Benjamin Cheah, author of Eventual Revolutions

Welcome, Benjamin. It’s good to talk to you today. What is your book about?

Eventual Revolutions is a mystic thriller novella. Michael Chang, professional magician, is hired to send a runaway girl home. But he must face demons, gangsters, and the ghosts of his past. This is the first book in the Michael Chang series.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

Lots of things. The hard-edged, gritty realism of thrillers. The thoughts of various philosophers. My own spiritual journey. The people I know. I’ve been thinking about the Michael Chang series for half a decade. This is the first time I managed to write a viable Michael Chang story.

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

I’ve been compared to Michael Chang. It’s true that I’ve poured a fair bit of my personality into his, and some of his experiences and history are based on mine. But honestly, I see bits and pieces of myself, who I was, am and can be, in every single character I write. I suppose, at some point and to varying degrees, a work of fiction is an autobiography in disguise. Especially if it’s written in first person, like the Michael Chang series.

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

Before I start writing a story, I have an opening scene in mind, the themes of the story, the major characters, and a sense of how the story will flow. Sometimes, I have an idea of the climax, important plot points, and the ending – but I don’t wait for that before I start writing. I prefer my stories to grow organically from the beginning, informed by my characters’ abilities and motivations.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it? (searching Internet, magazines, other books, etc.)

Yes. Wherever possible, I walked the ground where Michael went, to get a feel of the location. I also studied violence at least as intensely as Michael did to prepare myself for the action scenes, scrounging from Internet resources and books on the subject matter, and talking to a few people I know who are much more knowledgeable than me in this subject.

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

When there are no more changes to make, no corrections to be done, and when the entire story flows seamlessly.

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

For this book, I want people to recognise that they have free will, that they can choose to make their lives better. It’s not easy, it requires a lot of work, but it’s possible.

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

The real world is complicated. Don’t seek simple answers. Seek instead complete answers. Don’t be satisfied with what people tell you. Always look for the full picture, and discard everything that does not meet the test of logic and reason. Always strive towards a greater understanding of the world, without settling for dogma or over-simplicity. Every action has a consequence. And always remember that you are free – and with this freedom comes the necessity, burden and power of choice.

What was the most difficult part about writing the book?

Without a doubt, the climax. I had to rewrite the entire sequence a couple of times, and make a hundred or so edits before I was fully satisfied. I had to make sure everybody stayed in character, that the escalation was realistic, the tactics employed feasible, the mindsets plausible, and the writing solid. At the same time, it’s probably the best segment I’ve written in a while.

How has your background influenced your writing?

I’m a blogger and a citizen journalist. I grew up in a working-class family that was hit hard by the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis. I had to save as much money as I could, because there wasn’t much left after we pay the bills. I study violence fairly intensely. Much of what I know I taught myself. This background became the basis for Michael Chang’s history, skills and mindset. My experiences as a self-taught journalist and blogger also influenced my style somewhat.

What are you working on right now?

Two things. I’m editing Watchman. It’s a short story that follows Michael’s exploits some time after Eventual Revolutions. In Watchman, Michael protects a pair of women (and himself) from a trio of hardcases in a club, and redefines his sense of right and wrong. I’m also writing Games of Magi, a novella that follows Watchman. In Games of Magi, Michael meets a fellow magician whom he doesn’t particularly like, and must decide whether to treat him as friend, foe, or something else.

Does writing come easy for you?

Words come easy enough. The real trouble lies in picking what words to use, and how to arrange them into a coherent and powerful narrative. That one is decidedly more difficult than just plunking words on the screen.

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

At any given moment, a half-dozen at least. Right now, I’ve got the outlines of 4 more Michael Chang stories, waiting to be written. I’ve got a military science fiction story idea that is fusion of Ghost in the Shell (manga, anime and movie), The Unit and Deus Ex. And I’ve also got an occult noir story idea, which is ‘traditional’ urban fantasy meets Arkham Horror (the tabletop game) and the detective thriller.

What do you like to read?

I like fiction that is intelligent, illuminates the human condition, provoke thought, realistic, and entertaining in a realistic fashion. My favourite writers include Barry Eisler, Marcus Sakey, Jim Butcher, Marcus Wynne, Cormac McCarthy and David Drake. As for non-fiction, I read all kinds of things, so long as it’s insightful, well-researched, and cogent.

What advice you would give to an aspiring author?

Write. Write until you are done. Keep going until you are done. Stay true to your vision, but change your vision if it harms the story and your overall writing style. Learn everything you can about writing and publishing and promotion, and use that knowledge well. If you keep improving yourself, dedicate yourself to being all you can be, at some point, you will be noticed. And then the cycle begins anew, and you need to do the same thing all over again – only at a deeper level.

Where can we learn more about your book?

Eventual Revolutions is available at the following:

Benjamin Cheah’s ebook store (preferred): http://benjamincheah.wordpress.com/ebook-store/

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/114918

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Eventual-Revolutions-Michael-Chang-ebook/dp/B006NJ6FN8

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13313427-eventual-revolutions

Connect with Benjamin Cheah here:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thebencheah

Twitter: http://twitter.com/thebencheah

Blog: http://www.benjamincheah.wordpress.com

Click here for an interview with: Michael Chang, protagonist of “Eventual Revolutions” by Benjamin Cheah

Michael Chang, protagonist of “Eventual Revolutions” by Benjamin Cheah

Welcome. Who are you?

Michael Chang. I run a spiritual consultancy service. That’s legalese for ‘professional magician’. Think of me as the guy who solves problems that can’t be solved so easily. If you have a stalker, I can make him go away. If you’re struggling to make an important decision, I can read your situation and help you decide. And if someone you know has been possessed by a demon, call me and I’ll send it back to whatever hole it crawled out of.

Where do you live?

I live by myself in a studio apartment in Toa Payoh, the Republic of Singapore. Most Singaporeans live in flats with their families, what Americans would call ‘apartment blocks’. The government encourages this through tax breaks and propaganda, and it’s pretty expensive living on your own over here. But I have to. Need to. Only way for me to develop my skills and stay sane – and to prevent my enemies from causing collateral damage if they attack me at home.

What is your problem in the story?

In Eventual Revolutions, Anna Tan ran away from home. Her parents want me to bring her back. It’s supposed to be an easy job: cast a couple of spells that would re-arrange the universe and influence her to come home. But the demon who ‘encouraged’ her to leave home took offence. So do the gangsters who are holding her. And, along the way, I need to keep my cool, remain calm even though the clients resemble my parents so much it’s not funny.

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

Yeah. In my line of work, sometimes you make powerful enemies. Some of them aren’t human. Sometimes, you have to make difficult choices, and attract the wrong kind of attention. It’s bad karma all around. At some point, it’s gonna come around and sneak up on me with a knife in some dark alley. It’s inevitable. You can’t run from karma. So I’ll be preparing for that moment. This is why I need to be so careful in the story, why I need to study violence and magic, why I need to stay away from the law and violence lifestylers. Maybe it’ll reduce the karma coming my way, turn it from a runaway train to a sledgehammer. Or maybe not.

Do you embrace conflict?

It depends. Conflict is transformative. It is the furnace that forges steel from the soul. And to get things done, sometimes you have to put yourself in conflict with others. In my spiritual journey, I embrace conflict when it comes to me, when it serves a purpose. But I don’t drag it out any longer than I have to – I go into conflicts with a view to solving them, be it an obstructive bureaucrat, annoying demon, or criminal hunting someone down. I don’t start conflicts when I don’t have to. I don’t go around being rude, hunting demons for fun or provoking really powerful beings without good reason, and I sure as hell won’t walk into conflicts that are suicidal. Or just plain stupid. Sometimes it’s just not worth it.

How do you see yourself?

I’m a human looking for a quantum of truth in a messy, complicated world. And who is sometimes called upon to do some things most people can’t.

How do your friends see you?

I’ve got very few friends. They told me that they think I’m a complex, intelligent man who can be counted on to get things done and who demands the best of people. Also, a jaded man with many emotional issues, who lacks social skills, who has a penchant for violence. The kind of guy who might, someday, eat a knife in the back, or worse. The kind of guy who might change the world. Maybe both.

How do your enemies see you?

I don’t have very many enemies. I try to neutralise them as quickly as I can. I think they think of me as a smart, dangerous and ruthless person who will destroy them if they cross me. Usually they see me assaulting them or negotiating with them. If they see me at all.

Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

I’d say so. He and I talk often. Compare notes. Helps that we think in similar ways.

What are your achievements?

Every time I complete a job, that’s an achievement. Every time I stop a predator from harming someone, that’s an achievement. Every time I finish a dangerous job safe and sane, that’s an achievement. Every time my work becomes one step closer to fiction, that’s an achievement.

Do you have any skills?

Magic, obviously. I’m not talking about Hollywood magic – I’m talking about magic that lets you change the universe to your will, act subtly yet powerfully on the fabric of reality. I’ve been studying the use of magic ever since the day I was cognisant of its existence. I’m a general purpose magician – I’ve studied healing, divination, cleansing, protection, destruction, enchantment…all kinds of useful stuff. But my talents seem to run towards divination and protection…and, arguably, destruction. And, well, talking to the gods too.

I’ve also studied violence. Since I was a boy, I looked into the employment of violence in all its forms. For entertainment, self-discovery, sport, self-defence, offence. To enhance social standing, to get what you want, to utterly destroy somebody. Much of what I know is self-taught – I could never afford formal martial arts training. My arsenal of techniques is actually very limited – it’s a patchwork of techniques from all kinds of martial arts, backed by knowledge of body mechanics. It’s closer to a set of combatives and tactics than any formal art. I’m not gonna win any competitions. But what I do know has seen me through many difficult situations. That’s good enough for me.

Do you have money troubles?

Yes, unfortunately. Singapore is the eighth most expensive city in the world to live in, and there’s very little demand for magical services in the First World. The majority of my actual income comes from my day job as a freelance writer, followed by various divination services. What I do earn is just barely enough to pay the bills. In a good month.

What do you believe?

I believe that reality is way more complicated than the claims of priests, scientists and ideologues. I’ve done things that should have broken the laws of science. I’ve seen things that defy religion and non-religion. I’ve experienced things that too many people say are impossible. I believe that if we are ever going to understand reality, we need to set aside every preconception, truly study the world for what it is, and base interpretations on that study.

What makes you happy?

When I complete something difficult. When a work of magic goes off perfectly. When I have a chance to appreciate the finer things in life. Good music, good food, good people. When I prevent somebody or something from harming others, preferably without violence. When I get a glimpse behind the veil and see something truly divine.

What are you afraid of?

That I’ve screwed up somewhere, somehow, and innocent people are going to suffer for it. Or that someone or something somewhere is coming for me and I won’t see it coming until it’s too late. There’s a lot I can’t see. And what you don’t know can kill you.

What makes you angry?

Lots of things. The whole gamut of human failures. Closed-mindedness. Hypocrites. People who cling to their beliefs instead of seeing reality. People who blindly follow tradition, just because it’s tradition. Unnecessary violence. People who, when given a chance to transcend their failures and weaknesses, choose instead to define themselves by them. Beings who harm innocents, or use them for their own ends without informed consent. Bad logic. People who prey on others.

What makes you sad?

People who squander their potential. People who make bad choices when they know better. People who close their eyes when faced with the truth. Victimisation by predators, tyrants and societies.

What do you regret?

Lots of things. Not learning social skills when I was younger. Not learning how to fit in until later in life. Not making more friends whenever I had the chance. Choosing violence when there was a better way. Failing to avoid the use of violence. Sometimes I wonder if this magic business is worth it.

Are you honorable?

I set myself a code of behaviour, and I live my life by it. If people think of me as honourable, well, I’m not going to stop them.

How do you envision your future?

Meh. I’ll probably continue to be the self-taught occult detective-cum-warrior poet-cum-mystic seeker Benjamin Cheah wants me to be. He tells me he’s got 4 more stories about me in the works. Along the way, maybe, just maybe, I’ll be inching this much closer to the truth and a greater understanding of what it means to be human.

Where can we find out more about you?

Eventual Revolutions can be found at the following sites:

Benjamin Cheah’s ebook store (preferred): http://benjamincheah.wordpress.com/ebook-store/

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/114918

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Eventual-Revolutions-Michael-Chang-ebook/dp/B006NJ6FN8

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13313427-eventual-revolutions

Click here for an interview with: Benjamin Cheah, author of Eventual Revolutions

Stephen Michael Marek, Author of “Almost”

Hi Pat, My name is Stephen Michael Marek and I am the author of “Almost” an Editor’s Choice Award winning mystery thriller.

Hi, Stephen, What is your book about?

“Almost” is the story is of a highflying business executive, Tag Grayson, and his quest to close one of the biggest transactions of his life. When Grayson discovers his potential client has a murderous past, he has him right where he wants him – desperate.

With a criminal background, client Nate Dillianquest is anxious to sell his mother’s healthcare business after his family’s fortune is lost in a pyramid scheme. As Grayson and Dillianquest finally meet, Grayson has no idea that Dillianquest will do anything to keep what is rightfully his. Suddenly, Grayson is propelled into a web of greed, secrets and blackmail woven by a conniving southern patriarch and a pair of strikingly beautiful women. Just as Grayson realizes he is dealing with a master manipulator who wants revenge in the worst way, his life is turned upside down.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

As a traveling business executive, the “what if” game has always intrigued me. When I wrote “Almost” I let me imagination run away with “what if” and once started there was not stopping!

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

“Almost” is set in South and takes place in a nursing home setting, which is where I have spent thirty years of my professional human resource career. My parents recently passed and my immediate family’s dysfunction plays a large part in developing the storyline within Almost. I relied a great deal on my professional experiences and family dysfunction to bring the characters and circumstances to life on the pages. Needless to say, Almost has a lot of me in the main character.

How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

I had spent many years thinking about this story, but when I actually began to put finger on keyboard, it was fun to watch the development of each character, as well as the storyline take place. It was as much fun for me to discover what was going to happen each day when I sat down to write as it has been for the readers to read about the twists and turns the story and characters take on their journey through the pages. I let my imagination run while keeping it the reality of their situation something that is very relatable to readers.
The reviews I have received from readers have compared Almost to the stories of Grisham and Patterson. Pretty good company!

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

I wanted to write an intriguing story about what could happen when money, sexual obsession and master manipulators are thrust upon an unsuspecting traveling business executive. My intent is to create a fun book for the reader and for that reader to have a smile on their face when they read the last words and wonder what is going to happen in the next book.

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

I am hoping to attract an agent or publisher that will allow me to write the sequel to Almost. I also am preparing to write a memoir about my own families dysfunction as a result of losing both parents. What I have gone through along with my professional background will make for a good book for others to read and learn. With the aging of America, there are literally millions of families who are taking care of their parents and in the process, are going through significant difficulties brought on by sibling guilt, and often times, family greed. I think I could be of help with many who are or will experience these types of family difficulties.

Have you written any other books?

I am in the process of writing a 4-bbok management series of cultural sustainability. My professional work has been geared towards creating an employee-centered workplace culture. My intention is to provide workplace managers the tools and mechanisms necessary to sustain a culture that is employee-centered through a Legacy Management System.

Where can people learn more about your books?

“Almost” is featured at http://www.Almost.AuthorsXpress.com along with my blog. The HR text books can be found at Stephenmarek.com.

Thanks, Pat, for your time.

Thank you, Stephen, for answering my questions.

Mac Faraday, the protagonist of the Mac Faraday Mysteries by Lauren Carr

Who are you?

I’m Mac Faraday, homicide detective. At least, I used to be a homicide detective, until the day that my wife walked out on me for this slimy prosecutor and him and all his buddies, including the divorce lawyer whose son was trying to get into Stephen Maguire’s old fraternity wiped me out in our divorce.

But, hey, that’s okay.

How is that okay?

Well, you see, the most interesting thing happened after the judge pounded that gavel to end our twenty year marriage. On my way out of the courtroom, there was this little guy in this real expensive suit that wanted to talk to me. I thought, “Not another one of Maguire’s friends.” So I took off out the back door of the courthouse and this guy chased me for three city blocks while yelling for me to stop the whole way. Finally, I felt sorry for him. So I stopped. Turns out, he was Ed Willingham, senior partner of Willingham and Associates, only like the biggest law firm on the East Coast, and he was informing me that I had just inherited $270 million bucks from my birth mother, who—get this—turns out to have been Robin Spencer one of the most famous mystery writers on the planet!

I guess my ex-wife should have stayed married to me just a little while longer.

Where do you live?

Ah, yes, where do I live? I used to live in a nice middle class home in the suburbs of Washington, DC. After I came home one day to find my stuff out in the lawn, I moved into a two-bedroom apartment. Now, I live in Spencer Manor, only the most expensive piece of real estate in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. My birth mother, Robin Spencer, was born and raised here. The manor is a stone and cedar mansion at the end of Spencer Point. It is also surrounded by every type of flower garden you can imagine. When Robin—I still can’t get myself to call her Mom—wasn’t writing mysteries, or solving them herself, she was gardening. Spencer Manor is the main attraction for the home and garden tour. But no one told me that. The other day, I got up to let Gnarly out, and stepped out to drink my coffee and enjoy the view off the back deck, and there was a bunch of old ladies out there snapping pictures of the gladiolas. They also got pictures of me in my boxers. Archie had a good laugh over that.

Who’s Archie?

Didn’t I tell you about Archie? She came with the house. The day I met Archie, I knew my luck was changing. The only thing that came with my last house was a five-year old washer and dryer that conked out a year later. Archie was Robin’s assistant and editor. She lives in the stone cottage at the end of the path through the rose garden. Robin specified that she can live there rent free as long as she wants. That’s perfectly fine with me.

Are you the hero of your own story?

I don’t like to think of myself as a hero. I’m simply a cop doing my job—or rather, I used to be a cop doing my job until all this happened. Now, I’m trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. For the first time, I can do whatever I want. There are no restrictions. But I don’t like to play golf. That’s boring. I’m not good at tennis. I’ve found that I’m pretty good at playing the stock market, even in these hard times. But then, after making several tens of thousands of dollars playing around online, even that gets old after a while. So, I go looking to do what I’ve always done best—solving murder cases. So far, I haven’t had to look very far.

The first week after I moved in, I was interviewing housekeepers and Gnarly, my late mother’s dog, which was also a part of my inheritance, came home with a decomposed human head with a bullet hole through it. It ended up belonging to the guy accused of killing my next door neighbor during a blizzard. (It’s Murder, My Son)

Then, just as things were settling down, I thought, and things were about to happen with Archie, my ex-wife Christine shows up wanting me back. Of course, she was drunk and distraught about Maguire dumping her. So I took her up to the Spencer Inn. Did I mention that I also inherited a five star resort at the top of Spencer Mountain? My birth family had owned it for generations. So, I check Christine into my private penthouse suite, which I didn’t know I had a private penthouse suite until they asked me if I wanted to check her into it. Nobody tells me these things. Would you know it? The next morning, Christine is dead and so is that slimeball Maguire in my suite. Not only that, but Maguire has a bunch of my old case files from when I was a detective. With everyone thinking I did it, I did the only thing I could do. Started poking into things to find out what happened. (Old Loves Die Hard)

If that makes me a hero, I guess I am one.

How do you see yourself?

I see myself as just a regular guy, who lives at a glorious estate in paradise with a beautiful woman who can cook up a storm and look good while doing it. Like every regular guy, I also have a kleptomaniac German shepherd that got kicked out of the United States Army for some secret reason that they refuse to talk about. Oh, and just the guy next door, I also have a knack for solving murders.

How do your friends see you?

A compassionate generous guy, who will do anything for his friends and family.

How do your enemies see you?

A pain in the butt who doesn’t know when to stop asking questions.

Do you have a hero?

When I was growing up, it was Mickey Forsythe. I know, Mickey Forsythe is a fictional character. It was such a kick to find out that Robin Spencer, my birth mother, created him. First, he was her hero in a series of books, and then, when I was a kid, they made a bunch of movies with him. That was my first introduction to him. I remember sitting him the movie theatre speeding down the highway in his hot car and dodging bullets and thinking, “That’s what I want to do.”

Mickey Forsythe was a cop that inherited a fortune. The first thing he does when he gets his fortune is to solve his ex-partner’s murder, with the help of Diablo, his ex-partner’s police dog. So then, they ride off together in his hot car helping the little guy with their guns a-blazing—well, Diablo didn’t have a gun.

I remember sitting him the movie theatre speeding down the highway in his hot car and dodging bullets and thinking, “That’s what I want to do.”

Now, reporters keep pointing out that I’m an ex-cop that had inherited a fortune and I have a German shepherd who has done some pretty amazing things—but, believe me, I’m nothing like Mickey Forsythe.

Mickey Forsythe is a hero. I’m not.

Do you have a goal?

To keep the media from finding out about Gnarly’s thievery. He was home with me when the Schweitzer’s steaks disappeared off their grill last week.

What are your achievements?

I beat Ben Fleming, the county prosecuting attorney, at tennis last week—three straight matches!

Do you keep your achievements to yourself?

No, I told anyone and everyone about it. I also posted it on Facebook.

What makes you happy?

When the good guys win and the bad guys lose.

What makes you angry?

Arrogance. When I was a cop, I’ve run into more than my share of the rich and powerful who think that they are above the law. More than once, they were. They’d look down their nose at me and my team and laugh after literally getting away with murder. Now that I’m here at the Spencer Manor, I’ve made acquaintance with some who think that way, and think that I should be one of them. I guess you can say that’s my nightmare. I refuse to be one of them.

What, if anything, haunts you?

Cold cases. I have a few cases that went cold when I was a detective. I still have copies of files. Sometimes I’ll wake up and see the face of a victim. I won’t be able to get him or her, or their loved ones, out of my mind. So I’ll get up and open up a file and go over the evidence once again, hoping that maybe this time, I’ll get lucky and see what I didn’t see before to get me closer to solving the case. I consider that a better use of my time than playing the market.

What is your favorite item of clothing? Why?

My old tattered shoes. They’re leather and their worn out and they have holes in the bottom; but they’re comfortable. My favorite clothes are those that are broken in. Luckily, the manager at the Spencer Inn, is smart enough to not point out that I fail to dress as well as most of the guests at my hotel. But, hey, I should be allowed to be comfortable at my own Inn.

What are the last three books you read?

Death Becomes Her; Murder Takes Flight; and Cocktails at Six, Murder at Eight, all by Robin Spencer. I’ve been making my way chronologically through her eighty-something books. I’m only a quarter of the way through so far.

Links: Lauren Carr

Author of the Mac Faraday Mysteries

Website: http://mysterylady.net/

Blog: http://fromthewritersstudio.blogspot.com/

To buy It’s Murder My Son on amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Its-Murder-Son-Faraday-Mystery/dp/1452819432/ref=pd_sim_sbs_b_1

To buy Old Loves Die Hard on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Old-Loves-Die-Hard-Faraday/dp/1460935136/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1304166888&sr=1-4

Elicia Clegg, Author of “Castigate My Sins”

Welcome, Elicia. What inspired you to write this particular story?

In the fall of my seventeen year I was having what felt like a nervous breakdown. My family had been torn apart, I was on the run from State’s custody, and I found myself going stir-crazy in the tiny apartment I was hiding out in. The only real enjoyment I had was my Sunday drive. Every Sunday me and a friend would drive over the top of Mount Green, the views were breath taking, awe inspiring, and had a way of making me forget who I was. On one such Sunday we nearly crashed and in that moment I couldn’t help but wonder, in lieu of all my family’s lies, if in death I would be privy to all the secrets they kept from me.

Thus Castigate My Sins was born. Five teenagers, symbolizing five different problems I was facing, were created and slowly a story was formed. Unfortunately, as time can often be vicious in nature, I lost the original script and stopped writing for more than fifteen years. Then, while looking through my old things, I found my diary which mentioned the story, (the original title was Stairway In-between Heaven and Hell), and all at once the vision of the characters came back and I knew I had to rewrite the novel.

How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

When I was sixteen I had a teacher who made me read WORKING by Studs Terkel in order to see how dynamically different people are. After that anytime I wanted to write a story, be it short or long, I would first create a profile on each person. I not only put down their physical appearance and age, I put down their hopes, dreams, wishes, past, present, and future.  In this I can give my characters a heart, which in turn makes them real to me and translates into unique characters for the reader.

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

I always hide a small message in my writing. In this book I wanted to show how blurry the line between right and wrong can really be. Parents often think they are protecting their children by keeping secrets, and yet, in the case of this book, the fact that there is a secret is what destroys the heart and souls of these teenagers.

How has your background influenced your writing?

Write what you know. I live by these words. I keep track of feelings, situations, and what I should have and could have done differently. I think a diary, journal, or at least a notebook is an absolute need for a writer.

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

I have a horribly hectic schedule, but who doesn’t nowadays.  I strive to write every day, even if it is only a page.

What are you working on right now?

I am writing a horror slash suspense novel called Soul Distortion; I have a small excerpt on my website and hope to have the book completed before the end of the year. (www.eliciaclegg.com)

What was the first story you remember writing?

When I was in second grade I wrote a story about a skinny turkey that fell in love with a plump turkey. It was coming up on Thanksgiving and because the skinny turkey loved the plump turkey so much, and knew the farmer was going to eat her for Thanksgiving, he ate and ate and ate until he was the biggest turkey in the entire town. In the end he died, but died happy because he had saved the love of his life.

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

The most surprising, and hardest part of being a writer is grammar/spelling and all the criticism you will get. If I post on a social website, even a short twitter, and spell or make a grammar mistake, I don’t hear the end of it. People can be very nasty, so one must learn how to never make a mistake, or take critics in stride.

What do you like to read?

I try to read every genre (with a few exceptions) and explore a diverse population of Authors. I believe if the story came from the heart, it is worth a read.  Though I will admit my absolute favorites are thrillers.  I love when I start furiously reading pages in order to find out what is going to happen next. Nothing beats the feeling of not being able to put a book down because you are lost in the story.

What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you’d written yourself?

The Color Purple, by Alice Walker; it is a beautiful work of art.

How have you marketed and promoted your work?

I have a degree in business administration, so I made up a Marketing Plan, and then broke it down into a more manageable list. Here is an example of a list of things to do:

Write letter to send to reviewers
Compile list of reviewers
Send letters
Write Press release
Compile Media list
Send letters

If your readers would like an example of a full Marketing Plan, I would be more than happy to send them a copy via email or post an example.

Have you written any other books?

I have two other titles: Vexation, released on March 2010, and Running with Chaos, to be released in December 2011.

Where can people learn more about your books?

Please visit my website www.eliciaclegg.com

Mitchell Waldman, author of “Petty Offenses And Crimes Of The Heart”

Today I am interviewing Mitchell Waldman, author of PETTY OFFENSES AND CRIMES OF THE HEART (Wind Publications, August 2011)

Mitchell, What is your book about?

PETTY OFFENSES is a short story collection including both stories about actual crimes and criminals and the effects they have on ordinary people, and crimes which run much deeper, are of a much more personal, emotional nature.

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

Some of the stories in the collection are based on personal experiences, persons I have known, while others are purely fictional.

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

One of my favorite characters in these stories is Delores Leary, the mother in “Fortunate Son,” who exhibits an incredible amount of strength despite the circumstances she goes through when her son goes MIA in Iraq. Then, there’s the unknown interviewer in “Catching Up with Cartucci,” who has his own very unique manner of questioning his subject.

How long did it take you to write your book?

The book developed after several years, and the stories all just seemed to fit together in a uniform body of stories that seem to work very well together.

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

Usually, I am just trying to entertain and give the reader a glimpse into the lives of characters they don’t know, make them relate to, feel what my characters are going through. Transport them to this other person’s life. Make the reader feel. Although, in a couple of instances in Petty Offenses, the stories do have a greater agenda, to get some of my social concerns known, without hitting the reader over the head with a “message.” My greatest goal is to keep my readers interested, turning the pages and live through my characters’ lives and dilemmas.

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

I have to admit that in a couple of instances in the stories in Petty Offenses, I have a greater agenda, want get some of my social concerns known and felt, without hitting the reader over the head with a “message.” About war, the environment, various social injustices, prejudice.

How has your background influenced your writing?

I was a psychology major and have a law degree, so, yes, my background has influenced the writing of Petty Offenses in that I love to study people, why they do what they do. And, particularly, in this book, why the commit crimes, sometimes make decisions that others of us would never make.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on more stories and a novel, with my partner, Diana, that ought to be something spectacular.

Do you have mental list or a computer file or a spiral notebook with the ideas for or outlines of stories that you have not written but intend to one day?

I carry a little notebook around and jot down story ideas. Then there are the piles of fragments of stories that I start sometimes and then come back to to revisit. Once in a while they result in an actual story. I have to admit my best ideas for stories often come to me in the shower.

What writer influenced you the most?

There are so many well-known and not so well-known writers I could recommend, that have influence me, that I can’t count. Yes, a lot of people have read some of my favorites — Joseph Heller (Catch-22), Philip Roth, Bret Ellis, John Irving, Nick Hornby, Ellen Gilchrist, Larry McMurtry, Frederick Barthelme, and Andre Dubus, all of whom have influenced me in one way or another over the years, but there are so many other great writers out there that people need to discover. Such as Perry Glasser (author of Dangerous Places) who is an excellent, engaging writer of short fiction, and Benjamin Percy (The Language of the Elks), Not to mention the great fiction of my former teacher at the University of Illinois, Mark Costello (The Murphy Stories), Paul A. Toth (Treating a Sick Animal: Flash and Micro Fictions) , and the powerful poetry of Diana May-Waldman (A Woman’s Song), who speaks to every woman. These are just a few. There are so many great writers to read and so little time to read them!

What advice you would give to an aspiring author?

Write from your heart. Write what you know/what you want to know, what interests you, what you care about, not what you think other people tell you or think you should read. (Be careful of English teachers’ reading list suggestions!) Don’t try to impress people with your vocabulary. Communicate from the heart, from your soul. Your writing is your mark on the world, so make it your best every time. Move someone with your words.

I like that you expanded the adage of “write what you know” to include “Write what you want to know.” It’s more realistic and a lot more fun. Have you written any other books?

I’ve also written a novel, entitled A FACE IN THE MOON, and co-edited with my partner, Diana, an anthology entitled WOUNDS OF WAR: POETS FOR PEACE.

Where can people learn more about your books?

My books are available on online bookstores, such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble. For more information, check out my website at: http://mitchwaldman.homestead.com, or my publisher’s website at: http://windpub.com/books/PettyOffenses.htm

It’s been great talking to you today, Mitchell!

Thanks, Pat!

Malcolm R. Campbell, Author of “Sarabande”

I am delighted to be able to introduce Malcolm R. Campbell and his newest novel “Sarabande”. Malcolm is so very generous to other authors, it’s great to be able to return the favor. Besides, he’s a damn good writer who pens powerful tales. If you haven’t yet met Malcolm, what are you waiting for?

So, Malcolm, what is your book about?

“Sarabande” is the story of a young woman who leaves her alternate-universe home via a portal hidden in the Rocky Mountains in search of the once-powerful Sun Singer. She wants him to return to her mountain home and help her rid herself of the ghost of her sister Dryad who has haunted her for three years. The journey itself turns out to be worse than Dryad’s taunting and haunting. The ordeals of the trip across the Montana plains will force her deep within to discover her true strengths and greatest challenges.

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

This novel is a sequel to my earlier fantasy “The Sun Singer,” so the story was on my mind for many years before I wrote it. I had never written fiction from a woman’s point of view before and avoided working on “Sarabande” until I was finally ready to confront the story.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

“The Sun Singer” is about a young man’s solar journey. I wanted to look at the other side of the coin, so to speak, and write about the lunar-oriented ordeals of a young woman. Sarabande, my protagonist first appeared in “The Sun Singer.” However, I have written her story so that it can be read as a standalone novel, a woman’s story that could be whole in and of itself.

Who is your most unusual/most likeable character?

Sarabande’s sister Dryad is a nasty temptress. She tried to spoil my protagonist, Robert Adams, in “The Sun Singer.” When she attacked Sarabande near the end of that novel, Sarabande killed her in self-defense. As it turns out, she’s even nastier as a ghost than as a living woman. Basically, he’s an all-about-me character with few morals and fewer restraints on what she’s willing to do to hurt other people.

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

I know only the major plot points. I try to follow my stories as they unfold. While I already knew about the major ordeals Sarabande had to face, I knew little else. When I finished one chapter, the idea for the next chapter came to mind. It was almost like the character was sitting next to me handing out her story a little bit at a time. Needless to say, writing this way means that I end up being surprised by many of the things that happen. I tend to do a lot of research while I write because I like placing my fantasy scenes in very real settings. While reading about those settings online, I often think of new wrinkles for the plot that had never occurred to me before. I love the process of discovery.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it? (searching Internet, magazines, other books, etc.)

All three of my fantasies are set partly in Glacier National Park. However, since I haven’t been there for a long time, I read a lot about the park online as well as in my reference books and magazines while writing. Sarabande, for example, sees popular lakes, mountains and trails in the park. I want to make sure that I have the descriptions right as well as how far apart they are from each other—I don’t want my character hiking between them faster than it’s possible in real life. At the same time, I’m always checking the blooming seasons of the wildflowers I mention, the typical times when the snow melts off in the summer, and the habits of the animals that appear in the book. I want the readers to feel like they are following my character through the glacier-carved valleys of the area called “the back bone of the world.”

How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

I “see” the characters the way one “sees” things in his or her memory. When they appear to me, they develop ways of talking and moving about it a physical space. Since I have no knowledge of women’s clothing or hairstyles, I’ll have a general idea about the look I want, but I’ll either ask my wife or look things up online to find out what a certain kind of clothing or hairstyle is called. Once in a while, I’ll see a celebrity picture that “looks just like” my female character, and she will become a model for them—but only insofar as looks, posture, facial expressions, etc. When the characters interact with each other, they act as they act. This seems more natural to me than, say, making a list of characters and then jotting down a list of characteristics for each. They grow, of course, as the novel moves forward and, for a writer, that’s fun to watch.

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

I usually write straight through the novel from beginning to end to see what’s going to happen. Occasionally, a scene will feel wrong, too long or out of place, and I’ll edit it or move it. Or, something will occur to me in chapter five that needs to be foreshadowed earlier. Writing on a computer makes it very easy to cut and paste, move things around, or go back to earlier parts of the book and drop in a bit of material. Most of my ideas for what I’m going to write next in a novel-in-progress occur to me while I’m going other things. This gives me a lot of time to think about them, tinker with them, and mull over the impact they might have on earlier or later scenes in the book long before I start typing them. This keeps things on track because the story has a natural flow to it that becomes apparent as I “live it” from day to day. My wife always knows when I’m writing a novel because I walk around like somebody who’s either possessed or off in another world.

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

My goal is always to tell an interesting and absorbing story. I don’t write with an agenda or in hopes that when the reader gets to the end of the book an apparent “moral of the story” will jump out at them. All of my fantasies are “nature friendly,” so readers are always going to be experiencing the location settings in the novels in a “green” manner, so to speak. Sarabande faces issues that often come up in patriarchal societies. Reading about how she deals with these issues may provide readers with another perspective about women’s rights and about the bonds between women and the natural world. But first, I want readers to get wrapped up in the drama, the humor, and the unforeseen plot twists, and have a wonderful reading experience. Going away with “food for thought” is icing on the cake.

What challenges did you face as you wrote this book?

I write from a third person restricted point of view. This means that I am always with only one character from start to finish; everything in the book is filtered directly or indirectly through that character’s eyes, ears and thoughts. The challenge here, especially with some of the deeply personal women’s issues in the plot, was putting myself into a woman’s point of view and keeping it realistic. I did not want the book to sound like it was written by a man who was speculating about how a woman might talk, act, and re-act to the ordeals in the storyline. The challenge was making the story truly seem as though it were being told by a woman and that all of it rang true to the women reading the book.

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

I do everything possible to avoid having a writing schedule, much less a daily word-count goal. The story unfolds as it unfolds. I don’t know what’s going to happen next, much less when my characters or my muse or the universe are going to fill me in on the next scene or chapter. Sitting down to write at a specific time or forcing out a set number or words each day would ruin the flow. This sounds like a lazier approach than it is. Whenever I have a novel in progress, I am rather obsessed with it. It is always on my mind. Basically, I’m much better off when I’m actually writing it than when I’m not writing it.

Where can people learn more about your books?

My books are published by Vanilla Heart Publishing and are listed there on my author’s page. I’ve been posting about the experience of writing this novel on my Sarabande’s Journey blog. “Sarabande” first appeared on Kindle on August 13 and is expected to be released as a paperback August 31. Thanks so much, Pat, for chatting with me about my work. Your questions force me to think more about what I’m doing and why.

Click here to read an excerpt of: Sarabande by Malcolm R. Campbell