Eduardo Gomez, a character in “The Ambivalent Corpse” by Jerold Last

What is your story?

I’m a Paraguayan police lieutenant named Eduardo Gomez. You will first meet me in the novel The Ambivalent Corpse by Jerold Last.

What is your problem in the story?

One of my other bosses wants me to help investigate a murder in Uruguay that might have neo-Nazi connections that could affect my home country, Paraguay.

Do you embrace conflict?

No, I try to use my brains rather than my considerable brawn.

How do you see yourself?

As a man trying to do the best I can in three difficult jobs, and sometimes being tugged in different directions by conflicting loyalties.

How do your friends see you?

They only see the parts of me I want them to see.

How do your enemies see you?

My goal is always that eventually they see me through the bars of a prison cell.

How does the author see you?

He hasn’t really let me have my own story yet so we have unresolved issues. I think that may change eventually, but not immediately in this series.

Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

Only on a pretty superficial level. There’s a lot more to me that he has revealed thus far.

Do you talk about your achievements?

Often, I can’t. I do a lot of work that is best kept from the public.

Do you have money troubles?

Fortunately not. I am being paid a good salary for all of the things I do.

What do you want to be?

A good person and a good father.

What do you believe?

I believe in right and wrong, and that we are all responsible for doing as much right as we can while we’re in this world.

What makes you happy?

I enjoy my collaborations with Roger and Suzanne. They know a lot more about me than anyone else so I can relax with them and just be the real me. And I enjoy spending time around Suzanne.

What makes you angry?

Evil. Evil people. Extreme poverty and what it does to otherwise good people.

Do you keep your promises?

To the best of my ability I do. That’s very important to me, especially because of my life style.

Do you have any distinguishing marks?

You don’t need to know that.

Did anything newsworthy happen on the day you were born?

Yes. Paraguay played Brazil in an international soccer match and tied 0-0. This was when Pele was still playing for the Brazil National team.

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

My religious upbringing.

Who was your first love?

The lovely girl I met in college who became my wife.

Who is your true love?

My wife, even if I also have some unresolved feelings for Suzanne.

What is your most closely guarded secret?

Who my international employers are and what exactly it is that I do for them.

What is your favorite food?

I like good wines and fresh seafood. Paraguay is landlocked so fresh seafood doesn’t exist and the Paraguayan wine industry has a long way to go to catch up to Argentina in making fine wines.

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

A woman of course. I’m a South American man.

Click here for an interview with: Jerold Last, Author of “The Ambivalent Corpse”

Click here for an: Excerpt From “The Ambivalent Corpse” by Jerold Last

Anton, Hero of the story “Color Me Baby Blue” by Kaye George

What is your story?

I found my true calling as a retailer. My niche is color. Ask anyone, I can pick the hot new color for next season’s clothing, almost better that a colorist.

Who are you?

My name is Anton, but I’d rather be called Tony. Anton sounds too stuffy.

Are you the hero of your own story?

Not hardly. Nothing ever goes right for me.

What is your problem in the story?

My problem is that Miss Manning, Mandy, doesn’t know how much I love her.

How do you see yourself?

I’d be the ideal person to run Uncle Leo’s business, Hardi Couture. Leo Hardiman, Hardi, get it? He’s just like all my other bosses, though. They’re all out to get me. I can’t understand it. I could do their jobs so much better than they can.

Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

I’m not sure even she appreciates my finer qualities. She seems to have glossed over my virtues.

What do you think of yourself?

I think a lot of myself. I have to–no one else does. Even my own parents kicked me out and changed the locks. Who does that to their own flesh and blood, I ask you?

Do you have a goal?

My goal right now is to live through my latest ordeal. Since I’m in a short story and not a novel, I can’t give away too much here or that author would kill me. Really. She’s tough.

Do you have any skills?

Skills! I sure do. I can pick the next hot trend like nobody else in the clothing biz. I’m a natural.

Do you have money troubles?

Do I ever! I’ve lost every job I’ve ever had so far.

Has anyone ever betrayed you?

Story of my life. If you read “Color Me Baby Blue” in the anthology ALL THINGS DARK AND DASTARDLY, you’ll see how people treat me.

Who is your true love?

Miss Manning. I still love her in spite of everything. Those Passion Periwinkle eyes, those luscious lips.

What is your most closely guarded secret?

The one I shared with Miss Manning. Big mistake.

What are the last five entries in your check registry?

Ha! You think someone like me, who sometimes lives under a bridge, has a checking account?

How do you envision your future?

I have to admit, at this point it looks bleak.

Where can we learn more about “Color Me Baby Blue” and the anthology ALL THINGS DARK AND DASTARDLY?

More info and some links are at

Harry Charters, Hero of “Harry Charters Chronicles” by Graham Smith

Welcome, Harry. What is your story?

My name is Harry Charters and I’m a private investigator working in the city of Mariscoper. I’ve fought in the second world war, been married and had a booming business. I hit hard times when a case went very wrong, so now I take just enough cases to keep me in bourbon.

Do you embrace conflict?

I sure don’t hide from it. I have my demons and now and then I have to release them. When I’m crossed or I see an injustice then I tend to deal with things my own way. Once upon a time I woulda called the cops, now I just dispense my own justice.

How do your enemies see you?

Through swollen eyes and on occasion behind a the big eye of my good friend Samuel Colt. Me and my enemies don’t negotiate truces, we declare war.

How does the author see you?

He sees me for what I am. He’s drank with me and I even took him on a cinch of a case once when I knew he wouldn’t be in any danger.

Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

We’ve talked long and hard and he had to convince me that he was the right man to tell my stories. I also left him in no doubt about what would happen to him if he let me down. I do after all know where he lives. For those who don’t know my author is called Graham Smith and his book is called Harry Charters Chronicles. Basically it’s seven of my adventures polished up and told better than the way I told him.

Do you have any special weaknesses?

Bourbon and memories. After I’ve supped a couple I hear the voices of Nasty Drunk or Melancholy Drunk depending on my mood. Nasty Drunk has gotten me into a lot of trouble over the years but I always feel that Melancholy Drunk is more dangerous to me personally. The memories haunt me and the only way I can lose my ghosts is to surround Jack Daniels until he numbs me from within.

Do you have money troubles?

I get by. Since my life went south I have always had enough to survive. I will never be rich but as long as I can buy me some bourbon I won’t do any complainin’.

What makes you angry?

Injustice, bullies and little men trying to be big men. I have a very low tolerance for bullshitters and bullies. Leave me in their company for more than a few minutes and there will be blood spilt.

What makes you happy?

Bourbon makes me less miserable as does allowing my demons to exercise themselves when I beat up some wiseass who’s crossed me.

What are you afraid of?

Letting another kid down. The only human who scares me is the guy I see every morning in my shaving mirror.

Are you honorable?

I believe that I am an honourable person although my actions may not always be interpreted that way. Where’s the honour in killing?

Who was your first love?

Madeleine Pederson, a girl from the town where I grew up. Seen her a few weeks back for the first time in fifteen years.

Do you have any skills?

I’m a pretty handy boxer but I usually end up disqualified because I punch my opponents all the way to the canvas. When I put ‘em down, they stay down.

Are you healthy?

For a man of my years I’m in pretty good shape. Mornings can be rough until I’ve had my first drink.

If you were at a store now, what ten items would be in your shopping cart?

Two bottles of bourbon, six bottles of beer, a loaf of bread and a hunk of ham.

Where can we find out more about you?

On Amazon:

Officer Lincoln Carter, hero of Ghost Prints by Jason Gehlert

Who are you?

My name is Officer Lincoln Carter. My experiences recently have been quite overwhelming. My partner and best friend, Joe Buchanan, recently solved a pair of cases involving ghosts and spirits. I’ve been exposed if you will, and can hear voices from beyond, especially my dead friend, Zach, who talks to me and helps Joe and I catch spiritual criminals.

Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

I can honestly say Mr.Gehlert has fleshed out my character, giving me a full range of skills, including a unique three dimensional line of thinking. And, he’s made me the hero of the stories, which I’ve learned has been picked up by Damnation Books. Joe and I have a new adventure in New Orleans, set for a March 2012 release.

What do you regret?

My biggest regret is not being there for my friend Zach, allowing years of feuding over my brother’s death to alienate our friendship. His suicide hit me hard, but now we connect on a whole new level.

Where do you live?

I currently live in New York’s gorgeous Hudson Valley with my wife and kids.

Have you ever had an adventure?

My adventure would be hunting down spiritual criminals and not the real warm blooded ones! Either way, I still deliver justice.

Who is your enemy?

Our main enemy, is the Crowley bloodline. We’ve encountered both a spiritual version and a warm blood ancestor, each with their own unique skill set.

How do you see yourself?

I’m healthy and a very determined cop. I also believe in loyalty and teamwork. I also have a lot of honor in my work.

What is your favorite food?

My favorite food is tacos and a good beer with friends, and I’m a devoted family man.

What are the last three books you read?

The last three books I’ve read? Contagion, Ghost Prints, and Demon Revolver all by Jason Gehlert. He writes with passion and heart.

If you were shopping what three things would be in your cart?

Three things in my shopping cart? Taco mix, batteries, and a newspaper.

What is your favorite music?

My favorite music? Led Zeppelin, Ozzy Osborune, and Scorpions.

Do you embrace conflict?

I embrace conflict, it drives my ego, fuels my passion to catch the bad guy. Without conflict, my mind would collapse and become stale. I need a good challenge to keep my mind fresh and firing on all cylinders.

How do you envision your future?

I envision my future as continuing to play this heroic yet compassionate role Mr.Gehlert has created for me in Ghost Prints and our new adventure, Ferrymen, coming out next spring. He’s also writing another adventure for us as we speak.

Chris Redding, Author of “Blonde Demolition”

Welcome, Chris, What is your book about?

The official blurb: You just can’t hide from the past…

Mallory Sage lives in a small, idyllic town where nothing ever happens. Just the kind of life she has always wanted. No one, not even her fellow volunteer firefighters, knows about her past life as an agent for Homeland Security.

Former partner and lover, Trey McCrane, comes back into Mallory’s life. He believes they made a great team once, and that they can do so again. Besides, they don’t have much choice. Paul Stanley, a twisted killer and their old nemesis, is back.

Framed for a bombing and drawn together by necessity, Mallory and Trey go on the run and must learn to trust each other again―if they hope to survive. But Mallory has been hiding another secret, one that could destroy their relationship. And time is running out.

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

I’m not sure any of me is hidden in the characters. I think it’s more than Mallory has traits I wish I had. She has such a sense of right and wrong and for me life is a littler grayer.

What was the most difficult part about writing the book?

I think the most difficult part of writing the book was actually after it was sold. I did more revisions on this book that all others combined. Not that that is a complaint. I believe the publisher has almost as much passion for this book as I do. She wants it to succeed so Blonde Demolition wasn’t going to be published until it was perfect.

What has changed for you personally since you wrote your first book?

When I wrote my first book for publication, I was pregnant and had a toddler. I hadn’t written in years. I was living and it was as if this pregnancy woke up my creativity. Now, that child is 13 and the older sibling 16. They are more self-sufficient so it isn’t wiping butts and noses anymore. It’s driving them places and picking them up. It’s more time in some ways, but less time in others.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

Oh, my upbringing could be a post in and of itself. But. I think you will in find that very few of my characters have parents. They are either orphans or the parents have already passed. I was not close to my parents so I couldn’t begin to construct what a healthy relationship with a parent is.

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

My writing schedule tends to be haphazard. I have a finite amount of time and energy between kids, husband and part time job. I may not write for weeks on end. Why? Most likely because I am working on soemthing else like a workshop or a series of blog posts. When I am knee deep in writing, I do 5 pages a day.

Do you prefer to write at a particular time of day?

I prefer writing in the morning.It’s when I have the most energy. Creativity takes a lot of energy.

What was the first story you remember writing?

The first story I every wrote was in fifth grade about an old lady with many cats. The teacher gave me an A and let me read it in front of the class. When I finished, the class was silent. Suddenly I wasn’t that four-eyed awkward kid. That’s when I knew I wanted to write.

Does writing come easy for you?

Writing comes easily to me. The only reason is because I trust that the words will be there. Even if I’m ready to sit down and I have nothing, the words will be there. A mechanic doesn’t approach a car repair thinking, “I wonder if I’ll figure it out.” Nope, they just dive in and fix it. A writer who wants to do this for a living has to look at it as a profession. A plumber never says they just aren’t feelling the plumbing today. Nope, they just do it.

Have you written any other books?

My other books are:
The Drinking Game, in print and Kindle/Nook.
Corpse Whisperer, Kindle/Nook
Confessions: Volume One, Kindle/Nook
Incendiary, print and Kindle/Nook
A View to a Kilt, pring and Kindle/Nook


P.I. Barrington, Author of Isadora DayStar

What is your book about?

I think the overall theme is about guilt and redemption but in a nutshell, the blurb below gives it all:

When drug-addled assassin Isadora DayStar finally snags a major interplanetary kill job she thinks it will both support her habit and revise her status as the laughingstock of her profession. Instead she embarks on a journey that brings her face to face with her tortured past.

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

It took about a year and a half of rolling the idea around, coming up with various, sometimes unrelated scenes which is not how I write at all. But I had a trilogy coming out that I was working on, a book every four or five months for my publisher so Isadora was on the back burner so to speak. I’d sneak in little hand written scenes at night before I went to bed after working on the novels during the day. Finally, Isadora really began to demand attention so every time I was stuck on the trilogy books, I’d pull up her document and work on it. I did begin to get a little obsessed with it after all my other deadlines were met.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

This is a true story! First I’d read an interview article with an author who, when asked why she gave a particular main character such huge obstacles to overcome, said she disliked that character so much she wanted to torture her, lol! The interviewer told her that those obstacles were the reason she loved that character! That started me thinking if it was possible to intentionally create a main character that you hate intensely as the author. I began an opening for the story and tried to make Isadora (no name at the time) as repulsive as possible. I got about twenty pages done and realized that I’d started to be interested in, if not liked, Isadora. As I mentioned earlier I wrote her in fits and starts. I also used to watch a program called “CreationScapes” on the DayStar Christian Channel late at night and I was hooked on it. One night the DayStar logo came up and I thought “what a great last name for a sci-fi character, especially a female. About five minutes later, Isadora popped into my head and that was it: Isadora DayStar. By that time she had entire story.

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

I really don’t know. I think I see her as someone who I have the potential to be if I’m not careful.

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?

Isadora is always my favorite, probably because I like losers, I like people who have false bravado and just keep going, keep trying no matter how insane the obstacles. Isadora has a great ability to deal with negativity and trauma and I think that’s due to the giant amount of guilt she carries around inside. When you have that much inner torture, outside torture can seem minor in comparison. Iphedea I like because she sees something in Isadora that’s good, she recognizes Isadora’s potential and herself in her as well though that isn’t obvious to her. Rafe Tucker is just an all around bastard.

Who is your most unusual/most likeable character?

Wow. Again, it’s got to be Isadora. She’s just so determined to survive and prove to not only everyone else but herself as well that she still has some type of worth and she can be ridiculously soft-hearted in spite of herself. She has this fragile shell around herself that cracks with all the abuse but never quite breaks and she tries to be tougher than she really is; she pretends to herself that she’s tough though deep down somewhere she knows she’s vulnerable. It shows in her relationship with Iphedea and in the guilt she bears.

How long did it take you to write your book?

Total about a year and a half to write it but then writing speeded up once I’d made all my writing commitments. By the time I could sit down and concentrate on Isadora, it was all pretty much written. I just had to type it all out.

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

Well, I usually have two arcs like a double rainbow: the top arc is the overall story plot, theme, etc., that is the Beginning A to the End B; the arc below that is the plot action that gets me from point A to point B. So I may not know all of the details until I begin that lower arc of action. I know the first line and I know the last line.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

Actually I do. I write sequentially, that is from the first line and go straight through to the end. I have one WIP that has taken me ages and is awful to write because I wrote the scenes out of sequence. I’ll never do that again!

How (or when) do you decide that you are finished writing a story?

As I said, I know the first line and the last line. When I get to that last line I am done. I write “The End” and it’s over but for editing.

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

I want them to remember it and to feel that they’ve been on the journey with Isadora. I want them to sympathize if not empathize with her—root for her—feel her pain (to quote President Clinton). I want them to relate in terms of guilt and redemption. I want them to like her even if she doesn’t.

Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?

There’s almost always a moral to the stories I can’t help but put it in. People say the messages are subtle but there and I never think they’re that obvious.

What was the most difficult part about writing the book?

Writing the prostitution scenes was definitely the hardest. Isadora had to reduce herself to doing pretty much anything to survive—it was hard to watch her humiliate herself, hard to write it.

Do you think writing this book changed your life? How so?

You know I think every writer has that special book inside them—sometimes they call it “The Great American Novel.” Isadora is that one for me. I had this need to write an underdog story, a real need to do it, and I realized when writing it that I’d had various versions of this story inside my head for years and when it emerged it was all those versions congealed as one—Isadora DayStar.

What has changed for you personally since you wrote your first book?

My level of professionalism has shot itself into the upper stratosphere! When you’re young or not yet published, you don’t realize what kind of attitude you suddenly need once you are published. There’s no more fooling around, no wasting time, you have to devote complete attention to things like edits and revisions your editor(s) need.

How has your background influenced your writing?

I’ve always written from the time I learned the alphabet but I never wanted to give in to it. I was a journalist and then worked in radio and entertainment so all of that definitely influences how I write—concise and tight. I also know pretty much what it takes to entertain people on a professional level and make my work as accessible as I can.

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

No, and I’m desperately trying to find some, lol! I’m only half facetious about that—I’d love to have some cool preparation before I dig into the keyboard!

Do you prefer to write at a particular time of day?

I’m a night person and don’t really get into functioning gear until late afternoon so mornings are pretty much devoted to email, FB, etc. If I’m working on a book deadline, I start as early as possible, every day and write as much as I possibly can or until I finish one or more chapters and need to stop and regroup to continue the story. Most of the time I begin serious writing about 4 p.m. and go as far as I can into the night or until my dog drags me to bed. The only time I count words is if I need a certain amount for my publisher’s deadline & word count requirements. Or if the story needs more count to be an actual novel—that’s where the concise and tight becomes a problem, lol!

Do you have a favorite snack food or favorite beverage that you enjoy while you write?

Coffee and Diet Coke are my working poisons. If I could get them both via an IV drip I would, lol! I’ve drunk coffee since my grandmother gave it to me as soon as I could hold a cup! Popcorn—I love popcorn—without butter.

What are you working on right now?

Several things: I’m finishing up a paranormal crime thriller, I’ve begun an epic fantasy, and have several short stories to finish slated for anthologies, two sci-fi romances, and a couple of things I’m thinking of serializing.

Are you writing to reach a particular kind of reader?

I think I’m writing for those who read big commercial authors and I hope that doesn’t sound insanely egotistical. But my stuff isn’t strictly held to a genre. I don’t write super technical sci fi but I also don’t go overboard with romance either. My hope is that both men and women will like my books.

What was the first story you remember writing?

There was only one and it won the school district contest. It was a first person account of the life and care of the American Flag! I came in first and should have known back then but I did not want to be a writer at all! That small story triggered a love/hate relationship with writing that has only really ended in the last two years.

What is the most difficult part of the whole writing process?

Coming up with a great premise.

Does writing come easy for you?

Ridiculously so.

Have you ever had difficulty “killing off” a character in your story because she or he was so intriguing and full of possibility for you, his or her creator?

No. I create characters that are marked for death from the beginning.

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

No less than five. But as I’ve said, if I’m on deadline, I concentrate on the novel at hand.

What do you like to read?

Totally incongruent, but I LOVE ancient historical—both Christian and non-Christian. I’m a closet history buff and wannabee archaeologist!

What writer influenced you the most?

Two: Stephen King and Taylor Caldwell.

What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you’d written yourself?
Again, two: Taylor Caldwell’s Great Lion of God and Dear and Glorious Physician. Oh, how could I forget? Pat Wallace’s House of Scorpio! That’s one romance fantasy that I wish I’d written! By today’s standards it’s perhaps a little mawkish and maudlin but such a clever and unique premise and setting/world building. I love it!

What advice you would give to an aspiring author?

Don’t be self-indulgent. Don’t look at everything you write as perfect. Be your own harshest critic and that way no one else will have to be.

What are your current writing goals and how do you juggle the promotional aspects with the actual writing?

To get all of my stories written and published and perhaps get an agent would be my current goals. Promoting and writing? That’s the REAL trick of publishing today. Writing takes time, but for me at least, promotion is constant and at times overwhelming!

What advice would you give other novelists about book promotion?

Be proactive—don’t expect everyone else to do it for you, especially your publisher.

Have you written any other books?

Yes, my sister and I have several:

Future Imperfect trilogy (Crucifying Angel, Miraculous Deception & Final Deceit) futuristic crime thriller
Inamorata Crossing, Borealis 1 anthology sci fi romance
Button Hollow Chronicles #1: The Leaf Peeper Murders
Lights! Camera! Murder!
Isadora DayStar, a dark sci fi adventure available now via Smashwords:

Information on all books and the authors can be found at P.I. Barrington/Loni Emmert’s website:

Thanks so much for having me Pat!

Smoky Trudeau Zeidel, Author of “On the Choptank Shores”

Welcome, Smoky! What is your book, On the Choptank Shores, about?

The tragic deaths of her mother and two younger siblings have left Grace Harmon responsible for raising her sister Miriam and protecting her from their abusive father, Luther, a zealot preacher with a penchant for speaking in Biblical verse who is on a downward spiral toward insanity. Otto Singer charms Grace with his gentle courtship and devotion to his brother, Henry. But after their marriage, Otto is unable to share with Grace the terrible secret he has kept more than twenty years. Otto believes he is responsible for a tragic accident that claimed the life of a young woman and left Henry severely brain damaged.

Luther’s insane ravings and increasingly violent behavior force Grace to question and reassess the patriarchal religious beliefs of her childhood. Then tragedy strikes just when Otto’s secret is uncovered, unleashing demons that threaten to destroy the entire family. Can Grace find the strength to save her sister … her marriage … them all?

On the Choptank Shores is a love story. The love between a young wife (Grace) and her decidedly middle-aged husband (Otto), and the love of a big sister for her abused baby sister (Miriam). It’s the story of the love for an aging, grief-stricken father (Luther) who is spiraling into a dark world of insanity, and the love of a kind and benevolent God whom Grace knows must exist, despite the crazed ravings of her father, who paints a picture of a vengeful, angry God as he spouts biblical verse to defend his abuse of both Grace and little Miriam. It is a story of the land on which they live, and the power of Mother Nature. Most of all, it is a story of love conquering all.

Who is your most unusual character?

That would be Henry. Henry is Otto’s younger brother who, although a grown man, has the mind of a child ever since a childhood accident left him brain damaged. He can be violent, mostly out of frustration. But he can be very kind, too, and he becomes a great friend to little Miriam, who mentally isn’t much younger than Henry at all, despite the wide difference in their chronological years. Henry gets in deep trouble in the book, but in the end, he turns out to be … whoops! Almost put a spoiler in there! I better leave it at that!

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it?

On the Choptank Shores is set on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, at a peach orchard named Windy Hill. Windy Hill Orchard was my aunt and uncle’s home, where I spent many happy vacations as a child raiding my aunt’s garden, devouring her blue crab cakes, swimming in the river, and jumping in the sand pit—although we weren’t supposed to do the latter, because my uncle feared the sand would cave in on us. My aunt and uncle were long gone by the time I wrote the book, so most of my research entailed talking to my mother to have her remind me of details about Windy Hill that I needed but had forgotten. I also dug through old photos taken at Windy Hill to help transport my mind back to that simpler time and place.

But I also did a bit of research at the library. I do have one sex scene in the book—it isn’t gratuitous; it actually makes a point about one of the main themes of the book—and I had to research what sort of underclothing a woman in the late 1920s would be wearing. It was fun! For example, Grace did not wear a bra; she wore a bust confiner. That was a fun fact to uncover.

I also had to research what giving birth would have been like back then. They certainly didn’t allow fathers into the delivery room, of course; nor did they have epidurals. It’s a wonder to me any mother survived childbirth before the advent of epidurals.

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

That’s differed from book to book. My other published novel, The Cabin, I had most of the story plotted out in my head before I set a finger on the keyboard. That was easy to do, because the plot stemmed from a story in my family’s history that I found fascinating.

But for On the Choptank Shores, I had a totally different idea of what the story would be when I started out than when I finished writing it. The characters just took over and wouldn’t let me write what I thought I was going to write! And they were correct in doing so, and I was smart to let them. Their story was so much better than the one I thought I was going to tell!

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

While meditating, I often come up with rough ideas for scenes I need to write. The characters get in my head and tell me what to write when I’m in such a relaxed state. I also sometimes dream scenes, which is pretty wonderful when it happens.

As to staying on track: often, I don’t. But that’s because, as I said in the last question, if my characters aren’t happy with the way I’m telling the story, they tend to take over and tell the story their way instead of the way I’m telling it. Sometimes, jumping the track is better than staying on it!

How (or when) do you decide that you are finished writing a story?

I am so glad you asked that question! As a former writing instructor, I get concerned when writers announce they are writing a 90,000-word book, or they have 4,000 words to go before they finish writing their book. How, exactly, can you know how long your story is going to be? My opinion is, you write until the story is done. Then, you stop. That means sometimes I end up with a novel, sometimes a novella. Sometimes, it’s a short story—one of my more popular short stories (it’s been published five time!) is “Good-bye, Emily Dickinson.” I wanted badly for that story to be a novel, but it just wasn’t. It was a short story. I would have had to pad, and pad, and pad to stretch it further, and that would have diluted the story.

Of course, once you have some experience, you can judge whether your story will be a novel or not. But exact word count? I don’t think so.

So, to get off my teacher soapbox and answer your question, I write until the story is done. When it reaches the climax, when I’ve done my denouement, I call it quits. Period.

I do have a neat trick I’d like to share for knowing exactly which sentence should be your last. Remove the last sentence. Is the final paragraph still strong? Does it make sense? If it does, now remove that sentence and ask yourself the same questions. If it does, now remove that sentence. Keep doing this until you weaken your ending by removing a sentence. Add that necessary one back, and that should be the end.

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

First, your characters must ring true. That means your hero or heroine can’t be perfect; they must have flaws. Similarly, your antagonist can’t be all bad. For your characters to ring true, you also have to get dialogue right. People speak in contractions, for example, yet it’s drummed into us in school not to use them!

Your plot must, of course, revolve around a central conflict. There are probably going to be other conflicts as well making up your sub-plots, but it amazes me how many manuscripts I’ve edited for people where there was no central conflict. They hadn’t written stories; they’d written “A Day in the Life of…” types of things. But that’s basic principle of fiction writing! No conflict, no story.

There are more, but those are the most important, in my opinion.

Do you prefer to write at a particular time of day?

I am definitely a morning person. I like to arise before the sun and write. By about lunchtime, my mind starts to tire. I’ll switch to any editing jobs I’ve contracted at that time.

Of course, if I’m really on a roll and still feeling fresh, I’ll continue to write. But, generally speaking, mornings are when I’m at my best.

Do you have a favorite snack food or beverage that you enjoy while you write?

Graham crackers and Coca-Cola. I have a very testy stomach, and grahams and Coke keep it soothed while I write.

Does writing come easy for you?

Yes and no. When I sit down to write, the words flow, and flow easily and well. I’ve been told I’m a natural-born writer, but I don’t know if that’s the case. I grew up in a house full of books, and was always a natural-born reader, and I think being well-read is crucial to becoming a great writer.

The problem for me is the same problem most writers have, and that’s finding the time to write. That is not always easy!

What’s been the most surprising part of being a writer?

The awe some people display when they find out I’ve not only written a book, but written several! Really, I don’t tell people I’m an author to stun them! It’s what I do, just like some people are gardeners or bank tellers or forest rangers. But there is something about being a writer that makes other people think you’re pretty cool—even if you aren’t!

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on my third novel, called The Storyteller’s Bracelet. A storyteller’s bracelet is a Navajo bracelet that has pictographs carved into it that tell the artist’s story, or another person’s story. My sister gave me one a few years back, and the inspiration for this novel came from that.

I’m also working on another project, called The Madam of Bodie. It’s loosely based on true stories from Bodie, California, which was known as “the baddest town in the West” during the California gold boom. It’s a state park now and one of my favorite places to visit when we go to the Sierras. It’s a writers dream, as far as inspiration goes.

Have you written any other books?

Yes, I have! There’s my novel, The Cabin, which I’ve already mentioned. My latest release is Short Story Collection, Vol. 1; the print edition of that was released just a few days ago. Then there’s Observations of an Earth Mage, my photo/essay book of reflections on nature.

I also have another new eBook release that will be available in print in October: Smoky’s Writers Workshop Combo Set. The book is comprised of both my books for writers: Front-Word, Back-Word, Insight Out: Lessons on Writing the Novel Lurking Inside You From Start to Finish; and Left Brained, Write Brained: 366 Writing Prompts and Exercises., The former title is the same fiction writer’s workshop I used to teach, so people can get an entire 10-week writing class in one book, plus a year’s worth of writing exercises in one book with the new, combined book. It’s a great way for someone who wants to write a book to learn the right way to do it, and it works! One of my former writing students, Robert Hays, learned to write fiction with my method, and he’s gone on to publish four novels!

Where can people learn more about your books?

Here’s the list of all my links. I hope people will look me up in these places, friend and/or follow me, and say hello!

Website and “Smoky Talks” Blog:
Facebook Fan Page:                  
Amazon Author Page:               
Goodreads Author Page:          
Smashwords Author Page:       
All Romance Author Page:       

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

Click here for an interview with: Grace Harmon Singer, Hero of On the Choptank Shores by Smoky Trudeau Zeidel