John Fie, Alex Cord and Myself: The REAL Outlaws of the Western Writing World

This interview is a special one. It’s with me, John D. Fie and the very talented Alex Cord! You will learn all about our books, our writing styles and the way we make the magic happen. I think you’ll enjoy this time with us!

John D. Fie, Jr.

One of the most successful Western authors of his generation. His hits include the multi-million selling “Blood on the Plains,” “Luke Pressor: U.S. Marshal,” and “Incident at Benson’s Creek.”

Cliff Roberts

A multimillion book selling powerhouse who has turned out hit, after hit, after hit. His latest is called “Draw!” His other million sellers include “Reprisal: The Eagle Rises,” “Reprisal: The Gauntlet,” “Connor Slate: Bounty Hunter,” “Ambushed” and many others.

Alex Cord

The legendary actor and star of TV’s “Airwolf,” who has scored award-winning hit novels like “A Feather in the Rain.” His latest novel is called “High Moon at Hacienda del Diablo.” “A Feather in the Rain” is currently being considered as a movie.

Welcome to this interview Alex, John and Cliff. How are you all today?

Alex: Feeling pretty good—thank you for having me.

John: Great to be with you.

Cliff: Greetings!

Cliff, let me start with you. You seem eager to start. Are you ever surprised by how many Western readers there are in the world?

Yes, I was surprised at the number of people who currently read Westerns. At first, I thought it was one of the niche genres and that Westerns had pretty much faded into history. I was wrong.

The Western readers are great, friendly and loyal to a fault. I greatly appreciate their patronage. Thank you for reading my work, and I’ll endeavor to make each new book better than the one before.

John, I think this is a good question for you. With your novels constant favorites, perhaps you can explain to us why Westerns are still so popular?

As surprised as people are at the success of Westerns, I’m really not. I’ve always enjoyed the West, and I know many others have, too. I think there’s a lot of hype when it comes to romance, erotica and horror—but the Western fan base is just as busy buying the books they want.

I guess you can identify with that, Alex. As someone who has been writing and making Western movies—let me ask you this one: Do you prefer writing (and acting) the heroes or the villain characters?

I prefer to write about human beings and discover who and what they are. There are elements of heroes and villains in all of us. Shakespeare wrote entire plays about one element of humanity. Evil: Richard III; jealousy: Othello; heroism: Henry V. I like to delve into the depths of an individual and see what I can find.
Interesting—but it’s the title that sometimes draws the reader in before they’ve even discovered the writer. John—let me ask you this: How did you come up with the title of your “Blood on the Plains” novel?

Well, I was looking at a photo of the Kansas Plains and thought about how it must have been back then, with the first wagon trains crossing the plains and facing a vast nothingness in all directions. Then, the thought of Indian attacks and the blood that must have been spilled making that crossing. As I looked over more photos, the story was forming in my mind. I then came up with the title Blood on the Plains.

Did you have a different experience with “Luke Pressor: U.S. Marshal?”

Luke Pressor, U.S. Marshal is a story in itself. I was asked to publish a short story by Outlaws Publishing. I looked through the short stories I had written over the years, and I just couldn’t make up my mind. Then I thought, why not combine a story or two?

From the outset, it became a challenge. Luke Pressor became the hero of the story. This is how it became Luke Pressor, U.S. Marshal.

It’s interesting how things develop. Cliff—let me ask you this: Do you think part of the appeal of Westerns comes from the fact that they mirror the American way of life?

I think Westerns are the basis of the American way of life. The good guy is always honest, sometimes to a fault; and he believes in fair play, family and doing an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. In the Westerns, good triumphs over evil without exception.

And Alex—which Westerns do you think have really affected your life?

Red River, Lonesome Dove, Monte Walsh, The Westerner, Stagecoach, My Darlin’ Clementine, The Wild Bunch, One-Eyed Jacks. I list them not in order of preference. They are all fine films that I have seen more than once, some more than three or four or five times. Any of John Ford’s films. John Wayne, Ben Johnson, the great Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan, Slim Pickens, Marlon Brando, Karl Malden. These are the finest of the fine.

John—I suppose part of the appeal of the Western comes from the covers chosen by authors and publishers to illustrate the book. What has your experience been like with covers?

Blood on the Plains, at first, had a very bland looking cover. I had a contract with a different publisher at the time. The book wasn’t moving. Outlaws Publishing took a look at the book and the cover. It wasn’t until I signed with Outlaws Publishing that the book was pulled from the market. The book was re-designed, and I immediately saw the difference. The book, with the new cover design, just jumped at you. I knew right then I had made a good decision going with Outlaws. They specialize in the Western genre. Luke Pressor, U.S. Marshal also had two different book covers. Several covers were designed, and we put our heads together and again came up with a colorful book cover with eye appeal.

I think you have some of the best covers around, John. Cliff—you signed a contract with Outlaws Publishing after being both traditionally published and self-published. Do you think a larger publisher is important? Is it a step towards success to garner a large publisher’s interest?

I think it is important to have a good publisher, no matter in which genre you write. I’ve had several publishers who failed big time at actually helping me or being part of my team for success. The larger, well established publishers seem to be out for the almighty dollar and that alone. Your success as a writer doesn’t matter to them, other than they get more money. If you’re asking who I’d consider publishing my Western novels, I’d say use Outlaws Publishing. That’s who I use. They will treat you right, and they really want you to be a success and place their success secondary to yours. Outlaws has several divisions, so they can help you publish in almost any genre. If you’re looking for a publisher, send your manuscript to Outlaws and see if they can help you. Oh, yeah, they don’t charge you to up front to publish your book and are extremely fair on royalty splits.

John—what do you do differently to other authors when writing a Western?

I like to use small, quick one-liners in my stories to add a little comedy. Also to have a few characters who are somehow different from the others.

I think that’s an important part of being human, John. It’s a shame more writers can’t attempt to inject human characteristics into their books. Alex, let me ask you a similar question. What real life inspiration do you draw from people you know when writing your books?

My life is filled with experiences with all kinds of people. A rich bank from which to draw truth. Most of my characters are either based on people I know or have elements of them. I have made a practice of acquiring characters throughout my life and studying them. A creative artist, writer, actor, painter, dancer, musician, must be intensely curious, perceptive and interested.

Cliff would you agree with Alex? And would you go back to the West if you could?

I would agree with Alex. And no, I don’t think so. Whereas part of the Old West seems romantic and peaceful, it was a very dangerous place. Knowing me as I do, I’d probably end up having to learn to be a gunfighter and fast because I don’t take injustice well. I’d be out there trying to stop the lawlessness and probably get shot dead. Maybe I’d even become a historical figure if I did. The quickest lawman to get killed.

John—what would your one piece of advice be for a young author?

For new writers, make sure you get an editor. You can’t edit the book enough. When you’re ready to publish, look around and choose wisely, then stand by for the reviews.

I think that’s great advice. Alex, did you learn anything from writing your latest Western?

I did. That writing is fun, challenging and bloody hard work. Many people say they would like to write a book, and I believe that everyone has a book in them. Getting it out from within and onto blank pages is another matter. It requires huge belief and relentless commitment.

What a learning process. Cliff, what do you think is the key to success?

Good writing, good promotion and making sure you surround yourself with those who will help you, rather than hinder you. A good publisher, publicist, and editor will make you as an author. A poor publisher, publicist, or editor will break you. I need say no more. Invest in yourself, your product and hire a good publicist.

And John—what does it feel like to be one of the top authors in the business?

It feels pretty good. It’s good to know that somebody is enjoying your story.

Check out the latest books from these three great authors.

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An Interview with Author Don Massenzio

I’m pleased to share this interview on my site for all of you to read. I have enjoyed the writing of Don Massenzio and I think you will too. This is timeless writing…

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Quickly, give us the title and genre of your book and a short tagline:

Let Me Be Frank: A Frank Rozzani Detective Story – A tragedy changes the life of one of Frank’s closest friends.

Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?

Anywhere from young adults to seniors. It is an engaging mystery without a preponderance of violence, sex or profanity.

How did you come up with the title of your book or series?

It is based on the first name of the main character.

Tell us a little bit about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image/artwork?

I have a cover artist in Pakistan that I use quite frequently. He is very good at devising an image based on a synopsis of the book.

Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

I would say Clifford Jones or “Jonesy.” He is a bit of a smartass and the ultimate sidekick with great skills.

How about your least favorite character? What makes them less appealing to you?

There is no one character, but the collective scum that Frank and Jonesy must deal with to solve their case would be my least favorite.

If you could change ONE thing about your novel, what would it be? Why?

Really, nothing comes to mind.

Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book or series:

It was reviewed by an ex-New Orleans police officer who felt that the scenes in New Orleans were quite accurate.

What other books are similar to your own? What makes them alike?

Some Elmore Leonard and John D. MacDonald books.

Do you have any unique talents or hobbies?

I am a musician, and I write and arrange music.

How can we contact you or find out more about your books?

Through my website: http://www.donmassenzio.com

What can we expect from you in the future?

Another book in the Frank Rozzani series as well as a book of short stories and a non-fiction book that will consist of tips for self-published writers.

What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?

Reviews are always helpful along with spreading the word to friends and family.

Do you have any tips for readers or advice for other writers trying to get published?

Keep at it. Write every day. Don’t get discouraged, and don’t be put off by the stigma of self-publishing, but be sure to hire a competent editor and use beta readers.

And now, before you go, how about a snippet from your book that is meant to intrigue and tantalize us:

Frank and Jonesy got back into the rented BMW. They simultaneously worked to loosen their ties and unbutton their top shirt buttons.
“I could never get used to wearing a tie. I wonder why men still wear these torture devices. All they do is cut off the blood supply to your brain,” Jonesy said.
“I haven’t worn one in a while, and I don’t miss it.”

They rode in silence for a couple of minutes. Finally, Jonesy spoke.

“That was an interesting turn of events. We went in expecting Al Capone, and we found two businessmen who’ve probably never held a gun. What is going on here?”
“I don’t think that all of the members of the Indigeaux family are being honest with us. It looks like the only thing approaching extortion was the use of some aggressive business dinners and sales presentations. I’d like to take a look at Jack Indigeaux’s involvement here, but we have to tread lightly. I want him to think we are still on his side.”

As they stopped by the Devil’s Dew and got out of the BMW, a white van sped up and pulled opposite the car. As if by instinct, Frank dove behind the car and pulled Jonesy down with him. They were unarmed. Shots from at least two guns rang out from the van and hit the side of the BMW and the front of the building.

Guy Monreaux emerged from the bar with a shotgun and opened up on the van. He hit the side of the van and knocked off one of the rearview mirrors. He ducked behind the BMW with Frank and Jonesy.
“What the hell did you guys do to the Doucets?” Guy yelled.
“We didn’t do anything. We told them the truth,” Frank answered.
“Well, obviously they didn’t like the truth since they sent someone here to kill you guys.”
“I don’t think they’re trying to kill us. They intentionally shot the car and the front of the building. They could have hit us easily. We aren’t armed.”

After about ten seconds, the van sped away. Frank checked himself, Guy, and Jonesy, and none of them were hit. He ran into the bar to call 911. As he walked in, he saw the daytime bartender lying on the floor with a pool of blood expanding around him. He had been shot in the neck. One of the busboys was already on the phone calling for an ambulance. Frank found a weak pulse, so he grabbed a bar rag and applied pressure to the wound. It didn’t look good for the bartender. The way the blood was pumping, the bullet must have hit a major artery.

You can learn more about Don Massenzio by visiting his Amazon Author page here.

Author W.M. Montague Brings Fun To The Writing World

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#1, How do I come up with ideas ?

I guess the best way to answer that would be to first describe what I mean. I really can’t explain it other than what I call, “personal imaginings”. I “imagine” myself in the main characters persona(?), and try to identify with his personality. Then I “imagine”, if placed in any given situation (given the character and story content) and given the opportunity to “handle” said situation, what I be most likely to do, how, and why. Is it relevant? Will it advance the story? Does it fit, can it fit, will it fit some where or some time later? Hard to explain.

#2, How did I get interested in writing this particular “genre” ?

Okay, first off, I’m not even sure I know what a “genre” is, except for a snobbish way of say “a category type of writing”. Second, I really have no idea what you would “classify”

“Mr. Bonner and the Amazing Adventures of Poseidon’s Charge” as. Adventure? yes, there’s adventure in the north seas to be had. Action? Again, yes. there is some intense action. Romance? Oh yes, quite steamy I might add. Mystery? Indeed, I’d tell you if I could, but I have sworn secrecy to the Cap’n.

2b, My take on what someone in my “category needs to know?

Good question. It is; Don’t be afraid. Be nervous, apprehensive, concerned, sad, optimistic, bummed, excited, stoked, scared even. You WILL experience those emotions in due time. But never be afraid.

#3, What kind of research, and where did I begin…hmmm

When I finally decided the who, what, when, where, and why, I began at the library. There, and the internet.

#4, What is a typical writing day for me, when and where do I write, and last, do I set goals.

I really have no “typical writing day”, nor do I have much of a time schedule with it. I sit at my desk some days and just stare at the monitor, blank. Other days, I’m lucky to keep up with flow of creativity and will end up twenty hours later.

#4c, Goals?

I try to only make goals I think are reasonable. Set your goals to low, one might get bored with it. Set them too high, recipe for failure, disappointment, and discouragement to set in, dooming ones inner self to consider giving up.

#5 What is the hardest part of writing? How do I get past the difficulties involved.

Me, typing. I suck at it, flunked typing class. No wait, was “suggested” I withdrew, before I flunked the year. hahaha.

Take my time and use the oldest method known to humans. “The HUNT AND PECK” system. Why do you think it took better than a year for me to write “Mr. Bonner and the Amazing Adventures of Poseidon’s Charge” ? (he laughs)

#6, What is the “BEST” thing about being an author?

Expression. One can express their thoughts real or imagined into a tangible thing. Much like art, only art of the written and spoken word.

#7, The “WORST” part?

The mechanics of publishing. The process of turning manuscript into a sell-able physical book .

#8, Do writers get better with practice, or is it a talent from day one?

If I were to say the latter, I might only be saying a partial truth. True there probably many who have a “natural gift” for the pen, but there are so many more one has seen climb through the ranks, and not always due to popularity, but for the time, effort, work, and endless hours “practicing” their “craft”. So yes, I do believe a writer gets better with “practice”. So long as he is willing to learn.

#9, Any favorite authors or books?

I was first introduced to the works of Mr. Earl Stanley Gardner, in his “Perry Mason” series when I was eight. Later Sir Arthur Conan Doyle mesmerized me. Then Mr. Asimov took my imagination to new places. He and others had hooked me. I even dreamed of one day actually writing a book, but life got in the way.

#10, Grammar or content, which should take precedence ?

Actually? It all depends on what you are writing. Obviously if you are preparing a contract, report, proposal, tech. legal, medical papers, or anything that needs to be absolutely clear, grammar is the biggest player. However, content may “over rule” in certain cases where it is necessary for it to do so.

#11, Did I spend much time refreshing my knowledge and writing rules?

No.

#12, Reviews?

Reviews and those who write them, can vary greatly. They are one persons take on what they’ve read or seen, or eaten, etc., subjective at best. You’ve seen it for your self. Critics pan a film as the worst they’ve had to endure, only to see that movie become a blockbuster hit. To me, reviews are a way to get feedback on my work. Give me an idea of what might or might not work for the next project.

#13, Cover or Story more important?

It is true that presentation is 50% of a sale, but if there’s no meat in the sandwich, I don’t care how pretty the package is, once it’s found out, then the sale of those prettily packaged “meatless” sandwiches will no longer sell. So, to answer your question. The cover is key to GETTING their attention, the story is key to KEEPING their attention.

#14, Is harder to write a second book than the first?

To be honest, “Mr Bonner and the Amazing Adventures of Poseidon’s Charge” is my first literary offering, so I don’t really know about that. However, I would think, in some aspects it might be easier simply due to the fact that one has the already done one, but if it is like a sequel or a continuation of another piece, then there could be issues.

#15, Can a book be more than one “genre”?

I don’t really see any distinct black and white lines separating them. To me stories are like paint on a palate an artist uses. Sure you have each of your specific colors separate to begin with, but as the masterpiece unfolds, the colors become mixed and mulled together, with hues and shades of each. Same so with stories. So yes I believe a book can be multiple “genre”.

#16, Are “intelligent reads” better reads?

Now that all depends on your interpretation of “intelligent reads”, and the what and why of the reader. Are they reading something that demands “intelligent thought”? Why? Are they preparing a presentation of facts? Or, Is the reader reading for recreation. Again subjective.

#17, Dialogue?

When writing dialogue, I try to keep in mind the who, where, when and what of it. The who, is the character from a particular ethnic background? The where, where are they, location. The when, what time period. The what, What is the situation that character is in?

#18, Characters based on me?

I think all writers tend to (even unconsciously) put a bit of themselves into some of their characters. It seems to help make the character more believable.

#19, How do I know if something is right for the book, and do I rewrite until I get the perfect mix?

A writer goes through a lot of thought processes when constructing a story. When something clicks for it you just know. And yes, I rewrite a lot. One has to make sure the idea flows in and with the story.

#20, How does it feel to hold a finished manuscript in my hand?

The final print to manuscript of “Mr Bonner and the Amazing Adventures of Poseidon’s Charge” was like giving birth. full of anxiety, then relief. What a rush to hold something that on the outset was just a thought, but now is a real and tangible item, something you put forth the efforts and thus reap the fruits of that labor.

I would like to take this time to thank you for inviting me here to showcase my debut of my literary offering of, “Mr. Bonner and the Amazing Adventures of Poseidon’s Charge”. It has been a real pleasure.

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Get your Copy Today!

The Fascinating World of Author Susannah Cord

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Who do you have in mind when you write?

This is going to sound really corny, but I don’t really have anyone in mind unless of course I am describing a certain person, but even then, what I really have in mind is not a who but a what – a feeling, a reaching inside for the right words to describe the truth of how a person or thing or situation makes me feel. A desire to tell this in a way that will reach out and grab someone in a beneficial manner. I have said before that I write from the heart first and foremost, and this applies to everything. I write from how something or someone makes me feel, and I want to pass that on as best I can.

Have you always aspired to be a writer?

Not with any real intention, no. I was a prolific dabbler in writing for most of my life. But it was something I did because it helped me, made me feel better, find clarity when I was hurting and confused, and because whatever was bottled up inside came out and became a creative rather than a destructive exercise.

Tell me about how you became a writer—what was the first step for you?

It was a very slow process. It started when I was four and tried to copy my mother’s grocery list which looked like an orderly line of intriguing hieroglyphics. My earnest attempt to reproduce that effect looked like worms tripping on LSD in a puddle of milk, so it was disappointing to say the least, not to mention frustrating, but, to my credit, I persevered.

In time, the worms metamorphosed into words and the words carried meaning and my repertoire expanded as it came to include a lot of essays, poetry and prose, lyrics to songs no one would ever sing, a column for an equestrian magazine, a blog and ultimately, my first book, a fairytale I wrote for my niece Zoe and published to honour the memory of my mother. When I first held that real book in my hands, that was the moment I felt that desire to do more, the moment I thought “Wait a minute. I can do this. I WANT to do this. I have a lot more to say and write.” Then the safari to Kenya came along and the rest, as they say, will one day be history…

Do you have a distinctive “voice” as a writer?

Of course, I like to think I do, and this is where I get to say that several editors have told me I do, but ultimately, like beauty, I think that will be in the mind of the reader. One musician told me once that I phrase musically, and I don’t even know what that means, but apparently he thought it was pretty cool, so there you go. That’s my answer- but of course, I phrase musically, don’t you know?

Do you think anyone can learn to be an effective writer or is it an unnamed spiritual gift?

What an interesting question. It immediately makes me think of horses and riders. Because in the equestrian world we talk about people that are gifted with ‘feel’ and how it simply cannot be taught. You can teach technique, you can teach someone how to ride and how to master exercises and how to be an effective and capable rider, but you cannot teach them how to feel, how to intuit just the right thing to do in that split second moment of decision. You can teach them an approximation of that feel, but to actually have feel, no. You just can’t. And that is what separates a great rider from a good one.

Some will say you can teach it using technology, but I say you can’t – because feel comes from the inside, from spirit. Feel is an intuiting of the information carried in pure energy and we and the horse read this with a sixth sense that you will not find in machines. You are riding the horse and you are both riding a wave of energy between you. I was gifted with a lot of this ‘feel’ as a rider and I cannot tell someone how I knew to do just that in that moment, I did it because it felt right, not because that was a technique I learned. More often than not, I am not even sure what I did, it might have been as simple as relaxing one body part while tensing another, sending the horse a subtle message only he felt and understood. And it might not work tomorrow but then my ‘feel’ will tell me what to do then.

So I would think the same applies to writing. You can teach good grammar, techniques, rules etc etc and just like riding horses, these are necessary. You have to know the rules in order to break them well, and you have to have good technique to bend them. But knowing just how to build a sentence for maximum effect and beauty, how to bend the rules just so in order to sway the sentence with a touch of magic – that is something that comes from the heart and spirit, woven independently of and yet within the confines of rules and technique. And either you access that or you don’t.

Was there a point at which you felt this would be a career?

Yes and no. First it was just a slow awakening to the idea that this was something I could do and do full time and be effective – that yes, I did have a voice. It had me thinking. Then I had an offer out of the blue to write a book for one of the world’s premier equestrian publishers with one of our most interesting, out of the box, horsemen and that was the moment I realized this could be for real.

Ultimately, I had to put that project on the back burner because the riding safari project came along, but it’s still there in the back of my mind, and it was the trigger that made me consider taking myself seriously as a writer.

Is there a book you’re most proud of?

Not yet. I am on my third book and so far all three have been so different – Fenella is an illustrated fairytale, Seeds of Change is a book of essays and photography and my new book, Each Wind That Blows is a memoir – so I am proud of each, each in their own way. They all challenged me in different ways, taught me different things.

Writing is so internal, in the head, how do you release the pressure before you begin writing?

Exercise, yoga and meditation. Either my morning workout and/or working with my horses which can be like a meditation in movement. I attend yoga classes twice a week and practice at home along with rebounding and using a ski machine. It clears my mind and grounds me for the task ahead. Being with the horses is being in Nature and it connects me with that indefinable sense of spirit that I always try to write from. I often say a little prayer before I write, asking for guidance to find the right words and to be guided to the stories that need to be written.

On average, how long does it take for you to write your ideas down before you start writing a book?

A few seconds and minutes here and there, mostly it is all in my head and in the mental fog, waiting to be revealed. So far my writing, except Fenella, has been heavily based upon personal experience so mostly I just open that vault and go. If – and it is a dream of mine – I one day attempt to write a full blown fiction or fantasy saga, then I am sure that will change and some serious planning will have to go into it as well as my usual ‘go with the flow’ rule.

What would you say is the “defining” factor in your writing? What makes it yours?

For now, I would say the fact that it is drawn from personal experience to a great degree. But also that I simultaneously consciously invite Spirit in to form my words and tell the story in the best possible way, that will mean something to the reader. It isn’t just about me needing to figure this out on paper, or wanting to share my experiences, thoughts and ideas, it is about what is my experience worth to someone else. I don’t know that, only Spirit has the big picture and I consciously turn it over and surrender my ideas to Spirit, God, Source, call it what you will. And I am often very, very surprised at what comes out.

How do you guard your time to do what’s most important?

I am absolutely terrible at that. If you know how to do that, do let me know. I get so caught up in what I am doing, be it horses, writing or photography that I lose track of time and I have a hell of time switching gears once I get comfortable in one. It is one of the great challenges of my day to day life to balance these many passions of mine. So basically, it’s an exercise in self-discipline that I have yet to master.

What are some of the more common distractions you struggle with and what ways have you found to overcome them?

I don’t have many real distractions because they are all my passions and they fill up my day but there is one that qualifies as outright distraction although it’s also part of where I keep up with conservation efforts worldwide as part of my project, The Katika Nuru Project. It’s embarrassing, but Facebook can be a major distraction. I have liked so many Nature pages, photographers, conservation organizations and so on, and this is mostly what shows up in my feed so it’s great for keeping up with what’s happening. But if I am not careful, an hour goes by with me watching what they caught on camera and the latest, cutest elephant video or rare snow leopard footage or I am signing petitions for conservation and animals all over the world….

What kind of review do you take to heart?

A good one! I try to take any review, the good and the bad, with a grain of salt. Every review will still be through the filter of that human being’s perspective and he/she and I may not be on the same page never mind the same planet at all. If something still sticks with me after a few days, I will take that to heart as a sign of a grain of truth to be considered, something I maybe kind of knew but wasn’t ready to face on my own. Even a compliment can be hard to accept, that is how twisted the human mind can be.

How do you decide what your next book will be about?

I don’t. I am told by my manager upstairs and when I understand those are the marching orders, I go where I’m led. Of course, I make some kind of decision to comply with this and that is when I get that feeling that no matter now frightening the concept is to me, how vulnerable it might make me feel, how overwhelming or not what I thought I’d be doing, I can’t not do it. That is when I decide to do as I am told, so to speak, that is when I say yes, I will follow my nose, my heart.

Was there a link between your childhood and your vocation as a writer?

Only in so far as I have always enjoyed writing, from the time I could only make psychedelic worms appear on paper to the time I wrote my first story at six or seven. But our family was very science oriented, I come from a family of engineers so it was ‘nice’ that I wrote well, but it was never encouraged as a vocation. I was going to be an engineer, or a doctor or a vet or an archaeologist, but a writer was never on the menu. Well, now we know how that turned out.

As a writer, however, you have the opportunity to self-reflect, to revisit experiences. How does that feel?

Mostly, cathartic. Sometimes, disturbing, confusing, challenging. I have spent sleepless nights wondering what really happened, why did I do what I did, say what I said, what was really going on, what was the lesson. That is when I turn it over to Spirit and say, OK, show me, what the hell was that really all about? And Spirit always does. I start writing and understanding begins to dawn as the words pour out.

What motivates you to tackle the issues others may avoid, such as nature and spirituality?

Just an inner drive and conviction, that is my world, it is where I live and am the most content, it is what I am the best equipped to write about. Write what you know. Well, that is what I know. And it seems there is a corresponding need for readers to have that to read about. Fortunately!

When you start a new book do you know how a book will end as you’re writing it? Or does its direction unfold during the writing, research and/or creative process?

I usually think I know, and I am usually wrong. I am always happy to be wrong. It is very much an unfolding, creative process, as you say, and that to me is part of the fun of writing, not being entirely in control, it being a collaborative process between me and Spirit, because as I said before, Spirit sees the big picture where I get mired in details and can’t see the forest for the trees. So to say, OK, here is what I think I am inspired to write, and how I think I should write it, but what do you think? And then just let it flow and see where it goes, it is just a fantastic ride.

That has never been more true than with Each Wind That Blows. When I started that book, I had no idea it would be about so much more than a riding safari in Kenya. It’s been full of surprises. Several of my first test readers said it needs more about your childhood and mother, and I sat there going, oh shoot. That’s really personal and do I want to go there and where do I start? But I also kind of knew they were right. So before every writing session I’d ask “What do I tell?” and boom, it would pop into my head. It was rarely what I expected but I’d write it and lo and behold, it made beautiful sense in the end.

How do your books speak to people, both inside and outside the reading world?

I think, emphasis on think, because I don’t actually know, I think my writing speaks to people because I write from my place of truth, to be as authentic as I know how, and do my very best to remain absolutely true to that. What I often heard from my readers of my equestrian column was “Thank you for saying that. I always knew that, but didn’t know how to express it.” So me writing from my place of truth excites that truth in them, and off we go.

How do you see your role in impacting and influencing society?

Oh, this is a dangerous question, it invites all kinds of self-aggrandizement! Really, I guess history will tell. But! It’s very tempting to speculate, of course. If I were to be bold, I would say simply I am a messenger. I ask Spirit to help me write in a way that reaches people, and thereby I become a messenger. I don’t have to know what the message is for each individual person, because every person will have their own interpretation of my story and what it means to them, I only have to write in such a way that Spirit gets to speak through me and let’s a little magic loose on the world. If that were to be true in the rear view window of history, I would be very content.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you like to do?

There are many careers that could fascinate me. Archaeologist, marine biologist, conservationist, astronomer, nature photographer, host of a wildlife show, explorer, that kind of thing.

Do you look at yourself as an “envelope pusher” with your writing?

Not really. I just write what comes to me. It can be pushing some personal boundaries, in fact, it should be, but I don’t see myself as that on a larger scale. I wouldn’t mind if others thought that, though! It sounds kind of cool. I’ve never been cool before, that I know of.

What are some pieces of advice that you would give someone on writing well?

Oh, there are so many, but most of all, just start. Just freaking start writing. Like anything, it improves with practice. And don’t cuss. It looks bloody awful on paper and can’t frigging be erased once the crap’s been published.

Young writers often make foolish mistakes. What is a mistake to avoid?

Trying to be something you’re not, falling in love with a writer and trying to be like them. Trying to be Hemingway or Steinbeck or any number of famed authors. Read them, be inspired, be informed, be educated, soak it all up like a sponge and then go distil and be who you are. Write as you, and write your truth as best you can. And don’t believe your own press, good or bad. If they don’t like what you write, let them write their own damn book. If they love you, be grateful, stay humble. Pretentiousness always stinks. Stay honest, especially with yourself and you will have no regrets when you reread your work years later.

What obstacles and opportunities do you see for writers in the years ahead?

Writing for an increasingly technological age, an age of instant gratification, Youtube Videos, high tech games, and I am very afraid, generations of children who are increasingly out of touch with the wonderful fun in the reality of a bucket of dirt and a few earthworms, growing up to be people who need more than words on a page to catch their imagination. Worms are a recurring theme, notice that?

Which is more exciting for you, writing or riding?

Oh no, you don’t! There is no comparison, I won’t even try. Each is a thrilling and fabulous journey in its own way, each is a ton of work, an exercise in self-discipline, self-mastery, a day by day spiritual endeavour, an invitation to collaborate creatively with spirit while just showing up, day after day, good days, bad days, in between days. I will say this, after a day of working horses I look forward to plonking into my chair and resting my body on something that does not move while still being gainfully employed writing something. That is very exciting after twenty years as a professional horse trainer, to ride for fun and write for a living.

Could you talk about one work of creative art that has powerfully impacted you as a person?

Hmm, tough question, as there have been many. Chronicles of Narnia taught me early on about right and wrong, difficult moral choices, the virtues of loyalty and honesty and my love for fantasy and animal. Illusions by Richard Bach reawakened my spiritual self when I was seventeen and had lost touch with that part of myself for a few years. Illusions got me searching for what I had lost.

And at twelve, seeing a photo of a masterful horseman of the twentieth century named Nuno Oliviera imprinted me directly and immediately with what kind of horsewoman I wanted to be, there was some kind of magic in that photo, in the expression of horse and rider, the synergy that flowed between them that told me this was horsemanship as an artform and I knew it was where I belonged. I knew I had to know what he knew, that my ‘feel’ mirrored if not equalled, his. I spent the next thirty years searching until miraculously, I came across one of his long time students who is my beloved teacher today. I will never be as good as Oliveira, but I will die trying. It is a quest of sorts.

What relationship do you see between imagination and creativity, and the real world?

They are all inter-changeable. My real world is someone else’s fantasy, there are those who would find me delusional and I would find them lacking in faith and imagination. Our imagination creates and colours our reality and our creativity defines the how and when and how far, how to. None would exist without the other, they are completely symbiotic. All are inter-related and beholden to the reality we have created as a mass of consciousness. That is the mass reality, but our own, day to day, personal reality is very much affected by our imagination and willingness to give ourselves over to our power of creativity. It’s our secret super powers, creativity and imagination. And ‘the real world’ is our playground.

For a writer, it is easy to become an elitist. Have you ever, or do you still, struggle with pride as an author?

I struggle with pride as a human, period. I am deeply passionate about whatever I take on, be it training horses, writing something, gardening, photography, being a good friend or pursuing spiritual understanding and growth, and with such passion comes positive pride as an expression of integrity and virtue, knowing you are giving it your all. But pride, like anything else can have a dark side when it becomes controlling and domineering and self-congratulatory and I do have to keep an eye on that.

With all your success, how do you stay humble?

I remember that I am a child of God, Source, the Universe, but then, so is everyone else. My gifts are not my own really, but a blessed synergy between me and Spirit, an agreement that I entered into to put this gifted brain and body to good use, take good care of myself so I can be available to play my part such as it is. I am here as a cog in a great divine machine, I am not the machine nor do I run the machine alone. And I still muck stalls, do my own laundry, take out the trash and do the dishes. So just how special can I be?

Have you ever considered writing fiction full time?

No. Variety is the spice of life so I think I will always go from one end of the spectrum to another and visit some places in between. I can’t imagine saying I will just write one thing from now on. As for full time, writing will always be just one of the things I do. I also cannot imagine giving up training horses and it is just as demanding and fulfilling an endeavour for me as writing. And better exercise! I have to get out and move every day or I get very grumpy. And that’s bad. Ask anybody.

Now “Take a Walk on The Wild Side” with Susannah in her new book….

EWTB Final Front Cover Only

In the autobiographical Each Wind That Blows, author and horsewoman Susannah Cord returns to Kenya after a thirty year absence. A horseback safari across the famed game reserve, Maasai Mara, draws her back to the land that gave birth to her most cherished childhood memories. Susannah soon finds there is much more in store for her than just an exciting holiday.

An adventure of mind, body and spirit, Each Wind That Blows gallops across the savannah in the company of lions, leopards and elephants, a journey underlined by the joys and sorrows inherently found in the African wilderness. Finding her inner struggles reflected in the life of the savannah, Susannah seeks to come to terms with the eviscerating grief and regret following the loss of a loved one, and the struggle to discover and define a sense of purpose. The echoes of childhood still heard by the adult and the yearning for a connection to the greater mystery that underlies all life, will hold the key to her future.

Get your copy today!

Return Date: Author Don Massenzio & His Wonderfully Written Words

This interview is with Don Massenzio. Don has appeared on this site before promoting his books and telling us all about his literary experience. I happen to love his books– and I think you will too. If you enjoy my books– I would strongly suggest you pick up a Massenzio and let him make your day. Seriously. Try it. It’s better than watching TV.

let me

How did you come up with the title of your book?

For the Frank Rozzani series, I wanted to start with a main character who’s name I could use to link all of the books in the series together. Thus, Frankly Speaking was the first book. For the second book, I ran a contest from my newsletter and Let Me Be Frank emerged. The titles for the next two “Frank” books are set based on the story lines.

Can you tell me about your latest book? What is it about?

Let Me Be Frank, the second in the Frank Rozzani Detective Series, follows the characters into the investigation of the murder of a young girl. Frank and his team trace her path to Jacksonville Beach, the site of the murder, and gather clues along the way. The answers to the mystery have big implications for characters within the Frank universe.

How much of the book is realistic?

Interestingly enough, I had an author that is a retired New Orleans police officer read the book and he said that it was very realistic. In addition, others with areas of expertise touched on in the story were consulted.

How do you start to write a book? What is the first step?

I like to create a mind map. This is a technique that I took from business where I pictorially map out the outline of the book chapter by chapter. It has been a huge help in completing my last two novels.

What books have most influenced your life most?

To Kill a Mockingbird is at the top. Also, The Stand by Stephen King, the writing of John D. MacDonald, Harlan Coben, early James Patterson, John Grisham, and Elmore Leonard.

Do you see writing as a career?

It is a dream. The financial aspect needs to equal reality to make the dream happen.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

No. I think it is a snapshot of where my writing was at that time. I wouldn’t go back and Photoshop old family photos (much as I would like to). I learn from my previous efforts and move on.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

It came from my love of reading. I think, for any art form, if you enthusiastically enjoy it, you aspire to do it.

What is your overall opinion of the publishing industry?

It is evolving. There is a certain degree of snobbery toward self and independent publishers. Authors like Hugh Howey, however, have helped to debunk this. I do think, however, there is a lot of room for improvement in much of the product and, apart from my writing, it is my mission to help self-published authors improve. As for the snobbery in traditional publishing, I think it will diminish over time. The music industry has adapted. I think publishing will as well.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

I am currently working on three main projects; the next book in the Frank Rozzani series (due out in March or April of 2015), a collaboration with a military friend of mine on a terrorist thriller novel, and a non-fiction writing tips book for independently published authors.

Do you ever get tired of looking at words?

It depends on the words. I write for a living in the business world and those words can be dry and boring. Luckily, my writing and reading outside or work counters this.

Who designed the covers?

I have a cover art artist that did a great job on my first book and I keep going back to him. He gets it.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

The middle. I think many authors struggle with this. You have exciting events at the beginning to set up the story. There is, hopefully, an anticipated conclusion as well. It’s getting from the beginning to end that makes the journey tricky.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

I did a great deal of research for my book and learned a lot about some of the areas that were included in the story that I have never visited.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I have tons of advice (that’s why I’m writing a non-fiction book to help them). Short of that effort, I would say, keep writing, keep reading, keep perfecting.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I love getting feedback from you. I have several ways you can get in touch with me through my newsletter, my web site (www.donmassenzio.com) and my blog. I want to please readers and, of course, find new ones. Your feedback is always welcome!

Catch the latest Don Massenzio release “Let Me Be Frank” from Amazon

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Interview with fantasy author Gary Vanucci

In this latest interview we caught up with well-established fantasy author Gary Vanucci, a writer whose objective is to remove us from day-to-day life and spin head first into the epic worlds that he so skilfully creates…..

Gary, for those who have yet to get hold of a copy of your books, can you offer a description or taster of what readers can expect?

Sure thing! I have created what I hope is an engaging and detailed world wherein the main characters engage in their daily activities. There is definitely a lot to digest, but in a good way. I would have them expect to be completely entertained, to forget about the troubles in their own lives and live vicariously through the rich characters I’ve created.

How and when did you get started as a writer and what inspires you to write?

I started off and on around 1998-99. Started writing a sci-fi novel, but it did not complete as I lost interest in the genre. Fantasy however, I began to write in 2010 and have never looked back. I feel that I have many stories to tell and cannot wait to get them out there to the general public. I really feel that the stories are compelling and entertaining and if I can get some exposure, I can develop a reader base.

Have you always been a fan of the fantasy genre? What made you decide to write in this genre and which fantasy books do you enjoy reading yourself?

I LOVE fantasy. I cannot state that enough. Especially the Forgotten Realms. I‘ve read horror, comic books/superhero/graphic novels, Sci-Fi, murder/mysteries, but good fantasy is where I get lost. And that is what I want from a book, to escape reality for a few hours at a time.

“When a dangerous artifact goes missing from a temple, the elderly high priest in charge concludes that he needs help. He requests aid in the form of a one-time apprentice who is now an Inquisitor among the Order of the Faceless Knights. Garius Forge assembles an eclectic team among his potential candidates and then sets out on his quest. He is aided by the wise-cracking Rose, a rogue among rogues, by the stoic and battle-hungry Saeunn, and by a naive elf named Elec, who reluctantly agrees to accompany them at the behest of the persuasive Inquisitor. The fledgling heroes set out to recover the artifact before it falls into the hands of its former master, a malevolent entity capable of destroying Wothlondia and the  entire Realm of Ashenclaw!” 

One of your books on Amazon is a collaboration. What benefits can be had from collaborating on projects with other authors?

Well, I don’t quite have collaboration yet, but it will be released very shortly and I can let you know afterwards! I do belong to a writer’s circle and hope that the benefits of that would include cross-promotion and great support among other things.

What are you currently working on or what can we expect next?

Well, the anthology/collaboration will be out in the next week or so and my next full length novel will be released (hopefully before or around Christmas time). It is book 4 in the series, which will shift gears from Beginnings to something else, but is still a continuation. This one will follow Secrets of the Ebonite Mines and will tentatively be titled Dance of Deceit.

What are the major challenges that you have faced in your writing career?

I thought the writing would be the biggest challenge, but in all honesty, that had turned out to be the easy part. The hard part is trying to develop a fan-base and to find readers. There is so much out there that it is really difficult to get noticed, even if your work is good or better than average. None of it matters unless they can find you.

What do you advise new writers to do? Regarding best practice or writing tips.

Quit while you’re ahead :) Just kidding. Keep writing, research your craft, learn something with every mistake and grow a thick skin. It’s tough out there. I know from my own personal experience that my prose, writing style, POV shifts and general storytelling abilities have grown significantly over the last two years, so keep at it!

Getting a self-published book noticed and into the hands of readers can be tough. Could you offer our readers any tips/hints or advice on promotion or marketing?

Not really. Join all of the usual haunts, try to be engaging, try not to annoy people (very difficult when trying to sell something) and really try to help others. Can’t stress the ‘helping others’ thing enough.

What is your opinion on the power and potential of social media? Do you use the likes of Twitter, Facebook, etc to connect with fans and promote your work?

I use all of ‘em. But, I honestly do not know if it truly works or not. I mean, it has to a little bit, but I couldn’t tell you how to go about it. It’s different for everyone I would think.

Who did you get to do your cover design, eBook formatting/conversion to Kindle etc. and editing…was this all outsourced or did you do some yourself?

I format the book myself. My editor is Stephanie Dagg, a writer and editor from France and my artwork is done by fellow author and Skulldust Circle writer, William Kenney.

Where can readers pick up a copy of your book from and what formats are available?

Kindle and CreateSpace. Google me or stop by my Amazon page. I will be going elsewhere once my KDP Select is up on Amazon I think. amazon.com/author/garyvanucci

Many thanks for taking the time to speak to us today.

Thanks for having me on and let me know if anyone has any questions that I might be able to help out with

Author Steve Taylor Reveals The Story Behind The Book

This interview is with a new author called Steve Taylor. Let me share his Amazon biography with you all. He says it better than I do:

Steve Taylor was raised on a farm in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. He is a 1960 graduate of The Citadel with a degree in civil engineering, and he served six years as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force with service in Vietnam. Following a long flying career, he retired as an international airline captain. Taylor has been a solo ocean sailor and holds a U.S. Coast Guard captain’s license. He has owned and operated a commercial construction company and is a Coastal Master Naturalist. In addition to flying over most of the world, Taylor has lived in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, and Okinawa. He has five grown children. With his wife, Nancy, he currently splits his time between Atlanta and Charleston.

His book is called “Wheels Up: Sky Jinks in the Jet Age”

The stories in “Wheels Up” are not made up. They are the real deal, true antics of a jet age pilot in the high-octane environment of the cockpit. Some will give you pause and make you think, some will knock the wind out of you, and some will make you throw your head back and laugh. No one is spared his (or her) just deserts, least of all the self-deprecating author in this tale of high jinks in the air, on land and at sea, complete with high tension and low humor, near collisions and happy landings.

From Citadel cadet to Delta captain, Taylor takes readers into a world few have seen. It’s both humorous and heartfelt – fast, fun and true.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

I have always been a storyteller, but I soon learned that there was a difference between telling and writing. My challenge was to achieve the same humor and entertainment from reading my work as listening to me.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

It was a thrill to capture the true essence of the tale on paper for all eternity.

Are there vocabulary words or concepts in your book that may be new to readers? Define some of those.

The book is loosely connected with flying airplanes. My previous editor smoothed many aviation terms that the general public would not understand. This can also be said about sailing, and military terms. An example of this was in my description of the braid on a senior officers hat. I referred to it as scrambled eggs and insisted that this was a common understanding. My editor did not buy it and had to qualify the scrambled eggs. So yes, there are some references here that may be new to some readers.

Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured if your book? If so, discuss them.

There is no mention of Native Americans, feminists or hemophiliacs.
Really, I don’t understand the question.

Are there misconceptions that people have about your book? 

I had a book giveaway on good reads. The first two reviews were five stars and then a woman from Hawaii wrote in that she thought I was mean. I was shocked–me! Fun-loving, full of energy, perhaps a little immature at times, but not mean. She said she always had misgivings about those who played practical jokes.
Two stars.

What is the biggest thing that people THINK they know about your subject, that isn’t so?

There are some people that still think flying is dangerous. It actually is safer on an airplane than not on an airplane. It is common to hear, “have a safe flight.” How many people say have a safe car ride or safe layover, but they are more dangerous.

What inspires you?

Every since I was a boy I needed a project. Building and inventing, making a knife, learning to fly, designing a house, creating a company, single-handed sailing, writing a book; I am not happy unless I have a project.

How did you get to be where you are in your life today?

Counting my military service, I have had 35 years of professional flying. I have owned and operated and commercial construction company. I have been a farmer, and I have been a single-handed oceangoing sailor with a US Coast Guard captains license. But my most significant endeavor was raising four teenage children as a single parent for seven years. Today, I am healthy, still busy and do pretty much whatever l like. Compared, to many, it’s a nice place to be. To be honest, a great deal of my present situation is pure luck. I have always pushed close to the edge and was never afraid of risk. Having said that, I do have a circuit breaker that stops me from going over the edge.

Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work? What impact have they had on your writing?

My background is in engineering. Most of my life I considered myself strong in this area and weak in verbal aptitude. I have been an avid reader all my life, however, I felt unqualified when I began this book. I went back and reread James Harriot (all creatures great and small) because I felt his style was similar to what I was trying to do. The other authors that I remember fondly: Victor Hugo, Mark Twain and Winston Churchhill. I am currently reading a Jack Higgins book. I also enjoy reading books by Brad Taylor, my son. What all of these authors have in common is accuracy. I am a stickler for accuracy.

What did you find most useful in learning to write? What was least useful or most destructive?

Probably the most useful is my wife. She is a verbal person and has guided me constantly. I read a couple of books about writing. I found them boring and uninspiring. I actually learned more by doing then by instruction.

Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?

At my age, with reduced stamina and energy, anything I do would falls into the category of part time–sometimes naps are more important.

How do you feel about ebooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?

My book is printed in both hardcover and trade paperback. In October it will come out as an e-book. All forms have their place. Airline pilots now have an e-reader with them all the time, so the e-book was necessary.

What do you think is the future of reading and writing?

Reading and writing will be with us forever. Although technology and gadgets of the modern day are useful, they will never replace reading and writing. Reading stretches the mind, it is soothing and by far more satisfying than other forms of media. An experiment to prove this point would be how well you sleep after reading as compared to watching TV.

What process did you go through to get your book published?

I did not go through the painful process of looking for an agent. I formed a relationship with a small local publisher that had a good reputation. Unfortunately this publisher fell into some misfortune and I was forced to leave.

What makes your book stand out from the crowd?

My book is about true stories that have been told for years because of their entertainment value. They show a unique inside view of the airline crew-member.

How do you find or make time to write?

Like I said earlier, at this time of my life I do pretty much what I want. This writing became a project and so I focused on it.

Do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two?

I am not sure about this logic or intuition thing, but I do believe that writing should either convey a thought or an emotion, or it should not be done. I have little understanding about writing for the sake of writing. My process is to have a story that I wish to put on paper in such a way as to entertain to the same degree as telling the story.

What are some ways in which you promote your work? Do you find that these add to or detract from your writing time?

I have created a website, Facebook, and a blog. I have had a book giveaway on Goodreads. I sent ARCs to independent bookstores and I have written many places for reviews. All of this has taken so much time that I have not finished editing my new book. I do not believe that I am good at this marketing and at times I find it frustrating. I had difficulty with Amazon’s vendor website and still cannot navigate through the Goodreads website. I am not very good about keeping up my Facebook or blog.

What projects are you working on at the present?

My new book is finished but needs some more editing. It too is a book of true stories albeit different stories from a different time. These are stories about growing up as a sometimes troubled and hyperactive kid, but the jokes are still there.

What do your plans for future projects include?

I have a certain expertise in construction, flying, sailing and as a South Carolina Lowcountry naturalist. Believing it is best to write about what you know, I have a fiction story in mind that uses my knowledge in these areas.
The story involves a struggling commercial contractor that is conflicted because of the ample opportunity for dishonesty in the business. A twin-engine Beach crashes on a small Hummock out in the vast expanse of Saltwater marsh. It contains a dead gangster, $12 million in cash, and 20 pounds of cocaine. It remains undiscovered until our contractor, who is also a Marsh Hen hunter, stumbles across it on a seven foot new moon tide. The saga eventually involves killer drug dealers, the IRS, The FBI, and the contractors wife and children.

“Wheels Up: Sky Jinks in the Jet Age” is available now from Amazon

wheels up cover

For Children Everywhere! Dennis Gager Talks Children’s Books and Halloween!

Dennis Gager has arrived and is one of the leading Children’s authors of the moment. His first book, “Billy Rabbit’s Halloween Adventure,” hit the bestseller listings and the newest book,”Billy Rabbit Saves Christmas,” looks likely to do the same. Enjoy the interview– then enjoy the books with your kids! It’s Christmas… A time for sharing!

Who do you have in mind when you write?

My characters. I like to imagine them in their settings and what they would be doing. It helps me to get my creative flow going when I write.

Have you always aspired to be a writer?

Yes, I have; but I thought it was just a dream for a long time until my wife kicked me in the butt, so to speak, to get my work out there.

Tell me about how you became a writer—what was the first step for you?

Tough one! Well, I guess it all happened when I used to write short stories for my nephew. I started to actually enjoy writing and creating fantasy worlds and having fun with it. Seeing the smile it brought to my nephew really made my day, so I guess that was my first step.

Do you think anyone can learn to be an effective writer or is it an unnamed spiritual gift?

I believe everyone has the ability to become a writer if they just take time to see the world around them, not as we’re told it’s like, but look at it through the eyes of a child. See it all new, and take time to enjoy the little things. If you can do that, I believe anyone can write.

Was there a point at which you felt this would be a career?

Not until my publisher told me they loved my book and wanted to make a series. Now I believe I can make a career out of it.

Is there a book you’re most proud of?

Actually, I’m very proud of my second book. It has been nominated for two awards, and kids have responded very well to it.

Writing is so internal, in the head, how did you release the pressure before you began writing?

To be honest, I find writing very relaxing. I feel no pressure. I enjoy writing and love to see the final product when I’m done.

On average, how long does it take for you to write your ideas down before you start writing a book?

Not long at all. Actually, I write an outline first. I map out what my story is about, which characters I want in it, and then once I have that done, I sit down and go to work.

What would you say is the “defining” factor in your writing? What makes it yours?

Having fun and enjoying the characters I’m writing about.

How do you guard your time to do what’s most important?

I spend my time with my family and dedicate myself to my writing in my free time. I have an even balance. Both are very important to me.

What are some of the more common distractions you struggle with, and what ways have you found to overcome them?

Life gets in the way at times, but I never give up. I find ways around distractions and keep on plugging.

What kind of review do you take to heart?

Ones that involve children’s opinions about my book.

How do you decide what your next book will be about?

I actually just go with the flow. Whatever catches my eye, I go with it, and that’s my next project.

Was there a link between your childhood and your vocation as a writer?

My father always pushed me to try hard, never give up and don’t take no for a answer. That’s the way I live my life, and I think that helps me to be a writer today.

When you start a new book, do you know how a book will end as you’re writing it? Or does its direction unfold during the writing, research and/or creative process?

When I start writing a story, I have a ending in mind; but sometimes while I’m writing it, I may decide to go in another direction. It really depends on me and how the story unfolding as I’m envisioning it in my mind as I write it.

How do your books speak to people, both inside and outside the reading world?

People tell me they find them cute, they like how I write, and like the lessons their kids get out of them.

How do you see your role in impacting and influencing society?

I hope my writings can help parents and kids to bond together and do more together as a family.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you like to do?

I actually work as a producer for my wife’s radio network, and I enjoy that very much. If I wasn’t a writer, I would do that full time. I really enjoy working with people and enjoy all the challenges that comes with being a producer.

What are some pieces of advice that you would give someone on writing well?

Young writers often make foolish mistakes. What is a mistake to avoid? There’s never any mistakes. Just write from the heart, and if it fails, don’t give up. Try again.

Could you talk about one work of creative art that has powerfully impacted you as a person?

The Hobbit is one of my most favorite books. I love how the author draws you into the fantasy world and opens your eyes, and you just walk away with such insight into that amazing world.

What relationship do you see between imagination and creativity, and the real world?

I draw my ideas from the real world then use my imagination to turn them into something more. I put it all together and write my story.

For a writer, it is easy to become an elitist. Have you ever, or do you still, struggle with pride as an author?

No, I enjoy writing, and I don’t let it go to my head. I enjoy what I do, and I keep my pride in check. Plus, I have my wife who will keep me in line.

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Artist Profile: Judy Mastrangelo Author of “The Book of Angels”

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Have you always been focused in a particular area with your artwork?

I’ve always been fascinated with Fantasy art. Recently my focus is on this genre exclusively.

Why did you want to go into creating fantasy-based art? Is this kind of art a passion for you?

Yes, it is my passion and my happiness. I’ve loved Fantasy since childhood. I wanted to live in my imaginary “kingdom” that I’ve created of fairy tale-like creatures.

This includes all art forms, such as in Literature, Drama, Music, Painting, etc. I feel all of these art forms are related, and affect, inspire and are related to one another.

Whose work do you relate to most? Who inspires you?

I have a yen to revisit the works of the following artists. I never get tired of looking at the art of: MAXFIELD PARRISH, JOHN WATERHOUSE, CICELY MARY BARKER, and many Italian Renaissance artists, such as SANDRO BOTICELLI.

What was the last show you attended?

My last show was a “Fairy Festival” in Canterbury, UK.

Do you enjoy collaboration work? Working in teams?

Yes, I very much enjoy working in collaboration with talented people who respect and inspire one another.

What do you expect of others in a team environment?

I expect and appreciate others in a team whom I collaborate with to work in a professional manner. I enjoy it very much if each member appreciates the talents of the others and does not seek to change the others in order to conform to a mold that they want them to fit into. So the ideal team is one where each member appreciates the respective talents of the others, which is very important in order to work toward the completion of various projects.

Where do you see your work taking you?

It seems to be evolving in an exciting way, which I’ve always envisioned, even as a youth. I seem to be improving, hopefully, as I progress. My abilities in imparting my visions seem to get continually easier and more exciting all the time.

If you could picture yourself 5, 10 years from now, where would you be and what would you be doing?

I would have my art known worldwide, in venues such as books and other markets. I also would enjoy communicating my ideas of inspiration to all, through my art.

If you were awarded a grant of say… $20,000 for a major art project, how would you use the money?

I would probably purchase new art supplies that I would need. I would also employ the services of my very talented current team I am working with, in order to develop the many exciting projects I have planned, so that I can share them with the world.

Do you have a vision for your work?

I want to develop my feelings of spirituality and goodness, and love for life and nature. I strive to share this with others. I also enjoy showing the healing power of art, both to oneself and to others. It is a great therapy and a wonderful way to release one’s emotions, visions and desires. It is also very calming to do so.

How do you think/want other people to respond to your art?

I’d love if they would be inspired and uplifted in a joyful way, by viewing my art. I’d like it if they could be also inspired to create art themselves, expressing their dreams and personal feelings. It’s such a fulfilling experience!

Do you see yourself in your artwork? How?

I don’t paint myself specifically in my paintings, but I strive in my art to express my “inner soul” as much as I can.

What do you think your work stands for?

I try to express love for beauty, nature and joy of life. I hope that my work will make people remember the amazing childhood feelings they used to have of the awe for everything. These amazing feelings can keep you feeling “forever young.”

I also try, through my art, to impart my reverence for life, including all people, animals, etc. This way, they will see that we must all work to preserve life and not be at odds with one another.

Are your ideas readily conveyed?

I feel that they are. I’m not a complex person, and I don’t feel that my ideas are either. My paintings might sometimes appear complex, but it is the kind of art that is enjoyable to study. When doing this, one can see intricate details that are enjoyable for many.

Do you feel confident speaking and writing about what it is you do?

Yes. I enjoy all kinds of people, and it’s great fun communicating my thoughts to all who are interested.

Can you describe your ideal working atmosphere?

I enjoy a cozy, comfortable place, with a nice environment of trees, etc., that I can look out into.

What do you consider to be some of your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

I have a good facility of drawing and painting, which helps me in my art. My imagination inspires me in my creativity. I’m very persevering and have a great desire to finish my projects, even though they may be long range ones. I don’t give up on them, even though I may run into difficulties in their development.

I do have an innate shyness, which I’ve considered a weakness throughout my lifetime. But my love to communicate my art and ideas, and the appreciation of imparting it to others, has helped me overcome this.

Can you detail some important goals you have achieved?

I’ve completed a large body of paintings, which, I understand, are appreciated by many worldwide. I’ve also had my artwork licensed in several fields, in different markets, such as wall murals, books, puzzles, greeting cards, etc.

I’ve been fortunate to have a kind and loving husband, so a wonderful goal that I’ve achieved is a very happy marriage, where we support each other’s dreams.

What are your short-range and long-range goals, and how do you expect to achieve them?

I look forward to more recognition along the lines of licensing my works. There are several books directed towards all age groups, which are in the planning stages now. I am working with some very talented people who are helping to “brand” my work, and hopefully, my long range goal will be achieved through this process. Being an individual artist, I do need professional assistance in promoting my work. I’m now working with a wonderful team who are making my dreams possible.

What are your behaviors that inspire or motivate others?

I like to show joy and love of imagination in my art. I try to impart the fact that everyone has an innate talent in various forms that they can develop in many exciting ways. It’s a very fulfilling thing to do.

How would others describe you? Your work ethic/habits?

I’m considered a talented artist and a kind and good friend. I’ve always been an honest person, and I do my utmost in dealing fairly with others. I do my best and hope that others will treat me in the same way.

What methods do you use to organize your time?

I try to take each day at a time. I organize time around my obligations for that day, by making a mental list of things to do. I try not to stress over not being able to achieve everything in my daily time allotted. I just do my best to get everything done that I wish to do.

I consider each day a gift and an adventure. I try to have a schedule for what I’d like to do, but if I don’t get everything done, I know I’ll be able to do it in good time. Sometimes surprising things happen that weren’t planned, which are interesting in themselves. Serendipity.

Tell me about a time when you have felt pulled in all directions and how you handled it.

I used to do “Art for Hire” commissions, and sometimes I felt overwhelmed to hurry to meet a deadline. During one such project, the art director called me several times to ask me “when are you going to be finished?” And I responded by saying, “I’m trying my best to do a good job, and it’s taking me a while because I have other things I have to do also.” I feel that “I have a life,” which includes doing many things. It’s not really a very good feeling to be pulled in many directions at once. I love to do my art work, which I often get paid for; but I also have personal things that I enjoy doing, which are very important to me too.

So, after explaining this to her, she understood that I am not a “pot boiler artist,” and that she would have to be patient and wait for me to do a good job. She accepted this, probably reluctantly, but I was happier having explained it to her.

When I do my creative art, I like to do it in an inspired and relaxed atmosphere. I do my best work that way. And so that’s how I handle my work at this point in my life. I try not to get myself in a situation where I will be pulled in too many directions at once.

What motivates/inspires your work?

The beauty of nature motivates me to create. All forms of art that I love often inspire me to paint.

To show that we are a part of nature, along with the wonderful environment we live in and other life forms, such as the animals, is a very motivating theme to me. I feel called to show these feelings in my art; to give the sense of being one with all of creation. It is a very spiritual feeling that inspires me. I think if this can be felt by many people, there would be more respect for our precious planet.

How do you know when you have achieved success?

I am one of the most severe critics that I have to please. I’m quite a perfectionist when it comes to my art work. So when I am pleased with a current project, I feel I’ve reached a goal.

Also hearing from others that they enjoy and appreciate my work is very important to me. All these things let me know when

I’ve achieved success with my art.

How do you measure your level of success/achievement?

I get feedback from others through social media, etc., and from the public in general. That is one way I measure my success. I also appreciate any success I receive from various companies who want to publish or produce my work in various forms. If I like my work that I complete, I feel that eventually it will be appreciated by others sometime in the future.

I also feel that having success in my personal relationships is very important also. Yes, my art work means a great deal as a goal, but having lasting, wonderful bonds between family and friends are also a great measure of success to me, as I’m sure it is to everyone. Life would be very lonely without this. Friends and family are a gift to always cherish.

Describe yourself in one word. Why that word?

INSPIRING. I like to try to inspire other with the medium of my art.

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Author Interview: Come Fly With Rebecca McLendon

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1. Why flying? What attraction does flying hold for you?
As a small child, I was terrified of flying in anything, much less small airplanes. I grew up during the transition to the jet age, and the loudness frightened me. I preferred the steady humming of huge formations of B-36s flying overhead at night. When my husband and I got an airplane, he said that he needed me to learn how to fly so I could put the plane on the ground if something happened to him while flying. So I began lessons under the tutelage of a dear friend and neighbor who happened to be a flight instructor. I believe this quote best describes the attraction I developed after those first few lessons:

“Even before we had reached 300 feet, I recognized that the sky would be my home. I tumbled out of the airplane with stars in my eyes.” Geraldyn Cobb

And Leonardo da Vinci also has an appropriate description of flight:

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”

2. How did you get started in aviation?

My husband told me I need to learn how to fly and land our airplane if we were going to travel together.

3. Who have been your role models, or who has had the most influence on you?

My husband, my instructors John Hammons and Mitchell Inman, various local pilots who have become like brothers and sisters to me, and a long-time family friend now deceased, Dick Tucker.

4. What are your main goals as a pilot?

I want to fly for the love of it, encourage others to fly, serve as an advocate for General Aviation and for Women in Aviation in various ways. I am even exploring the idea of becoming a certified ground school instructor.

5. What are some goals that you had that were never achieved, and how did you deal with it?

I really cannot think of any that I never achieved! I’ve done what I set out and trained to do. I’ve written a book, flown a plane and written music. I have gone to Australia and Europe. I married a wonderful man, raised three beautiful children, held and spoiled four grandchildren, and fallen in love with my Saviour and have committed to sharing that love with others so they too can experience Him. There have been disappointments along the way, but so far I’ve been given the grace to stand back up, brush off the dust and go on. What lies out there that I still want to achieve? Fly the Grand Canyon while filming it. Fly to Montana and the Pacific Northwest? Can I achieve that? Maybe. If not I can write a novel, and my character “Zoe” can do it.

6. What is your greatest accomplishment as a pilot?

My whole first book is about that “Day I Grew Wings.” And just recently I GOT my wings, literally pinned to my shirt pocket!

Practical Flying Advice

1. You find your co-pilot drinking before a flight, how will you handle this?

I would excuse him from duties. He knows the 8-hour rule, and it applies to him too. He is not fit to fly an airplane. One drink on the ground acts like two in the air. It locks onto your red blood cells and floods your entire body with impaired faculties and judgment.

2. You smell smoke in the cockpit, what initial action should you take?

Immediately stop all other pre-flight procedures and look for the cause.

3. Your co-pilot tells you the smoke is normal and it will clear itself, but 15 minutes later, the condition is growing worse. Your co-pilot gives you the same response. Now, what would you do?

If you cannot find the cause readily, declare the emergency, shut down all systems, and have the passengers deplane immediately.

Remind the co-pilot you are in command, and tell him to comply with that or excuse himself from duty.

4. The aircraft is loaded way beyond gross weight. Your co-pilot tells you that he does this all the time, and the aircraft will fly. What do you do?

I won’t be explaining anything to him, except showing him the exit door.

5. You have been cleared for take-off. Upon getting airborne with the gear in the wells, what kind of conversation are you going to have with your co-pilot?

What co-pilot? I ordered him off the plane! If I did have a co-pilot, in my small aircraft I would have established that I was the Pilot in Command and I handle all operations on this aircraft. I may ask him to assist me on things but he/she is not to attempt taking control of operations without prior instructions to do so.

Pilot Personality Questions

1. What makes a great pilot?

A great pilot knows every time he/she starts the engine of the airplane it is a whole new flight. Things can happen quickly, and various piloting skills will be tested each time. Like Otto Linienthal said: “To invent an airplane is nothing. To build one is something. To fly is everything.” We take our “everything” to each flight, no matter how simple the flight will be or how complex.

2. What makes a bad pilot?

A bad pilot finds the minute details of pre-flight inspections, fuel testing, checking oil and making sure the controls are in good working order all tedium. He thinks he is too good to have to do that every time. That mind-set becomes one of sad neglect of the airplane. And when this pilot flies, he shocks his airplane out of its weakened, sickened state and forces it to perform, pushing the envelope. He overloads, he under prepares, he laughs off procedure, over banks, enters weather beyond his limitations, and immediately begins committing “pilot error” which is the cause of 70 to 80% of all fatal accidents.

3. Most people have a person in their lives who influenced their career. Who was your mentor?

My husband, who is also a pilot, suggested I learn to fly in case we were up there and something happened to him to incapacitate him in the air. My closest mentor has been John Hammons who was also brave enough to teach me over a two year period along with several other instructors.

4. What event in your life caused you to feel the way you do about aviation and flying?

One day John took me up in the towering clouds and had me fly around and among them. I truly had “slipped the surly bonds of earth” and had “reached out and touched the face of God.” From then on, I was completely hooked.

5. What are some of the limitations of your aircraft and yourself?

My aircraft is structurally limited to headwinds, cross winds and angle of bank in a turn. One must not EXCEED limitations, lest the aircraft become damaged and unflyable. Personal limitations are a bit less than the “never exceed” limitations of my aircraft. I prefer a crosswind of less than 10 knots directly across, even though my aircraft can tolerate 15 knots. I prefer an angle of bank under 40 degrees. I know my skill level. Perhaps with practice I can do more…in fact, I did more wind velocity and angle of bank on my check ride than I normally like to do! And I made it!

Come fly with Rebecca McLendon in her new book “The Day I Grew Wings”

Available Now on

Amazon

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