Interview with Carrie Jane Knowles, Author of Apricots in a Turkish Garden

Apricots in a Turkish GardenWhat is your book about?

Apricots in a Turkish Garden is a collection of ten short stories that focus on a moment in time when a character has an insight into their life and what has happened. And, that insight changes the character.

Why will readers relate to your characters?

I work hard to create “real” characters. I want the stories to be like a window or a mirror. Readers often tell me that they feel like I have written about them or their families.

How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing it?

I almost always start with a character rather than a situation.

Do you have any rituals that you follow before sitting down to write?

Whenever I sit down to write I close my eyes and spend a few minutes thinking about the characters in my story, trying to imagine what they are going to do next.

What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?

Writing and coaching writing is my day job. I have an office and I go to work everyday, Monday through Friday. I usually go to the gym before work, so I’m generally in the office ready to work by 10 in the morning and leave sometime between 5 and 6.

Writing today is also about promoting and some days the promotion end of the business takes over, as does the coaching, and I don’t get a great deal of time to write.

Ideally, I try to get at least one page of my own work written each day. I’m really happy if I manage to write two polished pages, i.e. pages that work and I don’t throw out the next day. Three would be a personal best!

How many stories do you currently have swirling around in your head?

Right now I’m working on two stories, one a short story and the other a novel I’ve been struggling with for the last two years. I’ve just had a real breakthrough with the novel, so hope to move ahead on that over the next couple of months.

The short story, like all short stories I write, will take several more months to draft then polish.

What, in your opinion, are the essential qualities of a good story?

A great character with an interesting dilemma/problem.

Where do you get the names for your characters?

I’m always on the lookout for character names. I keep note cards in my purse and jot names down whenever I discover a good one.

Names are really important to me. They have to fit the character, the time frame of the story, the location of the story, and the situation.

Do your characters ever take on a life of their own?

I hope so! When I create a character, I do my best to listen to them and to let them be who they want to be.

I have this theory I call the bad parent/good parent theory of writing. The bad parent is always telling the child what they should do and be when they grow up. The good parent encourages the child to grow up and be whoever and whatever they want to be.

I want to be the good parent.

Describe your writing in three words.

Character driven, surprising.

Where can people learn more about your books?

Apricots in a Turkish Garden is published by Second Wind Publishing. You can purchase it through Second Wind and also at Quail Ridge Books and through Amazon and Smashwords. You can learn more about me as well as my work on my website:

Grace Harmon Singer, Hero of “On the Choptank Shores” by Smoky Trudeau Zeidel

Welcome, Grace. What is your story?

I was born on April 12, 1909, in Pennsylvania. I had a sister, Emily, who was only ten months older than me. We were very close. But then, Emily died, and my grief-stricken father moved us to a small farm on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

I was content to be an only child, although I missed Emily terribly. I spent my days helping Mama in the garden, doing the mending, singing in the church choir.

But then, God gave us quite a surprise gift: Mama gave birth to twins, Matthew and Miriam. But that gift was not for us to share for very long. Matthew died of typhoid fever, and Mama, too broken by the loss of yet another child, died a year later. That left me to care for little Miriam and our father.

But Papa was changed. The loving man who had been our father became angry, bitter. He became abusive, especially toward Miriam, and he spouted Biblical verse to justify his behavior.

Lucky for me, I fell in love with a wonderful man, Otto Singer. When we married, I moved to his home on Windy Hill, and took Miriam with me. I thought things would at last be stable for my sister, and that I could raise her to have a normal life. But Papa would not let that happen. The rest of the story is beautifully told by my author, Smoky Trudeau Zeidel, in the book On the Choptank Shores.

What is your problem in the story?

My father, and his descent into madness. Understand, my father was a kind and loving man when I was a child. But the deaths of Emily, Matthew, and my mother were too much for him to handle. He went increasingly insane, and as he did so, he tried harder and harder to control me and to take Miriam away from me. I could not let that happen: he abused Miriam terribly, and spouted verses from the Bible to justify his abuse. Of course, he was taking them terribly out of context, but he would not listen to me, or to my husband Otto, or anyone else who tried to help him.

Unfortunately, Otto was struggling with demons of his own, demons I was not aware of when we wed. He believed he was responsible for the death of a young woman named Lily more than two decades earlier, in a tragic accident that left his brother, Henry, brain damaged. I don’t know why he felt he couldn’t tell me about what happened. Maybe his guilt was too strong; maybe it was his pride. But his story came to a head just as my father became totally deranged, and there I was, stuck in the middle, wanting to help my husband, help my father, and protect my sister, all at once.

So, did you embrace this conflict, or did you run from it?

Neither, really. No one likes conflict; we all want our lives to run smoothly, and we want to be happy, content. But neither could I run from the conflict in my life. It involved the people I hold most dear to my heart. I had to do what I could to save them, or I could not live with myself. As it is, there is a deep ache in my heart about how the conflict resolved itself in the end. I’m not ready to talk about that now, though. I think Smoky, my author, was able to sum up my feelings pretty well in the book, though.

How does your author, Smoky Trudeau Zeidel, see you? Do you think she portrayed you accurately?

I’m very pleased Smoky recognized me as a woman of quiet strength. Yes, I am young. I had my twentieth birthday only recently. But I mothered my sister for several years before marrying Otto, and of course, I continue to mother her now. I cared for my father as well as he would allow for as long as I could; I would have continued to care for him after my marriage if he had allowed it. Otto would gladly have built a room on our house for Papa, just as he did for Miriam. But it was not to be …

Yes, I believe Smoky portrayed me accurately. I put my family first in all things, but I also have the good sense to know I must keep my own strength up and take time to care for myself, Grace, in order to be able to be the wife and mother I need to be. She captured that in the book. I’m very proud of her for doing that.

You said your father spouts Biblical verse to justify his abuses. What do you believe, Grace?

I don’t believe in the violent, vengeful God my father espouses, the one found in so much of the Old Testament. I also don’t believe God meant for man to dominate woman, or for parent to abuse child. I believe in a kinder, gently God, a God with a feminine face. I believe in the God of Naamah, Noah’s wife, a story that is not in the Bible but which has been handed down from generation to generation through the women in my family, and other families as well. My mother told me the story of Naamah often as a child. Smoky relates it in On the Choptank Shores. It is a beautiful tale of a woman’s strength and the important role she plays here on earth.

What makes you happy?

My husband makes me happy. Seeing Miriam growing and thriving, despite all she has been through, makes me happy. Working in my garden, getting dirt and sand beneath my fingernails, watching my plants grow, knowing they will nourish my family, makes me happy. Reading a good book while sitting on the riverbank makes me happy. And the two gifts I receive at the end of Smoky’s book make me happy, although I’m not at liberty to say exactly what those gifts were.

Life makes me happy. I am a content person by nature, despite all that has transpired.

What is your greatest disappointment?

I believe there are two that are equally disappointing to me. One is that my siblings, Emily and Matthew, did not survive, and are not here with me today. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t miss Emily; she was my best friend as well as my sister. And Matthew was such a sweet little boy. When he died, he took a part of Miriam with him. They were twins, after all.

My second disappointment was that things could not have ended differently in On the Choptank Shores. Yes, in the end, Otto, Miriam, and I were all safe and happy. But things ended differently for other people we loved. And while I know it could not have ended any other way, I still have regrets.

Do you consider yourself lucky?

I consider myself blessed; I don’t know if luck has anything to do with it. I am blessed to have found this wonderful man, Otto, to love, and to be loved by him. I am blessed that Miriam is thriving. I am blessed to live here, in this special place on the shores of the Choptank River, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. There is much that is good in my life, and for which I am thankful.

What are you afraid of?

Goodness, I never really thought of it! Afraid of, afraid of … I’m not really afraid of anything that I can think of, although I detest earwigs! Earwigs in the garden give me the shivers, but when they get in the house, well, yes, I am afraid of them! Isn’t that the silliest fear on earth? To be afraid of a little bug like an earwig? Oh, and I’m not to crazy about centipedes, either. That’s very odd, being afraid of those two things. Usually, I really like insects. They play such a valuable role in nature, pollinating plants, doing what they do. But earwigs and centipedes? What was God thinking?

What is your most prized possession?

I don’t really have a lot of possessions. We live a pretty simple life. But I guess if I had to name one thing, it would be this pearl, here, in my wedding ring. We found it in an oyster we bought at the Oyster Shack when we stopped there to eat, the day we were married. It’s a beautiful pearl, isn’t it? We married so quickly, Otto hadn’t had time to buy me a ring, so he had it set in one for me. I never take it off, I treasure it so.

What are the last three books you read?

I love to read! Often, I can read a book a day; I guess if I was born with one God-given talent, it was my ability to read very quickly. The last three books I read were A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens; which was a very sad book with a wonderful, heroic ending; Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë, which is a perennial favorite of mine; and Parnassus on Wheels, by Christopher Morley, a delightful tale if there ever was one!

Can you name five items that are in your purse?

Good heavens, what a question! Let me think! Hmmm, I have my handkerchief, my wallet, my change purse, my house key … the thing weighs ten pounds; there must be more in there than that! Oh! I know why it’s so heavy—I put a book in there, in case I had to wait a while to meet with you. Moby Dick, by Herman Melville. No wonder it’s so heavy! That’s five!

Thank you for your patience, Grace. I just have one final question: If you had the power to change one thing in the world that didn’t affect you personally, what would it be?

We are all connected. What affects one, affects all, although we may not see it at the time. But if I did have the power to change one thing in the world, I would eliminate hate. Hatred is the root cause of evil; hatred causes war. If hatred were eliminated, if love was the predominant emotion on earth, the world would be a better place for all of us to live.



Smoky Trudeau Zeidel is the author of two novels, On the Choptank Shores and The Cabin. She is also author of Observations of an Earth Mage, a photo/essay collection; and two books about writing. Smoky lives her life honoring Mother Earth through her writing, visual art, and spiritual practice. She lives in California with her husband Scott (a college music professor and classical guitarist), her daughter (a college student and actress), and a menagerie of animals, both domestic and wild, in a ramshackle cottage in the woods overlooking the San Gabriel Valley and Mountains beyond. When she isn’t writing, she spends her time hiking in the mountains and deserts, splashing in tidepools, and resisting the urge to speak in haiku.

You can find Smoky and her three blogs at

Click here to read an excerpt from: On the Choptank Shores

Click here for an interview with: Smoky Trudeau Zeidel

Petra, Hero of Ghost Dance by Rod Marsden

What is your story?

I was born in England and died in Germany. I have been around for over a hundred years. I like being in Australia.

Who are you?

I am Petra, a female vampire.

Where do you live?

I don’t live anywhere. I haven’t lived since a certain fateful night in Germany. I am undead. This means I am somewhere between life and death.

Are you the hero of your own story?

Yes, I am the hero of my own story. It has been a long time since I have killed anyone unless provoked into doing so.

What is your problem in the story?

My biggest headache is this warlock who is after my blood. He is also after the blood of this young werewolf. The fellow is a bit of a doofus but likable enough. He needs a firm hand. I don’t want anything bad to happen to him. On the other hand, I don’t want anything bad to happen to me either.

Do you have a problem that wasn’t mentioned in the story?

I think everything about me is covered in the story except maybe the difficulties of leaving England for the first time to go abroard.

Do you embrace conflict?

I avoid conflict but, if someone wants to fight me, well, I will certainly give them their money’s worth.

Do you run from conflict?

I rarely run from conflict. I am no fool, however, when it comes to the odds. If I am outnumbered and sticking around will mean my second death of course I will bolt.

How do you see yourself?

I have a sense of honor. If you don’t attack me then I won’t go for your blood or the blood of the people your have sworn to protect.

How do your friends see you?

My friends see me as someone who sometimes causes trouble but also someone they can depend upon in a fight. I never let friends down. This is why I do have friends.

How do your enemies see you?

With any luck my enemies don’t see me until I have seen them first. I am a thorn in the warlock’s side. I also have the blood that he needs for his experiments. The young werewolf also has the blood this creep needs. It isn’t a good idea to get on my bad side.

How does the author see you?

I remind the author of a couple of no nonsense but decent women he has known for decades and has loved. They are as fiercely loyal to him as I am to my friends.

Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

Yes. the author did a good job on me. I know I have a temper. I also know my upbringing in England was based on his grandparents and on other information that came to hand. But it was mostly his grandparents.

What do you think of yourself?

I am the best vampire you are ever likely to meet since I don’t just drain anybody I meet of blood. I was an English Vamp in 1920s Germany who became a real vampire. I still like to dress in black. Vampires don’t have to, you know, but I think black suits me. I sometimes have fun with being undead. The biggest problem there, however, is that mirrors don’t work on me. The reflection from a dead person’s eye, which is really small, is often the best I can do.

Do you have a hero?

No, sorry. I don’t have a hero. Well, when I was young my dad was my hero but he died and he’s not likely to ever come back.

Do you have a goal?

My goals are to stay undead and to look after my friends. Also, to do terrible things to anyone daft enough to attack me.

What are your achievements?

Despite vampire hunters, have managed to stay undead for over a hundred years. I understand the 2nd World War better than the present day living because I was actually there.

Do you talk about your achievements?

No, I don’t talk about my achievements. That’s not my style.

Do you have any special strengths?

As a vampire I do have heightened human abilities and I can fly. I am stronger than humans and can hold my own against other vampires. Vampires who owe me their lives I also view as my strengths.

Do you have any special weaknesses?

I have the usual weaknesses for my kind. Sunlight bothers me to ash. A stake through the heart would also finish me. You can consider my temper a special weakness if you like.

Do you have any skills?

I understand how most humans think and also most vampires.

Do you have money troubles?

I don’t have money troubles. If I don’t have enough money I can always rip an ATM apart or take it from one of my victims.

What do you want?

I want to travel and for vampire hunters to leave me alone. Also I want that warlock to go to hell before I do.

What do you need?

I need to sleep during the day and get blood during the night. I need to look after my friends and keep an eye out for my enemies.

What do you want to be?

I want to be human again but that isn’t going to happen.

What do you believe?

I believe I am not the worst vampire who ever lived. I wish I could believe in redemption. I believe that there are times when you have to lighten up or go mad.

What makes you happy?

Being with undead I care about makes me happy. Dancing for no other reason than I feel like dancing makes me joyous. I also like good music. Jazz and Blues I like a lot. I don’t dig disco music at all. Mind you, the blood at discos is good quality even if the people it belongs to aren’t always so good.

What are you afraid of?

I am afraid of the second and final death. I am also afraid of letting my friends down.

What makes you angry?

Injustice makes me angry. Bullies make me livid. I dined on Nazis during the 2nd World War because the stood for injustice and bullying. I get angry when I am attacked just because I am a vampire. It I did something wrong fair enough but I can’t help being undead. It wasn’t a choice I made.

Where can we learn more about you?

Petra can be found in Ghost Dance. Ghost Dance by Rod Marsden can be found on Smashwords and USA. It is part of Night to Dawn publications.

Woogie, Hero of “Woogie’s Travels” by Sharon Miner

What is your story?

I was born in Ireland, and now travel all over the United States.

Who are you?

My name is Woogie, and I am an 8-year-old Black & Tan Irish Terrier!

Where do you live?

I now live in Tampa, Florida

Are you the hero of your own story?


What do you think of yourself?

I’m friendly and love children! I enjoy discovering new places.

What are your achievements?

I’ve traveled from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific, and the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Michigan.

Do you talk about your achievements?

I share my traveling adventures in my book Woogie’s Travels — Looking for a Friend. In December, I will be sharing more adventures in my new book, Woogie’s Travels — Discovering America.

Do you have any skills?

I entertain children at my book signings! I know a couple of tricks to play with them.

What makes you happy?

Lots of pettings and treats!

What are you afraid of?

BIG dogs…

Do you have any distinguishing marks?

A short tail and cute floppy ears!

Was there a major turning point in your life?

Yes, when my Pop saved me from a BIG dog at a horse show — we’ve been best buddies ever since.

Who was your first love?

A cute Dachshund puppy named Tinkerbelle.

Have you ever had an adventure?

Yes, I just returned from my three week Book Tour and loved the Redwoods in California the best. We drove our minivan through one of the huge trees, I played in the park there and had my picture taken inside a gigantic stump!

What is your favorite color?

Irish Green of course!

Great talking to you, Woogie! Where can we learn more about you?

You can check out my author’s website: I hope you do! She likes company.

Elaine Richman, Heroine of Dancing at all the Weddings by Susan Surman

Vivacious and talented Elaine Richman is faced with choices: A risky life in the New York theatre; an exciting life with college sweetheart, actor/director Jake Applebaum in Hollywood; a secure life in Boston with predictable lawyer David Alter, the match anointed by her domineering mother because ‘he’s the kind you marry.’ On the way to a dream, it is possible to collide with another dream’s seduction, only to learn there is no fulfillment on the path to safety. Elaine goes through the wringer to meet herself, proving there is no expiration date on talent or true love.

Interview with the heroine of Dancing at all the Weddings:

Who are you?

I didn’t exist at all before Susan Surman wrote me in her novel, “Dancing at all the Weddings,” published by Second Wind Publishing. I am Elaine Richman; through marriages became Elaine Alter; Elaine Applebaum. But Elaine Richman remained as my professional name. I was on my way to a risky theatrical career until it was hijacked by my marriage to David Alter, the match anointed by my mother. I discovered there was no fulfillment on the path to safety.

We weren’t religious, but there were certain Jewish rituals followed, especially when it came to the way death was handled. And looking back at it all, I see that my friends were Jewish, my husbands were Jewish, so without intentionally following the Jewish faith, I guess it was inbred in me. Even if you aren’t a practicing Jew, if you were born a Jew, you die a Jew. At least, that’s what I’ve been told.

Where do you live?

I grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts, lived in Weston, Mass., then Manhattan, and am looking forward to my new home in Malibu, California.

How does the author see you? Has she portrayed you accurately?

She has portrayed me very accurately. I grew up wanting to please my mother, be an obedient daughter, do the right thing. It means I lived the life others wanted for me. Until I couldn’t do it anymore. Until I finally met myself. It wasn’t easy going from frenzy to peace, but I made it.

Do you have a hero?

I never thought about that. I guess I admire people who know what they want, know how to get what they want, and still want it after they get it. In my personal life, I am surrounded by those so called heroes: Jane Mitchell, a college colleague who became a New York producer of plays; Jake Applebaum, who became a movie director; and my dear Sophie, my daughter, who started out a filmmaker and discovered she really wanted to be an entertainment lawyer. Her telling me that was really my wake-up call.

Do you have any special strengths?

It’s definitely not in the kitchen. Cooking was never my strong suit. Although, when I had to, I could meet the moment. Desserts are my specialty. Special strength perhaps would be pulling my life together at 50. Finally, doing that. Not succumbing to what would have been an easy existence – to finally getting out there and following my original dream. I’m an actress who got fooled and went down the wrong path. It isn’t how you start, it’s how you finish.

Do you have money troubles?

No. I’m one of the lucky ones in that department. It wasn’t easy as a kid – my parents didn’t have much. My father got sick and died; my mother had to work; I got a scholarship to college. And then my mother made sure I married the rich guy, and I was taken care of. It didn’t matter that I didn’t love him. She told me he was the kind you marry; that I’d learn to love him. He was always generous with money even after – well, I don’t want to talk about that. It’s all in the book.

What are you afraid of?

That it all goes by with such a mean clip and we waste so much time. I suppose we all think that. What am I afraid of? That I’ll die – but I won’t really be dead, and I’ll be buried or cremated. And I’ll be in there yelling, “I’m not dead, I’m not dead.” But no one will hear me.

What makes you angry?

Being wrongly accused of something that I didn’t do. More than that, the time I gave up my life to be wife, mother, chauffeur, secretary, cook, homemaker. They kept taking pieces of me. No – I gave away pieces of myself because I thought that was how you loved. Everything I knew about marriage and love was what I learned from the movies. They went off (husband and daughter) and did their own thing and I was left. The empty bowl.

What do you regret?

That my mother isn’t alive to see the good things that happened to me; that she missed her granddaughter; that she missed my acting career.

Are you lucky?

I would have to say, yes. I got a second chance. At love, at a career, at being who I really am.

Have you ever betrayed anyone?

Yes. A thousand times yes. I betrayed my husband. I lied, I cheated, I deceived. My life became one of lies and deception.

Are you healthy?

Yes. Despite my breakfasts of coffee and muffins for years; despite my eating pretty much anything I want; despite my yo-yo diets (the Zone, Atkins, the grapefruit diet, the white diet, so on and so forth), I am healthy.

 The white diet?

You eat only white food: Egg whites, cheese, milk, yogurt, vanilla ice-cream, anything with white flour. My skin turned white, I was constipated, and I gained eight pounds. I don’t recommend it.

Do you have any hobbies?

I love travel. I’ve been to London, Edinburgh, Dublin, Paris, Cannes, Athens. And I play tennis. I’m pretty good, too. And I could watch movies all day every day – which I did when I was going through the depression phase of my divorce. It’s all in the book.

What is your most prized possession?

Oh, that’s easy. The home-made card my daughter made for me one Mother’s Day. I was in Boston and she was in New York and she surprised me with a visit. She wrote a poem and it was just beautiful. I couldn’t read it, I was crying so hard. She had to read it to me. In the poem, she talks about my parents dying so young, sparing me their old age, and how she wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for me. Sentimental, mushy, loving and I wouldn’t part with it for any amount of money.

Who was your first love?

My father. I had him such a brief time. He died when I was 10. I loved him very much. He taught me to ballroom dance. He taught me to listen to music. I thought heaven was where you went to get well. I would look up the sky and if it was blue, I believed my daddy was wearing his blue suit. If the sky was gray, I believed he was wearing his gray suit. I looked for him everywhere for many years.

Who is your true love?

Jake Applebaum. We met our first day in acting class at Boston University. You’ll have to read the book to see what happened with that. I like the author’s philosophy: Talent and true love don’t have an expiration date. I’ve learned more about myself by loving another.

What is your favorite scent?

Gardenia. The scent of a gardenia flower and anything gardenia. When I was a child, my mother always wore gardenias when she and my father went out. I use a lotion with a gardenia scent. It’s the closest I can get to that smell. For a while, I tried growing a gardenia plant, but I wasn’t very good at it, and eventually, it died, so I gave up.

What is your favorite color?

Peach. Not the outside layer of a rose, but the inside petals after you peel back the outer layers. Gentle peach. My bedroom is peach and white; my bathroom is peach and white. Have a look at the cover of the novel. That’s the color.

What is your favorite item of clothing?

An oversized Calvin Klein black cashmere coat that I’ve had for years.

What is your favorite beverage?

Tea. As hot as you can get it. Earl Grey is my favorite. My mother always made Lipton’s tea and it was bland. She would never try anything different. We had many arguments about that tea. But I find every now and again, I do drink Lipton’s tea – usually on a day I feel sad, or I need something familiar. I guess the hand that rocks the cradle is still – well, she’s still your mother. I haven’t thought about that for years.

What are the last 5 entries in your check registry?

Bergdorf Goodman’s for the shoes I bought to match my wedding dress. My dressmaker who made the dress. Giorgio Armani’s for a leather jacket for my fiancée. The electric company for the apartment in New York. A donation to the Cancer Society.

What will your next entry be?

Second Wind Publishing for “Dancing at all the Weddings” by Susan Surman. Thanks to her, I exist. And the wonderful thing is, once you’ve been created in a book or a movie, you can never die. It’s out there forever.


Click here to read an excerpt from: Dancing at all the Weddings

Click here to read the first chapter of: Dancing at all the Weddings

Click here for an interview with: Susan Surman, Author of Dancing at all the Weddings

Blog Jog Day

Welcome to Blog Jog, a one-day trot around the highways and byways of the blogosphere. Feel free to look around before you move on to the next blog in the jog.

With so many authors contributing their interviews to this blog, there is something for everyone. If you don’t know where to start, you can begin by reading my interviews with the recalcitrant hero of my WIP, Part I and Part II. If you are an author and would like to contribute your own interview, please check out the character questionnaire for instructions. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Everyone who leaves a comment on this post will be entered in Second Wind Publishing’s best contest ever — a chance to win a copy of every title Second Wind will publish in 2011. Wow! So, be sure to leave a comment, then jog on over to visit author Melinda Clayton.

If you would like to visit a different Blog in the jog, you should be able to find the entire list of participants at: Blog Jog Day.

Detective Elton “Smoke” Dawes from the Winnebago County Mystery Series by Christine Husom

Bertram: Who are you?

Smoke: Detective Smoke “Smoke” Dawes with the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department in central Minnesota.

Bertram: Where do you live?

Smoke: A few miles outside the city of Oak Lea, the county seat of Winnebago County.

Bertram: What is your problem in the story?

Smoke: Professionally, it’s finding out who the bad guys are, identifying their crimes, and bringing them to justice. Personally, I’ll plead the fifth.

Bertram: Do you embrace conflict?

Smoke: It would be more accurate to say I confront and try to resolve conflict. It comes with the job.

Bertram: How do you see yourself?

Smoke: As a good brother, a good cop, a good friend. Loyal, dedicated, determined.

Bertram: How do your friends see you?

Smoke: Pretty much the same way I see myself, plus, some say stubborn as an old mule.

Bertram: How do your enemies see you?

Smoke: Some of them want to kill me. I do my best to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Bertram: Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

Smoke: She’s got a pretty good handle on what makes me tick. I’m not a guy that exactly wears my heart on my sleeve and the author respects that.

Bertram: What do you think of yourself?

Smoke: As an honest guy doing an honest day’s work, no matter how long that day gets to be. I fight against injustice, do what I can to help victims of crimes, and put bad guys away. 

Bertram: Do you talk about your achievements?

Smoke: Don’t have to, they speak for themselves.

Bertram: Do you have any skills?

Smoke: I’m a damn good interviewer, and have the ability to work as hard as I have to on cases.

Bertram: Do you have money troubles?

Smoke: No money troubles. I live a pretty simple life, outside of work. I make a whole lot more than I spend. All that overtime.

Bertram: What, if anything, haunts you?

Smoke: Unsolved cases and cases I’ve worked where kids are victimized. That’s hard to take.

Bertram: Do you keep your promises?

Smoke: I don’t make promises I can’t keep.

Bertram: Are you healthy?

Smoke: I’m very healthy, especially for a guy pushing fifty.

Bertram: What was your childhood like?

Smoke: I have an older brother and a younger brother. We were a rough and tumble crew, liked good-natured fighting, which our mother always made us take outside so we didn’t break furniture.

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

Smoke: The incident that earned me the nickname Smoke. When I was a junior in high school, a young woman and I were in my father’s fish house ice fishing one winter day when we forgot about fishing for a while. I accidentally kicked over the kerosene lamp and didn’t notice it until the fish house was on fire. The young woman thought it was funny when she told our friends, “Where there’s smoke there’s fire and ‘Smoke’s’ real name is Smoke.”

Bertram: Who was your first love?

Smoke: My first real love was a woman I met while serving as the Lake County Sheriff, in northern Minnesota. I wanted marriage, she didn’t. It nearly broke my heart.

Bertram: Have you ever had an adventure?

Smoke: Almost every day working as a Winnebago County Sheriff’s detective. We get some pretty tough cases, which Corky Aleckson tells about in the mystery thriller series.

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

Smoke: The above mentioned lover I wanted to marry who preferred an open-ended affair. I left the northern Minnesota county I was working for and returned to Winnebago County, my home.

Bertram: What is your most closely guarded secret?

Smoke: You want me to share it with a whole lotta people? I have very deep feelings for someone, and it’s best to leave them buried.

Bertram: What is your most prized possession?

Smoke: I like in a log home on forty wooded acres with my own private lake and a duck slew. It’s my sanctuary.

Bertram: Do you have any hobbies?

Smoke: I like fishing, hunting, canoeing, playing my guitar, going to my nephews’ ball games, and tying flies and lures for fishing.

Bertram: What is your favorite scent?

Smoke: The way a woman’s hair smells when it’s freshly washed. Must be from a moment in time way back when.

Bertram: What is your favorite beverage?

Smoke: Coffee, black. It helps keep me alert when I’m working, no matter the time of day or night.

Bertram: If you were stranded on a desert island, who would you rather be stranded with, a man or a woman?

Smoke: A woman with a bottle of clean-smelling shampoo.

Bertram: Where can we find out more about the Winnebago County mystery series?

Smoke: At Amazon and Second Wind Publishing. The books are called: Murder in Winnebago County, Buried in Wolf Lake, and An Altar by the River.

Manuel Enriques, Hero of Indian Summer by Dellani Oakes

Bertram: What is your story?

Manuel: My story is still being written, but a portion of it is chronicled in Indian Summer by Dellani Oakes.

Bertram: Who are you?

Manuel:  My name is Manuel Enriques and I am confidential aid to Governor Ferdinand Deza.

Bertram: Where and when do you live?

Manuel:  I live in the beautiful town of St. Augustine in the Florida territory.  The year is 1739.

Bertram: Are you the hero of your own story?

Manuel:  What is a hero? A man who does what he must to protect that which he holds dear. I am such a man. If that makes me a hero, then I accept this role gladly.

Bertram: What is your problem in the story?

Manuel:  The problem is that there is a pesky British spy wandering around causing trouble. The beast is wily and sly, but I’ll catch him, have no doubt.

Bertram: Do you embrace conflict?

Manuel: Conflict is in many forms. If it is in the form of a beautiful woman, I embrace and make love to it. If it is in the form of this annoying little fly speck of a spy, then I spit on it and grind it to dust beneath my heel.

Bertram: How do your friends see you?

Manuel: I haven’t many friends, but those are very close. They see me as strong, intelligent, passionate with women, stubborn and capable. How do you see me, cariña?

Bertram: How do your enemies see you?

Manuel: My enemies never see me. They are dead long before that. If by chance they do catch a glimpse, it is as of the face of death.

Bertram: How does the author see you?

Manuel: Ah, my beautiful Dellani. If it were not for Gabriella, such stories we would write together! She sees me as romantic, passionate, handsome, slightly dangerous, and very well appointed.

Bertram: Well appointed?

Manuel: You will have to read my tale to find out what I mean by that.

Bertram: Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

Manuel: As accurately as any woman may know a man’s heart, yes.

Bertram: What are your achievements?

Manuel: That is perhaps not a question I should answer here, eh, cariña?

Bertram: What makes you happy?

Manuel: Would you like to me say something poetic like a beautiful sunset or the seagulls above the water? I am not poetic man. What makes me happy is very simple, my love for Gabriella. It drives me, moves me to be the best I may be.

Bertram: What are you afraid of?

Manuel: I am afraid that what I am capable of will one day consume me. And I am terrified that I will lose Gabriella.

Bertram: What, if anything, haunts you?

Manuel: In a soldier’s life, are there not many things to haunt him? What haunts me, cariña, is better left forgotten.

Bertram: Do you keep your promises?

Manuel: Always. It is a point of honor.

Bertram: Are you honorable?

Manuel: As much as I am able to be given circumstances.

Bertram: That sounds like a very cagey answer.

Manuel: And it is the only one you shall get.

Bertram: Do you have any distinguishing marks?

Manuel: Oh, yes. I am very well appointed.

Bertram: You would love for me to ask again what that means, wouldn’t you?

Manuel: No, I would like you to read the book and find out.

Bertram: What is your most prized possession?

Manuel: My most prized possession? Must I have just one? Perhaps my pistol. Or my best pair of boots? No, not really, although I am rather fond of these pants.

Bertram: Oh? Why is that?

(All PB gets is a sly grin and a slow, wicked wink.)

Bertram:  Where can I find to book so I can read more of your story?

Manuel: You can find it at Second Wind Publishing, LLC and at Amazon.

Kendra DeSola the Hero of School of Lies by Mickey Hoffman

Bertram: What is your story?

Kendra: I don’t have stories, I have issues. I’d tell you about them but you’d be sorry you asked.

Bertram: Who are you?

Kendra: My name is Kendra DeSola and I teach Special Education in a city high school.

Bertram: Are you the hero of your own story?

Kendra: Well, I think I am but I have been told I wouldn’t get any awards for my behavior.

Bertram: What is your problem in the story?

Kendra: I’m sort of being set up. First I thought it was just to make me look like a child molester, but things went down hill after that.

Bertram: Do you embrace conflict?

Kendra: No, it finds me because I keep asking too many questions.

Bertram: How do you see yourself?

Kendra: An idealistic and strong-minded young woman.

Bertram: How do your friends see you?

Kendra: A pig-headed compulsive who has a mother hen complex. Hey wait, those are my friends?

Bertram: How do your enemies see you?

Kendra: Now you have me confused. I’ve been called a snoop, I can say.

Bertram: How does the author see you?

Kendra: She thinks I can get out of all the dubious situations she writes me into without long-term consequences. Me, I’m not sure about that.

Bertram: Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

Kendra: Of course not. I would never lie…

Bertram: Do you have any special strengths?

Kendra: Definitely. I can figure out what people are really thinking and if they’re lying to me or not.

Bertram: Do you have any special weaknesses?

Kendra: Maybe it’s a weakness to not give up on kids that nobody else wants to deal with. Sometimes that feels like a weakness. Or maybe a punishment.

Bertram: Do you have any skills?

Kendra: I can think really fast when I get into trouble.

Bertram: What do you want?

Kendra: I wish I could get rid of some of the rotten people I work with. Oh god, that doesn’t sound good, after what happened. I must mean that if people really knew what goes on, there would be a lot of changes in the schools.

Bertram: What makes you angry?

Kendra: I don’t like being lied to and I don’t like being discounted because I teach Special Ed.

Bertram: What makes you sad?

Kendra: Professionally, the fact that nobody wants my kids in the schools. Personally, I’d rather not say.

Bertram: What do you regret?

Kendra: I regret not being able to stop what I think was a murder. Those damn cops, they didn’t believe me!

Bertram: What, if anything, haunts you?

Kendra: The sister of a coworker told me I didn’t care about him until it was too late.

Bertram: Has anyone ever betrayed you?

Kendra: You mean, like they betrayed a confidence? I have to say no because I’m pretty cautious about who I trust. In fact, I’m not sure I like all your questions but I’m trying to be patient here or my author will be very angry with me.

Bertram: Have you ever failed anyone?

Kendra: You have to ask them. My author thinks I might have. What does she know?

Bertram: Do you keep your promises?

Kendra: Um, well. Usually. When they deserve to be kept.

Bertram: What was your childhood like?

Kendra: It was okay until my older brother got set up to look like a drug dealer and went to jail. By the time the truth came out he’d already served several years!

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

Kendra: If anyone saw the slanderous email about me, I hope they forget that fast!

Bertram: What is your most closely guarded secret?

Kendra: That trouble at Standard High, I know some stuff.

Bertram: Do you have any hobbies?

Kendra: I play on line fantasy computer games and I love home decorating.

Bertram: What is your favorite scent?

Kendra: Anything that doesn’t smell like my classroom.

Bertram: What is your favorite food?

Kendra: Cheese crackers because I don’t have to cook them.

Bertram: What is your favorite beverage?

Kendra: I love coffee, I have to say. Maybe because I can cook it.

Bertram: What are the last five entries in your check registry?

Kendra: What are you, the FBI? The detectives didn’t even ask for that!

Bertram: What are the last three books you read?

 Some boring thing about bilingual education, the book I got written into “School of Lies” and I reread “Lord of the Rings.”

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

Kendra: I’d do something to shelter all the homeless animals. Right now I’m–oh, I can’t tell you that because I’m not supposed to give anything away.

Bertram: How do you envision your future?

Kendra: I will be teaching for a long time but I’ll be in a decent school before long, I just know it!

Bertram: You said you got written into School of Lies. Where can I get a copy of the book?

Kendra: I got mine from Second Wind Publishing, LLC. It’s also on Amazon.

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.