids and I enjoy teaching them, but they could learn so much more. There’s a whole world waiting for them, if they would put in a little time outside of class. Lenny tells me I’m doing fine and urges me to relax. He’s another problem. He’s crazy about me, but . . . we won’t even get into my relationship with him. 

Bertram: Why not? What more could you possibly want? 

Sandy: I want him to want me . . . more often than he apparently does. He gets busy with his work and doesn’t even feel the need to call me. 

Bertram: When he’s with you, does he show love and affection? 

Sandy: Sure, but is that what our relationship is about? Off the planet sex? I’m looking for commitment . . . dare I say it? Marriage. 

Bertram: And Lenny is looking for? 

Sandy: A Ph.D. in Biochemistry. He’s totally immersed in his dissertation right now, a study of speeding up the regeneration process in certain ocean species. It’s time-consuming and difficult work, I appreciate that, but he could at least call. I lie awake at night worrying about him. It seems every time we go somewhere together, a minor catastrophe erupts. Like the time we went on the deep water excursion to collect specimens in November. Skiing in New Hampshire with him is always an adventure. Then there was the time we went to Montana; he actually had the nerve to tell me about Cindy there. 

Bertram: It sounds like you’ve been involved with him a long time. 

Sandy: I first met him when I was a freshman in college . . . by the buffet table at an awards reception in his honor. I was there to interview him for the university newspaper. He caught me when I slipped on a chunk of pineapple someone had dropped on the floor. The next thing I knew I was in his arms, our eyes met, his musk made me dizzy… you know the story. And if you don’t, you can check it out at

Niall Campbell, the Hero of Invisible Hand by Larry Mason

Bertram: What is your story?

Niall: I was recently released from captivity and have returned to the U.S. in 2028. Things seem to have changed. The computer sees and hears everything anyone does. There must be some vast conspiracy going on but I can’t seem to tell who is behind it or what their motives are. I am determined to do what I can to rescue my daughter and her family but they seem to not notice being oppressed.

Bertram: Who are you?

Niall: I am a former developing nations education consultant who was kidnapped by terrorists and seemingly forgotten when the world economies nearly collapsed. I have been held for 15 years in the mountains near the Afghanistan border. If you want to know more about me, you can read the entire novel at or listen to it in MP3 from there (no ads) or read the novel on and see the comments of others.

Bertram: Let’s finish this interview first. Where do you live?

Niall: I have been moving pretty much since I came back. I couldn’t stay with my daughter because that would be imposing. I rented a small house for a couple of months near Washington, DC and took work driving a garbage truck. Then I moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico and worked as a computer operator in the large computer center there.

Bertram: Are you the hero of your own story?

Niall: I thought I was but the further along I go the more I begin to wonder.

Bertram: What is your problem in the story?

Niall: To find out about this computer controlled society and how to defeat it, at least to the extent of escaping with my daughter and her family. It’s like fighting smoke, though.

Bertram: Do you embrace conflict?

Niall: Absolutely not. I was held captive for years as a result of conflict. I have never been the fighting sort. But my experience has made me somewhat paranoid. I take some drugs to help with that but there’s still that suspicious edge. I don’t know whom to trust, if anyone.

Bertram: Do you run from conflict?

Niall: In some ways, yes but in other ways I stand my ground. If I see I am in the wrong I will admit my error but if I feel I am in the right I am braver than I thought.

Bertram: How do you see yourself?

Niall: As an ordinary, late middle-aged guy who had some strange events happen to him.

Bertram: How do your friends see you?

Niall: As a nice guy who seems to not understand how things work now. As a guy who puts his foot in his mouth from time to time but who is willing to pull his weight.

Bertram: How do your enemies see you?

Niall: How can I tell? I don’t know who they are or where they are. But they must be watching and hearing every thing I do and say because that computer is everywhere.

Bertram: How does your author, Larry Mason, see you?

Niall: He seems to think I only exist to show how this scary system works. He has me asking questions and arguing with people and even going to school. Of course it has been interesting, I’ll give him that.

Bertram:  Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

Niall: Pretty well. He seems to have interviewed my parents and talked to my ex-wife and even explored my dreams several times. There isn’t much about me that he doesn’t know.

Bertram: Do you have a goal?

Niall: Yes. I have to save my family and myself.

Bertram: What are your achievements?

Niall: I survived physically and pretty much mentally 15 years of being held hostage in pretty impoverished confinement (dirt floor, little exercise, mostly solitary). I helped set up public school systems in third world nations. I have a really good daughter of whom I am quite proud.

Bertram: Do you have any special strengths?

Niall: No, I am just an average guy in most ways.

Bertram: Do you have any special weaknesses?

Niall: No. Other than the trauma left over from my captivity. The drugs and other treatment I received after release helped with that though there are still some problems.

Bertram: Do you have any skills?

Niall: Nothing but a good liberal arts education and that 20 years out of date. It’s hard to find a career when everything has changed so much.

Bertram: Do you have money troubles?

Niall: Funny you should mention that. The change in the nature of the money seems to be at the root of all these changes I am experiencing. I don’t have any troubles in the sense of not having enough to buy food or housing, I seem to have almost gotten rich somehow while I was out of the country. But money just isn’t the same as it was. I can buy things with it but I can’t give it to anyone else. And there are all these people who wear white clothes and have no luxuries who can give other people money but can’t have any themselves. In fact, I don’t actually need to have any money at all. People will just give me food and clothes and a place to live and not expect anything from me at all. They say the people in white pay them.

Bertram: What do you need?

Niall: I need to understand what’s going on here.

Bertram: What are you afraid of?

Niall: I am afraid of that computer system with its eyes and ears everywhere keeping trace of everything I do. Yes, I know it’s helpful sometimes like when we were hurrying to the hospital it cleared the traffic and made all the lights green and warned people that we were coming and it even got the guy who was driving us to come by and pick us up. But it can be a terrible tool for any totalitarian government. They have to be controlling everybody with it. I just can’t find anybody that’s being made to do anything. Nobody be me seems to worry about it at all. They treat it like a well trained dog or like a servant. Well, I do call it “Jeeves” myself since it seems to act like a superior butler when we talk but that thing gives me the willies.

Bertram: Are you lucky?

Niall: Am I lucky? You think 15 years of abject poverty and threats of death and torture are lucky? But on the other hand, I did get through it sane, sort of, and I did live to go home, such as home is now. I guess, on balance, I have been rather lucky.

Bertram: Do you keep your promises?

Niall: I try but sometimes you just can’t.

Bertram: Are you honorable?

Niall: To the best of my ability. I think an honest person would say I was honorable.

Bertram: Are you healthy?

Niall: Well, I am still underweight and those years of malnutrition have not done me much good but it may have lengthened my life. It sure made me appreciate good food, being clean, and plumbing.

Bertram: Do you like remembering your childhood?

Niall: Yes, it was a pretty good childhood growing up in central North Dakota. It taught me a lot and we loved each other in my family.

Bertram: What in your past had the most profound effect on you?

Niall: My captivity, obviously.

Bertram: What in your past would you like to forget?

Niall: Nothing really. Of course I suppose there are parts of my captivity that I have forced myself to forget already.

Bertram: Have you ever had an adventure?

Niall: You mean besides being kidnapped? Yes, I was kidnapped a second time though that wasn’t nearly so bad in some ways. Of course, the second time I had to worry about someone else who may mean more to me than I realized. But only time will tell about her. Yes, her being kidnapped, too, did make the second time quite different from the first.

Bertram: Was there a major turning point in your life?

Niall: That’s hard to say. If there was I certainly didn’t realize it was a turning point at the time. Perhaps one day I will look back and say yes that was it, that incident in the bar or, perhaps, landing at the airport in D.C. or maybe just riding the bus back from Albuquerque to the payer school when I finally realized… But then, maybe there wasn’t any real turning point, maybe it was all just sort of a long, smooth curve.

Bertram: What is your most closely guarded secret?

Niall: Secret? Why would I tell you if there were? Why are you asking me all these questions? What business is it of yours who and am and what I think? I don’t think you have any business prying into my private life that way. You aren’t even a payer. I’m leaving. Goodbye.