Mercedes Fox ~ Author

My Writing Blog

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Meet Author Gene Kendall

Hello! Welcome to Interview FoxSeat with guest author Gene Kendall

Gene Kendall enjoys what some might dismiss as junk culture. And free books. He’s not opposed to the tips, however. Currently, he’s contributing to Comic Book Resources’ “Comics Should Be Good” blog. His first novel is a story of loyalty and redemption, set against the death of the music industry. Poor thing.

Book Sample: “yeah, shut up.” is a story of loyalty and redemption, not comfortable in any specific genre, set against the death of the music industry. Poor thing.

In the previous century, young kids deluded themselves into thinking “musician” was a viable career path. Follow two kids from Who Cares, Alabama as they form a band, experience their big break, release an album, and disappear into obscurity. All the fun you’d ever hope to find in a fictitious account of a 1990s alt-rock band almost going mainstream. If you still think you missed the train to Mars, if you miss the lands of green and skies of blue, this could be the novel for you.

Why do you write?  My motivation to write my first novel came from a conversation with someone around my age about the sea of bands plucked from obscurity and given an opportunity to possibly, maybe, but probably not, become the next Nirvana.  And how those bands have virtually disappeared from memory; some of these bands, we couldn’t remember their name, but we remembered the hooks from their singles.  Often the only singles the bands seemed to have.

When did you decide to become a writer? I started a blog focused on comic books in 2007, in the later days of virtually every comics fan starting his own blog.  Forcing myself to write something every day was a nice habit to get into.  The thought of writing a novel, even for myself, began to seem like a realistic possibility, after I’d been writing online for a few years.

How long does it usually take you to complete a book?  “yeah, shut up.” took around six months to write.  The novel I’m currently writing has taken over a year, and remains unfinished, even though I think I might possibly be looking at the end of the tunnel.  Writing a page a day, at least one page, is always the goal, but often not the reality.

Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?  I tend to write between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM, with any number of gaps during the day, depending on what happens to be going on in my life.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?  I’d like to think that I’ve grown more comfortable with prose, and I struggle less with some of the unexpected hurdles that appeared when writing my first novel.  I continue to play around with story structures — the thought of a very strict three-act outline just strikes me as too restrictive and too predictable for the reader.  Those standard rules exist for a reason, though, so straying too far away probably isn’t a good idea.

Do you listen to music or watch TV/movie while you write?  Nope.  My preference is to write in total silence.  I’d rather avoid any distractions when writing.

What have you written?  In addition to “yeah, shut up.”, I contribute to the entertainment/comics website CBR.com.  My articles can be found here: http://www.cbr.com/author/g-kendall/

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just seeing where an idea takes you?  I tend to have an idea of where the story will generally go, and chapter by chapter, I compile a list of bullet points I want to hit.  Often, the story takes me in a new direction, and more than a few of the bullet points are either dropped or saved for a later chapter.

Any advice for aspiring authors?  I have a list of pointers for writers who want to publish through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program on my blog: http://notblogx.blogspot.com/2016/01/kindle-direct-publishing-my-experience.html

Regarding the actual craft of writing, the general advice I could offer is to write a story that is actually about something, and not just a series of connect plot points.  Characters should have points of view, some you might even disagree with vehemently, and be able to articulate them in honest ways.  And if you want to finish the book, make an effort to work on it every day, or close to it.  Don’t look for an excuse to day dream — sit down and do the actual work.

Give us an insight into your main character. What does he do that is so special?  The main character in my novel is sarcastic, self-absorbed, manipulative, and perhaps not the best friend you could have.  He’s also in possession of a certain amount of talent, however, which helps to fuel his already healthy ego.  The combination of talent and ego, and a voracious appetite for content from the music industry, gets him into some trouble.

What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?  Probably the hardest part involved the battle between text and subtext.  Which ideas do you outright state, and which do you allow the reader to discover?  When are you being too cryptic?  When have you dwelled on an idea for too long?  Based on reviews, most people seem to have picked up on the concepts, while a few didn’t think I connected the dots clearly.

What is your favorite movie or TV show?  Of all time?  THE SIMPSONS.  At the moment?  Probably THE AMERICANS.

Which writers inspire you?  Everyone from Kurt Vonnegut to television scribe David Milch to comic writer/artist Larry Hama.

Do you or have you sat down and read your book fresh off the presses as if it wasn’t yours? And if you did, what was it like?  I tried to do that several times.  I think it’s a critical part of the writing process.  How will someone coming into this cold think about the story?  Does the intro draw people in?  Am I waiting too long to get to the point?  Is this scene too long?  Does it truly advance the plot, or play to the novel’s themes?  Writers have to constantly be asking these questions, and sometimes you won’t find the answer until you’ve reread a piece three or four times.

What book are you currently reading or just finished?  I finished “The Kreutzer Sonata” by Tolstoy not too long ago and loved it.  I’ve also been reading various independent books for review exchanges.  Some indie writers are doing impressive work, I have to say.

There ya have it folks! For more about Gene, his writing, and to get yourself a copy, follow the links below:

Twitter / Blog / BookDownLoad(Noisetrade) / Amazon / Goodreads

Meet Author Kimberly Black

Hello, lovelies! Welcome to Interview FoxSeat featuring guest author Kimberly Black

I am a native Texan, living in the Texas Panhandle with my husband of 32 years, my two sons, my daughter-in-law, two cats, and two dogs. I’ve been writing since the fourth grade and designing houses since I was twenty. I’ve taught children’s Bible class for over twenty years and even worked for two years as one of the Children’s Ministry Directors at my church. I have one Children’s book, Pockets, published and two more in illustration stage.

My latest releases, Lydia, Woman of Purple (2nd edition) and Her Most Precious Gift, were both inspired by strong women characters from the Bible. They were both released the first week of March 2017, along with their companion Devotional Study Guides.

Book sample:  Lydia, Woman of Purple

Genre:  Historical Christian Fiction

Synopsis:  Lydia is a well respected, God-fearing merchant in the Roman colony of Philippi in first-century Greece. She is struggling with her faith and dealing with the loss of her husband and the coming-of-age of her seventeen-year-old cousin, Marcus, who she has raised as her own son.

Four strange men come to town with a message of a Messiah, and her world is changed forever. She wants nothing more than for Marcus to embrace and share her faith in Jesus Christ, but he is deeply immersed in the Roman pantheon of gods and goddesses. Her life becomes even more stressful when Lydia rescues a slave girl, healed from demons, and brings her home.

Excerpt:  He took both of her hands in his. “Beautiful spirit,” he repeated with a smile. “Your faith is remarkable.”

“Is this faith?” she asked. “I just cannot allow that man to misuse and discard the poor child any longer.”

“You love her. You cannot help it.”

“It is no more than what any other would do.”

Luke shook his head. “Nobody else would do this for her. You are saving a slave’s life. It is everything.” Luke’s eyes filled with tears. “To Daphne it is everything.”

“But is it faith?” Lydia asked. It took every ounce of her resolve not to throw herself into Luke’s arms. She held his hands tightly.

“Love is the greatest part of faith.”

Book Sample:  Her Most Precious Gift

Genre:  Historical Christian Fiction

Synopsis:  Mary lives with her siblings, Martha and Lazarus, in a small town just a few miles’ walk from Jerusalem. They have grown close after the loss of their parents and the prosperity they had once enjoyed. Mary finds herself as their last hope if she can find a suitable husband.

But after a devastating attack, Mary is left with a shattered mind that leads her to self-loathing and depression. She decides her family is better off without her. Before she can do the unthinkable, Mary is saved by an unlikely friend who urges the family to find healing in a man of God called Jesus.

Through healing, Mary finds a purpose in her life, and the strength and courage to face even her worst fear.

Excerpt:  Mary sank to her knees. Martha left her there to go speak to Tirzah and the mourners. Most of the other people had already gone home.

Mary cried. Jesus wasn’t there, and Lazarus was dead. Mary could think of nothing else.

You did not come. We needed you, and you did not come.

And now it was too late.

When did you decide to become a writer?  In the third grade, I read Little Women at least six times and decided that I had to be like Jo March when I grew up. I read every Nancy Drew and Little House book I could find.

How long does it usually take you to complete a book?  I have some that I have been working on for more than a year—which is ridiculous. I can usually get a rough draft out in 30-45 days, sometimes less.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?  I’m not nearly so worried about whether I’m writing everything precisely right the first time through. And I’m learning to focus on evoking the right feelings.

Do you listen to music or watch TV/movie while you write?  I don’t usually watch or listen to anything while I’m writing, but while I’m doing other chores, I listen to music that inspires the themes and emotions I want to achieve.

What have you written?  I have my children’s books and historical Christian fiction published. I have also written a movie blog for a few years, called Cinema Toast. I am currently working on a YA sci-fi western and a fun espionage suspense series.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just seeing where an idea takes you?  Both. I plot an outline, but when I get to a hitch, I let my characters decide where they want to go. Some of my favorite scenes have happened that way.

Do you design your own book covers or have someone else? If you use someone else would you tell us who/website?  Both of my sons have degrees in Graphic Design, so I have home-grown cover artists. MF: I’m jealous!

You mentioned you’re writing a new story. How about a teaser?  I am most excited about my spy series! The first book is called Little Black Dress, and it will have at least two sequels and two prequels and a bonus book for super fans. I was inspired with the “what if” of Audrey Hepburn as James Bond. The story is fun, scary, and full of fashion and intrigue.

Who is your favorite character in your book and why?  My heroine in Little Black Dress is Evan Tyler, a fiery redhead from Texas who is out to stop a villain from destroying the world’s economy. She must infiltrate the Paris fashion scene to foil the scheme. She has a lot of spunk and depth of character.

If your book were made into a movie, whom would you cast? I could see Jessica Chastain or Bryce Dallas Howard as Agent Tyler.

Do you have any fur babies to brag about? I have two cats, Checkers and Poe (the Black Cat), and two dogs, Paden and Archie. Archie is named after Archie Goodwin from the Nero Wolfe series of mysteries.

What do you think of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing?  I’m a control freak, so I love self-publishing. My first novel was published traditionally, and I definitely don’t regret that experience, but I don’t see myself going that route again.

Would you say there is a stigma to being self-published?  I think it’s fading fast. There are great books and terrible books in both traditional and indie publishing. I believe that it’s a lot of hard work no matter which route you take.

Are you currently reading a book or just finished one? I just finished Scott King’s The Five Day Novel, and Agatha Christie’s audio books, The Crooked House and Endless Night. Loved them all.

What do your readers mean to you?  I absolutely adore my readers. They are incredibly kind and encouraging. I always make an effort to include their suggestions whenever I can. I even try to name characters after them if they ask.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?  My website is packed with lots of information, and I have a newsletter that I send out once a month for updates. I also love to connect on social media.

There ya have it folks! For more about Kimberly, her work, and to get yourself a copy, follow the links below:

Website / Blog / Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn / Goodreads / Pinterest / Amazon / Instagram

Meet Author David Halvorsen

Hello! Welcome to Interview FoxSeat with guest author David Halvorsen

Dave is a pastor that loves to write. He lives in Mount Vernon, Washington with his wife, Trisha, and their three kids—Anayah (6), Autumn (4), and John David (1). For fun, the family loves to travel, eat, explore nature and read a good book together.

Book Sample:  Hush, child

Genre: supernatural crime thriller

Synopsis:  Judah Greer is an alcoholic without the will to sober up, that is until his long lost daughter reenters his life. When Mara becomes the twenty-fifth victim of a serial kidnapper, he launches out on a frantic quest to save her. Aided by a mysterious young girl who may or may not exist, and a detective with a vendetta of her own, he tumbles down a rabbit hole and into a world where nothing is certain and no one is safe. The spiritual clashes with the natural in this supernatural thriller as events spiral out of control toward an ending prophesied from the most ancient of Holy texts: “Behold, I will send you the spirit of Elijah before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”

Excerpt: “We have to go, Cora.”

Dazed, Cora lifted her head. “It’s too early,” she countered.

Mara scowled. “I need to be there early.”

Cora closed her eyes. “You already had a practice run.”

Resentment flashed over Mara. “I know that. This is different, because we’re in the stadium for the first time.”

Cora pulled the sheet over her head.

Mara waited for a response, but to no avail. Slamming Cora’s door, she snatched up her purse and bag and stormed out of the condo. Pulling out her cell, she called a cab, and plopped down in a huff on the front step to wait the fifteen minutes.

She presently loathed her mother more than she had in a long while. Cora had always been indifferent and taciturn, but this was a new level of cruelty that Mara hadn’t yet seen. Maybe it was because of Judah. She didn’t know. Even if it was, that didn’t license Cora’s selfishness.

The cab rolled up. It was from a company she didn’t recognize. Mara approached as the driver rolled down his window.

“Need a ride?”

Mara frowned. “I called for a Yellow Cab, but you’re…” She swept her gaze over the flaked lettering but was unable to make it out. “Are you with them?”

The man bore a full head of grease-coated hair that appeared to reach his lower back. His square jaw was peppered with scruff, except in the vicinity of three jagged scars that yawned from his cheekbone and stretched down his throat. She was transfixed, and didn’t hear his response until he repeated himself: “They’re busy and called me to fill in,” he explained, his smooth voice resonating, reminiscent of the tune of a cello.

She shook out of her daze and, with an apologetic glance, opened the back door and slid in.

“Where to then?” he asked, while bringing the car out onto the main street.

“I told them,” she reminded him, becoming increasingly apprehensive.

“Must’ve been lost over the frequency.” He tapped the radio with a knuckle.

“Right, okay then, to University Stadium. I’m graduating today.”

“And at seventeen; that means you’re clever,” he added with a smile as he glanced at her in the rearview.

She returned his smile with a taut press of her mouth, and couldn’t shake the impression that something was askew. He kept to himself for the remainder of the ride, but compensated for his silence by studying her. Each time she caught sight of his eyes in the rearview, a shiver slithered up her spine. She sighed with relief as they pulled into the stadium’s lot. Peering between the two front seats, she saw that the tab was for forty dollars. Jumping from the cab, she rounded to his open window, and grimaced when seeing that she only had a crinkled five-dollar bill.

“Um, look, mister, do you mind that I only have five?”

He offered a flamboyant grin, which caused his scars to twitch. “That’s all right. I’ll wait here. Maybe your mommy can give you the cash when she comes.”

She sprinted into the stadium. “Creep,” she muttered between gasps. She’d make sure to avoid him like the plague.

The following thirty minutes flew by as she floundered to and fro, searching apprehensively for her graduating class. They were filing into the auditorium when she saw them across the fray. Embarrassed, she managed to slip into her gown in stride, and donned her cap as she took her allotted seat.

“Margaret Abernathy,” the spokeswoman called over the PA system.

During the proceeding hour, her mind wandered in a daze. She hoped Cora would show; both she and Judah.

“Michael Palmer.”

She snapped to—they were in the P’s. Her row would soon stand. She swept her gaze over the reserved seating, and smiled when seeing Cora hunched over her cell. Twisting around, she played her eyes over the uninterested faces, and was about to give up when a flicker caught her attention near the exit. Judah was waving both hands. Her chest fluttered and her smile returned for a second show of affection.

A rustle on both sides caused her to swivel back around. The usher was motioning for her row to join the swiftly moving stream of soon-to-be graduates.

Christopher Pratt was announced. Mara was next. Cora pried her attention from her smart phone in time to see her mount the stage.

Mara shot her gaze into the back of the stadium—looking for… she grinned when her eyes connected with Judah’s.

“Mara Pretz.”

Mara marched across the stage with a heartwarming smile. She again glanced toward Judah and then at Cora, and what she saw caused her throat to contract. The principal was pumping her hand and setting a diploma into her other, but she understood none of it. Her mind was steeped in a fog. “Well done, Mara,” the superintendent congratulated though she was elsewhere, with wide eyes riveted to her mother’s retreating back.

Nausea snaked into her belly as she progressed offstage and back into the swiftly moving brook of new and cheery graduates. The remaining names were monotonously announced. Forbidden catcalls and whistles of overzealous family and friends droned on. It was an opaque blur that passed overhead. In contrast, what she vividly grasped was the memory of her mother’s back facing her moment of triumph, striding away in a fit of indignation.

The band played the last song. The auditorium stood in unison. Mara was marinated in confusion, while her classmates flung their hats towards the vaulted ceiling. After the momentous euphoria fizzled, the throng dispersed in pursuit of their loved ones—all except the dispirited young lady who wept into unsteady hands.

The scent of cheap cologne wafted over her, and she heard the adjacent chair creak under someone’s weight, followed by a sturdy hand that rested between her shoulder blades. “I’m sorry, Mara,” consoled Judah’s raspy voice.

Without looking at him, she leaned into his arms and rested her face against his chest. She was sniveling, and only peered up after regaining her composure. “Thank you,” she said with a wearied smile.

He looked at her empathetically. “Wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

She believed him.

“I’ll take you home,” he intoned.

She stood compliantly and, without fully understanding her actions, slipped her hand into his. Neither spoke during the ride home. After he pulled onto her street, he let the engine idle, reached into the back, grabbed a brown parcel, and offered it to her with a comforting expression.

She was surprised, not having expected a gift from him other than the fifty bucks.

“Wait till you get inside before opening it.”

She looked at him for an explanation, but he only smiled.

“Oh, right, almost forgot. And here’s your blood money.” He slapped a single bill into her hand.

A smile broke past her despondency. “Thanks,” she offered.

“No problem, kid.”

Reaching over, she pecked him on the cheek, but hopped out before he could respond. She scurried to the front door, turned to wave with another smile tipping up her lips, and then slipped inside.

She traipsed into the family room and collapsed into the loveseat. What a strenuous day, she thought, but then smiled as she held up the parcel; he had wrapped it in a paper bag. She ripped off the paper and found herself staring at a leather-bound Bible. Cute, she thought. She placed the Bible on the coffee table, rested back, and closed her eyes to thoughts of the depressing day.

~蘑

A violent wind awoke her. The front door slammed, adding to the banshee-like wails. Mara struggled out of the loveseat, forced the window shut, and then poked her head into the hall. Cora was climbing the stairs, and stopped mid-step when spotting her daughter.

“So, you finally came home,” Mara scolded.

Cora cleared her throat. “Do not speak to me with that tone, young lady.”

“Where’d you go, then?”

“None of your concern. You have Judah to attend to you.”

So this was it then—the reason for deserting—Cora hated Judah to that extent. “You’re being selfish.”

“Don’t think you can rebuke me, you little traitor.”

“If he’s as bad as you make him out to be, then why did he come to the most important day of my life…and…and you value your disdain for him more than your love for me?”

“You really don’t know what you’re talking about, do you?” Cora descended the stairs and, standing toe-to-toe, glowered at her daughter. “You don’t know how twisted he is, do you? Let me ask you a question. Perhaps it will put something into perspective.” She chose her words carefully. “I was seeing Thomas while still married to him.” Her scorn deepened. “He didn’t know how to accept the fact that I didn’t love him.” Ire bubbled behind Cora’s eyes. “And now, after all these years—he still hates me.”

“How do you know that?” Mara interjected.

“Because of the facts.” Cora placed her hand on Mara’s shoulder. “You impudent brat. If you had half a brain you would have listened and stayed away from that man. Now look what you’ve done.”

“What do you mean?” Mara asked, confused.

“Judah isn’t your father.”

“What do you mean?”

“Exactly what I said.”

Mara was miffed. “Did you ever tell him?”

“Of course. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s what forced him into lunacy!” she spat. “He’s a crazed buffoon who couldn’t take no for an answer, and the thought that he wasn’t the father of my child pushed him over the edge.”

“If he knows, then why’s he treating me like his daughter? Why’s he acting like my father?”

“That is precisely what I am asking. Look what you have done—you’ve gone and opened Pandora’s Box. You’ve allowed a delusional man into your life. You’re no longer safe—not while Judah’s prowling in the shadows. Before your senseless brain understands, you’ll be fastened to the bedposts for months on end as he gets a sadistic kick from seeing you writhe.”

With that, Cora turned and strode up the steps.

Mara was speechless. She didn’t know what to think, or how to think. Why would Judah deceive her? Why would he be so kind, let her into his home, let her vent on his shoulder, attend her graduation, give her a gift, and embody all of the traits that she had ever envisioned in a father? She didn’t know, and needed to understand.

After collecting her nerve, she climbed the steps and rapped on Cora’s door. Cora didn’t respond. She pressed it open. The lights were on in the attached bathroom. Padding over, she opened the door without knocking and stiffened at what greeted her: Cora was in mid-stroke of slicing her thigh with a razor. Streaks of blood smeared her hand and trickled down her leg. Countless white scars, reminiscent of a pond of maggots, spackled her thigh. Numerous emotions flashed over Cora’s face: fear from discovery, irritation, and lastly, acute vehemence leveled at Mara. “GET OUT!”

Mara wanted to run; instead, she stared dumbly and in dismay.

“GET OUT!” Cora roared, jabbing her finger at the doorway. She then advanced and slammed the door in Mara’s horrified face.

Mara ran. Tripping down the stairs, she rushed into the family room, grasped her purse, and dashed from the condo and into the howling wind. She needed to pace, and to think, and to cry, and to pray.

Blinded by uncontrolled emotion, she didn’t notice the taxi pull out from the shadows and pursue her from behind.

She dug for her phone and dialed a cab. A raindrop slapped her nose. Determined to tough out the inclement weather, she trudged down the block.

Cora needed help. In a strange way, she was thankful that she saw her cutting. Cora’s narcissism had suddenly become more complex. Deep-seated issues forced her behavior. Knowing this, Mara found it more difficult to scorn her.

At any regard, she needed to leave, and could think of only one person to run to—Judah. However, the nagging detail that Judah was an imposter convoluted things. He owed her an explanation.

About ten minutes had elapsed since she had called the cab, which was why after rounding the street corner, she was surprised to find an advancing pair of headlights. “They’re early?” she muttered.

The glare of the headlights prevented her from noticing the man’s scarred face until she was peering through his window. “Where to this time?” he asked jovially.

Her throat clamped into a knot. She wasn’t going anywhere with this man. “Um, I called a different taxi service,” she managed to squeak.

“That’s true. They radioed me again. So happens that I was in the area—it’s nice when things line up, isn’t it?”

She shook her head. “I changed my mind. I don’t need a cab anymore. Thanks though.” She turned and trekked back towards the condo.

The sound of his engine revved from behind and he pulled alongside her. “Come, come, little girl—I won’t hurt you.”

She broke into a run, but he accelerated to maintain her speed. The porch light of her condo was on down the street. Not far, a minute away. She heard the car accelerate further; then it struck her from behind. Sprawled on the wet tarmac, she tasted blood. Leaping back to her feet, she sprinted. The quiet click of an opening car door cracked against her ears, followed by the chilling slap of her assailant’s boots. She ran harder—breath ragged—emotions frenzied. His hand landed on the small of her back. She left the ground for a moment, suspended, and glimpsed her reflection on the wet pavement before landing facedown. In the process of screaming, she sucked in a mouthful of water. It sprayed into her trachea. Her body lurched. She gasped and sputtered, and was unable to raise her voice above a whisper as he grabbed her around the waist and dragged her towards his cab. He threw her into the back, reached over, and snatched a coiled cord from the floor, where he gagged her, bound her, and struck her on the side of the head. She blanked out, but before her mind dissolved into a fizzing cacophony of static, she heard the roar of the engine and felt the nauseating motion of the car as it peeled from the neighborhood.

How long does it usually take you to complete a book?  I started writing my first book at twelve, which was 1995, and finally finished and published it in 2011. The book that’s getting published now, Hush, child took only five years in comparison. Lol. My goal going forward, and I think I’ll achieve it, is to write a book a year.

Why do you write?  I love creating. And I also love it when the characters and story come to life and begin creating themselves. I think the pull for me is to listen to what they’re telling me and to try and pass on their message to whoever else that wants to listen.

When did you decide to become a writer?  I think this happened subconsciously at twelve, that age when I first started to write down that cursed story that never seems to die. We were a missionary family living in Ireland at the time. I was enrolled in the local country school—40 kids grades kindergarten to their version of twelfth grade, and two teachers—at any rate, I wrote a short story for literature and the Principal complemented me on a verb usage. I think I said that a driver of a truck poked his head through the window. The Master, as the Irish lads and lasses call their teachers, apparently thought this to be more descriptive than what I could have otherwise used. Who knew that this would’ve been inspirational for me? Ha! The small things in life can have substantive impact, I guess.

What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?  My imagination can’t help but create complex characters that journey through strange and daring worlds. It’s in me and the most natural outlet for me is to put it in story form. I suppose others compose music, and others paint or draw, or craft, or what have you; for me it’s to write.

Do you have a special time to write, or how is your day structured?  I take a couple hours a day. Complete silence—no music, no kids, no wife, just silence. I then enter into the zone and write what comes.

Do you work to an outline or plot, or do you prefer just seeing where an idea takes you?  Both. I can see the general plot, the north star so to say, but on the journey the characters seem to develop life of their own. When this happens, I let go of the reigns and wait with no little sense of expectation to see where they take me.

Where do your ideas come from?  The heart. Maybe God, at least this is what I hope for. I write for him most of all. He’s my passion, the one that I dedicate my work to. MF: I believe it is from God. He did give us freewill and imagination.

What’s the hardest thing about writing?  Doing it when I’m not in the mood. I’ve never struggled with writer’s block. I’d even be open to having that just so I could see what it’s like. My struggle is with buckling down and just doing it when I don’t feel like it.

What is the current book you are promoting?  Hush, child. It’s about a recovering alcoholic that’s hunting for his estranged daughter that’s been kidnapped by a person who calls his or herself Satan’s prophet (that felt like it was a mouthful). The story’s about the fractures that happen between parents and their children, and the power that’s to be had with restoring the family. The book is gritty in parts, and controversial in others, but a powerful read, if I don’t say so myself 😉

There ya have it folks! For more about Dave, his work, and to get yourself a copy, follow the links below:

Amazon / Facebook

Meet Author Leonide Martin

Hello! Welcome to Interview FoxSeat with guest author Leonide Martin

Leonide Martin, author of the Mists of Palenque series, draws from academic skills and Maya initiate training to write authentic historical fiction. She conducted extensive research and on-site archeological studies, and apprenticed with several Maya elders and day-keepers in Mexico and Guatemala. Her historical fiction immerses you in the ancient Maya world, re-imagining the lives of historic women of vision and power. Leonide lives with her husband and two white cats in Willamette Valley wine country, Oregon.

Book blurb: The Controversial Mayan Queen: Sak K’uk of Palenque. Mists of Palenque Series Book 2.

Sak K’uk, the strong-willed daughter of Yohl Ik’nal—first Mayan woman ruler—faces rebellious nobles and spiritual crisis in her city following a devastating enemy attack. The sacred portal to the Gods is desecrated, temples and crops destroyed, the ruler killed and the royal family humiliated. With her city in chaos and leaderless, Sak K’uk undertakes a perilous Underworld journey to seek help and encounters the Primordial Mother Goddess, Muwaan Mat.

Invoking the powers of the Goddess to overcome opposition, Sak K’uk accedes and holds the throne for her young son, Pakal. She knows that a Mayan prophecy foretold Pakal’s destiny to become ruler, restore the collapsed portal, and bring Lakam Ha to greatness. The intense trials of mother and son forge a special bond that proves both a blessing and a curse.

Enter the ancient Mayan world of jungle-draped stone cities with soaring pyramids and broad plazas gleaming in the tropical sun. Experience cunning plots and intrigue, shamanic curses, dazzling rituals, and the bizarre Maya Underworld. Brimming with vibrant detail and extraordinary characters that are seamlessly women into the historic tapestry, Sak K’uk is a rich and captivating treasure by an astute storyteller.

What genre are your books ?  My books are historical fiction set in ancient worlds, during the Maya Classic Period (250-900 CE). The stories cross genres, with elements of romance, fantasy and time-slip. As HF my books follow historic timelines documented by archeology and use real people from ancient Mayan cities. The protagonists of the Mists of Palenque series are all historically known women rulers or queens of Palenque. In telling their stories I use archeological data and information about life during those times. But, the facts are limited and give little insight into people’s daily lives. To fill in what is missing, I use imagination. These women married, had children, families and friendships, enemies and challenges—mostly not well-documented. To give spice to the stories, I created romantic themes of love, passion, loss, and betrayal. To paint a vivid picture of mystical Mayan cosmology, I created scenes that could be classified as “fantasy” although these experiences were very real to the Mayas. A deep thread of shamanism runs through Maya beliefs and rituals, and there is ample evidence that they engaged in shamanic journeys in their rituals to honor and communicate with deities. They viewed the world as made of three dimensions—Underworld, Middleworld, and Upperworld—and saw these dimensions as permeable. Gods and ancestors could interact with humans and affect the world; shamans could travel through time, dimensions and space.

These beliefs opened a route to the time-slip elements in my stories. I integrated a theme in which the Mayan characters make contact with people from other time periods. The story arc of this interconnection spans through all four books of the series, and eventually solves a mystery.  There also is a parallel story about a women archeologist working on a dig at Palenque. This lets me introduce a fascinating tale of archeological sleuthing and convey to readers the long and complex history of how Westerners “discovered” and explored lost cities of stone buried in lush jungles.

What draws you to this genre?  I’ve been drawn to historical fiction for as long as I can remember. As a young child, I read HF books my grandfather sent me—remember the Reader’s Digest Condensed Books? I continued reading HF all my life, especially books about Rome, Greece, and Egypt. I love to learn about how life might have been in those far-distant times and cultures. In HF, you are immersed in the lives and worlds of characters living through the history. Although I enjoy reading in various genres, including mystery, action-adventure, and romance, I naturally gravitate to reading mostly HF.

How do you write, and what have you written?  Writing HF is a post-retirement avocation for me. As a university professor, I authored many textbooks and professional articles during my career, so writing is a long-time skill. After retirement, I became fascinated by the ancient Mayas and began to study their civilization intensely. That led to the idea of bringing their lives to a wider public through writing HF. To date, I’ve written four novels about the Mayas, and am currently writing the fifth.

The first book, Dreaming the Maya Fifth Sun: A Novel of Maya Wisdom and the 2012 Shift in Consciousness (2006) tells the story of 2012 and ending of the Maya Calendar, from the Mayan perspective. There was so much hype and misunderstanding of 2012; the Mayas never said the world would end. In fact, their Long Count Calendar never ends, it just moves from one great cycle into another, like entering a new astrological era. Basically, around 2012 was the ending of a great cycle of about 5000 years, although there are not exact correlations between calendars. This book tells the real story of 2012 from the Maya understanding.

The next three published HF books are in the Mists of Palenque series about Mayan queens. They were rulers, or the ruler’s wife, all in the lineage of famous Maya king K’inich Janaab Pakal. The fourth book, to complete the series, is in process.

  • The Visionary Mayan Queen: Yohl Ik’nal of Palenque, Book 1. (ebook 2014, paperback 2016)
  • The Controversial Mayan Queen: Sak K’uk of Palenque, Book 2. (ebook 2014, paperback 2017)
  • The Mayan Red Queen: Tz’aakb’u Ahau of Palenque, Book 3. (ebook 2015, paperback 2018)
  • The Visionary Mayan Queen: K’inuuw Mat of Palenque. Book 4. (in process)

My writing habits are erratic, sad to say. Writing is not a job, but an avocation. When I’m on a roll, I can write long hours at my computer, and hardly anything distracts me. But, I take long breaks from writing, sometimes a few months. My main excuse is that I’m devoting efforts to marketing, which authors must do more and more. I prefer a quiet environment when I write, but even if my husband plays music or watches TV nearby, I can still concentrate. I work from an outline, which is essential because I need to follow an accurate timeline and include all the important and known events in the protagonist’s life. I develop ideas for scenes, story or character arcs, and include them in outlines and notes. I keep my resource books and documents (both physical and online) beside me all the time, and constantly refer to them to stay accurate. There is a spontaneous element to my writing, however, and at times a scene or character just pulls me off in a new direction, and I follow that inspiration when it works. Sometimes this happens in the middle of the night, and I’ve learned to get up and write it down, or it evaporates before dawn.

How do you market and promote your books?  Like most authors, I want to write. But, I’d also like readers to discover my books, which won’t happen without promotion efforts. I’m fortunate that my small indie publisher, Made for Success Publishing, also provides good marketing strategies. Over the past three years, I’ve done various marketing/promotion things, including author pages on Amazon, Goodreads, and Facebook, and social media contacts though Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, Google+, and Pinterest. I have a WordPress website and blog that I try to keep updated. When something new happens, such as a book award, review, or new release, I publicize this on my media platforms. I follow the advice “75% social interaction and 25% book marketing” to keep contacts engaged.

I participate in local and online book fairs about twice per year, and do bookstore author events when I have a new release; for this I send out press releases to local print and online media. Currently I’m focusing on bookstore events, guest blogs, and articles. I’ve offered giveaways through Goodreads, and plan to do one on Amazon soon. The least productive marketing effort for me is paid advertising on websites; the most productive is getting a featured book on BookBub. Having about 30 good reviews is important for this.

Getting and dealing with Book Reviews and Awards.  Common wisdom holds that book reviews are really important; you need about 30-60 reviews; after that it doesn’t matter so much. Recently one marketer said reviews alone won’t do it; you need to have a presence in many venues. To get reviews, first get friends and family to write reviews—the caveat being that if Amazon discovers you have such connections, they pull the review. Email your list of people with interest in your topic and genre to announce book releases and request reviews, and inform them of book giveaways and bargains.

There are reviewer website lists, you can find top reviewers on Amazon or Goodreads, you can join Goodreads groups that offer reviews. A good strategy, one that has worked well for me, is to submit to editorial reviews, paid and unpaid. Some are Writer’s Digest, Midwest Book Review, City Book Review (Seattle, San Francisco, New York), Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus Reviews.

Book awards get you more mileage than reviews; these seem to impress readers and you can put the logos on your book cover. Here are some sources for awards: Writer’s Digest, IPPY Award, Foreword Magazine Award, National Indie Excellence Award, Book Festivals (multiple cities), Global Ebook Awards, Kindle Awards, Best Indie Book Awards, Pacific Book Awards.

Two of my books won awards, and I use the award logo for promotion.

Getting a critical or negative review is painful for any writer. We all need to realize that some people will not like our books, either for writing style or plot/topic. If I get a critical review that is well-reasoned, and shows they actually read my book, I take notice and try to learn so I can improve. If it’s a 1-2 line review saying “this book is not for me” or “couldn’t get past the second page” or “this book sucks” then I disregard it. These are not reviews (read guidelines for what a review really is); they are simply off-the-top opinions. Many authors are perplexed about why Amazon will allow such “reviews” to appear, but pull off a reasonable one by a contact of ours. Je ne sais pas Amazon!

Who are your favorite authors and books?  Why?  Mary Renault:  The Bull From the Sea, The King Must Die, The Last of the Wine

Marion Zimmer-Bradley:  The Mists of Avalon

Samuel Shellabarger:  Prince of Foxes

Anita Diamant:  The Red Tent

Margaret Mitchell:  Gone With the Wind

Anya Seton:  Katherine

Wim Coleman & Pat Perrin:  Mayan Interface

Michael Creighton:  Jurassic Park, Timeline

Cheryl Fluty:  The Lost Queen: Ankhsenamun, Widow of King Tutankhamun

Elizabeth Peters:  Amelia Peabody series

Henryk Sienkiewicz:  Quo Vadis?

Edward Bulwer-Lytton:  The Last Days of Pompeii

There are many more books and authors I’ve read and loved. The ones in my list stand out because they captured some essence of the time period, characters, and action that made a deep impression. These books were very well-written, the narrative and plot captured and held attention, and they had depth that provided an experience of the time and culture.

What books are you currently reading or just finished?  Recently I finished The Paris Wife by Paula McLain and The Woman on the Orient Express by Lindsay Jayne Ashford. Both were excellent reads about historic women in a fictionalized story, and captured the time periods faithfully. I was transported to Paris of the 1920s in the rare company of Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and Scott Fitzgerald. It gave insight into Hemingway’s persona from the viewpoint of his first wife, Hadley, through their exuberant, boozy, and tragic years in Paris. The second is a story about Agatha Christie after the divorce that shattered her life. She takes the Orient Express as an escape from unhappy circumstances and sensational press attention, and meets two fascinating women as she journeys to Baghdad and visits a dig at Ur. Their lives intertwine in ways that change each one, and Agatha meets the second love of her life.

Currently I’m reading a time-slip romance series, Hearts Across Time (The Knights of Berwyck: A Quest Through Time Novel, Books 1 & 2) by Sherry Ewing.  I want to see how another author uses interaction between time periods. The book is enjoyable and I’m taken already by the main characters, as well as intrigued by the setting in 12th century England. Ewing’s use of time interfaces is quite different than mine, with actual transportation from present to the 12th century following a number of ghostly and dream encounters. I’m curious to see how it all ends, but then come the sequels.

What do your fans mean to you?  I love my fans! Recently I formed a “street team” to involve a small group of fans in my work in progress. Using a Facebook Group page, I invited 20 people to join and receive advance copy of my fourth Mayan queens book. They are acting as beta readers, and already have given feedback that changes the story. Their input is invaluable in editing what’s already written. They’ll be the first for the cover reveal, and will get a free copy of the finished book, with the expectation of a review. I’m finding this a fun and useful way to interact with fans.

Anything else to add?  I want to thank Mercedes Fox for providing this platform for authors to share with a wider audience. Through such networking, we can spread strands across the web of the reading/writing community, and give more people a chance to find our books. It’s been fun to answer the questions, and I so much appreciate the opportunity!

There ya have it folks! Many thanks Leonide for sharing with us! For more about Leonide, her work, and getting yourself a copy, follow the links below:

Website / Blog / Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn / Goodreads / Amazon / Google / Pinterest / BookTrailer

Meet Author Mehreen Ahmed

Hello! Welcome to Interview FoxSeat with guest author Mehreen Ahmed

Mehreen Ahmed has published with Cambridge University Press, Taylor and Francis, Routledge, Story Institute, Cosmic Teapot Publishing and other peer reviewed journals such as ISTE and Language Learning and Technology, and On-Call. Currently, she writes mostly introspective fiction in a stream of consciousness style. Mehreen has two MA degrees in English and Applied Linguistics from the University of Queensland, Australia and Dhaka University, Bangladesh. One of her short stories, The Anomalous Duo has been translated in German and waiting to be published in the anthology of “Familie (er)zählt: Selection of stories completed; Sammlung abgeschlossen. She has contributed to several anthologies and has written newspaper articles.

Book sample:  The Pacifist

Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis: In 1866, Peter Baxter’s misfortune ends the day he leaves Badgerys Creek orphanage. Unsure of what to do next, Peter finds himself on a farm run by Mr. Brown. An aging man, Brown needs help and is happy to give Peter a place to live in exchange for his labor. Unbeknownst to Peter, Brown’s past is riddled with dark secrets tied to the same orphanage, which he has documented in a red folder.

During a chance encounter, Peter meets Rose. Peter cannot help but fall in love with her beauty, grace, and wit; however, he fears that his affection will go unrequited as a result of his crippling poverty. But fate changes when Peter joins the search for gold in Hill End, New South Wales. Striking it rich, he returns to Rose a wealthy man. Peter is changed by his new found affluence, heading towards the mire of greed. Will Rose regret her relationship with Peter?
Meanwhile, Rose has her own troubled history. One that is deeply entwined with Brown’s past and Peter’s future.

Sample: At first, Rose was disoriented. She looked around. Her silent whisperers had stopped talking. Sitting up on the bed, she realized that she was in a room with a closed door.  Fear crept into her mind. She looked around, realizing that she sat on a bed covered with frayed sheets and a torn, stained pillow. A lump rose up to her throat.

“Mummy, mummy,” Rose broke down into uncontrollable tears. Before more than a few minutes passed, the door opened. A shadow appeared on its dark threshold. It began to walk towards her. She gawked at the figure through tear-stained eyes. Her lips parted. She gripped the bed cloths until her little fingers ached.

“Come with me, child,” commanded a male voice.

“I … I want my mummy,” she hiccupped.

“There is no mummy here. Mummies aren’t allowed.”

“Where is my mummy?”

“She’s dead, I’m afraid.”

“Dead? What’re you saying?”

“I say the truth. The faster you settle down here, the better. You’ll make it easier for everyone. Now come along.”

The male figure extended an arm towards Rose, asking her to hold it. In the dark, Rose slipped her tiny palm, losing it, into his large one. She wanted to trust him but could not stop sobbing. This sudden news of her mother’s death broke her heart, irreparably. She wanted to break loose, to run as fast as she could. But her hand, now in the clutches of this man, no matter how much she squirmed, could not get out. Nor would her tears stop.

“Did … I … kill … her?” she hiccupped.

“What on earth are you saying?”

“Those voices never gave me any peace.”

“Voices?”

“Yes.”

“Let’s talk about them in my office tomorrow.”

“Okay.”

“You didn’t kill anyone, dear. Make a note of that, okay?”

“Okay.

Her tears abated. She picked up a corner of her dress and wiped her nose with it, the fluids slowly drenched in the seam. They continued to walk through the hall. In the dim light, imparted by lanterns set along the corridor, she could only see their shadows. They walked until they appeared in front of an ornate antique door. It had a big ring hanging outside. The man took out a key. He turned it into the keyhole then pushed the thick door. It creaked around the hinges as it opened. Rose peeked inside, standing in the shadow of the man, looking around in awe. It was a long dormitory with at least five single beds hemmed together. Each bed was covered with a thin blanket and a lumpy pillow. There were small girls, about her age, sitting or lying on their beds. When they saw her, they straightened up, sitting erect on the edge of each bed.

“This is where you’ll sleep every night,” he said.

Why do you write?  To document my views of the world. I find writing a refreshing medium of ultimate expression of views. I enjoy exploring philosophies and messages but not in a didactic kind of a way. I appreciate the way that entertainment can enlighten the mind while keeping things interesting.

When did you decide to become a writer? In 1986, while I was in Canada and had seen snow for the first time. I was so thrilled to see the first flakes of snow that I sat down and wrote my first introspective piece, A Winter’s Tale. It was published in the Sheaf, the campus newspaper of the University of Saskatchewan.

How long does it usually take you to complete a book?  The Pacifist took eight years. The collected short stories also took about seven years. However my novella took about year. There really isn’t a usual amount of time for me.  It takes however long it takes.

What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?  My empathy for the most vulnerable in our society encourages me to write. I feel I have a message to share with the world, a contribution to make, so the world becomes a better place to live.

Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?  I usually write when I have a thought. Otherwise, I’d just be staring at the screen. If a thought comes to me, I usually pen it down almost straight away. If I get an idea in a dream, then I would jot it down in the morning. I have many dream-like scenes in all my books. A lot of these ideas were conceived in my own dreams.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?  I developed my insight from reading and observing life. My creativity started here and evolved through maturity. Most of my early writing is primarily descriptive passages about nature.  When I found a love for stream of consciousness, I started incorporating that.

What have you written?  Mainly literary fiction. But I’ve also written nonfiction, academic articles and reviews which have been published in peer reviewed journals. Most notably I have written Jacaranda Blues, Snapshots, and Moirae. My newest novel is The Pacifist.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just seeing where an idea takes you?  I prefer to float with my ideas. I give it enough space to flourish and evolve with time.

Do you design your own book covers or have someone else? If you use someone else would you tell us who/website?  The last couple of covers have come from Cosmic Teapot Publishing. I know that the artwork for Moirae was done by a Spanish artist, Maria del Mar Garcia Sanchez. Dylan Callens designed the cover for The Pacifist.

Is there any marketing techniques you used that had an immediate impact on your sales figures?  The most immediate results come from promotional newsletters, like Fussy Librarian. I don’t think that using those are the best long-term strategy, but it’s nice to see a bump in sales from those services.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?  If you have the passion to write, don’t procrastinate. Procrastination will lead you nowhere. Try to read and write as much as you can.

Give us an insight into your main character. What does he do that is so special?  Peter Baxter starts as a poor orphan. Once he leaves the orphanage, he becomes determined to be one of the richest men in town. He does that through sheer determination and passion. But his blind ambition leads him towards greed and the consequences are quite unsavory.

Where do your ideas come from?  From life, generally. I’m interested in people’s thoughts and I like to represent some of the things I hear in my characters.

What is the hardest thing about writing?  The writing process, generally, is not easy. Language, development of ideas, characterization. All of it is difficult. I think the most difficult thing, overall, is sorting through my first drafts. Since I don’t do too much planning at the start of a project, the first draft can get messy.

What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?  To make it historically accurate. I had to do a lot of really heavy research to make it authentic.

What is your favorite movie or TV show?  I really loved Jane Eyre. I watched it 15 times.

Which writers inspire you?  James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. In particular, I love their stream of consciousness style.

You mentioned you’re writing a new story. How about a teaser?  At dusk, she sat at her desk in the bedroom and tried to write the letter. Faint sounds distracted her; a door came unhinged, squeaks in the stairs. Rose picked up the candle and came out of her bedroom, onto the landing. She peered through the darkness but saw nothing. With the candle, she mustered the courage to descend the stairs. She walked through the long hall. At the end of it, she saw a shadow. Rose stopped and stood, trying to see.

Who is your favorite character in your book and why?  Peter Baxter because he is adventurous and ambitious. He starts poor and strikes it rich. He’s tragically flawed and complex.  I think he’s the most complete character that I’ve written into a book.

Who is your least favorite character and why? Phil Rosario because he is abusive. He is a pedophile who takes advantage of the children in the orphanage. I shudder just thinking about him.

Do you have any formal education in creative writing? If not are you planning to go to school?  I have two MA degrees: English Literature and Applied Linguistics. Maybe those aren’t traditionally creative writing courses, but there is an element of creativity to both of them.

If your book were made into a movie, whom would you cast? This is a hard one. I think as Mr. Brown, the old farmer, Patrick Stuart would be a good choice.  As Peter Baxter, perhaps Hugh Jackman. And as Rose, I think Brie Larson would do justice.

Who is your favorite fictional character and why?  There are so many to choose from!  That’s not a fair question. But since you’ve put me on the spot, I’m going to say Julia from 1984.  She’s such an understated character in the book – but incredibly powerful, nonetheless. She represents a kind of freedom that most people crave.

What one person from history would you like to meet and why? Shakespeare. Because he was such a great dramatist. Reading Shakespeare is like holding up a mirror.

If there was one thing you could do to change the world, what would it be?  Eradicate poverty once and for all.

Who inspires your writing? I don’t think that particular people inspire me.  Rather, nature inspires me. And a desire to tell stories about society’s most vulnerable drives me forward as well.

Do you or have you sat down and read your book fresh off the presses as if it wasn’t yours? And if you did, what was it like? I never read my own published books. Once they’re done, they’re done. Maybe in a few years from now, when I forget bits and pieces, I might open them up for a tour down memory lane.

If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?  I suppose I wish I had written Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. I adore her stream of consciousness style.

What is one great lesson you have learned as a writer?  That writing is the ultimate expression of the writer’s views of the world.

What are some of your favorite books and why?  Typically, I like stream of consciousness classics like Joyce’s Ulysses and Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. But there is a lot of new philosophical fiction, like Operation Cosmic Teapot which has caught my imagination.

What do you think of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing?  There are advantages to both. I think that large traditional publishers might be in a bit of trouble down the road because small publishing houses can now find ways to compete. Self-publishers can do the same. I think it’s great that there is a level playing field for all writers.

Are you currently reading a book or just finished one? Yes. I am currently reading Tender is the Night by Fitzgerald.

What do your readers mean to you?  The world. They are everything to me. I rely entirely on their feedback and critical appreciation.

Is there a book you love you’d like to recommend to others?  Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. It presents the character’s mind very well and is written in a beautiful stream of consciousness technique.

Tell us something unique about you.  I’m an ordinary person with extraordinary aspirations who thinks she can change the world through the power of the mighty pen.

There ya have it folks! For more about Mehreen, her work, and to get your copy, follow the links below:

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Linkedin / Goodreads / Pinterest / Amazon / Smashwords / Google

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